Finding out you have a cavity can be an unwelcome surprise. The truth is, though, it didn't happen overnight, but the result of ongoing conditions in the mouth.
Those conditions usually begin with harmful oral bacteria. As a life form, these bacteria need food and lodging, which they readily find from the carbohydrates in your diet. The bacteria and food remnants form a thin biofilm that accumulates tooth surfaces called dental plaque. The bacteria in turn produce oral acid, which can soften and erode the teeth's protective enamel. As bacteria multiply the mouth's acidic levels rise, making cavity formation more likely.
But there's also a flip side to this scenario: Interrupting bacterial growth can help prevent cavities and other dental diseases. Here's how you can do just that.
Remove plaque buildup. It's a simple principle: Deprive bacteria of their refined carbohydrates to reduce their toxicity and remove daily plaque buildup with brushing and flossing. For an added boost, see your dentist at least twice a year for a thorough dental cleaning.
Curtail snacking on sweets. Bacteria love the refined sugar in pastries, candies and other sweets as much as we do. Thus, constant snacking on sweets throughout the day could actually foster bacterial growth. Instead, ease up on your sugar intake and limit sweets to meal times only.
Rinse after sugary drinks. Sodas, sports or energy drinks also provide bacteria with added sugar. They may also contain added forms of acid that further lower your mouth's pH level into the acidic danger zone for teeth. Make it a habit, then, to rinse out your mouth with clear water after drinking one of these beverages to dilute excess sugar or acid.
Take care of your saliva. Saliva neutralizes acid even more than plain water, usually in 30 minutes to an hour after eating. By contrast, not having enough saliva increases your risk for decay and other dental diseases. So, be sure to drink plenty of water, monitor medications that might interfere with saliva production, and use saliva boosting products if needed to keep your saliva production healthy.
If you would like more information on managing your dental health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cost-Saving Treatment Alternatives.”
You can't rid your body of the trillions of bacteria that inhabit it—nor would you want to. Many of the thousands of species taking up residence in and around you are beneficial to you.
That includes the bacteria in your mouth living together in an invisible community known as a "microbiome." Our immune systems gradually learn to discern between those that mean us well and those that don't, and for the most part leave the former alone.
But although harmful bacteria are in the minority, they can still cause devastating infections like tooth decay and gum disease. Fortunately, we've identified their "base of operations"— a thin film of leftover food particles, that when joined with bacteria is referred to as dental plaque. Plaque buildup serves as the primary food source for harmful bacteria.
We can prevent disease by depriving bacteria of this food source—by brushing and flossing daily to remove plaque buildup. Oral hygiene, along with regular dental care, is the best way to reduce harmful oral bacteria and our risk for disease.
Without these measures disease can develop and advance quickly, damaging the teeth, gums and supporting bone. And in cases of advanced gum disease, dentists often turn to antibiotics to reduce bring rampant bacteria under control.
But we've learned the hard way that overused antibiotic therapy can cause more harm than good. For one, it can create resistance within the bacteria we're targeting that often render the antibiotics we're using impotent.
Furthermore, antibiotics can't always discern "good" bacteria from "bad." Beneficial strains may be destroyed in the process, leaving the rich bacterial "microbiome" in our mouths a wasteland. And as we're learning, our health could be worse for the loss.
To avoid this, we're beginning to use treatment applications that narrowly target malevolent bacteria while avoiding more benevolent strains. One helpful advance in this matter was the development of the Human Oral Microbiome Database HOMD, part of which has enabled us to precisely identify the individual bacteria that cause certain diseases. This has made it easier to target them with specific antibiotic drugs.
We still have much to learn about the microscopic world within our mouths. As we do, we can better cooperate with those "inhabitants" that help us maintain our health while fighting those that cause us harm.
If you would like more information on oral bacteria, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “New Research Shows Bacteria Essential to Health.”
It's not unusual for serious actors to go above and beyond for their roles. They gain weight (or lose it, like Matthew McConaughey for True Detective). They grow hair—or they shave it off. But perhaps nothing tops what Brad Pitt did to assume the character of Tyler Durden in the movie Fight Club—he had his dentist chip his teeth.
While a testament to his dedication to the acting craft, Pitt's move definitely falls into the category of "Kids, don't do this at home." Fortunately, people deliberately chipping their teeth isn't a big problem. On the other hand, accidentally chipping a tooth is.
Chipping a tooth can happen in various ways, like a hard blow to the jaw or biting down on something too hard. Chipping won't necessarily endanger a tooth, but the missing dental structure can put a damper on your smile.
But here's the good news: you don't have to live with a chipped tooth. We have ways to cosmetically repair the damage and upgrade your smile.
One way is to fit a chipped or otherwise flawed tooth with a dental veneer, a thin wafer of dental porcelain bonded to the front of a tooth to mask chips, discolorations, gaps or other defects. They're custom-made by a dental lab to closely match an individual tooth's shape and color.
Gaining a new smile via dental veneers can take a few weeks, as well as two or more dental visits. But if you only have slight to moderate chipping, there's another way that might only take one session in the dentist's chair. Known as composite bonding, it utilizes plastic-based materials known as composite resins that are intermixed with a form of glass.
The initial mixture, color-matched for your tooth, has a putty-like consistency that can be easily applied to the tooth surface. We apply the composite resin to the tooth layer by layer, allowing a bonding agent in the mixture to cure each layer before beginning the next one. After sculpting the composite layers into a life-like appearance, the end result is a "perfect" tooth without visible flaws.
Unlike Brad Pitt, it's pretty unlikely you'll ever find yourself in a situation requiring you to purposely damage your teeth. But chips do happen—and if it happens to you, we have more than one way to make your teeth as good as new.
If you would like more information about repairing dental flaws with veneers or composite bonding, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Artistic Repair of Front Teeth With Composite Resin.”
Dental implants are often the ideal choice to replace missing teeth. Unfortunately, "ideal" and "affordable" don't always align simultaneously for people. Even if implants are right for you, you may have to put them off to a more financially appropriate season.
In the meantime, though, you're still missing teeth—and perhaps some of them are right square in the middle of your smile. What can you do now, even if temporarily?
The solution might be a flexible removable partial denture (RPD). These newer types of RPD fit somewhere between the lightweight "flipper" and the more traditional rigid plastic appliances often made for permanent use. The flexible RPD is made of nylon plastic (technically known as a super-polyamide), which although lightweight, is highly durable.
Super-polyamides change their shape under high heat, a characteristic dental technicians take advantage of by injection molding heated material into flexible denture bases, to which they then attach the replacement teeth. Like other RPDs, a flexible RPD is custom-designed for the individual patient to match their jaw contours, as well as the types and locations of their missing teeth.
Flexible RPDs also differ from other RPD types in how they stay in place. While the more rigid RPD depends on metal clasps that grip to some of the remaining natural teeth, a flexible RPD uses finger-like extensions of the nylon material to fit around teeth near the gum line where they're difficult to see. As such, the flexible RPD is both comfortable and securely held in place.
A flexible RPD, like their counterparts, does require regular maintenance. Any RPD can accumulate dental plaque, a thin biofilm buildup on teeth that causes dental disease. For this reason, wearers should regularly remove their RPD and clean it thoroughly with an antibacterial soap (never toothpaste). All RPDs should also be removed at night to limit bacterial growth.
With a little care, a flexible RPD could last for several years. It could be just the solution to buy you time while you're waiting to obtain dental implants.
If you would like more information on restoration options for missing teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Flexible Partial Dentures.”
Dental implants have taken restorative dentistry by storm for a number of reasons: They're incredibly life-like; and their unique design allows them to function much like natural teeth. But perhaps the clincher for many is their longevity. Numerous studies show that more than 95% percent of implants are still performing after 10 years.
The reason for their durability is wrapped up in their "unique design" mentioned earlier—a titanium metal post imbedded into the jawbone, to which a dentist attaches the visible crown. The titanium attracts the growth of new bone cells, which adhere and accumulate on the implant surface.
This "integration," a process which occurs over a few weeks after implantation, creates a strong bond between the implant and jawbone. This ultra-strong hold enables the implant to withstand years, if not decades, of chewing forces you generate on a daily basis.
With that said, though, there are rare instances when an implant loses its hold—or doesn't properly develop it. Integration may not fully succeed due to infection either before or right after surgery, which can inhibit bone growth around the implant.
Other conditions can compromise the bone's integrity like a weakened immune system, diabetes or osteoporosis. And even if integration occurs normally, later problems like gum disease or a teeth-grinding habit can damage the connection between implant and bone.
There are things you can do, however, to further minimize the risk of implant failure.
- Brush and floss daily (especially around implants) and maintain regular dental visits to lower your risk of gum disease;
- See your dentist if you notice swollen, reddened or bleeding gums, an indication of a gum infection that could impact your implants;
- Stop smoking, which increases your infection risk, or abstain a few weeks before and after surgery;
- Manage issues like diabetes, osteoporosis, or teeth-grinding that could affect your implants.
Implants can be a great long-term solution to tooth loss. You can help ensure their longevity by looking out for both your oral and general health.
If you would like more information on dental implant restorations, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants: A Tooth-Replacement Method That Rarely Fails.”
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