Posts for tag: tooth decay
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.”
In the last few years, energy drinks have begun to offer strong competition to traditional "pick-me-up" drinks like tea or coffee. But while the proponents of energy drinks say they're not harmful, the jury's still out on their long-term health effects.
With that said, however, we may be closer to a definitive answer regarding oral health—and it's not good. The evidence from some recent studies doesn't favor a good relationship between energy drinks and your teeth.
For one, many energy drinks contain added sugar, which is a primary food source for the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease. Increased bacteria also increase your chances of dental disease.
Most energy drinks also contain high levels of acid, which can damage the enamel and open the door to advanced tooth decay. The danger is especially high when the mouth's overall pH falls below 5.5. Energy drinks and their close cousins, sports drinks, typically have a pH of 3.05 and 2.91, respectively, which is well within the danger zone for enamel.
A research group recently put the acidity of both types of beverages to the test. The researchers submerged samples of enamel into different brands of beverages four times a day for five days, to simulate a person consuming four drinks a day. Afterward, they examined the samples and found that those subjected to energy drinks lost an average 3.1 % of their volume, with sports drinks faring only a little better at 1.5%.
Although more research needs to be done, these preliminary results support a more restrained use of energy drinks. If you do consume these beverages, observing the following guidelines could help limit any damage to your teeth.
- Limit drinking to mealtimes—eating food stimulates saliva production, which helps neutralize acid;
- After drinking, rinse out your mouth with water—because of its neutral pH, water can help dilute concentrated acid in the mouth;
- Wait an hour to brush to give saliva a chance to remineralize enamel—brushing before then could cause microscopic bits of softened enamel to slough off.
There's one other alternative—abstain from energy drinks altogether. In the long run, that may turn out to be the best choice for protecting your oral health.
If you would like more information on the effects of sports or energy drinks on 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 “Think Before You Drink.”
Until recently, the standard treatment for tooth decay remained essentially the same for nearly a century: Remove any decayed structure, then prepare and fill the cavity. But that singular protocol has begun to change recently.
Although "drilling and filling" saves teeth, it doesn't fully address the causes of decay. In response, dentists have broadened their approach to the disease—the focus now is on an individual patient's particular set of risk factors for decay and how to reduce those.
At the heart of this new approach is a better understanding of oral bacteria, the true cause of decay. Bacteria produce acid, which can erode tooth enamel and create a gateway into the tooth for decay to advance. We therefore want to lower those risk factors that may lead to bacterial growth and elevated acidity.
One of our major objectives in this newer approach is to reduce plaque, a thin film of food particles used by bacteria for food and habitation. Removing plaque, principally through better oral hygiene, in turn reduces decay-causing bacteria.
Plaque isn't the only mechanism for bacterial growth and acidity. Appliances like dentures or retainers accumulate bacteria if not regularly cleaned. Reduced saliva flow, often due to certain medications or smoking, limits this fluid's ability to buffer acid and acid reflux or acidic beverages like sodas, sports or energy drinks can disrupt the mouth's normal pH and increase the risk for enamel erosion.
Our aim, then, is to develop a long-term strategy based on the patient's individual set of oral disease risk factors. To determine those, we'll need to examine their medical history (including family), current health status and lifestyle habits. From there, we can create a specific plan targeting the identified risk factors for decay.
Some of the elements of such a strategy might include:
- Daily brushing and flossing, along with regular dental cleanings;
- Fluoride dental products or treatments to strengthen enamel;
- Changes in diet and excess snacking, and ceasing from any tobacco use;
- Cleaning and maintaining appliances, as well as monitoring past dental work.
Improving the mouth environment by limiting the presence of oral bacteria and acid can reduce the occurrence of tooth decay and the extent of treatment that might be needed. It's a more nuanced approach that can improve dental health.
If you would like more information on tooth decay prevention and treatment, 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 “Tooth Decay: How to Assess Your Risk.”
It seems like every year you make at least one trip to the doctor for a sinus infection. You might blame it on allergies or a "bug" floating around, but it could be caused by something else: tooth decay.
We're referring to an advanced form of tooth decay, which has worked its way deep into the pulp and root canals of a tooth. And, it could have an impact on your sinuses if the tooth in question is a premolar or molar in the back of the upper jaw.
These particular teeth are located just under the maxillary sinus, a large, open space behind your cheek bones. In some people, these teeth's roots can extend quite close to the sinus floor, or may even extend through it.
It's thus possible for an infection in such a tooth to spread from the tip of the roots into the maxillary sinus. Unbeknownst to you, the infection could fester within the tooth for years, occasionally touching off a sinus infection.
Treating with antibiotics may relieve the sinus infection, but it won't reach the bacteria churning away inside the tooth, the ultimate cause for the infection. Until you address the decay within the tooth, you could keep getting the occasional sinus infection.
Fortunately, we can usually treat this interior tooth decay with a tried and true method called root canal therapy. Known simply as a "root canal," this procedure involves drilling a hole into the tooth to access the infected tissue in the pulp and root canals. After removing the diseased tissue and disinfecting the empty spaces, we fill the pulp and root canals and then seal and crown the tooth to prevent future infection.
Because sinus infections could be a sign of a decayed tooth, it's not a bad idea to see a dentist or endodontist (root canal specialist) if you're having them frequently. Treating it can restore the tooth to health—and maybe put a stop to those recurring sinus infections.
If you would like more information on the connection between tooth decay and sinus problems, 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 “Sinusitis and Tooth Infections.”
Your child's dental development is in overdrive between birth and early adulthood. The rapid growth of the teeth, gums and jaws occurs mostly on its own—but tooth decay could significantly derail it.
Although most cases of dental disease occur in adults, tooth decay is a major problem for children, particularly involving primary teeth. These teeth are much more important than they seem given their short lifespans: Because they help incoming permanent teeth to align properly, their premature loss due to decay can create future bite problems.
To prevent this from happening, taking steps to prevent tooth decay in young children is well worth the effort. The best strategy is a double-pronged approach. You'll first want to address certain areas that directly contribute to tooth decay. You'll then want to add measures that strengthen the teeth themselves against the disease.
In regard to the former, reducing the levels of harmful bacteria in the mouth tops the list. These bacteria produce acid as a byproduct that in turn softens and erodes enamel, the teeth's natural barrier against decay. We reduce bacteria by eliminating dental plaque, a film of built-up food particles that feeds and shelters bacteria, through daily brushing and flossing.
Certain dietary choices may also contribute to bacterial growth. Refined sugar is a prime food source for bacteria, so limiting it in the diet will help reduce tooth decay. Furthermore, a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods and dairy provide nutrients strengthen teeth against decay.
The other prong in defeating tooth decay mainly involves protective measures provided by your dentist. Sealants applied to the chewing surfaces of a child's teeth help protect the enamel from the buildup of bacteria in these highly susceptible areas. An occasional direct application of fluoride to teeth further strengthens their enamel, and makes them less susceptible to decay.
This approach can minimize the chances of tooth decay, but it won't eliminate the risk altogether. If it does occur despite your best efforts, prompt treatment can limit the damage and preserve the teeth. Working with your dentist, you can help ensure your child's teeth are protected from this damaging disease.
If you would like more information on best dental care practices for children, 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 “Dentistry & Oral Health for Children.”