Did you know that tooth decay (dental caries) is the second most frequently occurring disease — surpassed only by the common cold? It can start as soon as toddlers sprout their first teeth and by middle age, more than 90% of adults are affected by the problem! Fortunately, you can significantly lower your risk for decay. The key is to nurture health-promoting (protective) factors in your mouth while discouraging those that are disease causing (pathologic).
The top two traditional steps can't be stressed enough:
Good Oral Hygiene. Diligent brushing and flossing, along with routine professional cleanings, help limit a buildup of bacterial plaque (biofilm). This whitish film is attractive to decay-producing bacteria (among the many types of bacteria — including beneficial ones — that normally live in the mouth). These microbes like to snack on sugars and carbohydrates (perhaps part of that bagel you had for breakfast or the midafternoon candy bar), and in the process they produce acid. A healthy oral environment has a neutral pH — a perfect balance between acids and bases. But in a more acidic environment, minerals in the protective enamel of your teeth start to dissolve, exposing the dentin and root surfaces underneath that are even more vulnerable.
Sensible Diet. Keep decay-producing bacteria in check by limiting your intake of sugars and carbohydrates; the bacteria need these nutrients to grow and reproduce. Choose products containing natural sugars, such as those in fruits and vegetables, over those containing added sugars, such as sodas and candy. Be aware that Xylitol, an “alcohol sugar” used in some chewing gums and dental products, can actually help reduce pathogenic bacteria. And don't forget that frequent consumption of acidic foods and beverages, such as sipping coffee during the day, can create an acidic environment in your mouth that can contribute to decay by eroding tooth enamel and weakening its defenses.
Individual Risk Factors
You also may have individual risk factors as well that our office can help you identify and address. For example, the shape of everyone's teeth varies and some of us have more valleys, tiny grooves and pits than others. These likely places for bacteria to congregate can be the most difficult to reach with a toothbrush, but invisible sealants can be applied to prevent bacteria from reaching those areas.
If you would like more information about tooth decay and prevention, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Decay” and “Tooth Decay — How To Assess Your Risk.”
When Giuliana Rancic, long-time host of E! News, first saw her new son, she said it was “the best single moment of my life.” Recently, on the eve of Duke's first birthday, the TV personality and reality star spoke to Dear Doctor magazine about her growing family, her battle with cancer — and the importance of starting her child off with good oral health.
“Duke will have his first visit with the dentist very soon, and since he is still a baby, we will make his visit as comfortable as possible,” Giuliana said. That's a good thought — as is the timing of her son's office visit. Her husband Bill (co-star of the couple's Style Network show) agrees. “I think the earlier you can start the checkups, the better,” he said.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry concurs. In order to prevent dental problems, the AAPD states, your child should see a dentist when the first tooth appears, or no later than his or her first birthday. But since a child will lose the primary (baby) teeth anyway, is this visit really so important?
“Baby” Teeth Have a Vital Role
An age one dental visit is very important because primary teeth have several important roles: Kids rely on them for proper nutrition and speech, and don't usually begin losing them until around age 6. And since they aren't completely gone until around age 12, kids will depend on those “baby teeth” through much of childhood. Plus, they serve as guides for the proper position of the permanent teeth, and are vital to their health. That's why it's so important to care for them properly.
One major goal for the age one dental visit is to identify potential dental issues and prevent them from becoming serious problems. For example, your child will be examined for early signs of dental diseases, including baby bottle tooth decay which is a major cause of early childhood caries. Controlling these problems early can help youngsters start on the road to a lifetime of good oral health.
Besides screening your child for a number of other dental conditions or developmental problems, and assessing his or her risk for cavities, the age one visit also gives you the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about dental health in these early years. Plus, you can learn the best techniques for effectively cleaning baby's mouth and maintaining peak oral hygiene.
Breezing Through the Age-One Visit
To ease your child's way through his or her first dental visit, it helps if you're calm yourself. Try to relax, allow plenty of time, and bring along lots of activities — some favorite toys, games or stuffed animals will add to everyone's comfort level. A healthy snack, drink, and spare diapers (of course) won't go unappreciated.
“We'll probably bring some toys and snacks as reinforcements,” said Giuliana of her son's upcoming visit. So take a tip from the Rancics: The age one dental visit is a great way to start your child off right.
If you would like more information on pediatric dental care, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “The Age One Dental Visit” and “Dentistry & Oral Health for Children.”
When you’re trying to maintain a good oral hygiene routine, your toothbrush is bound to see a lot of action. Day in and day out, it gets used about twice a day, every day — morning and night, whether you’re feeling great or under the weather, in a hurry or not. And it's stored in the bathroom: a moist environment with the potential for exposure to plenty of bacteria (and not just the ones that live in your mouth). So after all of that service, does your toothbrush itself need any particular care or cleaning — and do you need to worry about getting sick from brushing?
Let’s answer the last question first. It’s very unlikely that you can re-infect yourself with an illness (a cold, for example) from using your own toothbrush. That’s because once you’ve been infected, the antibodies that are built up in response to the invading germs will generally prevent you from getting the same disease for some time afterward. Using someone else’s toothbrush, however, is a never a good idea — especially if they are sick (whether they show any symptoms or not), and doubly so if the bristles are still wet. It’s very possible to transfer all kinds of bacteria — even the bacteria that cause tooth decay — from person to person this way.
Can bacteria really survive for any length of time on your toothbrush? The short answer is yes, as they can (and do) live almost everywhere. But for people in a normal state of health, there’s no real reason to worry: Through long exposure, your body is generally quite capable of defending itself from these microorganisms. The American Dental Association states, “[T]here is insufficient clinical evidence to support that bacterial growth on toothbrushes will lead to specific adverse oral or systemic health effects.”
However, if you or a family member have a compromised immune system (due to radiation treatment, chemotherapy or disease, for example), it might make sense to take some precautions. Using an antibacterial mouthrinse before you brush can reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth — and on your toothbrush. Washing the brush afterward with an antimicrobial cleaner or sanitizer can also decrease the level of bacteria that remains on the toothbrush.
For everyone else, it’s best to follow a few common-sense steps for toothbrush care: Rinse your brush with tap water after you use it, to remove any remaining toothpaste and debris; store it upright, where it can air-dry before it’s used again (not in a closed container, where bacteria can thrive); and get a new brush every three months. Your toothbrush is a major weapon in the fight against tooth decay — keeping it in good shape will help you maintain a healthy mouth and a healthy body.
If you have questions about toothbrushing or oral hygiene care, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Hygiene Behavior.”
One of our primary goals in dentistry is to deliver effective treatment to patients with the least amount of discomfort. This is especially true after a procedure — controlling pain and inflammation will actually help reduce recovery time.
There are many strong pain relievers available, including prescription opiates like morphine or codeine. It has been shown, however, that healing and comfort are enhanced with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) because they not only minimize pain, but they also reduce inflammation after a procedure. One common NSAID is Ibuprofen, which works by blocking prostaglandins, a substance released by inflamed, damaged tissues. NSAIDs are very popular with dentists and other health professionals because they act primarily on the inflammation site and don’t impair consciousness like opiates. They’re also usually less expensive than pain medication requiring a prescription.
While relatively safe, NSAIDs do have side effects that could cause serious problems for some patients. The most common caution regards NSAID’s tendency to thin blood and reduce the natural clotting mechanism, especially if taken habitually over a period of time. They can damage the kidneys and the stomach lining (causing ulcers or dangerous bleeding), and they’ve also been linked to early miscarriages and heart attacks.
For these reasons, NSAIDs are not recommended for pregnant women, patients with a history of stomach or intestinal bleeding, or patients being treated for heart disease. In the latter case, NSAIDs may interfere with the effectiveness of low-dose aspirin therapy (another type of NSAID) to prevent future heart attacks or strokes.
Health officials recommend all patients limit their dosage of a NSAID to no more than 2400 milligrams a day for short term pain relief, unless otherwise advised by a doctor. For the most part, a single 400 mg dosage is usually sufficient for pain control during a post-procedure recovery.
Your dentist will typically obtain your medical history before you undergo a dental procedure, including the medications you’re taking. Depending on your current health status and the type of procedure you’re undergoing, your dentist will recommend a pain control regimen to follow after the procedure is over.
Following those recommendations, and alerting your healthcare provider if you encounter any side effects from pain medication, will help assure your recovery period after dental work is short, safe and uneventful.
If you would like more information on the use of NSAIDs to control discomfort after a dental procedure, 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 “Treating Pain With Ibuprofen.”
Dental implants have emerged as the premier replacement option for lost teeth. Their life-like appearance, durability and versatility have made them extremely popular with patients.
Implants aren’t a quick fix, though: in most cases the process takes months to complete. Here’s a chronological overview of what you can expect if you decide on dental implants.
Stage 1: Planning. The process begins at least a few weeks before the actual implantation with an examination to determine what’s best for your individual case. Implant materials and designs are quite numerous, enabling us to precisely match individual tooth types, shapes, lengths and color. We then use x-rays or CT scanning to identify the best locations for the implants — careful planning here increases the chances that implantation will go smoothly and the final outcome will be aesthetically pleasing.
Stage 2: Implantation. Once we’ve finished planning, it’s time to surgically insert the titanium implants into the pre-determined locations in the jawbone identified during Stage 1. While this procedure is relatively minor and routine, the surgeon still operates with precision and care to ensure the best functional and aesthetic outcome.
Stage 3: Integration. In most cases after implantation, we’ll need to wait for a few weeks before attaching the final crowns. Because bone has an affinity for titanium, it will grow and adhere to the implant during this waiting period, anchoring it securely into the bone that will increase its long-term durability. We attach temporary teeth made of acrylic plastic (along with giving you some precautions on biting and chewing) to help you function normally during the waiting period.
Stage 4: A Transformed Smile! Once integration has been achieved and the gum tissues fully healed, we can then attach the permanent crowns. These crowns are typically made of strong, durable materials that will fit the healed gum tissues more precisely than your temporary crowns. Depending on the type of implant used, the crowns are either cemented or screwed into place onto the implant.
The process of dental implantation involves a lot of time, effort and precision. In the end, though, it’s well worth it — the joy of new teeth that will function well for years and look great too!
If you would like more information on dental implants, 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 Teeth in One Day.”
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