Posts for category: Oral Health
When do you think is the earliest age that tooth decay can start? Would you be surprised to learn that the answer is… just two months!
In spite of our best efforts, throughout the world tooth decay remains the most common chronic disease of childhood. And the unfortunate truth is, it’s largely preventable. Tooth decay is caused by harmful bacteria living in the mouth. These bacteria produce acids as a byproduct of feeding on the sugar we consume. The acids attack the hard enamel surfaces of the teeth, eventually making the small holes we know as cavities.
For thousands of years, these bacteria have been thriving in the carbohydrate-rich environment of our mouths. Kids aren’t born with these germs — often, however, they are passed directly from caregiver to child. But there are things you can do to keep from passing the bacteria to your children. For example, don’t share toothbrushes; don’t put items in baby’s mouth after you have licked them or put them in yours; and, if you have untreated dental disease, try to avoid kissing the baby’s lips. (And for goodness sake, don’t pre-chew a baby’s food, no matter what any celebrity may suggest.)
One effective way to control tooth decay is by reducing the amount of sugar in the diet. Sodas and candy aren’t the only culprits — fruit juices are also high in sugar. And remember, it’s not just what your child eats or drinks that matters, but when they consume it. Given time, saliva will neutralize and wash away the acids that bacteria produce. But if kids are constantly taking in sugar, the saliva can’t keep up. So give those little teeth a break — limit sugar to mealtimes, and avoid sweet treats at other times of day.
What other steps can you take to stop tooth decay before it starts? It helps to identify kids who may be more susceptible to dental disease. Given the same diet with the same oral hygiene practices, some children are much more likely than others to develop tooth decay. If these high-risk kids receive preventive treatments — such as fluoride varnishes, help with diet modification, and other measures — early tooth decay can be successfully prevented, and even reversed in some cases.
If you’re concerned that dental treatment may be too scary for little ones, you should know that we put a great deal of effort into making office visits as stress-free as possible. We have plenty of tricks to keep youngsters happy — and distracted — while we take care of business. You can help too… by maintaining a positive outlook and setting a good example.
If you would like more information about cavity prevention for children, please contact us or schedule an appointment. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Taking the Stress Out of Dentistry for Kids.”
Your gums are red around the margins and bleed whenever you brush or floss but there's minimal to no pain... You: (select the most appropriate answer[s])
- are brushing or flossing too vigorously
- have an accumulation of dental plaque where the teeth meet the gums
- are using a toothbrush that's too firm
- are experiencing early signs of gum disease
- should see your dentist if this persists for more than 6 months
Kudos if you picked b) and d). The most common cause of bleeding gums is the accumulation of dental plaque (bacterial deposits) at the gum line, which is an early sign of periodontal (from the Latin “peri” – around, and the Greek “odont” – tooth) disease. It is usually painless so people tend to underestimate the risk of allowing gum disease to progress and become a more significant problem.
It's a common misconception that bleeding gums are caused by brushing or flossing too vigorously or using a toothbrush that's too firm. This is sometimes the case, but the abrasion would probably cause noticeable pain. Instead, it's likely that you're not brushing and flossing effectively enough, allowing bacterial deposits to accumulate at the gum line and feed on food particles that haven't been adequately flushed from your mouth.
The bacterial deposits form a whitish film that is hard to detect when you look in the mirror. But you will notice bleeding and redness and eventually inflammation of the gums — an immune response to disease-causing bacteria that flourish in the plaque. As the biofilm grows, with time it also hardens (calcifies), making it increasingly difficult to dislodge. Eventually, only professional cleaning can remove it and sometimes antibiotics are needed. If no action is taken, gum disease will progress, and eventually cause loss of the underlying bone that anchors the teeth.
There are other reasons that gums may bleed, such as elevated hormone levels in women, a side effect of certain medications, or a systemic (bodily) disease. Whatever the cause, it's important to get a professional diagnosis promptly and take appropriate therapeutic action as needed. Optimally, with good oral hygiene and regular checkups, you can avoid this problem entirely!
If you would like more information about preventing or treating bleeding gums, 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 “Bleeding Gums.”
If you have noticed that one or more of your teeth have lost some of the surrounding pink gum tissue so that part of the root surface is now uncovered, you are experiencing gum recession. It's a very common problem — in fact millions of Americans have some degree of gum recession. Fortunately, there are very effective methods of treating it.
Gum recession can be unsightly, but there are more serious concerns. Tooth root surfaces exposed by gum recession can become sensitive to temperature and pressure changes and can decay or wear away. In very severe cases, teeth can actually be lost. That's because gum or “gingival” tissue as it is medically known is supposed to encircle and firmly attach to the necks of the teeth and the underlying bone. This forms a protective barrier that is resistant to the abrasive action of foods during eating, biting and chewing.
Gum tissue is largely made of a fibrous protein called collagen, covered by a layer of another very resilient protein called keratin (nails and hair are also made of it). Yet it is still possible for this tough tissue to lose its grip on the teeth it protects. Here are some of the ways this can happen:
- Ineffective oral hygiene — inadequate removal of dental bacterial plaque (biofilm) with daily brushing and flossing.
- Excessive brushing (and flossing) — too hard, or for too long.
- Habits — holding foreign objects between the teeth, such as bobby-pins, nails etc that press on the gum tissues.
- Oral appliances and ornaments — badly fitting removable partial dentures and orthodontic appliances (braces), or tongue bolts and oral piercings can apply pressure to the gums.
Treatment will depend in part on whether the recession is stable or progressive. For example, an older person might have a few areas of gum recession but there are still adequate zones of attached protective gum tissue and the exposed tooth root surfaces are healthy. In this case, there may not be reason to do anything but monitor the situation. On the other hand, a teenager with a history of fairly rapid gum recession (over a period of months) usually requires immediate treatment. The dental specialty of periodontics (“peri” – around; “odont” – tooth) has developed predictable surgical techniques to deal with recession.
Free Gingival Grafting, for example, involves taking a very thin layer of skin from the palate, where the tissue is identical to gum tissue, and transplanting it to the area where gum has been lost. Both sites will heal in a very predictable and uneventful manner. The free gingival graft is so-called because it is “freed” from the donor (original) site completely. It is crucial to make sure individuals with gum recession correct faulty hygiene habits prior to this (or any) treatment so that they will not jeopardize their future results.
If you are concerned about gum recession, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about gum recession and gingival grafting by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Periodontal Plastic Surgery.”
Florence Henderson is a multi-talented actress most recognized for her role as Carol Brady on The Brady Brunch, one of the longest-running situational comedies. In fact, this role earned her the title of America's Favorite TV Mom and her first TV Land Pop Culture Icon award, which is on permanent display in the National Museum of American History.
During an interview with Dear Doctor magazine, Henderson discussed her oral health as well as her role as spokesperson for Polident (denture cleanser) — even though she does not have dentures. Henderson attributes her beautiful, natural smile to prevention. “Flossing, brushing and regular dental checkups are vital if you want to keep your teeth,” she said, adding, “I always have mouthwash, dental floss, toothpaste and a toothbrush on the set.”
Similar to the great advice “Carol Brady” shared on television, Henderson's advice on oral hygiene is spot-on. We agree that an effective educational approach to oral hygiene and diet is essential to keeping teeth for a lifetime.
The first step is to ensure you have a proper brushing and flossing technique. We can go over these during your next office visit. Our goal is to ensure that you are applying the ideal amount of pressure and motion because gum tissues are soft and can easily be damaged. And you should never use a hard-bristled toothbrush or saw at your gums and teeth when brushing. The best technique is a modified, gentle scrub where you hold a well-designed, multi-tufted toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gum line to gently wiggle/scrub your teeth clean.
As for flossing, you should do it at least once daily to remove the plaque buildup that occurs in the protected areas between teeth where your toothbrush can't reach and where periodontal (gum) disease and dental caries (cavities) start and progress. Many people are shocked to learn that over 50% of the accumulation of plaque occurs in these areas.
To learn more about proper oral hygiene, you can continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Hygiene Behavior.” Or you can contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can conduct a thorough examination and discuss what treatment options will be best for you. And to read the entire interview with Florence Henderson, please see the article “Florence Henderson.”
Youth sports can be a positive life experience for your child or teenager. But there's also a risk of injury in many sporting activities, including to the teeth and mouth. An injury to the mouth, especially for a child or young adolescent whose teeth are still developing, can have a significant negative impact on their oral health.
When it comes to teeth or mouth injuries, the best preventive measure is for your child to wear an athletic mouthguard, especially for contact sports like football, hockey or soccer. But be warned: not all mouthguards are alike — and neither is their level of protection.
Mouthguards can be classified into three types. The first is known as “stock,” which is the least expensive and offers the least level of protection. They usually are available only in limited sizes (small, medium, large, etc.) and cannot be custom-fitted for the individual. This significantly lowers their protective ability, and thus we do not recommend these to our patients.
The next type is referred to as “boil and bite.” These mouthguards are made of a material called thermoplastic, which becomes pliable when heated. When first purchased, the guard is placed in boiling water until soft; the individual can then place them in the mouth and bite down or press the guard into the teeth until it hardens and forms to their palates. Although this type offers a better fit and more protection than stock mouthguards, it isn't the highest level of protection available.
That distinction goes to the last type — a custom mouthguard made by a dentist. Although the most expensive of the three, it offers the best fit and the highest level of protection. A well-made custom mouthguard is tear-resistant, fits comfortably, is easy to clean and doesn't restrict speaking and breathing. We recommend this guard as your best alternative for protecting your child athlete from tooth and mouth damage.
If you would like more information on the use of athletic mouthguards for young athletes, contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Mouthguards.”