Taking Care of Your Teeth
Dentists have made great strides in dental health since the old days. Now, with proper dental care, you can keep your teeth all of your life.
Did you know that tooth decay is the second most common disease in America, second only to the common cold?
Well, most of this tooth decay can be avoided by exercising some simple daily preventative dental hygiene habits.
Here are a few quick tips to keeping your teeth and gums healthy:
Brush your teeth at least twice a day to remove bacteria that can turn into plaque and eventually tooth decay.
Floss daily to reach the 35 percent of your mouth that your toothbrush cannot reach.
Avoid foods high in sugars and carbohydrates – which tend to give bacteria energy to reproduce and create enamel-eating acids…
Limit between-meal snacks – your mouth needs sufficient time between meals to neutralize acids…
Use fluoride regularly – through drinking water, toothpaste and dental supplements – to strengthen your enamel and prepare against acid attacks…
Visit your dentist at least twice a year! Dentists can spot potential problems before they wreak havoc on your teeth and mouth…
Plaque is a sticky film that is constantly forming on the areas of your teeth. This film made up of bacteria, saliva and food particles. It uses sugar and other carbohydrates to grow and produce acids that can build-up around and between the teeth. Without proper brushing and flossing, these acids dissolve the minerals that make your tooth enamel hard. Tiny holes will appear at first, eventually combining to create one large hole – known as a cavity.
Plaque also enhances the hardening of minerals into a rough deposit called calculus, or tartar. Once tartar has formed brushing or flossing cannot remove it – it must be removed by a dentist. This plaque can irritate gums causing them to turn red, swell or bleed easily – the early stages of gum disease. Eventually, this condition can cause gums to pull away from the teeth and can lead to early tooth loss. During a normal prophylaxis (professional cleaning), the dentist removes this build-up.
It is important to maintain a good routine of dental care because your tooth enamel does not contain nerve fibers, which means you will not immediately know you have a cavity. You won’t feel the pain until the acids reach the sensitive dentin/pulp area that lies beneath your enamel and by that time, you already have tooth decay. Going to a dentist every 6 months can help catch tooth decay in its early stages.
Brushing your teeth after meals and snacks removes plaque, the sticky bacteria that causes tooth decay and gum disease, to produce a clean, healthy mouth, fresh breath and a sparkling smile. Brushing 2-3 times a day greatly reduces the risk of cavities.
Tips for Proper Brushing
Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and replace every 3 months. Hard bristles can hurt your gums.
Use an ADA accepted fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride slows down the breakdown of enamel caused by acids and re-mineralizes the enamel.
Brush for at least two full minutes. Less than 2 minutes does not allow sufficient time to break apart the acids that have built up on the teeth.
Don’t forget to brush your tongue. Brushing your tongue removes bacteria and freshens your breath
Hold your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle against the gums and move the brush back and forth across the outer and inner tooth surfaces in a gentle, massaging motion. Don’t forget your back teeth.
Don’t be too rough. Aggressive brushing can wear away the gums and make your teeth very sensitive.
Dentists estimate that 10-20% of the population actually damages their gums as a result of over-aggressive brushing. -Wall Street Journal
Recommendations for Brushing with Braces
Use an orthodontic toothbrush recommended by your orthodontist – These can prevent breakage of orthodontic appliances and are designed to reach better than standard toothbrushes.
If possible, use an electric toothbrushes with an orthodontic head. The high speed vibrations created by the electric tooth help break down plaque.
Use a fluoride mouth rinse recommended by your orthodontist. This gives your teeth extra strength to fight tooth decay and helps wash away plaque.
Some people think flossing is not as important as brushing, but it is just as important. Flossing daily removes plaque and food particles from between teeth and under the gumline – cavity-prone areas your brush can’t reach. If this plaque is allowed to build-up under the gumline, gums can become irritated and eventually lead to gum disease.
Tips for Proper Flossing
Wrap an 18-inch strand of floss around your middle fingers and hold a one-inch section tightly between your thumbs and forefingers.
Ease the floss between teeth, using a gentle rubbing motion.
Clean up and down several times while curving around teeth at the gumline.
Don’t forget to floss behind the last tooth.
At first, your gums will need to get used to the flossing and may bleed or become sore for the first few days. This should stop in a few days after your teeth become used to the procedure. However, if bleeding continues after a week or so, call your family dentist or us.
Failing to floss leaves 35 percent of your tooth surface uncleaned!
Recommendations for Flossing with Braces
Even though it is more difficult than without braces, it is important to floss daily.
Use a floss threader to help guide floss between braces or under the archwire.
Rinse your teeth to wash away food or other particles that you have removed.
ORAL HEALTH HAZARDS
Beyond brushing and flossing, you can help maintain your oral health by avoiding the following health hazards:
Smoking cigarettes or cigars can causes a number of oral side effects, including:
Sticky tar deposits
Brown tooth stains
Red inflammation on the roof of the mouth (“smoker’s palate”)
Delayed healing of the gums
Chronic bad breath
The most dangerous effect of tobacco is the development of oral cancer. The risk of oral cancer increases with the number of cigarettes or cigars smoked each day, as well as the number of years a person has been smoking.
Approximately 75 percent of all oral cancers in North America are associated with tobacco use and alcohol consumption.
Smoking cigarettes and/or cigars is not the only cancer-causing habit – chewing tobacco can be equally detrimental to your oral health. These products, which include dip and snuff, are linked to cancer of the cheek or gums. Another major side effect of chewing tobacco is gum recession, when the gums react to the presence of the tobacco “wad” by receding along the tooth root.
Research also shows that oral piercing – most commonly involving the lips, cheeks and tongue – can lead to infection, tooth damage and difficulty with speech and breathing. The moist, bacteria-filled oral area is an ideal setting for infection and injury, and the frequent introduction of fingers into the mouth only increases this likelihood.
Tongue piercing can also cause the following health hazards:
Swelling that can compromise breathing
Severed blood vessels that can cause prolonged bleeding
Cracks in teeth or chips in lip from jewelry
Difficulty talking, chewing and swallowing
Scar tissue formation
Development of hypersensitivity to jewelry metals
Dental Sealants are becoming more and more popular and for good reason, they actually work.
Most of the general public don’t really understand how dental sealants work or if they work. So I thought I would answer some of the most common questions asked about sealants and hopefully clear up any misunderstandings about dental sealants. So let’s get started:
How does a sealant help prevent tooth decay?
A sealant is a white or transparent plastic coating that is usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth—1st and 2nd molars and premolars as they erupt. This plastic resin bonds into the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures to be more technical) of the chewing surfaces of back molars. The sealant acts as a barrier, protecting enamel from plaque and acids.
Thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth, but the bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to remove food and plaque. The purpose of the sealant is to cover the deep grooves in the middle of the tooth so food particles and bacteria will not accumulate and start tooth decay.
Is applying the sealant a complicated procedure?
Sealants are an easy process and it only takes your dentist a few minutes to apply each sealant. The teeth that will be sealed are thoroughly cleaned and dried. Then the chewing surfaces are roughened slightly with an acidy type solution to help the sealant adhere to the tooth. The sealant is then applied to the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. Usually a UV curing light is used to help the sealant harden.
As long as the sealant remains intact and isn’t broken or lost, the tooth will be protected from tooth decay. Sealants are very strong and have no problem holding up with normal chewing and should last you several years before reapplying is needed. During your normal dental visits, your dentist will check the condition of the sealant to make sure they are still intact with the tooth and have no cracks.
Can adults get sealants or are they just for kids?
Normally the likelihood of developing any type of pit and fissure decay begins early in life, so children and teenagers are usually the prime candidate. But adults can benefit from sealants as well.
There are key ingredients in preventing tooth decay and maintaining a healthy mouth. They are:
Brushing twice daily with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste;
Flossing your teeth daily;
Eating a balanced diet and limiting snacks;
And visiting your dentist regularly, usually every six months minimum unless otherwise stated by your dentist.
Call your dentist today and find out if Sealants are right for you or your kids. For those of you living in the Sacramento California area, give the Charles Dental Group a call and we’ll be happy to help you.
I hope this brief article has answered any questions you had about dental sealants. For more information on tooth decay and simple methods of controlling it, read Six Methods of Controlling Tooth Decay.
– Andrea Hersh, DDS
Cool Kids & Family Dentistry
Todays Dental Recommendation – My recommendation for today is easy…get your kids Dental Sealants!
I’ve been a dentist for quite a while and seen all variations of tooth decay. It is an increasing problem with our kids and we, as parents, need to learn some simple and basic steps to keeping our childrens teeth as healthy as possible. Before we go into the Six Methods of Controlling Tooth Decay, let’s me first outline how tooth decay happens:
How Tooth Decay Happens
Tooth decay is caused by certain types of bacteria (mutans streptococci and lactobacilli) that live in your mouth. When they attach themselves to the teeth and multiply in dental plaque, they can do damage.
The bacteria feed on what you eat, especially sugars (including fruit sugars) and cooked starch (bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, etc.). Within about five minutes after you eat or drink, the bacteria begin producing acids as a byproduct of their digesting your food. Those acids can penetrate into the hard substance of the tooth and dissolve some of the minerals (calcium and phosphate).
If the acid attacks are infrequent and of short duration, your saliva can help to repair the damage by neutralizing the acids and supplying minerals and fluoride that can replace those lost from the tooth. However, if your mouth is dry (especially at night), you have many of these bacteria, or you snack frequently; then the tooth mineral lost by attacks of acids is too great and cannot be repaired. This is the start of tooth decay and leads to cavities.
Now that you know how tooth decay happens, let’s outline the Six Methods of Controlling Tooth Decay.
Six Methods of Controlling Tooth Decay
1. Diet: Reducing the number of sugary and starchy foods, snacks, drinks, or candies can help reduce the development of tooth decay. That does not mean you can never eat these types of foods, but you should limit their consumption particularly when eaten between main meals. A good rule is three meals per day and no more than three snacks per day.
2. Saliva: Saliva is critical for controlling tooth decay. It neutralizes acids and provides minerals and proteins that protect the teeth. If you cannot brush after a meal or snack, you can chew some sugar-free gum. This will stimulate the flow of saliva to help neutralize acids and bring lost minerals back to the teeth.
3. Plaque removal: Removing the plaque from your teeth on a daily basis is helpful in controlling tooth decay. If you have an appliance such as an orthodontic retainer or partial denture, remove it before brushing your teeth. Brush all surfaces of the appliance also.
4. Antibacterial mouthrinses: Rinses that your dentist can prescribe are able to reduce the number of bacteria that cause tooth decay and can be useful in patients at high risk for tooth decay.
5. Fluorides: Fluorides help make teeth more resistant to being dissolved by bacterial acids. Fluorides are available from a variety of sources such as drinking water, toothpaste, over-the-counter rinses, and products prescribed by your dentist such as brush-on gels used at home or gels and foams applied in the dental office.
6. Sealants: Sealants are plastic coatings bonded to the biting surfaces of back teeth to protect the deep grooves from decay. In some people, the grooves on the surfaces of the teeth are too narrow and deep to clean with a toothbrush, so they may decay in spite of your best efforts. Sealants are an excellent preventive measure for children and young adults at risk for decay.
As you can see, some of those steps are pretty easy and you may do already. Diet is usually the hardest for everyone, but as long as you don’t go overboard and brush your teeth twice a day you will reduce your risk of tooth decay drastically.
If your children have not received Sealants yet, I highly recommend them. Make an appointment with your children’s dentist and have them done as soon as you can. It will save time and money on future visits. Sealants are well worth it.
Later on I will go over in more detail each of the Six Methods of Controlling Tooth Decay. Until then keep your kids healthy and full of good nutrition!
– Andrea Hersh, DDS
Cool Kids & Family Dentistry
Todays Dental Recommendation – My recommendation for today is easy…get your kids Sealants!