Other than the common cold, tooth decay is the most prevalent disease in the world. And while a cavity or two may seem like a minor matter, tooth decay’s full destructive potential is anything but trivial. Without proper prevention and treatment, tooth decay can cause pain, tooth loss and, in rare cases, even death.
This common disease begins with bacteria in the mouth. Though these microscopic organisms’ presence is completely normal and at times beneficial, certain strains cause problems: they consume left over carbohydrates in the mouth like sugar and produce acid as a byproduct. The higher the levels of bacteria the higher the amount of acid, which disrupts the mouth’s normal neutral pH.
This is a problem because acid is the primary enemy of enamel, the teeth’s hard protective outer shell. Acid causes enamel to lose its mineral content (de-mineralization), eventually producing cavities. Saliva neutralizes acid that arises normally after we eat, but if the levels are too high for too long this process can be overwhelmed. The longer the enamel is exposed to acid, the more it softens and dissolves.
While tooth decay is a global epidemic, dental advances of the last century have made it highly preventable. The foundation for prevention is fluoride in toothpaste and effective oral hygiene — daily brushing and flossing to removing plaque, a thin film of food remnant on teeth that’s a feeding ground for bacteria, along with regular dental visits for more thorough cleaning and examination. This regular regimen should begin in infancy when teeth first appear in the mouth. For children especially, further prevention measures in the form of sealants or topical fluoride applications performed in the dentist office can provide added protection for those at higher risk.
You can also help your preventive measures by limiting sugar or other carbohydrates in your family’s diet, and eating more fresh vegetables, fruit and dairy products, especially as snacks. Doing so reduces food sources for bacteria, which will lower their multiplication and subsequently the amount of acid produced.
In this day and age, tooth decay isn’t a given. Keeping it at bay, though, requires a personal commitment to effective hygiene, lifestyle choices and regular dental care. Doing these things will help ensure you and your family’s teeth remain free from this all too common disease.
If you would like more information on preventing and treating tooth decay, 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.”
If you've thought the ads for a “new tooth in one day” seemed too good to be true, we have…sort of good news. You can get a new “tooth” in one visit, but only if your dental situation allows it.
The restoration in question is a dental implant, a metal post (usually titanium) surgically imbedded into the jawbone. They're especially durable because bone cells naturally grow and adhere to an implant's titanium surface, a process called osseointegration. Over time this process creates a strong bond between implant and bone.
Usually, we allow a few weeks for the implant to fully integrate with the bone before attaching the visible crown. With “tooth in one day,” though, we attach a crown at the same time as we install the implant, albeit a temporary crown. It's more aesthetic than functional, designed to avoid biting forces that could damage the implant while it integrates with the bone. When that process finishes, we'll install a permanent porcelain crown.
The health of your supporting bone and other structures will largely determine whether or not you're a candidate for this “tooth in one day” procedure. Your bone must be sufficiently healthy, as well as the gums surrounding the implant and the tooth's bony socket.
If, on the other hand, you have significant bone loss, gum recession or socket damage, we may first need to deal with these, usually by grafting tissue to the affected areas to stimulate new growth. Your implant, much less a temporary crown, will likely have to wait until the affected tissues have healed.
The bone can also be healthy enough for implant placement, but might still need time to integrate with the implant before attaching any crown. Instead, we would suture the gums over the implant to protect it, then expose and attach a permanent crown to the implant a few weeks later.
Obtaining even a temporary crown the same day as your implant can do wonders for your appearance. A more important goal, though, is a new tooth that you can enjoy for many, many years. To achieve that may mean waiting a little longer for your new beautiful smile.
If you would like more information on restoring missing teeth with 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 “Implant Timelines for Replacing Missing Teeth.”
The electronic cigarette (e-cig), the much-acclaimed smoking alternative, has recently been linked to hundreds of lung-related illnesses and deaths among otherwise healthy young adults. But dentists were actually among the first to sound alarm bells on the potential harm of “vaping,” particularly to dental health.
If you're vaping as a substitute for smoking, you may be trading one set of oral health risks for another. Many dentists believe vaping may be no safer for your mouth than traditional tobacco.
An e-cig is a small, handheld device that holds a mixture of water, flavoring and chemicals. The device heats the liquid until it becomes a gaseous aerosol the user inhales into their lungs. Proponents say it's a safer and cleaner alternative to smoking. But, like cigarettes, vaping mixtures can contain nicotine. This chemical constricts blood vessels, decreasing nutrients and infection-fighting agents to the gums and increasing the risk of gum disease.
And although vaping flavorings are FDA-approved as a food additive, there's some evidence as an aerosol they irritate the mouth's inner membranes and cause mouth dryness similar to smoking. Vaping liquids also contain propylene glycol for moisture preservation, which some studies have shown increases a buildup of plaque, the bacterial film most responsible for dental disease.
All of these different effects from vaping can create a perfect storm in the mouth for disease. So, rather than switch to vaping, consider quitting the tobacco habit altogether. It's a solid thing to do for your teeth and gums, not to mention the rest of the body.
As we commemorate the Great American Smokeout on November 21, this month is the perfect time to take action. Here are some tips to help you kick the habit.
Don't try to quit all at once. Your body has developed a physical connection with nicotine, so quitting “cold turkey” can be extremely difficult and unpleasant. Although different approaches work for different people, you may find it easier to overcome your habit by gradually reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke each day.
Enroll in a cessation program. There are a number of step-by-step programs, some involving medication, that can help you quit smoking. Talk to us or your doctor about using a cessation program to end your tobacco habit.
Seek support from others. Beating the smoking habit can be tough if you're trying to do it solo. Instead, enlist the help of family and friends to support you and keep you on track. Consider also joining a supervised support group for quitting smoking near you or online.
Smoking can harm your dental health and vaping may be just as harmful. Distancing yourself from both habits will help you maintain a healthier smile and a healthier life.
If you would like more information about the effects of vaping and tobacco use, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Vaping and Oral Health” and “Smoking and Gum Disease.”
First the bad news: Those nightly hair-raising sounds are indeed coming from your child’s bedroom—from your child. It’s the result of them grinding their teeth while they sleep.
But here’s the good news: the only likely harm is a lack of sleep members of your household might experience because of it. Teeth grinding is so prevalent among pre-teen children that many healthcare professionals consider it normal. But that doesn’t mean it can’t become a problem, so it’s worth monitoring.
Teeth grinding is part of a family of dental habits known as bruxism. It involves any involuntary movement of the teeth and jaws outside of their intended functions not associated with chewing, speaking or swallowing. Our main concern with any bruxism is the possibility for generating stronger biting forces than normal that could damage teeth and gums and contribute to jaw joint problems.
Teeth grinding can occur in adulthood, with stress seeming to be the major trigger for it. With children, though, it’s believed to be mainly caused by an immaturity of the child’s neuromuscular process that controls chewing. As this matures, most children will tend to outgrow the habit none the worse for wear.
But there are pediatric cases in which the generated biting forces are strong enough to cause damage. Teeth grinding is also prevalent in children who snore or breathe through their mouths, which could be a sign of a serious health condition called obstructive sleep apnea. And certain medications used to treat depression and attention deficit disorder (ADHD) may also contribute to teeth grinding.
Most of the time we can simply let the habit run its course. If, however, the child begins to experience abnormal tooth wear, headaches, jaw pain or other issues believed caused by teeth grinding, we may need to intervene. This could include a plastic night guard the child wears during sleep that prevents the teeth from making solid contact during grinding episodes. And children with signs of airway obstruction should be evaluated by an ear, nose and throat specialist.
It can be irritating or even distressing. But your child’s teeth grinding doesn’t mean you should be alarmed—only that you should keep your eye on it.
If you would like more information on teeth grinding and similar habits, 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 “When Children Grind Their Teeth.”
Dental implants are all the rage—and for good reason: They’re incredibly “tooth-like,” both in appearance and function. They also have a stunningly high success rate: More than 95% of implants still function after ten years. This means out of thousands of implants installed each year, only a handful fail.
But although that’s an amazingly low number, they’re still failures for real people who’ve suffered a loss. If you’re considering dental implants the chances of that being your experience are quite low. But it could still happen.
Here’s a few things you can do to make sure your implants don’t fail.
Stop smoking. Of the small percentage of implant failures, an inordinate number are smokers. A smoker’s chances of implant failure are roughly double those of non-smokers. Smoking, and to some degree any tobacco use, can make your mouth an unhealthier place: Not only can it increase your dental disease risk, but it can interfere with the healing process after implant placement and increase the chances of early failure.
Manage your health. Diabetes and similar systemic conditions can interfere with the healing process too, which could impact your implant attachment to bone. Diabetics thus run a slight risk of implant failure—but actual failures mostly involve patients who don’t have good control of their symptoms. If you’re a diabetic, properly managing your condition will lower your risk of implant failure to nearly identical that of someone without diabetes.
Treat gum disease. Implants in themselves are immune to disease—but the underlying bone that supports them isn’t. A gum disease infection could eventually weaken and diminish the implant-bone attachment. If this happens around an implant, its stability can be severely compromised. The best strategy is to prevent gum disease through daily, thorough brushing and flossing to remove disease-causing dental plaque. And if you see any symptoms like gum swelling, redness or bleeding, see your dentist as soon as possible.
Your implants could serve you well for decades. Just be sure you’re doing the right things to ensure their longevity.
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 “Dental Implants: A Tooth-Replacement Method That Rarely Fails.”
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