Posts for: December, 2013
For some kids, having a cavity or two is just part of growing up. Not for Giuliana Rancic. When she was a child, the TV personality didn't have a single cavity — and she still doesn't. But for her husband Bill, co-star of the Style Network reality show Giuliana and Bill, it was a different story. A cavity-prone kid, he was never certain what a visit to the dentist might hold in store. “I can still remember the anticipation,” he recently told Dear Doctor magazine. “I always hoped I would get out of the checkups without a cavity!”
Why do some people get more cavities than others? There are a number of factors at work, but to understand it better, let's look at how tooth decay occurs.
How Cavities Form
Cavities — also called dental caries — are small pits or holes in the teeth that are caused by tooth decay. Tooth decay itself is a chronic disease that can flare up when plaque isn't kept under control. A thin, bacteria-laden film, plaque sticks to tooth surfaces both above and below the gum line, and can build up in the absence of effective oral hygiene.
Of course, everyone has bacteria in their mouth, both “good” and “bad” (pathogenic) types. But when the bad guys outnumber the good, trouble can start. When you consume sweets, plaque bacteria process the sugars and release acid as a byproduct. The acid eats into tooth surfaces, causing decay — and cavities that need filling. Left untreated, decay can work its way into the tooth's pulp, resulting in infection and pain. Eventually, treatment might involve a root canal — or, in the worst case, extraction.
What can you do if you seem to be prone to cavities? One effective way to fight tooth decay is by maintaining good oral hygiene. Brush at least twice daily, for at least two minutes each time. Use a soft-bristled brush and a dab of fluoride toothpaste to clean all around your teeth. Most importantly, floss above and below the gum line, every day. And just as important, don't forget to have regular dental checkups every six months.
A Healthy Balance
Another cavity-fighting strategy is eating a balanced diet. Avoid soda, sugary “energy” drinks and sweet treats — but if you choose to consume sugar, have it with meals instead of between meals. This will give your saliva, which has natural cavity-fighting properties, a chance to work.
“It's all about maintaining a healthy balance,” Giuliana told Dear Doctor. And Bill agrees: “I love nuts and fruit for a healthy snack,” he said, adding that he's meticulous about brushing and flossing. And when the couple smiles, you can see how those healthy habits pay off.
If you would like more information on preventing tooth decay, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Decay” and “Tooth Decay – How To Assess Your Risk.”
Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that all children have their first dental visit by the age of one? You might be surprised by this recommendation, since most children do not have many teeth at this age. However, it is important to start your child early on the path of good oral health!
Here are a few things you can expect from this first dental visit:
- Developing a Rapport. Much of this visit will be dedicated to helping your child to feel at ease in our office. We'll spend time talking to your child, so that he or she is comfortable sitting in the dental chair and being examined.
- Looking for Signs of Decay. During the comprehensive examination, we'll be looking for any signs of tooth decay and conducting a risk assessment for potential future cavities. Keep in mind that baby teeth serve as guides for your child's permanent teeth, so it is vital that you take proper care of them. You may not know it, but your child's permanent teeth are already forming beneath the gums, and if teeth are lost early, there is a higher risk for orthodontic problems later in life.
- Reviewing Oral Hygiene Techniques. We would like this visit to be instructional and informative for you. Feel free to ask any questions that you have about caring for your child's teeth. In addition, we'll take some time during this visit to review with you the correct way to brush your child's teeth.
- Talking about Oral Health Habits. We'll also spend a portion of this appointment doing a bit of fact gathering to ensure that you're not inadvertently doing anything that promotes decay, such as leaving a baby bottle with a sugary substance in your child's crib at night.
If you would like more information about the age one dental visit, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Age One Dental Visit.”
Today's periodontal (gum) surgical procedures are less painful and have fewer complications than ever before. Nevertheless, the best outcome still depends on how well you care for yourself as you recuperate. Here are some things you can do after surgery to lessen its effect.
In the first twenty-four hours after surgery, your primary objective is to prevent swelling, the major source of post-operative discomfort. You can accomplish this by applying an ice or cold pack to the outside of your face in the area of the surgery. It's best to alternate five minutes on and off with the pack for the outside, and ice chips, cold water or ice cream inside your mouth as often as possible. Your aim is to surround the surgical site with cold as much as you can with the five-minute on and off strategy.
You should eat only foods that are cold and soft (Jell-O™, applesauce, yogurt, ice cream, etc.), to help ease any swelling. The next day switch to hotter foods like soup, mashed potatoes or buttered pasta, as well as hot, salt water rinses as often as convenient. Avoid crumbly foods like chips, cookies or popcorn for a few days to help keep the incision site particle-free.
We typically prescribe a number of medications during recuperation: analgesics (usually of the aspirin or ibuprofen family) for swelling and pain, and antibiotics and antibacterial rinses to inhibit bacterial growth. Be sure to follow directions with each prescribed medication, taking the correct dosage and for the specified duration.
There is a possibility of post-operative bleeding — but don't panic. You should first attempt to locate the bleeding area, clean it, and then apply gentle pressure with moist, sterile gauze for ten to fifteen minutes. If the bleeding doesn't stop, give us a call.
You should keep the wound site as clean as possible to help avoid infection. However, don't brush, floss or rinse during the first twenty-four hours to avoid bleeding, and limit hygiene activities to antibacterial mouthrinses like chlorhexidine near the wound site for several days to weeks. During the first few days to a week after surgery avoid activities like strenuous exercise, drinking alcohol, sucking through a straw, or blowing up a balloon, as these can also increase your risk for bleeding. You should also avoid tobacco products during this time as these can inhibit the healing process. Each surgery is different and you should make sure you follow the specific instructions your surgeon will provide for you.
Taking these precautions will help keep discomfort and complications to a minimum. They will also help you recover quickly so that you can get back to your normal life.
If you would like more information on periodontal surgery and what to expect, 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 “Instructions Following Periodontal Surgery.”
As life spans have increased over the last century so has the importance of maintaining good oral health. Teeth are such a critical component in good nutrition and disease protection, it’s important we do all we can to preserve them for a lifetime.
Through advances in dentistry and oral hygiene, two of teeth’s greatest enemies, dental caries (tooth decay) and periodontal (gum) disease, are not only quite treatable but even preventable. The fact remains, though, that like the rest of our body, our teeth are still subject to aging. The irreplaceable outer layer known as enamel is especially susceptible to wear over time.
The normal wearing down of teeth occurs because of occlusal (bite) activity. As our upper and lower teeth interact with each other through constant biting and chewing activities, some of the enamel surface naturally wears away as we age. Our biggest concern shouldn’t be the wear itself but the rate of wear — whether it’s exceeded the normal range.
Habits that increase the frequency and rate of biting forces are the most common reason for excessive enamel erosion. Such habits include excessive tooth-to-tooth contact as when we clench or grind our teeth and tooth-to-foreign object, the chronic habit of holding hard objects (nails, pencils, pins, etc.) tightly between the teeth. Many of these habits are a response to psychological stress that can even carry over into our sleep.
The key is to minimize these effects on the normal process of wear, and to protect teeth for as long as possible. How to accomplish that goal depends on your individual circumstance: treatments could include such things as orthodontics to correct bite problems that contribute to abnormal wear, considering restoring worn teeth with new crowns or fillings, or reducing grinding or clenching with nocturnal mouth guards or some form of stress-relief therapy.
In cases where abnormal wear has passed the point where it doesn’t make sense to repair your natural teeth, all is not lost — restorations such as dental implants can help restore lost function and inhibit further erosion. Advances over the last thirty years in restoration techniques can, in effect, extend a new lease on life for your teeth. What’s more, we can also restore form — to bring back that smile from your younger years.
If you would like more information on tooth erosion and aging, 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 “How and Why Teeth Wear.”