Monthly Archives: June 2016
Tooth decay (dental caries) is one of the world’s most common infectious diseases. Left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss, accompanied by pain, discomfort and unnecessary infection risks. The best treatment strategy, of course, is to prevent it from occurring in the first place with a long-term approach that begins in early childhood and continues throughout our lifetime.
Here are some basic components for just such a prevention strategy.
Know your risk. We each don’t share the same level of risk for tooth decay, so it’s important to come to terms with any factors that raise your personal risk for the disease — your dental history, inadequate oral hygiene, absence of fluoride use, and lifestyle habits like smoking. Coming to terms with these and other factors — and altering those you can change — can lower your risk.
Reduce acid-producing bacteria in your mouth. Tooth decay usually arises from elevated acidic levels in the mouth caused by certain strains of oral bacteria. You can reduce these bacteria by removing plaque, a thin film of food particles that collect on tooth surfaces, with daily oral hygiene and regular cleanings in our office. In some cases, we may also recommend antibacterial mouthrinses like chlorhexidine to further lower the bacterial population.
Apply protective measures to teeth. Fluoride, a naturally occurring chemical, has been proven effective in strengthening tooth enamel and reducing tooth decay. In addition to fluoride found in many oral hygiene products and public water systems, children can also benefit from a direct application of fluoride to the enamel surface just after the teeth have erupted in the mouth. Many clinical studies have shown 99% cavity free results in over a thousand teeth receiving a fluoride application with sealants.
Control your diet. Bacteria ferment leftover sugars and other carbohydrates in the mouth; this creates acid, which can soften tooth enamel and lead to decay. You can limit this effect by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and reducing your consumption of refined sugar. You should also limit between meal snacking — constant snacking prevents saliva, the mouth’s natural acid neutralizer, from effectively restoring the mouth’s pH balance.
A prevention strategy for tooth decay will help you avoid unnecessary pain and problems — physically and financially. You’ll also reap the rewards that come from a lifetime of good dental health.
If you would like more information on preventing tooth decay, please contact us to schedule an appointment for a consultation.
Teaching your child proper oral care at a young age is an investment in his or her health that will pay lifelong dividends. You can start by setting an example; taking good care of your own teeth sends a message that oral health is something to be valued. And anything that makes taking care of teeth fun, like brushing along with your child or letting them choose their own toothbrush, encourages proper oral care.
To help your children protect their teeth and gums and greatly reduce their risk of getting cavities, teach them to follow these simple steps:
- Brush twice a day with an accepted fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque-the sticky film on teeth that’s the main cause of tooth decay.
- Floss daily to remove plaque from between your teeth and under the gumline, before it can harden into tartar. Once tartar has formed, it can only be removed by a professional cleaning.
- Eat a well-balanced diet that limits starchy or sugary foods, which produce plaque acids that cause tooth decay. When you do eat these foods, try to eat them with your meal instead of as a snack-the extra saliva produced during a meal helps rinse food from the mouth.
- Use dental products that contain fluoride, including toothpaste.
- Make sure that your children’s drinking water is fluoridated. If your water supply; municipal, well or bottled does not contain fluoride, your dentist or pediatrician may prescribe daily fluoride supplements.
- Take your child to the dentist for regular checkups.
What Brushing Techniques Can I Show My Child?
You may want to supervise your children until they get the hang of these simple steps:
- Use a pea-sized dab of an accepted fluoride toothpaste. Take care that your child does not swallow the toothpaste.
- Using a soft-bristled toothbrush, brush the inside surface of each tooth first, where plaque may accumulate most. Brush gently back and forth.
- Clean the outer surfaces of each tooth. Angle the brush along the outer gumline. Gently brush back and forth.
- Brush the chewing surface of each tooth. Gently brush back and forth.
- Use the tip of the brush to clean behind each front tooth, both top and bottom.
- It’s always fun to brush the tongue!
When Should My Child Begin Flossing?
Because flossing removes food particles and plaque between teeth that brushing misses, you should floss for your children beginning at age 4. By the time they reach age 8, most kids can begin flossing for themselves.
What is Fluoride and How Do I Know if My Child is Getting the Right Amount?
Fluoride is one of the best ways to help prevent against tooth decay. A naturally occurring mineral, fluoride combines with the tooth’s enamel to strengthen it. In many public water supplies, the right amount of fluoride is added for proper tooth development. To find out whether your water contains fluoride, and how much, call your local council. If your water supply does not contain any (or enough) fluoride, your child’s dentist may suggest using fluoride drops or a mouthrinse in addition to a fluoride toothpaste.
How Important is Diet to My Child’s Oral Health?
A balanced diet is necessary for your child to develop strong, decay-resistant teeth. In addition to a full range of vitamins and minerals, a child’s diet should include plenty of calcium, phosphorous, and proper levels of fluoride.
If fluoride is your child’s greatest protection against tooth decay, then frequent snacking may be the biggest enemy. The sugars and starches found in many foods and snacks like cookies, candies, dried fruit, soft drinks, pretzels and potato chips combine with plaque on teeth to create acids. These acids attack the tooth enamel and may lead to cavities.
Each “plaque attack” can last up to 20 minutes after a meal or snack has been finished. Even a little nibble can create plaque acids. So it’s best to limit snacking between meals.
What Should I Do if My Child Chips, Breaks or Knocks Out a Tooth?
With any injury to your child’s mouth, you should contact us immediately. We will want to examine the affected area and determine appropriate treatment.
If your child is in pain from a broken, cracked or chipped tooth, you need to come see us immediately. You may want to give an over-the-counter pain reliever to your child until his/her appointment. If possible, keep any part of the tooth that has broken off and take this with you when you see us.
If a tooth is completely knocked out of the mouth by an injury, take the tooth to us as soon as possible. Handle the tooth as little as possible — do not wipe or otherwise clean the tooth. Store the tooth in water or milk until you get to a dentist. It may be possible for the tooth to be placed back into your child’s mouth, a procedure called reimplantation.
Take good care of your child’s baby teeth. They do eventually fall out but until they do, baby teeth play an important role in helping your child bite and chew food, and speak clearly. Many of the same treatment and evaluation options that adults have are also available to kids. These include X-rays, dental sealants, orthodontic treatment and more.