Posts for: December, 2014
Your teeth have enemies — bacteria that feed on biofilm, a thin layer of food remnant known as plaque that sticks to your teeth, are one such example. After ingestion, these bacteria produce acid, which can erode your teeth’s protective enamel and lead to tooth decay.
Fortunately, you have a weapon against enamel loss already at work in your mouth — saliva. Saliva neutralizes high levels of acid, as well as restores some of the enamel’s mineral content lost when the mouth is too acidic (re-mineralization).
Unfortunately, saliva can be overwhelmed if your mouth is chronically acidic. Here’s how you can help this powerful ally protect your enamel and stop tooth decay with better hygiene and eating habits:
Remove bacterial plaque daily. You should floss and brush with fluoride toothpaste everyday to remove plaque. It’s also recommended that you visit us twice a year for professional cleanings to remove hard to reach plaque. We can also train you on how to properly floss and brush.
Wait an hour after eating to brush. It may sound counterintuitive, but brushing immediately after you eat can do more harm than good. The mouth is naturally acidic just after eating and some degree of enamel softening usually occurs. It takes a half hour or so for saliva to restore the mouth’s pH balance and re-mineralize the enamel. If you brush before then, you may brush away some of the softened enamel.
Limit sweets to mealtimes. Constantly snacking on sweets (or sipping sodas, sports or energy drinks) will expose your teeth to a chronic high level of acid — and saliva can’t keep up in neutralizing it. If you can’t abstain from sugar, at least limit your consumption to mealtime. It’s also a good habit to rinse out your mouth with clear water after drinking an acidic drink to flush out excess acid.
Boost saliva content with supplements. If you suffer from insufficient saliva production or dry mouth, try an artificial saliva supplement. Chewing xylitol gum can also help boost saliva production, as well as inhibit the growth of infection-causing bacteria. We’ll be glad to advise you on the use of these products.
As one of America's most beloved go-to guys for inspiration on the latest interior design trends, Nate Berkus has written a highly successful book, Home Rules: Transform the Place You Live Into a Place You'll Love; he is a contributing editor to O Magazine; and he is currently hosting his own television program, The Nate Berkus Show. He is also recognized for his eye-catching smile.
During a recent interview with Dear Doctor magazine, Berkus opened up about the facts behind his trademark smile. While his smile is all-natural — he never wore braces or had any cosmetic work done — he gives credit to his childhood dentist for the preventative healthcare he received as a young boy. “I'm grateful for having been given fluoride treatments and sealants as a child,” he said. Nate also shared the important flossing advice he learned from his dentist that he still follows today: “Floss the ones you want to keep.”
Why is flossing so important?
Flossing is crucial because it remains the most effective method for removing plaque from between teeth, where the toothbrush can't reach. It is also an important part of keeping your gums healthy so that you can avoid periodontitis (gum disease). You should floss at least once a day either before or after you brush your teeth. If you see blood after flossing, it may indicate that you have periodontitis, or it may mean that you are flossing too harshly. Remember, you need to use a delicate hand and a proper technique when brushing and flossing to avoid damaging your teeth and gums.
To learn more about flossing, including step-by-step instructions with photos, you can continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Flossing — A Different Approach.” Or you can contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can conduct a thorough examination, review your brushing and flossing techniques, and discuss any questions you have as well as treatment options. As needed, we will work with you to teach you the proper brushing and flossing techniques so that you feel confident before you leave our office. And to read the entire interview with Nate Berkus, please see the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nate Berkus.”
We’re all susceptible to gum disease when we fail to practice effective daily brushing and flossing. But you may have a greater risk of gum disease (and more severe forms of it) if any of the following categories pertain to you:
Aging. Gum disease risk naturally increases with age. We can lower the risk with an effective daily hygiene regimen, along with a minimum of two office cleanings and checkups each year. Brushing and flossing removes bacterial plaque and food particles which accumulate on tooth surfaces. The longer plaque remains in contact with gum tissues, the greater the chances of infection.
Pregnancy. Although women tend to take better care of their teeth than men, they still face unique issues that increase their risk. During pregnancy, for example, certain hormone levels rise, which cause the gums to become more responsive to bacteria. Other hormonal fluctuations throughout a woman’s life, including taking certain drugs for birth control or during menopause, can cause similar situations.
Family History. You could be at higher risk if members of your immediate family have a history of gum disease. Researchers estimate that 30% of the U.S. population has a genetic predisposition to the disease; it’s also possible for family members to transfer bacteria to other family members by way of saliva contact or shared eating utensils.
Smoking. Nicotine, the active ingredient in tobacco smoke, causes changes in the blood vessels of the mouth that could inhibit the flow of antibodies (produced by the body to fight infection) in the bloodstream. As a result, smokers experience more rapid disease development and greater detachment between teeth and gums than non-smokers.
Other Inflammatory Conditions. A number of studies indicate people with other inflammatory conditions like heart disease, arthritis or diabetes have a higher risk for gum disease. Some researchers have even suggested that bacteria associated with gum disease pass into the blood stream and threaten other parts of the body — an added incentive to seek treatment and stop the disease’s advancement.
If you fall into any of these risk categories, it’s even more urgent that you practice effective daily hygiene with regular office checkups. Additionally, if you begin to notice bleeding gums, tenderness and swelling, or loose teeth, contact us as soon as possible for an evaluation.
If you would like more information on the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease, 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 “Assessing Risk for Gum Disease.”