Fourth Grade~Tooth Decay, Orthodontics, Bonding, Bruxing, TMJ, Diet & Soda Consumption
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Tooth decay

Tooth decay is the disease known as caries or cavities. Unlike some diseases, caries is not life threatening and is highly preventable, though it affects most people to some degree during their lifetime. Tooth decay occurs when your teeth are frequently exposed to foods containing carbohydrates (starches and sugars) like soda pop, candy, ice cream, milk, cakes, and even fruits, vegetables and juices. Natural bacteria live in your mouth and forms plaque. The plaque interacts with deposits left on your teeth from sugary and starchy foods to produce acids. These acids damage tooth enamel over time by dissolving, or demineralizing, the mineral structure of teeth, producing tooth decay and weakening the teeth.

How are cavities prevented?

The acids formed by plaque can be counteracted by simple saliva in your mouth, which acts as a buffer and remineralizing agent. Dentists often recommend chewing sugarless gum to stimulate your flow of saliva. However, though it is the body's natural defense against cavities, saliva alone is not sufficient to combat tooth decay.

The best way to prevent caries is to brush and floss regularly. To rebuild the early damage caused by plaque bacteria, we use fluoride, a natural substance which helps to remineralize the tooth structure. Fluoride is added to toothpaste to fight cavities and clean teeth. The most common source of fluoride is in the water we drink. Fluoride is added to most community water supplies and to many bottled and canned beverages.

Who is at risk for cavities?

Because we all carry bacteria in our mouths, everyone is at risk for cavities. Those with a diet high in carbohydrates and sugary foods and those who live in communities without fluoridated water are likely candidates for cavities. And because the area around a restored portion of a tooth is a good breeding ground for bacteria, those with a lot of fillings have a higher chance of developing tooth decay. Children and senior citizens are the two groups at highest risk for cavities.

What can I do to help protect my teeth?

  1. Cut down on sweets and between-meal snacks. Remember, it's these sugary and starchy treats that put your teeth at extra risk.

  2. Brush after every meal and floss daily. Cavities most often begin in hard-to-clean areas between teeth and in the fissures and pits--the edges in the tooth crown and gaps between teeth. Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and brush inside, outside and between your teeth and on the top of your tongue. Be sure the bristles are firm, not bent, and replace the toothbrush after a few weeks to safeguard against reinfecting your mouth with old bacteria that can collect on the brush. Finally, because caries is a transmittable disease, toothbrushes should never be shared, especially with your children.

  3. See your dentist at least every six months for checkups and professional cleanings. Because caries can be difficult to detect, a thorough dental examination is very important. If you get a painful toothache, if your teeth are very sensitive to hot or cold foods, or if you notice signs of decay like white spots, tooth discolorations or cavities, make an appointment right away. If a cavity is left untreated, you could get an infection or even get the cavity so bad that it cannot be fixed and the tooth may have to be removed.

Orthodontics

A dentist usually recommends braces to improve the patient's physical "orofacial" appearance and function. Through orthodontic treatment, problems like crooked or crowded teeth, overbites or underbites, incorrect jaw position, and disorders of the jaw joints are corrected.

Patients with orthodontic problems can benefit from treatment at nearly any age. An ideal time for treatment is early, while the head and mouth are still growing and teeth are more accessible to straightening. However, because any adjustments in facial appearance can be traumatic to a child during these sensitive years, parents should discuss the matter with their children before treatment. Orthodontics is not just for kids. More and more adults are also having orthodontics to correct minor problems and to improve their smiles.

Braces generally come in three varieties: The most popular type are brackets, metal or ceramic, that are bonded to teeth and are far less noticeable. The "lingual" type of braces are brackets that attach to the back of teeth, hidden from view. Bands are the old-fashioned type that cover most of your teeth with metal bands that wrap around the teeth. All use wires to move the teeth to the desired position.

The more complicated your spacing or bite problem is, and the older you are, the longer the period of treatment, usually. Most patients can count on wearing full braces between 18 and 30 months, followed by the wearing of a retainer for at least a few months to set and align tissues surrounding straightened teeth.

The interconnecting wires are tightened at each visit, bearing mild pressure on the brackets or bands to shift teeth or jaws gradually into a desired position. Your teeth and jaws may feel slightly sore after each visit, but the discomfort is brief. Keep in mind also that some teeth may need to be extracted to make room for teeth being shifted with braces and for proper jaw alignment.

Cut down on sweets, chips and pop. Sugary and starchy foods generate acids and plaque that can cause tooth decay and promote gum disease.

Cut healthy, hard foods like carrots or apples into smaller pieces. Sticky, chewy sweets like caramel can cause wire damage and loosen brackets. Avoid hard and crunchy snacks that can break braces, including popcorn, nuts and hard candy. More don'ts: ice cube chewing, thumb sucking, excessive mouth breathing, lip biting and pushing your tongue against your teeth.

With braces, oral hygiene is more important than ever. Braces have tiny spaces where food particles and plaque get trapped. Brush carefully after every meal with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly and check your teeth in the mirror to make sure they're clean. Take time to floss between braces and under wires with the help of a floss threader. Have your teeth cleaned every three months to keep your gums and teeth healthy. Insufficient cleaning while wearing braces can cause enamel staining around brackets or bands.

Your family general dentist is responsible for coordinating your dental treatment, and this could encompass any orthodontic treatment plan, including diagnosis, examinations and some orthodontic procedures. Your dentist may however refer you to an "orthodontist" - a specialist trained in the development, prevention and correction of irregularities of the teeth, bite and jaws, and related facial abnormalities.

Bonding

Bonding is a cosmetic dental procedure which uses a composite marerial (white filling material) to change the position and shape of the tooth, and alter the length, texture and color without dramatic destruction of the existing tooth.

The composite is sculpted, shaped and then cured (hardened) with a curing light. After curing, the composite becomes very hard and strong. Then it can be sculpted further to give us the exact look, feel, shape, size and texture desired. Since it is built up in layers, different colors can be used to give us the exact color we need (will mimic intrinsic colors).

Bonding is a simple and quick procedure that can usually be completed in 1 visit. Cosmetic dentistry, through the advances in modern dentistry, can achieve a whiter, brighter, more attractive smile for just about anyone who desires it!

Bruxism

Bruxism is the technical term for grinding and clenching that abrades teeth and may cause facial pain. People who grind and clench, called bruxers, unintentionally bite down too hard at inappropriate times, such as in their sleep. In addition to grinding teeth, bruxers also may bite their fingernails, pencils and chew the inside of their cheek. People usually aren't diagnosed with bruxism until it is too late because so many people don't realize they have the habit. About one in three people suffer from bruxism, which can easily be treated by a dentist.

People who have otherwise healthy teeth and gums can clench so often and so hard that over time their teeth become sensitive. They experience jaw pain, tense muscles and headaches along with excessive wear on their teeth. Forceful biting when not eating may cause the jaw to move out of proper balance.

When a person has bruxism, the tips of the teeth look flat. Teeth are worn down so much that the enamel is rubbed off, exposing the inside of the tooth which is called dentin. When exposed, dentin may become sensitive. Bruxers may experience pain in their temporomandibular joint (TMJ) -the jaw- which may manifest itself as popping and clicking. Women have a higher prevalence of bruxism possibly because they are more likely to experience tissue alterations in the jaw resulting from clenching and grinding. Tongue indentations are another sign of clenching. Stress and certain personality types are at the root of bruxism. People who are aggressive, competitive and hurried also may be at a greater risk for bruxism.

During regular dental visits, the dentist automatically checks for physical signs of bruxism. If the dentist or patient notices signs of bruxism, the condition may be observed over several visits to be sure of the problem before recommending and starting therapy.

TMJ (TEMPOROMANDIBULAR JOINT DYSFUNCTION)

It is estimated that over 60 million Americans complain about this problem. Some of the signs and symptoms are locked jaw, clicking or grating sounds coming from the jaw joint when eating, soreness or pain in the jaw muscles or the face, tension headaches, earaches, ringing or hissing sounds, wet-itchy feeling in the ears, stiff neck, constant sinus like pressure and frequent headaches.

The longer the pain continues, the more complicated the treatment might be. Treatment for the dysfunction can vary from simple exercise, to bite guards, to surgery. The good news is that usually it can and has been treated successfully, and the results are excellent.

Diet *

Not only is your diet important to your general health, it is also important to your dental health. If you do not eat a balanced diet, you are more likely to get tooth decay and gum disease. Developing teeth can also be affected. Children who have a poor diet are more likely to have dental problems.

How does the food you eat cause tooth decay? When you eat, food passes through your mouth. Here it meets the germs, or bacteria, that live in your mouth. You may have heard your dentist talk about plaque. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria.

These bacteria love sugars and starches found in many foods. When you don't clean your teeth after eating, plaque bacteria use the sugar and starch to produce acids that can destroy the hard surface of the tooth, called enamel. After a while, tooth decay occurs. The more often you eat and the longer foods are in your mouth, the more damage occurs.

Some foods that you would least expect contain sugars or starches. Some examples are fruits, milk, bread, cereals and even vegetables.

The key to choosing foods wisely is not to avoid these foods, but to think before you eat. Not only what you eat but when you eat makes a big difference in your dental health. Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks. If you are on a special diet, keep your physician's advice in mind when choosing foods. For good dental health, keep these tips in mind when choosing your meals and snacks.

Tips for better dental health

  • To get a balanced diet, eat a variety of foods. Choose foods from each of the five major food groups: breads, cereals and other grain products, fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry and fish and milk, cheese and yogurt.

  • Limit the number of snacks that you eat. Each time you eat food that contains sugars or starches, the teeth are attacked by acids for 20 minutes or more.

  • If you do snack, choose nutritious foods, such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt, or a piece of fruit.

  • Foods that are eaten as part of a meal cause less harm. More saliva is released during a meal, which helps wash foods from the mouth and helps lessen the effects of acids.

  • Brush at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste that has the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance.

  • Clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners.

  • Visit your dentist regularly. Your dentist can help prevent problems from occurring and catch those that do occur while they are easy to treat.

Soda Drinking

Do you drink too much soda? You could be rotting your teeth. Drinking carbonated soft drinks all the time can erode the top layer called the enamel that is protecting your teeth. Soda contains sticky sugars that break down into acid which sticks very easily to your teeth. These acids soften the surface and promote plaque production which leads to cavities. If the cavity breaks through the enamel and gets inside the tooth to the dentin, you will be in a lot of pain and have a very sensitive tooth. That could lead to a nerve infection which could end up in a root canal surgery! The worst time to drink soda is when you are very thirsty because the saliva levels in your mouth are very low. The saliva helps to destroy some of the acid from the foods we eat and drink naturally. Also the more you drink, the more acid you allow to hurt your teeth. In fact you actually hurt your teeth more by slowly taking sips of soda over a long time than drinking an entire can at once. Everytime the soda touches your teeth, the acids get to work at destroying them. Try only drinking soda pop with a full meal, and brush and floss as soon as you are done. If you're thirsty and want a healthy smile, skip the soft drinks and head for the water.

Did you know that drinking water can improve your smile? Well, actually it helps fight the acids that come into your mouth when you eat. It can reduce the acid by 30 percent according to the Academy of General Dentistry. Brushing is always best but not always possible. So drink to your health (water that is)!

Contact

Academy of Dentistry International®
3813 Gordon Creek Drive
Hicksville, Ohio 43526 U. S. A.
Tel: + 01(419) 542-0101
Fax: +01(419) 542-0992
Email:info@adint.org