Posts for tag: dental hygiene
A number of factors can lead to dental caries (tooth decay). To find out if you are at high risk, ask yourself these questions.
Is plaque visible in my mouth?
Dental plaque is a whitish film of bacteria that collects on your teeth. If it is clearly visible, it means that there is a lot of it. Among the bacteria in the plaque are those that produce tooth decay, particularly in an acidic environment. (A normal mouth is neutral, measured on the pH scale, midway between the extreme acidic and basic ends of the scale.)
Do I have a dry mouth?
Saliva protects your teeth against decay by neutralizing an acidic environment and adding minerals back to the outer surface of enamel of your teeth, so reduced saliva is a high risk for caries. Many medications can cause dry mouth as a side effect.
Do I eat a lot of snacks, particularly unhealthy ones?
Frequently eating sugars, refined carbohydrates, and acidic foods promotes the growth of decay-producing bacteria. The more frequently you eat, the longer your teeth are bathed in sugars and acids. Acidic foods not only promote bacterial growth, they also directly cause erosion of the tooth's hard surface by softening and dissolving the minerals in the enamel.
Do I wear retainers, orthodontic appliances, bite guards or night guards?
These appliances are recommended for various conditions, but they tend to restrict the flow of saliva over your teeth, cutting down on the benefits of saliva mentioned above.
Do my teeth have deep pits and fissures?
The shape of your teeth is determined by your heredity. If your teeth grew in with deep grooves (fissures) and pits in them, you are at higher risk for bacterial growth and resulting decay.
Do I have conditions that expose my teeth to acids?
If you have bulimia (a psychological condition in which individuals induce vomiting), or GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease), your teeth may be frequently exposed to stomach acids that can cause severe erosion to your teeth.
Do I already have cavities?
Visible cavities can range from those only visible with laser technology or x-ray examination to those a dentist can see with a naked eye. If you already have small cavities, you are at high risk for developing more.
Do I have white spots on my teeth?
White spots are often the first sign of decay in a tooth's enamel. At this point, the condition is often reversible with fluorides.
Have I had a cavity within the last three years?
Recent cavities point to a high risk of more cavities in the future, unless conditions in your mouth have significantly changed.
If you have any of these indications of high risk, contact us today and ask us for suggestions for changing the conditions in your mouth. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay.”
Tooth decay is not trivial. It's a worldwide epidemic, one of the most common of all diseases — second only to the common cold. It affects more than one fourth of U.S. children of ages 2 to 5 and half of those 12 to 15. Among adults, tooth decay affects more than ninety percent of those over age 40.
Prevention of cavities starts with a healthy diet and effective brushing and flossing, but it is much more complex than that. Three strategies for reducing dental caries (tooth decay) include:
Protect with Fluoride and Sealants
This works best when fluoride is applied to the crystalline coating of your child's teeth just after they push through the gums (erupt). The fluoride becomes incorporated into the tooth's surface and acts as a barrier to decay. Studies have shown that low doses of fluoride are safe and effective.
Dental sealants are used as a companion to fluoride because they seal tiny pits and fissures in the tooth's structure, creating an even stronger barrier.
Modify Oral Bacteria
Every mouth contains bacteria, no matter how well you clean your teeth. Not all bacteria cause tooth decay. The problem bacteria are those that produce acid as a byproduct of their life processes. We can identify acid-producing bacteria in your mouth, you can reduce their concentrations using antibacterial mouthrinses such as chlorhexidine, and pH neutralizing agents (substances that reduce the amount of acid).
Reduce Sugars in Your Diet
Bacteria in your mouth ferment sugars and other carbohydrates, producing acids that eat into the mineralized outside structure of your teeth, the enamel. So eating fewer sugars — particularly added sugars such as those in juices, sodas, candy and other sweets — will help prevent decay. Your total sugar intake should be less than fifty grams, or about ten teaspoons, per day. If you begin to read labels showing sugar content of common foods, you may be surprised at the amount you consume without knowing it.
If you must snack between meals, non-sugary snacks like raw vegetables and fresh fruits create a better environment for your teeth.
Xylitol, an “alcohol sugar” used in some chewing gums and dental products, has been shown to reduce decay-producing bacteria.
Try these easy strategies to keep your teeth healthy and functional throughout your lifetime.
We say that we are going to have our teeth cleaned — but a lot more than simple cleaning takes place during a visit to a dental hygienist.
- Health History
Your hygienist will ask you about your general health and your dental health and any recent changes in either. By doing so she will pinpoint any issues that require special precautions during your cleaning.
- Cancer Screening
Next, the hygienist carefully examines the skin in and around your mouth looking for lumps, bumps, sores, tenderness or swellings and refers areas of concern to the dentist for further evaluation. The hygienist is one of the few people who get to closely assess your whole mouth, so she is trained to spot cancer and other diseases.
- Evaluating Your Periodontal Health
Your hygienist will look closely at the state of your periodontal health (from peri meaning around and dont meaning tooth). This includes checking your gums and the other tissues surrounding your teeth for inflammation (gingivitis) or bleeding.
- Checking for Decay
The hygienist will examine your teeth for decay and will note the location and condition of stains or hard mineral deposits (calculus or tartar). These deposits result from a buildup of plaque (a film of bacteria) that has not been removed by daily brushing.
The hygienist uses hand tools or a sonic scaler to remove the calculus from your teeth.
A mechanical polisher and an abrasive polishing compound are used to polish the surface of your teeth so that they are smooth, making them more resistant to plaque, removing stains and leaving your teeth feeling squeaky clean.
The hygienist uses a tiny probe to measure the space between your teeth and gums. Periodontal disease begins by forming pockets between the teeth and gums, so this measuring is key to your periodontal health. Generally a space of 3mm or less indicates healthy gums, pockets of 4 to 5mm indicate periodontal disease that may be reversed with good oral care at home, and pockets that are 6mm deep or more require specialized treatment by a dentist or periodontist (a dentist who specializes in care of gums).
Based on the observed conditions of your gums and teeth, the hygienist will provide information aimed at improving your home oral cleansing routines and about your risk for tooth decay and gum disease.
- Making Your Next Appointment
The hygienist will make an appointment for your next cleaning — in three, four, or six months depending on the health of your gums and teeth. Keeping these appointments not only keeps your teeth looking their best, but it also assures good management of your dental health.