Periodontist - Cedar Rapids
1909 51st St NE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402
319-294-4800

Posts for tag: tooth decay

UsetheSamePreventionStrategytoDefeatToothDecayandGumDisease

Archeologists can tell us quite a bit about our primitive ancestors. For example, because of their coarse, abrasive diet and a primitive understanding of oral hygiene, their teeth had a rough go of it. They simply wore out faster — a contributing factor, no doubt, to their short life spans of thirty or forty years.

But thanks to improvements in lifestyle, healthcare and diet, people live much longer today. And so do their teeth, thanks to advances in dental care and disease prevention. While teeth still wear to some degree as we age, if we care for them properly with daily oral hygiene and regular dental visits, we can keep that wear to a minimum. Teeth truly can last a lifetime.

Unfortunately, it's still all too common for people to lose their teeth prematurely. The main reason: the two most prevalent dental diseases, tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. Tooth decay arises from high concentrations of mouth acid that erode enamel, teeth's irreplaceable protective shell. Gum disease is an infection that damages the bone supporting tissues as it infiltrates deep below the visible gum line.

While they occur by different mechanisms, the two diseases have some commonalities. They both, of course, can lead to tooth loss. And, they're both triggered by oral bacteria found in dental plaque, a thin film of food particles built up on tooth and gum surfaces. Multiplying bacteria feed on plaque and produce acid as a by-product. And certain bacterial strains infect gum tissues.

Both of these diseases can be treated successfully, especially if detected early. But the better approach is to prevent them in the first place. This introduces another commonality — they share the same prevention strategy of daily, comprehensive brushing and flossing for plaque removal, regular dental cleanings and checkups, and a sharp eye for any signs of disease like bleeding gums or tooth pain.

With diligent dental care and close attention to your oral health, you increase your chances of avoiding the full threat of these diseases. And with healthy teeth, you have a better chance of living a long and healthy life.

If you would like more information on minimizing tooth wear, 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.”

DontLetSummerHeatIncreaseYourRiskofDentalDisease

In many parts of the country, summer is often a synonym for "blast furnace" and can be downright hot and miserable. If you find yourself in such a climate, it's imperative that you drink plenty of water to beat both the heat and heat-related injuries. Your teeth and gums are another reason to keep hydrated during those hot summer months.

Your body needs water to produce all that saliva swishing around in your mouth. When you have less water available in your system, the production of this important bodily fluid can go down—and this can increase your risk of dental disease. That's because saliva performs a number of tasks that enhance dental health. It helps rinse the mouth of excess food particles after eating that could become a prime food source for disease-causing bacteria. It also contains antibodies that serve as the first line of defense against harmful microorganisms entering through the mouth.

Perhaps saliva's most important role, though, is protecting and strengthening enamel, the teeth's outer "armor" against disease. Although the strongest substance in the body, enamel has one principal foe: oral acid. If the mouth's normally neutral pH becomes too acidic, the minerals in enamel begin to soften and dissolve. In response, saliva neutralizes acid and re-mineralizes softened enamel.

Without a healthy salivary flow protecting the mouth in these different ways, the teeth and gums are vulnerable to assault from bacteria and acid. As they gain the upper hand, the risk for tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease can skyrocket. Keeping yourself adequately hydrated ensures your body can produce an ample flow of saliva.

By the way, summer heat isn't the only cause for reduced saliva: Certain prescription medications may also interfere with its production. Chemotherapy and radiation, if targeting cancer near the head or neck, can damage salivary glands and impact flow as well.

If you have reduced saliva from medication you're taking, talk to your doctor about switching to an alternative prescription that doesn't affect saliva production. If you're undergoing cancer treatment, be extra vigilant about your oral hygiene practice and regular dental visits. And as with summer heat, be sure you're drinking plenty of water to help offset these other effects.

Even when it's hot, summertime should be a time for fun and relaxation. Don't let the heat ruin it—for your health or your smile.

If you would like more information about the oral health benefits of saliva and how to protect it, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

ActorDavidRamseyDiscussesBabyBottleToothDecay

Cavities can happen even before a baby has his first piece of candy. This was the difficult lesson actor David Ramsey of the TV shows Arrow and Dexter learned when his son DJ’s teeth were first emerging.

“His first teeth came in weak,” Ramsey recalled in a recent interview. “They had brown spots on them and they were brittle.” Those brown spots, he said, quickly turned into cavities. How did this happen?

Ramsey said DJ’s dentist suspected it had to do with the child’s feedings — not what he was being fed but how. DJ was often nursed to sleep, “so there were pools of breast milk that he could go to sleep with in his mouth,” Ramsey explained.

While breastfeeding offers an infant many health benefits, problems can occur when the natural sugars in breast milk are left in contact with teeth for long periods.  Sugar feeds decay-causing oral bacteria, and these bacteria in turn release tooth-eroding acids. The softer teeth of a young child are particularly vulnerable to these acids; the end result can be tooth decay.

This condition, technically known as “early child caries,” is referred to in laymen’s terms as “baby bottle tooth decay.” However, it can result from nighttime feedings by bottle or breast. The best way to prevent this problem is to avoid nursing babies to sleep at night once they reach the teething stage; a bottle-fed baby should not be allowed to fall asleep with anything but water in their bottle or “sippy cup.”

Here are some other basics of infant dental care that every parent should know:

  • Wipe your baby’s newly emerging teeth with a clean, moist washcloth after feedings.
  • Brush teeth that have completely grown in with a soft-bristled, child-size toothbrush and a smear of fluoride toothpaste no bigger than a grain of rice.
  • Start regular dental checkups by the first birthday.

Fortunately, Ramsey reports that his son is doing very well after an extended period of professional dental treatments and parental vigilance.

“It took a number of months, but his teeth are much, much better,” he said. “Right now we’re still helping him and we’re still really on top of the teeth situation.”

If you would like more information on dental care for babies and toddlers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “The Age One Dental Visit” and “Dentistry & Oral Health for Children.”

5QuestionstoAskYourselfAboutYourRiskforToothDecay

Among our most common diseases, tooth decay can be a big problem at any age: in the U.S., one in four children 5 and under has some form of the disease, as well as ninety percent of those 60 and older — and a quarter of those have suffered complete tooth loss.

Fortunately, we now know what needs to be done on a regular basis to prevent tooth decay. Unfortunately, many are uninformed about all they need to do to lower their risk.

Here, then, are 5 questions to ask yourself to see if you’re on the right prevention path or not.

Do I brush and floss daily? If not, you’re aiding and abetting the “enemy” — bacteria that cause tooth decay. Bacteria that make up plaque feed on any food remnants that adhere to tooth surfaces. Brushing at least once daily (twice is better) removes plaque, while flossing removes plaque between teeth that can’t be reached with a brush. Removing plaque will lower your mouth’s acid levels that cause a loss of minerals to the enamel surface.

Do I use the proper techniques for brushing and flossing? While it’s important to establish daily hygiene habits, if you’re not performing them properly you won’t realize the full benefit from your efforts. But don’t dismay — we can train you in the proper techniques for brushing and flossing your teeth.

Do I use fluoride toothpaste? This naturally-occurring chemical strengthens tooth enamel and makes it more resistant to decay. You can increase fluoride’s absorption rate into enamel by using hygiene products that contain it.

Do I constantly snack between meals? Saliva neutralizes acid remaining in the mouth after eating in about 30 to 60 minutes. If you’re constantly snacking or sipping acidic beverages, however, saliva can’t do this effectively. It’s best to limit snacking to a few, specific times and restrict acidic beverages to meal time only.

Do I visit the dentist for cleanings and checkups? While brushing and flossing reduce plaque, it can’t remove it from hard-to-reach places below the gums or harder deposits (calculus) that have developed. A professional cleaning twice a year removes the plaque and calculus left from daily hygiene. We can also gauge the health of your teeth and determine if tooth decay or gum disease may be developing.

If you would like more information on tooth decay prevention, 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 “Tooth Decay: How to Assess Your Risk.”

OralHealthWhenShouldYouCallOurOffice

People always wonder when it is appropriate to contact their dentist. To answer this, we have put together the following list to provide some guidelines for you and your family. However, your calls are always welcome! Our goal is simply to give you some clear scenarios that illustrate when you should give us a call or come in to our office.

For Bite Related Problems

  1. Early or late loss of baby teeth.
  2. Difficulty in chewing or biting.
  3. Mouth breathing.
  4. Finger sucking or other oral habits.
  5. Crowding, misplaced, crooked or even missing teeth.
  6. Jaws that shift, jaw joints that “pop” or “click” or are uncomfortable.
  7. Any change causing speech difficulty.
  8. Cheek or tongue biting.
  9. Protruding teeth — large overbite.
  10. Teeth that meet in an abnormal way or don't meet at all.
  11. Facial imbalance or asymmetry.
  12. Grinding or clenching of teeth.

For Injuries And Immediate Care

  1. Knocked out permanent tooth: Call us immediately. You need to take action within 5 minutes of the injury for best results.
  2. Injuries to lips, cheeks, tongue or gums that appear to require stitches: Call us for instructions as soon as possible.
  3. Tooth injury — if a tooth has shifted from its original position: Call us to tell us you are on your way to our office and see us within 6 hours of the injury.
  4. Chipped or broken tooth that is still in its original position: See us within 12 hours of the injury.
  5. A knocked out baby tooth: Call us as soon as possible.
  6. Bleeding without any significant tears in tissue that could require stitches: Call us for instructions.

What To Do Now

If any of the above describe you or another member of your family, then contact us today to discuss your questions or to schedule a consultation. You can also learn more about treating dental injuries by reading the Dear Doctor article, “The Field-Side Guide To Dental Injuries.”

AreDentalX-raysReallySafe

Yes, dental x-rays are a safe and vital tool we use for measuring and monitoring your oral health. We feel it is imperative to ensure that our patients have the facts — especially when it comes to their oral healthcare. This is why we want to respond to this important question about the safety of dental x-rays.

We want you to know what they are, how they are used, what makes them a safe and effective tool, and why they are so important to dentistry and your health. X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation, in fact, just like natural daylight, except they have a much shorter wavelength. And because they are a form of ionizing radiation, they can easily penetrate bodily tissues without causing any harm when used properly. The reasons we use them are obvious; they help us literally see what is unseen. For example, they enable us to see bone structure and roots of teeth among other things, and are commonly used for diagnosing tooth decay. Furthermore, today's x-ray machines and other image capturing techniques are so sophisticated and sensitive that the amount of radiation required for diagnosis is almost nothing when compared to what you get from the background radiation present in everyday living. In fact, the average single digital periapical (“peri” – around; “apical” – root end of a tooth) film is equal to 1/10 the amount of everyday natural environmental exposure. These facts make it clear that dental x-rays are completely safe and, thus, are nothing you need to be concerned about.

Learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “X-ray Frequency And Safety.” If you need to schedule an appointment, contact us today.

SeniorHealthTestingYourOralHealthExpertise

Given the fact that baby-boomers are now reaching the age of retirement, understanding senior healthcare is becoming a top priority to many people. Discover your level of expertise in the area of oral health by taking the following true/false test.

True or False Self Assessment

  1. All people eventually lose their teeth as they age.
  2. Yellow teeth are a sign of gum disease.
  3. If you have dentures, you no longer need regular dental check-ups.
  4. Periodontal (gum) disease is a big problem that affects 3 out of 4 adults.
  5. Electric toothbrushes can be a great option for seniors with arthritis or other debilitating conditions.

Answers

  1. False: Your teeth are meant to last your lifetime.
  2. False: Yellow teeth typically denote stained teeth from diet, medication, smoking, or growing older. And while they may not appear attractive, older, yellow teeth can in fact be healthy and free of gum disease. However, if your yellow teeth bother you, ask us if teeth whitening could be right for freshening up your smile while making you appear younger.
  3. False: For those individuals who wear complete upper and lower dentures, you will always need routine dental exams, typically once a year so that you can be screened for cancer, as well as other oral conditions (i.e. candadiasis), to ensure the you obtain and maintain optimal oral health.
  4. True: 75% of all adults over the age of 35 will experience some form of periodontal disease, a condition in which the gums become inflamed and infected. If left untreated, gum disease causes the bone that supports the teeth to deteriorate until the teeth are loosened and/or eventually lost (either they fall out on their own or must be removed). On a positive note, you can prevent gum disease by having good oral hygiene that includes flossing daily and brushing at least twice a day with a proper technique and fluoride toothpaste.
  5. True: Under normal conditions, what matters most is not so much the type of toothbrush used (manual, electric or battery powered toothbrush), but rather how you use it. However, if you are unable to use a manual toothbrush effectively for proper brushing, then a power toothbrush may be able to facilitate proper cleaning more easily.

Want To Learn More?

If you feel you missed too many of the above questions, read the Dear Doctor article, “Oral Hygiene Behavior.” Or, contact us today to discuss your questions or to schedule a consultation.