Dr Sadlon's Dental Blog
Posts for: May, 2012
Gum disease (gingivitis) and tooth decay are primarily caused by dental plaque. Dental plaque is a whitish, sticky film that accumulates daily along the gumline and on the surfaces of your teeth. Composed of bacteria, it is controllable through good oral hygiene habits — most importantly, effective brushing.
Controlling plaque and preventing gingivitis and tooth decay will make it more likely that you keep your teeth through your lifetime and will also improve your general health. Scientific studies have linked gum disease and diseases of the heart and circulatory system.
“I know how to brush my teeth. I've been doing it since I was a toddler,” you may be saying. But you may not be performing this daily ritual in the most effective way.
Let's take another look at tooth brushing. First, your grip: Hold the brush in your fingertips with a light pressure. Position the brush so the bristles are at a 45 degree angle to your gumline, and then brush with a gentle scrubbing motion. DonÃ¢Â€Â™t scrub too hard, or you may damage your sensitive gum tissue.
Some electric brushes can remove plaque more quickly than a regular hand-held brush, but if you brush well any kind of brush works. A brush will last several months. Get a new one when the bristles become worn or splayed out.
Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride. When used consistently, fluoride toothpastes make your teeth more resistant to decay. Spit out the toothpaste after brushing, but don't rinse or you will wash the fluoride away.
After brushing, complete your cleaning job by using floss to clean between your teeth where the brush does not reach. Wrap it in a “C” shape around each tooth and move it vertically up and down, removing plaque from the tooth surfaces where your teeth meet. You can also use an antibacterial mouth rinse.
Thoroughly clean your teeth at least once a day, brushing and flossing. A plaque film takes 12 to 24 hours to form itself again.
To be certain you are brushing correctly, ask our office or one of our hygienists to demonstrate brushing techniques for you in your own mouth. You can also assess the quality of your brushing technique by checking with your tongue after brushing to make sure your tooth surfaces feel smooth and slick. Your gums should not bleed after brushing. Bleeding is a sign of infection. If you have a habit of consistent brushing but your gums continue to bleed, it's time for a visit to our office.
Periodontal (gum) disease can lead to serious infection and even loss of teeth; but it can easily be prevented. Here are seven things you can do to prevent gum disease — or stop it in its tracks if you already have it.
- Understand the causes of gum disease. Diseases of periodontal (from the root words meaning “around” and “tooth”) or gum tissues start with bacteria collecting on your teeth, in the areas where the teeth and gums meet. The bacteria, called plaque or biofilm, irritate the surrounding tissues and cause them to become inflamed and swollen, and to bleed easily on contact. This condition is called gingivitis.
- Brush correctly and effectively. Brushing twice a day is not just to polish your teeth to pearly whiteness. An important reason to brush is to remove the daily coating of plaque from your teeth. At your next dental appointment, ask me or our staff to show you the most effective way to brush.
- Floss every day. Daily flossing removes the plaque that settles in between your teeth, in places where your brush can't reach.
- Have regular professional cleanings. Our hygienist will remove plaque that you missed by brushing and flossing. This plaque hardens into a material called calculus or tartar. In a professional cleaning your hygienist uses special tools to scrape these materials away. The hygienist also measures the distances between your gums and teeth to make sure that inflamed gums have not separated from the teeth, forming pockets in which the bacteria continue to grow.
- Recognize the signs of developing gum disease. These signs include any of the following: gums that bleed easily when you brush or floss; bad breath; red or swollen gums; and sensitive teeth.
- Stop smoking. If you haven't stopped smoking for your heart or lungs, here is another reason to quit. Smokers are more likely to develop periodontal disease than nonsmokers. Smoking masks the effects of gum disease, so smokers are less likely to notice the symptoms, allowing the disease to progress to a greater degree before they seek help.
- See our office right away if your teeth become loose or your gums become red and swollen. If inflamed gum tissues do not heal, the disease continues to progress. The tissues that attach your teeth to your bone, called ligaments, are lost as pockets deepen as the infection advances. Your gums may also become red, swollen, and painful. As the infection gets worse it eats away the bone around your teeth, causing the teeth to loosen and fall out.
So start with prevention and stop periodontal disease in its early stages.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about gum disease. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”
If you are dissatisfied with the way your smile looks, and your dentist is unhappy with the way your teeth fit together — but you don't like the idea of wearing braces — clear aligners may be your best solution. How much do you know about this teeth-straightening alternative? Below are some FAQs on the subject.
What do we mean by clear aligners? Clear aligners are a system for straightening teeth that uses clear plastic removable “trays” that fit over your teeth. As the teeth move to fit the trays, new trays are substituted that are designed to continue to move your teeth into the desired position. This system is an alternative to the traditional system of brackets and wires known as braces.
How can teeth be moved to new positions? The connection that holds a tooth in place in your jaws — the periodontal ligament — is not immobile. It constantly changes its position based on the normal forces of your bite. As the ligament is pushed on one side and pulled on the other, the living cells of your mouth respond by depositing bone and cementum (the protective covering of the tooth's root) on one side and dissolving it on the other. Normally this happens in a balance, maintaining your teeth in their position. We can manage these slight changes by applying constant light forces to move teeth in a predictable way.
How long does it take to move teeth to their optimum position using clear aligners? As with braces, the process is gradual. Total treatment time can range from six months to two years.
Do the trays have to be worn all the time? As you move through the sequence of trays, each is worn for 20 hours per day for two weeks. They may occasionally be removed for important social occasions.
How does an orthodontist design the sequential trays that are used? The trays are designed using a computer, based on an assessment and images of your mouth, teeth and jaws.
What kinds of problems can clear aligners correct? This method works well to correct mild to moderate crowding or spacing. If your back teeth already fit together as they should, the system may be ideal. If you have an extreme overbite or underbite, braces might work better.
Are clear aligners an alternative for everyone? Clear aligners are recommended for adults and recently, teenagers. They are not usually recommended for young children.
Why is it important to have your teeth straightened? Besides the obvious benefit of feeling better about yourself and your appearance, straight and well-aligned teeth work better. You will experience a better-functioning bite and can improve your oral health.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about orthodontics and clear aligners. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Clear Orthodontic Aligners” and “Moving Teeth With Orthodontics.”
Did you know that the bacteria that cause tooth decay are usually transmitted to children from their parents, through sharing the same spoon or kissing? Once inside the child's mouth, the bacteria live on the teeth in what is called a biofilm. When the child consumes sugary foods or drinks, the bacteria act upon the sugar to produce acids that eat away at the child's teeth, producing tooth decay.
These bacteria thrive on carbohydrates such as bread, sweets, and sodas. Even fruit juices, which offer more vitamins than soda, are filled with sugars that lead to decay. The child's saliva works hard to neutralize the acidity produced from these foods, but if the child often snacks between meals this neutralization process doesnÃ¢Â€Â™t have a chance to occur.
The first sign of decay may be white spots on the teeth, an indication that minerals in the surface enamel have been dissolved in certain locations. Before it goes any farther, this process can be reversed by reducing the exposure to acids and using fluorides to strengthen the tooth surface.
Make sure your child sees a dentist by his first birthday, to provide preventive care and treat any beginning decay.
You can also help your child develop the habit of brushing his teeth with fluoridated toothpaste. It is important to use only a smear of toothpaste on the brush for very young children, and a pea-sized amount on the brush for children over the age of 2. Sometimes small children swallow their toothpaste, and excessive amounts of fluoride can cause staining on the teeth. When your children are very young, you must brush their teeth. As they get older, they can do it themselves, with your supervision. We can also apply fluoride varnish to strengthen the tooth surface and make it resistant to acids.
Brushing twice a day is a good start. But it can't prevent tooth decay when a child is eating carbohydrates all day. One way to reduce the use of sugar is to use xylitol, a naturally occurring sweetener that looks and tastes like table sugar and improves oral health. Studies have shown that use of this sweetener reduces tooth decay in children.
Another good idea is to wean children from bottles and training cups as early as possible. Sometimes children are given bottles filled with milk or sugary beverages at bedtime to help them relax. A better idea for their teeth is to teach them to drink from a regular cup filled with milk — or preferably, with water.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about tooth decay in children. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Managing Tooth Decay In Children With Chronic Diseases.” While this article focuses on children with health challenges, it contains excellent advice to help all children prevent tooth decay.