Posts for category: Oral Health
Kids do lots of changing in the teen years, as bodies and minds begin the process of becoming more “grown up.” By now, parental reminders to brush teeth and go easy on sugary snacks might be met with rolled eyes and a groan. But there are still several ways that parents can help their teens to maintain good oral health.
1) Make sure kids get — and wear — a professionally made, custom-fitted mouthguard when playing sports.
The American Dental Association says athletes are 60 times more likely to suffer dental injury if they don't wear a mouthguard. These devices also protect the jaw, lips, cheeks, and tongue — not just the teeth. A mouthguard that's custom-made from a model of your child's teeth costs a little more, but offers greater protection than an off-the-shelf model.
2) Talk to your teens about the dangers of oral piercings.
Like tattoos and iPods, piercings are probably a sign of the times. But that doesn't make them harmless. Installing tongue and lip bolts creates a risk for the teeth and soft tissues that are nearby. Tooth chipping, sensitivity and pain, along with gum recession and infection, are some of the issues that may accompany an oral piercing. Remind teens that future dental problems may be a high price to pay for a fleeting fashion statement.
3) Get professional help if you — or your teen — develop an addiction to tobacco, alcohol or drugs, or an eating disorder.
Nobody wants to admit they aren't in control. But peer pressure, body image concerns and a host of other issues may lead teens into dangerous behaviors. The negative effect of various addictions on one's general health is well-documented; with respect to oral health, there are particular concerns. Tobacco not only stains the teeth, but causes changes in the mouth that can lead to oral cancer. Erosion of the tooth enamel is both a diagnostic signal of a potential eating disorder, and a problem that needs treatment. Don't hesitate to ask questions, particularly when an examination reveals a potential problem, and be sure to seek professional help when needed.
If you would like more information about helping your teen maintain good oral health, 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 to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”
Treating bad breath is big business. Just check your local drug store or supermarket and you'll find a mind-numbing array of mints, gums, mouthwashes, sprays, strips and other products that promise to sweeten your breath and make you (or your mouth at least) irresistible. But most of these products only mask halitosis (from the Latin “halitus” – exhalation, and Greek “osis” – disease) and some even contain ingredients, like sugar, that contribute to tooth decay and gum disease. In most cases, for enduring, healthful results, nothing beats a trusty toothbrush, toothpaste and floss, used faithfully and correctly, along with periodic dental checks and cleanings.
Oral bacteria are the number one reason for noxious breath. More than 600 types inhabit our mouth, and some of them emit awful odors — predominantly volatile sulfur compounds characterized by a “rotten egg” smell) — as they consume remnants of food trapped in our mouth. Brushing and flossing regularly, especially after eating, can dislodge food trapped between teeth (interdental) and under the gums (subgingival), depriving microbes of a ready-made meal. It also disrupts the buildup of sticky plaque (microbial “biofilms”) where odor-causing germs can flourish.
When cleaning your mouth, pay special attention to the back of the tongue. It is the primary location for generating halitosis because it is drier and less efficiently cleansed by saliva and normal oral activity than the front. Our office can instruct you on proper oral hygiene including the gentle use of a tongue scraper or brush.
Sometimes more involved periodontal techniques such as scaling and root planing (deep cleaning) are called for; antibiotics may be useful in targeting the offending microbes. If tooth decay and/or periodontal (or gum) disease is contributing to halitosis appropriate treatment is necessary.
Remember that foul breath is just a symptom of some underlying condition. If diligent oral care at home doesn't do the trick, our office can help you get to the root of the problem and determine the appropriate therapy.
If you would like more information about halitosis and ways to prevent or treat it, 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 “Bad Breath.”
Your teeth are under constant attack from bacteria that normally live in your mouth. When these bacteria thrive, they create acid that begins to dissolve the minerals in your enamel (the outer layer of your teeth). In your defense, your saliva protects against these bacteria and adds minerals back to your enamel. Let's take a look at this ongoing battle, and what you can do to sway it in a positive direction.
The outer covering of your teeth, the enamel, is made mainly of the minerals calcium and phosphate. The enamel protects the interior layer of your teeth, the dentin, which is similar in composition to bone. Although it is the hardest substance in your body, the enamel is still vulnerable to attack.
Your mouth is normally full of saliva, which washes over your teeth and maintains a balance between acids and bases. The terms “acids” and “bases” refer to a scientific measurement, the pH scale. Your mouth's pH is usually in the middle of the scale — neither acidic nor basic, but neutral. This is important in controlling the bacteria in your mouth.
You may be surprised to know how many bacteria live in everyone's mouth. More bacteria live in a single mouth than the number of people who have ever lived on earth. Some of these bacteria can cause tooth decay. Let's call them “bad bacteria.”
When the bad bacteria attach themselves to dental plaque — a film that builds up on your teeth every day — they begin to consume sugars that are in your mouth from foods that you have eaten. As the bacteria break down these sugars and turn them into energy, acid is produced as a by-product. This turns the saliva from neutral to acidic.
At a certain level of acidity, minerals in your enamel start to dissolve. This is called “de-mineralization.” It means that more calcium and phosphate are leaving the tooth's surface than are entering it. Early de-mineralization of the enamel shows up as white spots on a tooth.
Fortunately, healthy saliva can return calcium and phosphate to the enamel, or re-mineralize it. De-mineralization and opposing re-mineralization are constantly battling in your mouth. However, if too much enamel is de-mineralized, bacterial acid can go on to attack the next layer of your teeth, the dentin. As this process continues, you develop a dental cavity.
How can you protect your teeth? The first level of defense is regular removal of plaque, so that the bad bacteria do not get a foothold. In an office visit we may also recommend products such as sealants, antibacterial agents, topical fluoride, calcium and phosphate supplements, pH neutralizers, special toothpaste and rinses, which may help your particular situation.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about tooth decay. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay — The World's Oldest & Widespread Disease.”
If you have ever had tooth decay, you should know:
- Tooth decay is one of the most common of all diseases, second only to the common cold.
- Tooth decay affects more than one-fourth of U.S. children ages 2 to 5, half of those ages 12 to 15, and more than 90 percent of U.S. adults over age 40.
- Tooth decay causes pain, suffering and disability for millions of Americans each year — even more disturbing, tooth decay is preventable.
- If it is not treated, in extreme and rare cases tooth decay can be deadly. Infection in an upper back tooth can spread to the sinus behind the eye, from which it can enter the brain and cause death.
- Tooth decay is an infectious process caused by acid-producing bacteria. Your risk for decay can be assessed in our office with a simple test for specific bacterial activity.
- Three factors are necessary for tooth decay to occur: susceptible teeth, acid-producing bacteria and a diet rich in sugars and refined carbohydrates.
- Babies are not born with decay-causing bacteria in their mouths; the bacteria are transmitted through saliva from mothers, caregivers, or family members.
- Fluoride incorporated into the tooth structure protects teeth against decay by making the enamel more resistant to acid attack.
- Sealants, which close up the nooks and crannies in newly erupted teeth, stop bacterial collection where a toothbrush can't reach. Teeth with sealants have been shown to remain 99 percent cavity-free over six years.
- Restricting sugar intake is important in preventing tooth decay. Your total sugar intake should be less than 50 grams a day (about ten teaspoons) including sugars in other foods. A can of soda may have six teaspoons of sugar — or more!
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about tooth decay. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay – The World's Oldest & Most Widespread Disease.”
In recent years, the number of teenagers with eating disorders has increased dramatically. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), as many as 24 million Americans suffer from some form of eating disorder and 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.
There are many long-term problems associated with eating disorders, including osteoporosis, infertility and anemia. Another unfortunate side-effect involves dental health. If your child suffers from bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder characterized by a cycle of food binges and vomiting, his or her teeth may show signs of tooth erosion.
Tooth erosion occurs when the tooth surface loses enamel after exposure to acid. It affects more than 90% of individuals with bulimia and 20% of individuals with anorexia nervosa, a disorder that involves starvation. There is often overlap between the two diseases — those with anorexia may sometimes binge and purge, and those with bulimia may try to restrict their food.
Each disorder results in dental diseases for different reasons. In bulimia, tooth erosion is caused by vomit, which is highly acidic and damaging. The frequency that a person engages in this activity will determine how much the teeth are affected. Usually, we will notice this erosion on the upper front teeth. In more severe cases, the salivary glands can become enlarged, causing puffiness on the side of the face. Anorexics, on the other hand, may have dental problems because they are often negligent about grooming and hygiene in general, including oral hygiene.
Every time your teenager visits our office, we will conduct a thorough examination, which includes looking out for the specific signs of eating disorders. If we do find that your teenager has severe tooth erosion, we'll be sure to discuss our findings with you. We may recommend a sodium fluoride mouth rinse to strengthen tooth enamel and reduce its loss. Most importantly, you should speak with your child and seek guidance from a professional to help deal with the issue.
If you would like more information about eating disorders and oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Bulimia, Anorexia and Oral Health.”