Posts for: July, 2011
Can chewing gum prevent cavities? Yes! It can if the gum is sweetened with xylitol.
What is xylitol?
Xylitol is a type of “sugar alcohol,” similar to sorbitol and mannitol, sugar replacements that are used in many low calorie foods. Xylitol occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables and is obtained from the bark of birch trees, coconut shells and cottonseed hulls. It looks and tastes like sugar and is a diabetic-safe, low-calorie carbohydrate.
How does xylitol stop cavity formation?
Decay starts when certain bacteria break down sucrose (regular table sugar) and produce acids that dissolve the minerals in the enamel, the outer protective layer of your teeth. When the decay-causing bacteria try to consume xylitol, they are unable to break it down, and instead they begin to starve.
A normal mouth contains a large population of bacteria, and it is better for your teeth to have more “good” bacteria of the kind that do not cause cavities. Xylitol also stops your saliva from becoming acidic, so your mouth becomes a better environment for the “good” bacteria.
Chewing xylitol gum also increases your flow of saliva. Saliva contains calcium and fluoride and helps give these minerals back to your teeth (re-mineralization), undoing some of the effects of the cavity-causing bacteria. This makes chewing xylitol gum a particularly good solution for people who suffer from dry mouth.
How much xylitol do you need to prevent cavities?
We recommend that you chew or suck on two pieces of xylitol gum or two pieces of xylitol candy for five minutes following meals or snacks, four times daily — if you are at moderate to extreme risk for cavities. The target dose of xylitol is 6 to 10 grams (one or two teaspoons) spread throughout the day. Prolonged gum chewing is not advised, so most xylitol-sweetened products contain flavor that only lasts a short time to discourage excessive chewing. The only side effect of too much xylitol ingestion is that it may have a mild laxative effect.
I don't like chewing gum. Is there another way to get xylitol?
People who don't like to chew gum have the option of using xylitol in mints, candies, mouthwash, toothpaste, or mouth sprays. For these individuals, a minimum dose is 5 to 6 grams (one teaspoon) three times per day.
So now you can add xylitol to the list of ways to fight cavities: daily brushing and flossing, and regular professional cleanings — and chewing xylitol gum.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about xylitol and other methods of preventing tooth decay. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Xylitol in Chewing Gum.”
One of the most common treatments we are asked about is a root canal and the unfortunate bad reputation associated with it. The truth is that the procedure actually relieves the pain associated with the problem and not visa versa. And here's why.
A root canal or endodontic treatment (“endo” – inside; “dont” – tooth) is a necessary procedure in which diseased pulp tissue — and the nerve, which responds by causing the pain — is removed. This is followed by cleaning and sealing the root canals. This usually results from pulp inflammation and infection as a result of a severe decay or in a heavily filled tooth. Root canal treatment is typically performed by general dentists who have taken specialized training or by endodontists, dentists who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of root canal problems. We perform them here in our practice to save a tooth, literally, from further damage and/or loss.
Here is a quick overview of the procedure. We will begin by making a small opening in the chewing surface of your tooth so that we can access the tooth's root canal. We use small instruments to remove the dead and dying tissues of the pulp. The root canals are cleaned and disinfected. The canals are then sealed with a biocompatible filling material. Lastly, we will seal the access hole with a filling material. You will then need to get a permanent restoration or crown to protect the tooth fully.
If you feel that you have the symptoms of a root canal problem and may need a root canal treatment, contact us to schedule an appointment. And to learn more about the signs, symptoms, and what to expect after root canal treatment, read the article “Common Concerns About Root Canal Treatment.”
Your teeth were designed to last you a lifetime, so you should do everything you can to protect them. This includes guarding them against dental erosion. However, many people may not know for sure what dental erosion is, much less how or why they need to guard against it.
Dental or tooth erosion is the irreversible loss of tooth enamel from chemical attack by acids. Eating or sucking acidic foods such as lemons is a good example. But most people are shocked to discover that it can also be caused by their favorite sodas (carbonated beverages), natural fruit juices, energy and sports drinks — especially with excessive consumption. It takes the saliva, nature's protection, at least 30 to 60 minutes to neutralize the effects of acid, so only one acidic drink an hour causes your teeth to be continually bathed in acid. And this is an important fact to know, because if your mouth is acidic all the time, this will promote tooth decay.
Will brushing help out with prevention?
When it comes to dental erosion, brushing immediately after acid consumption can actually make it worse by accelerating the erosion process. This is because the acids in these drinks (and some foods) actually dissolves tooth enamel and softens the tooth surface. These newly softened surfaces can literally be brushed away if you brush before your saliva has a chance to try to reverse the process. If done often, you could even brush away your enamel! For this reason, you should wait at least 30 to 60 minutes before you brush your teeth after consuming any of these products.
So what can you do to prevent dental erosion?
One important step that you (and your family) can do to help prevent dental erosion is to limit the amount of these beverages you drink. Instead, try drinking calcium-rich milk or water and saving your favorite acidic beverage for a special treat that you consume preferably with a meal. Try reducing the number of these drinks you consume over a period of time. If you must drink an acidic beverage avoid swishing it in the mouth and use a straw to reduce the contact between the acid and your teeth.
Just remember that once your dental enamel has eroded, it is gone forever. So you should follow these simple tips now to protect your smile and future.
In our office, many of our patients are always asking us if over-the-counter (OTC) mouthwashes or mouthrinses are truly effective tools for curing bad breath. Unfortunately, nearly all of them merely mask any odorous smells temporarily — regardless of how refreshing they taste. There are mouthrinses available that are effective for treating gingivitis and tooth decay, but you must visit our office to obtain a proper diagnosis and a prescription for them. Reality is that a mouthrinse alone can't cure bad breath; however, there are products available that can make a positive impact on your dental health. The key is to match the right mouthrinse to your specific dental need.
- OTC mouthrinses that contain about 0.05% sodium fluoride are an effective tool that when combined with good oral hygiene can significantly reduce the development of tooth decay.
- OTC mouthrinses that contain alcohol, triclosan, sanguinaria extract, zinc and/or essential oils such as menthol can somewhat help reduce the bacteria in plaque, which in turn can reduce gum inflammation (gingivitis) and bad breath when used in combination with proper brushing and daily flossing.
- Prescription mouthrinses containing chlorhexidine may be more effective in helping to control both gingivitis and tooth decay in certain circumstances. This is because chlorhexidine inhibits the formation of dental plaque by preventing bacteria from sticking to your teeth.
While bad breath may seem unbearable, it is often treatable. The key is to determine and then address what is causing your bad breath. A simple trip to our office for a proper exam, assessment and thorough cleaning along with improved oral hygiene may just do the trick. Contact us today to schedule a consultation for an examination and treatment plan.
To learn more about mouthrinses, read the Dear Doctor article, “Mouthrinses.”