Posts for: March, 2015
Dental caries (tooth decay) is similar to the pesky bumblebee that invades your lovely summer barbecue. You can find temporary solace from this intruder by eliminating that very first bee that you see, but if you are situated in an area that is close to the bee's nest, it won't be long before the next bee buzzes along. This is similar to tooth decay. Having one cavity-laden tooth drilled and filled is really just a temporary fix. The underlying conditions that led to tooth decay in the first place need to be addressed in order for your risk of future infection to decrease.
Researcher Dr. John Featherstone created the concept of the Caries Balance in 2002, in which he explained that tooth decay and overall dental health are dependent upon a proper balance of disease-causing and health-promoting factors. Discovering what the fundamental problem really is (and getting as far away from that hornet's nest as possible) can help both determine and curb your risk for future tooth decay.
Here's the issue in a nutshell: Susceptible teeth, in the presence of acid producing bacteria when fed by sugar from your diet, basically, will create all the conditions necessary to cause tooth decay.
To determine your risk for tooth decay, see how many times you answer “Yes” to the following questions:
- Do you brush your teeth twice a day to reduce bacterial plaque sticking to the teeth?
- Do you use fluoride toothpaste to strengthen the teeth against acid attack?
- Do you use a fluoride mouthrinse?
- Do you floss daily?
Every affirmative answer decreases your risk of getting cavities, but even doing all of this may not be enough!
Now, how many times can you answer “Yes” to these questions?:
- Do you smoke? Smoking causes mouth dryness, and creates a host of other health problems.
- Do you snack frequently between meals? One sugary snack and your mouth is acidic for the next hour. One snack per hour and your mouth is acidic all day.
- Do you frequently have acid reflux or heartburn? Reflux creates extreme acidity in the mouth and directly erodes tooth enamel.
- Do you drink soda, sports drinks, or acidic beverages frequently? These beverages are very acidic.
- Is your mouth frequently dry? Do you take any medications that cause mouth dryness? Saliva is nature's own defense against acidity and helps neutralize acid in the mouth.
- Have you had frequent cavities in the past and/or have you had any crowns or fillings in the past three months? The best indicator of future disease is past disease!
Every affirmative answer increases your risk of getting cavities!
Now that you are a little more knowledgeable about your personal risk for tooth decay, make an appointment with us to discuss the preventative measures that can give you some control over the future condition of your teeth. Ignoring the risks and then ending up with a mouth full of rotting teeth when you knew better could really sting a little!
To learn even more about the delicate balance between the disease causing and protective factors related to tooth decay, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay: How To Assess Your Risk.”
Did you know that recent research has shown diabetes is a risk factor for increased severity of periodontal (gum) disease and that periodontitis is a risk factor for worsening blood glucose (sugar) control in people with diabetes? Periodontitis can even increase the risk of diabetic complications for people diagnosed with diabetes. When you combine these facts with the following, you will clearly see how important it is to understand and manage these two diseases.
- Over 23 million people in the United States currently have diabetes and over 170 million worldwide.
- 14+ million Americans have a condition called pre-diabetes.
- Another estimated 6 million people in the US have diabetes but are unaware and thus not diagnosed.
- Periodontal disease is the second most common disease known to man, only surpassed by tooth decay.
- Diabetic individuals with periodontal disease have a greater risk for cardiovascular and kidney complications than those diabetics not having periodontal disease.
What You Can Do
One of the most important steps you can take if you have either of these conditions or suspect that you might have one or both is to make an appointment with your physician or with our office for a thorough examination. You should schedule an appointment with your physician for an exam and blood work so that your general health and well-being are monitored. Be certain to share your medical information and any family history of diabetes with our office, as it tends to occur in families.
Learn the risks and how to take care of types 1 and 2 diabetes, as well as the stages of periodontal disease (with detailed full-color illustrations) when you read the Dear Doctor article, “Diabetes & Periodontal Disease.” Or if you want to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions, contact us today.
With its life-like color and texture, dental porcelain can restore a smile marred by decayed or damaged teeth. This durable ceramic material not only matches the varieties of individual tooth colors and hues, its translucence mimics the appearance of natural teeth. But perhaps its greatest benefit is its adaptability for use in a number of different applications, particularly veneers and crowns.
Veneers are thin layers of dental porcelain laminated together and permanently bonded to cover the visible outer side of a tooth to improve its appearance. Crowns, on the other hand, are “caps” of dental porcelain designed to completely cover a defective tooth.
Veneers and crowns share a number of similarities. Both can alter the color and shape of teeth, although crowns are used when more extensive tooth structure has been damaged. They’re also “irreversible,” meaning the tooth must be altered in such a way that it will always require a veneer or crown, though on some occasions a veneer can require no removal of tooth structure and can be reversible.
They do, however, have some differences as to the type of situation they address. Veneers are generally used where the affected teeth have a poor appearance (chipped, malformed or stained, for example) but are still structurally healthy. And although they do generally require some removal of tooth enamel to accommodate them (to minimize a “bulky” appearance), the reduction is much less than for a crown.
Crowns, on the other hand, restore teeth that have lost significant structure from disease, injury, stress-related grinding habits or the wearing effects of aging. Since they must contain enough mass to stand up to the normal biting forces a tooth must endure, a significant amount of the original tooth structure must be removed to accommodate them.
Which application we use will depend upon a thorough examination of your teeth. Once we’ve determined their condition and what you need, we can then recommend the best application for your situation. But regardless of whether we install a veneer or crown, using dental porcelain can help achieve an end result that’s truly life-changing — a new, younger-looking smile.
If you would like more information on dental porcelain restorations, 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 “Porcelain Crowns & Veneers.”
While tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease destroy more teeth than any other causes, both of these diseases are largely preventable with proper oral hygiene and dental treatment. It’s more than possible, then, to enjoy a lifetime of healthy, disease-free teeth.
But even with healthy teeth, the effects of aging will cause tooth wear over time. And although we can’t prevent the aging process from occurring altogether, there are steps we can take not to accelerate the process.
Most tissues, including bone and teeth, have a growth cycle in which older cells are broken down (known as catabolism), removed and replaced by newer cells (anabolism). As we develop during childhood, the growth phase exceeds breakdown; when we reach adulthood, the two phases come into equilibrium. But as we age, breakdown will gradually overtake growth. This aging effect results in, among other outcomes, tooth wear.
“Normal” wear appears to be greatest — and most visible — along the biting surfaces of the teeth. The forces generated when we bite or chew causes enamel to erode over time. Unfortunately, you can accelerate this process through bad oral habits: clenching or grinding teeth, often times at night while you sleep, as well as habitually chewing on hard objects like nails or pencils.
Normal forces generated when we bite or chew are actually beneficial for dental health — they help stimulate bone growth. But when they exceed their normal range as when we clench or grind our teeth, they can increase tooth wear and cause other problems such as diminished function or changes in appearance, such as a shortened facial height.
To slow the rate of wear, it’s important to modify any behaviors that may be contributing to it. In many cases an occlusal night guard worn while you sleep helps prevent teeth clenching. You may also need assistance with stress management, a major trigger for these kinds of habits, through biofeedback therapy or counseling.
If you’ve already encountered excessive wear, bonding techniques using colored composite resin, veneers or crowns that attach directly to the teeth can restore lost function and rejuvenate the appearance and color of your teeth. We can perform a “smile analysis” to determine if one of these techniques is right for you to help you regain a more youthful and attractive smile.
If you would like more information on aging and 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.”