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How Fast Does a Cavity Form?

November 15th, 2016

How Fast Does a Cavity Form; child-dental-health

You probably already know that a cavity is a hole in a tooth. But did you know that a cavity grows over time? It starts with a small white spot. This white spot, called incipient decay, is an area where minerals have been lost from the tooth. At this point, decay can still be stopped or reversed. Enamel can repair itself with minerals from saliva, toothpaste and fluoride treatments in the dental office. But if this process continues, more minerals are lost and more enamel is destroyed, forming a cavity.

How Does a Cavity Form?

Tooth decay is caused by bacteria. The food that we eat mixes with the bacteria in our mouths and becomes plaque. As bacteria breaks down carbohydrates (sugar) in our food, it releases enamel-damaging acids.

At first, these acids decalcify the enamel surface (literally pulling Calcium out of our teeth) which creates white spots. These spots are where the enamel is weaker and more susceptible to further attacks by acid and bacteria.

In the initial stages cavity formation, the damage is reversible. If plaque is removed and tooth enamel is continuously exposed to calcium and fluoride, the enamel on the surface of the tooth can repair itself.

Unfortunately, if not removed promptly, the plaque can continue to attack tooth enamel with acid. As the process continues and bacteria moves further into the tooth, the damage becomes irreversible; too much of the tooth enamel has been destroyed for the tooth to repair itself. At this point, your dentist may recommend a filling to remove diseased and weakened tooth structure and to fill and seal the tooth to protect it from future attacks.

How Quickly Do Cavities Appear?

The time it takes for a cavity to form depends on several factors. Frequent exposure to acidic or sugary drinks and foods will cause cavities to form faster. Patients who take certain medications, have dry mouth or certain health problems are more likely to develop severe decay quickly.

Baby teeth have much thinner enamel than adult teeth. Thus, young children can get a cavity in just a few months while it could take up to a year for a cavity to form in adults.

Can a Cavity Recur?

Unfortunately, once a tooth has been fixed, it’s not immune to developing another cavity. If dietary habits, home hygiene or medications are left unchanged, the same factors that caused the first cavity to form will continue to affect the same tooth. In addition to causing a new cavity, the bacteria and acid in plaque can also break the seal between the new filling and the tooth to create a new cavity right under the filling. The effects of this can be devastating.

Can a Cavity Develop in the Time Between Dental Visits?

Surprises are fun but not when it comes to your health. In their earliest stages, cavities can show no symptoms. They can cause extreme damage and discomfort if left untreated. This is why dental exams and X-rays are so important.

Make sure that you get regular dental exams and X-rays. X-rays catch what the dentist’s eyes can’t during an oral exam.  Many dentists recommend bitewing X-rays every 12 to 18 months, but guidelines from ADA and FDA are a bit looser. The different time frames are suited to a patient’s risk level for cavities: young kids who are high risk for cavities may need X-rays every six months while adults in good dental health don’t need X-rays more frequently than every 24 months.

Preventing Cavities

Stay on top of your dental health to avoid missed cavities. In between appointments, be diligent with your brushing and flossing! Avoid surprises when it comes to your oral health by maintaining regular dental visits based on your dentist’s recommendation.

Smart Nutrition for a Fit Smile

October 21st, 2016

It's nearly impossible to avoid sweets during the holiday season, beginning with Halloween and lasting into the New Year. You can enjoy Halloween candy and Christmas cookies in moderation without harming your teeth, as long as you perform good oral habits.

On top of that, keep these fit foods on hand for you and your family to enjoy the rest of the time as a snack or with a meal. Too much sugar can cause cavities but did you know some foods are actually good for your teeth?! Certain substances found in the foods on this list can strengthen the enamel and prevent plague.

Say Cheese

Cheese is one of the healthiest snacks for your child’s teeth, according to the American Dental Association. In addition to providing large amounts of much-needed calcium, cheese helps fight cavities. Cheddar, Swiss, Mozzarella and Monterey jack all stimulate the body’s salivary glands. This clears the mouth of debris and protects teeth from acids that weaken them. Cheese disrupts the development of cavities, especially when eaten as a snack or at the end of a meal.

Calcium and phosphorous found in cheese reduce drops in plaque’s pH level. These substances work to re-mineralize the enamel of your teeth. Cheese also contains the protein casein, which helps to strengthen enamel. So pack some string cheese in your child’s lunch or make a spooky after-school snack with cheese and pretzels!

Image via Free-N-Fun Halloween

Berry Pretty Smile

Cranberries are one of the top antioxidant-rich foods. In fact, all berries are rich in antioxidants that can help fight bacteria and reduce inflammation. Scientists have found that the red pigments in cranberries called proanthocyanidins may prevent bacteria from adhering to the teeth. This can discourage the formation of sticky plaque that leads to cavities and gingivitis.

Be aware that most cranberry juices and jellies have fruit acids and added sugar, which may actually harm your teeth with excess consumption. Look for cranberry juice with no added sugar to drink and to add to smoothies. Also, use fresh or frozen cranberries for cooking.

An Apple A Day Keeps the Dentist Away

If you need a boost of energy, eat hard fresh fruit or vegetables like apples, carrots, peppers, dark green vegetables and berries. Chewing hard fruit will help naturally clean your teeth. The act of chewing produces saliva in your mouth, which washes away bacteria and food particles. This will hold you off after a meal until you can get a good brush in! At the same time, you are giving your body various vitamins and minerals that help build a healthy mouth.

Image via Oh She Glows

Green Tea May Be Nature’s Defense Against Oral Cancer

According to a study by Penn State University, green tea may halt the growth of new oral cancer cells and break down existing oral cancer cells. The oxygen-rich environment of the mouth seems to be conducive to the formation and multiplication of oral cancer cells.

Polyphenols found in green tea prevent gene mutations from actions of free radicals. Additionally, green tea polyphenols are able to cause cell death in cancerous cells without harming the normal cells. They can also inhibit the growth and spread of cancerous cells.

Vitamin C Promotes Healing

Sufficient intake of vitamin C after oral surgery may help speed up recovery. Not only is vitamin C a powerful antioxidant, it’s also vital to the production of collagen. Collagen is the main protein building block for all living tissues. Vitamin C increases resistance to bacterial penetration into tissues. It maintains a healthy capillary network that supplies the newly forming oral tissues. Along with vitamin C, vitamins A, E, B, K and D, are all integral to the healing process and a speedy recovery time.

Image via One Little Project

Chew Sugar-free Gum

Many studies show that sugar-free gum containing an artificial sweetener called Xylitol can reduce the incidence of tooth decay and oral cancer. Xylitol appears to prevent accumulation of bacteria on teeth by inhibiting bacterial ability to adhere to teeth. Xylitol is also found in some toothpaste and mouthwashes. Chew a piece of sugar-free gum after eating a meal to help clear away bacteria – and to freshen your breath.

These foods can all help promote dental health but are not a one-stop solution to a healthy mouth. Please don’t forget to brush your teeth twice a day and floss once per day! Visit your dentist at least two times each year for cleanings and regular checkups.

Featured Image Source: Mom Endeavors

Smile 911

September 22nd, 2016

Dental emergencies can happen at any time and usually, occur outside of the dentist's office. Regular dental visits and good oral hygiene can prevent most minor problems such as toothaches. But accidents are unpredictable. What do you do when a dental emergency catches you unprepared and your dentist is not nearby?

The following guidelines for common situations, especially now that fall sports season is underway, will help you act quickly in the event of a dental emergency. Performing these steps can be the difference between saving and losing a tooth.

Use Proper Precaution

Exercise common precaution to protect your smile. Avoid chewing ice, hard candy, popcorn kernels and other hard substances because they can break your teeth. Never use your teeth as tools, such as to open packages.

Always wear a sports guard during sporting activities to minimize oral injuries. A well fitting sports guard will prevent direct impact to the teeth and cushion a blow to the head that might otherwise cause a concussion. Also, make sure your dentist’s emergency number is saved in your phone.

Bitten Tongue or Lip

Clean the area gently with a cloth and warm water. Hold pressure over the bleeding area with clean gauze or a tea bag for 10-30 minutes. Apply a cold compress to minimize any swelling. If the bleeding does not stop shortly, go to the nearest emergency room.

Broken Tooth

Rinse your mouth with warm water and apply a cold compress to the cheek to prevent swelling. Call your dentist immediately. The tooth can quickly break down further, even in the absence of pain. If you find the broken fragment of the tooth, bring it with you to the dentist. Your dentist may be able to reposition the broken piece to create a more natural restoration.

Suspected Broken Jaw

A jawbone fracture is the 10th most common bone fracture in the body. Symptoms of a broken jaw may include jaw pain, difficulty opening your mouth all the way, teeth that don’t fit together well, numbness of the lips or chin, swelling and bruising or bleeding under the tongue. If you suspect a broken jaw, put a cold compress on the jaw immediately and head to the nearest emergency room.

Knocked Out Tooth

When a tooth is knocked out, there is an immediate time constraint before the condition can worsen. Often, a tooth can be saved if is repositioned by a dentist in under one hour.

Hold the tooth by the crown and rinse under water if it’s dirty. Do not scrub the tooth or remove any attached tissue. If possible, gently reposition the tooth in the socket and hold it there. If that’s not possible, put the tooth in a container filled with milk or saline solution. Go to your dentist’s office immediately.

For the time being, put a cold compress on the site of injury to minimize swelling. Only adult teeth should be repositioned. Do not attempt to reposition a baby tooth because you can accidentally injure the adult tooth forming underneath. Any teeth that were partially knocked out or shifted also require immediate attention. They may need to be stabilized by a splint.

Object Stuck Between the Teeth

Rinse your mouth with warm water vigorously as it can dislodge the object. Do not use sharp instruments to remove the object. Tie a knot on a string of floss and pull the floss through your teeth to gently remove the offending object. Call your dentist for an appointment if the object does not budge. If the object remains caught under the gum, it can cause a gum infection.

Broken Braces Wire or Loose Orthodontic Brackets

Try using the end of a pencil eraser to gently reposition the wire into a more comfortable spot where it does not scratch your cheeks or gums. If you are unable to adjust it, place a cotton ball or orthodontic wax over the sharp tip of the wire to prevent scratching. Use orthodontic wax to keep a loose bracket in place until you can get to your orthodontist’s office. Never cut the orthodontic wire yourself because you can accidentally inhale or swallow the cut fragment of the wire.

Always call your dentist if you are unsure that an emergency trip is necessary. It's better to be safe than to risk further injury or a missing tooth. Prepare for the unexpected by taking note of these standards of care to confidently handle dental injuries. You can even print out this blog post to keep in your purse. Share it with the other parents on your child's sports teams and at school.

Your Dentist Can Prevent a Heart Attack

August 25th, 2016

Your Dentist Can Prevent a Heart Attack; heart health

Maintaining a healthy mouth prevents cavities and painful trips to the dentist – and it may also have a strong correlation with your overall health. Conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, endocarditis, strokes, high-risk pregnancies, sleep disturbances and behavioral issues in children may be linked to oral health.

A study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests that people with gum disease are 40 percent more likely to suffer from another chronic health condition in addition to gum disease.

Another study by the American Academy of Periodontology shows that people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery disease or heart disease.

Of course, one reason may be those who fail to maintain their oral health do not take care of the rest of their body either. However, new research shows inflammation and bacteria is a common link between oral health and other serious diseases.

Thomas Boyden, Jr., MD, the medical director of preventive cardiology at Spectrum Health Medical Group Cardiovascular Services in Grand Rapids, MI, explains this connection:

“Your gums are very vascular, meaning they’re full of blood vessels. And, your mouth is full of bacteria. If you disrupt the gum layer even a little bit, you’re going to get bacteria in your bloodstream, which can go anywhere and trigger inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is one of the main things that cause damage to blood vessels, including those of the heart.”

Research shows the most common strains of bacteria found in dental plaque may cause blood clots. This happens when sticky bacteria enter the blood stream through gums and clump together on the walls of blood vessels. Just like cholesterol, these clots block blood circulation through the body causing an increase in blood pressure. High blood pressure can force these clots to dislodge from the walls and escape into the heart or the brain. This can cause a heart attack or stroke.

All recent studies show the association between heart disease and gum disease is at least as strong as the linkage of heart disease to cholesterol, body weight or smoking.

Other studies have found that in diabetes, an oral infection can disrupt blood-sugar levels and make the disease more difficult to control. Pregnant women with gum disease were found to be at a higher risk for delivering preterm, low-birth weight babies.

Most diseases give us early warning signs but gum disease progresses silently, often without pain. It may develop slowly or progress quite rapidly. After the age of 35, three out of four people are affected to some degree.

Gum disease is an infection that destroys gum surrounding your teeth and the jawbone. Not only can it cause tooth loss – it can rob you of your funds and your health. Other serious health conditions are often related to gum disease.

Your dentist can help you better understand gum disease and how to prevent it. They can painlessly check and monitor the condition of your gums at each dental appointment. Any plague left behind from daily brushing and flossing can be removed. Regular dental visits will help minimize your chance of developing this scary infection.

Education on this topic also plays a part in prevention. It is recommended that dentists inform their patients with moderate to severe gum disease that they may have an increased risk for heart and blood vessel problems.

Dentists can help patients with a history of heart disease by examining them for any signs of oral pain, infection or inflammation. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, proper diagnosis and treatment of tooth and gum infections in some patients has led to a decrease in blood pressure medications and improved overall health.

Dental X-rays can often show signs of calcifications in carotid arteries, which are large blood vessels in your neck that carry blood from the heart to the brain. Your dentist may notice these early warning signs of heart disease on your dental X-rays and encourage you to seek early treatment for prevention.

Consistent daily habits make a huge impact on your overall oral health. Daily tooth brushing and flossing can prevent and even reverse the earliest signs of gum disease. Take care of your mouth and your body. See your dentist at least twice a year, brush twice a day, floss daily, smile often and lead a long, healthy life!

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