Dental Care

A healthy mouth and a healthy smile are important for your overall health. Your teeth and gums require routine care at home and from a medical professional. The amount of dental care that you require depends on several factors including your genetics, hygiene, diet, occupation, and living conditions. Some people experience chronic dental problems even though they always visit the dentist, and others rarely experience problems even though they never visit the doctor.

Regardless, experts recommend that people visit the dentist at least twice a year for routine examinations and teeth cleaning. This way, it is possible to identify minor conditions before they become serious. For example, a cavity, when caught early requires only minimal treatment for repair. If a cavity is left untreated for an extended period of time, the tooth’s pulp might become infected, and a root canal will be necessary to prevent potential nerve damage.

Common Conditions

  • Dental Cavities occur as a result of natural bacterial processes that facilitate the decomposition of food. When bacteria produce acid, your tooth will start to decompose, and a small hole, a cavity, will form. When they start to form, cavities may not be painful. As the tooth continues to decompose, nerve roots may become damaged, and the cavity will be painful.
  • Tooth Decay is a disease that occurs when cavities are left untreated. Tooth decay can lead to severe pain and puts you at risk for infection, losing your tooth, and death.
  • Plaque is a kind of buildup on your teeth. The buildup is invisible but can cause yellow staining on the teeth and gums if you don’t use proper oral hygiene.
  • Tartar is dental plaque that has hardened on the teeth. Brushing and flossing can remove plaque, but once tartar forms, hardened stains can only be removed professionally.
  • Gingivitis is a condition that causes the gums to become irritated. It occurs as a result of bacterial plaque buildup. Sometimes, gingivitis can escalate into a more serious infection called “trench mouth.” Risk factors include an excess of bacteria, stress, malnutrition, and problems with the immune system.
  • Teeth Sensitivity can occur for a variety of reasons. Some people have sensitive teeth during certain times of year or when eating hot or cold food. Sensitive teeth might result from a minor or serious problem.

Professional Care

Experts recommend that people seek professional care every six months for routine exams and procedures. Some people might need to see a dentist more often.

Home Care

Take several steps to ensure that you are taking care of your teeth. A few minutes of dental care per day can save you from extensive problems in the future. Every person will need a dental care plan that is specific to his or her unique needs. In general, people should follow these tips:

  • Avoid snacks that are high in sugar
  • Brush teeth twice a day
  • Replace toothbrush approximately every three months or as soon as the bristles show deteriorated quality
  • Limit snacking
  • Floss once a day since toothbrushes can’t reach all corners

Does Fluoride Prevent Cavities?

By Stephanie Zeller-Iliff, DDS

What Does Fluoride Do?
To quote the American Dental Association: Fluoride benefits both children and adults.
Here’s how: Before teeth break through the gums, the fluoride taken in from foods, beverages and dietary supplements strengthens tooth enamel making it stronger and more resistant to cavities. This provides what is called a “systemic” benefit.

After teeth erupt, fluoride helps rebuild (remineralize) weakened tooth enamel and reverses early signs of tooth decay. When you brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste, or use other fluoride dental products, the fluoride is applied to the surface of your teeth. This is provides what is called a “topical” benefit.

In addition, the fluoride you take in from foods and beverages continues to provide a topical benefit because it becomes part of your saliva, constantly bathing the teeth and helping to rebuild weakened tooth enamel.

How and Where Do We Get Fluoride?
Fluoride is naturally present in variable concentrations in ground water, i.e. water from a faucet or water generally used to cook with. A certain amount of fluoride does occur naturally in rivers etc. Bottled water, distilled, or deionized water generally does not contain fluoride.

In addition, fluoride is provided in most toothpastes, as well as some mouth rinses. This is a very important part of cavity prevention, so be sure fluoride is in the toothpaste that you use.

What is Community Water Fluoridation?
Water fluoridation is the process of adding additional fluoride supplements to a community’s water source. Years ago, the government decided to add some fluoride to certain communities with naturally occurring low fluoride levels due to the high prevalence of cavities throughout the population. About 72% of the US is served by fluoridated water systems. Once fluoride was added to community’s water source, the cavities rate was significantly decreased. Simply by drinking tap water, people can decrease they risk of decay.

Not Drinking Tap Water?
If you’re an individual who only drinks bottled water, you may be at risk for not receiving an adequate amount of fluoride to decrease your risk of decay. Talk to your dentist about this. They may suggest fluoride supplements, or a change in toothpaste with an increased percent of fluoride concentration.

What Puts You at Risk for Decay?
There are many things that can increase your rate of decay, or number of cavities.
1. Poor oral hygiene. The number one cause for cavities is poor oral hygiene. This means those that don’t take good care of their teeth, i.e. proper brushing twice and day and flossing once a day.
2. Diet. Such as high intake of sugar or certain foods that lend itself to a better environment for bacteria to thrive within the mouth such as fruit, crackers, breads, potato chips. Also, eating many meals throughout the day increases your risk due to a change in the acid level of the mouth, which takes 30 minutes to stabilize after eating.
3. Beverages. Soda, even diet soda, when consumed throughout the day can be very detrimental to teeth. As can any other beverages with high acidity or large quantities sugar. This includes fruit juices.
4. Medications that cause dry-mouth. Bacteria tend to thrive in mouths with very little saliva.
5. Uncontrolled diabetes.

There are many factors that play into one’s risk for decay. For a thorough evaluation to be sure you’re not at high risk, visit your dentist.

Ways to Receive Additional Fluoride.
Again, as noted from above, fluoride supplements are available. In addition, your dentist may want to occasionally treat your teeth with fluoride. This usually done with a fluoride gel, placed in trays that you sit with for under 5 minutes. In addition, there is also a fluoride varnish that can be placed onto your teeth which is meant to be brushed off the next day.

If you are at a higher risk for decay, your dentist may want to change your toothpaste to a higher concentration of fluoride such as Prevident 5000 or have you use additional products like MI Paste.

The ADA provides answers for your fluoride questions:
American Dental Associations Take on Fluoride