Why cavities aren’t just for kids

Tooth decay or cavities result from destruction of the tooth enamel and can lead to a range of problems from toothache to bad breath.

Cavities occur when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) such as milk, sugared drinks, cakes or candy are frequently left on the teeth.

Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on these foods, producing acids as a result. Over a period of time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay.

Many people associate cavities with children but the changes that occur with aging make cavities an adult problem, too.

Recession of the gums away from the teeth, combined with an increased incidence of gum disease, can expose tooth roots to plaque.

Tooth roots are covered with cementum, a softer tissue than enamel. They are susceptible to decay and are more sensitive to touch and to hot and cold. The majority of people over age 50 have tooth-root decay.

Decay around the edges of fillings is also common to older adults. As many of them did not benefit from fluoride and modern preventive dental care when they were younger, they often have a number of dental fillings.

Over the years, these fillings may weaken, fracture and leak around the edges.

Bacteria accumulate in these tiny crevices causing acid to build up which leads to decay.

You can help prevent tooth decay by following these tips:

– Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
– Clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaner
– Eat nutritious and balanced meals and limit snacking

It’s also worth asking your dentist about supplemental fluoride, which strengthens your teeth, and about dental sealants, a plastic protective coating which is applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to protect them from decay.

In addition, it’s important to visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral examination.

How cosmetic dentistry can change your smile – and your life

Modern cosmetic dentistry has created many opportunities that did not exist before for people to improve their appearance and change the way they feel about themselves.

Although cosmetic dentistry really did not exist a few yaears ago, it now attracts interest from a wide range of people.

There are few people who don’t want to improve their appearance by making their teeth straighter and whiter so that they look better when they smile.

New technology and procedures have created many more opportunities for dentists to help patients look better.

One of the most important opportunities for doing this is porcelain veneers.

These are custom-made wafers that the dentist places over the front of the teeth to repair damage and make them look better.

They can overcome many cosmetic dental problems such as whitening stained or discolored teeth, closing gaps between teeth or correcting a crooked smile without the need for braces.

They can also cover up chips and imperfections so that the smile looks much better.

Another important cosmetic trend is the increased use of white fillings.

White fillings now are more lifelike than ever and they last longer than previously.

They have become the material of choice for many dentists as they blend in with teeth and look better.

If you feel your smile is less than perfect, talk to your dentist about how it could be better.

The difference between canker sores and cold sores

Although canker sores are often confused with cold sores, there is a difference.

Canker sores occur inside the mouth, and cold sores usually occur outside the mouth.

Canker sores are small ulcers with a white or gray base and a red border. There can be one or more sores in the mouth. They are very common and often recur.

They usually heal in a week or two and rinsing with antimicrobial mouthrinses may help reduce the irritation.

Cold sores – also called fever blisters – are composed of groups of painful, fluid-filled blisters that often erupt around the lips and sometimes under the nose or chin.

Cold sores are usually caused by herpes virus type I and are very contagious. They usually heal in about a week.

Over-the-counter topical anesthetics can provide temporary relief and prescription antiviral drugs may reduce these kinds of viral infections.

Fixing crowded and crooked teeth with orthodontics

Correcting problems with crowded and crooked teeth not only gives you a better smile, it also leads to a healthier mouth.

Malocclusion, also known as “bad bite”, involves teeth that are crowded or crooked.

Sometimes, the upper and lower jaws may not meet properly and, although the teeth may appear straight, the individual may have an uneven bite.

Problems such as protruding, crowded or irregularly spaced teeth may be inherited. But thumb-sucking, losing teeth prematurely and accidents also can lead to these conditions.

As well as spoiling your smile, crooked and crowded teeth make cleaning the mouth difficult. This can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and possibly tooth loss.

A bad bite can also interfere with chewing and speaking, cause abnormal wear to tooth enamel and lead to problems with the jaws.

Orthodontic treatment can help correcting these problems giving you a better smile but, more importantly, creating a healthier mouth.

Your dentist will advise you on how orthodontic treatment could help you.

How dental x-rays help improve your oral health

Many diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissues cannot be seen when your dentist examines your mouth so an X-ray examination can reveal important additional information:

For example, X-rays can help show:
– Small areas of decay between the teeth or below existing fillings
– Infections in the bone
– Gum disease
– Abscesses or cysts
– Developmental abnormalities
– Some types of tumors

The way they work is that more X-rays are absorbed by the denser parts (such as teeth and bone) than by soft tissues (such as cheeks and gums). This creates an image called a radiograph.

Tooth decay, infections and signs of gum disease appear darker because of more X-ray penetration. The interpretation of these radiographs allows the dentist to safely and accurately detect hidden abnormalities.

The frequency of X-rays (radiographs) will depend on your specific health needs.

Your dentist will review your history, examine your mouth and decide whether you need radiographs and what type.

When you are a new patient, the dentist may recommend radiographs to establish how the hidden areas of your mouth currently look to help identify changes that occur later.

X-rays can help identify and treat dental problems at an early stage and so can save time, money and unnecessary discomfort.

How removable partial dentures can help you

Removable partial dentures usually involve replacement teeth attached to plastic bases, connected by metal framework.

They attach to your natural teeth with metal clasps or �precision attachments’. Precision attachments generally look better than metal clasps and are nearly invisible.

Crowns may be required on your natural teeth to improve the fit of a removable partial denture.

When you first get a partial denture, it may feel awkward or bulky. But you will gradually get used to wearing it.

It will also take a bit of practice to get used to inserting and removing the denture. It should fit into place easily and you should never force it.

Your dentist may suggest that you wear your partial denture all the time at first. While it will be uncomfortable for a while, it will help you identify if any parts of the denture need adjustment.

After making adjustments, your dentist will probably recommend that you take the denture out of your mouth before going to bed and replace it in the morning.

With a denture, eating should become a more pleasant experience compared to having missing teeth.

But, initially, you’ll need to eat soft foods cut into small pieces. And avoid foods that are extremely sticky or hard.

Some people with missing teeth find it hard to speak clearly so wearing a partial denture may help. However, you’ll probably need to practice certain words at first to get completely comfortable.

While it can take a little geting used to initially, a partial denture can help you enjoy your food with less worries.

How your oral health links with your general health

Research has shown strong links between periodontitis (advanced form of gum disease) and other health problems such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and bacterial pneumonia.

And pregnant women with periodontitis may be at increased risk of delivering pre-term and/or having babies with low birth weight.

However, just because two conditions occur at the same time, doesn’t necessarily mean that one condition causes the other. The relationship could work the other way.

For example, there is evidence that diabetics are more likely to develop periodontitis and have more severe periodontitis than non-diabetics.

Alternatively, two conditions that occur together may be caused by something else.

In addition, people who smoke or use alcohol have a higher than average risk of developing periodontitis and other conditions, including oral cancer.

Research is looking at what happens when periodontitis is treated in individuals with these problems.

The aim is to find out whether periodontitis does have an effect on other health problems.

If one caused the other, improvement in periodontal health would also improve other health problems.

While the research is not yet conclusive, the potential link between periodontitis and systemic health problems, means that preventing periodontitis may be an important step in maintaining overall health.

In most cases, good oral health can be maintained by brushing and flossing every day and receiving regular professional dental care.

How to take care of your teeth with braces

Braces are orthodontic apparatus used to help fix crooked and crowded teeth.

While modern braces can be comfortable and inconspicuous, you may have to take extra steps to care for your teeth when wearing them.

It’s important that you continue good oral hygiene practices while wearing braces.

You need to continue brushing regularly, following the approach suggested by your dentist, as well as flossing daily and making regular visits to the dentist.

People with braces should stick to a balanced diet and limit the number of snacks between meals.

Your dentist may suggest that you avoid certain foods that could interfere with braces or accidentally bend the wires. This can include nuts, popcorn, hard candy, ice and sticky foods such as chewing gum or caramel.

You can still continue to enjoy sports and other activities but a protective mouth guard is often recommended to reduce the risk of injury to the mouth or jaw. Your dentist will suggest an appropriate mouth guard when the braces are in place.

Braces can make a big difference to your smile and your future dental health. Modern technology � and following good practices � means you should be able to wear them with comfort and confidence.

Dry mouth is a common problem that can harm your teeth

If your saliva flow is reduced, this can cause dry mouth which often leads to increased tooth and gum problems.

Dry mouth – known as xerostomia – is a common problem especially among older adults. It’s caused by certain medical disorders and is often a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers and diuretics.

The common problems associated with dry mouth include:

– Constant sore throat
– Burning sensation
– Problems speaking
– Difficulty swallowing
– Hoarseness or dry nasal passages

When there is not enough saliva to lubricate your mouth, wash away food and neutralize the acids produced by plaque, there is a risk of extensive tooth decay.

If you are at risk from this condition, your dentist can recommend various methods to restore moisture.

For example, sugar-free candy or gum stimulates saliva flow, and moisture can be replaced by using artificial saliva and oral rinses.

As dry mouth is a potential side effect of many prescribed and over-the-counter medications it is a very common problem.

These medications can include antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers, high blood pressure medications, muscle relaxants, drugs for urinary incontinence, Parkinson’s disease medications, antidepressants and many others.

Fortunately there are many simple solutions available to reduce the risk to your oral health caused by dry mouth so talk to your dentist if you are on any kind of medication or you feel you may be at risk from this issue.

Choosing the right toothbrush for your needs

It would be easy to get overwhelmed by the huge range of dental care products now available.

Even looking just at toothbrushes present a wide range of choices.

There are hundreds of manual and powered toothbrushes to choose from.

Start by looking for products that carry the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance – this is an important symbol of a the product’s safety and effectiveness.

When you buy a toothbrush, replace it every three to four months. Replace it sooner if the bristles become frayed as a worn toothbrush will not clean your teeth properly.

Make it easy for your children to brush their teeth by choosing a child-sized toothbrush and make it more interesting for them by selecting fun colors and designs.

Often people who have difficulties with hand, arm or shoulder movements find that powered toothbrushes are the best choice. However, it’s also possible to make a few small changes to modify a manual toothbrush and make it easier to use.

For example, you can:

– Enlarge the handle with a sponge, rubber ball, or bicycle handle grip
– Lengthen the handle with a piece of wood or plastic
– Bend the handle slightly while running it under hot water

Your dentist will give you tips on what toothbrushes would be right for your needs.