Dental plaque – what it is and how to avoid it

You’ve probably heard people talking about plaque and maybe you’ve some idea of what it is.

But it’s useful to know a bit more about it so that you can do what’s necessary to minimize the risks.

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums.

When you’ve eaten a meal or snack, the bacteria in plaque release acids that attack tooth enamel. When this happens regularly, the enamel can weaken. This eventually leads to tooth decay.

The food we eat often causes plaque bacteria to produce acids. So, if you eat a lot of snacks, your teeth may be suffering acid attacks all day.

If you don’t remove the plaque through effective daily brushing and cleaning between the teeth, it can eventually harden into calculus or tartar.

Another effect of plaque is that it also produces substances that irritate the gums, making them red and tender or causing them to bleed easily.

If you want to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, make sure you have a balanced diet and avoid having too many snacks between meals.

When you feel like a snack, go for foods such as raw vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese or a piece of fruit.

Why to look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance

When buying dental products, it’s a good idea to look out for the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.

The first Seal of Acceptance was awarded in 1931 and it’s regarded as an important symbol of a dental product’s safety and effectiveness.

Although the Seal program is strictly voluntary, approximately 100 companies participate in it and they commit significant resources to testing their products in clinical and laboratory conditions.

More than 300 consumer dental products carry the Seal of Acceptance. These include toothpaste, dental floss, manual and electric toothbrushes, mouth rinse and chewing gum.

You can get more information about the seal and how it is awarded for specific products at http://www.ada.org/ada/seal/

This site also contains links to the most current lists of accepted consumer products.

How dentistry has developed over the last 300 years

When you visit a modern dental surgery, it’s hard to imagine the challenges of dental treatment without all the latest technology.

Yet specialists have been taking care of people’s teeth for thousands of years.

Here are some of the key developments over the last 300 years.

1723: French surgeon Pierre Fauchard – credited as being the father of modern dentistry – publishes the first book to describe a comprehensive system for the practice of dentistry.

1760: John Baker, the earliest medically-trained dentist to practice in America, immigrates from England and sets up practice.

1790: John Greenwood adapts his mother’s foot treadle spinning wheel to rotate a drill.

1790: Josiah Flagg, a prominent American dentist, constructs the first chair made specifically for dental patients.

1832: James Snell invents the first reclining dental chair.

1841: Alabama enacts the first dental practice act, regulating dentistry in the United States.

1844: Horace Wells, a Connecticut dentist, discovers that nitrous oxide can be used as an anesthesia and successfully uses it to conduct several extractions in his private practice.

1880s: The collapsible metal tube revolutionizes toothpaste manufacturing and marketing.

1890: Willoughby Miller notes the microbial basis of dental decay in a book which started a world-wide movement to promote regular toothbrushing and flossing.

1896: New Orleans dentist C. Edmond Kells takes the first dental x-ray of a living person in the U.S.

1938: The nylon toothbrush, the first made with synthetic bristles, appears on the market.

1945: The water fluoridation era begins when the cities of Newburgh, New York, and Grand Rapids, Michigan, add sodium fluoride to their public water systems.

1950s: The first fluoride toothpastes are marketed.

1960: The first commercial electric toothbrush, developed in Switzerland after World War II, is introduced in the United States. A cordless, rechargeable model follows in 1961.

Why dry mouth can be a problem and what to do about it

Your saliva plays an important role in your oral health and reduced saliva flow can lead to health problems.

Reduced saliva flow can lead to a dry mouth and this is a common problem among older adults.

It can be caused by various medical disorders and is often a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers and diuretics.

Dry mouth can be associated with various problems such as a constant sore throat, burning sensation, problems speaking, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or dry nasal passages.

Drying irritates the soft tissues in the mouth, which can make them inflamed and more susceptible to infection. Without the cleansing effects of saliva, tooth decay and other oral health problems become more common.

So, if dry mouth is not treated, it can damage your teeth.

Without adequate saliva to lubricate your mouth, wash away food, and neutralize the acids produced by plaque, extensive decay can occur.

Your dentist can recommend various methods to restore moisture. Sugar-free candy or gum stimulates saliva flow, and moisture can be replaced by using artificial saliva and oral rinses.

How sedation and general anesthesia can make your visit to the dentist easier

While local anesthetics are often used in dental treatment, there is sometimes a need for anti-anxiety agents – such as nitrous oxide – or sedatives to help people relax during dental visits.

Dentists may use these agents to induce “minimal or moderate sedation”.

In this case, the patient reaches a relaxed state during treatment but can respond to speech or touch.

Sedatives can be administered before, during or after dental procedures by mouth, inhalation or injection.

More complex treatments may require drugs that can induce “deep sedation”.

This reduces consciousness and causes a loss of feeling which helps to reduce both pain and anxiety.

Sometimes patients undergo “general anesthesia” where the drugs lead to a temporary loss of consciousness.

A dentist may recommend deep sedation or general anesthesia for certain procedures with children or with adults who have severe anxiety or for people who have difficulty controlling their movements.

While these techniques to control pain and anxiety are used to treat tens of millions of patients safely every year, it’s important that you let your dentist know anything that might affect your ability to benefit from them for example, tell them about any illnesses or health conditions, whether you are taking any medications and if you’ve had any problems with allergic reactions to medications.

What to do if your tooth cracks

While our teeth are normally very strong, they can crack for a number of reasons.

Reasons could include tooth decay, trauma/injury, grinding of the teeth or a stress fracture.

Sometimes, our jaw may be stronger than our teeth and the teeth can fracture when we bite heavily on food.

We can protect our teeth in some circumstances – for example it may be advisable to wear a mouthguard during sports.

Taking proper care of the teeth and regular visits to the dentist will help keep your teeth in good shape.

If a tooth cracks, it may become painful if the nerve is exposed and the area can become tender.

If this happens, rinse your mouth with warm water to clean the area and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling. Then call your dentist immediately.

Treatment will depend on where the tooth has fractured, how close it is to the nerve and the overall condition of the tooth.

A cracked tooth may be repaired with silver alloy, gold, porcelain or plastic. Or it may require a crown or overlay or bonding, which applies porcelain or enamel to the fractured tooth.

If you contact your dentist quickly, they will be able to take the most approriate action to preserve the tooth as much as possible.

Crowns and how they improve your teeth

To make sure you have the best smile possible, you may need a crown to cover a tooth and restore it to its normal shape and size.

A crown is a tooth-shaped “cap” that is placed over a tooth to restore its shape, size and strength, or to improve its appearance.

The reasons you may need a crown include:

– Protecting a weak tooth
– Holding together parts of a cracked tooth
– Restoring an already broken tooth
– Supporting a tooth with a large filling when there isn’t a lot of tooth left
– Attaching a dental bridge
– Covering badly-shaped or severely discolored teeth
– Cover a dental implant

If your dentist recommends a crown, it’s probably to correct one of these conditions.

Your dentist’s primary concern, like yours, is helping you keep your teeth healthy and your smile bright.

How dental implants can give you a better smile

If you have missing teeth, you don’t just have to rely on crowns, conventional bridges and dentures.

Many people are now choosing dental implants as the best way to restore their smile and solve dental problems.

Implants are placed below the gums during a series of appointments. They fuse to the jawbone and provide a base for individual replacement teeth, bridges or a denture.

As they are fused to the bone, they offer greater stability. And, because they are integrated into your jaw, your replacement teeth will feel more natural.

This secure fit often also makes them more comfortable than other solutions.

In order to have implants, you need to have healthy gums and adequate bone to support the implant.

To find out whether you could be a candidate for dental implants, talk to your dentist about what they could do for you.

How sugar in your diet affects your teeth

The sugar content in the food you eat has a big effect on your teeth and gums.

When bacteria (plaque) come into contact with sugar in the mouth, acid is produced, which attacks the teeth for 20 minutes or more. This can eventually result in tooth decay.

That’s why drinking sugar-filled sodas, sweetened fruit drinks, and non-nutritious snacks can take a toll on teeth.

This is particularly true for children as their eating patterns and food choices affect how quickly they develop tooth decay.

Foods that contain sugars of any kind can contribute to tooth decay. However, almost all foods, including milk or vegetables, have some type of sugar. Many of them also contain important nutrients that are an important part in our diet.

To help control the amount of sugar you consume, read food labels and choose foods and beverages that are low in added sugars. Soft drinks,candy, cookies and pastries often contain added sugars.

The power of panoramic x-rays

X-rays are extremely valuable for helping dentists identify issues that may not show up on normal oral examination.

The three most common types of dental X-rays are the bitewing, periapical and panoramic X-rays.

Panoramic X-rays give a broad overview of the entire mouth – supplying information about the teeth, upper and lower jawbone, sinuses, and other hard and soft tissues of the head and neck.

Unlike other X-rays, where the film is placed inside the patient’s mouth, the panoramic film is contained in a machine that moves around the patient’s head. So they are very easy to use.

Panoramic X-rays are often used to check wisdom teeth but they will also reveal deep cavities and gum disease. They are also useful to help patients with past or present jaw problems or those who require full or partial removable dentures, dental implants, or braces.

They can also be valuable in assisting people who are suspected of having oral cancer or have had recent trauma to the face or teeth.

Panoramic X-rays play an important role in thorough dental examinations and are recommended at least every five years or so for most patients.