Posts for: March, 2013
You use toothpaste every day — don't you? But how much do you really know about what's inside the tube: namely, the white, sticky stuff that keeps your teeth clean and your breath fresh? Take this True/False quiz and find out!
True of false: Powdered charcoal, brick dust and crushed bones were once ingredients in toothpaste. TRUE
Many years ago, these gritty abrasive materials were used to make toothpaste. Today, abrasives are still used — but they're much gentler. Compounds like hydrated silica or alumina, calcium carbonate, and dicalcium phosphate have proven effective at cleaning and polishing tooth surfaces without damaging the enamel.
True of false: Fluoride was first introduced into toothpaste in 1955. FALSE
Arguably toothpaste's most important ingredient, fluoride was used as early as 1914. But its mass-marketing debut came with the Crest brand in the mid-1950s. Today, no toothpaste without fluoride can receive the American Dental Association's Seal of Approval. That's because it has been shown to strengthen tooth enamel and help prevent tooth decay.
True of false: Detergent is a common ingredient of toothpaste. TRUE
But it isn't the same kind you do laundry with. Detergents — also called surfactants, because they act on the surfaces of liquids — help to loosen and break down deposits on your teeth, which can then be rinsed away. Like other health and beauty products, many toothpastes use a gentle detergent, derived from coconut or palm kernel oil, called sodium lauryl sulfate.
True of false: Whitening toothpastes work, to some degree, on all stains. FALSE
Whether the whitening agents in toothpaste will work for you depends on why your teeth don't look white in the first place. The abrasives and enzymes in these toothpastes can help remove “extrinsic” stains: those on the surface of your teeth. But for “intrinsic” stains — that is, internal discoloration — they probably won't help. In that case, you may need to get professional bleaching treatments.
True of false: Toothpastes made for sensitive teeth have substances that block pain transmission. TRUE
Potassium nitrate and strontium chloride can block the sensation of pain that may occur when dentin — the material that makes up most of the inside of teeth, and is normally covered by enamel — becomes exposed. Fluoride, too, helps reduce sensitivity. But the benefits of reduced tooth sensitivity may take a few weeks to really be felt.
If you have questions about toothpastes or oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Toothpaste — What's In It?”
For many parents, the image of an infant intently absorbed in sucking a pacifier — or her own thumb — is one of the cherished memories of babyhood. But if this habit goes on for too long, it can cause problems with the child's bite. Want to know what the potential predicaments are, when you should be concerned about the behavior, and what you can do? Read on!
Thumb sucking is a natural, comforting behavior of humans (and some other primates) related to nursing. It usually goes away on its own by the time the permanent teeth are coming in. But it can be a hard habit to break — and if it becomes a persistent behavior, the consequences may include a problem called an “open bite.”
In a normal bite, the top teeth slightly overlap the bottom teeth. When the thumb (or any other object) constantly rests between the upper and lower teeth, however, the pressure it exerts may prevent the teeth from fully erupting (coming out from the gums into the mouth) and alter the shape and development of the upper and lower jawbone. This result is a gap between the upper and lower teeth.
The same problem may also be caused by prolonging the “infantile swallowing pattern,” a forward-thrusting position of the tongue which, like thumb sucking, normally begins to cease around age four. That's when it is replaced by the adult swallowing pattern, where the tongue is held behind the teeth, against the roof on the mouth. Researchers believe that most open bites result from the failure to change from the infantile to the adult swallowing pattern.
When should you be concerned about the thumb sucking habit? If the behavior continues much past toddlerhood, or if the sucking is particularly active, you may wish to have us evaluate your child's bite. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends having the habit stop by age 3. Persistent thumb sucking can actually push the teeth forward and change the growth patterns of the jaw, creating more difficult problems.
There are several methods for controlling the behavior and correcting problems with the bite. One is an appliance called a “tongue crib.” This thin metal device is placed behind the upper and lower incisors. It discourages thumb sucking, while at the same time helping to keep the tongue from inserting itself between the upper and lower teeth. Eliminating these unhelpful habits is essential to allow the teeth to erupt into proper position and to allow for the normal development of the jawbones.
Recent research has also shown that individualized exercise routines called orofacial myofunctional therapy (OMT) can be highly effective in preventing open bite relapses. These exercises are designed to retrain muscles in the face, tongue and lips, and can help to create good chewing and swallowing patterns.
If you would like more information about thumb sucking or children's bite problems, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about these issues by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Thumb Sucking Affects The Bite.”
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.”