Posts for: February, 2012
Sealants and fluoride are tools that can be used to prevent cavities from forming, thus saving a tooth from a lifetime of repair and maintenance.
What are sealants?
Permanent molars with deep grooves and pits on the chewing surface are some of the most susceptible areas in children to form cavities. These pits and grooves are most vulnerable in young children due to their lack of oral hygiene skills, dexterity, and diet high in processed sticky sugars. The first permanent molars typically erupt around age six, and the chewing surfaces of these molars are often formed with deep grooves and pits. These areas can easily become clogged with food debris that is nearly impossible to remove. The sticky processed sugars often found in today’s diet are prime catalysts for cavities. Placing sealants on the teeth as soon as they erupt helps prevent decay from starting.
A sealant is a filling material that starts out as a thick liquid and fills in the grooves and pits of tooth surface. Once placed it is cured with a visible light that hardens the material in seconds. There is no need to numb the tooth unlike when a filling is placed to restore a cavity. The sealant may chip or wear over time and can be simply re-sealed if needed. Sealants do not make a tooth bullet proof so don’t neglect hygiene or have an undisciplined diet. The sides of the teeth and in between the teeth are vulnerable to decay as the sealant does not protect those surfaces. Sealants should be placed on all of the adult molars as well as the bicuspid teeth if these teeth have deep grooves and pits.
How is fluoride beneficial?
The use of fluoride is another great way to help prevent tooth decay. Fluoride is a natural element that is found in trace amounts in water supplies and foods that we consume. Fluoride has been incorporated into toothpastes, gels, and mouth rinses, and acts as an anti-cavity agent. It can also act as a desensitizing agent for teeth that are cold or sweet sensitive.
Our teeth are in a constant state of war. They are being demineralized by the acids in the foods we consume as well as by acids produced by bacteria in our mouths. This is counteracted by the action of fluoride, calcium and other minerals to re-mineralize these surfaces. Normally a balance is kept such that no appreciable amount of demineralization occurs. When this balance is tipped in favor of demineralization, cavities become evident at a clinical or radiographic level. For most people, with good diet and hygiene , fluoridated toothpaste is a sufficient source of fluoride for oral care. Patients with less than optimal hygiene and diet or those who have weaker enamel can benefit from other sources of fluoride. Mouth rinses with fluoride, prescription gels, and fluoride tablets can help to remineralize enamel and keep teeth cavity-free.
Fluoride is especially important for children who may not have the best oral hygiene habits or dexterity and consume diets high in processed carbohydrates and sugars. Mouth rinses should be checked for alcohol content as this tends to dry the oral tissues and can be uncomfortable. Also, excess fluoride exposure should be avoided especially in young children. Be sure to follow the directions and when using fluoridated toothpaste with young children, it is best to use only a pea size amount to prevent ingestion of significant amounts of fluoride.
If you have any questions about sealants or fluoride for your children, please contact our office at (937) 434-8870 or e-mail us at [email protected]. Visit our website to read other articles about dental health and to learn more about our office.
The Almoney and Brown Dental Team
In our last article, we talked about how costly a single cavity can be to maintain throughout your lifetime. If a filling is placed on a 10-year-old child’s molar, it will cost on average $2187 to maintain, repair and replace by the time he or she is 79 years old. If that initial cavity never developed, the need for the on-going dental work would become unnecessary. Therefore, it is especially critical during childhood and adolescence to prevent tooth decay from developing. In today’s article we are going to discuss the importance of good daily hygiene and a healthy diet in prevention of tooth decay.
What causes a cavity?
Is it sugar, plaque, weak teeth, or just bad luck? In fact, what causes a cavity is acid. Acid starts a process called demineralization of tooth enamel, which basically means the enamel is dissolving. When a tooth is exposed to enough acid over time, the tooth will demineralize. Eventually, when the demineralization gets deep enough into the tooth, a hole or “cavity” is formed.
Where does this acid come from?
There are two basic sources of acid. First, many things we eat and drink are acidic. Soda, sports drinks, coffee, and fruit juices are just a few examples. Second, certain bacteria in our mouths will make acids when exposed to sugars. When the teeth are exposed to enough acid for a period of time, cavities will form. Therefore, in order to prevent tooth decay, we need to limit our exposure to acidic and sugary foods and remove the acid-producing bacteria which are on our teeth.
It’s not only how much sugar, but how often
When we consider our diet, it is not only how much sugar or acid we are exposing to our teeth, but also the frequency of that exposure. For example, a child that drinks three sodas at lunch will have more sugar and acid on his teeth than the child that sips one soda all day long. However, the child that sips on the drink is causing greater harm to the teeth because of the longer exposure time. When we see children with tooth decay, it is often because of the frequent consumption of candy, soda and sports drinks. Unfortunately, in today’s world, our children are constantly exposed to sugary foods while away from home. Be sure to limit this sugar exposure to help prevent tooth decay.
The 2 X 2 Rule: Brush twice a day for two minutes
The removal of bacteria is just as important to eliminating tooth decay. Brushing the teeth at least twice daily and flossing everyday is essential. However, most kids (and adults) don’t spend enough time to get their teeth clean. A minimum of two minutes is needed to brush effectively. Using a kitchen timer is often helpful for younger patients to make sure they are brushing long enough to get the teeth clean. Also, consider having your child use an electric toothbrush, such as the Sonicare. This can greatly improve the plaque removal, and the investment in a good electric toothbrush will be well worth the cost when it helps prevent a cavity.
With excellent home care and a diet that limits sugar and acid exposure, our children will be creating a lifetime of dental health. Next week, we will be discussing the benefits of dental sealants and fluoride in preventing tooth decay. If you have any questions about preventing cavities or other dental issues, please contact our office by email at [email protected] or by phone at (937) 434-8870. You can also visit our website at www.almoneybrowndental.com to learn more about our office and other dental topics.
The Almoney & Brown Dental Team
Today is the first day of the National Children's Dental Health Month and I wanted to start our month long focus on children's dental health by discussing the true cost of a cavity and the importance of preventative dentistry. When a child develops a cavity and an initial filling is placed in the tooth, this filling will need to be maintained, repaired or replaced throughout the child's lifetime, and the cost of this ongoing treatment can become expensive. Data shows that maintaining a single filling restored on a 10 year old's molar will cost, on average, $2,187 (in today's dollars) by the time he or she is 79 years old. Add a few more teeth to the equation, and one can easily see how costly these initial cavities can become.
Currently, there are no permanent restorative materials that will last forever. Fillings wear out over time and need to be repaired or replaced and in some cases the weakened tooth structure requires more extensive treatment like crowns to restore the tooth properly. Add to that the possibility of root canal treatments, extractions and the replacement of missing teeth, and the cost of maintaining that initial filling far exceeds the cost of preventing decay from ever starting. In our practice, over 90% of the teeth we restore have already been filled. This means that almost all of the restorative procedures we do involve repairing or replacing existing fillings. If these fillings were never needed in the first place, there would be little need for additional treatment later in life.
Now this is not to say that patients should avoid filling cavities. Once a cavity has formed, it is critical that it gets fixed as soon as possible. Untreated tooth decay will get worse over time resulting in more extensive and costly initial treatment. Smaller, more conservative, fillings are easier to place, less expensive and typically last longer than larger fillings. Therefore, once a cavity develops in a tooth, getting it fixed quickly is very important. However, the best plan is to prevent the cavity from even forming.
Prevention of dental decay starts as soon as the first tooth erupts into the patient's mouth. This can be as young as a few months old. Even though these first baby teeth will be replaced later with adult teeth, it is important to keep the baby teeth healthy and to begin developing good dental health habits in our children. Proper daily brushing, a healthy diet with minimal sugar exposure, and regular dental cleanings and exams are critical to starting a lifetime of good dental health.
Throughout the month of February, we will be posting a weekly blog on how to prevent cavities and help your child to develop a lifetime of good dental health. If you have questions about prevention of dental disease or other dental issues, please contact our office by email at Contact Us or by phone at (937) 434-8870. You can also visit our website at www.almoneybrowndental.com to learn more about our office and other dental topics.
The Almoney & Brown Dental Team