Tooth Decay Prevention
Tooth decay is a progressive disease resulting in the interaction of bacteria that naturally occur on the teeth and sugars in the everyday diet. Sugar causes a reaction in the bacteria, causing it to produce acids that break down the mineral in teeth, forming a cavity. Dentists remove the decay and fill the tooth using a variety of fillings, restoring the tooth to a healthy state. Nerve damage can result from severe decay and may require a crown (a crown is like a large filling that can cap a tooth, making it stronger or covering it). Avoiding unnecessary decay simply requires strict adherence to a dental hygiene regimen: brushing and flossing twice a day, regular dental check-ups, diet control and fluoride treatment. Practicing good hygiene avoids unhealthy teeth and costly treatment.
The grooves and depressions that form the chewing surfaces of the back teeth are extremely difficult (if not impossible) to clean of bacteria and food. As the bacteria reacts with the food, acids form and break down the tooth enamel, causing cavities. Recent studies indicate that 88 percent of total cavities in American school children are caused this way.
Tooth sealants protect these susceptible areas by sealing the grooves and depressions, preventing bacteria and food particles from residing in these areas. Sealant material is a resin typically applied to the back teeth, molars and premolars and areas prone to cavities. It lasts for several years but needs to be checked during regular appointments.
Fluoride is a substance that helps teeth become stronger and resistant to decay. Regularly drinking water treated with fluoride and brushing and flossing regularly ensures significantly lower cavities. Dentists can evaluate the level of fluoride in a primary drinking water source and recommend fluoride supplements (usually in tablets or drops), if necessary.
Sucking is a natural reflex that relaxes and comforts babies and toddlers. Children usually cease thumb sucking when the permanent front teeth are ready to erupt. Typically, children stop between the ages of 2 and 4 years. Thumb sucking that persists beyond the eruption of primary teeth can cause improper growth of the mouth and misalignment of the teeth. If you notice prolonged and/or vigorous thumb sucking behavior in your child, talk to your dentist.
Here are some ways to help your child outgrow thumb sucking:
- Don’t scold a child when they exhibit thumb sucking behavior; instead, praise them when they don’t suck his or her thumb.
- Focus on eliminating the cause of anxiety – thumb sucking is a comfort device that helps children cope with stress or discomfort.
- Praise them when they refrain from the habit during difficult periods.
- Place a bandage on the thumb or a sock on their hand at night.
- Click on the thumb sucking chart above to download a copy and reward your child with a sticker each day for not sucking his/her thumb.
A night guard, also known as a “bite splint”, is a hard plastic retainer placed over either the top or bottom row of your teeth. It is designed to help prevent or slow the damage done to teeth by grinding or clenching. Nighttime grinding and clenching can wear down the tooth enamel, eventually leading to major dental procedures such as root canals, tooth extractions, crown placements and oral surgery. With a properly designed night guard, the wear on this enamel is decreased, therefore slowing the damage to the teeth.
Night guards are also known to help sufferers of disorders of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Night guards align the top and bottom teeth optimally to protect and reduce the movements that irritate this joint. For patients with damaged jaw joints, the decrease in twisting or delocation of the jaw joint that the night guard provides can be especially helpful.
Night guards are also an excellent choice for patients who have had extensive or expensive dental restorations or smile redesigns performed, as night guards could help protect these restorations from damage and wear while the patient sleeps. It is important to note, however, that night guards are not, and cannot, be designed to entirely eliminate the damage done to the biting surface of teeth. Instead, they are designed to slow the damage done, and hopefully in the process help the patient avoid undergoing more extensive dental work in the future.
We are pleased to offer our patients custom-fabricated mouthguards for sports activities. Unlike stock mouthguards, which fit loosely because they are designed to accommodate many possible wearers, our sports mouthguards are tailored to fit your exact dental profile, providing the highest attainable level of comfort and security in a mouthguard.
The first step in fabricating these mouthguards is to take an impression of your teeth. We then use that impression and fabricate the mouthguard using special professional-grade materials. The perfect fit of these custom-fabricated mouthguards ensures that not only will your mouthguards fit comfortably, they will also offer the most protection and will interfere the least with speech or breathing.
Oral Cancer Screening
Oral cancer is one of the most under-discussed but prevalent forms of cancer. In fact, the American Cancer Society has recently released information showing that, while incidents of cancers overall have reduced in the United States, the occurrences of oral cancers are actually increasing, as is its mortality rate.
With proper screening and early diagnosis, the severity of oral cancer drops significantly. But as with most forms of cancer, being able to detect the cancer in an early stage is crucial. That’s why our office uses advanced oral cancer screening equipment, to be able to detect and screen for the lesions that indicate possible oral cancer easily and accurately. Using specialized lights and optics, your dentist is able to conduct an oral cancer screening that can detect lesions that are invisible to the unaided human eye. These screenings are fast and completely comfortable – and best of all, they are the best possible way to ensure that your mouth is healthy and cancer-free!
We recommend an annual oral cancer screening for our patients, particularly if you:
- Are above the age of 30
- Use tobacco products, or have used them in the past 10 years
- Consume an average of 1 alcoholic drink or more per day
- Have been previously diagnosed with any form of cancer
Don’t become a statistic – talk to us today about the dangers and warning signs of oral cancer, and schedule a screening with your next appointment!