5 Dental Tips for Thanksgiving

Our favorite food-based holiday is here! Relax and lower your hackles; we aren’t going to tell you to cut down on how much you eat. We just want to offer a few tips for dental-safe holiday.

Open nuts with a nutcracker, not your teeth. Many men, women, AND children crack a tooth over the holiday doing just that. Rodents have the teeth cracking nuts; this is why we invented nutcrackers. Also, remember this: cracking your teeth not only creates an unattractive result, it also creates quite a painful one. In addition, cracking a tooth requires pricey dental fixes, including a root canal and a dental crown.

Don’t open beer bottles with your teeth. Go on ahead and laugh; just remember that more people try this than you think, especially once the alcohol starts to flow. And yes, the results are always the same–cracked teeth that need dental implants, root canals, and/or dental crowns.

Caramel popcorn balls can also crack your teeth. No really, it’s true. All it takes is biting down on a single, unpopped kernal of popcorn a little too hard or the wrong way and you will crack a tooth. This can lead to–you guessed it–needing root canals, dental implants, and dental crowns. We know they’re tasty, but it’s worth the risk to your wallet to skip them.

Brush and floss your teeth after dessert. Before you lie down on the couch for that guaranteed post-Thanksgiving dinner coma, brush and floss your teeth. The number one cause of tooth decay is food left on or around the teeth, and the number one food to cause decay the fastest is sugar. After your last slice of pumpkin or pecan pie, hit the bathroom for a quick brushing and flossing.

Don’t bite candy canes. While it’s highly unlikely candy canes will be around on Thanksgiving Day, it is highly likely that they will make an appearance the day after Thanksgiving, as this is the most popular day to start decorating for Christmas. If you have a pension for candy canes, don’t bite down on them. Hard candy like peppermint can be literal murder to your teeth.

 See, that wasn’t so scary! We hope everyone has a safe and very happy Thanksgiving!

Tooth Decay and You

It may come as a shock, but recent studies have found tooth decay is more prevalent than asthma. In fact, this is considered to be one of the most common health issues that spans across the globe. It is a good thing it is easy to avoid becoming a statistic with regular visits to your dentist and proper oral hygiene.

So what is tooth decay and how do you prevent it? First, this is another way of saying you have a cavity. The basic cavity is nothing more than a portion of your tooth rotting due to bacteria and infection. Of course this term also includes more serious issues, but cavities are what make up the bulk of the people on the statistics lists.

What may surprise you are the age groups that make up the bulk of these stats. Kids take the top spot mainly due to how much sugar they consume. When sugar is introduced into their mouths, the bacteria transform it into acid. It is this acid that allows for tooth decay to start. No parent should ever consider baby teeth as “practice teeth” as the decay can spread into the gums and jaw bone, thus causing even more severe health problems.

The second group is senior citizens. The reason for this is that as people age, their gums recede and allow for easier access for bacteria to get below the gum line. This makes it easier for bacteria to get at the roots of teeth and cause some unwanted affects.

Treatment for tooth decay can vary depending on the severity of the issue. Simple cavities require nothing more than a filling where deep infections may require surgery to handle the issue. Only your dentist can properly diagnose and recommend a treatment to resolve the problem at hand.

The good news is that preventing this issue is a lot less painful than a root canal. Educating children not to eat handfuls of sugar is a good starting point. Then proceed on with proper oral hygiene that includes regular brushing of teeth and gums as well as flossing. Do not forget to see your dentist twice a year.

What Causes Cavities?

 

The most common issue in oral health is cavities. Just how do cavities start to form on your teeth? While there are a few common and widely known, causes for cavities, a few situations may surprise you.

The first way a cavity can form is due to oral disorders and diseases. These disorders are rare and affect only a small percentage of the population. Some of the more common diseases cause insufficient amounts of enamel to form on the teeth. When this happens, the tooth is much more susceptible to cavities, bacteria, and other issues.

Speaking of bacteria, this is quite possibly the most common way a cavity can form. The mouth contains a wide variety of oral bacteria, but only a few bacterial strains can lead to dental problems. These strains will collect around the teeth and gum line in what is commonly referred to as plaque. The problem with this build up is that the bacteria produce acid when you eat a meal or a snack. This acid then eats away at your teeth, thus causing cavities, or worse, to form.

The most common cause for this acid production comes from the abundant use of sugar in various foods. Highly sugary sweets, drinks, and packaged foods cause the bacteria to have a heyday in their acid production. This acid then eats away at your teeth. If left unchecked, cavities and diseases like gingivitis can take root in your mouth.

Finally, cavities just come with time and age. Your teeth do a lot of work over years of use, and this causes them to slowly weaken as you get older. As your teeth weaken, they become more susceptible to bacteria, and thus cavities become a growing concern.

So what can you do to keep your teeth healthy? The first item is to watch your diet. Eating whole foods and drinking water are a great way to not only keep your body healthy, but also promote a healthy smile. Another trick is to chew a sugarless gum after each meal. Gum chewing not only helps to pull food out of the nooks and crannies of your mouth, but it also stimulates saliva production, which happens to be your body’s natural bacteria fighting agent. Lastly, if you use tobacco products, particularly smokeless tobacco, consider quitting. Some smokeless tobacco products contain sugar to help increase flavor. When this is held against the teeth and gums for prolonged periods, major dental issues can form in the gums and roots of your teeth.

The best way to keep your mouth healthy is to see your dentist on a regular basis. If cavities are left untreated, they can go from a minor issue to a major oral nightmare.

Pulp Capping – Alternative Solution over Root Canals

When a patient has a cavity that runs exceptionally deep into the tooth, exposing the tooth pulp (never), a root canal is most often required to correct this painful problem. However, a recent study has shown that the tooth can be recovered and rehabilitated by capping a small portion of the exposed pulp with calcium hydroxide and sealing it.

The study has found this method to have a high rate of success: fourteen studies had success rates reaching 90%.

The procedure of pulp capping is nothing new, but outside of this study, pulp capping is only used in certain situations. If the exposed pulp is slight with light bleeding and the tissue surrounding the exposure is healthy, then a dentist can opt for a pulp cap. For any other, more serious situations–such as a tooth abscess (which indicates that the nerve has been dead for some time) or a wide exposure of the pulp–a root canal or an extraction are the only options.

However, if additional research proves that pulp capping is successful in most patients, then many patients could have not only a less painful procedure, but also a less expensive and less time consuming one as well. Those who have abscesses, though, still only have two options: a root canal or an extraction. The pulp cap tries to recover and restore the damaged nerve, but if the nerve is already dead, the cap will have no effect.

So the next time you’re at the dentist and you’re told that you need a root canal, ask if you qualify for pulp capping. As the technology continues to improve and more and more research is gathered, there’s a great chance that you will only need a pulp cap.

Source: Hilton T, Keys to Clinical Success with Pulp Capping: A Review of the Literature, RCDSO Peak Publication, May/June 2010, pg 1-16.

Root Canal Alternative Possibly Coming

Root Canal oil painting by Anthony Falbo

Courtesy of Anthony Falbo

The root canal is probably one of the most if not THE most dreaded dental procedures. No patient wants to hear that they need a root canal, and believe it or not, dentists do understand the pain and anxiety patients go through, which makes them not exactly eager to perform the procedure. However, according to the American Chemical Society, scientists are on their way toward developing the “next big treatment revolution in dentistry” that could provide a less painful alternative to root canals.

The goal of root canal therapy is to bring a damaged and diseased tooth back to life instead of removing the tooth. This is currently done by hollowing out the tooth, removing the damaged pulp and nerve, and then refilling the tooth with synthetic material to keep it anchored in place. This really doesn’t bring the tooth back to life, but it’s worked well for what it was supposed to do. Now scientists are reporting that they have developed a completely original, nano-sized dental film, and this film has been quite promising in its early stages for actually revitalizing the tooth.

The potential procedure, called regenerative endodontics, could possibly become an alternative to removing the pulp and nerves in a root canal. The film, which is only 1/50,000th the thickness of a human hair, is multilayered and includes a substance that may help regenerate tooth pulp. The substance, called alpha melanocyte stimulating hormone (alpha-MSH) has anti-inflammatory capabilities, but when it is combined with a commonly-used polymer, they produce a substance that deters inflammation in dental pulp cells. The films that contained the alpha-MSH also increased the number of dental pulp cells. According to the scientists on this research, “this could help revitalize damaged teeth and reduce the need for a root canal procedure.”

If this becomes a reality, dentists and patients alike will gladly greet the nano-film with open arms. Anything is better than a root canal, right?