Posts for: March, 2012
Guidelines regarding the concentration of fluoride in water have recently been changed by the US Government's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These agencies recommended a reduction of fluoride in water supplies to 0.7mg/L, modifying the original recommendations provided in 1962 by the US Public Health Service.
What is fluoride, and why add it to water supplies?
Fluoride is a chemical form of fluorine, a naturally occurring element. For decades, scientists have carried out studies on the effects of fluoride in water, and they have proved that fluoride strengthens tooth surfaces and makes them resistant to decay. A fluoride concentration of about one milligram per liter (1 mg/L), or 1 part per million (1ppm), in the water supply is associated with substantially fewer cavities. This concentration of fluoride (equivalent to a grain of salt in a gallon of water) has been found to have no negative health effects.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that fluoridated water is one of the ten most effective public health measures of the 20th Century. The optimal amount of fluoride necessary to make teeth resistant to decay turns out to be between 0.7 and 1.20 milligrams per liter (mg/L). A certain amount of fluoride occurs naturally in water supplies, and communities have added fluoride to bring the amount up to the optimal recommendations.
How does fluoride you drink get into your teeth?
The fluoride you drink in your water is deposited in your bones. Bone is an active living substance that is constantly broken down and rebuilt as a normal body process. As this happens the fluoride is released into the blood, from which it can enter the saliva and act on the tooth surface.
What about fluoride from other sources?
Americans now have access to many sources of fluoride in addition to the water they drink. These include foods, beverages and toothpaste. As a result, dentists have begun to notice an increased prevalence of a condition known as Dental Fluorosis.
What is Dental Fluorosis?
Dental Fluorosis can occur when teeth, particularly in children, receive too much fluoride. This condition is a mottling or uneven staining of the tooth surface enamel. There may be small white spots or extensive brownish discolorations. The mottled enamel is still resistant to decay, but it may be unattractive in appearance.
What is the idea behind the new guidelines?
With the new guidelines, fluoride is kept at the lower end of the scale of the optimal concentration for strengthening teeth against decay. At this end, there is room to add consumption of fluoride from other sources such as foods or toothpaste. In short, it is the best of both worlds.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about fluoride. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Fluoride & Fluoridation in Dentistry” and “New Fluoride Recommendations.”
If an adult has lost his or her teeth (a condition called “edentulism”), full removable dentures (false teeth) can restore the person's appearance and ability to bite, chew, and talk properly. Even with our current extensive knowledge about tooth care and restoration, over 25 percent of Americans have lost all their teeth by the time they are 65.
How much do you know about dentures? Test yourself below.
How does tooth loss affect your bones?
Bone is a living substance that is constantly changing and rebuilding itself, depending on signals it receives from surrounding tissues. The bone that surrounds your teeth is called alveolar bone (from “alveolus,” meaning sac-like). To keep healthy, alveolar bone needs stimulation or function such as chewing and your teeth touching your opposing teeth. If you lose your teeth, bone begins to melt away (resorb).
How can we minimize bone loss during tooth extraction?
We can maintain bone volume by using bone grafting techniques. While this sounds scary, it is a relatively easy procedure. The principle of bone grafting is to build a sort of scaffolding on which your body begins to build and maintain its own bone. Bone loss can be prevented by the placement of a few dental implants.
How are dentures designed and created?
The dentures that look best and work best for you are based on your original teeth. We often utilize photographs of how you looked with your natural teeth, along with your input about possible changes you would like to see. First we take detailed impressions (molds) of the residual ridges in which your teeth once rested. From these we make denture bases of a light cured plastic resin. We attach horseshoe-shaped rims made of wax to the bases, to simulate the position of the teeth as we work out their design and spacing, based on both appearance and function. The prosthetic teeth are then tried out in your mouth, adjustments are made, and the dentures are processed in a dental laboratory. The final product substitutes a pink colored plastic (methyl methacrylate) to represent the gums and white plastic material as the teeth, created to make them look as natural as possible.
What is your part in the denture fitting process?
As a patient with new dentures, you must learn to use your jaw joints, ligaments, nerves, and muscles in new ways to help stabilize your dentures and to relearn to speak, bite, chew, smile, and laugh with these new structures. It takes a little practice, but with your removable dentures you can once again enjoy a complete and normal life.
You may have noticed, as you get older, that the enamel of your teeth is looking worn in certain areas. Sometimes tooth wear takes the form of a minor chipping or fracturing at the incisal (cutting) edges of the teeth, or a loss of tooth material from the area near the gum line. In more severe cases, worn teeth look quite a bit smaller than they used to. Why does this happen?
Some wear with age is natural. But too much wear can interfere with your bite, expose more sensitive inner parts of the tooth to decay, and give you a more aged appearance.
There are things you can control that affect wear:
Your habits: Clenching or grinding habits, also called “bruxism,” is a major cause of tooth wear. The motion of teeth sliding over each other with forces that are beyond what's normal for biting or chewing causes a mechanical removal of tooth enamel. This can happen during sleep or periods of high stress. In either case there are therapies available, such as a thin, professionally made mouthguard that prevents your teeth from coming into contact with each other. Holding foreign objects, such as nails and bobby pins, between your teeth can also cause wear.
Your diet: Tooth enamel can be eroded (dissolved away) by acidic beverages, such as sodas, sports drinks and juices. Frequent snacking on sugary foods encourages the growth of oral bacteria that produce acid as a byproduct — also leaving your teeth vulnerable to tooth decay. Your saliva can buffer the effects of the acid in your mouth in about half an hour; if you consume these types of foods and beverages continually, there won't be enough time for this to work.
We can restore the appearance and function of worn teeth in a variety of ways. Porcelain crowns and veneers, for example, can re-establish the normal thickness and length of teeth while improving their color and giving you a more youthful appearance.
If you have any questions about tooth wear, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about tooth wear by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How And Why Teeth Wear.”
Both diabetes and gum (periodontal) disease are chronic inflammatory diseases that have negative consequences for millions of people worldwide. But before we continue, let's define these two diseases:
Periodontal disease is a condition in which biofilms of dental bacterial plaque stick to teeth near the gum lines causing the gum tissues to become inflamed and infected. If not treated properly and in an early stage, it can cause severe damage to the bone that supports the teeth, resulting in tooth loss. It occurs in the absence of good oral hygiene which includes ineffective daily brushing and flossing and neglecting to see your dentist.
Diabetes is a chronic condition in which blood glucose (sugar) levels become excessive. Glucose is the body's main source of sugar for energy. The hormone insulin, among other mechanisms, normally controls glucose. Prolonged elevated blood sugar levels are harmful and ultimately can even be life threatening if left untreated. With type 1 diabetes, insulin injections (shots) are required to maintain the proper blood sugar levels because the body no longer produces its own blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes is generally less severe and can usually be treated with a combination of diet and medication.
And while both of these diseases share the same common enemy, you, there is scientific evidence revealing links between the two. Diabetes increases the risk factor for developing periodontitis, and conversely, periodontal disease makes it more difficult for diabetics to control blood glucose levels.
Want To Learn More?
Learn more about these two diseases and their relationship by reading, “Diabetes & Periodontal Disease.” Or if you have diabetes but haven't had a dental exam and cleaning in a long time, contact us today to schedule a consultation. You can also use this consultation to discuss any questions or concerns you have about your oral health and its relationship to your diabetes.
Dental decay is an infectious and very common disease, but it's also very preventable. Today's dentistry has many tools at its disposal to accurately determine your risk for tooth decay, lower it, turn it around, and completely prevent it. What's more, we can even reverse early decay. You might never have to see or hear the drill again.
Striking the right balance between factors that promote oral health and those that cause disease is of the utmost importance. And knowing whether or not you have indicators of disease or risk for tooth decay is a great place to start.
We will scientifically calculate your risk for tooth decay by:
- Recording and monitoring your oral and dental health: Our risk assessment/evaluation form allows us to gather information about critical dental health habits. Oral hygiene habits, use of fluoride toothpaste, tobacco smoking, frequent snacking on sugary foods and beverages, and past experience of decay are all examples of disease indicators that will help gauge your level of risk. For example, using fluoride toothpaste decreases your risk, but smoking and between-meal snacking increases it.
- Testing for decay producing bacteria: You've probably heard of dental bacterial plaque, the biofilm that sticks to your teeth, forming in the tiny little grooves on the biting surfaces of the teeth where decay starts (and along the gum line). Today, acid-producing bacteria responsible for causing decay can be tested by simply sampling your biofilm on a swab, and placing it in a meter to accurately determine acid-producing activity. A high number indicates high risk. You can see it for yourself in less than a minute.
- Saliva testing: A simple history will tell us whether your mouth is dry or moist most of the time. A saliva test will tell us if your saliva is acidic or neutral. A dry acidic mouth promotes decay, while a moist neutral mouth with healthy saliva promotes health. Measuring salivary “pH,” the measure of acidity, is another factor for determining your risk for decay and reversing it. Special rinses can help reduce decay-producing bacteria and reduce acidity.
- Very early decay detection: Modern ultra-low-dosage x-ray equipment allows us to determine the very earliest signs of decay. Decay that is detectable with the naked eye (or feel with a dentist's instrument, an explorer) is already at an advanced stage. Catching the disease very early with the help of this sophisticated equipment can allow us to reverse early decay before it has even turned into cavities. It can actually be reversed with remineralizing fluids, rinses that put calcium back into the tooth surfaces reforming and hardening them.
This is a new and exciting era in the fight against tooth decay and we have all the tools to determine your decay risk and reverse it.
If you would like us to determine your risk for tooth decay, please call the office to schedule an appointment. To read more about disease indicators and risk factors for dental caries, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay: How To Assess Your Risk.”