Posts for: January, 2015
Teeth are naturally strong and durable — if we can prevent or control dental disease like tooth decay or gum disease, they can last a lifetime. Still, teeth do wear gradually as we age, a fact we must factor into our dental care as we grow older.
Sometimes, though, the wear rate can accelerate and lead to problems much earlier — even tooth loss. There are generally four ways this abnormal wear can occur.
Tooth to tooth contact. Attrition usually results from habitual teeth grinding or clenching that are well beyond normal tooth contact. Also known as bruxism, these habits may occur unconsciously, often while you sleep. Treatments for bruxism include an occlusal guard worn to prevent tooth to tooth contact, orthodontic treatment, medication, biofeedback or psychological counseling to improve stress coping skills.
Teeth and hard material contact. Bruxism causes abrasion when our teeth regularly bite on hard materials such as pencils, nails, or bobby pins. The constant contact with these and other abrasive surfaces will cause the enamel to erode. Again, learning to cope with stress and breaking the bruxism habit will help preserve the remaining enamel.
Chronic acid. A high level of acid from foods we eat or drink can erode tooth enamel. Saliva naturally neutralizes this acid and restores the mouth to a neutral pH, usually within thirty minutes to an hour after eating. But if you’re constantly snacking on acidic foods and beverages, saliva’s buffering ability can’t keep up. To avoid this situation, refrain from constant snacking and limit acidic beverages like sodas or sports drinks to mealtimes. Extreme cases of gastric reflux disease may also disrupt your mouth’s pH — seek treatment from your medical doctor if you’re having related symptoms.
Enamel loss at the gumline. Also known as abfraction, this enamel loss is often caused by receding gums that expose more of the tooth below the enamel, which can lead to its erosion. Preventing and treating gum disease (the leading cause of receding gums) and proper oral hygiene will lower your risks of receding gums and protect tooth enamel.
If you would like more information on tooth wear, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How and Why Teeth Wear.”
Not long ago, musician, businessman, and actor 50 Cent (AKA Curtis James Jackson III) joined the growing ranks of celebrities (like Demi Moore and LeAnn Rimes) who have sent out tweets from the dental chair. The rapper, who has had extensive cosmetic work done on his teeth, even live-tweeted an action shot of his dentist giving him an oral exam!
Some might consider this too much information — but we're happy whenever people are reminded of the importance of regular dental checkups. In fact, the “routine” dental exam is truly one of the most useful procedures (and one of the best values) in dental care. Let's “examine” some reasons why that's so.
For one thing, coming in to our office when you don't have a specific problem gives us the chance to talk to you about any concerns you may have in regard to your mouth — or your health in general. In fact, many of the questions we ask and the exam procedures we perform give us an opportunity to detect potentially deadly diseases. For example, simply monitoring your blood pressure may identify a risk for heart disease; or an examination of the oral tissues may reveal the first signs of oral cancer. Both conditions are treatable if caught early on.
Of course, at a dental exam we always look closely at your teeth for signs of cavities. We also check your gums for inflammation or bleeding, which could indicate gum disease. X-rays or other diagnostic tests are performed when necessary. Generally, the sooner we can diagnose and treat any problems we may find, the better (and less costly) the outcome tends to be.
A typical checkup also includes a thorough, professional teeth cleaning with specialized tools, performed by our skilled dental hygienists. This not only makes your mouth look and feel sparkly clean — it also removes the built-up hard deposits (called tartar or calculus) that can lead to bad breath or gum disease.
Once the exam and cleaning are done, we have a good idea of the general state of your dental health. We can then give feedback on your oral hygiene techniques, assess your risk for disease, and make recommendations tailored to your individual needs. And we can do all this in about half an hour.
So talk about it, tweet about it — but don't neglect it! Along with regular brushing and flossing, routine dental checkups are the best way for you to maintain good oral hygiene — and prevent future dental problems.
If you would like more information about the benefits of regular dental exams, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Dental Hygiene Visit.”