Posts for: August, 2014
Chewing gum, so much a part of modern culture, actually has ancient roots — humans have been chewing some form of it for thousands of years. While gum chewing is a benign habit for the most part, it does raise some dental health concerns.
The good news for jaw function is that chewing gum is unlikely to cause any long-term problems for your joints if you respond to your body’s warning signals. Our joints, muscles and associated nerves have a built-in mechanism of fatigue and pain signaling to help us avoid overuse. Furthermore, the action of chewing stimulates the production and release of saliva. Among saliva’s many beneficial properties is its ability to neutralize acid, which can soften and erode tooth enamel. It also strengthens enamel by restoring some of the calcium and other minerals lost from acid.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the physical act of chewing gum isn’t without risks. Chewing gum “exercises” your jaw muscles and makes them stronger, so they’re able to deliver more force to your teeth. This could lead to future tooth mobility and excessive wear. It’s important then that you don’t chew gum excessively to avoid this kind of damage to your teeth.
Unfortunately, there’s more bad news involving a key ingredient in many brands. Many manufacturers use sugar (sucrose) to sweeten their product, which is a major part of its appeal. Sugar, however, is a prime food source for oral bacteria responsible for tooth decay. The prolonged presence of sugar in the mouth when we chew gum can negate the beneficial effects of increased saliva.
A sweetener called xylitol, though, could be the answer to “having your gum and chewing it too.” This alcohol-based sugar (which, by the way, has almost half the calories of table sugar) has the opposite effect on bacteria — rather than becoming a food source it actually inhibits bacterial growth. Studies have even shown that products like chewing gum, mints or candy sweetened with xylitol can contribute significantly to a reduction in dental caries (cavities) caused by decay.
The better news: you don’t have to give up chewing gum for the sake of your teeth — just be sure to choose products with dental-friendly ingredients and don’t chew excessively. You’ll not only reduce the risks of tooth decay and damage, you’ll also promote a healthier environment in your mouth.
If you would like more information on chewing gum and its effects on dental health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Chewing Gum” and “Xylitol in Chewing Gum.”
For some kids, having a cavity or two is just part of growing up. Not for Giuliana Rancic. When she was a child, the TV personality didn't have a single cavity — and she still doesn't. But for her husband Bill, co-star of the Style Network reality show Giuliana and Bill, it was a different story. A cavity-prone kid, he was never certain what a visit to the dentist might hold in store. “I can still remember the anticipation,” he recently told Dear Doctor magazine. “I always hoped I would get out of the checkups without a cavity!”
Why do some people get more cavities than others? There are a number of factors at work, but to understand it better, let's look at how tooth decay occurs.
How Cavities Form
Cavities — also called dental caries — are small pits or holes in the teeth that are caused by tooth decay. Tooth decay itself is a chronic disease that can flare up when plaque isn't kept under control. A thin, bacteria-laden film, plaque sticks to tooth surfaces both above and below the gum line, and can build up in the absence of effective oral hygiene.
Of course, everyone has bacteria in their mouth, both “good” and “bad” (pathogenic) types. But when the bad guys outnumber the good, trouble can start. When you consume sweets, plaque bacteria process the sugars and release acid as a byproduct. The acid eats into tooth surfaces, causing decay — and cavities that need filling. Left untreated, decay can work its way into the tooth's pulp, resulting in infection and pain. Eventually, treatment might involve a root canal — or, in the worst case, extraction.
What can you do if you seem to be prone to cavities? One effective way to fight tooth decay is by maintaining good oral hygiene. Brush at least twice daily, for at least two minutes each time. Use a soft-bristled brush and a dab of fluoride toothpaste to clean all around your teeth. Most importantly, floss above and below the gum line, every day. And just as important, don't forget to have regular dental checkups every six months.
A Healthy Balance
Another cavity-fighting strategy is eating a balanced diet. Avoid soda, sugary “energy” drinks and sweet treats — but if you choose to consume sugar, have it with meals instead of between meals. This will give your saliva, which has natural cavity-fighting properties, a chance to work.
“It's all about maintaining a healthy balance,” Giuliana told Dear Doctor. And Bill agrees: “I love nuts and fruit for a healthy snack,” he said, adding that he's meticulous about brushing and flossing. And when the couple smiles, you can see how those healthy habits pay off.
If you would like more information on preventing tooth decay, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Decay” and “Tooth Decay – How To Assess Your Risk.”
Dental implants have emerged as the premier replacement option for lost teeth. Their life-like appearance, durability and versatility have made them extremely popular with patients.
Implants aren’t a quick fix, though: in most cases the process takes months to complete. Here’s a chronological overview of what you can expect if you decide on dental implants.
Stage 1: Planning. The process begins at least a few weeks before the actual implantation with an examination to determine what’s best for your individual case. Implant materials and designs are quite numerous, enabling us to precisely match individual tooth types, shapes, lengths and color. We then use x-rays or CT scanning to identify the best locations for the implants — careful planning here increases the chances that implantation will go smoothly and the final outcome will be aesthetically pleasing.
Stage 2: Implantation. Once we’ve finished planning, it’s time to surgically insert the titanium implants into the pre-determined locations in the jawbone identified during Stage 1. While this procedure is relatively minor and routine, the surgeon still operates with precision and care to ensure the best functional and aesthetic outcome.
Stage 3: Integration. In most cases after implantation, we’ll need to wait for a few weeks before attaching the final crowns. Because bone has an affinity for titanium, it will grow and adhere to the implant during this waiting period, anchoring it securely into the bone that will increase its long-term durability. We attach temporary teeth made of acrylic plastic (along with giving you some precautions on biting and chewing) to help you function normally during the waiting period.
Stage 4: A Transformed Smile! Once integration has been achieved and the gum tissues fully healed, we can then attach the permanent crowns. These crowns are typically made of strong, durable materials that will fit the healed gum tissues more precisely than your temporary crowns. Depending on the type of implant used, the crowns are either cemented or screwed into place onto the implant.
The process of dental implantation involves a lot of time, effort and precision. In the end, though, it’s well worth it — the joy of new teeth that will function well for years and look great too!
If you would like more information on dental implants, 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 “New Teeth in One Day.”