Preventing tooth decay in babies and infants

The habits of good dental care should begin as early as possible and it’s important to take steps to avoid problems with infants and children.

Children need strong, healthy teeth to chew their food and baby teeth also keep a space in the jaw for the adult teeth.

If a baby tooth is lost too early, the teeth beside it may drift into the empty space. So, when it’s time for the adult teeth to come in, there may not be enough room. This can make the teeth crooked or crowded.

The name given to decay in infants and children is baby bottle tooth decay.

It can destroy the teeth and most often occurs in the upper front teeth – though other teeth may also be affected.

Decay can happen when sweetened liquids are given to an infant and are then left clinging to their teeth for long periods. Many sweet liquids cause problems, including milk, formula and fruit juice.

What happens is that bacteria in the mouth use these sugars as food and then produce acids that attack the teeth.

It’s not just what you put in your child’s bottle that causes decay, but how often. Giving your child a bottle of sweetened liquid many times a day isn’t a good idea.

Here are some tips to avoid baby bottle tooth decay in your children:
– After each feeding, wipe the baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad. Begin brushing your child’s teeth when the first tooth erupts. Clean and massage gums in areas that remain toothless, and begin flossing when all the baby teeth have erupted, usually by age 2 or 2.
– Never allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle containing milk, formula, fruit juice or sweetened liquids.
– If your child needs a comforter between regular feedings, at night, or during naps, give them a clean pacifier recommended by your dentist or physician. Never give your child a pacifier dipped in any sweet liquid.
– Avoid filling your child’s bottle with liquids such as sugar water and soft drinks.
– If your local water supply does not contain fluoride (a substance that helps prevent tooth decay), ask your dentist how your child should get it.

Start dental visits by the child’s first birthday and make visits regularly.

If you think your child has dental problems, take the child to the dentist as soon as possible.

How dentures can replace your smile

If you’ve lost all of your natural teeth, whether from gum disease, tooth decay or injury, complete dentures can replace your missing teeth and your smile.

Replacing missing teeth will benefit your appearance and your health.

Without support from the denture, facial muscles sag, making a person look older. You’ll also find it harder to eat and speak – things that people often take for granted until their natural teeth are lost.

There are various types of complete dentures.

A conventional full denture is made and placed in the patient’s mouth after the remaining teeth are removed and tissues have healed which may take several months.

An immediate complete denture is inserted as soon as the remaining teeth are removed. The dentist takes measurements and makes models of the patient’s jaws during a preliminary visit. With immediate dentures, the denture wearer does not have to be without teeth during the healing period.

Even if you wear full dentures, you still must take good care of your mouth. Brush your gums, tongue and palate every morning with a soft-bristled brush before you insert your dentures to stimulate circulation in your tissues and help remove plaque.

And even if you wear full dentures, it’s important to visit your dentist regularly to maintain your overall oral health and get early warning of serious issues such as oral cancer.

Dental plaque – what it is and how to avoid it

You’ve probably heard people talking about plaque and maybe you’ve some idea of what it is.

But it’s useful to know a bit more about it so that you can do what’s necessary to minimize the risks.

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums.

When you’ve eaten a meal or snack, the bacteria in plaque release acids that attack tooth enamel. When this happens regularly, the enamel can weaken. This eventually leads to tooth decay.

The food we eat often causes plaque bacteria to produce acids. So, if you eat a lot of snacks, your teeth may be suffering acid attacks all day.

If you don’t remove the plaque through effective daily brushing and cleaning between the teeth, it can eventually harden into calculus or tartar.

Another effect of plaque is that it also produces substances that irritate the gums, making them red and tender or causing them to bleed easily.

If you want to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, make sure you have a balanced diet and avoid having too many snacks between meals.

When you feel like a snack, go for foods such as raw vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese or a piece of fruit.

How cosmetic dentistry can change your smile – and your life

Modern cosmetic dentistry has created many opportunities that did not exist before for people to improve their appearance and change the way they feel about themselves.

Although cosmetic dentistry really did not exist a few years ago, it now attracts interest from a wide range of people.

There are few people who don’t want to improve their appearance by making their teeth straighter and whiter so that they look better when they smile.

New technology and procedures have created many more opportunities for dentists to help patients look better.

One of the most important opportunities for doing this is porcelain veneers.

These are custom-made wafers that the dentist places over the front of the teeth to repair damage and make them look better.

They can overcome many cosmetic dental problems such as whitening stained or discolored teeth, closing gaps between teeth or correcting a crooked smile without the need for braces.

They can also cover up chips and imperfections so that the smile looks much better.

Another important cosmetic trend is the increased use of white fillings.

White fillings now are more lifelike than ever and they last longer than previously.

They have become the material of choice for many dentists as they blend in with teeth and look better.

If you feel your smile is less than perfect, talk to your dentist about how it could be better.

How braces help both children and adults

Crowded or crooked teeth known as malocclusion not only spoil your smile, they also increase your risk of dental health problems.

Corrective procedures and appliances such as braces straighten teeth and correct jaw alignment.

Malocclusions are often noticed around ages 6 12, when the adult teeth begin to erupt.

The process of straightening out teeth, known as orthodontic treatment, often begins between ages 8 and 14. The best results are obtained when a child begins treatment while they are still growing.

This means its a good idea for a child to have an orthodontic evaluation by age 7. At this stage, they have a mix of baby teeth and adult teeth.

Its possible for braces to work later and even in adults but there are many advantages in starting as soon as possible.

Your dentist will be able to spot problems with emerging teeth and jaw growth early on, while the primary teeth are present.

Thats why regular dental examinations are important.

For adults, its not too late to correct problems such as crooked or crowded teeth, overbites, underbites, incorrect jaw position or jaw-joint disorders. The biological process involved in moving teeth is the same at any age.

The difference is that adult treatment takes a little longer than a child’s treatment. As an adult’s facial bones are no longer growing, certain corrections may not be accomplished with braces alone.

But, whatever your age, it’s never too late to improve your dental health and improve your smile.

Diabetes and your dental health: How your diet can affect your teeth

When diabetes is not controlled properly, high glucose levels in saliva may create problems that lead to an increased risk of tooth decay.

Your teeth are covered with plaque, a sticky film of bacteria. After you eat food that contains sugars or starches, the bacteria react with these sugars to release acids that attack tooth enamel. This can cause the enamel to break down and may eventually result in cavities.

Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and cleaning between your teeth with floss or an interdental cleaner helps remove decay-causing plaque.

Plaque that is not removed can eventually harden into calculus, or tartar. When tartar collects above the gumline, it becomes more difficult to clean thoroughly between teeth. This can lead to chronic inflammation and infection in the mouth.

Because diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection, the gums are among the tissues likely to be affected.
Periodontal diseases are infections of the gum and bone that hold your teeth in place. Patients with inadequate blood sugar control appear to develop periodontal disease more often and more severely, and they lose more teeth than those who have good control of their diabetes.

Because of the lower resistance and longer healing process, periodontal diseases often appear to be more frequent and more severe among persons with diabetes.

You can help reduce these risks through good maintenance of blood sugar levels, a well-balanced diet, good oral care at home and regular dental checkups.

How dental x-rays help improve your oral health

Many diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissues cannot be seen when your dentist examines your mouth so an X-ray examination can reveal important additional information:

For example, X-rays can help show:
– Small areas of decay between the teeth or below existing fillings
– Infections in the bone
– Gum disease
– Abscesses or cysts
– Developmental abnormalities
– Some types of tumors

The way they work is that more X-rays are absorbed by the denser parts (such as teeth and bone) than by soft tissues (such as cheeks and gums). This creates an image called a radiograph.

Tooth decay, infections and signs of gum disease appear darker because of more X-ray penetration. The interpretation of these radiographs allows the dentist to safely and accurately detect hidden abnormalities.

The frequency of X-rays (radiographs) will depend on your specific health needs.

Your dentist will review your history, examine your mouth and decide whether you need radiographs and what type.

When you are a new patient, the dentist may recommend radiographs to establish how the hidden areas of your mouth currently look to help identify changes that occur later.

X-rays can help identify and treat dental problems at an early stage and so can save time, money and unnecessary discomfort.

The early years of dentistry and teeth

Although there have been huge advances in dental care in recent years, there are records of people dealing with teeth going back over thousands of years.

Here are some of the key dates from the early years in the development of dentistry.

5000 BC: A Sumerian text describes tooth worms as the cause of dental decay.

2600 BC: Hesy-Re, an Egyptian scribe, often called the first dentist, dies. An inscription on his tomb includes the title the greatest of those who deal with teeth, and of physicians.

500-300 BC: Hippocrates and Aristotle write about dentistry, including the eruption pattern of teeth, treating decayed teeth and gum disease, extracting teeth with forceps, and using wires to stabilize loose teeth and fractured jaws.

166-201 AD: The Etruscans practice dental prosthetics using gold crowns and fixed bridgework.

500-1000: During the Early Middle Ages in Europe, medicine, surgery, and dentistry, are generally practiced by monks, the most educated people of the period

700: A medical text in China mentions the use of silver paste, a type of amalgam.

1130-1163: A series of Papal edicts prohibit monks from performing any type of surgery, bloodletting or tooth extraction. Barbers often assisted monks in their surgical ministry because they visited monasteries to shave the heads of monks and the tools of the barber trade sharp knives and razors were useful for surgery. Following the edicts, barbers assume the monks surgical duties: bloodletting, lancing abscesses, extracting teeth, etc.

1210: A Guild of Barbers is established in France. Barbers eventually evolve into two groups: surgeons who were educated and trained to perform complex surgical operations; and lay barbers, or barber-surgeons, who performed more routine hygienic services including shaving, bleeding and tooth extraction.

1400s: A series of royal decrees in France prohibit lay barbers from practicing all surgical procedures except bleeding, cupping, leeching, and extracting teeth.

How to overcome problems with teeth grinding

When under stress, many people find themselves grinding their teeth or clenching their jaws.

This habit actually has a name – bruxism – and often it’s something we do when we sleep.

It can be caused by stress and anxiety and it can also be due to sleep disorders, an abnormal bite or missing and crooked teeth.

It can lead to symptoms such as dull headache or a sore jaw.

Your dentist can fit you with a mouth guard to protect your teeth during sleep.

Severe grinding can lead to painful or loose teeth and this can lead to fractures in your teeth.

Taking stress out on your teeth in this way can lead to long term damage so, if stress is the cause, you need to find a way to relax!

Relaxants, counseling and even exercise may help reduce stress and tension and can be a big help to your teeth.

What Causes Sensitive Teeth?

If you sometimes find the taste of something hot or cold painful on your teeth, you may suffer from sensitive teeth.

Sensitive teeth is a common problem which may be caused by cavities and fractured teeth.

But it can also be caused by worn tooth enamel, a cracked tooth or an exposed tooth root.

Tooth enamel is the strongest substance in the body and it protects the crowns of healthy teeth. A layer called cementum protects the tooth root under the gum line.

The part underneath the enamel and the cementum is called dentin, which is less dense than enamel or cementum.

The dentin contains small hollow tubes or canals called tubules. When the dentin loses its protective covering, the tubules allow hot, cold, acidic or sticky foods to reach the nerves and cells inside the tooth.

This causes hypersensitivity and occasional discomfort but fortunately, the irritation does not cause permanent damage.

Following proper oral hygiene helps prevent the gums from receding and causing the pain of sensitive teeth.

Brushing your teeth incorrectly or even brushing too much can cause gum problems.

Your dentist will advise you on the best daily routine to maximize your oral hygiene.