Since the discovery a century ago of its beneficial effect on tooth enamel, fluoride has become an important part of tooth decay prevention. It's routinely added to toothpaste and other hygiene products, and many water utilities add minute amounts of it to their drinking water supplies. Although there have been questions about its safety, multiple studies over the last few decades have eased those concerns.
Children especially benefit from fluoride during their teeth's developing years. Some children are at high risk for decay, especially an aggressive form known as Early Childhood Caries (ECC). ECC can destroy primary (baby) teeth and cause children to lose them prematurely. This can have an adverse effect on incoming permanent teeth, causing them to erupt in the wrong positions creating a bad bite (malocclusion).
For children at high risk for decay, dentists often recommend applying topical fluoride directly to the teeth as added protection against disease. These concentrations of fluoride are much higher than in toothpaste and remain on the teeth for much longer. Topical applications have been shown not only to reduce the risk of new cavities, but to also stop and reverse early decay.
Children usually receive these applications during an office visit after their regular dental cleaning. There are three different ways to apply it: gel, foam or varnish. To prevent swallowing some of the solution (which could induce vomiting, headache or stomach pain) the dentist will often insert a tray similar to a mouth guard to catch any excess solution. Varnishes and a few gels are actually painted on the teeth.
The American Dental Association has intensely studied the use of topical fluoride and found its application can result in substantial decreases in cavities and lost teeth. They've concluded this benefit far outweighs the side effects from ingesting the solution in children six years and older. With proper precautions and waiting to eat for thirty minutes after an application, the possibility of ingestion can be reduced even further.
While topical fluoride can be effective, it's only one part of a good dental care strategy for your child. Consistent daily brushing and flossing, a nutritious diet low in added sugar, and regular dental visits still remain the backbone of preventive care.
While you do all you can to provide your child healthy meals and snacks at home, they still face tempting choices for unhealthy fare when they’re away. Unfortunately, their school campus could be one of those places with food choices that raise their risk for dental disease.
Thankfully, that situation is beginning to change. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued regulations a few years ago tightening minimum health standards for snacks available on school grounds. Called the Smart Snacks in Schools initiative, it promotes whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products, while discouraging snacks with empty calories, fat, sugar and excessive salt. This is good news in particular for preventing tooth decay in children and teenagers.
Unfortunately, the initiative may not go far enough. There are a few “loopholes”: it allows for chocolate milk with added sugar as long as it’s fat-free; high schools can also sell beverages like sports and energy drinks, which are low in sugar but high in enamel-harming acid. So, although the general nutrition of snacks in schools may be improving, you should still remain alert to poor choices that may fall through the cracks.
For one thing, you can advocate for better nutrition policies in your child’s school. The USDA initiative is a minimum standard — schools can exceed them and eliminate borderline snacks allowed under the federal regulations.
You can also provide your child snack alternatives to the school vending machine. A little creativity and fun can go a long way: a dash of cinnamon or parmesan cheese on popcorn instead of butter; finger sandwiches made of real cheese on whole-grain bread (with some whimsical shaping with a cookie-cutter); or bite-sized fruits and vegetables like grapes, baby carrots or nuts. The more healthy (and enjoyable) snacks you can send with them, the less chance they’ll turn to a less nutritious choice in the vending machine.
A healthier approach to snacking depends on setting good examples, providing ample selections and accentuating the positive about healthy foods. Choosing nutritious foods, at home and away, is a key building block for healthy teeth and gums.
If you would like more information on nutrition and 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 article “Snacking at School.”
If you’re one of the millions of people all over the world tuning in to the Olympics, you know that just watching the competition in your living room can be a real nail-biter. So imagine what it’s like for Tara Lipinski—the former gold medalist in figure skating who’s currently a primetime commentator for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea. In a recent interview with Dear Doctor magazine, the skating superstar revealed that she wears a custom-made nightguard to protect her smile.
“I grind my teeth pretty badly,” she said, noting that some days are worse than others. “When I can tell the grinding is bad, or my jaw starts to hurt, [then] at night I wear a mouthguard.”
Tara’s hardly alone: It’s estimated that around one in ten adults suffers from bruxism—the dental term for the habitual clenching or grinding of teeth. This condition, which is linked to stress (and several other risk factors), can occur during the daytime or at night—when it may go unnoticed as you sleep. If left untreated, bruxism can lead to headaches and jaw pain, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD), and damage to natural teeth or restorations such as crowns, veneers or fillings.
Fortunately, as Tara as found out, there’s a simple and effective way to help people struggling with the problem of teeth clenching and grinding: We can provide you with a custom-fabricated nightguard to stop bruxism from affecting your health. This device, usually made of high-impact plastic, is created from a model of your actual bite. It fits comfortably over your teeth, and can tooth prevent damage before it occurs.
A nightguard is a very conservative form of treatment, meaning that it involves no invasive or irreversible procedures. While other types of treatment are sometimes recommended for bruxism, it’s generally best to try the most conservative first. But how does it feel to wear it?
“I think it’s comfortable to wear,” Tara told Dear Doctor magazine. “You don’t even think about it.”
So whether you’re a type-A competitor or a dedicated fan watching the games unfold on TV, don’t let bruxism get the better of your smile. If you think you may be clenching or grinding your teeth, ask us about a custom-made nightguard.
For more information about teeth grinding, contact our office or schedule a consultation to find out more about teeth whitening. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Teeth Grinding” and “Stress & Tooth Habits.”
Losing teeth to tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease is never easy. But with implant-supported bridgework, you can regain lost function and appearance with a restoration that could last for many years.
Don’t think, though, that dental disease woes are a thing of the past with your new implants. Although your restoration itself can’t be infected, the supporting gums and underlying bone can, often through bacterial plaque accumulating around the implants. The bone that supports the implants could deteriorate, dramatically increasing your chances of losing your restoration.
It’s essential, then, that you keep the area between the bridge and gums clean of plaque through daily hygiene. This definitely includes flossing around the implants.
Flossing with an implant-supported bridge will be different than with natural teeth: instead of flossing between teeth you’ll need to thread the floss between the bridge and gums. Although this is a bit more difficult, it can be done with the help of a floss threader, a device with a loop on one end and a long, thin plastic point on the other—similar to a sewing needle.
To use it, thread about 18” of floss through the loop and then pass the threader’s thin end first through the space between the bridge and gums toward the tongue until the floss threader pulls through. You can then take hold of one end of the floss and then pull the threader completely out from beneath the bridge. Then, you wrap the ends around your fingers as you would normally and thoroughly floss the implant surfaces you’re accessing. You then release one end of the floss, pull out the remainder, rethread it in the threader and repeat the process in the next space between implants.
You also have other hygiene tool options: prefabricated floss with stiffened ends that thread through the bridge-gum space that you can use very easily; or you can purchase an interproximal brush that resembles a pipe cleaner with thin plastic bristles to access the space and brush around the implants.
Some patients also find an oral irrigator, a handheld device that sprays a pressurized stream of water to loosen and flush away plaque, to be an effective way of keeping this important area clean. But that said, oral irrigators generally aren’t as effective removing dental plaque as are floss or interproximal brushes.
Whatever flossing method you choose, the important thing is to choose one and practice it every day. By keeping bacterial plaque from building up around your implants, you’ll help ensure you won’t lose your restoration to disease, so it can continue to serve you for many years to come.
Since boxers first began using them a century ago, athletic mouthguards are now standard safety equipment for most contact sports. Without them, dental injuries would skyrocket.
But a recent study in the peer-reviewed journal, General Dentistry, indicates there’s another important reason to wear a mouthguard for contact sports or exercise: you may be able to significantly reduce your risk for a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), better known as a concussion. It’s believed the mouthguard absorbs some of the force generated during contact, resulting in less pressure to the brain. That reduction is even more significant if your mouth-guard has been custom-made by a dentist.
That last finding is important, because not all mouthguards on the market are equal. There are three basic categories of mouthguards — stock, “boil and bite,” and custom. Stock mouthguards come in limited sizes; they’re relatively inexpensive, but they provide the least level of protection. “Boil and bite” can be customized after purchase to the wearer’s bite, but they don’t always provide complete coverage of back teeth. Custom mouthguards are designed and fashioned by a dentist; they’re relatively expensive (running in the hundreds of dollars), but there’s ample evidence they provide the highest level of protection from mouth injuries.
The General Dentistry study also corroborates custom mouthguards’ effectiveness in preventing concussions. The study followed approximately 400 football players from six different high school teams. While all the players wore the same type of helmet, half of them wore custom-made mouthguards and the other half wore stock guards. 8.3% of the athletes wearing stock guards experienced a concussion injury; by contrast only 3.6% of those with custom guards sustained an injury — greater than half fewer occurrences.
The study also highlights the need not to rely solely on helmets or other protective headgear for concussion prevention. It’s important to include mouthguards along with other athletic protective gear to lower injury risk as much as possible.
So when considering how you can provide the optimum injury protection for you or your child, be sure to include an athletic mouthguard, preferably one that’s custom-made. We’ll be happy to advise you further on what you need to know to prevent traumatic dental injuries, as well as concussions.
If you would like more information on custom-fit mouthguards, 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 “Mouthguards.”
This website includes materials that are protected by copyright, or other proprietary rights. Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use, as defined in the copyright laws, requires the written permission of the copyright owners.