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Cavities

Colored Dental Tooth Fillings
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“Your child has a cavity.”

Not many parents want to hear those words, especially if their child has dental anxiety.

Last summer, I saw a three year old child who needed to have a filling on one of his upper molars.

Green Colored FillingThe only reason he sat still in the chair long enough for us to remove the decay and get a filling put in was because we told him we were going to give him a yellow colored filling.

He loved tractors, and wanted it to be yellow like his toy tractor. When he was all done, we took a picture of it and gave it to him so he could show his friends and family.

I’ve found that giving children a colored filling (along with some other things we do to make the comfortable), helps them to sit in the dental chair and get their mentalhealthupdate.com needed dental work completed.

Find out why baby teeth need to have fillings if they just fall out.

Colored Fillings

Pink Colored FillingColored fillings are made of the same composite materials as tooth-colored fillings, they simply have more exciting coloring added to them.

At our office, we have five colors to choose from: blue, green, yellow, orange, and pink.

To the right, you can see how the pink filling looks on a tooth – it’s what most of the girls end up choosing.  That filling, as well as the green one above, was placed to fill in a cavity that formed between the teeth, which is one of the more common places you can get a cavity.

While we can do a colored filling to repair most cavities in baby teeth, nobody has had us do one on a front tooth yet!

3
What Causes Cavities on Teeth
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If you’re like most people, you may believe that sugar causes cavities.  After all, candy is bad for our teeth, right?

Sugar doesn’t cause cavities.  In fact, this has been known for over 50 years!

In 1954, a man by the name of Frank Orland wanted to see if sugar caused cavities.  He conducted a pioneering research study, in which he raised 22 rats in a sterile environment.  From birth ’til death, these rats never had any contact with any germs.  He fed these rats lots of sugar throughout their entire life.

Guess how many of these rats that ate sugar every day ended up getting cavities?

Zero.

None of the rats that were raised “germ-free” got any cavities even while they were eating all of the sugary foods that they wanted.  In contrast, 38 of the 39 rats that ate the same foods but were not raised “germ-free” ended up getting cavities.

Part of his conclusion states, “Findings indicated that twenty-two rats reared under germfree conditions remained entirely free of even microscopically demonstrable dental caries. Of thirty-nine conventional control rats, possessing the usual mixed microbial populations, thirty-eight developed various lesions when maintained on the same kind of dietary regime as the germfree animals. It is deduced from this evidence that dental caries in the rat is not possible in the absence of microorganisms.”

If you only looked at Dr. Orland’s study, you may be tempted to say that it must be bacteria, and not sugar, that causes cavities.

More recently, other studies have shown that it’s possible for rats with bacteria to not have any cavities if they are not fed sugar or fermentable carbohydrates.

These studies lead us to believe that bacteria and sugar must be present in order to get cavities.  But even these two elements don’t account for the whole picture.

For example, my wife never had a cavity in the first 25 years of her life.  Like most normal people, she ate sugar and had bacteria in her mouth.

So, what really causes cavities?  There are actually four components that, when present together, cause cavities:

What Causes Cavities?

In order to get cavities, you need to have four main ingredients:

1 – Sugar
2 – Bacteria
3 – A Susceptible Tooth
4 – Time

You can take a look at this relationship in the diagram below.  If you’re interested, you can then read about how you can use this information to prevent cavities.

4 Causes of Cavities & Tooth Decay

 

1 – Sugar

For simplicity’s sake, I labeled this category as sugar.  In reality, it could be called refined carbohydrates because anything that can be broken down into sugar inside of your mouth is able to feed the bacteria that contribute to causing cavities.

For example, potato chips are made of a simple starch that can be broken down into sugar by enzymes that are found in your saliva.  How often you eat sugar is more important than how much sugar you eat in one sitting.

To learn more, read What Happens In Your Mouth Every Time You Eat or Drink, What Fermentable Carbohydrates Are & How They Hurt Your Teeth, and 50 Names for Sugar that Food Makers Use to Trick You.

2 – Bacteria

Bacteria live inside all of our mouths (unless you’re one of the rats in Dr. Orland’s study!)  It’s really fascinating to me that there are millions of little creatures living inside of everyone’s mouth — this is what first got me interested in dentistry and was the subject of my first article here at Oral Answers, What Every Human Needs to Know About Plaque.

While you can’t completely rid your mouth of all the bacteria, you can destroy the homes they build on your teeth every time you brush and floss.  By regularly brushing and flossing, you can help win the fight against the bacteria in your mouth.

3 – A Susceptible Tooth

Many people who have had their share of cavities say that they have soft enamel or that  bad teeth run in their family.  While there’s no such thing as soft enamel, people can have enamel that may not have been formed correctly.  Also, bad teeth aren’t genetic, but some people’s teeth do have deeper pits and grooves than others.

These pits and grooves can be so deep that even a bristle on a toothbrush can’t reach down to clean them out.  In these cases, these people will almost always get cavities unless they have had sealants placed on these teeth when they were kids.

There are many other factors that influence how susceptible a tooth is to getting cavities.  I will only go over a few of the more common ones.

The first is the quality and amount of the dental enamel.  Pinkham’s Pediatric Dentistry text states that enamel hypoplasia (when not enough enamel forms), even at levels that are undetectable,  increases susceptibility to tooth decay.

Saliva also plays an important role in how susceptible a tooth is to decay.  The more saliva you have, the better.  To learn more about the role that saliva plays in your oral health, read How Saliva Protects Your Teeth and Six Main Causes of Dry Mouth/Xerostomia.

The last factor I will discuss that makes your tooth more susceptible to cavities is the wearing away of tooth structure.  This commonly occurs through the process of acid erosion, which can occur by drinking these nine teeth-dissolving drinks, however there are four ways that you can wear away your teeth.

4 – Time

Darius Rucker sang the following words Hootie & The Blowfish’s hit Time back in the 90’s

Time, Why you punish me? Like a wave crashing into the shore, you wash away my dreams.

Time can in fact wash away your dreams of having healthy teeth if you give the bacteria enough time on your teeth.  In fact, you can have all three elements above and not get cavities if you don’t give the bacteria time to eat away at your tooth.

Plaque eats sugar, which produces acid that slowly eats away at your susceptible teeth.  The key is to not give the bacteria enough time on your teeth.  You can do this by brushing and flossing regularly.

To learn more, read the article Try to Keep Your Teeth Below Freezing.

Conclusion

Cavities don’t just happen spontaneously.  You need four things to get cavities: sugar, bacteria, susceptible teeth, and time.

You can’t really control the bacteria unless you live in a sterile environment.  You also can’t control the genes that sculpted your teeth into their exact formation that might make them hard to clean. You can control how much sugar you eat, your oral hygiene, and how well you treat your teeth (don’t treat your teeth like tools!)

Do you have any questions, stories, comments, or concerns about what really causes cavities?  I’d love to hear them in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!

1
Lemon Citrus Can Cause Tooth Acid Erosion
©Silvia Bukovac/Shutterstock.com

I got the following email from an Oral Answers reader asking about the difference between acid erosion and tooth decay.  He writes:

“What is the difference between acid erosion and tooth decay?  How to I ensure that I minimise both of these.  Also which is the best toothpaste to use to prevent this, I have heard of duraphat (Note from Tom: Duraphat is a fluoride product marketed as Duraflor in the United States) which i know helps with decay and pronamel which helps with erosion but I do not know if both help with both.”

Preventing Tooth Decay and Acid Erosion

The Difference Between Tooth Decay and Acid Erosion

Both tooth decay and acid erosion involve your tooth structure getting dissolved. The main difference between tooth decay and acid erosion is the source of the acid.

In acid erosion, your teeth are dissolved by acidic foods, drinks, or environmental sources of acid that come into contact with your teeth.

To learn how to spot acids that eat away your teeth, read How to Identify Acidic Foods and Drinks.

Tooth decay, however is caused by millions of tiny bacteria that live on your teeth that excrete acid, which eats away at your teeth.

To learn more about these bacteria, read What Every Human Needs to Know About Plaque.

Preventing Tooth Decay and Acid Erosion

The second part of this reader’s question involved preventing tooth decay and acid erosion.  The best way to prevent tooth decay is by getting rid of the bacteria on your teeth regularly through brushing and flossing.  You might also want to learn about 12 weapons of plaque destruction and these 25 things that increase your risk of getting tooth decay.

 Preventing acid erosion is as simple as not eating or drinking too much acid.  You might be surprised to learn that many of the drinks we enjoy made this list of 9 acidic drinks that can dissolve your teeth.

As far as strengthening your teeth, most any toothpaste contains fluoride, which protects your teeth.  It probably doesn’t matter which type of toothpaste you’re using as long as it contains fluoride and you’re brushing regularly.

Conclusion

Tooth decay is caused by acid from bacteria that live on your teeth.  Acid erosion is caused by acids that you eat, drink, or otherwise expose to your teeth.

You can prevent tooth decay and acid erosion by brushing and flossing regularly and minimizing your intake of acidic foods and drinks.

Do you have any questions about tooth decay and acid erosion?  I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!

17
More Likely to Get Cavities
©Vitstudio/Shutterstock.com

Many people come into the dental school and tell us things like, “I just have bad teeth” and “My parents and grandparents all had soft teeth – and my teeth are soft too, so I get lots of cavities.”

Cavity In a ToothWhile it may be true that some people do have teeth that are more susceptible to cavities, there is usually another reason that these people have cavities.

As dentists, we can remove the tooth decay and make your tooth look shiny and new again, but we can’t prevent you from getting cavities in the future – that’s up to you.

The tooth pictured probably doesn’t look too glamorous.  Since most people don’t see what their dentist sees, I thought I’d put this picture up so you can see what an extensive cavity looks like.

If you’ve had a lot of cavities and want to know why, the following list just might give you some answers!

25 Risk Factors for Getting Cavities

1 – Cavities

I listed cavities first because if you’ve had cavities in the past, that’s usually one of the best predictors of whether or not you’ll get cavities in the future.  It makes sense that if you already have lots of cavities, that you’re more likely to keep getting cavities until you make some changes.

Also, if you have white spots on some of your teeth that have recently appeared, that could be the sign of a beginning cavity, which also puts you at risk for getting a cavity.

2 – Having Lots of Cavity-Causing Bacteria

There are millions of little bacteria in your mouth that eat your food every time you eat.  They make acid and smear it on your teeth.  The acid eats away at your tooth until a cavity develops.

Needless to say, if you have an abundant amount of cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth, you’re at a high risk for getting a cavity.

3 – Eating Sugar Frequently

If you eat sugar a lot, you give the bacteria exactly what it wants to eat: fermentable carbohydrates.  The more often you feed them, the more cavity-causing acid that they will produce.

Learn more about What Happens In Your Mouth Every Time You Eat or Drink.

4 – Bad Crowns and/or Fillings

If you have a poor quality filling or crown in your mouth, it may actually cause you to get a cavity by allowing plaque to hang out where you can’t reach it with routine brushing and flossing.

5 – Bad Oral Hygiene

If you don’t brush away the bacteria often, you will allow them to grow and destroy your teeth.

6 – High Acidic Foods Intake

Eating or drinking acidic foods can eat away at the hard, outer layer of your teeth known as the enamel.  Since the enamel is the layer of your teeth that is most resistant to cavities, if you wear it down, you will be putting yourself at risk for cavities.

Learn more about acidic drinks in the article,  Nine Drinks that Can Dissolve Your Teeth.

Another source of acid in your mouth is gastric reflux or even vomiting intentionally, which occurs in those with bulimia.

7 – Not Getting Enough Fluoride

Fluoride makes the enamel of your teeth stronger.  You can get it by brushing your teeth longer or using a fluoride mouthwash.

Curious about how fluoride works?  Learn about the three ways fluoride protects your teeth.

8 – Nursing Too Long (Bottle and Breast)

If you weren’t weaned from the breast or bottle until you were a toddler, this could have put you at a higher risk for getting cavities.  Most research points to the bottle, but I have heard conflicting reports regarding prolonged breastfeeding.

9 – Cavities Under Fillings

Getting a cavity under a filling means that there was a problem with the filling (age, done incorrectly, fractured, etc.) or that you weren’t taking very good care of the filling.  Either way, if you get a cavity under a filling, it puts  you at high risk for getting cavities in other teeth.

10 – Bad Family Dental Health

If your family has bad dental health, chances are that you will as well.  This could be related to lack of oral hygiene being taught in the home, genetic abnormalities in the teeth, or high numbers of the bad bacteria in your mouth.

11 – Exposed Root Surfaces

Receding gums will expose the root of the tooth, which does not have a protective enamel covering.  Consequently, the dentin that makes up the roots of your teeth dissolves at a higher pH than the enamel.  That means that weak acids that wouldn’t affect your enamel can eat away at the roots of your teeth and cause a cavity.

12 – Defect In Your Enamel

If you have a defect in your enamel, it could make you more susceptible to cavities.  Some examples might be enamel that didn’t form correctly, congenital defects like amelogenesis imperfecta, or a defect in enamel formation that can happen to a permanent tooth when its corresponding baby tooth gets knocked out.

13 – Having a Disability

If you have a disability, it can be more difficult for you to take care of your teeth.  Also, many caregivers may not pay very much attention to the oral hygiene of those under their care.

14 – Dry Mouth

When you don’t have enough saliva in your mouth, it is known as dry mouth or xerostomia.  Saliva helps your teeth in several ways.  If you suffer from dry mouth, your dentist may be able to help by prescribing you medication to help increase your salivary flow.

Are you taking one of these 348 medications that cause dry mouth?

15 – Genetic Abnormality of Your Teeth

The anatomy of a tooth can vary greatly.  Some people have deeper grooves in their biting surface that are hard to clean.  Some people’s enamel may not completely cover the whole tooth.  This can create pockets where bacteria can hide out and cause cavities.

There are many other genetic abnormalities that can affect the teeth, such as localized microdontia, which can make some teeth smaller than others and possibly make them harder to clean.

16 – Having Lots of Large Fillings

Many large fillings can put you at risk for developing cavities.  Having lots of large fillings increases the amount of tooth:filling interfaces that are present in your mouth.  If bacteria get in between the filling and the tooth, they can be nearly impossible to clean out and can cause cavities.

17 – Chemotherapy and Radiation Treatment

Having chemotherapy or radiation treatment in the head and neck area can reduce salivary flow and cause other oral problems which increase the risk of getting a cavity.

18 – Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can increase the risk of a cavity in a couple of ways.  Those with eating disorders tend to not have a very balanced diet, which may contribute to cavities.  Also, bulimics bathe their teeth in acid each time they purge.  This wears away the tough enamel surface of the tooth which makes the tooth mores susceptible to cavities.

19 – Drug and/or Alcohol Abuse

Those that abuse drugs and/or alcohol put themselves at a greater risk for developing cavities.

Take a look at what drug abuse can do to your teeth.

20 – Irregular Dental Care

By not going to the dentist regularly, you avoid learning about the condition of your mouth.  The dentist can point out small problems before they turn into cavities.  By avoiding your checkups, you lose out on the opportunity to take care of small problems before they become big.

21 – Not Knowing What Plaque Is

Many people don’t know what plaque is.  If you don’t know what’s happening inside of your mouth, you probably won’t do anything about it.

Avoid this risk factor by reading: What Every Human Needs to Know About Plaque and How Plaque Disclosing Tablets Can Help You Brush Better.

22 – Not Knowing How to Remove Plaque

Even if you know what plaque is, if you’re not removing it then you will probably end up getting some cavities.

Learn about these 12 Weapons of Plaque Destruction.

23 – Being Poor

People with a lower socioeconomic status tend to get more tooth decay.  There are exceptions to this rule, but this is one of the main reasons that so many states provide free dental care to low-income children.  Unfortunately, these programs haven’t eliminated the gap in dental health between the rich and the poor, and many poor parents simply don’t find the time to take their kids to the dentist.

Interestingly, our computer software at my dental school tells us to ask each patient if they have a “low socioeconomic status.”  It can be an awkward question, and almost everyone skips over it.

24 – Dental Anxiety

If you have a dental phobia, chances are that you will neglect getting dental work done.  If you want to try to understand your dental phobia, take a look at these 15 common reasons people are scared of the dentist.

25 – Braces

Although braces can straighten your teeth and make them look great, they do increase the risk of getting cavities.  Braces make it harder to brush your teeth and make it nearly impossible to floss.  In order to floss with braces, you have to use a floss threader to get under the wire – I know I didn’t do that when I was a teenager!

I hope you enjoyed the list and it helped you pinpoint the cause(s) of your cavities.  I compiled the above list from my own experience as well as information from the following textbooks:

Do You Have a Lot of Cavities?

Did anything on this list ring a bell for you?  Although I tried to include everything I could think of that would cause cavities, I may have missed something.  I’d love to hear about what you think is causing your cavities whether it’s on the list or not.  Feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading!

47
Cavities In Baby Teeth: Do They Need Fillings?
©Ilya Andriyanov/Shutterstock.com

A lot of parents wonder if it’s really necessary to have their children get fillings in their baby teeth.  Since baby teeth just end up falling out, why not let the cavity fall out with the baby tooth rather than paying to have a dentist remove the cavity?

Many people assume that baby teeth aren’t that important since they quickly get replaced by permanent adult teeth as a child grows.

Fillings Baby TeethEven though they do end up falling out, baby teeth are important!  When they’re healthy, they can help children eat healthy foods.  When baby teeth get infected, they can damage the permanent teeth developing under them and in severe cases they can cause brain infections.  If you missed my earlier article, you can read it to learn five reasons why baby teeth are important.

Now that you understand why baby teeth are important, let’s talk about whether or not baby teeth need fillings.

Should You Get Cavities in Baby Teeth Filled?

When thinking about getting cavities in baby teeth filled, there are a couple of main things to think about: How much use your child will get out of the filling and how big the cavity is.

First, let’s talk about how much use your child will get out of the filling.  The book Pediatric Dentistry by Pinkham says, “A carious primary molar in a 6-year-old is a problem; a loose carious mandibular incisor may not be if it is about to exfoliate.”

If a tooth is about to fall out (or exfoliate if you want to speak in fancy dental terms), then your child probably wouldn’t get much use out of a filling in that tooth.

The other main factor to look at is how big the cavity is.  Although dentists recommend treating cavities when they are small, sometimes a cavity can be so small that it can repair itself under the right circumstances!

In the book Paediatric Dentistry, the authors discuss the question of whether or not to treat baby teeth.  One of their points supporting not getting fillings in baby teeth says, “Remineralization can arrest and repair enamel caries. It has long been known that early, smooth surface lesions are reversible. In addition, it is now accepted that the chief mechanism whereby fluoride reduces caries is by encouraging remineralization, and that the remineralized early lesion is more resistant to caries than intact enamel.”

If the cavity is small and has just started, there is a chance that it can repair itself through the process of remineralization.

Keep in mind that this repair will probably NOT occur unless your child’s diet and oral hygiene dramatically improve!  There’s a reason that your child started to get a cavity and if nothing is done to change the habits that started the cavity, then the cavity will probably get worse.

If you don’t think you will alter your child’s diet or oral hygiene, then it’s probably a good idea to have the dentist put a filling in the baby tooth while the cavity is small so that the cavity doesn’t get bigger.

On the other hand, if the cavity is small and you are willing to work really hard at improving your child’s diet and oral hygiene, then the cavity can remineralize.  In this case, there there’s no need to get a filling in your child’s baby tooth.

Conclusion

When considering a filling in your child’s baby tooth, it is important to think about how much longer the tooth will be in the mouth and the size of the cavity.  If the tooth will be falling out soon, it may not be necessary to get a filling.  If the tooth won’t fall out for a couple of years, then it’s probably a good idea to get a filling in your child’s baby tooth.

Most dentists will be able to give you a good idea as to whether or not your child would benefit from a filling in a baby tooth or if it’s really not necessary.

Do you have any questions or comments about fillings in baby teeth?  I’d love to hear them in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!

47
Flossing Mistakes
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It seems so simple to just slide some string between your teeth to clean those hard-to-reach areas.  While the idea is simple, there are a few techniques that you need to master in order to maximize the return on the time you spend flossing.

Here are ten common mistakes that people make when they floss:

10 Common Flossing Mistakes

1 – Not Flossing the Sides of Both Teeth

Flossing MistakesIf you just slide the floss down, and then pull it up, you are only getting 50% of the job done.  When you move the floss up between two teeth, you need to make sure that you are cleaning the side of both teeth.  One of the favorite places for plaque to hide is between teeth. If you’re only removing plaque from the side of one of the teeth, you could easily get a cavity on the tooth that you’re not flossing.

Find out about six common places where you are most likely to get cavities.

2 – Using the Same Section of Floss Between All of Your Teeth

When you floss you are removing bacteria from between your teeth and below the gum-line.  If you use the same section of floss for all of the teeth in your mouth, you are spreading around a lot of bacteria.  Of course you still are loosening the plaque, which has its benefits, but if you use a new section of floss each time you floss between two teeth, you will be loosening the plaque without putting plaque that you’ve already removed back in between your teeth.

3 – Snapping the Floss Down Hard Between Your Teeth

To get the floss to go between a tight contact between two adjacent teeth, try working the floss back and forth applying a firm but controlled downward pressure.

Snapping the floss down between the teeth can not only injure your gums in the short-term, but the trauma can cause your gums to recede.  Do it enough, and you’ll cause gum disease.

4 – Not Flossing Behind the Very Back Teeth

Even though there isn’t a tooth next to it, it is still important to clean behind the four teeth that are all the way in the back of your mouth (two teeth on each side in the upper and lower jaws.)  This can help remove bacteria that has made its way  between your tooth and gums.

5 – Flossing Aimlessly Without a Plan

When you floss, you need to have a road-map of what order you are going to floss your teeth in, or you can quickly become confused and miss some teeth or even a quadrant of your mouth.  It may be easiest to start in the upper right and go to the upper left, then come down to the lower teeth in the bottom left and move across to the bottom right.

However, as long as you have a plan, it really doesn’t matter which teeth you floss first.  Personally, I start right in the middle of my upper teeth and work my way back on one side and then on the other.  Then I do the same thing on the lower teeth.  Just find a “floss order” that works for you and stick to it so that you don’t forget to floss any teeth.

Dental Floss

6 – Not Flossing Around Dental Appliances

Many people don’t know that if they have fixed dental appliances in their mouth, they need to floss around them.  For example, if you have a bridge, it is necessary to use a floss threader, or get something similar to Oral-B Superfloss.

I had braces on my lower teeth when I was a teenager.  After I had them removed, the orthodontist cemented a wire that connects to each of my six lower front teeth.  This stabilizes them, but also makes it impossible to use conventional floss due to the wire.  Because of this, I have to use Superfloss or floss threaders to get under the wire so I can floss and maintain my gum health.

7 – Quitting When Your Gums Bleed

Blood may scare some people when they floss because they think that they are hurting their gums if they bleed.  You are not hurting them as long as you’re not flossing too hard (see mistake #3.)

Most likely, the reason they bleed is because they haven’t been flossed in a while and the gum tissue has become red and inflamed.  This is a condition known as gingivitis and it occurs because the body is sending more blood to the gum.  This is to help the tissue fight all of the plaque that is accumulating.  When you floss, you are removing that plaque, and since the tissue is inflamed and engorged with blood, you are causing some of the blood to leak out.  After a few days, your gums should return to health and you can floss normally without any bleeding.

8 – Not Spending Enough Time With Your Floss

Most people have 28 teeth if they’ve had their wisdom teeth extracted.  When you floss, you need to get both sides of the teeth (even the most posterior teeth – see mistake #4.)  That means that there are 56 sides that you need to get.  You should be spending a couple of seconds with each side, scraping up and down against the tooth a few times before moving onto the next surface.  That means that it will probably take you around two minutes to floss your entire mouth if you have a full set of teeth.

9 – Not Applying Pressure to the Tooth Surface

When you floss, you want to be careful to avoid using too much downward pressure so you don’t damage your gums.  However, when you are flossing against the side of a tooth, you want to make sure that you are pushing the floss against the tooth surface enough to be able to remove the plaque.

10 – Only Using Floss to Remove Food

Unfortunately, lots of people think that the only reason for flossing is to remove food that has gotten wedged between their teeth. I think many people end up doing this because they can see the food between their teeth — they can’t see the plaque.  An easy solution to this problem is to use a plaque disclosing tablet/solution to visualize the plaque on your teeth.

When you floss, your primary goal should be to scrape against each tooth to remove as much plaque as you can.  As long as you are doing this, you should be getting rid of the food between your teeth without even thinking about it.

Floss Correctly and Keep Your Teeth For Your Whole Life

By avoiding these ten common mistakes, you will be able floss more efficiently which will lead to greater oral health.  Since many cavities start out between two teeth, you will be able to prevent many cavities by regularly flossing and avoiding these ten flossing mistakes.

Do you have any questions or comments about flossing?  I’d love to hear them!  Just leave them below in the comments section.

7
Tooth Decay Serious Disease
©Aidar/Shutterstock.com

Deamonte Driver was a typical twelve year old boy growing up in Maryland.  In January 2007, he complained that he had a headache to his mother, Alyce.  Then he said his tooth hurt.

Emergency RoomAlyce, his concerned mother took him to the emergency room at the local hospital where the doctors found that bacteria from decayed teeth had traveled through his blood into his brain, causing a serious infection.

Fast forward six weeks to a Saturday near the end of February.  Deamonte underwent two operations and it looked like he would recover.  His mother spent all day Saturday with her son, then went home.  The very next day the hospital called his mother and told her that he was unresponsive.  By the time she made it to the hospital, Deamonte, her son of only 12 years had passed away.

To learn more about the tragic story of Deamonte Driver you can read about it in the Washington Post or watch a video report from MSNBC.

Tooth Decay: A Serious Disease

Deamonte’s story is an extreme one.  Tooth decay doesn’t always kill people.  My purpose in sharing this story was to let you know that tooth decay is a disease and it can be serious.  It has many of the same traits as more well-known diseases.  Here are a few lesser known facts about tooth decay:

1 – Tooth decay is contagious — you have to “catch the disease.” The bacteria that cause tooth decay can easily be transmitted from one person to another.  When babies are born, their mouths are sterile.  If they had teeth, they could eat lots of sugar without any detrimental effects on their teeth.  Babies usually catch the bacteria that cause tooth decay from one of their parents or siblings.

2 – Tooth decay can cause pain. If a cavity progresses without pain, it can cause a painful toothache.

3 – Tooth decay can cause children to miss school. This can be either due to pain or multiple dental visits to take care of the diseased tooth.

4 – Tooth decay is the most common disease of early childhood! The American Academy of Pediatric dentistry has stated, “Caries is the most common chronic disease of childhood.  Approximately 60% of children experience caries in their primary teeth by age 5.”

5 – Tooth decay can cause developmental problems and nutritional deficiencies. Here’s another quote from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry:

Rampant caries is one of the factors causing insufficient development in children who have no other medical problems.  Children with early childhood caries (ECC) may be severely underweight because of the associated pain and disinclination to eat. Nutritional deficiencies during childhood can impact cognitive development.

Conclusion

Hopefully you can see that dental caries isn’t just a small problem.  It affects over half of all children under age 5!

Whether you call it tooth decay, cavities, or caries – an infection of your teeth can be a serious problem.

Do you have any questions or comments to share about dental cavities?  Please leave them below in the comments section.  Thanks for reading!

31
Dental Crown Procedure: What Is a Dental Crown?

Have you ever been unable to fall asleep at night, staring at the ceiling and wondering what a dental crown was?  Maybe you’ve wondered what the difference between a crown and a cap was.  If so, this one’s for you!

Some teeth develop an unstable structure as a result of cavities or trauma (such as cracking a tooth.)  When a tooth has become broken down and is basically falling apart, sometimes a filling just won’t work.  Teeth that are broken down often need to get crowned or capped.

What’s the Difference Between Dental Crowns and Caps?

There really isn’t a difference between a crown or a cap.  A cap is simply a less technical name for a crown, kind of like chompers is a less technical name for teeth!

What is a Dental Crown?

A dental crown is like a glove that covers the tooth and holds it together, protecting it from further damage.

In order for a tooth to get a crown, the dentist will need to shave it down on all sides, take an impression of your teeth, send the impression to a lab, and have them make the crown.  In the meantime, the dentist will send you away with a temporary crown to wear.

That’s a simple written definition of a crown, but pictures are probably a lot easier to understand.  A little over a year ago, I was taking the first of three classes in making crowns and bridges.

Below you’ll find the crown I cut and the temporary crown I made for my first practical exam in that course.

What a Dental Crown Looks Like

Here’s what the tooth looks like before getting a crown.  I tried to photo-shop in a couple of cavities.  As you can see, the tooth is practically begging for a crown.

Dental Crown Tooth Before Being Prepared for Crown

Below, you can see what the tooth looks like after preparing it for a crown.  I cut around the whole buy xanax cheap tooth.  I had to cut away a specific amount of tooth (measured in tenths of a millimeter!) in order to do well on the practical exam.

Tooth Prepared for Dental Crown Cap

Below is the same tooth after being prepared.  This is what it looks like from the tongue side of the mouth.

Dental Crown Tooth Prepared Tongue Side View

In the picture below, you’ll see what the temporary crown looks like.

Tooth with a Temporary Crown

In case you are concerned about the lovely green color of this temporary crown, it is dyed that color for a purpose.  Our instructors have the students dye their crowns a different color each year to prevent upperclassmen from handing their old work down to classes below them.   Your temporary crown will match the color of your teeth, although it will not be quite as high-quality as the permanent crown since it is only intended to be used for a short period of time.

The next step would be to take an impression, pour it up in plaster and send that model off to the lab to have a permanent crown made.  I didn’t feel like footing the lab bill so that my plastic teeth could have a real crown, so there are no pictures of the permanent crown here.

Update: Extra Images of What a Dental Crown Is

Update 9/8/14: Now that I’m out of dental school I’m trying to spruce up the site a little more.  Here’s a few more images to demonstrate what happens when you get a dental crown:

Dental Crown Getting Cut

Dental crown getting tried on tooth and then cemented:

Dental Crown Getting Seated and Cemented

Conclusion

In summary, a crown simply covers the surface of the tooth to help protect it from further damage.

I hope that better explains to you what a dental crown is.  If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please leave them below in the comments section.  Thanks for reading!

Newer stock images of crowns ©Alex Mit/Shutterstock.com

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Halloween Candy Healthy Teeth
©Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com

If you’re like most parents, you probably took your kids out trick-or-treating this past weekend. Halloween candy can harm your kids’ teeth, but there are certain ways to minimize the harm.

Halloween Dental HealthAbout 15 years ago, dressed as a gangster, I walked up to a dimly lit house and opened my pillow case and said “Trick or Treat!”  I received neither a trick nor a treat.  I stared in disbelief as the elderly gentleman dropped a toothbrush into my pillowcase.

I felt like that single moment detracted from the true spirit of Halloween.  I couldn’t believe that I’d just wasted 30 seconds of valuable trick-or-treating time on an oral hygiene product.

I promised myself I would never give trick-or-treaters a toothbrush.  I’ve kept my promise so far, so I won’t give you a toothbrush this Halloween, I’ll just give you some good tips on how to keep your children’s teeth healthy this Halloween.

To answer the question in the title of this article: Yes, kids can keep their teeth reasonably healthy this Halloween season.  By incorporating the tips below into their candy-eating lifestyle, hopefully your kids can avoid an extra trip to the dentist for a filling!

The Type of Candy They Eat

One of the worst kinds of candy to eat is sour candy.  Sour candy often contains acids that help dissolve the teeth.

You might think that making your child eat dried fruit, such as raisins isn’t too bad for their teeth.  However, dried fruit is as bad as some candy and can even be worse if it sticks to the teeth and hangs around in the mouth for a long time.

When we took our kids trick-or-treating this weekend, we ended up getting a lot of chips like Doritos and Lay’s potato chips.  While these types of “Halloween candy” can be better for the teeth than pure sugar, sometimes they can stick around in the grooves on your child’s teeth.  If they stick around, they can be turned into sugar and cause cavities just like a sugar-filled candy bar would.

Although there is no sugary candy that really benefits the teeth, some bubble gum can help if it is chewed for a long time, since it helps stimulate saliva production which can help the teeth.

It’s probably best to shy away from sour candy and sticky candy that can hang around in your child’s mouth for a long time.  One thing that can have a big effect on how long the candy sticks around in their mouth is what they do after they eat their Halloween candy.

What They Do After They Eat Their Candy

A great way to get the sugar out of their mouth and keep the bacteria from producing more acid is to have your children rinse their mouth out with water a few times after eating their candy.

Eating cheese after candy not only helps rinse away the sugar, but the calcium and phosphate in the cheese can remove the acid from your child’s mouth and help re-build any enamel that was dissolved.  Eating any of a variety of snacks that are good for teeth can help wash away the sugar.  Even chewing gum will help stimulate saliva production to clean out the mouth.

It’s alright to have your children brush their teeth, as long as they haven’t eaten a bunch of sour candy.  Sour candy, such as Sour Patch Kids, can start dissolving the enamel on your children’s teeth.  If they brush before their saliva has had a chance to repair the enamel, they could permanently brush away a very thin layer of enamel.

How Often They Eat Their Candy

It is best to have your child eat their candy once per day, with a reasonable limit on how much they can eat.

For example, it would be much better for your child to eat two candy bars in one sitting than it would be to have them eat a candy bar one bite at a time over the course of a few hours.  Every time they eat sugar, the pH in their mouth drops, allowing cavities to form.

To better understand what happens each time you eat sugar, take a look at the article What Happens In Your Mouth Every Time You Eat or Drink.

Mark Helpin, a Temple University pediatric dentist has said, “Parents can let kids eat a bunch of candy now and a bunch later. But don’t let them have one piece now, then an hour later let them have another piece.”

When They Eat Their Candy

The worst time to have your children eat their Halloween candy is right before bed.  Saliva production generally stops when we sleep.  If you eat sugar right before going to bed, the sugar can stay in your mouth for a long time.  Try to not have your children eat their Halloween candy right before bed.

Some good times to eat Halloween candy would be right after a meal, such as lunch or dinner, when they are still making a lot of saliva to help clean our their mouths.  Another good time might be to have the candy as a snack after school.

Conclusion

Hopefully these tips will help you to keep your child’s mouth healthy this Halloween season.

If you have any questions or comments on this article, feel free to leave them in the comments section below!

1
Most Likely Places to Get a Cavity
©Pressmaster/Shutterstock.com

Imagine you are in the dental office and the dentist is showing you on a screen where in your mouth you are most likely to get cavities, much like in the picture below.

Where Cavities Occur on TeethWouldn’t that advice be invaluable?  It would probably help you know where to concentrate when you brush.

Although you’re not sitting in my dental chair, I can still tell you in general the six most common places where you’re most likely to get a cavity.

Six Common Places Where You Can Get Cavities/Dental Decay

1 – In the grooves on the chewing surface of your back teeth. There are many grooves that run in the teeth.  These are called fissures.  There are also pits.  Some molar teeth have pits on the side of them that commonly get cavities.  You can find these pits on the tongue side of your upper molars and on the cheek side of your lower molars.

2 – In between your teeth. In a normal mouth, all the teeth touch each other on each side except for the ones all the way in the back.  In the area between the teeth, it is hard to fit a toothbrush and easy for plaque to grow and create a cavity, especially if you’re not flossing daily!

3 – At the margins of fillings, crowns, bridges, and other dental work.  Sometimes the tooth/restoration interface isn’t as smooth as we’d like it to be.  This area between the restoration and the tooth is an easy place for plaque to grow.  White fillings don’t last as long as silver fillings, so if you want a long-lasting filling, ask your dentist if you can have a silver amalgam filling.

4 – On the tooth just above the gumline. This is a common place for cavities.  I have seen it a lot in people who drink lots of energy drinks and soda pop.  It is believed that acids can pool around the gumline and attack the teeth, creating a cavity.

Here’s a list of nine drinks that can dissolve your teeth if you drink them frequently!

5 – On the roots of teeth. When you have periodontal disease (commonly known as gum disease — a leading cause of tooth loss), the bone and gums that surround the teeth gradually fall down.  This exposes the root surface of the teeth.  The root surface is much softer than the hard enamel shell that encases the tops of our teeth.  It is much easier for cavities to occur on the root surface, which is why it’s important to catch periodontal disease in its initial phases and treat it.

6 – Teeth that are right next to a partial denture. It is easy for food to get trapped between a partial denture and the natural teeth.  Plus, there’s usually a metal appliance that fits around the tooth making it easy for plaque to grow.  If you have a partial denture, ask your dentist or denal hygienist for methods to help you keep your remaining teeth healthy.  They can come up with an oral hygiene program tailor-made for you.

Conclusion

Hopefully that gives you some new ideas on how you can better take care of your teeth.  Make sure you’re brushing the grooves and pits of your teeth and flossing to get between them.  If you find that when you floss around a filling, you can’t get the floss to go down or come back up from between the tooth, you should go visit your dentist so that he or she can fix the filling so you don’t get a new cavity around it.

Do you have any questions or comments about how and where cavities occur?  Type them below in the comments section.  Even if you have a story to share about your cavity, go ahead and leave it below in the comments.  Thanks for reading!

2
How Saliva Protects Teeth
©TammyKayPhoto/Shutterstock.com

A couple of years ago, my wife and I were on a walk near our community’s park. A baseball game was taking place on the baseball field and we stopped to watch. I noticed that some of the players were constantly spitting into the dirt near the dugout.

It tooThe Importance of Saliva - Overlooked by Little League Playersk almost all of the self-control that I had to stop myself from yelling, “What’s wrong with you!? Don’t you know what great things that spit could do for your teeth? Why would you waste it like that?”

Okay, I might not have actually thought that, but the fact remains that saliva doesplay many important roles when it comes to keeping your teeth in optimal condition.

Luckily, the average person produces about one liter of saliva each day, so there’s still enough to spit out during a baseball game.

Six Ways Saliva Protects Your Teeth

1 -Saliva neutralizes acids that can erode your teeth. Plaque produces acid that causes cavities.  Acids can also be found in many of the foods we eat and lots of different beverages that we drink.  Another way that we can get acid in our mouth is through acid-reflux from the stomach or by vomiting.  Luckily, saliva has molecules called buffers that can neutralize the acid, reducing its effect on our teeth.

2 – Saliva inhibits demineralization of the tooth surface and promotes remineralization. That means that when acids try to dissolve the outer layer of your teeth (the enamel), your saliva is right there, super-saturated with extra calcium and phosphate to prevent the acid from demineralizing your teeth.  When the acid is so strong that it does demineralize the tooth, your saliva will neutralize the acid as soon as possible, and then replace the lost tooth with calcium and phosphate.

Saliva can even contain fluoride when people drink fluoridated water or use a fluoride mouthrinse and/or fluoride toothpaste.  This extra fluoride in the saliva can help remineralize teeth with the fluoride ions and make them more resistant to future attacks from plaque.

For more information on how fluoride can protect the teeth, read the article The Three Ways that Fluoride Protects Your Teeth.

3 – Saliva cleanses the mouth. After you eat a satisfying meal, your saliva goes to work to rinse away any extra food that may be stuck on your teeth.  When the food sticks to your teeth, it can feed the bacteria that live on your teeth, helping them to hurt your teeth.  By washing away the food, your saliva is getting rid of the food source for the bacteria, ensuring that your teeth remain in good condition for a long, long time.  Saliva can even wash away actual bacteria, preventing them from grabbing onto your teeth and residing there until the time when a toothbrush scrapes it away.

Spit Can Protect Your Teeth

4 – Saliva can kill bacteria. Saliva has many different antibacterial agents in it that can destroy bacteria.  This is helpful not only for your teeth, but for your whole body.  Specific components in saliva have been shown to slow the growth of a cavity-causing strain of bacteria known as streptococcus mutans.  Here’s one study that demonstrated saliva’s antibacterial effect that was published in the Journal of Dental Research.

5 – Saliva strengthens newly-erupted teeth. When teeth first come into the mouth, their enamel isn’t fully developed.  Saliva fills in the weak parts of the new tooth with calcium, phosphate, and fluoride to make these new teeth strong and ready for battle against your teeth’s worst enemies.

6 – Saliva can form a protective coating on teeth. Proteins in the saliva bind to the tooth surface.  The book Essentials of Dental Caries by Kidd, “Salivary proteins could increase the thickness of the acquired pellicle and so help to retard the movement of calcium and phosphate ions out of enamel.”

By keeping calcium and phosphate in the tooth, the salivary pellicle could aid in preventing cavities.  Ironically, the salivary pellicle is a sticky coating that helps cavity-causing bacteria adhere to the tooth surface.  In a way, it can be both a good and bad thing.

Further Reading & Conclusion

There are a couple of good reports about saliva, such as  Saliva — The Defender of the Oral Cavity by Amerongen and another study by Amerongen about salivary proteins.  You’ll probably need a subscription from a major university to get to them, but I thought I would link to them anyway for those of you who are able to access them.

Do you have any questions or comments about how saliva protects your teeth?  Leave them below in the comments section!

17
Fruit: Good or Bad for Teeth?
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Many people have asked me whether or not fruit is bad for your teeth.  The answer is that it depends.  We all know that the main reason people like fruit compared to vegetables is because of the sugar.  The question is, does the sugar in fruit cause tooth decay?

There are six main ways that we eat fruit:

1 – Fresh fruit
2 – Frozen fruit
3 – Canned fruit
4 – Fruit juice
5 – Dried fruit
6 – Preserved fruit, such as  jellies and jams

Is Fresh Fruit Good for Your Teeth?

Fresh Fruit is Great for Your TeethIt might seem counter intuitive to think that a food with lots of sugar is good for your teeth, but fresh fruit is good for your teeth when consumed as part of a balanced diet.  In this review paper talking about diet and cavities, the authors stated the following:

In experimental conditions in which fruit is a major dietary
constituent, fruits may participate in the caries process;
however, as consumed as part of the mixed human diet
there is little evidence to show fruit to be an important
factor in the development of dental caries.

If you eat fruit and only fruit all day long, then it may not be too good for you.  This study showed that when fruit is eaten very often (as in 17 times per day!), that fruit can start to cause cavities.

Just use common sense by eating fruit as part of a balanced diet and you’ll be fine.  Fresh fruit also provides valuable vitamins that can even improve your oral health.

Is Frozen Fruit Good for Your Teeth?

While researching through academic literature for this article, I couldn’t find anything that differentiated frozen fruit from fresh fruit.  However, since many people do eat frozen fruit, I thought I would mention it.

Until different studies and experiments are conducted, I would say that frozen fruit is about as good for your teeth as fresh fruit.  Frozen fruit is certainly much better than any of the other forms of fruit mentioned below.

Just make sure that the food manufacturers have not added additional sugar to the frozen fruit to make it more pleasing to your taste buds (but more detrimental to your teeth).  For example, many companies sell frozen fruit bars that have fruit in them with extra sugar.

Is Canned Fruit Good for Your Teeth?

Canned fruit can be good for you!  You do need to be careful though.  Most canned fruits on the market today are bathed in a sugar-rich heavy syrup.  Due to this added sugar, canned fruit can be very harmful to your teeth.

Before eating canned fruit, look on the ingredients label to see if it has added sugar.  Most canned fruits will also say “In heavy syrup” or “In light syrup” on the label.  This is a giveaway that these products contain excess sugar.  While rare, you may be able to find canned fruit with “no added sugar”.

Interestingly, every patient that comes into our dental school for comprehensive treatment has to take a diet assessment analysis.  One of the questions asks whether or not they eat canned fruit frequently.  This helps us determine how “at risk” they are for getting cavities.

Is Fruit Juice Good for Your Teeth?

Juice is Not Good For Your Teeth

If you take away the most nutritious parts of a fruit, what are you left with?  Sugar water and natural flavors – AKA: fruit juice.

When a fruit is juiced, all of the sugar comes out of it and into the solution of juice.  This sugar is no different than much of the sugar that is in candy today.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry even recommends restricting the amount of fruit juice that you give your small children to less than one cup per day.  They have recognized the devastating effects that fruit juice can have on kids’ teeth.  I’ll cover this topic more in a future article, but recognize the importance of limiting fruit juice intake.

Is Dried Fruit Good for Your Teeth?

Grapes, Raisins, and Your Teeth
Grapes are alright, but when dried into raisins they can cause cavities.

Dried fruit is a very convenient, portable snack.  It wouldn’t be a very bad alternative to fresh fruit if it weren’t for one thing: Dried fruit is not good for your teeth.  I was able to come up wtih four main reasons why.

1 – The sugar is super-concentrated.  When you dry fruit, almost all of the water is lost, but no sugar is lost.

2 – Dried fruit is very sticky.  I used to eat dried mangoes all of the time and found that they kept getting stuck in my teeth.

3 – When fruit is dried, it releases a lot of the intrinsic sugars from inside of the fruit.  These Ocean Spray Craisins Contain Lots of Added Sugarsugars are then available to feed the bacteria in your mouth, which can hurt your teeth.

4 – Dried fruit often has added sugar.  This is another one of the ways that manufacturers can sneak sugar into our diet.  Popular dried fruit like Craisins Dried Cranberries and many brands of dried mangoes contain added sugar.

Are Jelly and Jam Good for Your Teeth?

Jellies and jams aren’t good for your teeth at all.  The fruit is usually cooked, releasing lots of the intrinsic sugars and removing lots of water.  Then, this mixture is thickened and bombarded with sugar.

Jelly and jam might not be so bad, but we usually eat them by putting them on bread.  When a mixture of jam and bread gets stuck in our back teeth, it can feed the bacteria in our mouths for a long time until our saliva finally rinses it away.

Conclusion

Fresh fruit is best for your teeth.  Fresh fruit is also very portable as it usually comes in its own natural wrapper.  Try to limit fruit juice, dried fruit, and jellies and jams.

Remember, it is important to eat a balanced diet.

Do you have any questions or comments on fruit and your dental health?  Leave them below in the comments!

0
Vipeholm Study Dental Cavities
©Anki Hoglund/Shutterstock.com

The Vipeholm Study was a study that dental researchers conducted on a group of mentally challenged residents of the Vipeholm Institution.

Institution Representing Vipeholm InstituteDental researchers fed mentally handicapped people lots of sugar for the purpose of studying tooth decay.  Unfortunately, many of these patients ended up losing their teeth to cavities.

Although the study is tragic and wouldn’t be allowed to be done today due to ethics concerns, we learned a great deal about how foods cause cavities from this study.

The participants in the study were all fed the same basic diet.  The participants were divided up into seven groups to compare how subtle changes in the timing and quantity of sugar consumption affected their dental health.

Three Key Groups In the Vipeholm Study

There are three key groups in the Vipeholm study that helped us understand more about how food affects the formation of a cavity on a tooth:

1 – One group ate the original diet with an extra 300 grams of sugar dissolved in solution during their meals.  That’s the equivalent of drinking about five 20 fluid oz. bottles of coke per day during meals!

2 – Another group ate the basic diet with an extra 50 grams of sugar mixed into their bread that they ate during mealtime.

3 – The last group that we’ll talk about ate the basic diet.  However, in between meals, this group also ate snacks of sugary toffee and candy.

Patients Unknowingly Damaged Their Teeth With Sugar in the Vipeholm Study

Which group ended up getting the most cavities and losing the most teeth?  The third group.

When the sugar was consumed in between meals, it gave the bacteria more opportunities throughout the day to form cavities on the teeth.

What We Learned from the Vipeholm Study

The takeaway message from the Vipeholm study was that the frequency of sugar consumption is more important than the amount of sugar consumed.  The study also showed that foods that stick around in the mouth longer have a greater potential to cause cavities.

For example, consider the following two scenarios:

1 – You drink a glass of fruit punch with 40 grams of sugar in 10 seconds.

2 – You chew on a piece of toffee with 5 grams of sugar for two minutes.

Which scenario do you think is more harmful for your teeth?

Chewing the toffee is more harmful for your teeth because it exposes them to sugar for a longer period of time, allowing the bacteria that ruin your teeth more time to wreak havoc.

To learn more about the bacteria that ruin your teeth, read What Every Human Needs to Know About Plaque.

Learn More About the Vipeholm Study

If you would like to learn more about the Vipeholm study, including reading about all seven groups and their results, there is a free paper you can read entitled The Vipeholm Dental Caries Study: recollections and reflections 50 years later.

Questions or Comments?

If you have any questions or comments about the Vipeholm study, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.

2
Children's Medicine Sugar Teeth
©Mangostock/Shutterstock.com

A quick walk down the aisle at your local pharmacy will reveal an alarming amount of sugar.  Most medicine that we give our children is combined with a thick syrup made up of sugar and corn syrup.  For more information on the different sugars that hurt your teeth, read my article about the five sugars that damage your teeth.

Sugar in Children's MedicineWhen you give your child syrupy medicine, the sugary syrup clings to your child’s teeth.  Because the medicine is so thick, it can stay around in your child’s mouth for a lot longer than sugary drinks such as soda pop that are more easily washed away by saliva.

It’s unlikely that you’re giving your child medicine just for fun — you’re likely giving them something that they need to return to full health or to be more comfortable.  So, the most important concern you have is to get a sick child to take their medicine at all!  But since you need to give your so or daughter medicine in syrup form to get them healthy again, here’s how you can do it without causing harm to their teeth.

How to Give Children Cough Syrup Without Hurting Their Teeth

Here’s a few suggestions that you can try when giving your child medicine in syrup form:

1 – Dilute the syrup with water.  By diluting the syrup you are doing two things: you are making it less sticky, so it’s easier to get rinsed away by your child’s saliva.  You are also decreasing the concentration of the sugar in the medicine, which will provide less sugar to feed the plaque that live on your child’s teeth.  One caution: your child will still need to drink the entire amount of liquid you have diluted the medicine in to get its intended effects, so don’t dilute it too much – sick kids often have decreased appetites and once you have diluted the medicine, it will be difficult to guess how much medicine they have actually ingested.  So don’t overdo it!  Also, don’t dilute their medicine if they are having a hard time keeping other food or liquids down – in this case, just get them to take the medicine as is and try to rinse their mouth out after, as described below.

2 – Try having them drink it through a small straw.  When we drink anything through a straw, it bypasses our teeth and gets whisked to the back of the mouth and swallowed almost immediately.  By avoiding contact with most of the mouth, the syrup doesn’t have much of an opportunity to damage your child’s teeth.  Some medicines will be too thick to do this with, so use your judgment or dilute it slightly first, as mentioned above.

3 – Have your child drink water afterwards, or at least rinse out their mouth after having the medicine.  This suggestion is probably the most important and most easily done.  If your child can drink some water, or rinse out their mouths and spit it out, it will remove most of the sugar that hangs out in their mouth waiting to get turned into acid by the plaque.

4 – Avoid giving the medicine right before bedtime if possible.  If you give your child a syrupy medicine and then send him or her right off to bed, your child will fall asleep with sugar-coated teeth.  When we sleep, our saliva production decreases dramatically.  Without the saliva there to wash away the syrup, it can stay on your child’s teeth all night.  This is the main reason why toddlers get lots of cavities; they drink sugary drinks right before they fall asleep, or even worse,  their parents give them a bottle when putting them to bed.

If you need to give your child a bottle to get them to fall asleep, the best thing to give them is pure water.

Conclusion

Cold medicine may seem like an insignificant source of sugar in the grand scheme of things but every bit of sugar your child ingests adds up.  By following these four suggestions, you can reduce the potential damage caused by these cold medicines.  Of course, the most important thing when your child is sick is to get he or she feeling better; but if your child is able to take their medicine in one of these ways it will prevent the medicines they need to take from harming their teeth.

Do you have any comments or questions about giving medicine to children and its effects on the teeth?  Leave them below in the comments section!

6
Sugars That Hurt Teeth
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Did you know that carbohydrates are really sugars?  Carbohydrates are just long chains of sugars hooked together.  Fortunately, the bacteria in our mouths can’t break down those long chains of carbohydrates.

However, the bacteria in our mouths do love to feed on the monosaccharides (simple sugars) and the disaccharides (sugars that are links of two simple sugars.)

There are five main sugars that can feed the bacteria in our mouths.  When we feed these oral bacteria, it causes them to produce acid.  This acid sits on our teeth and causes cavities.  The acid can also literally dissolve our teeth if we let it.

Where are these sugars found?  You may be surprised to find that these sugars are in many “healthy” foods, as well as many unhealthy ones.

The Five Sugars That Hurt Your Teeth

Sugar Cubes1. Sucrose – Sucrose is probably the best-known sugar since it is the sugar that most people use in their house, common table sugar.  It is a sugar made up of glucose and fructose.  Sucrose is the main sugar found in most candy.  It is also the sweetest sugar.  Sucrose comes from sugar cane, sugar beets, and maple trees.

An interesting fact about sucrose is that the main bacteria in our mouths may be able to easily convert sucrose into the glue that holds plaque onto our teeth and makes it more difficult to remove when brushing and flossing.

2. Fructose – Fructose is the main sugar found in fruit, berries, melons, corn, and root vegetables such as beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes.  In general, fructose is not considered as sweet as sucrose.  However, when fructose is concentrated into a substance known as high fructose corn syrup, it does become sweeter than sucrose and is much more harmful to our teeth than regular fructose.

High fructose corn syrup has become almost a universal sweetener since it is cheaper, sweeter, and easier to blend into products because it is a liquid.  Next time you drink some fruit punch or soda pop, look at the ingredients, and you will most likely see high fructose corn syrup as the second ingredient right after water.

3. Glucose – Glucose is the main energy source of the body.  The body breaks down all of the other sugars into glucose.  Glucose can also be found in many of the foods we eat.  Glucose is usually found linked with other sugars such as with fructose to form sucrose.  However, glucose can be found itself in wines and other foods and drinks.

While glucose is harmful to your teeth, it is the main sugar found in your body.  A recent study shows that glucose may be healthier than fructose for your overall health.  Maybe in the future, more foods and beverages will start being sweetened with glucose rather than fructose.

Grains are Carbohydrates that Contain Maltose4. Lactose – Lactose is more commonly known as milk sugar.  It is a sugar formed by the two simple sugars galactose and glucose.  It is found in many dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.  Although lactose doesn’t even taste sweet, it can still be broken down by the bacteria on your teeth to produce acid.

5. Maltose – Maltose is the sugar that is found in grains such as bread, rice, pasta, and cereal.  It can also be found in drinks that are made from grains, like beer.  Beer not only contains sugar, but it is also acidic enough to dissolve our teeth.  It is made up of two glucose molecules hooked together.

Similar to lactose, maltose doesn’t taste sweet, so we may not think that it is harming our teeth.

You Don’t Need to Avoid Eating Sugar Altogether

The calcium dairy products provides in our diet is very valuable.  Just because dairy products contain lactose doesn’t mean that they should be avoided.  Also, breads, grains, and pasta are very important carbohydrate-rich energy sources that shouldn’t be eliminated from our diet just because they contain maltose.

The most important thing to remember is that we need to have moderation and choose our sugars wisely.  The first three sugars, glucose, fructose, and sucrose don’t really provide a nutritional benefit to us.  We should eat them in moderation.

If you find yourself eating a lot of sugar, you can try rinsing out your mouth after eating.  This will do two things: it will help rinse away the sugar that is hanging around in your mouth and it will rinse away any acid that is already harming your teeth.

Lactose and maltose are found in foods that are very good for us.  These sugars don’t need to be avoided; it’s just important to practice good oral hygiene after eating them so that we minimize the harmful effects of these sugars on our teeth.

Do you have any tips on how to reduce sugar intake? Let us know in the comments!