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enamel

52
Cavities In Baby Teeth: Do They Need Fillings?
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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!

10
Ingredients in Toothpaste
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Ever since antifreeze chemicals were discovered in toothpaste produced in China several years ago, people have been increasingly concerned about the ingredients found in toothpaste.  Luckily, anti-freeze is not found in toothpaste sold in the United States as it is illegal.

Toothpaste consists of several different ingredients that leave our teeth feeling fresh and clean.

So if you’ve ever wanted to know what’s inside that gooey paste that you smear against your teeth everyday, read on.

Toothpaste on a Toothbrush

The Ten Main Ingredients In Your Toothpaste

1 – Fluoride

Fluoride is the only active ingredient found in all toothpastes.  It wasn’t until about 50 years ago that fluoride was first added to toothpastes.  Fluoride only makes up about 0.15% of most toothpastes, although prescription-strength fluoride toothpastes contain more than 1% of fluoride.

To learn why fluoride is so important, read about the three ways fluoride protects your teeth.

2 – Abrasives

The abrasives found in toothpastes are what help scrape the plaque off of our teeth.  I think it’s important to mention that many whitening toothpastes contain too many abrasives, which can wear down the enamel or cementum on your teeth and cause your teeth to be sensitive.

Read this article to learn why whitening toothpaste isn’t making your teeth any whiter.

Some examples of abrasives in toothpastes are mica, calcium carbonate, calcium pyrophosphate, dicalcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate, and hydrated silica.  The mineral mica not only acts as an abrasive, but can add an exciting glitter effect to toothpaste, making the urge to brush almost irresistible!

3 – Detergents

Detergents make people feel like the toothpaste is working by creating bubbles and making the toothpaste foamy.  The main detergent in toothpaste is known as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS.)  Some researchers believe that sodium lauryl sulfate causes canker sores, but that’s a topic I’ll discuss in a future article.

4 – Flavors

Flavors are added to most toothpastes.  Some common flavors are bubblegum, fruit, mint, and cinnamon.  The purpose of the flavors are to mask any unpleasant tastes in the toothpaste and they can also help to freshen your breath by masking the bad odors in your mouth.

5 – Moisturizers and Humectants

A humectant is something that keeps a substance moist.  Humectants in toothpaste are what keep the toothpaste nice and smooth and help keep it from drying out.  Some commonly-used humectants are glycerin, sorbitol, and water.

Toothpaste Ingredients

6 – Antibacterial Agents

Certain toothpastes contain Triclosan, which is an antibacterial and antifungal agent.  It is commonly found in antibacterial soaps.  Not too long ago, Colgate started adding it to its toothpaste to create the Colgate Total brand that claims to protect teeth from plaque for up to 12 hours.

7 – Preservatives

Preservatives are added to toothpastes so that microbes don’t grow in the toothpaste and spoil it.  It would probably be frustrating if you had to refrigerate your toothpaste — especially if you have teeth that are sensitive to cold temperatures!  Thanks to preservatives, toothpaste is safe for many months at room temperature.

8 – Colors

Colors can give toothpaste an attractive appearance.  When I was a teenager, I remember my mom had bought some “natural” toothpaste.  Being a toothpaste junkie, I decided to try it just for fun to see how it worked.  It was a dark brown color and looked pretty gross and tasted even worse.  I never used that toothpaste again.  A little bit of color could have gone a long way in improving that toothpaste!

9 – Sweeteners

Toothpastes usually contain a substance to make them taste sweet so that we enjoy brushing.  Most toothpastes contain saccharin, aspartame, or xylitol to add a bit of sweetness.

10 – Thickeners

In case the toothpaste is too runny, manufacturers can add ingredients that thicken the toothpaste to form a nice, smooth consistency.  Carageenan and xanthan gum are common thickeners added to toothpastes.

Bonus Ingredients

Those are the main ingredients in toothpaste.  However, some special formulations of toothpaste can include other ingredients such as the ones listed below:

Conclusion

Toothpaste requires many ingredients to work the way it does and to have the appearance and taste that it does.  The ingredients I have listed are those common to toothpaste sold in the United States, however international brands may vary.  If you know of any ingredients I missed or have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear about them below.

Thanks for reading!

32
Biting Nails Teeth
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It’s been estimated that about half of all humans bite their nails.  At ten fingernails per human (and maybe some toenails thrown in for good measure), that adds up to billions of fingernails that are chewed on everyday.

Fingernail biting has been linked to genetics and occurs more often in females than males.  I bit my nails frequently from the age of 5 up until about 25, when I kind of grew out of it.

Our teeth can do many amazing things, like helping us speak, making us look more attractive than we really are, and allowing us to chew a variety of healthy foods.  One thing that teeth aren’t good for though is biting our nails!

In fact, biting your nails can actually cause harm to your teeth and other structures inside of your mouth.  Here’s a breakdown of some of the negative effects that biting your nails can have on your oral health.

6 Reasons Why Biting Your Nails is Bad for Your Teeth

Nail Biting Can Harm Your Teeth

1– Biting your nails can cause your teeth to get chipped. This is definitely the biggest reason to not bite your nails.  Chewing on hard fingernails can take its toll on your teeth.  Sometimes when bite through a nail, your teeth hit together pretty hard, which could chip a tooth.

Repeated flexing of your teeth’s enamel occurs when you bite your nails and can cause the enamel to fracture or chip.

To find out more about enamel and the other layers of your teeth, read The Anatomy of a Tooth.

For most people, chipping a tooth is the only negative effect that biting your nails might have on your teeth.  In fact, the book Pediatric Dentistry by Pinkham states:

There is no evidence that nail biting can cause…dental change other than minor enamel fractures.

However, various studies have shown that nail biting can cause other oral problems.  Keep in mind that some of the following negative effects are very rare and won’t always occur with everyone, so you might want to take them with a grain of salt!

2 – Biting your nails can cause a diastama — a gap between your two front teeth. If the nail biting habit begins when the child is very young, it has been reported to cause a gap between teeth.  While I was unable to find a study to confirm this, I did find a dentist has a a picture of it on his website here.  While this can occur, it probably won’t unless someone is constantly shoving their nail up between their teeth.

3 – Nail biting can cause the roots of your teeth to become weaker. Nail biting during orthodontic treatment (braces) has been shown to cause root resorption, which is when parts of the roots of your teeth get dissolved by the bone surrounding them.  This causes the roots of the teeth to become weaker.  Here’s one study and another one that explain this phenomenon.

4 – Biting your nails can cause you to lose your teeth. This study claims that biting your nails can cause you to lose your teeth.  Remember — this is the only study that I’ve found that claims this, and we definitely would need more studies to be done in order to verify this.  See my disclaimer above!

5 – Biting your nails can cause TMJ problemsThis study tells how biting your nails can cause disk displacement in the temporomandibular joint.  If you have pain in your TMJ, perhaps it is being caused by your fingernail biting habit.

6 – Biting your fingernails can cause gingivitis. This case report (PDF file) details the story of a young child that bit his fingernails and then shoved them up between his gums and teeth.  The report even has pictures if you’re curious.  You would think that this would be pretty rare but it might not be as uncommon as you’d think.  Here’s another report here and one more here! It does go to show that kids can think of anything to do with their fingernails after they’ve chewed them off of their fingers.

Conclusion

I have talked about some of the extreme cases of biting your nails.  Obviously, many people do bite their nails without any dental problems.  Sometimes, however, people do develop problems.

One interesting fact I found while researching for this article is that biting your nails actually contaminates your mouth with interesting varieties of bacteria that are found on your hands.  Since I’m a slight germophobe (as mentioned here and here), this tidbit encourages me keep my nail biting habit in remission.

Hopefully the information provided above can give you the encouragement you need to help you to kick your fingernail biting habit.  Or, maybe you’re willing to take the risk and keep on biting your nails.

Have you ever hurt a tooth or had any dental problems due to biting your nails?  Please share your comments below!

6
Anatomy of a Tooth
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Have you ever wondered what makes a tooth so strong?

Anatomy of a ToothThe anatomy of a tooth is very simple compared to the human body.  Every tooth in your mouth has two major portions: a crown and a root.

The crown of the tooth is normally the portion that you can see inside your mouth.  It is covered in a glassy, white-colored substance called enamel, which is the hardest substance in the body.

The root is the part of the tooth that you can’t see unless you have severe gum disease.  It is what anchors the tooth in the mouth and supports all of the forces that are placed on the tooth while food is being chewed.  The root is covered by a very thin layer of a substance called cementum.  The cementum anchors the tooth to the bone by way of the periodontal ligament.

Here is a large diagram that illustrates the anatomy of a tooth:

3
Fluoride Protects Teeth
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Fluoride is an ion that has proven to be very effective at keeping our smiles looking as good as they can for as long as they can.  In the early 1900’s, a group of children were discovered in Colorado that had brown teeth.  Their dentist also noticed that these stained teeth were very resistant to tooth decay.

After a lot of research, it was discovered that the mysterious element behind their ugly, cavity-resistant teeth was the fluoride ion.

The Three Ways Fluoride Protects Your Teeth

1. Fluoride incorporates itself into our teeth everyday through remineralization.

The Mineral Fluorite
The Mineral Fluorite

This is the most important way that fluoride protects our teeth!

When you eat a meal, you’re not just feeding yourself, you’re feeding thousands of bacteria inside of your mouth.  After they’re done eating, they excrete acid which slowly dissolves your teeth  (See my post entitled What Every Human Needs to Know About Plaque for more on this.)

Luckily, our saliva has a neutralizing action on this acid.  After our saliva has neutralized the acid, it goes to work building back our enamel.  If you have fluoride available in your saliva, then your teeth an be repaired with fluorapatite instead of hydroxyapatite.  This means that the next time you eat, your teeth will be much more resistant to the acid that the plaque in your mouth is producing.  So, even if you didn’t have fluoridated water when you were little (I didn’t), you can still get the benefits of fluoride in your mouth everyday when your enamel remineralizes after a meal!

2. Fluoride helps children up to age 7 while their permanent teeth develop. Fluoride ingested at a young age can help alter the structure of the tooth enamel to make it stronger.  Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, and it coats the visible surface of all the teeth in our mouth.  Enamel is made up of tiny crystals called hydroxyapatite. When fluoride is available during tooth development, it incorporates itself into the enamel structure to create fluorapatite. Fluorapatite is much more resistant to the acid that dental plaque produces.  You can think of it as a strong shield that your body has in the fight against tooth decay.

3. Fluoride can decrease the acid production of plaque — you can think of it as a poison for plaque. Fluoride is able to inhibit some of the enzymes that the bacteria use to create acid.  Although it doesn’t completely stop the production of acid, it is able to put a big dent in its acid production.   This is a major factor in the reduction of tooth decay.  Just imagine, if the bacteria in your mouth can’t produce as much of the acid that destroys your teeth, then your teeth will remain stronger and healthier.

Conclusion

While fluoride can drastically improve the lifespan of your teeth, it can’t do it all.  For example, if you get the daily recommended amount of fluoride but aren’t removing the plaque from your teeth, eventually the plaque will build up a big enough barrier than the fluoride can’t make it to the tooth surface.  So even if you’re getting an optimal amount of fluoride in your diet it is still important to brush and floss daily.

If you have any questions about fluoride, please don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments below.  Thanks for reading!