What Causes Demineralization?

tooth enamel demineralization remineralizationDemineralization is a process in which minerals are removed from tooth enamel. Enamel is a crystalline latticework of a variety of minerals, mostly hydroxyapatite.

Demineralized enamel transmits hot, cold, pressure, and pain more than normal enamel. This can contribute to sensitivity and pain, even if the tooth does not have a cavity. If too many minerals are lost, it can lead to a cavity.

Demineralization is mostly caused by strong, stable acids, which can be found in foods such as tomatoes and oranges. Acids can also be caused by bacteria in the mouth and sugars from foods. These acids dissolve minerals. Even small amounts of acid can demineralize tooth enamel.

Remineralization is the process of restoring minerals to the hydroxyapatite latticework structure. The new minerals need to have the exact same shape, size, and electrical charge as the ones lost.

Demineralization and remineralization both occur on the surface of teeth. The bloodstream and enamel are not connected, so taking mineral supplements will not remineralize teeth. Events that use minerals in the blood, such as pregnancy and healing a broken bone, cannot cause demineralization of teeth.

Natural remineralization can occur. Carbonic acid is a mild, unstable acid formed by carbon dioxide from breath and water from saliva. It dissolves minerals in food, which can be incorporated in tooth enamel to remineralize it. The amount of remineralization depends on the amount of minerals present in food and saliva, the amount of carbonic acid present, the proximity of the carbonic acid to mineral molecules, whether a demineralized portion of enamel requires the exact same mineral ion, whether the spot is clean, and whether the carbonic acid is converted to carbon dioxide and water.

You can help to remineralize your teeth by brushing twice a day for two minutes, flossing daily, and getting regular dental checkups and cleanings. Fluoride toothpaste can help to remineralize teeth by reducing bacteria and strengthening enamel. Many fluoride toothpastes contain calcium that can enhance the process of rebuilding enamel.

Should a Wisdom Tooth with a Cavity Be Filled or Extracted?

wisdom tooth cavityTooth decay can form on any surface where plaque accumulates and stays for an extended period of time. Third molars, or wisdom teeth, are located in a part of the mouth that often makes them difficult to reach and clean properly. They also sometimes come in at an angle, which makes them hard to brush and floss. This makes wisdom teeth susceptible to decay. When a wisdom tooth gets a cavity, in some cases it can be filled, but in other instances it makes more sense to extract the tooth to prevent further decay.

A cavity in a wisdom tooth can often be filled if the amount of decay is relatively small and it is located in a part of the tooth that is easily accessible. It might be necessary to extract the tooth if the decay is located in a place where the dentist cannot easily access it with instruments to place a filling.

In some cases, even if a filling could be placed, the wisdom tooth might be at risk of developing recurrent decay. That occurs when a new cavity forms on a part of a tooth adjacent to a filling. Rather than filling cavities again and again over several years, it might make more sense from a clinical and financial perspective to extract the tooth and prevent future decay.

Decay in a wisdom tooth can also put other teeth at risk. If a wisdom tooth does not come into proper alignment, which happens often, debris and plaque can get caught between it and the adjacent second molar. If the plaque and debris cannot be removed, both the second and third molars will be at risk of developing decay. Second molars serve an important function, so it is in the patient’s best interest to prevent decay from spreading and to remove the wisdom tooth.

The Benefits of Using Mouthwash

benefits of using mouthwashMany people are self-conscious about bad breath and use mouthwash as a way to avoid it. Mouthwash can kill bacteria that cause bad breath and leave your breath smelling minty and fresh. It can also help you stay healthy in several ways when used regularly.

Plaque is a hard substance that forms over the gums, between teeth, and on the surfaces of teeth. If it builds up and is not removed, plaque can lead to cavities and gum disease.

Rinsing with mouthwash alone will not get rid of plaque, but using it as part of a complete oral hygiene routine can help prevent plaque from accumulating. After you get your teeth professionally cleaned by a dentist or hygienist, you can keep new plaque from forming by rinsing with mouthwash every day, in addition to brushing and flossing your teeth.

Some types of mouthwash can turn the plaque on your teeth and gums a different color to make it easier to see and brush away. While these mouthwashes are usually marketed for children, they can also be helpful for adults.

Rinsing with a mouthwash that contains fluoride can reduce your risk of getting cavities. Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and protects teeth from bacteria and acid that cause tooth decay.

Plaque and bacteria can inflame or infect gums and teeth sockets and lead to gum disease. An antibacterial mouthwash can help prevent gum disease.

Gum disease during pregnancy can lead to complications if the infection travels to the pregnant woman’s bloodstream. Women who use mouthwash regularly while pregnant are less likely to go into labor early or to have other complications.

Most people who use mouthwash do so after brushing and flossing their teeth. Mouthwash can also be effective when used before brushing. It can loosen food particles that stick to your teeth and between them and make brushing easier. It can also slow down the growth of germs and bacteria in your mouth. You can rinse again with mouthwash if you want to after you brush and floss.

Researchers Use Electric Current to Deliver Anesthetic without Pain

dental anesthetic electric current needleWhen dentists need to perform invasive procedures in the mouth, they use anesthetics to block the pain. These are usually administered with needles, which cause fear and anxiety for many people.

Dentists sometimes use a topical anesthetic first to reduce the pain of the injection. Topical anesthetics can take the form of hydrogels, ointments, or sprays. Hydrogels containing lidocaine and prilocaine are the most common.

Many people put off going to the dentist because they are afraid of needles. New research may make it possible to have pain-free dental procedures by using an electric current instead of a needle.

Researchers at the University of Sao Paulo looked for a new way to get topical anesthetics into the body faster and more effectively. The researchers prepared a hydrogel with a polymer to make it stick to the lining of the mouth and then added two anesthetic drugs: prilocaine hydrochloride and lidocaine hydrochloride. They tested the gel on the lining of the mouth of a pig and found that applying a tiny electric current in a process called iontophoresis made it act faster and last longer. Their findings were published in the journal Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces.

The researchers believe their findings could help millions of people around the world who are afraid of needles. They believe their findings could improve access to dental care and patient compliance with treatment. The procedure could also reduce costs and prevent contamination and infection.

The researchers believe the technology could be used in dental anesthesia and in other areas, such as cancer treatment. They think the same method could be used to deliver drugs to the skin and eyes. They plan to develop an iontophoretic device and conduct preclinical trials.

Things You Should Know Before Whitening Your Teeth

teeth whiteningMany people make New Year’s resolutions to improve their health. One popular way to look and feel better is to whiten one’s teeth. Here are some things you should know about teeth whitening to help you figure out if it is right for you and to help you choose the right treatment.

Teeth whitening is not for everyone. It is not recommended for children or people who have not lost all of their baby teeth because primary and permanent teeth are different colors. Baby teeth are whiter because they have thicker enamel. You should not use teeth whitening treatments unless you have all of your permanent teeth.

If you have had a lot of dental work, such as crowns, composite fillings, or implants, it is also not a good idea to get your teeth whitened because those restorations would not be lightened and would be a different color than the whitened teeth. If you are planning to have extensive dental work done, whiten your teeth first so the dentist can match the restoration to the color of the rest of your teeth.

Whitening treatments are generally safe to use. It is important to follow the recommended guidelines to avoid problems such as tooth sensitivity and soft tissue damage. Over-the-counter treatments are generally as safe as ones performed in a dentist’s office.

When choosing a teeth whitening treatment, think about how much money you want to spend and how much time and effort you are willing to put into it. Don’t choose a long-term treatment if you won’t stick to it.

Even though teeth whitening treatments contain hydrogen peroxide, you should not rinse your mouth with hydrogen peroxide to whiten your teeth. This can cause severe damage to the soft tissue and mucosa in your mouth. Use a product that has been approved by the American Dental Association, not a recipe you found online. If you are getting a professional treatment, always go to a licensed dentist.

If you decide to whiten your teeth at home, use a name brand product. Always read the instructions on at-home whitening products and follow them carefully. Do not use a product more often than recommended.

Your teeth are more susceptible to staining immediately following whitening treatments. After you whiten your teeth, avoid foods and beverages that can stain your teeth, such as coffee and red wine, for at least two hours after treatment. You can keep coffee from staining your teeth by drinking it through a straw. Using a sonic toothbrush after whitening your teeth can help you avoid future stains.

Sensitivity is common after teeth whitening. If your teeth are already sensitive, begin a high-fluoride treatment prior to whitening. If you have severe sensitivity afterward, visit your dentist.

The results of teeth whitening treatments will vary from person to person. Everyone’s dentin is a different color and responds differently to whitening.

It is important to follow good oral hygiene after whitening your teeth. White teeth are not necessarily a sign of health. You still need to brush and floss regularly to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

Dental Health Resolutions for the New Year

dental new years resolutionsThe New Year is a time when people make resolutions to improve their lives. One important area where you may have room for improvement is your oral health. Taking better care of your teeth and gums can give you a more beautiful smile and contribute to your overall health.

One of the best ways to improve your dental health is to work on your brushing and flossing habits. You should brush twice a day with a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste. Gently position the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle toward the gum line. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or after you are sick or if the bristles are frayed. It is also important to floss once a day to remove food particles that get stuck between your teeth. Use an antimicrobial and fluoride mouth rinse to improve your oral health.

If you have stains on your teeth, you might be able to remove them with at-home or in-office whitening products. Ask your dentist what treatment he or she recommends.

Make healthy food and beverage choices. Frequently consuming foods and beverages with sugar and acid can lead to cavities. Brush after eating snacks or use gum or a lozenge containing xylitol to reduce your chance of getting cavities.

Smoking or chewing tobacco can lead to oral health problems. If you use these products, resolve to quit with help from online tools, a smoking cessation support group, apps to track your progress, and help from family and friends.

You should visit your dentist every six months for routine exams and cleanings. This can allow your dentist to monitor your oral health and catch any problems early so they can be treated before they progress. Your dentist can refer you to a specialist if necessary.

If you have been putting off restorative work, such as crowns, implants, or fillings, resolve to get it taken care of this year. Completing these treatments can preserve your teeth, maintain proper alignment, and give you a more beautiful smile.

If your teeth are crooked because of crowding, an injury, or thumb sucking as a child, you can correct the problem with braces. Several types of braces are available. Ask an orthodontist which is right for you.

How to Prevent and Treat Bad Breath

prevent treat bad breathBad breath, or halitosis, is a common condition that can be caused by poor oral hygiene or other medical problems. It can also be caused by eating certain foods or by habits such as smoking.

Food begins to be broken down in the mouth. As it is digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, food is carried to the lungs and given off in breath. Eating foods with strong odors, such as onions and garlic, can contribute to bad breath that will not completely go away until the foods have been fully digested.

Improper brushing and flossing can leave food particles in the mouth. This can allow bacteria to grow between teeth, on the gums, and on the tongue and can cause bad breath. Brushing, flossing, and using an antibacterial mouth rinse can reduce or eliminate bad breath. Not properly cleaning dentures and smoking or chewing tobacco can also lead to bad breath.

Saliva moistens the mouth, neutralizes acids produced by plaque, and washes away dead cells from the tongue, gums, and cheek. Dry mouth, or xerostomia, can be a side effect of some medications or can be caused by a problem with the salivary glands or breathing through the mouth.

Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth can be a symptom of another condition, such as gum disease, poorly fitting dental appliances, a yeast infection in the mouth, or cavities. Other conditions, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, a chronic sinus infection, postnasal drip, diabetes, chronic acid reflux, and liver or kidney problems, can cause bad breath.

One of the best ways to prevent bad breath is to brush twice a day, floss once a day, and use an antibacterial mouthwash twice a day. Dentures should be removed and thoroughly cleaned at night.

Visit your dentist twice a year for exams and cleanings. He or she will be able to diagnose and treat conditions such as periodontal disease and dry mouth. Discuss the foods you eat and any medications you take to find out if they could be contributing to bad breath.

Avoid smoking and chewing tobacco. Drink lots of water to keep your mouth moist. Chewing sugarless gum or sucking on sugarless candy can stimulate saliva production.

Minimally Invasive Dentistry Techniques

minimally invasive dentistryMinimally invasive dentistry, or microdentistry, is a series of techniques designed to conserve as much healthy tooth structure as possible through prevention, remineralization, and a minimal amount of intervention by a dentist. Dentists who practice these techniques remove as little of the tooth structure as possible in order to restore a tooth and use long-lasting materials to reduce the need for future repairs.

Your dentist will evaluate your risk of developing tooth decay. This will depend on the bacteria in your mouth, the quantity and quality of your saliva, and your diet. He or she may recommend certain practices to reduce your risk of getting cavities, such as improving oral hygiene and limiting the amount of certain foods you eat. Your dentist may also use several treatment techniques, depending on your situation.

Remineralization is the process of restoring minerals to teeth to repair damage. This can be done with fluoride rinses, varnishes, or supplements.

If a tooth is decayed and cannot be remineralized, your dentist may use air abrasion instead of a drill to remove the decayed part. This treatment uses a stream of air and a super-fine abrasive powder to remove decay.

Sealants can protect teeth from bacteria that cause decay. They are usually made of plastic resin and fit into grooves and depressions in teeth to act as a barrier against acid and plaque. Sealants do not require the dentist to cut the teeth, and they can be placed on teeth that are susceptible to decay at any time.

A crown is usually used to restore a tooth, but an inlay or onlay does not require the dentist to remove as much of the tooth. An inlay is similar to a filling, but it is custom-made to fit a cavity and can be the same color as the tooth or a gold color. An onlay is used if more significant reconstruction is needed and does not require the dentist to remove as much of the tooth as is necessary for a crown.

Teeth grinding, or bruxism, can cause serious damage to teeth. Your dentist can create bite splints for you to wear at night or at stressful times when you have a tendency to grind your teeth.

Many Seniors Do Not Have Access to Dental Care

senior citizens dental careHealthy teeth and gums are linked to overall health. Many seniors have medical and oral health problems that are related but avoid seeking care or are unable to afford it.

Older adults often have a variety of other medical conditions that can affect their oral health. Patients who have arthritis or a history of strokes may be unable to brush their teeth, which can lead to decay and pain. Many medications can contribute to oral health problems.

Nursing homes are required to conduct dental screenings and to assist patients with dental care, but that does not always happen. Patients in nursing homes often have their oral health deteriorate.

Poor oral hygiene can lead to infection, pain, and tooth loss. Bacteria that cause gum disease can also contribute to coronary heart disease, aneurysms, and other medical problems.

According to the American Dental Association, one fifth of people over the age of 75 have not seen a dentist in five years. They may avoid the dentist because of fear or years of neglect, or they may suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia and not understand the need for dental care. Some seniors have limited mobility and cannot get to a dentist’s office.

Paying for dental care can also be a problem. Medicare does not cover routine dental care, and many seniors lose other insurance coverage when they retire. Medicaid does not require states to provide dental care. Only 15 states offer Medicaid recipients comprehensive dental coverage.

Some political leaders are trying to improve access to dental care for seniors. The Senate has proposed including oral health screenings in its reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, which provides funding for nutrition and social services for low-income senior citizens.

Two bills were introduced in Congress this year that would expand dental coverage for adults without insurance. One bill introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders would provide dental coverage for all Medicare and Medicaid recipients, increase funding for oral health services at clinics, and create a student loan program for oral health professionals. Another bill introduced by Rep. Robin Kelly would give organizations federal grants for oral health education and outreach programs for underserved communities, including seniors.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Help with Dental Phobia

cognitive behavioral therapy dental phobiaMillions of people around the world suffer from dental phobia, a state of fear and anxiety that is so strong that it causes them to avoid the dentist even when they desperately need treatment. Dental phobia is considered a “specific phobia.” Fear of blood, injections, and injury can be so strong that it can cause a person to faint. People with dental phobia often feel a lack of control.

Psychologists have been working in several countries on using cognitive behavioral therapy to help patients overcome their fear of the dentist. Researchers at King’s College in London recently released a study on the use of cognitive behavioral therapy to treat dental phobia and anxiety.

CBT combines behavioral modification and talk therapy to challenge negative or harmful beliefs. The researchers found that CBT could bring reliable and long-term relief to patients suffering from dental phobia and anxiety so they could get the dental care they needed.

The study looked at 130 patients, mostly women, who suffered from dental phobia. Most were afraid of injections and drilling. The study did not include a control group who did not receive CBT.

The patients received five CBT sessions at a dental hospital at King’s College. After receiving treatment, 79 percent of the patients had dental care without sedation, and only 6 percent requested sedation after receiving CBT.

The sessions began with the therapist evaluating each patient’s level of fear and anxiety. The patients were gradually exposed to dental instruments and treatment. They were given homework, including relaxation exercises, and were shown photos and videos of injection equipment as part of exposure therapy, or desensitization. Drilling came last in the study.

Several studies in Sweden found that patients who underwent therapy were much more likely to continue with dental treatment than those who were given general anesthesia. Those who received therapy confronted and learned to deal with their fears, while those who received anesthesia were still afraid.

Since the program began at King’s College, eight more public and quasi-public facilities have begun to offer CBT in a dental setting. Teams of psychologists and dentists working together in the same practice are much more common in Europe and Scandinavia than in the United States. That is partly because psychological services may not be covered by some patients’ insurance plans.