Category: Cavity Prevention

Root Canals – How Much Ouch?

root canal
While they’re not ideal, root canals aren’t as unpleasant as you might think.

Did You Know?

Earlier this month there was actually an official celebration of Root Canal Awareness Week. Even though it’s not something most would “celebrate,” the procedure isn’t as bad as its reputation suggests.

What They Are

The pulp at the center of your teeth contains nerves, blood vessels, and other soft tissue. A damaged tooth or unfilled cavity often allows decay to spread unchecked. This can lead to infection and permanent damage to the root of the tooth. At this point the options are extraction of the infected tooth or a root canal.

Since we obviously want and need our own natural teeth whenever possible, root canals are usually the best treatment option. Under local anesthesia, the affected pulp is carefully removed and placed with a solid filler, usually a natural polymer prepared from latex made from the Percha tree. The affected tooth is then fitted with a crown that will last decades if cared for properly.

What to Expect

The entire procedure usually lasts less than 90 minutes, and is only slightly more uncomfortable than a regular filling. However, there can be another pain — the cost. It’s usually around $1,000, depending on the tooth and the degree of damage. Though many insurance plans cover the cost of root canals as medically necessary procedures, co-pay amounts can vary, and some don’t cover them at all. So your best bet is to avoid needing one. Which — it turns out — is pretty easy to do.

Just BRUSH! Dental experts estimate that the average person spends around 48 seconds brushing their teeth — far less than the 2-3 minutes recommended by dentists. Since many root canals result from advanced cavities or decay, the other main tactic to avoid root canals is to see your dentist regularly. When we do visual exams and take x-rays, it allows us to spot problem areas before they become big issues.

Have you made your next six-month appointment? Besides checking your mouth, we’ll give you this special Root Canal Prevention kit – For FREE!

Dental Sealants

sealants
Like weatherproofing, dental sealants lock out harmful substances.

 

We know that we go on and on about tooth care… it’s kind of in our job description. But what if your kids’ brushing routines are on point, and they’re still getting cavities — even sometimes multiples during a single checkup? If you have taken the right dietary steps, and are 100% confident that they’re brushing properly and often, your kids’ cavities might not be entirely their fault.

Just like faces and bodies and personalities, each set of teeth is unique to its owner. We all have common tooth features, but sometimes the natural contours on teeth can cause problems. In some children and adults, the pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of back teeth are especially deep or irregularly shaped. Food, plaque, and other cavity-causing substances gather in these nooks and crannies, thwarting even the most diligent brushing attempts.

Sealants to the Rescue

The good news is that there’s an option other than simply filling in the cavities as they occur. Around since the 1960’s, dental sealants have gained popularity in recent years for adding a protective layer to teeth and preventing decay. The treatment is simple, painless and performed in our offices. It consists of painting a thin plastic coating on chewing surfaces of the molars and pre-molars. The sealant is then hardened with ultraviolet light, much like modern fillings. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, sealants are recommended for children between the ages of 6 -12, and the treatment can remain effective for up to 10 years. Even small cavities that existed before treatment will not spread, since the sealant cuts off the source of decay.

Debunking BPA Concerns

In recent years dental sealants have come into question for containing Bisphenol A (BPA). It is widely used in consumer packaging, as well as plastic water bottles, canned foods, pacifiers, cash register tape, and many other products. BPA is present in most U.S. residents, its effects on overall health have yet to be conclusively determined. And while dental sealants do contain traces of BPA, the levels are far lower than other common areas of exposure. In fact, according to the ADA, exposure from breathing normal everyday air is 100 times higher than standard dental sealants.

Even more good news – if Drs. Meyer or Johns determine it would reduce cavities, dental insurance is likely to cover the treatment cost. Along with a fluoride-based toothpaste and good brushing habits, sealants provide a One-Two punch that prevents nearly all tooth decay.

If you have a question about sealants for your child, ask us at their next appointment.

Pizza for Breakfast?!   

brushing and meals
Breakfast on the go is sometimes necessary, but how can you protect your teeth? 

You’ve been there — a late wake-up, rushing out the door, needing to put anything in your stomach to start the day. And the only thing available to eat that doesn’t require a plate or utensils is… Pizza. And so pizza is what you eat for breakfast.

Contrary to many opinions, that cold leftover slice isn’t really awful for you. As for your teeth, a good brushing is all that’s required to erase the evidence in your mouth… though it won’t help with your dietary guilt. And that’s true for most foods: as long as you remove excess food residue, what you eat for breakfast won’t harm your teeth.

 

Brushing Away OJ? Don’t.

A new school of thought has emerged that brushing before breakfast is as effective as brushing after. And provided that breakfast isn’t anything with excessive sugar (sweetened cereals, syrup, jelly/jam), this is true.

But according to the Mayo Clinic (via lifehacker.com), when you brush is even more important than what you eat for breakfast. However, the Mayo experts note that the exception to this rule is when consuming food or drink that contains high levels of acid, including fresh fruits and orange juice – both of which are breakfast staples. That’s because the naturally-occurring sugars and acid in these foods temporarily weaken the tooth enamel, and normal brushing can actually cause damage. For this reason, it is recommended that you either brush before breakfast, or wait at least 30 minutes after eating.

 

A Healthy Diet DOES Matter

However, there are many nutrition choices that really do matter to your mouth. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, several specific foods contribute to good dental and overall health. They recommend eating these:

  • Calcium-rich foods —including milk, yogurt and cheese, fortified soy products, canned salmon, almonds and dark leafy greens— help promote tooth and bone health.
  • Eggs, fish, lean meat, dairy, nuts, and beans contain phosphorus, which is good for strong bones and tooth enamel.
  • For good gum health and immune functions, eat plenty of foods rich in Vitamin C, including citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, potatoes, and spinach.

Always remember that the best plan is to brush after eating if you can – Even if it means you have to rinse away acidic food residue with water before brushing. If you have more questions about making healthy food choices for your body AND mouth, ask Drs. Meyer or Johns at your next appointment.

 

 

Metal Mouth? Not necessarily.

braces care
From new colors and thinner wires to transparent aligners – braces are better than ever!

Teeth-straightening was first considered by ancient philosophers Hippocrates and Aristotle as early as 400 B.C. But it wasn’t until the 1700s that French dentist Pierre Fauchard used a horseshoe-shaped piece of iron that he called a “bandeau” (a form of the old French language meaning “tiny band”) that the modern concept of braces was put into practice.

However, their widespread use didn’t occur until the mid-late 20th century, and has been most prolific in North America. In fact, the number of people with braces doubled in the U.S. between 1982 and 2008. While the majority of these patients are 11-17 years old, the numbers of treated adults during those same decades increased by 25%. American Dental Association has reported that 70% of treatments are done on females, and largely for aesthetic reasons, as opposed to medical/dental conditions.

 

Today’s Braces

Modern advances have allowed braces to become less obvious, with the prevalence of clear aligners such as Invisalign® and other transparent options. Treatment usually lasts from 18 to 36 months, depending on the severity of problems and treatment goals. It requires a commitment from both the patient and parent.

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, the biggest treatment challenge after fitting the device is to protect both braces and teeth from damage. The good news is that these goals can usually be achieved through diet adjustments and proper cleaning.

 

Limit Harmful Foods

The bad news is that because of the tween-to-teenage range for braces, many of the restricted foods are favorites. This includes anything with high levels of sugar, which can collect around the brackets and accelerate decay. Here are the standard recommendations:

Skip the Soda— Soft drinks deliver a deadly combination of acid plus sugar that can become concentrated on tooth surfaces around brackets.

Avoid Extreme Textures— Hard, sticky, chewy or crunchy foods can damage or dislodge the thin metal components.

No gum!— This rule is not only to avoid residue on braces, but to prevent bending or loosening of the wires

Don’t Chew Ice— While this is never good for your teeth , it’s an especially risky habit with braces.

Clean Thoroughly

brushing with braces
Cleaning with braces is more important than ever.

Obviously, it is harder to clean an intricate metal framework than it is flat, smooth surfaces of your natural teeth. Your orthodontist will give you specific direction on how to brush, floss, and clean. Dr. Meyer and Dr. Johns also have tips and tools to help — just ask us at your next visit.