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FROM THE DENTISTS CHAIR
Early Detection for Cavities on the Horizon
Many people are apprehensive about going to the dentist because they fear the sound of drills used to treat cavities. Presently, cavities are detected during examination or identified on X-rays after they have formed. Treatment usually involves removing the cavity with a drill and replacing it with a filling. The new technology appears to spot cavities as soon as they form, allowing for simple treatments with a special wash or varnish.
The new technology, developed at King’s College of London, uses a laser (Raman spectroscopy) to create light patterns on a tooth. Cavity causing bacteria scatter the light in a specific way, making it possible to identify and treat cavities earlier than ever before. Research continues on this new early detection technology, but hopefully, in the near future, the drill will only be an echo of the past.
Cavity Fighting Gummy Bears
Gummy bears may become the latest weapon in the fight against cavities in children. Scientists at the University of Washington have developed gummy bears that contain Xylitol. Xylitol is a tooth-protecting sugar substitute that reduces plaque that is responsible for tooth decay. Xylitol is already used in chewing gum for adults. Future studies are needed, but the scientists advocate that distributing the gummy bears in classrooms may help reduce one of the most common childhood diseases in the world, tooth decay.
Digital X-rays: Faster, Safer, and More Comfortable
Digital X-rays are the latest technology in dental imaging techniques. Digital X-rays create color images of specific teeth or panoramic images of the entire set of teeth. This new state-of-the-art technology reduces your exposure to X-rays by up to 90%! Because digital X-rays can be saved and stored in a computer, present and prior images can be digitally compared to show even the subtlest changes, allowing you to receive treatment before small problems become bigger.
Digital X-rays are quick and comfortable. A small sensor device is placed in your mouth. The device is connected to a computer that instantly creates colored X-ray images on a monitor. In seconds, you see the same clear color X-ray that your dentist sees. The device can be moved and placed in different areas of your mouth to create images of specific teeth. Faster, safer, and more comfortable—digital X-rays have revolutionized the dental care visit.
Gum Disease and Heart Disease Linked
Heart disease affects millions of Americans and is the leading cause of death worldwide. It is well understood that certain factors such as smoking, obesity, and high cholesterol contribute to heart disease. However, it is not clear why some people with no known risk factors develop heart disease. Researchers have discovered a link between gum disease and heart disease that sheds new light on the disease process.
In a study at the University of Otago Dunedin in New Zealand, investigators found that the bacteria involved with gum disease are linked to “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), a main cause of heart attacks. The bacteria causing gum disease produce proteins that trigger the immune system to release white bloods cells. The white blood cells build up in the arteries, leading to atherosclerosis. The bottom line: Gum disease needs to be prevented, treated, and controlled to help reduce the risk of heart disease.
How to Choose Mouth Rinses
About half of all Americans experience bad breath. In our society, having bad breath is socially unacceptable. We are inundated with ads for mouth rinses, but how can you tell which ones are the best? Cochrane Researchers offer helpful advice on reading mouth rinse ingredient labels:
Talk to your dentist if you experience severe or chronic bad breath that is not helped by mouth rinses. Bad breath can be the sign of tooth decay or gum disease, which require professional treatment.
Is “Natural” Toothpaste Okay for Kids?
With all of the “natural” products on the market these days, it is getting tough to determine which products are right for children. To add to the confusion, when it comes to natural toothpaste, many of the products do not contain fluoride. Therefore, which is better for children, natural or fluoride toothpaste?
According to the American Dental Association, toothpaste without fluoride is best for children who cannot spit during tooth brushing, including infants under age one. Too much fluoride can actually lead to a condition that stains teeth, called fluorosis. When your child is old enough to spit, talk to your dentist about fluoride toothpaste. It may be that your child gets enough fluoride from drinking tap water, food, and fluoride treatments. Regardless of the toothpaste that you select, using good brushing skills is the most important thing your youngster can do to have healthy clean teeth.
New Mouth Bacteria Discovered
Did you know that your mouth contains hundreds of millions of bacteria? A healthy mouth contains many different types of microscopic organisms, and bacteria are the most numerous. In fact, there are over 600 different species of bacteria in the mouth, and researchers have just discovered one more.
It is important to identify and understand the functions of the microscopic organisms in the mouth to help prevent and treat gum disease, bad breath, and tooth decay. The new bacteria species called Prevotella appears to live in both healthy and cancerous mouth tissues. This tells scientists that the Prevotella bacteria are capable of entering both tissues and cells. The new discovery of Prevotella is important for helping researchers find ways to treat and prevent oral diseases.
You can help prevent bacteria related gum disease and oral conditions with good oral hygiene. If you suspect that you have tooth decay or gum disease, make an appointment with your dentist. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent bigger problems.
…and now the Trick: Halloween Candy and Cavity Prevention
Halloween is a “sweet” time for kids but Dentists will tell you that this is the time of year when parents need to remind their children about good dental hygiene and cavity prevention. All those treats your child has brought home can turn into quite the trick and lead to tooth decay or dental emergencies. Now is the time to help your child sort his or her candy and review good oral health care.
Steer clear of sticky, chewy, or hard candy, meaning gum, taffy, licorice, jelly beans, and caramels are out. What can your child have? Stick to soft candy that melts in the mouth, such as chocolate or peanut butter cups. Limit your child to a few pieces of candy each day and have your child eat them as dessert after a meal. Whenever your child eats sweets, he or she should brush thoroughly with a fluoride toothpaste afterwards.
Despite your best efforts, if your child has an incident, make sure to contact your dentist to have problems fixed promptly. To decrease your child’s Halloween stash, participate in “buy back” incentives in your community. Some dentists take a proactive approach and offer such programs to get the sticky sweets out of the hands (and mouths) of children and off to our Nation’s military troops.
Medications: How Do They Affect Your Teeth?
Millions of Americans take medications daily to help control certain conditions. While these medications are often necessary, some can affect your oral health. If you are on long-term medication, you may be at greater risk of developing tooth decay or gum disease, so it is important to know what effects the medications you are taking can have on your overall oral health.
The reasons for greater risk to oral health vary. For example, medicines with high sugar content can affect the gums and teeth. The sugar contained in liquid medications like cough syrup, cough drops, vitamins, antacid and anti-fungal agents can lead to tooth decay. Inhalers (particularly those containing steroids) can cause erosion of the tooth enamel.
Dry mouth is a potential side effect of many medications (prescribed and over-the-counter). Dry mouth is caused by the reduction in saliva flow. Without the cleansing effects of saliva, tooth decay and other oral health problems become more common.
Some medications that can cause dry mouth include:
What you can do:
It is important to check the labels to determine if you are taking a sugar-based medication. Limit the use of, or request alternatives to, sugar-based medications when you can. However, never change medications without speaking to your doctor first and getting his or her approval. If you must use sugar-based medication, be sure to rinse your mouth with water immediately after taking the medication.
Discuss the medications you take with your dentist. They may be able to recommend alternative medications that are less harmful to your teeth.
If you do take medications that affect your oral health, be sure to adhere to a good regimen of oral hygiene. Brush your teeth twice daily and floss regularly. Some find using a water flosser is particularly helpful in achieving optimal oral health. Also, to help with dry mouth, try using a dry mouth oral rinse.
The Correct Way to Brush Your Teeth: 9 Tips for Better Brushing
Brushing daily and cleaning between your teeth is important because it helps remove plaque. If the plaque isn’t removed, it builds up and can cause tooth decay and gum disease. You should brush your teeth at least twice daily and replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months, or when the bristles get worn.
Many people aren’t sure of the correct technique for cleaning their teeth. Below are the steps for getting the most benefit from brushing:
Why Gum Disease Leads to Heart Disease
Flossing may be as important to heart health as exercise. Far from being an aesthetic issue, gum disease is linked to a number of health risks, including atherosclerosis, heart disease, and cancer.
The reason for the gums’ disturbing connection to health problems hasn’t been totally clear. But now, researchers have discovered exactly why bacteria in your mouth are so troublesome for the body — they are able to evade our immune system.
Bacteria have evolved certain mechanisms for dodging their hosts’ immune systems, and Boston University School of Medicine researchers were interested in how the bacteria causing gingivitis, Porphyromonas gingivalis, were doing this. They suspected a specific fat molecule, lipid A, on the outside of the bacteria, which has two versions: One that activates a key regulator of the host’s immune system, and one that prevents it from activating.
The researchers found that P. gingivalis was using a version of the lipid A molecule that blocked activation of the host’s immune response, so the bacteria in gum disease are able to roam freely. With the host organism unable to fight off the bacteria, they can have far reaching effects, from mouth to blood vessels in the heart.
When the team infected mice prone to developing atherosclerosis with the strain of P. gingivalis that suppresses the host immune response, the mice were even more affected by inflammation and fatty buildup in the arteries.
What makes gingivitis so dangerous, according to the authors, is that the bacterium that causes it is able “…to evade host defenses and establish chronic infection leading to persistent systemic low-grade inflammation.”
And it’s this chronic inflammation that seems to be the cause of many different diseases and disorders, from heart disease to cancer to depression.
So the next time you consider procrastinating about flossing, think not just of better breath and healthier teeth, but of reducing the population of a type of bacteria that cause problems throughout the body.
Though it’s a little unnerving that bacteria in the mouth could affect body parts that are relatively far away, it’s also heartening to know that something as simple as brushing your teeth or a cleaning at the dentist could protect your heart.
The research is published in the open access journal PLOS Pathogens.