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How Tooth Decay Spreads

Cavities and tooth decay take place because plaque and bacteria have been allowed to accumulate on your teeth. Every time you drink or eat something, tiny particles of both food and drink stay attached to your teeth long after you have finished. These particles particularly if they are sugary may attract bacteria. These bacteria, over time, turn into plaque that contains acid. Plaque has a habit of eating away at your teeth’s enamel and will eventually cause cavities, which if left untreated may lead to the complete destruction of a tooth or teeth necessitating the need for extraction.

Fortunately once one tooth has been lost to tooth decay, the victim is likely to be more vigilant about taking care of his or her teeth. This helps to stop the spread of more bacteria, cavity development and ultimately tooth loss. If no action is taken in the early stages the decay could spread making further tooth loss more likely.

Ways to stop the spread of tooth decay

There are sometimes situations that occur such as when a minute hole in a dental restoration has taken place and bacteria finds its way underneath causing further tooth decay that is difficult to prevent until it’s too late. However, even preventing this is possible if you go to your dentist regularly as he or she will detect the problem and repair the damaged filling in time.

Apart from regular check-ups at your dentist you can help prevent an outbreak of tooth decay by modifying your diet. For example, consuming soft sweet foods are particularly damaging as they don’t encourage the development of saliva in your mouth. You need to change your diet to one that is richer in fibre as this helps to stimulate the production of saliva which is a natural defence against bacteria forming on your teeth.

This means consuming more vegetables, like carrots, cabbage and spinach. Even fruit like apples and pears need chewing and crunching so saliva is produced which helps to rinse out your mouth of damaging bacteria. Whole-grain products such as bread and pasta are decay preventers, too.

Prevent the spread of tooth decay through brushing and flossing

Often, people think a quick brush to freshen the breath is enough to prevent tooth decay. Sadly this isn’t the case. You should spend at least 2 minutes twice a day brushing and flossing your teeth. Toothpaste should be used as it contains many ingredients that help to strengthen your teeth’s enamel, like fluoride but it needs to remain on your teeth for at least 2 minutes to have any real effect.

Flossing is as important as brushing as it helps to remove particles from between your teeth. You should both brush and loss your teeth before going to bed as this will help to keep the bacteria off your teeth while you sleep.

If you think you have a cavity developing you shouldn’t leave it untreated but arrange an appointment at your dentist who will find a solution for you.

When Were Braces Invented?

Many people probably believe that braces are a product of this era as there’s this idea that facial appearance is far more important these days than ever before. It seems that crooked teeth have never been favoured as there is evidence found in mummified remains that braces were used thousands of years ago in a crude form at least. The first braces allegedly were made out of cord derived from the skin of an animal. The cord was attached in much the same way as wire braces today.

French Dentistry

Two dentistry books were written from 1728 to 1757 by Pierre Fauchard and Pierre Bourdet. One of the sections was called ‘The Surgeon Dentist’ and emphasised orthodontics and ways that could be used straighten teeth. A device was referred to as a “bandeu” which resembled a mouth guard and seemingly helped to keep teeth in the right place where they had a useful purpose.

In 1757, the King of France’s dentist, Pierre Bourdet, wrote a book referring to Fauchard’s “bandeu.” Bourdet improved the device in a number of ways and also suggested that by removing the wisdom teeth crowding could be alleviated. This is one of the commonest reasons for adults today having crooked teeth.

The 1900s brought new braces ideas

The 1st modern braces were invented in 1819 by Christophe-Francois Delabarre. Each set of 2 teeth had a wire arrangement placed over them in order to keep, them in the right place. In 1843, Dr. Edward Maynard introduced elastics to the braces apparatus which improved the alignment of the jaw. Not long after, Dr. S.C. Barnum in 1864 invented the dental dam, which was a thin bit of latex that was fitted around the teeth that protected the gums from the effect of the braces This technique is still in use today as it’s vital in orthodontic treatment to fit braces without causing any damage to the gums. A version of the dental dam is in use today.

Braces for the 20th Century

Many changes were made to braces but in the 1970s including the introduction of stainless steel and dental adhesives used in the front of the teeth which made getting braces far less painful and damaging. These developments meant that braces could be used for less time to have a desirable effect.  They were still unsightly and it wasn’t until more invisible products were invented and introduced in 1997 that orthodontists had really tackled the cosmetic issues of straightening teeth by introducing Invisalign.

3D imaging is the ultimate braces breakthrough

When 3D imaging software was used to provide a map of a patient’s mouth, it was possible to create customised aligners that bit by bit would transform the recipient’s smile, in the same way as braces. It omitted the need for manually tightening the wires or having to put up with a mouthful of metal. Invisalign was finally released in 2000 after thorough testing of the technique. It is now far more standard to use Invisalign than any other teeth straightening device.


Sealants and the Prevention of Tooth Decay

There is no question about it that brushing and flossing are the two best ways to keep your teeth in good condition and help to prevent tooth decay and cavity formation. But there are nooks and crannies in your teeth that even a brush and floss find it hard to clean, especially in the molars which are the back teeth that are used for chewing and breaking down food before swallowing. They are uneven and rough in places and are a favourite part of your mouth where food remains and damaging bacteria often hide and begin to form damaging and painful cavities.

Sealants are available to help fill the gap that a brush and floss can’t reach

Because of the ongoing problem of tooth decay in molars, sealants have been developed to help prevent this happening. A sealant is a wafer thin, protective coating which is made out of plastic or other types of dental materials. It sticks to the chewing surface of your molars and it has been found that it lowers the risk of tooth decay by almost 80 percent and especially in children.

How sealants work

Bacteria that are notorious for causing the development of cavities thrive on food remains left in the mouth and produces acids that create holes in your teeth. After the sealant’s applied it keeps the food out thus preventing the bacteria and acid from attaching itself to your teeth.

Who is suitable for sealants?

Both adults and children make good candidates for sealants and the sooner they are applied the better. The first molars start to emerge at about 6 years old, while the second develop at about 12 years old.  Sealing molars early helps to prevent cavities forming at an early age.

How the sealants are applied

It’s a pain free process and your dentist will first dry and clean the teeth and then paint on an acidic gel which makes your teeth rough. This is so a strong bond forms between the teeth and the sealant. Your dentist will, after a few seconds, rinse the gel off your teeth and dry your teeth again before the sealant is applied to the grooves in your teeth.

Your dentist will use a specially designed blue light which will harden the sealant. You can expect the sealants to be durable enough to last out several years. Your dentist will notice any deterioration and can re-apply if and when it’s necessary. Sealants can also be used in areas where early decay is present so that further damage to the affected teeth is prevented.  As some sealants are clear, it makes it easy for your dentist to keep a close eye on the treated tooth to ensure the sealant is working.

Sealants are becoming a more effective and common way of tooth decay prevention and are offered by almost all dentists these days. You shouldn’t hesitate to ask your dentist about this treatment option when you go for your twice annual check-up.

When Antibiotics May Need To Be Taken Before Dental Treatment

You may have been told you need to take a course of antibiotics before going ahead with certain types of dental treatment. This could be for such treatment as a root canal or a tooth extraction. This is because bacteria present in the mouth could enter the bloodstream. Any bacteria that find their way in and around the heart could infect one or more heart valves, even the heart’s lining, which could result in an inflammation taking place. When inflammation is present, infective endocarditis (IE) could arise which could potentially be catastrophic leading to serious medical outcomes, including heart valve leakage and heart failure. Treatment with antibiotics should help to stop bacteria release into your bloodstream.

Controlling bacteria in the mouth

The mouth is rife with bacteria which thrive off the remnants of food and drink that enter the mouth. Overall, a healthy body can handle this sort of bacterial invasion that’s constantly present in the mouth. As long as you regularly floss and brush your teeth, much of the bacteria remain relatively harmless.

However, this isn’t the case for everyone. Sometimes, bacteria that are present in the mouth of a person whose immune system has lost some of its ability to control the effects of bacteria can lead to them entering the bloodstream where an infection could occur. The mouth is far more vulnerable to bacteria entering the bloodstream when dental work is being undertaken on the teeth, so sometimes your dentist may recommend taking antibiotics before any dental treatment commences. This “antibiotic prophylaxis” is basically taken for preventative reasons, not curative.

Who is likely to benefit from the use of antibiotic prophylaxis?

Generally, your dentist may recommend antibiotic prophylaxis if you suffer from a heart problem, such as:

  • the presence of one or more artificial heart valves;
  • a history showing you have suffered from of an infection affecting the heart valves or the lining of the heart which is called infective endocarditis;
  • you have already had a heart transplant and a problem has developed with one of the heart’s valves.

There are several other situations when antibiotic prophylaxis may be recommended, including:

  • a heart condition that has been with you since the day you were born which include cyanotic congenital heart disease, the first 6 months following a heart defect repair using a prosthetic device or material put into place surgically
  • situations where a heart defect has been fixed but there is a residual defect still present at that site or close to a prosthetic device or patch which has been used to undertake the repair.

Dosage of antibiotic prophylaxis

If there is any chance of developing infective endocarditis (IE) during dental treatment the recommended dose of antibiotic prophylaxis is one dose by mouth in a pill or liquid form 1 hour before commencement of the dental treatment and no further doses are required after that.

Talk to your dentist about antibiotic prophylaxis

If you believe you should be taking antibiotic prophylaxis before dental treatment talk to your dentist who will give you the advice you need.

Root Canals Help to Save Your Teeth

One of the reasons for being afraid of going to the dentist, especially if you have a painful toothache, is that you think will get off the dentist’s chair with one less tooth in your mouth. Fortunately, tooth extraction is not favoured any more, as there are other treatments available to restore a painful and badly infected tooth which does not involve tooth loss. The main one is called root canal treatment, which is intended to repair a damaged tooth without removing it.

When a root canal is performed

This procedure is often recommended if the pulp, the soft tissue found inside your tooth which includes blood vessels, becomes infected. This can happen for a number of reasons including:

  • the presence of a deep cavity;
  • a number of repairs performed on the tooth that have disturbed the tissue;
  • damage to the tooth caused by an accident.

If this damage is not treated quickly enough the tissues surrounding the tooth’s root may become infected.  When this takes place, you will typically feel pain and the presence of a swelling. An abscess could form in the tooth and spread to the surrounding bone at the end of the tooth’s root. If an infection has occurred you could end up losing your tooth because the bacteria may damage the bone that’s responsible for keeping your tooth firmly connected to the jaw.

Your dentist will decide if a root canal is the best treatment for you after a thorough examination. The treatment usually takes up to two dental appointments to complete.

Procedure for a root canal

Before commencing treatment, an x-ray will be taken of the affected area so your dentist knows precisely the state of the tooth in the part that can’t be seen.

  • The area will be numbed so you don’t feel any pain.
  • The next step is creating a hole in the top of the affected tooth so the tooth’s nerve can be removed from inside the tooth from what’s called the root canal.
  • The dentist will then clean each of the two root canals.
  • Each of the root canals will be filled with a rubbery-like material which seals against any future infection.
  • A temporary filling will be fitted in place which can later be replaced with a permanent filling and a crown.

After root canal treatment

You will have to attend a follow-up visit once the root canal has been completed. This is when the temporary filling is removed and a permanent one is put in place. Sometimes a post is fitted into the tooth for a crown to be placed which improves the appearance of the tooth. This is a choice you can make after discussing the option with your dentist.

A root canal can be a permanent solution

Even though this is a tooth restoration, it can still last a life time if proper twice daily brushing and flossing takes place and twice yearly visits to your dentist are followed.

How You Will Know You Have a Cavity?

Cavities are dreaded by virtually anyone for a number of reasons one of the most important of which is the pain that is felt. It can prevent you from going about normal activities and it requires the taking of painkillers to reduce the effect. One important thing about a toothache caused by the presence of a cavity the pain won’t subside until the tooth has been treated by your dentist. The sooner you make an appointment the better.

The effect of a cavity

When bacteria are allowed to remain on your teeth for too long an outer coating called plaque begins to cover your teeth. When the bacteria feed off the plaque it leaves acid behind which starts to erode away the enamel on your teeth. This is the outer, tough coating which allows you to cut and chew food without doing damage to the structure of your teeth. Once a cavity is formed it allows bacteria to settle inside the hole causing further decay and in the end the tooth may have to be extracted to prevent the spread of the damaging bacteria.

How to detect a cavity

  1. The presence of pain in the area of a tooth whilst chewing.
  2. Pain is experienced while drinking and eating hot or cold substances or even sweetened products.
  3. The start of chips and cracks developing on your teeth.
  4. Noticeable darkened areas forming on your teeth.
  5. White spots or chalky areas can be spotted on your teeth indicating essential mineral loss.

The action you should take when you have discovered a cavity

You shouldn’t put up with any discomfort or even relieve the pain caused by the cavity by taking painkillers, as there are a number of different treatment options available. Therefore you should make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.

What happens at the dental appointment?

Usually your dentist will begin with cleaning any damaging material from the cavity including bacteria. The hole will then be filled to bolster up the rest of the tooth so that it looks and feels intact. You can be rest assured that your dentist will use a filling material that’s both harmless and matches the colour of the adjacent teeth.

Cavity prevention is better than cure

Cavity formation and how to prevent it has been well researched and the simplest method to use is to brush and floss your teeth twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste. There are a few people who have a higher chance of developing cavities than others. This can be partly solved by your dentist painting on a dental sealant onto the surface of your teeth. This helps to prevent the bacteria from beginning the process of cavity formation.

Pay a visit to your dentist regularly

The best thing you can do to help prevent the onset of a cavity is to ensure you don’t miss the regular six monthly dental check-up with your dentist. This will prevent the occurrence of any cavities and the likely negative effect.

Treatment Options for Painful Sensitive Teeth

Overall, if you attend regular dental appointments twice a year, your dentist will be able to advise you if your teeth need any additional care. This will help to avoid the possibility of developing sensitive teeth which are usually caused by something quite preventable. It’s not acceptable for you to ignore your teeth when they feel sensitive as you will be enduring unnecessary pain while your teeth won’t gain if you don’t make an appointment at your dentist to help identify and fix the problem.

How you will know if your teeth are too sensitive

If you have sensitive teeth when you sip a hot drink or eat something ice cold like ice cream you will feel a tinge of pain. It may not be so bad that you are holding your mouth in agony but it’s a warning sign to you that it’s time to find out what’s causing this to take place. When you floss and brush your teeth if you wince while engaged in this process it’s time to make an appointment with your dentist before it becomes any worse.

Possible causes of sensitive teeth are:

  • cavity formation and early tooth decay;
  • a fractured tooth or teeth;
  • worn fillings which expose sensitive parts of your teeth;
  • gum disease;
  • worn down tooth enamel;
  • exposed tooth root.

The above start to take place if damage has been done to the outer layer of your teeth and gums.If your teeth are totally healthy that means the enamel which is the hard protective layer covering your teeth is in good condition and no cavities are beginning to form exposing the inner more sensitive parts of your teeth. Additionally, below your gum line, there is another protective layer cementum that protects the tooth’s root. Under both the cementum and the enamel there is an inner layer called dentin.

What is the role of dentin?

Dentin isn’t quite as dense as cementum and enamel and it’s composed of tiny tubes. When the dentin has lost its protective coating of cementum or enamel these tiny tubes let the effects of both heat and cold from liquid or food as well as sticky and acidic substances gain access to the cells and nerves that are found inside the teeth causing a feeling of uncomfortable sensitivity. When gums recede the dentin can become exposed also causing uncomfortable sensitivity.

How to treat sensitive teeth

This is where your dentist fits into the picture. because he or she will decide after diagnosing the reason for the sensitivity what treatment options there are available in your situation.

  • Desensitizing toothpaste is one possible solution as it contains products that are able to block the feeling of sensitivity that is being transmitted from the surface of the tooth to its nerve.
  • Fluoride gel can be used by your dentist to strengthen your tooth enamel and reduce the sensitive feeling.
  • Your dentist can also correct the problem by using a crown, dental bonding or an inlay in order to sort out any damage or decay which is causing this uncomfortable sensitivity.
  • If necessary a gum graft could be installed if you have lost so much gum tissue that the root is too sensitive and needs an extra protective layer.
  • The final resort if nothing else would work your dentist may suggest a root canal.

Preventing sensitive teeth

Proper brushing and flossing and regular twice annual dental visits go a long way towards avoiding painful sensitive teeth.

All About Dental X-Rays

It’s a common feature of a dental visit for the dentist to take a series of x-rays of your teeth and gums. This is so your dentist knows exactly what is wrong with your teeth, particularly if you are experiencing some sort of pain, as that’s the reason you arranged an appointment.

X-rays and their purpose

X-rays are used for anyone of any age. They can pick up damage to the teeth in areas that are not visible, such as a developing cavity or gum disease and they can show how a child’s teeth are started to emerge so that both the child and the parent can be reassured that everything is developing as normal.

A panoramic dental X-ray

A panoramic dental x-ray captures the whole mouth in a single image and requires a small amount of ionizing radiation to do so. It is common practice amongst dentists and oral surgeons and is used so that the right treatment can be undertaken for both implants and extractions. It is also used to provide a plan of the mouth for custom made dentures and braces which must fit well.

There are certain things you need to do if your dentist has suggested a panoramic x-rays such as:

  • telling your dentist you are pregnant;
  • removing jewellery and glasses that could interfere with the image produced by the x-ray;
  • wearing the lead apron provided by your dentist which helps to protect the major part of your body from exposure to radiation.

Are dental x-rays dangerous?

Exposure to radiation is often a concern, but there has been no indication that dental x-rays or any other types of x-rays pose any danger at all to people’s health. In fact, dental x-rays are rated as posing the least threat as the radiation dose is so low. When compared to a CT scan it would take 1,200 mouth x-rays to be equal to a single CT scan.

Small amounts of radiation are present on a single air flight and an X-ray taken of your mouth is around 50 percent of the radiation found on a seven hour plane flight. The amount of radiation exposure in an x-ray examination which includes four intraoral images is equivalent to a 1-2 hour airplane ride. Another way of putting it is that a dental x-ray produces less radiation than the amount of natural radiation anyone is exposed to in a single day.

Safety always comes first in a dental surgery and the level of radiation is kept to the utmost minimum, as the dentists are experienced and know how to use x-ray equipment safely.

You can help your dentist

If you are a first time visitor to your dentist let the practice know about any previous x-rays you have had and if you have your medical records from your previous dentist these will be a great help. This will indicate to the dentist what sort of treatment you have had and if x-rays have been used before.



The Pitfalls of Avoiding the Dentist

When you are young and living with your parents they decide when you should go to the dentist. More often than not, you have no choice but to agree. As you get older, unless you have an imperfection with your teeth that embarrasses you – like crooked teeth or overcrowding, you may never think about going to the dentist until you get a toothache. You may never need to suffer from a toothache if you attend your dentist once every six months just for a check-up.

Some of the things that can happen if you don’t attend regular dental appointments

1. Plaque forming on your teeth

Brushing and flossing helps to reduce the build-up of plaque but it can’t remove everything. Eventually the plaque hardens into tartar and becomes the breeding ground for damaging bacteria. This can be removed if you attend your dentist every six months.

2. Tooth decay can go undetected

You won’t know if you have a cavity developing in your teeth until you start to feel pain. By the time this happens it may be hard for your dentist to treat this without you losing your tooth. A six monthly check-up will alert your dentist to the chance of a cavity forming and can stop it before further decay has set in.

3. Tooth loss can happen with little notice

There are many things that could lead to tooth loss and it’s not just age. Young adults between the ages of 20 and 34 years have on average 5 teeth missing already. Diet could be one factor while neglect could be another. This could be avoided by visiting your dentist regularly so any issues with your teeth can be detected and treated early.

4. Gum disease can start without pain

Your gums may be puffy and red but they may not hurt. This could signify gingivitis, which is the early stage of gum disease. This will be noticed by your dentist as long as you attend regularly.

5. Bad breath due to teeth neglect

You may just clean your teeth a bit more often or even use a breath freshener to cover up bad breath. In the long run this won’t do any good as the best remedy for this affliction is getting your dentist to remove all that build up of plaque and tartar. It’s the bacteria forming in the plaque that releases an unpleasant smell which can be removed by regular cleaning by your dentist.

6. Cavities need treating early

If you don’t get plaque and tartar removed by your dentist, cavities are more likely to form unnoticed. A small cavity is easy to remedy but larger cavities are sometimes impossible to fill and may need longer and more expensive treatment like a root canal and crown. A 6 monthly dental check-up can sort these sorts of problems out before it’s too late.

7. Tooth stains can be hard to remove

Even your regular brushing and flossing won’t be able to keep your teeth white and sparkling but a dentist can give your teeth that extra clean so you can be proud of the appearance of your teeth.


Just by visiting your dentist twice a year can save you from tooth loss and painful gum disease.

How Good For Your Teeth is Charcoal?

What is called “activated charcoal” has been in use medically for some time, but only recently has it been promoted as a teeth whitening product. What do dentists think about it?

What is activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal is not very much different from the charcoal that you might use on a barbecue. The main difference is that it has been treated with a gas that leaves it with small empty cavities. It’s a bit like a hard, black sponge! It is odourless, tasteless and completely safe if swallowed, but dentists are not convinced that it can’t do harm to the exterior of teeth if used without caution.

The claim that activated charcoal is good for teeth whitening

Activate charcoal can be bought in tablet form in pharmacies and health shops. You grind the tablets up and smear it onto your teeth where there are unsightly stains, preferably with a small amount of water mixed with the charcoal as a paste. Toothpaste with added charcoal can also be bought already mixed up.

Because charcoal is an abrasive and because small foreign objects stuck to your teeth adhere to the pores in the charcoal it does actually work to remove some stains and plaque on your teeth. These external stains tend to make your teeth appear unnaturally yellowish, so in fact the charcoal does work to some extent.

The limits of charcoal as a teeth whitener

Because the charcoal mostly acts as an abrasive, it only really affects external grittiness and superficial stains. It doesn’t penetrate any further into the teeth, so does not remove deeper stains. For this, your dentist can advise you of teeth whitening products that you can use yourself and buy at the same pharmacy as the charcoal. Even better, they may suggest that you book yourself in for a teeth whitening session or sessions with them as their techniques are much more effective in the long run.

Dangers of using charcoal

Although charcoal in powder or paste form is completely inert and safe if you swallow it, dentists do say that it can be dangerous if used too abrasively. The risk of using charcoal with too much pressure is that it can lead to erosion of the enamel on the outside of the teeth. Enamel helps to protect the more delicate and biologically important interior of the teeth.

Better teeth whitening techniques

There are a number of substances that can help to penetrate the outer layers of your teeth quite well and tend to oxidise the stains on them. Dentists prefer to use a bleaching agent like hydrogen peroxide to remove deeper stains.

Prevention is best

Even better than dealing with unsightly and embarrassing stains after they have appeared, there are several ways to prevent them from developing. Being careful of your diet and avoiding food or drinks that stain teeth like coffee, red wine and curry, can help as well as regular but thorough brushing and flossing can keep your teeth a more natural white appearance.

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