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How are cavities formed?

Bacteria in the mouth change sugar from food and drink into acid. Acid is harmful to teeth, dissolving the calcium structure.

Each acid attack will last until neutralized and washed away by saliva–this may take 20 minutes or longer. After many attacks, holes in the teeth called cavities develop.

What can I do to prevent cavities?

Because bacteria on the teeth can cause cavities, they should be cleaned off to help prevent cavities. Brushing your teeth for at least 2 minutes twice per day will clean most surfaces of bacteria but not reach in between the teeth so flossing is necessary for complete plaque removal.

Using fluoridated toothpaste during brushing will strengthen weak spots that may have formed. Preventing exposure to sugars and acids in food and drink, too is key so that the bacteria can be starved of the fuels needed to produce cavities.

What is fluoride and is it safe?

Fluoride is a natural mineral present in most water sources. This mineral has the unique ability to become incorporated into teeth and repair damaged tooth structure when in the early stages of cavity formation. Fluoride also makes enamel stronger and more resistant to the acids that cause tooth decay.

Fluoride usage is supported by the American Dental Association, the U.S. Public Health Organization, the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization. We believe that it is possible to get too much of a good thing however, and fluoride is no exception. More than 60 years of research has shown that optimal levels of fluoride help teeth and do not harm people or the environment, but too much fluoride ingested during the years of tooth formation may cause a mottled or spotted appearance of the teeth. Therefore it is important not to allow children to eat toothpaste, to remember to follow package directions and heed the advice of your dentist for optimal health.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a major cause of tooth loss in adults.

Gum disease results from numerous factors including specific bacteria present in the mouth (in the form of plaque and tartar) often combined with other patient factors including smoking, diabetes, and/or genetic susceptibility.

This disease is usually painless, and patients experiencing it are often surprised to learn that they have it. In it’s early stages, gum disease can cause bleeding gums and mild pocketing, but in the later stages the disease will cause irreversible loss of bone, deeper pocketing and eventually loosening of the teeth.

Gum disease can be treated by numerous methods including scaling and root planing and surgical treatments. Using a small scaler or ultrasonic instrument and often with local anesthetic to reduce any discomfort, the plaque and tartar are carefully removed down to the bottom of each periodontal pocket.

Depending on the extent of the disease this root planing and scaling may require multiple visits where the mouth is divided into sections at a time. 4-6 weeks after completion, another appointment is needed to check the healing of the infection by way of measuring the periodontal pockets. If healing is not optimal additional treatment may be needed and in some cases surgery is required.

After the above mentioned treatment for gum disease your dentist and hygienist will recommend a maintenance schedule for future cleanings called periodontal maintenance visits. These cleanings include “below the gum line maintenance” intended to control the disease which is generally considered controllable but not curable. This schedule will generally be shorter, often on a 3 month basis.

What are dental sealants and why does my child need them?

While brushing is rather effective, the bristles cannot reach all the way into the deep grooves and depressions to fully remove the food and bacteria present there.

Dental sealants are a protective barrier of resin or plastic type material placed to coat the deeper biting surfaces of back teeth so that food and bacteria cannot penetrate and cause cavities.

As long as the sealant stays intact, the surface will be protected from decay. It is important to keep up with regular check ups so that the dentist can monitor the condition of your sealants and repair or reapply them as necessary.

Why do I need x-rays?

Radiographs or x-rays provide the dentist with an important tool to show the deeper structures of your teeth. As radiographs are exposed, they capture a two dimensional image of the teeth and bones. This allows for early diagnosis of many conditions that are not possible to detect through visual examination. If you have ever had a cavity or shown signs of gum disease, you will need x-rays more frequently than someone who has never had these diseases.

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