Posts for: August, 2014
When it comes to our overall health, many of us think we’re pretty well-informed. But a recent survey quiz given by the American Dental Association (ADA) revealed something surprising: When it comes to dental health, most people could use plenty of “brushing up.” In fact, the average score on the true/false test was a barely passing D! Among the questions most people answered incorrectly were:
- How often should you brush your teeth? (91 percent got it wrong)
- At what age should you take your child to the dentist for the first time? (75 percent wrong)
- How often should you replace your toothbrush? (65 percent wrong)
- Can cavity-causing germs be passed from person to person? (59 percent wrong), and
- Does sugar cause cavities?
We’ll come back to the last question in a moment — but first, let’s recap some basic dental health information.
While you might think it’s best to brush after every meal, the ADA recommends brushing just twice a day. That’s because excessive brushing can erode tooth enamel (especially if it has already been softened by acidic food or drinks), and can also expose and irritate the root of the tooth. But when you do brush, you should keep at it for at least two minutes each time!
Bring your child in to the dental office within six months after the first tooth appears — but no later than his or her first birthday! The age-one dental visit starts your child off right with proper preventive care and screenings, and sets the stage for a lifetime of good oral health.
Most people think it’s OK to change your toothbrush twice a year — but the ADA recommends that you get a new one every three months; that’s because stiff, frayed bristles just don’t clean your teeth and gums as well as they should. Likewise, most people don’t realize that the bacteria that cause cavities can be passed from one person’s mouth to another — by putting a child’s pacifier in your mouth or sharing a toothbrush, for example.
And speaking of cavities: Technically, they aren’t caused by sugar, as 81 percent of people thought. Tooth decay occurs when certain types of oral bacteria release an acidic byproduct that attacks the tooth enamel and creates small holes (cavities). This occurs after the bacteria have metabolized sugar in your diet. So while sugar doesn’t directly cause cavities, it does lead to tooth decay by feeding harmful bacteria. How about partial credit for that one?
If you have additional questions about your dental health, please call our office to schedule a consultation. For more information, see the Dear Doctor magazine article “Good Oral Health Leads to Better Health Overall.”
Nolan Gould of the hit TV show Modern Family has an uncommon gift for comedy, but he also has a very common orthodontic problem: too many teeth for the size of his mouth, which often results in “crowding.”
“My teeth used to be pretty messed up,” Nolan recently told Dear Doctor magazine in an exclusive interview. “I had two extra teeth when I was born. They hadn't come out (erupted) yet. And all the other teeth that were already there were starting to point backwards because it was getting so crowded in my mouth. They had to remove those two (extra) teeth,” he said.
Although being born with extra teeth is somewhat unusual, needing to have teeth extracted for orthodontic reasons is not. In fact, orthodontic treatment often involves removing teeth to relieve crowding. It makes sense when you think about it: When there are too many teeth for the size of the dental arches (upper and/or lower jaws) or the teeth are larger in size than the dental arch can accommodate, there may not be enough space to align them properly. The necessary space can be created by removing teeth.
The teeth most frequently extracted for orthodontic reasons are the first bicuspid teeth. These are the ones right between the cuspid, or eyeteeth (under the eyes) and the molars (biggest back teeth). Once there is enough space, the orthodontist can choose from a variety of orthodontic appliances to align the teeth, depending on the specific needs of the individual.
In Nolan's case, it was the extra two teeth he was born with that were removed. Afterwards, the young actor's orthodontist was able to shift Nolan's remaining teeth into proper alignment using orthodontic appliances called Crozats. Made of metal wires, Crozats go around the back teeth and behind the front teeth, making them virtually invisible.
“You can remove them, which is really good for acting, especially because you can't see them,” Nolan explained. “I can wear them 24/7 and nobody will ever notice.”
Nolan's orthodontic appliances may not be noticeable, but his fabulous smile certainly is!
If you would like to learn more about improving tooth alignment with orthodontics, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation. If you would like to read Dear Doctor's entire interview with Nolan Gould, please see “Nolan Gould.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Tooth Removal for Orthodontic Reasons.”
X-ray diagnostics have revolutionized our ability to detect early or hidden cavities, paving the way for better dental care. But x-ray exposure also increases health risks and requires careful usage, especially with children.
A form of invisible radiation, x-rays penetrate and pass through organic tissue at varying rates depending on the density of the tissue. Denser tissues such as teeth or bone allow less x-rays to pass through, resulting in a lighter image on exposed film; less dense tissues allow more, resulting in a darker image. This differentiation enables us to identify cavities between the teeth — which appear as dark areas on the lighter tooth image — more readily than sight observation or clinical examination at times.
But excessive exposure of living tissue to x-ray radiation can increase the risk of certain kinds of cancer. Children in particular are more sensitive than adults to radiation exposure because of their size and stage of development. Children also have more of their lifespan in which radiation exposure can manifest as cancer.
Because of these risks, we follow an operational principle known as ALARA, an acronym for “As Low As Reasonably Achievable.” In other words, we limit both the amount and frequency of x-ray exposure to just what we need to obtain the information necessary for effective dental care. It’s common, for example, for us to use bitewing radiographs, so named for the tab that attaches the exposable film to a stem the patient bites down on while being x-rayed. Because we only take between two and four per session, we greatly limit the patient’s exposure to x-rays.
Recent advances in high-speed film and digital equipment have also significantly reduced x-ray exposure levels. The average child today is exposed to just 2-4 microsieverts during an x-ray session — much less than the 10 microsieverts of background radiation we all are exposed to in the natural environment every day.
Regardless of the relative safety of modern radiography, we do understand your concerns for your child’s health. We’re more than happy to discuss these risks and how they can be minimized while achieving maximum benefits for optimum dental health. Our aim is to provide your child with the highest care possible at the lowest risk to their health.
If you would like more information on the use of x-rays in dentistry, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “X-Ray Safety for Children.”