Preventing tooth decay in babies and infants

The habits of good dental care should begin as early as possible and its important to take steps to avoid problems with infants and children.

Children need strong, healthy teeth to chew their food and baby teeth also keep a space in the jaw for the adult teeth.

If a baby tooth is lost too early, the teeth beside it may drift into the empty space. So, when it’s time for the adult teeth to come in, there may not be enough room. This can make the teeth crooked or crowded.

The name given to decay in infants and children is baby bottle tooth decay.

It can destroy the teeth and most often occurs in the upper front teeth – though other teeth may also be affected.

Decay can happen when sweetened liquids are given to an infant and are then left clinging to their teeth for long periods. Many sweet liquids cause problems, including milk, formula and fruit juice.

What happens is that bacteria in the mouth use these sugars as food and then produce acids that attack the teeth.

It’s not just what you put in your child’s bottle that causes decay, but how often. Giving your child a bottle of sweetened liquid many times a day isn’t a good idea.

Here are some tips to avoid baby bottle tooth decay in your children:
– After each feeding, wipe the baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad. Begin brushing your child’s teeth when the first tooth erupts. Clean and massage gums in areas that remain toothless, and begin flossing when all the baby teeth have erupted, usually by age 2 or 2.
– Never allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle containing milk, formula, fruit juice or sweetened liquids.
– If your child needs a comforter between regular feedings, at night, or during naps, give them a clean pacifier recommended by your dentist or physician. Never give your child a pacifier dipped in any sweet liquid.
– Avoid filling your child’s bottle with liquids such as sugar water and soft drinks.
– If your local water supply does not contain fluoride (a substance that helps prevent tooth decay), ask your dentist how your child should get it.

Start dental visits by the child’s first birthday and make visits regularly.

If you think your child has dental problems, take the child to the dentist as soon as possible.

Your options if you have many missing or damaged teeth

People who have not followed adequate dental care for some years may have already lost most of their teeth and feel a little hopeless.

Sometimes they ask a dentist to remove the remaining teeth as they are often broken and have deep cavities.

It’s true that, sometimes, removal of the remaining teeth and replacing them with full dentures is the only option.

But more often there are other options available.

Some or all of the remaining teeth could be repaired and used in conjunction with a partial denture. While a full denture replaces all of the teeth on the upper or lower jaw, a partial denture replaces some of the teeth.

If only a few weak teeth remain on the upper jaw, it might be preferable to have them extracted and a full upper denture made. Full upper dentures can be more secure than lower ones as the upper denture gets added stability from the palate and is not easily dislodged by the tongue.

If only a few teeth remain on the lower jaw, however, the dentist will usually aim to save them and use a partial denture if necessary.

Ideally, all teeth that can be saved should be saved but this is not always possible – often due to finances.

In such cases, having teeth removed and dentures may be the only option.

Treating Sensitive Teeth

Sensitive teeth is a common problem that causes many people to feel discomfort with hot or cold foods and drinks.

It can also make it uncomfortable to brush or floss the teeth and therefore can lead to further oral problems.

However, sensitive teeth can be treated.

If you suffer from this, your dentist may suggest that you try a desensitizing toothpaste, which contains compounds that help block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve.

For desensitizing toothpaste to work, you normally have to make several applications.

If the desensitizing toothpaste does not help, your dentist may suggest further solutions.

For example, fluoride gel – which strengthens tooth enamel and reduces the transmission of sensations – may be applied to the sensitive areas of the teeth.

If the sensitivity is caused by receding gums, your dentist may use bonding agents that “seal” the sensitive teeth.

The sealer is usually made of a plastic material.

If there is severe hypersensitivity which cannot be treated by other means, there is the option of endodontic (root canal) treatment.

Sensitive teeth is a problem that can stop you enjoying your food but is one that can often be solved.

The secrets of brushing and flossing your teeth effectively

Though many of us say we brush our teeth regularly, you get the best results by making sure you brush properly.

Here are the steps you should follow:

First, place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums.

Then, move the brush back and forth gently in short (tooth-wide) strokes.

Brush the outer tooth surfaces, the inner tooth surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.

Use the “toe” of the brush to clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, using a gentle up-and-down stroke.

Finally, brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.

As well as brushing your teeth, you should floss them every day. Heres how to floss for best results.

Break off about 18 inches of floss and wind most of it around one of your middle fingers.

Then wind the remaining floss around the same finger on the opposite hand. This finger will take up the floss as it becomes dirty.

Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers.

Guide the floss between your teeth using a gentle rubbing motion. Never snap the floss into the gums.

When the floss reaches the gum line, curve it into a C shape against one tooth. Gently slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth.

Hold the floss tightly against the tooth. Gently rub the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum with up and down motions.

Repeat this method on the rest of your teeth.

Don’t forget the back side of your last tooth.

If you have difficulty handling dental floss, consider other types of interdental cleaner such as special brushes, picks or sticks.

Your dentist or hygienist will be able to give your further tips on how to brush and floss for best results.

How cancer treatment affects oral health

When someone is undergoing cancer treatment, its important that they involve their dentist in their program of care.

They should schedule a dental exam and cleaning before the treatment actually begins and then repeat it periodically during the course of treatment.

Its important that they tell the dentist that they are being treated for cancer and that they also discuss any dental procedures, such as extractions or insertion of dental implants, with the oncologist before starting the cancer treatment.

Its therefore a good idea to ensure that the dentist and oncologist have each others details to enable them to discuss any issues to help the patient.

And the dentist and physician should be informed about any issues such as bleeding of the gums, pain, or unusual feeling in the teeth or gums, or any dental infections.

Maintaining excellent oral hygiene during cancer treatment is vital to reduce the risk of infection and to help aid the treatment process.

Why cavities aren’t just for kids

Tooth decay or cavities result from destruction of the tooth enamel and can lead to a range of problems from toothache to bad breath.

Cavities occur when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) such as milk, sugared drinks, cakes or candy are frequently left on the teeth.

Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on these foods, producing acids as a result. Over a period of time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay.

Many people associate cavities with children but the changes that occur with aging make cavities an adult problem, too.

Recession of the gums away from the teeth, combined with an increased incidence of gum disease, can expose tooth roots to plaque.

Tooth roots are covered with cementum, a softer tissue than enamel. They are susceptible to decay and are more sensitive to touch and to hot and cold. The majority of people over age 50 have tooth-root decay.

Decay around the edges of fillings is also common to older adults. As many of them did not benefit from fluoride and modern preventive dental care when they were younger, they often have a number of dental fillings.

Over the years, these fillings may weaken, fracture and leak around the edges.

Bacteria accumulate in these tiny crevices causing acid to build up which leads to decay.

You can help prevent tooth decay by following these tips:

– Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
– Clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaner
– Eat nutritious and balanced meals and limit snacking

Its also worth asking your dentist about supplemental fluoride, which strengthens your teeth, and about dental sealants, a plastic protective coating which is applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to protect them from decay.

In addition, its important to visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral examination.25

What will it be like living with dentures?

People who are new to wearing dentures naturally have many questions about how their life will change.

New dentures may feel awkward for a few weeks until you become accustomed to them. The dentures may feel loose while the muscles of your cheek and tongue learn to keep them in place.

During this time, its not unusual to experience minor irritation or soreness. You may find that saliva flow temporarily increases.

As your mouth becomes accustomed to the dentures, these problems should diminish.

Dentures can be made to closely resemble your natural teeth so that little change in appearance will be noticeable. Dentures may even improve the look of your smile and help fill out the appearance of your face and profile.

Eating will take a little practice. Start with soft foods cut into small pieces. Chew slowly using both sides of your mouth at the same time to prevent the dentures from tipping. As you become accustomed to chewing, add other foods until you return to your normal diet.

Continue to chew food using both sides of the mouth at the same time. Be cautious with hot or hard foods and sharp-edged bones or shells.

Initially you may also find that wearing dentures changes how you speak. Pronouncing certain words may require practice. Reading out loud and repeating troublesome words will help. If your dentures “click” while you’re talking, speak more slowly.

You may find that your dentures occasionally slip when you laugh, cough or smile.

After your dentures are fitted, youll have a few follow-up appointments with your dentist to take care of any initial issues and to answer any questions you have.

How medication and anesthesia can help make your visit to the dentist easier

Your dentist will do everything possible to make your visit as relaxed and comfortable as possible.

Depending on the treatment you are receiving, there are several medications available to help.

Some drugs control pain, some help you relax and others put you into a deep sleep during dental treatment.

The best approach will depend on the type of procedure being undertaken, your overall health – including any history of allergies – and the degree of anxiety you feel.

Some of the options your dentist might discuss include:

Analgesics: These are the most commonly used drugs for relief of toothache or pain following dental treatment. They includes aspirin, acetaminophen and anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen. There is a separate category of narcotic analgesics – such as those containing codeine – which are used for more severe pain.

Local anesthesia: Topical anesthetics are applied to mouth tissues with a swab to prevent pain on the surface level. They may also be used to soothe mouth sores. Injectable local anesthetics prevent pain in a specific area of your mouth during treatment by blocking the nerves that sense or transmit pain and numbing mouth tissues.

In other cases, your dentist many recommend sedation or general anesthesia.

Your dentist will discuss the best approach to suit your needs.

How smoking affects your teeth

While the general effects of smoking on your health are well-known, it can also have significant effects on your oral health.

Here are some of the ways smoking can harm your oral health and hygiene:

– Oral Cancer
– Periodontal (gum) disease
– Delayed healing after a tooth extraction or other oral surgery
– Bad breath
– Stained teeth and tongue
– Diminished sense of taste and smell

Research suggests that smoking may be responsible for almost 75% of adult gum disease.

Tobacco products damage your gum tissue by affecting the attachment of bone and soft tissue to your teeth. One effect is receding gums which expose the tooth roots and increase your risk of tooth decay or to sensitivity to hot and cold in these unprotected areas.

Cigar smoking is equally a major risk and even smokeless tobacco products contain a variety of toxins associated with cancer. Smokeless tobacco can also irritate your gum tissue.

Giving up smoking will provide a significant boost to your oral health as well as giving you the chance to live longer.

Tips on choosing the best dentist for you

Choosing the right dentist for your needs is one way to give you the best chance of maximizing your oral health.

If you don’t already have a dentist – or want to find one better suited to your needs – here are a few points to consider.

– Get recommendations from family, friends, neighbors or co-workers

– Ask your physician or a local pharmacist

– If you are moving to a different area, ask your current dentist for recommendations in your new location

– Contact the local or state dental society

You can also use Yellow Pages or the American Dental Association directory at www.ADA.org.

Effective dental care depends on a great relationship between the dentist and the patient so you may want to visit more than one before making your decision.

To help decide if a dentist is right for you, consider:

Is the office easy to get to from your home or job?

Are the staff helpful and friendly?

Does the office appear to be clean, tidy and well organized?

Is the appointment schedule convenient for you?

What arrangements are made for handling emergencies outside of office hours?

Does it cater for any special needs you have?

As you’ll need to work closely with your dentist in caring for your oral health, it’s worth taking time to ask questions and take notes to make sure you choose the right one for your needs.