Sugar causes cavities, right? WRONG!

Yes you read that correctly! I’ll say it again…Sugar alone does not cause cavities. If you don’t believe me, here’s a little experiment you can do at home. If you’ve got some little ones in the family that are at the age where teeth are coming and going, then you’re in luck! Once that baby tooth falls out, sneak into their bedroom and steal that tooth from under their pillow before the tooth fairy can get to it! Take the tooth and drop into a jar of store bought sugar and leave it undisturbed for a week. Spoiler alert! If you don’t have the time (or the teeth) to conduct this little experiment, let me just tell you…absolutely nothing happens to the tooth.

Sugar alone is not enough to cause cavities.

Now, if we add to that sugar, saliva and bacteria, we’ve crudely created some of the ingredients in the mouth to cause a reaction that could lead to cavities. In a nutshell, cavities are caused by bacteria that live in colonies on the teeth (plaque) and they feed on sugary or starchy foods. The result of the bacteria’s metabolism is acid, tooth destroying acid. Every time we eat anything that contains ANY fermentable carbohydrate, there is a drop in the pH of our mouth. This acidic environment is what causes cavities on our teeth.

I’ve had patients tell me they will sip on a 32 ounce soda throughout the day. This is like a double whammy for your teeth! Yes, soda has sugar which as we learned gets converted to acid, but, soda also contains acid! So to sip on a soda for 4 hours a day, you’re literally giving your teeth an acid bath for 4 hours/day!

Soda is high in sugar content and also contains acid. In the presence of the conditions in the oral cavity, soda can increase your risk for cavities.

I hope that by understanding the process by which we get cavities, we can better prevent them. It’s not just what you eat or drink, but also how much and how frequently you consume those things. For questions about improving your oral health give us a call at 559-673-2268.

Tips for senior living

An estimated 20 million people have lost all of their teeth. That is an alarming statistic! However, many people think of tooth loss as a natural part of life, something that just happens as we start to gray. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), the two leading causes of tooth loss in seniors 65 and older are tooth decay and gum disease. The NIDCR goes on to say that both of these diseases are preventable! Here are some simple steps to take that can help you keep your pearly whites.

First find a dentist and hygienist that understand how to care for the needs of seniors. Having your teeth cleaned on a regular basis can help manage and control gum disease. The frequency of teeth cleanings is based on your individual needs and the amount of tartar you build on your teeth. Some seniors simply accumulate more tartar on their teeth than others. Also of equal importance is maintaining good oral hygiene at home, this will make your visits to the dentist more pleasant

Having your teeth cleaned on a regular basis can help manage and control gum disease.

Next, talk to your medical doctor about your medications. Many seniors today are living longer healthier lives because of advancements in medicine. However, there are medications that can have side effects like dry mouth. Your saliva is the first line of defense against tooth decay. Vulnerable root surfaces lacking the protective layer of enamel are usually the first to be affected by tooth decay as a result of dry mouth. If you are experiencing dry mouth, ask your doctor if there are alternative medications that can be used. If it’s not possible to switch your medications look into an over the counter mouth rinse specifically made for dry mouth. Carry a water bottle with you and keep hydrated during the day. Also, keep a glass of water next to your bed in case you wake up in the middle of the night and find your mouth feeling dry.

Carry a water bottle with you and keep hydrated during the day.

Lastly, keep some chewing gum handy. Chewing gum is a great way to stimulate salivary production, just make sure you’re buying sugar free gum containing the artificial sweetener, Xylitol. Xylitol may not be the sweetest of the artificial sweeteners available but it has been shown to fight some of the disease causing bacteria in the mouth.

For questions on optimizing your oral health, call Dr. Bassam Michiel at 559-673-2268

Blood thinners and dental treatment

Your medical doctor might have you on a blood thinner for various reasons. Blood thinners can be used to prevent blood clots from forming or help treat heart disease. It’s important to tell your dentist about all medications you’re taking, even a baby Aspirin!

Even a low dose 81 mg Aspirin taken daily can cause prolonged bleeding time.

I know what you’re thinking, “So what’s the big deal!? It’s only a baby Aspirin.” A small surgical procedure like having one to two teeth removed is almost always manageable in terms of controlling bleeding. Some of the stronger blood thinner medications are usually accompanied by blood testing to monitor bleeding time. Your dentist might request a copy of the latest blood test results and/or consult with your medical doctor on their recommendations. Every patient and how they react to their medications presents a unique situation and should be handled on an individual, case by case, basis.

Aside from surgical procedures, there are challenges that are encountered by your dentist while doing a simple filling or a crown. Blood thinners in these situations don’t cause any concern for prolonged bleeding and total blood volume lost, but, today’s white fillings and crown cements are very technique sensitive and don’t work well in areas where there is moisture, of any kind!

Moisture contamination when a filling was placed causing dark lines over time around the edges of the filling.

With these restorative procedures, keeping the area and teeth dry from saliva and blood is of utmost importance in order to get a good result that will last. When I see a tooth that has a filling with a dark line around its edges, I know that keeping the area dry was a challenge during that appointment. If you have fillings that look like this, it’s time to get them replaced.