By: Jacques Doueck D D S
With all the advances in preventive dentistry, it shocks me that so many people still get cavities. If the damage continues, they end up with root canal; if the damage gets worse and the teeth cannot be saved, they must be removed and replaced by implants.
In over 30 years of studying this in my own patients, I have found that a few simple habits could have prevented 80 percent of the damage.
For one thing, it is critical to see your dentist at least every six months, to ensure that problems are caught early, before any damage is done. Unfortunately, many people avoid the dentist. A survey conducted by the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine found that the majority of people who haven’t visited a dentist for 12 months list fear of pain as the main factor. But whatever the reason, people who don’t see the dentist for routine visits might end up seeing the dentist for serious treatment.
Additionally, there are some simple things you can do on a daily basis to help avoid irreversible tooth damage.
The Tripod of Dental Damage
1) Bacteria – They rot your teeth and destroy your gums and supporting bone.
2) Forces – When the forces exerted on the teeth exceed their strength, they wear, get loose or break.
3) Habits – The foods you eat and drink and the way you use your teeth can melt away healthy teeth.
Your job, then, is to control the bacteria, control the forces, and control your habits.
Bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease bury themselves deep within the tooth and below the gums. So spend time brushing (at least 2 minutes), flossing, using a waterpik or PerioTrays™, and doing whatever it takes to remove the bacteria and keep the teeth and gums bacteria-free.
Forces are a bit more difficult to manage. For many people, the most damaging time is when they are sleeping, when the teeth can clench or grind with a force of up to 1000 pounds/square inch. For these patients, a night guard is essential. If one or two of your teeth hit higher than the rest, the effect is similar to an unaligned tire on a car. Besides destroying your tires, improper alignment could also cause a blow-out while you’re driving down the highway. An improperly aligned bite causes excessive wear, fractures and tooth loss. The bite may need to be adjusted, or may require the other teeth to be built up to restore a normal bite.
This is the area where you have the most control, though many find good habits difficult to implement.
- Sensible snacking: Frequent carbohydrate meals like crackers, pretzels, soda and cookies should be avoided. Seek out fresh fruits and vegetables, and drink water instead of sugary drinks.
- Don’t use your teeth as tools. Excessive forces at night are prevented by wearing a bite guard. During the day, avoid biting on pens or other hard objects. Keep your lips together and teeth apart during the day. Teeth are not meant to be touching except when eating and swallowing.
- Fluoride and Calcium/Phosphate: If you have had cavities or have high acidity, you can strengthen your teeth with Fluoride, which makes the teeth acid resistant, and Calcium/Phosphate, which reverses the damage caused by bacterial acids. Prescription-strength Fluoride toothpaste like Prevident can be used together with a Calcium Phosphate paste like MI paste™. MI paste is not toothpaste. It is best used in a clear, bleaching-type tray leaving it on the teeth for 3-5 minutes. For less serious damage use Clinpro 5000, a combination toothpaste and Calcium/Phosphate paste. Though it is less effective than the MI paste system, it is easier to use. Simply brushing for two minutes twice a day with Clinpro 5000 can help strengthen your teeth.
Following these simple habits will not only make your twice yearly visit to the dentist virtually pain-free, they can also help you enjoy many comfortable years with healthy teeth.