Caries, or tooth decay, is a preventable disease. While caries might not endanger your life, they may negatively impact your quality of life.
When your teeth and gums are consistently exposed to large amounts of starches and sugars, acids may form that begin to eat away at tooth enamel. Carbohydrate-rich foods such as candy, cookies, soft drinks and even fruit juices leave deposits on your teeth. Those deposits bond with the bacteria that normally survive in your mouth and form plaque. The combination of deposits and plaque forms acids that can damage the mineral structure of teeth, with tooth decay resulting.
Your teeth expand and contract in reaction to changes in temperature. Hot and cold food and beverages can cause pain or irritation to people with sensitive teeth. Over time, tooth enamel can be worn down, gums may recede or teeth may develop microscopic cracks, exposing the interior of the tooth and irritating nerve endings. Just breathing cold air can be painful for those with extremely sensitive teeth.
Gum, or periodontal, disease can cause inflammation, tooth loss and bone damage. Gum disease begins with a sticky film of bacteria called plaque. Gums in the early stage of disease, or gingivitis, can bleed easily and become red and swollen. As the disease progresses to periodontitis, teeth may fall out or need to be removed by a dentist. Gum disease is highly preventable and can usually be avoided by daily brushing and flossing. One indicator of gum disease is consistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth.
Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Daily brushing and flossing helps to prevent the buildup of food particles, plaque and bacteria in your mouth. Food particles left in the mouth deteriorate and cause bad breath. While certain foods, such as garlic or anchovies, may create temporary bad breath, consistent bad breath may be a sign of gum disease or another dental problem.
Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) are small sores inside the mouth that often recur. Generally lasting one or two weeks, the duration of canker sores can be reduced by the use of antimicrobial mouthwashes or topical agents. The canker sore has a white or gray base surrounded by a red border.
A bite that does not meet properly (a malocclusion) can be inherited, or some types may be acquired. Some causes of malocclusion include missing or extra teeth, crowded teeth or misaligned jaws. Accidents or developmental issues, such as finger or thumb sucking over an extended period of time, may cause malocclusions.
Root resorption has been called "the scar of orthodontics." It is one of the unfortunate side effects some patients exhibit after orthodontic therapy has been completed.
Root resorption can be detected only on X-rays. It is identified in patients by their shorter length of the roots of the teeth, with somewhat flattening of the root tip as shown on the X-ray film. There are no long term consequences to root resorption unless there has been a greater than fifty percent loss of the root. In these cases stability of the teeth may be in jeopardy.
What is most unsettling to those who practice orthodontics and their patients is that so little is known about this problem. What we know is that prolonged orthodontic treatment and movements of individual teeth back and forth in a rocking motion are both activities that could lead to root resorption.
A third cause of root resorption is that presence of the crown of an adult tooth lying in close proximity to the root of a neighboring tooth. As an example, as the root of an impacted cuspid or canine (third tooth from the front) lies in close proximity to the root of the second tooth to the front (lateral incisor), it is possible that the root of that second tooth will exhibit root resorption, specifically termed external root resorption.
Some patients present to the office with this condition already in progress. Therefore, it is important to realize some root resorption occurs naturally in some patients, even to the point that risking further root resorption is unwise.
Is there any treatment available?
Root resorption is irreversible. If sufficient volume of root is missing to the point that the tooth or teeth exhibit mobility, one approach is to stabilize the teeth with a fixed retainer.
While root resorption is an uncommon event among patients in orthodontics and while it is essentially impossible to predict when it will occur, the best one can do to prevent its occurrence is to appear regularly for appointment, wear elastics as directed and to avoid any habits that might move individual teeth back and forth.
Early Childhood Caries (Baby Bottle Decay)
Bottle feeding is one method of providing nourishment to an infant, but too often the bottle containing sweetened liquids is misused as a pacifier for comforting the infant or controlling behavior. The liquids which can lead to baby bottle decay include formula, milk, fruit juice, Gatorade and other sweetened drinks.
Putting an infant to bed for a nap or at night with a bottle containing anything other than water can cause serious and rapid tooth decay. When a child is allowed to sleep with a bottle containing the sugary liquids, the sugar mixes with plaque (a thin, sticky, colorless film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth). This interaction forms acid that attacks tooth enamel and can cause severe tooth destruction. When a child takes a sugary liquid in a bottle to bed the teeth are in contact with the acid the entire time the child is sleeping. If you must give your baby a bottle as a comforter at bedtime, it should contain only water.
Severe Early Childhood Caries
Cavities among children age two to eight are increasing. Research has shown this increase is contributed to a large rise in consumption of sweet liquids. These liquids include flavored milk, soda, mixed juices, 100% juices, Kool Aid, Gatorade, and many other drinks.
To prevent cavities from starting, water and white milk are your best choices for children. If you choose to use "sweet liquids", limit exposure to meal times only. NEVER let children use a sippy cup all day at will and NEVER let them take the sippy cup to bed.
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