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Posts for tag: tooth decay

By Gregory J. Gauthier DDS, LLC
March 04, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay   toothache  
FiveFactsAboutToothachesinChildren

When it comes to childhood injuries — cuts and scrapes, growing pains, even wounded pride — it's often a parent's job to try and make things better. But sometimes it's hard to know whether the hurt indicates a serious problem, or if it's a situation that will resolve itself as soon as the sun comes up. If pain is being caused by a toothache, here are some general rules that can help you figure out what's the best thing to do.

1. Unless it's accompanied by fever and swelling, a child's toothache isn't generally an emergency.

The first thing to do is calm down (both you and the child) — and talk! Find out exactly where the pain comes from, and when and why it might have started. (Your child may have forgotten to tell you about that fall in the gym...) Sometimes, a little sleuthing will give you a clue about what's causing the pain.

2. Tooth decay, a bacteria-induced infection, is the most common cause of toothaches.

Check the teeth for brown spots or tiny holes (cavities) which might indicate decay — especially on the biting surfaces and in the areas between teeth. Next, look at the gums around the hurt tooth. If they show cuts or bruises, that's a sign of trauma. If you see only swelling, it may indicate the formation of an abscess.

3. If nothing looks obviously wrong, try gently flossing both sides of the tooth.

This may dislodge a bit of trapped food or candy, and relieve the pressure and soreness. But if that doesn't help, remember that some conditions — like nerve damage inside the tooth, for example — may have no apparent symptoms except pain.

4. Treat pain with an appropriate dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Base the dose on your child's age and weight, according to the medication's instructions. You can also apply an ice pack (one minute on, one minute off) to the outside of the jaw. But NEVER rub aspirin (or any painkiller) directly on a child's gums: It can cause burns and severe discomfort.

5. Pain that keeps a child awake at night, or persists into the next day, needs professional evaluation as soon as possible.

Otherwise, unless the pain resolves quickly and you're sure you know exactly what caused the toothache, it's best to bring your child in for an examination as soon as it's practical. You'll feel better having a dental professional, backed with years of experience and training, taking care of your child's health — and you just might prevent a future problem.

If you have questions about toothaches in children, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “A Child's Toothache.”

By Gregory J. Gauthier DDS, LLC
December 04, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay  
WinningtheBattleOverToothDecay

Tooth decay (also known as caries by professionals and as cavities by consumers) is an infectious disease process that damages tooth structure. Cavities, hollowed-out holes in the teeth, are the most common result of untreated caries. It affects millions of Americans, young and old alike.

How does this destructive process happen? It begins when acid-producing bacteria multiply beyond normal levels in the mouth. Dental plaque, a film of remnant food particles and bacteria, cover the teeth due to poor oral hygiene. The bacteria break down sugars and carbohydrates present in the mouth, which in turn produces acid. Too many “bad bacteria” can raise the acidic level in the mouth.

The normal pH level of the mouth is neutral — 7 on the pH scale. But when the acidic level increases, dropping the pH to 5.5, the calcium and phosphate minerals in the hard, protective layer of tooth enamel begin to dissolve in a process known as de-mineralization. A healthy flow of saliva, however, acts as a buffering agent to return the pH level of the mouth back to neutral. Saliva also contains calcium and phosphate that can replace those lost from the enamel and is referred to as re-mineralization.

So, a constant battle rages within the mouth. On one side acid-producing bacteria, the possible absence of saliva, and poor diet and hygiene habits create the conditions where teeth enamel loses its mineral strength, allowing decay to eventually invade the fragile inner dentin of the tooth; on the other side is an adequate flow of saliva, a good diet and hygiene, boosted by treatment options like sealant application, antimicrobials and the topical application of fluoride.

The key, of course, is prevention. We add protection to the teeth by strengthening them; applying fluoride topically is the best approach, along with sealants that can be applied in our office. We reduce the level of acid-producing bacteria, usually with an anti-bacterial mouth rinse. You can also adopt a healthier diet that limits sugars and carbohydrates and reduces snacking between meals.

These preventive measures, along with early treatment of known tooth decay, can help you avoid the full impact of this destructive disease.

If you would like more information on tooth decay and how to prevent it, 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 “Tooth Decay.”

By Gregory J. Gauthier DDS, LLC
March 26, 2013
Category: Oral Health
TheresaBattleGoingOn-AndItsInYourMouth

Your teeth are under constant attack from bacteria that normally live in your mouth. When these bacteria thrive, they create acid that begins to dissolve the minerals in your enamel (the outer layer of your teeth). In your defense, your saliva protects against these bacteria and adds minerals back to your enamel. Let's take a look at this ongoing battle, and what you can do to sway it in a positive direction.

The outer covering of your teeth, the enamel, is made mainly of the minerals calcium and phosphate. The enamel protects the interior layer of your teeth, the dentin, which is similar in composition to bone. Although it is the hardest substance in your body, the enamel is still vulnerable to attack.

Your mouth is normally full of saliva, which washes over your teeth and maintains a balance between acids and bases. The terms “acids” and “bases” refer to a scientific measurement, the pH scale. Your mouth's pH is usually in the middle of the scale — neither acidic nor basic, but neutral. This is important in controlling the bacteria in your mouth.

You may be surprised to know how many bacteria live in everyone's mouth. More bacteria live in a single mouth than the number of people who have ever lived on earth. Some of these bacteria can cause tooth decay. Let's call them “bad bacteria.”

When the bad bacteria attach themselves to dental plaque — a film that builds up on your teeth every day — they begin to consume sugars that are in your mouth from foods that you have eaten. As the bacteria break down these sugars and turn them into energy, acid is produced as a by-product. This turns the saliva from neutral to acidic.

At a certain level of acidity, minerals in your enamel start to dissolve. This is called “de-mineralization.” It means that more calcium and phosphate are leaving the tooth's surface than are entering it. Early de-mineralization of the enamel shows up as white spots on a tooth.

Fortunately, healthy saliva can return calcium and phosphate to the enamel, or re-mineralize it. De-mineralization and opposing re-mineralization are constantly battling in your mouth. However, if too much enamel is de-mineralized, bacterial acid can go on to attack the next layer of your teeth, the dentin. As this process continues, you develop a dental cavity.

How can you protect your teeth? The first level of defense is regular removal of plaque, so that the bad bacteria do not get a foothold. In an office visit we may also recommend products such as sealants, antibacterial agents, topical fluoride, calcium and phosphate supplements, pH neutralizers, special toothpaste and rinses, which may help your particular situation.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about tooth decay. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay — The World's Oldest & Widespread Disease.”

By Gregory J. Gauthier DDS, LLC
February 26, 2013
Category: Dental Procedures
SealantsTheProtectionYourChildrensTeethNeed

Protecting your children is one of your most important roles as a parent or caregiver. Dental sealants are one way you can protect your children's teeth from the ravages of tooth decay, drilling and fillings — and they can be applied simply, comfortably and quickly right here in our office.

What is a dental sealant?

A dental sealant is a thin, plastic film that is painted onto the tiny grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (usually the premolars and molars) to prevent caries (cavities) and tooth decay. And by allowing us to use sealants to seal these little nooks and crannies where your child's toothbrush can't reach, you will dramatically reduce their chances for developing tooth decay. This one, simple and quick office visit could save you both money and time with fewer dental visits and healthier, cavity-free teeth.

So will sealants guarantee no (or no more) cavities?

No, just like life, there are few guarantees. Your child's oral hygiene, regular dental visits, fluoride, sugar consumption and genetics are the other important factors that will determine to what degree your child experiences tooth decay. However, research shows that pit and fissure (chewing surface) decay accounts for approximately 43% of all decayed surfaces in children aged 6 to 7, even though the chewing surfaces (of the back or posterior teeth) constitute only 14% of the tooth surfaces at risk. This demonstrates the vulnerability of the chewing surfaces of the posterior teeth to decay. By placing a protective seal over the areas of teeth at risk, you can effectively and proactively protect your children's teeth.

How long do sealants last?

Research has shown that some sealants can last up to 10 years. However, if you opt for sealants for your children's teeth, we will closely monitor them with each office visit to ensure that they are still doing their job. As needed, we can apply more sealant.