Posts for: June, 2012
Can chewing gum prevent cavities? Yes! It can if the gum is sweetened with xylitol.
What is xylitol?
Xylitol is a type of “sugar alcohol,” similar to sorbitol and mannitol, sugar replacements that are used in many low calorie foods. Xylitol occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables and is obtained from the bark of birch trees, coconut shells and cottonseed hulls. It looks and tastes like sugar and is a diabetic-safe, low-calorie carbohydrate.
How does xylitol stop cavity formation?
Decay starts when certain bacteria break down sucrose (regular table sugar) and produce acids that dissolve the minerals in the enamel, the outer protective layer of your teeth. When the decay-causing bacteria try to consume xylitol, they are unable to break it down, and instead they begin to starve.
A normal mouth contains a large population of bacteria, and it is better for your teeth to have more “good” bacteria of the kind that do not cause cavities. Xylitol also stops your saliva from becoming acidic, so your mouth becomes a better environment for the “good” bacteria.
Chewing xylitol gum also increases your flow of saliva. Saliva contains calcium and fluoride and helps give these minerals back to your teeth (re-mineralization), undoing some of the effects of the cavity-causing bacteria. This makes chewing xylitol gum a particularly good solution for people who suffer from dry mouth.
How much xylitol do you need to prevent cavities?
We recommend that you chew or suck on two pieces of xylitol gum or two pieces of xylitol candy for five minutes following meals or snacks, four times daily — if you are at moderate to extreme risk for cavities. The target dose of xylitol is 6 to 10 grams (one or two teaspoons) spread throughout the day. Prolonged gum chewing is not advised, so most xylitol-sweetened products contain flavor that only lasts a short time to discourage excessive chewing. The only side effect of too much xylitol ingestion is that it may have a mild laxative effect.
I don't like chewing gum. Is there another way to get xylitol?
People who don't like to chew gum have the option of using xylitol in mints, candies, mouthwash, toothpaste, or mouth sprays. For these individuals, a minimum dose is 5 to 6 grams (one teaspoon) three times per day.
So now you can add xylitol to the list of ways to fight cavities: daily brushing and flossing, and regular professional cleanings — and chewing xylitol gum.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about xylitol and other methods of preventing tooth decay. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Xylitol in Chewing Gum.”
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.
No one wants to experience pain when they go to the dentist. However, are you aware that anesthesia is beneficial to both you and your dental professionals? It enables us to concentrate on doing our best work with the assurance that you are perfectly comfortable. In fact, local anesthesia has literally revolutionized pain control; it is one of the most effective tools in dentistry and medicine.
But before we continue, let's cover a few of the basics. “Anesthesia” (“ana” – without; “esthesia” – sensation) literally means without feeling or pain. “Local” refers to the site at which the anesthesia is used, in other words, where the action (and pain relief) is needed. Local anesthetics come in two varieties: topical and injectable.
We use topical anesthetics to numb just the top surface of the gums or oral lining surfaces of the mouth to provide surface comfort during procedures such as a superficial teeth cleaning. We apply them in a variety of ways: with a Q-tip, cotton swab, adhesive patch or a spray. Most importantly, we use them before administering injections (shots) so you don't feel a thing.
Injectables deliver medication though a needle that will briefly block the sensation of pain from the teeth, gums and bone. They accomplish this by temporarily blocking the conduction of electrical impulses along the nerves that supply the gums and teeth with feeling so that you can be treated comfortably. They are especially important for treatments such as filling a deep cavity, tooth cleaning or extraction, or for gum surgery.
So which anesthesia is right for you?
Depending on the type of treatment or procedure we are performing, we will select the most suitable anesthetic. However, if you normally feel anxious about your dental visits, please let us know this in advance when scheduling your appointment. Having this knowledge in advance, we can ensure that your experience is free of both anxiety and pain — a result that will make both of us happy!
To learn more about this topic, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Local Anesthesia For Pain-Free Dentistry.” Or you can contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions.