Fluoride Makes Teeth Stronger and Fights Decay!
At Rodeo Dental & Orthodontics, we love fluoride! Fluoride is a mineral that has been shown to work naturally to help prevent tooth decay. It is especially important for kids between the ages of 6 months and 16 years, as this is when the primary and permanent teeth are coming in.
But fluoride is useful for teens and adults, too – especially those who are at a higher risk of cavities from conditions like dry mouth and gum disease, or who have certain types of dental work (like crowns or orthodontic brackets). And everyone loves the fact that fluoride can be painlessly applied during your regular dental cleaning and checkup!
How Does Fluoride Work?
Your tooth enamel is constantly changing. Every day minerals are lost and added through two processes called demineralization and remineralization. Demineralization is primarily caused by sugar and plaque, which creates an environment that allows acids to attack the enamel and decrease its strength. This process is what leads to tooth decay.
Fluoride works to remineralize the teeth. When your dentist applies fluoride or when you use it at home, your tooth enamel becomes stronger and more resistant to demineralization (attacks from acid). This in turn makes your teeth more resistant to cavities.
Fluoride has been shown to bevery safe and effective when used as directed. In fact, studies have shown that fluoride can actually reverse early stages of tooth decay.
Getting a Fluoride Treatment at the Dentist
Your dentist can apply a fluoride treatment right in the office during your regular preventive cleanings. A fluoride treatment at the dentist’s office is much more potent than what you can buy over-the-counter. To apply the fluoride, your dentist will do one of the following:
- Paint a varnish on your teeth
- Place a foam in a mouth guard for you to wear for a few minutes
- Place a gel in a mouth guard or paint it on your teeth
For certain patients, daily fluoride treatments at home are also recommended as part of their overall oral healthcare routine.
Using Fluoride at Home
Most of us use fluoride on a daily basis and don’t even think about it. You can use fluoride at home by:
- Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste (in fact, you should always use a toothpaste that contains fluoride)
- Using a special fluoride rinse (there are different versions for kids and adults)
- Drinking water that contains fluoride (virtually all tap water and all well water contains fluoride)
Be sure to look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance on any over-the-counter products you buy, and check your water filters to make sure they do not remove all of the fluoride from your drinking water. Distillation and reverse osmosis processes remove the most fluoride (100 percent and 65-95 percent, respectively) while most carbon and charcoal filters do not remove any fluoride at all (unless they contain activated alumina, which removes up to 80 percent).
And remember, the naturally occurring fluoride found in public water supplies is regulated by the EPA so that it stays within safe levels. If you have a well for your water source, you can test your fluoride levels at home to make sure your water is in an acceptable range for stronger teeth and a healthy body. More fluoride is not better! Be sure to stay within the recommended levels.
A common misconception is that the health of your mouth is independent from the health of your body. But in fact, the two are very connected! At Rodeo Dental & Orthodontics, we like to remind our patients that neglecting your mouth may linked to a number of serious conditions. These include diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, obesity, and even cancer.
But it’s actually fairly easy to keep your teeth and gums in tip-top shape! Just follow proper guidelines for preventive care at home, and make sure to visit us every six months for a cleaning and checkup.
What Does it Mean to Have Good Oral Hygiene?
Good oral hygiene means your mouth looks healthy, feels healthy, smells healthy, and is healthy! Some signs of a healthy mouth include clean teeth, pink gums, no bleeding while brushing or flossing, and no consistent bad breath.
In order to maintain good oral hygiene, you should:
- Use proper daily preventive dental care
- Visit your dentist every six months
- Eat a balanced diet full of nutritional foods
Rodeo’s dentists can help you improve your oral hygiene by restoring your teeth and gums to optimal health, and also by advising you on proper home care for your mouth. Some patients with certain health conditions may need special rinses or other treatments to help maintain a healthy mouth.
Preventive Care: Brushing for Good Oral Hygiene
Proper brushing is a key element of good oral hygiene. Make sure to:
- Brush your teeth twice a day for a full two minutes each time
- Use a toothpaste containing fluoride to protect your enamel
- Choose an electric toothbrush if you have problems brushing effectively (i.e. because of arthritis)
- Keep your toothbrush clean and stored in an upright position
- Replace your toothbrush every few months
It is also very important to use proper brushing technique. This will help you avoid damaging your enamel or irritating your gums:
- Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle
- Brush the outer surfaces, inner surfaces, and chewing surfaces
- Brush the tongue to remove bacteria and freshen breath
- Use short strokes and avoid sawing motions (manual toothbrush)
- Move the brush gently from tooth to tooth, allowing the rotating action to do the brushing (electric toothbrush)
- Avoid brushing too hard
Proper brushing techniques is actually more important than the type of toothbrush you choose. A manual toothbrush can clean just as effectively as an electric toothbrush as long as you use it properly.
Preventive Care: Flossing for Good Oral Hygiene
Your toothbrush alone can’t reach all of the surfaces of your teeth, so daily flossing is an important part of maintaining good oral hygiene. We recommend the following tips when flossing:
- Use about 18 inches of floss so you can wind it around your fingers
- Rub the floss gently against your tooth and below the gum line, holding it in a C shape
- Use an up and down motion to remove plaque, moving away from the gums and up the tooth
- Choose a waxed variety if your teeth are very close together and hard to floss
If you have trouble holding regular dental floss or if you have young children, consider disposable flossers. These small tools have a handle that makes flossing much easier for tiny fingers and for people with arthritis or other health conditions.
Preventive Care: Mouth Rinses for Good Oral Hygiene
A mouth rinse (also called a mouthwash) can be a good addition to your oral healthcare routine and helps improve the state of your mouth. Mouth rinses can be used to reduce bacteria and plaque or to strengthen the tooth enamel.
- Antimicrobial mouth rinses like Listerine® or Crest ®Pro-Health Rinse reduces bacteria and plaque. They are a good way to freshen breath and also help prevent gingivitis and gum disease.
- Fluoride rinses like Act® strengthen tooth enamel to reduce the risk of tooth decay. These rinses are often not recommended for young children, however, because they may swallow them.
- Dry mouth rinses like Biotene® restore moisture to the mouth, which decreases bad breath and reduces the risk of cavities (a dry mouth is more susceptible to tooth decay). Sometimes patients experience dry mouth as a side effect of medical treatments or certain medications.
Other Preventive Measures for Good Oral Hygiene
You can further improve your overall oral hygiene by engaging in lifestyle changes that encourage a healthier body and a healthier mouth. Some of these include:
- Changing your diet – Fresh and unprocessed foods stimulate your salivary glands, which neutralizes damaging acids in the mouth and washes away some of the bacteria. Cheese, chicken, meat, and nuts are a great way to protect and rebuild tooth enamel because they contain calcium and phosphorus.
- Avoiding tobacco – Current smokers are twice as likely as former smokers, and four times as likely as non-smokers, to have poor oral health.
- Limiting alcohol – Alcohol is acidic, can erode the teeth, and can also dry out your mouth. Keep consumption at healthy levels and rinse your mouth with water in between drinks.
- Decreasing sugar intake – Sugar causes the bacteria in your mouth to produce the acid that eventually damages your teeth. So the more sugar you eat or drink, the more acid you will have in your mouth.
- Consuming xylitol – Xylitol is a natural sugar substitute that is used in gums, mints, candy, and some oral care products. It helps prevent tooth decay and can even repair tooth enamel.
Good Nutrition Makes For Healthier Smiles
Beyond the negative effects of sugar, most people don’t spend much time thinking about how the rest of their diet can impact their teeth. But the truth is that good nutrition can help you avoid cavities in ways you may not be aware of. In addition, some foods can actually improve the strength of your teeth and enamel.
At Rodeo Dental& Orthodontics, our dentists are committed to helping patients understand the importance of good nutrition as it relates to their oral health. We counsel patients on how they can use nutrition to decrease the likelihood of tooth decay while also building stronger teeth and gums. In fact, even small changes in the timing of your eating and drinking can positively affect your smile!
Decreasing Sugar to Reduce Tooth Decay
You may be surprised to learn that acid – not sugar – is what causes tooth decay. The problem is that sugar causes the bacteria in your mouth to produce the acid that eventually damages your teeth. So the more sugar you eat, the more acid you will have in your mouth.
The best way to reduce this process is to not only decrease your overall intake of sugar but to also decrease your frequency. So be sure to:
- Pay attention to the amount of time your teeth are exposed to sugar.Spending 10 minutes eating a small dessert is much better than sipping on a sugary drink for hours.
- Watch for added sugars in foods and beverages.Soft drinks are one of the largest sources of added sugar in the American diet, but sports beverages and energy drinks are also culprits.
- Remember that natural sweeteners are sugars, too. Anything in an ingredient list that ends with “-ose” (like fructose or sucrose) indicates the presence of a natural sweetener, which harms your teeth just like sugar.
- Get regular cleanings to remove plaque buildup. The more plaque you have on your teeth, the easier it is for sugar consumption to damage your tooth enamel.
It isn’t necessary to eliminate sugar completely from your diet. But you can work to consume it less frequently, to consume less of it overall, and to keep your teeth free from plaque (which decreases the damage from your sugar intake).
Improving Teeth and Enamel Through Nutrition
At Rodeo Dental, we believe it is important for patients to understand that they can positively impact their teeth (and their children’s teeth)through nutrition. This means you can select certain foods or beverages to help decrease the risk of decay and even strengthen your enamel.
As a rule, it is best to focus on fresh foods, unprocessed foods, and foods that naturally contain bone-building nutrients. Here are some of our recommendations for nutrition:
- Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. They will stimulate your salivary glands to help neutralize acid and wash away some of the bacteria that leads to plaque, tartar, and cavities.
- Consume dairy, meat, and nuts in moderation. These foods contain calcium and phosphorus to protect and rebuild tooth enamel while also strengthening your bones.
- Use sugar substitutes to sweeten foods and beverages. Xylitol, saccharin, Equal (aspartame) and Splenda aren’t digested in the same way as sugar, so they don’t produce any bacteria in the mouth.
- Limit snacking during the day. Snacks will naturally expose the teeth to acid more often, which ups their risk of decay. If you must snack, choose crunchy fruits and vegetables with a high water content (like apples, pears or celery).
- Drink lots of water.Water washes away plaque, bacteria, and acids while also removing food particles that are stuck between the teeth.
- Choose tea instead of soda or juice.Special compounds called polyphenols, which are found in black and green teas, slow the growth of bacteria in the mouth. Just be sure to drink it unsweetened or use a sugar substitute.
Protect Your Child’s Teeth With a Mouth Guard
Tooth damage from sports activities is a very common and preventable dental injury. In our practice, we have seen everything from teeth knocked out, to chipped teeth, to injuries to the tongue and cheeks. In some cases, we have even seen nerve damage.
Consider these facts:
- It is estimated that athletes are 60 times more likely to sustain a tooth injury if they aren’t wearing a mouth guard.
- Between 13 and 39 percent of all dental injuries occur while playing sports.
- About 80 percent of dental injuries affect the front teeth.
- Using a mouth guard while playing football can prevent about 200,000 mouth injuries every year.
Rodeo Dental recommends that all parents get a custom, properly fitted mouth guard from the dentist to protect their child’s teeth. The guards should be worn during any type of contact sport (like football or boxing) as well as during limited-contact sports (like basketball or soccer). Doing so will help protect against broken teeth as well as injuries to the lips, tongue, cheek, jaw, and face.
Custom Mouth Guards From the Dentist
Rodeo Dental can create a custom, soft plastic mouth guard that will fit your child’s mouth perfectly. Custom mouth guards are the best choice because they offer the most protection from injury and are also the most comfortable to wear. They also:
- Are more durable
- Resist tears
- Are easy to clean
- Don’t interfere with breathing or speech
Most children will wear a mouth guard on the upper teeth only. However, if your child has braces or another type of dental appliance on their lower jaw, one should be worn on the bottom teeth as well.
What About Pre-Made Mouth Guards at the Store?
We do not recommend the use of pre-made mouth guards. These mouth guards are created in stock sizes, so they:
- Do not provide the proper fit your child needs
- Offer little to no protection from injury (due to poor fit)
- Cannot be adjusted at all
- Can make breathing and talking difficult
Their bulkiness makes them uncomfortable to wear, too.
How We Make Mouth Guards
To make a mouth guard, the dentist creates an impression of your child’s teeth by inserting a semi-solid material into the mouth to mold around the teeth. It is then removed and allowed to harden. This process is easy and completely painless, and the result is a 3D model of the teeth and gums that we use to create a mouth guard that fits your child perfectly.To make a mouth guard, the dentist creates an impression of your child’s teeth by inserting a semi-solid material into the mouth to mold around the teeth. It is then removed and allowed to harden. This process is easy and completely painless, and the result is a 3D model of the teeth and gums that we use to create a mouth guard that fits your child perfectly.
Caring for Mouth Guards
To keep your mouth guard in good condition, make sure to:
- Clean the mouth guard after each use by rinsing it with a mouth rinse or cleaning it with toothpaste and a toothbrush.
- Store it in its proper container, which will protect it from damage and to allow air to circulate properly.
- Keep it away from high temperatures and direct sunlight.
- Check it occasionally for wear.
For long-term care, always bring it with you when you visit the dentist so that he or she can examine the appliance for signs of damage. If the guard becomes loose or uncomfortable, or if you find any holes or tears, make sure to contact your dentist right away for a replacement.