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Your teeth were designed to last you a lifetime, so you should do everything you can to protect them. This includes guarding them against dental erosion. However, many people may not know for sure what dental erosion is, much less how or why they need to guard against it.
Dental or tooth erosion is the irreversible loss of tooth enamel from chemical attack by acids. Eating or sucking acidic foods such as lemons is a good example. But most people are shocked to discover that it can also be caused by their favorite sodas (carbonated beverages), natural fruit juices, energy and sports drinks — especially with excessive consumption. It takes the saliva, nature's protection, at least 30 to 60 minutes to neutralize the effects of acid, so only one acidic drink an hour causes your teeth to be continually bathed in acid. And this is an important fact to know, because if your mouth is acidic all the time, this will promote tooth decay.
When it comes to dental erosion, brushing immediately after acid consumption can actually make it worse by accelerating the erosion process. This is because the acids in these drinks (and some foods) actually dissolves tooth enamel and softens the tooth surface. These newly softened surfaces can literally be brushed away if you brush before your saliva has a chance to try to reverse the process. If done often, you could even brush away your enamel! For this reason, you should wait at least 30 to 60 minutes before you brush your teeth after consuming any of these products.
One important step that you (and your family) can do to help prevent dental erosion is to limit the amount of these beverages you drink. Instead, try drinking calcium-rich milk or water and saving your favorite acidic beverage for a special treat that you consume preferably with a meal. Try reducing the number of these drinks you consume over a period of time. If you must drink an acidic beverage avoid swishing it in the mouth and use a straw to reduce the contact between the acid and your teeth.
Just remember that once your dental enamel has eroded, it is gone forever. So you should follow these simple tips now to protect your smile and future.
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.”
Ensuring that your children have good oral health is (or should be) the goal of every parent or caregiver. But how confident are you about this topic? The following true/false quiz will help you evaluate your expertise while learning more about keeping your child's teeth healthy.
If you feel you missed too many of the above questions, read the Dear Doctor article, “Oral Hygiene Behavior.”
Did you know that the bacteria that cause tooth decay are usually transmitted to children from their parents, through sharing the same spoon or kissing? Once inside the child's mouth, the bacteria live on the teeth in what is called a biofilm. When the child consumes sugary foods or drinks, the bacteria act upon the sugar to produce acids that eat away at the child's teeth, producing tooth decay.
These bacteria thrive on carbohydrates such as bread, sweets, and sodas. Even fruit juices, which offer more vitamins than soda, are filled with sugars that lead to decay. The child's saliva works hard to neutralize the acidity produced from these foods, but if the child often snacks between meals this neutralization process doesnât have a chance to occur.
The first sign of decay may be white spots on the teeth, an indication that minerals in the surface enamel have been dissolved in certain locations. Before it goes any farther, this process can be reversed by reducing the exposure to acids and using fluorides to strengthen the tooth surface.
Make sure your child sees a dentist by his first birthday, to provide preventive care and treat any beginning decay.
You can also help your child develop the habit of brushing his teeth with fluoridated toothpaste. It is important to use only a smear of toothpaste on the brush for very young children, and a pea-sized amount on the brush for children over the age of 2. Sometimes small children swallow their toothpaste, and excessive amounts of fluoride can cause staining on the teeth. When your children are very young, you must brush their teeth. As they get older, they can do it themselves, with your supervision. We can also apply fluoride varnish to strengthen the tooth surface and make it resistant to acids.
Brushing twice a day is a good start. But it can't prevent tooth decay when a child is eating carbohydrates all day. One way to reduce the use of sugar is to use xylitol, a naturally occurring sweetener that looks and tastes like table sugar and improves oral health. Studies have shown that use of this sweetener reduces tooth decay in children.
Another good idea is to wean children from bottles and training cups as early as possible. Sometimes children are given bottles filled with milk or sugary beverages at bedtime to help them relax. A better idea for their teeth is to teach them to drink from a regular cup filled with milk — or preferably, with water.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about tooth decay in children. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Managing Tooth Decay In Children With Chronic Diseases.” While this article focuses on children with health challenges, it contains excellent advice to help all children prevent tooth decay.
People always wonder when it is appropriate to contact their dentist. To answer this, we have put together the following list to provide some guidelines for you and your family. However, your calls are always welcome! Our goal is simply to give you some clear scenarios that illustrate when you should give us a call or come in to our office.
If any of the above describe you or another member of your family, then contact us today to discuss your questions or to schedule a consultation. You can also learn more about treating dental injuries by reading the Dear Doctor article, “The Field-Side Guide To Dental Injuries.”
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