What is Tooth Decay?
As you would be aware teeth do not come through decayed, so you usually have good adult teeth at school because your teeth are brand new. Bacteria are always feeding on the food left over in your mouth after you eat. Billions of these bacteria colonize to form a biofilm called dental plaque on the enamel of your teeth. Their waste is smelly and acidic and over time it demineralizes your enamel. Eventually a cavity forms and the bacteria gain access to the inside of your tooth and begin feeding directly upon you. Next you develop a toothache and eventually following putrefaction of the tooth’s pulp an abscess.
So how does fluoride help prevent this process?
When your teeth are new the enamel is made of crystals of calcium hydroxyapatite. Unfortunately, calcium hydroxyapatite is easily soluble in acid so unless your oral hygiene is impeccable through your teenage years and early adulthood small cavities will form by the time you are 25 years old. By the time you are 35 years old you will be forced to get things sorted. After this you no longer get new cavities. This is because the calcium hydroxyapatite has absorbed fluoride from our toothpaste and become calcium fluoroapitite which is very insoluble in acid. You will however have a maintenance issue with your pre-existing dental restorations.
What can you do?
You can get professional fluoride applications at your dentist to accelerate this process. Also, you can self-apply extra fluoride to your teeth in the form of mouthwashes and gels. Probably the easiest way is to use a tooth paste called Neutrafluor 5000 made by Colgate. You will need to ask for this at a pharmacy or a dentist as it is not recommended for toddlers and children.
Cheers Dr John
Over the years that I have treated children’s teeth, I have always strongly recommended the placement of Fissure Sealants on both adult or baby molars.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with what Fissure Sealants are, or their purpose, firstly let me explain what a fissure is on a tooth.
Fissures are the deep groves that naturally develop on the top eating surfaces of the molar teeth. These fissures tend to retain food materials after eating which are a source of nutrient for certain bacteria in the mouth which in turn can produce acid which can break down the tooth enamel and thereby causing tooth decay.
Once the molar has been checked that there is no decay present on it the fissure sealant simply covers these grooves to prevent this food retention. This reduces the risk of tooth decay as well as makes it easier to clean theses surfaces whilst not interfering with tooth function.
What are Fissure Sealants made of and how do they stay on your tooth, how long do they last and when should they be placed on, you may ask.
The two most commonly use Fissure Sealant materials are the GIC (Glass Ionomer Cement) and Composite Resin.
The GIC is made of a silicate glass compound which chemically bonds to the tooth, whereas, the Composite Resin is a resin material which uses mechanical retention to bond to the tooth surface.
Fissure sealant can last a few years usually till the younger child has had the baby molar replaced by the adult one or till the teenager has learnt to maintain good Oral Hygiene and dietary habits.
The GIC is my favoured choice of Fissure Sealant. This is due to it’s ability to be able to absorb and release Fluoride onto the tooth throughout the sealants duration, as well as its ease of application on children due to most children’s limited ability to be seated in the dental chair for extended periods of time.
The Fissure Sealant is recommended to be placed on as soon as the young child allows its placement on the baby molars and when the new adult molar are fully erupted enough to be placed on.
All the best Andrew Pouw (Oral Health Therapist)
Gum disease can affect your overall health. For some time now there has been a suspicion that there is a link between gum disease and heart disease. In your mouth you have your jawbone with your teeth in it. Your gum then wraps around your teeth and tries to create a seal. It can never ever seal properly because it is soft tissue to hard tissue just like between your fingernail and your skin. So there is always a potential for foreign objects like bacteria and viruses to enter your blood stream. What researchers think is a bacteria enters your bloodstream and lodges on the wall of your artery. This causes your artery to become inflamed. Your bodies reaction to an inflamed artery is to lay down a plaque. When you have enough plaques accumulated you get clogged arteries and a heart attack. When you visit your dentist a routine question they should ask you is “Do you require antibiotics for dental treatment? “. You probably have no idea why we ask this. The people who need antibiotic cover absolutely know why! They have heart valve disorders and even during a simple cleaning it is possible that bacteria get into their bloodstream, land on their heart valve and give them an infection called endocarditis which could be disastrous for them. At Beenleigh Dental we have 3 dental hygienists on our team who can control your gum disease. Cheers Dr John
Recently researchers have discovered a link between gum disease and cancer. When I graduated as a dentist in 1978 little was known about how your overall health can be affected by oral disease. When I think about it now it is blindingly obvious that it should be so. You are made up of 37.2 trillion individual cells all working together to create you. If one part of your delicate organism gets out of wack there are probably going to be consequences for you. Cancer could be one of them.
Periodontal disease or gum disease as it is more commonly known is now being listed in the risk factors for you contracting cancer. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (August 1, 2017), a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has said that your gum disease puts you at higher risk of breast, lung, melanoma, gall bladder and especially esophageal cancer.
Gum disease is also implicated in pancreatic and prostate cancer. Poor gum health can influence the outcomes with diabetes, kidney disease, pneumonia, rheumatoid arthritis and infertility in women. Of course if you suspect you have cancer you should seek medical advice but at Beenleigh Dental we can manage your gum disease.
Cheers Dr. John
The short answer is yes you can die of a toothache although it is extremely unlikely. Technically a toothache will not kill you but a tooth abscess can. A tooth abscess occurs when the dental pulp or nerve becomes overwhelmed with bacteria and the infection spreads into the surrounding bone. At this stage you will have a throbbing pain, perhaps swelling and the tooth will be tender to bite on. This infection can then spread to another part of the body.
I have been a full time dentist since 1978 and can relate some disturbing incidents. About 5 years ago a middle aged lady asked me to “fix her teeth as she didn’t want to happen to her what happened to her brother”. Apparently her brother had a tooth abscess that he ignored and it spread to his brain. He ended up with a “golf ball size” abscess in his brain and now has an acquired brain injury as if he had a stroke. Another patient related a story about a tradie at his work who had a toothache and tried to pull it out himself. It got infected and he spent a month in an induced coma and it was 3 months before he was back at work because he body was so wasted. A nurse from a local hospital told me she saw a patient who became a paraplegic when a tooth abscess spread to their spinal cord. Someone shared the story of a young father of two in California who died when a tooth abscess spread to his lungs. Just google it. I shared the latter on Beenleigh Dental’s facebook page (it has about 6,000 followers) and someone commented “Please please people, look after your teeth. My son died of a tooth abscess”.
The reason I find these incidents disturbing is that Australia and the US have excellent healthcare systems and it is only neglect that led to these tragic outcomes. Dentistry is not expensive but neglect is.
Cheers Dr. John