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Here we are in that time of year when coughs, colds, and flu symptoms can make our lives miserable. Most people turn to over the counter medication to either relieve some of their symptoms or lessen their effects. Did you know that these medicines can result in tooth decay?

Ingredients in Medications that Cause Tooth Decay

Many cough drops and liquid medications contain a variety of ingredients that make you and your child more susceptible to tooth decay:

-High Fructose and Corn Syrup. These high sugar ingredients contribute to tooth decay. These are generally sticky sugars which cause your mouth environment to become more acidic and also give the bacteria in your mouth the sugars to break down and attack the enamel of your teeth. When you combine the sticky sugars with dry mouth, high carbs ingested while ill, and decreased oral hygiene you are putting your mouth at high risk for decay.

-Citric Acid. This type of acid can cause tooth enamel to erode and wear down. In addition, the higher acid levels allow bacteria to do their work at a rapid pace.

-Alcohol. The addition of alcohol in some popular cold and cough syrups also has a drying effect on the mouth. Saliva helps to naturally rinse the sugars and acids away from your teeth. With alcohol present it means less saliva will be present, the sugars and acids remain in the mouth even longer, leading to increased risk for tooth decay.

These risks can be magnified if medication is taken just before bedtime. The effect of taking liquid medication before bedtime is not very different from drinking juice or soft drinks right before bedtime. This is because you produce less saliva while you sleep, sugar and acids remain in contact with the teeth longer, increasing your risk for tooth decay.

What to Do?

-Take Medicine at Meal Time. Take liquid medication at meal times instead of bedtime so that more saliva is produced to rinse away the sugars and acids.

-Brush. Try to brush following each incidence of using these medicines. This will remove any excess in your mouth as well as neutralize the acidic environment these medicines can create. Not only will you be doing your teeth some good but you probably will feel better with a cleaner mouth.

-Rinse. This is just as important as brushing in this scenario. Rinsing with water will neutralize the acids as well as “wet” your mouth so it does not dry out as quickly.

Sugar free gum and lozenges. consider chewing sugar free or xylitol gum following taking your medicine or when your mouth feels dry. Choose sugar free lozenges instead of the sugar loaded ones that sit and stay in your mouth for hours on end.

Drink Water. When we are not feeling well, we tend to drink sugary beverages such as juice and carbonated beverages. Drinking plenty of water will neutralize acids, wash away sugar, and help you heal more quickly.

-Choose Pill Form. If it is available, choose a pill form of the medication instead of syrup.

Conclusion

Medication is usually unavoidable when we are sick.  While you are sick, try to avoid inflicting further complications.  Use good judgement and try to maintain your dental health even when not feeling your best. Managing the type of medication you take, when you take it, and how you neutralize the effects,will go a long way to keeping you healthy and happy.



Tooth decay (also called dental cavities or dental caries) –  The destruction of the surfaces (dentin and/or enamel) of a tooth and infiltration of bacteria into tooth structure. Tooth decay results from the action of bacteria that live in plaque. Plaque is a sticky, whitish film formed by bacteria and food debris which adheres to the pellicle (a protein layer on the tooth surface). The plaque bacteria sticking to tooth enamel breakdown the sugar and starch from food particles in the mouth to produce acid.

Only Cake, Candy, and  Sugary Drinks Cause Tooth Decay.

Myth, but it’s almost a fact.

Guess what sugar is? You guessed it a carbohydrate. White rice, french fries, bagels, chips and fruits are all carbohydrates. The stickier the carb, like white rice, caramel, or fruit gummies, the longer they stay lodged between teeth and stuck in grooves. The truth is that the acid produced by the bacteria while breaking down carbohydrates is what causes tooth decay. The bacteria makes the acid when you eat anything with carbohydrates that stick and stay on your teeth. The resulting acid melts through the strong outer enamel and allows bacteria to enter into the inner layer (dentin). The bacteria are not visible to the eye, and the breakdown is slow and steady forming a hole, better known as a cavity.

An important fact to know: It is not the amount of carbohydrates you consume that end up causing tooth decay, but the length of time your teeth are exposed. If you eat a high amount of carbohydrates for lunch, that’s one big exposure. But if you spend the day sipping sugary drinks, chewing on gummy bears, sucking on tic tacs, that continuous exposure is far more unhealthy for your teeth. Dentists have a saying, “sip all day and get tooth decay“.

All Dental Restorations Need to be Replaced Every Few Years.

Myth.

An amalgam or composite filling needs to be replaced only if it breaks down or a cavity forms around it, or if the tooth breaks or fractures. If none of those problems occur, you can keep the same filling for quite a long time. Most dental restorations do have a life expectancy but it depends on each individual. Tooth wear due to clenching or grinding, diet, and dental hygiene habits,  play a huge role in how long these restorations last, some last more than 50 years! Maintaining proper oral hygiene and maintenance  will help your dental restorations last longer.

Once You Get a Tooth Capped, the Tooth Can’t Decay.

Myth.

A Cap or a crown covers and protects underlying tooth structure. However, the area where the crown edge ends and tooth is not covered ( the margin), is where bacteria like to stick. It is the least smooth part of the tooth, and where bacteria can break the seal between the tooth and crown. Once the seal breaks, bacteria can move up and under the crown to slowly breakdown tooth and root structure. A dentist always checks margins around teeth to try to find breaks in margins, however, when breakdown occurs in between teeth it is harder to detect and  usually decays much further before it can be detected on an x-ray.

When You get a Root Canal, the Roots are Removed and the Tooth Can’t Decay.

Myth.

A root canal treatment does not remove roots, what is removed are the nerves, blood vessels, bacteria, and debris from inside of the roots. The dentist then fills and seals the roots with a rubbery filling and sealing paste. This prevents bacteria from re-entering a tooth. Once the root canal is completed, the tooth should heal, and usually be covered and protected with a crown to help prevent cracking. Tooth decay can happen, just as in any tooth.

Children are more prone to Tooth Decay than Adults.

Myth.

Advances in pediatric dentistry have allowed us to cut childhood tooth decay in half over the last 20 years. These advances include sealants, fluoridated water, dietary consultations, and preventive care. As we see advances in pediatric dentistry, and decreases in tooth decay a different population has had increases in tooth decay. Seniors have an increase in cavities due to an increase in advances in pharmacology, limited dexterity, insufficient professional cleanings, and dry mouth. Many medications have a side effect of causing dry mouth which increases the risk of tooth decay.

If You Have Tooth Decay, You Can Feel it.

Myth.

Tooth decay may or may not cause any symptoms. Everyone and each individual tooth varies in it’s pain threshold. The pain associated with tooth decay may be detected very early in some and when it is in a more advanced stage and is actually causing damage to the nerve in others. Allowing tooth decay to progress untreated can and will lead to much more expensive and extensive dental procedures, like root canals and oral surgery. That’s why regular dental examinations are so important.

Teeth can only repair themselves when initial enamel breakdown is occurring, and the bacteria have not entered the dentin. Some enamel can repair with natural calcium remineralization and some can harden and repair with fluoride . Persistent bacteria will cause a cavity to forms which will continue to grow and progress into the tooth, eventually working its way into the dentin and then the nerve of the tooth.

Cavities Are More Likely Between Teeth.

Fact.

Any place in the mouth where you cannot reach and bacteria can hide is a place for tooth decay to form. That is why brushing, flossing, and using an antibacterial and fluoride rinse (such as Purple Listerine) are so important. They allow you to reach areas brushing alone cannot. Flossing is one of the few ways to get in between teeth and properly avoid tooth decay between teeth.

Chips and Cracks in Teeth Lead to Decay.

Fact.

Cracks and chips in teeth can create a hiding place for bacteria and make those areas more prone to tooth decay. Using a fluoride rinse can reduce the risk of tooth decay.

Sensitive Teeth Means You Have Decay.

Myth.

Tooth sensitivity could just mean you have hypersensitive teeth, or gum recession has exposed some root.

You could also have a cracked or broken tooth or could need a root canal. There are many things, including tooth decay, that could lead to sensitive teeth. If your teeth are sensitive you should schedule a dental examination to make sure it is not something serious.

Cavities Are the Only Reason for Root Canals.

Myth.

Root Canal treatment is caused by a variety of things including tooth decay. Root canal treatment is needed if the nerve inside a tooth is damaged which can be a result of decay or trauma.  Trauma can result from accidents, grinding, clenching, biting into a very hard object (piercings, hard candy, etc.), ice chewing, etc.

You Don’t Need to Worry About Cavities in Baby Teeth.

Myth. 

Baby teeth are needed to hold the space for permanent teeth. Also, tooth decay in baby teeth can develop into serious pain, dental abscess and serious infection. On occasion the infection can spread to other parts of the body and has even caused death if left untreated.

Brushing, Flossing, and Rinsing and a Healthy Diet Is the Best Way to Prevent Cavities.

Fact. 

Definitely. Preventive dentistry is the key to staying cavity free. The bacteria must be removed from the teeth.

Brush twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste, and floss and rinse daily. Antimicrobial rinses target bacteria, reducing plaque, bad breath, and the severity of gingivitis. Rinses with fluoride make teeth more resistant to tooth decay. If bacteria are removed daily from every area of your tooth. Eat healthy foods, and limit exposure to carbohydrates.

Tooth Decay Conclusion

There are many misconceptions about what causes tooth decay and what doesn’t. The facts remain, A healthy diet, and proper oral hygiene will not only help you prevent tooth decay, but keep your whole body healthier.



Tooth decay (also called dental cavities) is the destruction of tooth structure. It can affect both the enamel (outer layer) and the dentin layer (inner layer) of the tooth. Tooth decay is the most common cause of loss of teeth and it affects almost everyone at some point in their lives. Tooth decay is also the second most common disease in the U.S. (the common cold is first).  Luckily, cavities can be easily prevented.

It is normal for bacteria to be present in the mouth. Certain types of bacteria are able to attach to hard surfaces in the mouth like the enamel that cover the teeth. If these bacteria are not removed, they are able to multiply and grow in number until a colony forms. Proteins that are present in the saliva also mix in and the bacteria colony becomes a whitish film (plaque) on the enamel.

These bacteria feed on sugars and starches from the food like chocolates, sticky sweets, ice cream, milk, cakes, and even fruits, vegetables and juices, producing acid as a byproduct. This acid then erodes the tooth enamel slowly dissolving the tooth. A cavity is formed causing a hole or break in the tooth structure. If not fixed at this stage, the tooth decay can progress further reaching the dentin where it can spread even quicker. The cavity can progress very quickly after entering the dentin. This can lead to a larger issue of a dental abscess if untreated.

Unfortunately for the patient, this process moves very slowly so there may not be any pain or tooth sensitivity until the cavity becomes quite big.

Preventing Tooth Decay

-Maintain a regimen of Dental Hygiene. This is a necessity to prevent tooth decay. A good dental hygiene program includes regular visits to dentist and hygienist, brushing after every meal (with a fluoride containing toothpaste), and flossing at least once a day. You should especially remember to brush before bed. Food can get stuck in between our teeth when we eat. If the food particles are not removed, it can lead to tooth decay. Flossing at least once a day is the best way to remove food from in between the teeth.

-Eat well balanced nutritious meal and limit snacking. Stay away from carbohydrates such as candy, pretzels and chips. These can remain on the tooth surface. If sticky foods are eaten, brush your teeth soon afterwards. Eating fruits and vegetables for snacks and limiting the amount of sugary drinks and foods will help to prevent plaque from forming on the teeth.

-Supplemental Fluoride. Fluoride can strengthen your teeth. Your dentist may recommend a daily fluoride rinse (ACT anticavity rinse is an example) as part of your dental hygiene. This will help in cavity prevention.

Fluoride Rinse - ACT

Prevent Tooth Decay – ACT Fluoride Rinse

regimen.

-Dental Sealants. These can prevent some tooth decay. Sealants are ultra thin coatings applied to the top (chewing) surfaces of the molars. This coating helps prevent the build up of plaque in the deep grooves on these molars. Sealants are generally applied on the children’s teeth soon after the molars erupt into the mouth. Adults can also benefit from the use of sealants if they have a high risk for decay or have deep grooves in the molars and premolars.

-Antiseptic Mouth Rinse. There are several antiseptic mouth rinses on the market that have been clinically proven to reduce plaque. These include Listerine or Crest Pro Health. Rinsing with either of these mouth rinses after brushing or eating can help in cavity prevention. They work by reducing the number of bacteria present in mouth as well as acting as a rinse to wash away plaque and film on teeth.

-Sugarless Gum. Chewing sugarless gum will help prevent tooth decay by stimulating salivary flow. In studies xylitol has shown to temporarily slow down the growth of bacteria that causes tooth decay. There are several brands of xylitol gum including epic, wrigley’s, and trident.

To reduce tooth decay, eating less sugar, regular cleaning and flossing are all needed to keep the bacteria that causes tooth decay from getting out of control. Tooth decay is preventable and treatable in most stages. Diligent dental hygiene along with regular dental visits will keep you cavity free!

tooth decay prevention

 

 



Is the sipping of hot coffee or the eating of cold ice cream sometimes a painful experience for you? If your answer is YES, you may have a common problem called sensitive teeth.

Tooth sensitivity is tooth or teeth discomfort that is provoked by hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods and drinks, or breathing in cold air. The pain can be sudden, sharp, and shoot deep into the nerve endings of your teeth.

There are two very different types of sensitivity:

Dentinal Sensitivity. This occurs when the middle layer (dentin) of a tooth is exposed to the outside. Dentin is usually covered by enamel above the gum line and by cementum (bone like connective tissue covering the root of a tooth) below the gum line. There are tiny openings called tubules in the dentin. Inside each tubule there is a nerve branch that comes from the tooth’s pulp (the nerve center of the tooth). When the dentin is exposed, these nerve branches can be affected by hot, cold, or certain foods. This causes tooth sensitivity.

When the outer protective layers of enamel or cementum wear away the dentin becomes exposed to the outside. This can affect one tooth or multiple teeth. Dentin exposure can be be caused in a variety of ways. These can include:

1. Aggressive brushing. The enamel layer can be worn away from brushing too hard.

2. Plaque build up. The presence of plaque on the root surfaces can cause sensitivity.

3. Tooth wear that occurs over time from chewing and brushing.

4. Untreated dental cavities.

5. Gingival recession. When the gums recede they expose the tooth’s roots. Receding gums often are caused by periodontal diseases or by aggressive brushing. Receded gums are very common and up to four fifths of people have gum recession by the time they are 65.

6. Periodontal surgery (gum surgery) that exposes the tooth’s roots.

7.  Tooth whitening.

8. Frequently eating acidic foods or liquids.

Pulpal sensitivity. This is a reaction of the tooth’s pulp. The pulp consists of a mass of blood vessels and nerves in the center of each tooth. Sensitivity of the pulpal tissue tends to affect only one tooth. Causes of this type of sensitivity can include:

1. Dental cavities or infection.

2. Placement of a recent filling.

3. Excessive pressure from grinding or clenching your teeth.

4. A cracked or broken tooth.

If you feel a sharp pain upon biting, you may have a broken or cracked filling. Pain when you release your bite is a sign of a cracked tooth.

sensitive teeth

toothpaste for sensitive teeth

You dentist will be able to diagnose the type of sensitivity you have. You want to rule out pulpal sensitivity as that requires more extensive treatment. If it is decided you have dentinal sensitivity then we will suggest a few options for you. The most conservative way is by use of a sensitivity toothpaste. I recommend Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief which I believe to be the best on the market today. I have found it to be the most effective in eliminating or limiting the symptoms of tooth sensitivity. Other options include use of a fluoride varnish or a bonded desensitizing agent that we would apply in office. As well as use of an at home fluoride rinse.

In severe cases of hypersensitivity that is persistent and cannot be treated by other ways, your dentist may recommend endodontic (root canal therapy) treatment to eliminate the sensitive teeth issue.

If you or a loved one is experiencing either type of sensitivity, the best approach would be to schedule a dental appointment for further evaluation.