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Tooth decay, for many, can be a constant battle. There are many reasons why some people are more prone to developing tooth decay. These include poor oral hygiene, neglect, disease, inherited cavity promoting bacteria, weak enamel formation, medications, and poor dietary habits. The oral environment is  continually changing and therefore must be continually aided to fight decay.

Do Teeth Repair Themselves?

Our teeth are in a constant state of unbalance, demineralizing (breaking down) and remineralizing (building back up). With many food and drink items we ingest, the oral cavity changes from a neutral to acidic environment. The savior for us is the special properties of our saliva. Our saliva has the ability to coat the teeth with a slick film containing calcium that makes it hard for bacteria to stick and helps repair damaged enamel. Saliva also protects our teeth by neutralizing acids, and washes away the food particles  that feed the bacteria which constantly attack our teeth.

Factors Of Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is the direct result of demineralization by the oral bacteria, mutans streptococci and Lactobacillus. These bacteria are the principal reasons for the breakdown of our teeth. Another little known fact is that tooth decay is considered infectious and transmissable. This generally only affects those with low or compromised immune systems. The classic case is the passing of oral bacteria from mother to child.

The factors of tooth decay include:

-Poor Oral Hygiene.

-Disease. This can include cancer, xerostomia (dry mouth), and diabetes.

-Medications. Medications can cause issues with weakened tooth formation when taken as a child and may cause an acidic, dry, or irritated oral environment in an adult.

-Poor Dietary Habits. This includes frequent snacking. High acid beverages, high carb/sugary foods.

-Anatomy and Genetics.  The way teeth form has a direct effect on how and where plaque will stick. The presence of deep pits and fissures in your teeth cannot be easily cleaned with a toothbrush and so, become the ideal place for plaque bacteria to invade. There are certain genetic codes that allow for missing teeth, malformed teeth, highly irregular enamel or dentin. These teeth are generally more prone to decay.

-Dental Appliances. This includes wearing of partial dentures, braces, space maintainers, or other orthodontic appliances.

Options For Preventive Care

Instead of waiting for a problem to occur which will require repair with dental restorations, (fillings) try to prevent it instead. If  tooth decay has taken hold , know that there are a few tricks in the arsenal to combat future decay. Preventive solutions include:

-Nutritional Counseling. After creating a log of your dietary intake for 1-2 weeks, your dentist may be able to help you find the food items that are putting you at greater risk for tooth decay.

-Fluoride Treatments. Fluoride rinses, toothpastes, gels worn in custom trays, and varnishes placed by your dentist allow the enamel surface to harden and protect itself against bacterial invasion.

-Chlorhexidine Gluconate. This oral rinse has the ability to disrupt bacterial metabolism. The downside is chlorhexidine cannot be combined with fluoride, it tends to cause staining, and it does not do well vs Lactobacillus.

-Nutraceutical Phenols. These include herbal lollipops which contain a specific herbal formula extracted from licorice root. This has been shown to selectively kill gram-positive bacteria as well as all oral yeasts.

-Xylitol. This cannot be metabolized into acid by bacteria. Because it cannot be metabolized it helps reduce the population of tooth decay causing bacteria. It can also increase saliva formation which in turn can help by building our teeth back up (remineralization).

-Probiotic Therapy. This involves replenishing the good bacteria in the mouth to crowd out the tooth decay causing bacteria.

-Oil pulling. Rinsing with oil helps reduce toxins, bacterial count, and coat the teeth making them too slick for bacteria to stick.

Tooth Decay Conclusion

Tooth decay can be controlled with proper habits and being aware of your limitations. Once you have a good understanding of what issues are promoting your tooth decay, you can begin to battle it more effectively. There are many options for prevention. Discuss possible treatments with your dentist and begin your new journey towards a cavity free oral environment.

Dental Anxiety – is the abnormal fear or dread of visiting the dentist for preventive care or follow up treatment and extreme anxiety over dental procedures.

Let’s face it, not many people truly look forward to going to the dentist. There are plenty who do, but most do not. We know it is good for our dental and overall health, so we go for that reason. For some, an irrational fear takes over, leaving them paralyzed with fear, and without the dental care they need to enjoy their lives fully.  According to a 2009 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost half of all adults skip dental visits due to dental anxiety.

Psychology of Dental Anxiety

Many dental related fears are developed when you are young and impressionable. Sometimes the dental fear is transferred from parents to their children. When a parent is highly anxious, they oftentimes elaborate on pain, needles, drilling, and tooth removal, causing the child to believe that this will happen to them also. For some, a bad dental experience can traumatize them for the future. Feeling pain, gagging, losing control, not knowing what is going on, or having unexpected procedure you were not prepared for can be very difficult to get over. Prior to modern dentistry, dentists and their instruments were given a bad reputation in real life, movies and TV shows . The instruments and techniques used to mask discomfort were less than ideal. In modern dentistry, the dentist is more in tune to patients dental anxiety and dental fears. These dental anxieties can be overcome with a concerted effort by the patient, loved ones, and dentist.

How to Overcome Dental Anxiety

Overcoming dental anxiety can take as little as one visit, or it can take months to years. It all depends on the level of anxiety or phobia a patient might have. The following are some tips to help overcome dental anxiety:

1) Find the “right” dentist. Not all dentists have the same educational training, techniques, or patience when it comes to patients with dental anxiety. Do your research, use the Internet or ask friends and loved ones for recommendations. A good dentist is one, who is able to communicate effectively with you, and put you at ease. Most patients feel better when they know whats going on and how its going to happen. Understanding what will happen in the appointment, and having a signal to stop whenever you need to, gives back control to the patient and takes the surprise out of the situation. You and your dentist will figure out what specific things elevate your dental anxiety, and find ways to work around them. Ask your dentist their policy on emergencies after hours. Many dentists do not return calls after hours while others personally answer calls after hours and even open the office if the situation is necessary.

2) Distraction. Oftentimes, redirecting your mind can set you at ease. Meditation can be taught to you by your dentist. Music can help if the noises of dentistry affect you, bring your ipod or mp3 player with your favorite music and listen during the treatment to distract your mind and relieve your dental anxiety. A soft “squeezy ball” can help, and give that comforting feeling of squeezing someones hand.

3) Take Breaks when Needed. This goes back to communication. Take the time out during procedures to compose yourself as needed. Have a predetermined hand signal to stop the procedure as often as needed. Some patients with dental anxiety feel claustrophobic after awhile and may need to walk around a bit, catch their breath, ask a question, etc. before finishing the dental procedure.

4) Be Open and Honest. Tell your dentist what bothers you most about the dental experience, or past problems that have increased your dental anxiety. For some, the loud pitched noises may be very difficult, for others it might be the smells of the dental office, and for others it might be a past painful experience. These issues can be addressed in order to make your experience more acceptable. In dentistry today, there are many techniques to deliver a more comfortable and comforting experience.

5) Consider Medication. For some of us with more extreme dental anxiety, a mild form of sedation may be necessary to get you through. Taking a medication such as Valium prior to your appointment can help you sleep the night before, and allow for you to actually get to your appointment. Generally, such medications relax your entire body, decreasing the sweats, heart racing, and panic attacks that might otherwise disable you. This is a wonderful way to acclimate yourself to your new dentist, and the dental experience. Over time, the dosage can be reduced as you gain confidence in your dentist and your own coping abilities.  Plenty of patients, with time, can learn the proper dental anxiety techniques necessary to have dental treatment without medication.

Dental Anxiety Conclusion

Dental anxiety can be truly crippling. What we have to remember is, that if we want good health, dental treatment is necessary.  Recent studies have shown definite links between our dental health and our general health. This means it makes our dental health doubly important for us to lead healthy, happy lives. Dental anxiety CAN be overcome and defeated with a concerted effort by dentist and patient. If you are suffering from dental anxiety, take that first step, and make an appointment to meet with a dentist well versed in treating dental anxiety and dental phobia.