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Posts for tag: tooth decay

By Paul D. Nifong, Jr, DDS, PA
December 01, 2018
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay   tooth pain  
DontIgnoreSuddenToothPain-YourTeethmaybeTellingyouSomething

Nothing grabs your attention like a sharp tooth pain, seemingly hitting you out of nowhere while you’re eating or drinking. But there is a reason for your sudden agony and the sooner you find it out, the better the outcome for your oral health.

To understand tooth sensitivity, we need to first look at the three layers of tooth anatomy. In the center is the pulp filled with blood vessels and nerve bundles: it’s completely covered by the next layer dentin, a soft tissue filled with microscopic tubules that transmit sensations like pressure or temperature to the pulp nerves.

The third layer is enamel, which completely covers the crown, the visible part of a tooth. Enamel protects the two innermost tooth layers from disease and also helps muffle sensations so the tooth’s nerves aren’t overwhelmed. The enamel stops at about the gum line; below it the gums provide similar protection and sensation shielding to the dentin of the tooth roots.

Problems occur, though, when the dentin below the gums becomes exposed, most commonly because of periodontal (gum) disease. This bacterial infection caused by dental plaque triggers inflammation, which over time can weaken gum tissues and cause them to detach and shrink back (or recede) from the teeth. This can leave the root area vulnerable to disease and the full brunt of environmental sensations that then travel to the nerves in the pulp.

Tooth decay can also create conditions that cause sensitivity. Decay begins when certain oral bacteria multiply and produce higher than normal levels of acid. The acid in turn dissolves the enamel’s mineral content to create holes (cavities) that expose the dentin. Not treated, the infection can eventually invade the pulp, putting the tooth in danger of being lost unless a root canal treatment is performed to remove the infection and seal the tooth from further infection.

So, if you begin experiencing a jolt of pain while eating or drinking hot or cold foods or beverages, see your dentist as soon as possible to diagnose and treat the underlying cause. And protect your teeth from dental disease by practicing daily brushing and flossing, as well as seeing your dentist for regular dental cleanings and checkups. Don’t ignore those sharp pains—your teeth may be trying to tell you something.

If you would like more information on tooth sensitivity, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Treatment of Tooth Sensitivity.”

By Paul D. Nifong, Jr, DDS, PA
October 24, 2017
Category: Dental Procedures
4ReasonsSavingYourChildsDecayedBabyToothisaGoodIdea

Despite everyone’s best efforts, one of your child’s primary (“baby”) teeth has become decayed to the point it might be lost prematurely. Saving it would require extensive treatment like capping it with a crown or performing a pulpotomy, similar to a root canal treatment.

You may be thinking: since it’s going to come out eventually, why go to the expense of trying to preserve it longer? Actually, there are good reasons to save a baby tooth depending on your child’s age — for now and for the future. Here are 4 of them.

They’re important for nutrition. Baby teeth are quite similar to permanent teeth — not only do they look like them, they perform like them too, enabling a growing child to chew and digest food needed to boost their development. Even the loss of one tooth for an extended period makes effective chewing harder.

They’re important for speech development. With their first words, children develop speech patterns rather quickly. Their baby teeth play an important role in this: just like permanent teeth, they provide the tongue with points of contact for making a variety of sounds. A missing tooth for a prolonged period could interfere with making certain sounds and could have a stunting effect on their speech development.

They’re important for permanent teeth eruption. Baby teeth also serve as placeholders for their successors, the permanent teeth that are in development just under the gums. A baby tooth normally remains until the permanent tooth is ready to erupt within the path set by the primary. If they’re lost prematurely, the permanent tooth may not erupt as it should; and adjacent permanent teeth can drift toward the empty space and out of alignment.

They’re part of their smile. Baby teeth help children fit in socially with adults and other children — they help them look normal. A missing tooth stands out when they smile — and not in a good way. This could impact the way they interact socially with others, extending even into adulthood.

If you would like more information on dental care for your child, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Importance of Baby Teeth.”

By Paul D. Nifong, Jr, DDS, PA
September 12, 2016
Category: Oral Health
ActorDavidRamseyDiscussesBabyBottleToothDecay

Cavities can happen even before a baby has his first piece of candy. This was the difficult lesson actor David Ramsey of the TV shows Arrow and Dexter learned when his son DJ’s teeth were first emerging.

“His first teeth came in weak,” Ramsey recalled in a recent interview. “They had brown spots on them and they were brittle.” Those brown spots, he said, quickly turned into cavi­ties. How did this happen?

Ramsey said DJ’s dentist suspected it had to do with the child’s feedings — not what he was being fed but how. DJ was often nursed to sleep, “so there were pools of breast milk that he could go to sleep with in his mouth,” Ramsey explained.

While breastfeeding offers an infant many health benefits, problems can occur when the natural sugars in breast milk are left in contact with teeth for long periods.  Sugar feeds decay-causing oral bacteria, and these bacteria in turn release tooth-eroding acids. The softer teeth of a young child are particularly vulnerable to these acids; the end result can be tooth decay.

This condition, technically known as “early child caries,” is referred to in laymen’s terms as “baby bottle tooth decay.” However, it can result from nighttime feedings by bottle or breast. The best way to prevent this problem is to avoid nursing babies to sleep at night once they reach the teething stage; a bottle-fed baby should not be allowed to fall asleep with anything but water in their bottle or “sippy cup.”

Here are some other basics of infant dental care that every parent should know:

  • Wipe your baby’s newly emerging teeth with a clean, moist washcloth after feedings.
  • Brush teeth that have completely grown in with a soft-bristled, child-size toothbrush and a smear of fluoride toothpaste no bigger than a grain of rice.
  • Start regular dental checkups by the first birthday.

Fortunately, Ramsey reports that his son is doing very well after an extended period of professional dental treatments and parental vigilance.

“It took a number of months, but his teeth are much, much better,” he said. “Right now we’re still helping him and we’re still really on top of the teeth situation.”

If you would like more information on dental care for babies and toddlers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “The Age One Dental Visit” and “Dentistry & Oral Health for Children.”

By Paul D. Nifong, Jr, DDS, PA
September 01, 2015
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene   tooth decay  
BeyondBrushingandFlossingConsiderOtherRiskFactorsforToothDecay

Tooth decay is a primary cause of tooth damage and loss, with annual treatment costs in the billions of dollars. It arises mainly from oral bacteria, which proliferates in the absence of effective oral hygiene. There are, however, other risk factors besides poor hygiene that could make you more susceptible to this disease.

Many people, for example, have genetically inherited deeper grooves (fissures) and depressions (pits) than the average tooth anatomy. These may be harder to reach with a toothbrush and can become havens for bacterial plaque. Others may have health conditions that indirectly affect the mouth: bulimia or anorexia, psychological conditions that involve self-induced vomiting, or GERD, gastro-esophageal reflux disease, in which stomach acid could regurgitate into the mouth. These conditions could result in a highly acidic mouth environment.

Some medical and — ironically — dental treatments could also increase your tooth decay risk. Some medications can reduce saliva flow, which inhibits acid neutralization and re-mineralization of enamel. Retainers, braces, bite guards or other dental appliances may also reduce the saliva wash over teeth, and can make brushing and flossing more difficult.

There are also risk factors that result from our lifestyle choices. Eating a lot of foods rich in sugars and other carbohydrates, for example, or acidic beverages like soda, energy or sports drinks contributes to the rise of bacteria in our mouths.

There are ways to reduce the effects of these risk factors. In addition to a daily habit of effective brushing and flossing, you should also include semi-annual cleanings and checkups at our office a part of your routine. If you have genetic, medical or dental issues that are out of your control, we can discuss solutions, such as alternatives to medications or different techniques for cleaning around dental appliances. For lifestyle-related factors, you should consider removing the habit or modifying it: for example, snacking at specific times or drinking acidic beverages only at mealtime.

While tooth decay is a serious, destructive disease, it is highly preventable. Addressing all your risk factors, not just hygiene, will reduce your chances of having it.

If you would like more information on tooth decay prevention, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay: How to Assess Your Risk.”

By Paul D. Nifong, Jr, DDS, PA
May 11, 2015
Category: Oral Health
AreYouatHighRiskforToothDecay

A number of factors can lead to dental caries (tooth decay). To find out if you are at high risk, ask yourself these questions.

Is plaque visible in my mouth?
Dental plaque is a whitish film of bacteria that collects on your teeth. If it is clearly visible, it means that there is a lot of it. Among the bacteria in the plaque are those that produce tooth decay, particularly in an acidic environment. (A normal mouth is neutral, measured on the pH scale, midway between the extreme acidic and basic ends of the scale.)

Do I have a dry mouth?
Saliva protects your teeth against decay by neutralizing an acidic environment and adding minerals back to the outer surface of enamel of your teeth, so reduced saliva is a high risk for caries. Many medications can cause dry mouth as a side effect.

Do I eat a lot of snacks, particularly unhealthy ones?
Frequently eating sugars, refined carbohydrates, and acidic foods promotes the growth of decay-producing bacteria. The more frequently you eat, the longer your teeth are bathed in sugars and acids. Acidic foods not only promote bacterial growth, they also directly cause erosion of the tooth's hard surface by softening and dissolving the minerals in the enamel.

Do I wear retainers, orthodontic appliances, bite guards or night guards?
These appliances are recommended for various conditions, but they tend to restrict the flow of saliva over your teeth, cutting down on the benefits of saliva mentioned above.

Do my teeth have deep pits and fissures?
The shape of your teeth is determined by your heredity. If your teeth grew in with deep grooves (fissures) and pits in them, you are at higher risk for bacterial growth and resulting decay.

Do I have conditions that expose my teeth to acids?
If you have bulimia (a psychological condition in which individuals induce vomiting), or GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease), your teeth may be frequently exposed to stomach acids that can cause severe erosion to your teeth.

Do I already have cavities?
Visible cavities can range from those only visible with laser technology or x-ray examination to those a dentist can see with a naked eye. If you already have small cavities, you are at high risk for developing more.

Do I have white spots on my teeth?
White spots are often the first sign of decay in a tooth's enamel. At this point, the condition is often reversible with fluorides.

Have I had a cavity within the last three years?
Recent cavities point to a high risk of more cavities in the future, unless conditions in your mouth have significantly changed.

If you have any of these indications of high risk, contact us today and ask us for suggestions for changing the conditions in your mouth. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay.”