Tooth decay (cavities) is the damage to a tooth caused by the buildup of dental plaque in the mouth, which turns sugars into acid that attacks the teeth. Our mouths are full of bacteria – some good, some bad. The harmful bacteria plays a part in the tooth decay process, promoting the production of acids that eat away at the tooth enamel.
In order to combat these acids, we have minerals in our saliva (such as phosphate and calcium), as well as fluoride products. The mouth constantly goes through a cycle of losing and regaining minerals, but when we lose too much, we get cavities. The question is: is tooth decay permanent?
How do cavities develop?
When the teeth are regularly exposed to acid, the enamel starts to lose minerals. White spots might appear where the minerals were lost – this is an early sign of decay.
For most people, the saliva we generate and the fluoride found in toothpaste and water helps to replace minerals. However, people that snack regularly are exposing their teeth to too much acid which causes demineralisation, followed by enamel decay and then decay of the dentin (the soft tissue underneath the enamel). The final stage is pulp decay, and a painful abscess may develop if the bacteria spreads below the pulp.
Treatments for early stage tooth decay
The good news is that, when caught early on during the demineralisation stage, tooth decay is usually reversible. At this point, good oral hygiene is imperative to getting your teeth’s health back on track. In order to restore the minerals and halt or reverse decay, you should be brushing and flossing regularly, and frequently exposing your teeth to fluoride to help make them strong again.
Remember that tooth decay is only reversible when caught in the early stages. Once decay reaches the dentine level, this is irreversible and your dentist will explore treatment options such as fillings, crowns, root canals and extractions with you.
Prevention is better than cure
You can’t guarantee you’ll never get cavities, but you can significantly reduce the chances with good oral hygiene practices. The following is essential to prevent the onset of decay:
- Brush your teeth twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste
- Floss your teeth every day to prevent the buildup of plaque between the teeth
- Drink fluoride water to increase your exposure to fluoride
- Ask your dentist about other fluoride products
- Reduce the amount of sugary foods you consume
- Brush your teeth after eating a meal or a sugary snack
- See your dentist every 6 months for a thorough check-up and clean
Call or email our dental practice
Staying on top of your oral hygiene is the best measure to keep your teeth healthy and keep cavities at bay. Contact King Street Dental if you have any questions related to your own oral health, or book an appointment. We’re welcoming both new and existing patients, and you can reach us on (03) 9841 8033 or [email protected].
You already know how important vitamins and minerals are to keep your body working properly and boost your immune system, but did you know that certain vitamins and minerals also have a positive effect on your oral health? Those powerful little nutrients found in food and in the packaged vitamins you take can also strengthen your teeth and help you build a smile to be proud of.
The process of chewing itself is important for extracting maximum goodness from the food you eat, and a lack of vitamins and minerals has been related to tooth loss and gum inflammation. A healthy diet should complement good oral hygiene, so be sure to brush twice a day and to book an appointment at King Street Dental every 6 months.
We’re told about the importance of calcium for strong, healthy bones and teeth from a young age. Calcium is the most abundant mineral found in the human body, with 99% found in our bones and teeth. You can get a good dose of calcium from milk, cheese, soy-based products and green veggies. Along with strengthening tooth enamel, it keeps the jawbones strong and healthy.
Phosphorous protects and rebuilds tooth enamel, and is important for helping the body absorb calcium. It’s mostly found in meat, milk, whole grains, fish, lentils, eggs and other high-protein foods.
Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to a number of oral health disorders such as cavities, inflammation and gum disease. The vitamin keeps your teeth healthy by playing a key role in bone and tooth mineralisation, by helping the body to absorb, carry and deposit calcium in the bones. You can get a healthy dose of Vitamin D from the sun (just remember to use sunscreen), as well as in oily fish, milk, breakfast cereals, soy and dairy products.
Vitamin C is essential for healthy teeth and gums, caring for the connective tissues that keep everything in place. Deficiencies in Vitamin C can lead to bleeding gums, gum disease and tooth erosion. Most people get plenty of Vitamin C in their diet, as it’s found in citrus fruits, vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, and white and sweet potatoes.
Vitamin A is a good one for your eyes and skin, as well as your oral health. It helps your body take in calcium and protein, and helps to stimulate saliva production which keeps bacteria at bay and promotes faster healing. You’ll find it mostly in orange-coloured foods (carrots, oranges, pumpkin, etc.), fish, egg yolks and green vegetables.
Potassium is a mineral that works in a similar way to Vitamin D, in that it helps to boost bone density and keeps them strong. You can get your potassium fix in bananas, tomatoes, lima beans and avocados.
Visit us to promote better oral health
Keep your oral health at its best with regular visits to King Street Dental in Templestowe. We can provide a general check-up and clean, and advice tailored to your smile. Give us a call on (03) 9841 8033 or email [email protected] to get booked in.
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) affects the movement of your jaw. Your temporomandibular joints (TMJs) are among the most complex joints in the body. They act like a sliding hinge that connects your jawbone to your skull and sufferers of this disorder may experience pain in the joint and muscles that control the jaw’s movement.
The good news is – in most cases, this isn’t serious. The condition usually gets better on its own and there are treatments available for patients that need them.
What causes TMD?
Quite often, the actual cause of a patient’s TMD is unclear, and varies from patient to patient. In most cases, the underlying cause is excessive strain on the jaw joints and muscles that control chewing, swallowing and talking. This is often due to an uneven bite, grinding of the teeth (bruxism) or even trauma to the jaw, head or neck.
In some cases, TMD is caused by arthritis and displacement of the jaw joint disks.
What are the symptoms of TMD?
Symptoms can vary for each person, depending on how severe their disorder is. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Painful or tender jaw
- Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
- Aches in or around the ears, or ringing of the ears
- Pain or difficulty when chewing
- Aches around the face or temples
- Jaw clicks or locks, and moving the mouth is difficult
- Teeth sensitivity
- The upper and lower teeth don’t fit together as well
What are the risk factors involved?
Some people are more at risk of developing TMD than others. You have more chance of developing the disorder if you already suffer from any of the following:
- A jaw injury
- Long-term (chronic) bruxism
- Diseases that affect the connective tissues around the temporomandibular joints
For milder cases of TMD, there are some things you can do at home to ease the pain around your jaw. Try only eating soft foods, take over-the-counter pain medication, hold ice packs or heat packs to the jaw, and gently massage the painful muscles around the jaw. Try to avoid biting down on hard foods (or your nails), yawning too widely, and clenching your teeth.
If the pain doesn’t ease or keeps returning, or is impacting your daily life, it’s time to see your dentist or doctor. They will choose the most appropriate treatment by looking at factors like your age, medical history and severity of condition, with some possible treatments including:
- Stronger pain relief medication
- Relaxation techniques to reduce stress and help you sleep
- Physical therapy
- Treatments to stop teeth clenching or grinding (such as a mouthguard)
- Diet change recommendations, for less stress on the jaw muscles
- Ice packs and heat packs
Contact your Templestowe dentist
If you’re concerned about pain in the mouth or teeth grinding, contact your dentist. We can examine your mouth and recommend some treatments to ease the pain and ensure TMD doesn’t disrupt your life or sleep. For all serious cases, we’ll recommend you see a doctor. Give us a call on (03) 9841 8033 or email [email protected] to speak to a member of our team.
Everyone knows about the negative impacts of smoking on your heart and lungs, but it can also be seriously detrimental to oral health. It’s estimated that over 11% of Australian adults smoke (2019 data), and this group of the population are at greater risk of tooth discolouration, gum disease and recession, tooth loss, mouth sores and even mouth cancer.
The truth is that the outcomes of smoking cigarettes go beyond just bad breath, so let’s explore some of the ways smoking can affect your oral health.
Some of the less concerning effects of smoking include tooth staining, bad breath (halitosis), and a loss of smell and taste. This staining is due to the nicotine and tar present in tobacco, which can make teeth look yellow over time – and even brown in heavy smokers. Although nicotine itself is colourless, it turns yellow when it reacts with oxygen, and is absorbed into the pores in your teeth, making them appear darker.
The only way to correct the effects of tobacco discolouration is with teeth whitening from your dentist.
Smoking weakens the immune system and reduces your body’s ability to fight off infections – including gum disease. Additionally, smoking produces more bacterial plaque that can lead to gum disease, and because smoking reduces oxygen in the bloodstream, gums don’t heal as easily.
It’s estimated that people who smoke are twice at risk of developing gum disease compared to non-smokers, and gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults.
Smoking supports the build-up of bacteria, plaque and tartar which can lead to cavities and tooth loss. Tobacco can irritate the gum tissue which causes gums to loosen around the teeth, providing more room for bacteria to settle in, leading to decay.
Mouth sores & ulcers
Mouth sores and ulcers are more prevalent in smokers and interestingly, studies have found that people that quit smoking experience an increase in mouth ulcers in the two weeks after stopping smoking. These issues got milder with time and all ulcers mostly disappeared within four weeks after quitting.
In extreme circumstances, smokers can develop oral cancer. This is because of the exposure to harmful chemicals found in tobacco, which mutates the healthy cells in the mouth and throat. Oral cancer predominantly occurs on the tongue, floor of the mouth and gums. It starts as red or white spots which can become open sores, and treatment is usually radiation therapy or surgery. Affected tissue and part of the jawbone may need to be removed, which can affect the look of the face, and the patient’s ability to chew or talk.
It’s estimated that smokers are six times more likely to develop mouth cancer than non-smokers.
Book an appointment at King Street Dental
Whether you smoke or not, it’s important to visit your dentist regularly. If you have any concerns about anything mentioned here, give us a call on (03) 9841 8033 and our experienced team members can provide advice and book an appointment with our dentists.