Posts for: July, 2013

By Wayne J. Gary II D.D.S.
July 29, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: sugar substitutes  
SugarSubstitutesSweeterforToothHealth

If you're watching your weight or living with diabetes, you probably know the advantages of satisfying your sweet tooth with sugar substitutes rather than the real deal. Did you know that sugar substitutes can also help reduce your risk for tooth decay? One particular sugar stand-in, xylitol, might actually promote oral health!

Sugar substitutes are food additives that mimic the taste of sugar but supply little to no food energy (nutrition) and therefore zero or few calories. This is because they generally cannot be digested and absorbed by the body. They pass through largely unused and have little to no effect on blood sugar levels. Oral bacteria aren't able to process sugar substitutes either. They get significant nutrition from “real” sugars that pass through the mouth — generating tooth-eroding, cavity-promoting acids in the digestive process. A diet of artificial sweeteners eliminates or significantly curtails the acidity problem and essentially starves the “bad” bacteria so more tooth-friendly bacteria can crowd them out.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved 6 artificial sweeteners (synthetically produced zero-calorie sugar substitutes) for use in the U.S.:

  • Acesulfame K — Sunett®, Sweet One®
  • Aspartame — Equal, NutraSweet
  • Neotame — a modified form of aspartame
  • Saccharin — Sweet'N Low, Sugar Twin
  • Sucralose — Splenda
  • Rebaudioside A — Truvia, Sun Crystals, Stevia in the Raw

There also are naturally occurring low-calorie sugar alcohols (polyols), used alone or in combination with an artificial sweetener. They are incompletely digested and absorbed slowly so the amount of calories they generate is minimal. Commonly used polyols include erythritol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol. Research suggests that xylitol may help prevent tooth decay and promote oral health by reducing levels of the major acid-producing bacteria in the mouth, Streptococcus mutans.

Despite their virtues, there is debate regarding the safety of sugar substitutes — synthetic ones in particular. Currently the focus is on how they may affect taste perception, metabolism, and eating habits. From a dental perspective, however, the overall benefits for using xylitol are pretty clear!

If you would like more information about nutrition and oral health, 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 “Artificial Sweeteners.”


By Wayne J. Gary II D.D.S.
July 19, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: toothache   tooth decay  
FiveFactsAboutToothachesinChildren

When it comes to childhood injuries — cuts and scrapes, growing pains, even wounded pride — it's often a parent's job to try and make things better. But sometimes it's hard to know whether the hurt indicates a serious problem, or if it's a situation that will resolve itself as soon as the sun comes up. If pain is being caused by a toothache, here are some general rules that can help you figure out what's the best thing to do.

1. Unless it's accompanied by fever and swelling, a child's toothache isn't generally an emergency.

The first thing to do is calm down (both you and the child) — and talk! Find out exactly where the pain comes from, and when and why it might have started. (Your child may have forgotten to tell you about that fall in the gym...) Sometimes, a little sleuthing will give you a clue about what's causing the pain.

2. Tooth decay, a bacteria-induced infection, is the most common cause of toothaches.

Check the teeth for brown spots or tiny holes (cavities) which might indicate decay — especially on the biting surfaces and in the areas between teeth. Next, look at the gums around the hurt tooth. If they show cuts or bruises, that's a sign of trauma. If you see only swelling, it may indicate the formation of an abscess.

3. If nothing looks obviously wrong, try gently flossing both sides of the tooth.

This may dislodge a bit of trapped food or candy, and relieve the pressure and soreness. But if that doesn't help, remember that some conditions — like nerve damage inside the tooth, for example — may have no apparent symptoms except pain.

4. Treat pain with an appropriate dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Base the dose on your child's age and weight, according to the medication's instructions. You can also apply an ice pack (one minute on, one minute off) to the outside of the jaw. But NEVER rub aspirin (or any painkiller) directly on a child's gums: It can cause burns and severe discomfort.

5. Pain that keeps a child awake at night, or persists into the next day, needs professional evaluation as soon as possible.

Otherwise, unless the pain resolves quickly and you're sure you know exactly what caused the toothache, it's best to bring your child in for an examination as soon as it's practical. You'll feel better having a dental professional, backed with years of experience and training, taking care of your child's health — and you just might prevent a future problem.

If you have questions about toothaches in children, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “A Child's Toothache.”


By Wayne J. Gary II D.D.S.
July 08, 2013
Category: Dental Procedures
Tooth-ColoredFillingsTrueorFalse

Do you have silver dental fillings that you wish you didn't have? Wouldn't it be nice if no one could look in your mouth and see how many cavities you had as a kid? Tooth-colored fillings may offer a solution to the problem of too much metal in your mouth. How much do you really know about non-metallic tooth-colored fillings? Take our quiz and find out.

True or false: Tooth-colored fillings are a radical new technology.

False. A variety of dental porcelains and composite resins have been successfully used in tooth restoration for many years. These materials have been designed to mimic the properties of the two major components of teeth: the hard outer enamel, and the bone-like inner dentin. Our increasing understanding of tooth structure and composition has led to better and more natural-looking filling substances.

True or false: Teeth must remain rigid under the pressure of the bite.

False. At one time, metal amalgam (silver) fillings were preferred because of their extreme hardness. But we now know that the crowns of our teeth actually flex under the forces of the bite. This discovery has spurred the development of new methods and materials to stabilize the restored tooth and reduce the incidence of premature failure.

True or false: It's usually more complicated to put in a tooth-colored filling than a metal one.

False. Regardless of which material is used, the basic process of filling a tooth is the same. The dentist prepares the tooth for treatment, removes decay, and places a filling directly into the tooth. If the filling is moderately deep, a tooth-colored filling may be set in several layers which are successively “cured” or hardened. More extensive restorations may require more than one visit, but the natural-looking results generally justify the extra time.

True or false: Regular metal fillings make the tooth structure stronger.

False. Properly securing an amalgam filling may require the tooth to be “undercut,” meaning that a greater amount of healthy tooth material must be removed. This can weaken the tooth structure, eventually leading it to chip and crack. Non-metallic fillings don't require undercutting, so more tooth structure is left intact. This more conservative treatment can result in a stronger, longer-lasting restoration.

True or false: Non-metallic (tooth-colored) fillings are safer than silver fillings.

False. While each method has advantages and disadvantages, and may not be an appropriate treatment in every situation, both methods have been deemed safe and effective by major U.S. and international science and health organizations. While there have been recent concerns about mercury in amalgam fillings, there is presently no reason to believe that it presents any cause for concern.

If you would like more information about tooth-colored fillings, 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 “The Natural Beauty of Tooth-Colored Fillings.”


















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