Back To School

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Back to School

For many people, this time of year is more than just back to school.  It is back to daily and weekly routines, back to bedtimes and alarm clocks, and back to good habits that may have gone by the wayside in the easygoing days of summer.  Add this to your list of daily activities as you get back into the swing of things: taking great care of your teeth!  There are many things involved in pursuing a healthy mouth.  Here are some tips to getting that oral hygiene routine back on track.

 Brushing

  • In order to properly remove plaque (the soft, sticky substance that causes cavities and gum disease), it is necessary to brush your teeth twice a day with a soft or extra-soft bristled toothbrush.

  • The most commonly missed area in brushing is at the gumline, so make sure the bristles of your toothbrush are gently touching the gums as you brush.

  • Check the bristles of your toothbrush often. The American Dental Association recommends replacing toothbrushes every 3-4 months or sooner if bristles are splayed and worn (like the photo shows). A worn toothbrush cannot do a thorough job of cleaning teeth.

  • Please remember: never share a toothbrush with anyone, especially your child.

  • If you or your child is sick with any type of infection, replace your toothbrush or run it through your dishwasher’s “Sanitize” cycle.

  • Supervise your children’s brushing. They should only be brushing their own teeth if they can tie their shoelaces or write their name in cursive. Otherwise, you should still be brushing their teeth for them.

 Flossing

Brushing alone cannot quite get the job done when it comes to removing all of the plaque from your teeth.  The nooks and crannies between your teeth are havens for clumps of bacteria where even the best brusher is not able to reach.  Flossing removes this plaque and reduces your risk for cavities and gum disease.  When you skip flossing, you miss over 35% of the surface of a tooth.  Studies have shown that flossing every day can prolong your life by six years.  

Because flossing is a more difficult skill to master, you should floss your children’s teeth until they show they can properly do it on their own.  The easiest way to floss your child’s teeth is to sit on a bed or the floor, and have the child lay down with his head in your lap.  Have the child tilt his head up so that you can look straight down into his mouth.  This gives you the simplest access for flossing (also good for brushing).  The earlier you start this process, the easier it is to accomplish. 

 Preventive Dental Care

  • Professional cleanings – So let’s say you’re not a perfect brusher and flosser; no one is. We all have areas that we may miss with our toothbrush or floss. What happens when sticky, soft plaque is not removed from our teeth? In 24 hours, it begins to harden into tartar (also called calculus). Once it has hardened, it cannot be cleaned off with a toothbrush or floss. It has to be removed by your dentist or dental hygienist. Tartar buildup that is not removed on a regular basis leads to painful, chronic conditions that require more extensive and more expensive dental treatment.

  • Dental evaluation and x-rays – A dental evaluation by your dentist can uncover problems that can be treated in the early stages, when damage is minimal and restorations may be small. Dental x-rays show how the teeth are developing and hidden decay that develops between the teeth. X-rays also allow us to monitor the jawbones for any changes, including cancer or abnormal growths. These important steps, taken on a regular basis, can help prevent painful, chronic conditions and save money. Untreated tooth decay is a serious infectious disease for which there is no immunization.

  • Fluoride application – Cavities used to be a fact of life. Over the past few decades, one thing has been responsible for a dramatic reduction in the prevalence of cavities: fluoride. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says that water fluoridation is “one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century”. Fluoride in your water supply is integrated into children’s teeth as they are forming, adding strength and cavity resistance to their enamel. Teeth can also be strengthened and protected with topical fluoride. Topical fluoride includes many products you may already use at home (toothpaste, mouthwash and gel), and it can be professionally applied in your dentist’s office. Your need for professional fluoride treatment should be assessed by your dentist and is based on your cavity risk level.

  • Sealants – Another common area that toothbrush bristles miss is the deep pits and grooves on the biting surfaces of your back teeth. These types of cavities can be prevented by applying dental sealants over the pits and grooves. A dental sealant is a thin coating that goes on in a liquid form, flowing into the pits and grooves and then hardening to form a smooth, flat surface that prevents the accumulation of bacteria and food particles. Sealants are most effective when applied as soon as a back tooth enters the mouth.

 

If you missed getting in to our office this summer for your preventive care, take a look at your school calendar.  School holidays are busy in our office, and appointments go quickly! Pick the next school holiday for your dental visits and call us today to get on the books for the day you want!  

Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!

Dental Sealants

Dental Sealants

What are dental sealants? 

Dental sealants are a protective barrier, covering the most vulnerable surface of the teeth and shielding them from cavity-causing bacteria. The sealants are most commonly applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars) where decay occurs most frequently.  They can also be applied to any deep pit or groove that is high risk for decay, including the back of upper front teeth.

How does a sealant help prevent decay?

A sealant is a dental material that is applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth—premolars and molars. This material has a micromechanical bond to enamel in the deep pits and grooves of the chewing surfaces of back teeth. The sealant acts as a barrier, protecting enamel from plaque, bacteria and acids.

Thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth. But in some cases, toothbrush bristles cannot reach the depth of pits and grooves to extract food and plaque. Sealants protect these vulnerable areas by filling in the grooves to prevent any accumulation of bacteria, plaque or food, and by creating a shallower, more cleansable surface for the toothbrush.

Is sealant application a complicated procedure?

Sealants are easy for your dentist or dental hygienist to apply, and it takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth. The teeth that will be sealed are cleaned. Then the chewing surfaces are roughened with an etching solution to help the sealant adhere to the tooth. The sealant is then “painted” onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. Sometimes a special curing light is used to help the sealant harden.

The only difficult aspects of sealant application are the bad taste of the materials used and the need to keep the tooth dry.  If a child is very cooperative, the sealant can be applied without his or her ever tasting the materials.  There is no pain associated with the application of a sealant.  

Sealants are just for kids, right? 

The likelihood of developing pit and fissure decay begins early in life, so children and teenagers are obvious candidates. Children typically do not have the manual dexterity necessary to adequately clean their teeth, so they are at a higher risk of developing cavities.  Adults can benefit from sealants as well.  An easy way to determine where a sealant would be most beneficial for an adult is to look for dark stains in the pits and grooves of the teeth.  A deep crevice that is accumulating stain which cannot be removed by brushing is a high-risk area for a cavity to start.  If it is collecting stain, it is also collecting bacteria.  Over a period of time, the bacteria is very likely to start damaging the enamel surface, leading to a cavity. 

“CDC Promotes Dental Sealants in New Report

According to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vital Signs report, dental sealants are an extremely effective intervention for preventing most of the cavities children get in their permanent back teeth, but the majority of children still don’t have them. The report also found that children from low-income families, who are at increased risk for cavities, are less likely than children from higher-income families to have dental sealants. Increasing sealant use prevalence could substantially reduce untreated decay, associated problems, and dental treatment costs, the CDC report concludes.

Additional findings of the report include:

  • School-age children (ages 6-11) without sealants have almost three times more first molar cavities than those with sealants.

  • Although the overall number of children with sealants has increased over time, low-income children are 20 percent less likely to have them and two times more likely to have untreated cavities than higher-income children.”

Sounds great! Can I have dental sealants on all of my teeth?

Once a tooth already has decay, it cannot be sealed.  The decay must be removed and restored with a filling.  A one surface filling to fix this type of cavity costs over $200.  Placing sealants can prevent this type of decay, decreasing your costs for dental care in the long run.  A thorough evaluation of all of your teeth should be performed by your dentist to determine which teeth could benefit from sealants. 

Do sealants last forever?

As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay. Sealants hold up well under the force of normal chewing and usually last several years before a reapplication is needed. They can be damaged by habits such as teeth grinding and chewing ice.  During your dental evaluations, Dr. Jason, Dr. Alex and Dr. Serena will confirm the effectiveness of the sealants and reapply them when necessary.

Need more information?

Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!

What Does it Mean to be High Risk for Cavities?

What does it mean to be high risk for cavities?

What is a cavity? 

A cavity is the destruction of tooth structure caused by a combination of bacteria, sugar and acid.  When bacteria in the mouth digests sugar, acid is produced.  The acid destroys enamel, just like it etches glass, and this process is called demineralization.  Once a cavity has grown through the outer layer of enamel, it cannot be reversed.

 What are the different types of cavities?

Cavities can form on any surface of the tooth, including the pits and fissures on the biting surface, smooth surfaces and any exposed root.  Pit & fissure cavities are the type that can be prevented by placing dental sealants before a cavity has formed.  Smooth surface cavities, most commonly in between the teeth, are discovered with bitewing x-rays, typically taken by your dentist once a year.  Root cavities can be seen on visual examination, or on an x-ray if they are large.

 

 How do cavities happen?

 Four things are required for a cavity to form: 1) acid,  2) sugar, 3) bacteria, and 4) time.  The bacteria present in the mouth thrive on simple carbohydrates, the sugars in most crackers, cookies, candy, soda, sports drinks, and most juices.  The more bacteria you have in your mouth, the more likely you are to get a cavity.  This factor emphasizes the importance of daily home care and regular dental cleanings.  The more sugar your teeth are exposed to, the more likely you are to get a cavity.  This factor emphasizes the importance of your diet.  The longer your teeth are exposed to sugar or acid, the more likely you are to get a cavity.  This factor emphasizes the importance of your habits (i.e. sipping on sugary or acidic beverages for long periods of time).  The more acidic your mouth is, the more likely you are to get a cavity. This factor also emphasizes the importance of diet, specifically acidic beverages like sparkling water, sports drinks, juices, and sodas.

 

What does it mean to be high risk? 

There are multiple factors that can make you high risk.  You may present with one or more of these factors:

·       Poor plaque control
·       High risk diet
·       Multiple existing restorations (like fillings or crowns)
·       Fractured teeth
·       Decreased salivary flow or dry mouth
·       Systemic condition
·       Active decay
·       Unsealed grooves and pits
·       In orthodontic treatment, either braces or Invisalign

 What can I do about it? 

By altering the four factors in the diagram, you can reduce your cavity risk.

  1. Acid – Reduce your intake of acidic foods & drinks (this includes DIET SODAS, coffee and tea), drink plenty of water, use sugar-free gum or mints to stimulate salivary flow, and control any acid reflux problems. Neutralizing the pH in your mouth may involve using recommended mouthrinses or gels.

  2. Sugar – Limit sugar intake, especially in between meals. Cut back on sodas, sweetened coffee or tea, sports drinks, or juices. Don’t chew sugar-containing gum, mints or other hard candy.

  3. Bacteria – Reduce the bacterial levels in your mouth by having your teeth professionally cleaned on a regular basis, and performing good oral hygiene at home. FLOSS!

  4. Time – Limit the length of time that your teeth are exposed to acid or sugar. Sipping on an acidic or sugary beverage is one of the most common causes of cavities. You may only drink one soda per day, but if you sip on it for several hours, you are increasing your cavity risk exponentially.

 

What if I don’t do anything?

Untreated cavities expand toward the nerve inside the tooth.  Large cavities can cause nerve irritation and sensitivity to hot and cold.  If the cavity reaches the nerve, causing it to become infected with the cavity’s bacteria, a severe infection and toothache can ensue. Not all tooth infections hurt, so evaluation of teeth with dental x-rays is important!   Tooth infections can extend through the root and into the surrounding jaw structures, and worst-case scenario, end in death by closing off the airway or spreading into the brain.

 

Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!