Waterford, MI Dentist
Lloyd H. Alpert, D.D.S.
4025 Highland Road
Waterford, MI 48328
(248) 682-6010

Posts for: November, 2015

Study Explores How Secondhand Smoke May Affect Children's Teeth

A possible link exists between secondhand smoke and caries—or cavities—in children, according to a scientific article published in The Journal of the American Dental Association.

Authors reviewed 15 high-quality observational studies and discovered that 10 of the studies showed a weak to moderate link between cavities in primary teeth and secondhand smoke. The five other studies showed a weak link between secondhand smoke and permanent teeth.

According to the JADA article, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regards cavities as the most prevalent chronic disease in children ages 6 to 11 years and in teens ages 12 to 19 years. A cavity is tooth decay that has destroyed tooth enamel, which is the hard, outer layer of teeth.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services aims to reduce the prevalence of cavities in children by 10 percent by 2020. The prevalence of cavities in American children ages 3 to 5 years in 1999–2004 was 33.3 percent, according to Healthy People 2020--an initiative by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to improve the health of all Americans. Healthy People determined that the prevalence of cavities in children ages 6 to 9 years was 54.4 percent and 53.7 percent in children 13 to 15 years.

Dentists want to understand the link between human behaviors and the development of cavities, especially as dentistry moves from surgical treatment of caries to prevention and medical management that accounts for a person’s risks toward the disease. Factors for high-cavities risk include low socioeconomic status, a diet high in refined carbohydrates, low fluoride exposure and poor or infrequent oral hygiene.

Secondhand smoke also may prove to be a risk factor, though more research is needed to affirm it as causing cavities.

The American Dental Association has valuable information about cavities on its consumer website, MouthHealthy.org. Click the A-Z Topics section from the home page to access individual topics by alphabet.

 © 2015 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

The Hardest Part of Your Body: The Importance of Enamel

“Understanding Tooth Enamel”

Tooth enamel covers each of your teeth and protects them from damage. When dentists talk about tooth decay, they're usually talking about erosion of this enamel. It's important to understand exactly what enamel does and how to properly handle it so that you can take good care of your teeth and prevent problems.

What is Tooth Enamel?

Tooth enamel is a hard substance found in the shell of each of your teeth and is the part of the tooth that’s visible when you look in your mouth. Enamel is considered the hardest substance in the human body. It’s even harder than your bones; however, it can dissolve or decay when exposed to acid and a build-up of bacteria.

What is Enamel's Purpose?

Enamel's primary purpose is to protect your teeth from damage. When you chew, you risk damage to your teeth because you have to grind your food. In most cases, your enamel is hard enough to prevent teeth from being damaged while you're eating. In addition, the nerves in your teeth are sensitive to temperature; hot or cold foods could cause them pain. The enamel insulates the rest of the tooth so that you don't feel discomfort when you eat or drink something that’s particularly hot or cold.

Although enamel is a hard, protective surface, it can crack or chip fairly easily. If food gets stuck between your teeth or a food substance is particularly hard, the enamel can break. If this happens, it won't be able to protect your teeth adequately. You may become aware that the enamel has cracked if you feel pain while eating, especially if you’re eating something hot, cold, or sugary.

About Tooth Enamel Restoration

If your enamel begins to decay, your dentist may recommend a variety of procedures, depending on the degree of enamel loss. It's important to go to the dentist as soon as possible when you experience tooth pain, as well as get regular checkups so that you can stop enamel problems before they get more serious.

Most dentists use artificial products to replace lost enamel. They may fill cavities with a filler solution that includes gold, silver, mercury, or plastic. They also may build an artificial crown around your tooth if you have an advanced case of tooth decay. Most dentists don't attempt to restore or regrow enamel, as these kinds of treatments are experimental and have not yet been proven to work. However, you can try alternative treatments at home such as brushing with sea salt to reduce pain and sensitivity in your teeth.

Tooth Enamel and Foods

Enamel is surprisingly susceptible to decay despite its hardness. There are certain foods that you should avoid whenever possible in order to protect your enamel.

Most dentists advise against drinking a lot of soda – and this includes diet. This is because both the sugar and acid can dissolve enamel. Citrus-flavored sodas have higher acid levels than others and are therefore more risky to drink. Sports drinks and energy drinks may also contain high levels of acid, so you should avoid these as much as possible, too.

You should also be careful when drinking juice or eating citrus fruit because these foods contain high levels of acid. Unlike soda, however, fruit juice and citrus fruits have health benefits, so you don't want to cut them out altogether. Instead, eat these foods in moderation and alongside other foods that don't contain acid in order to neutralize their effects. Surprisingly, vinegar also contributes to enamel decay because of its acidic qualities. Be careful when putting a vinegar-based dressing on your salad or when eating potato chips and other products that have a high vinegar content.

Finally, you should avoid candy whenever possible. Most candy contains high levels of sugar, which increases the risk of enamel decay.

Symptoms and Treatment for Tooth Enamel Disease

You might not notice enamel erosion at first because the differences in your teeth are subtle. However, as you lose more enamel, you'll begin having additional symptoms.

If your teeth hurt or throb when you eat something hot or cold, you probably are experiencing some enamel loss. This problem gets worse over time. At first, you might feel a twinge of pain for a second, while later on your teeth will hurt for a while. If you're avoiding certain foods because you know they will cause tooth pain, see your dentist.

As your enamel erosion progresses, your teeth may appear yellow or discolored even though you're brushing them. This is because the enamel contributes to your teeth's white appearance. As the enamel erodes, it exposes more dentin, which is yellow. Your teeth may also appear more round in shape than usual and in some cases may appear unusually shiny. As the erosion progresses past this point, your teeth will appear to be chipped or rough around the edges and you may see indentations forming on your teeth.

Your dentist will examine your teeth for erosion and will fill any cavities or create artificial crowns for severely eroded teeth. If your gums are also infected, your dentist may send you to an oral surgeon to have a root canal or to remove the tooth and replace it with a false one.

The enamel around your teeth is very important because it protects teeth from damage and allows you to eat foods without hurting your teeth. As long as you take good care of your enamel, your teeth will continue to be protected for years to come.

Information Provided by Humana



ADA Patient Library