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By Rod Spencer DDS

How would you like to save your teeth and stay out of “the chair”? Let’s face it. It costs precious time and money to be in ‘the chair’.

I have been in dentistry for over 18 years as a dentist and close to 45 as a seasoned veteran of being the patient. One thing I have learned is that we are all at risk of losing our teeth and smiles over time. Some of us have much higher risk of losing our teeth and smiles over time. Some of us have much higher risk factors than others and may even lose them all by age 25; however, most all of us had or have the opportunity to keep them for a lifetime. Most of the time, risk factors can be controlled or decreased as long as they are understood and owned. As far as teeth go, risks to losing them boils down to a few main categories. Foundation (gum and bone), Biomechanics (cavity risks, history of previous dentistry), Functional (grinding, clenching, diet), and Trauma (abuse/likelihood of more).

For the most part, we as owners of our smile determine the fate of our end results by choice. Choice to understand or not, to learn and seek knowledge about which risk factors are high, medium or low and what preventatively can be done. Any dental professional can help you understand how you rank and how to not only treat any problems; but more importantly, how to lower those risk factors with simple at-home changes to treat the actual cause. It is the understanding of the risk factors, asking questions and owning that risk that ultimately helps you stay out of ‘the chair” by what you do at home. Another approach is to just assume you have high risk to everything and as long as problems are not there, try the following advice. Foundation (gum and gone)—this is the leading cause of tooth loss and understanding what to do is critical. Bacteria love a warm, wet environment; they create the gum and bone problems as well as cavity issues. They love the mouth and it’s party time fro them is=f they get the chance to thrive. They cause inflammation and infection if their population gets too high and we lose jawbone that anchors our teeth into position. We rely on good blood supply to our gum tissues and bone to bring our immune system to the battlegrounds. Bacteria sticks to teeth like dirt on the truck and won’t come off until brushed, scrubbed and rinsed. Sometimes the brushing gets it, usually the dental hygienist has to help, but once good and polished cleaned, keeping is that way is easier. Tools and tricks for home are the electric toothbrushes like sonicare and floss to scrub and the waterpik or hydroflossser to rinse away. Time and pattern is tough with busy lives, but a 2-4 minute after breakfast and before bedtime will dramatically lower your risks. The key is to get good at rubbing/scrubbing all surfaces of the teeth above and below the gum line as well as in-between. Good nutrition, fluids and good nights sleep all play a huge factor in immune strength and response and help dramatically in reducing g risk factors.

Biomechanics or cavity risks include your history of dental work as well. Lots of heavily filled teeth are more susceptible to breaking, fracturing and cracking as opposed to minimally filled teeth. Judgment of how much pressure to chew with should be strongly considered or get help from your dental professional if not sure. This is the second leader in tooth loss risk factors. The byproduct of bacteria is acid. The more bugs, the more acid they excrete and this is what causes cavities and holds in the teeth.

Sometimes we will see a frosty white, brownish or yellow area and this is the start of acid damage. Once the acid erodes away through the hard coating of enamel on our teeth, it gets into the softer internal part called the dentin.

What can you do? Number one; realize it is the acid created by the bacteria when they get sugar and carbohydrates. The more bugs, the more acid, the more damage. Decrease your risks here by most importantly decreasing the bacteria on the teeth above and below the gum line. Again brushing and flossing and rinsing. Have any brown spot areas checked out and fixed, have teeth sealed if you can swing it to protect them and drink lots of water to dilute the acid strength, Your diet habits are huge here. Acidic drinks with sugar are very damaging. Time-release sugars like sticky caramels and hard candies feed the problem immensely. Treats or snacks like cheese sticks and carrots help reduce cavity risks. No juice in the baby bottle is huge. Use a product that has the ingredient called Xylitol found in certain gum and mints. This has been proven to actually help high cavity risk people Try whole foods like fresh vegetables and fruits, meats and cheeses. Your energy is actually better when you cut out the sugar habits too. These are the main things to strongly consider. Saving time in the ‘chair’ gets you more than just a great smile… it also allows you the time to get out and enjoy the things you love to do… to make memories for a life time. Remember, time is infinitely precious, use every minute!

Article: Flathead Living Winter 2011-12, pg. 45