Your mouth is not isolated from the rest of your body.
In other words, your dental health has an impact on your overall health and vice versa. For instance, there is a strong correlation between uncontrolled diabetes and periodontal (gum) disease. Certain medications and supplements have an impact on bleeding properties or your ability to heal. Treatments such as radiation or surgeries may negatively impact your body’s ability to produce saliva and may increase your risk of tooth decay.
Having an awareness of your health history plays an important role in understanding what’s going on in your mouth, identifying risks to address proactively, and creating an individualized treatment plan that is most likely to be a success. For these reasons and more, it’s important that you update your dental provider on any health changes. If you are taking multiple medications or supplements, carry an updated list with you.
Baby teeth serve an important role.
It’s easy to think that baby teeth are a trial run before the real thing, but losing baby teeth too early due to decay has negative consequences. Healthy baby teeth play an important role in nutrition. Losing baby teeth early could result in several years of decreased chewing function before adult teeth show up.
Baby molars are often not replaced with permanent teeth until ten to twelve years of age. Pulling baby teeth instead of restoring decay with fillings or crowns may seem like the obvious choice, but a child’s ability to chew is vital to good nutrition both because of the healthy foods they are more likely to consume with strong teeth and because proper chewing is essential to the digestive process.
Second, baby teeth are necessary placeholders for the developing permanent teeth. Baby teeth hold space within the bone as the jaw develops, making healthy alignment of the permanent teeth more likely. Teeth are also essential to our speech. Without baby teeth, a child’s speech development could be impacted negatively.
It’s not just sugar that’s bad for your teeth.
While sugar rightfully so has a bad reputation for decay, it’s important to have an understanding of what causes decay in order to make healthier choices. Frequent snacking or sipping on drinks throughout the day is hard on your teeth. This is because bacteria feed on the food and drinks we consume and then produce lactic acid. This lactic acid changes the pH of our mouth, creating an acidic environment which is when decay begins to happen. It takes about 20 minutes for your saliva to neutralize the mouth after the exposure is eliminated. Sticky foods that remain in the teeth and are not washed away by saliva will prolong that time.
Many snack foods are simple carbohydrates that stick in our teeth. Eating or drinking constantly will leave your mouth in an “acid attack” for most of the day, never allowing your enamel to rebuild. Acidic food and drinks such as citrus fruits, sodas, coffee, etc., pose an extra threat as they create extra low pH levels in your mouth. In short, exercise caution when it comes to sipping on anything but water throughout the day or snacking constantly, especially on simple carbohydrates or products with refined sugar.
Dentures are not a quick fix.
It’s not uncommon to hear people comment that it would be easier to pull all of their teeth and get dentures. While we can understand how you might come to this conclusion (dentures sound like less maintenance, less cost, etc.), the reality is a little more complicated. It’s true that dental technology is quickly advancing, providing edentulous patients with better and better options, and in some cases, this is absolutely the best treatment plan. However, natural teeth are still considered superior in comfort and function.
Despite a dentist’s best efforts, dentures do not always fit well. Many patients end up not wearing their dentures as frequently as they’d like due to either discomfort or less-than-desirable function. The bony ridge that a denture fits onto can change with time. Without teeth and the healthy forces of chewing, bone resorbs. Not only will this alter how the denture fits, but it will result in a change in facial profile over time. Typical dentures must also be removed at night or for a certain amount of time each day for the health of the soft tissue underneath.
The bottom line is dentures still require maintenance. Newer implant-supported dentures are proving to have more success but are more expensive. For these reasons and others, keeping and maintaining natural teeth whenever possible is still the preferred treatment.
The dose of radiation with dental x-rays may not be as high as you think.
Since dental x-rays are a form of ionizing radiation, we can understand why you’d be concerned about limiting your exposure. We, too, are motivated to limit dental x-rays to only that which is medically necessary. This means creating individual decisions based on the patient’s level of risk, using the most efficient x-ray machines, and sending images digitally to other providers as needed to reduce patient exposure. Dental decay, periodontal disease, infection, and other abnormalities are often asymptomatic until later stages, which means that your dentist will need routine x-rays at some interval to provide the best care, but this interval can be customized to you according to your risk.
Additionally, digital technology has significantly reduced the amount of radiation required for dental images. It’s important to note also that you are exposed to radiation every day through environment, food, the sun, medical x-rays etc. The average American is exposed to an estimated dose of six millisieverts of radiation every day.1 One bitewing image is equivalent to less than one day of exposure to radiation.2 One panoramic image may be similar to two to three days of exposure to natural radiation.2 To put this in perspective, one CT scan of your abdomen would be comparable to about three years of natural radiation exposure.3