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tooth protection

Dental Questions: Is tooth decay related to genetics?

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Dental Questions: Is tooth decay related to genetics?

thousandoaksfamilydentistry.com

We often hear of people born with "soft enamel" or "weak teeth" that have left them with a lifetime of dental problems. Naturally, genetics has to play some role in tooth decay- right? How else can we explain the the stark differences in dental experience across the population? While the foundations of dental disease are hereditary, the full answer might surprise you!

For starters, genetics can play a role in cavities and tooth decay. However, these problems affect a very small group- less than 1% of the general population. Hereditary conditions like amelogenesis imperfecta, dentinogenesis imperfecta and dentin dysplasia all cause less resistance to tooth decay and increased dental needs over a lifetime. They also come with very obvious cosmetic changes, like mottled coloring, brown/ blue enamel tones or notched edges. If your teeth appear "normal," chances are you aren't affected by one of these conditions. In addition, there are some developmental issues that can lead to weaker enamel as well. Notably, incisor-molar hypoplasia appears with mottled enamel on the permanent incisors and first molars that is less resistant to tooth decay. 

In reality, the inherited component of tooth decay comes from bacterial genetics. In many instances, the cavity experience of a child's mother will predict the next generation's rate of decay. As the typical primary caregiver, close contact between mother and child leads to bacterial inoculation during a developmental period that defines the child's future oral bacteria. This is one of the reasons we stress not sharing utensils or cleaning pacifiers with spit. While all children will eventually become inoculated, delaying the start time can lower the tooth decay experience. Additionally, learned habits can play a large shaping role in tooth decay. Attitudes towards snaking, brushing/flossing, sugary foods and dental treatment become learned at a young age and can be hard to correct.  

The important message here is that very few patients actually have "soft enamel," and improving dental health is an attainable goal. Controlling sugar intake, daily brushing/ flossing and frequent hydration with fluoridated water are easy and scientifically proven to lower the risk of developing cavities. If you would like to know more about tooth decay, fillings, cavities or other dental concerns, please give our office a call!

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Video Blog on Home Hygiene

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Video Blog on Home Hygiene

Greetings, my name is Dr. Kari Ann Hong, and I have a family dentistry practice where I see patients from all age groups.  In my practice, I help educate my patients about what they can do at home to help care for their teeth.  

The first topic of discussion is what patients eat and drink and how frequently they do so.  Our mouths all naturally harbor a certain amount of bacteria.  A specific strain called streptococcous mutans is responsible for eating the foods and beverages we ingest and creating acid.  This acid causes a breakdown in the calcium phosphate structure of our teeth, leading to tooth decay.  Certain foods will stick to the teeth longer than others and make the teeth more susceptible to decay.  Examples of cavity provoking foods and beverages are pretzels, crackers, cereals, sodas, energy drinks, and juices.  Natural foods that come from a tree or are picked from the ground will naturally wash of the teeth much quicker after we eat it.

Every time we eat or drink something other than water, our mouth will become more acidic for at least fifteen minutes after we ingest it.  So the more frequently we eat, the more acid that accumulates in our mouths.

In order to counteract the bacteria in our mouths and the foods that stick to our teeth, it is important that we brush twice a day and floss once a day.  I generally recommend an electric rechargeable toothbrush like a Sonicare or an Oral B to all of my patients.  These electric toothbrushes are great because they help remove plaque build up better that we can with a manual toothbrush.  Also, they have timers on them to encourage us to brush for a full two minutes.  I recommend that my patient split their mouth up into four quadrants, and spend 30 seconds on each quadrant.  If you choose to use a manual toothbrush, then I recommend a soft tooth brush.  A harder tooth brush can adversely abrade the gum tissue or the tooth surface with extended use.  Place the tooth brush at a 45 degree angle to the tooth surface.  Make sure to gently massage the tooth and focus on where the teeth meet the gums, because this is where the plaque likes to collect.  

I recommend flossing or using a hygiene tool to clean below the contact of the teeth at least once a dayThe idea behind flossing is that you want to get the floss between the gum and the tooth, by wrapping each tooth you have just flossed between in a C-motion.  For the butler soft pic, you just need to get it below the contact area.

In terms of what toothpastes or mouthwashes to use, I have a couple of suggestions.  Any fluoridated toothpaste will be sufficient to clean the teeth.  In patients that have a high risk of tooth decay, I will often recommend an additional  tooth paste to be brushed on with a dry toothbrush, after regular tooth brushing.  CariFree gel and MI paste are two of my favorite products for tooth remineralization.  Both products have calcium, phosphate, and fluoride that help to rebuild tooth structure.  

For mouth washes, I like over the counter ACT Fluoride rinse for those prone to tooth decay.  For those that are prone to gum disease, I recommend Listerine, which is anti-bacterial.  CariFree also makes a mouth wash that is pH neutral and has the same calcium and phosphate as the gel.

Finally, if you like to chew gum, then you can also fight your bacteria at the same time, by finiding a gum with xylitol. Xylitol is a plant derived sugar that prohibits the bacteria in our mouths from producing acid.  Studies have shown that 5-8mg of xylitol a day in a chewable form helps protect our teeth.  

If you would like more information about what you can do to prevent tooth decay and make your teeth healthier, contact us for a new patient exam, where we will go into your specific needs in detail!

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