Keep minor annoyances minor

Only a few very lucky people have no tooth decay. Most have to deal with cavities at some point, even with diligent dental care habits. In this series of articles that address oral awareness, cavities are explored as minor problems that become major threats. No two cavities are like and each requires a treatment plan to keep the minor problem from becoming major. Not all cavities are alike and require different approaches.

The cavity, a slow growing dental demon, is the most common threat to tooth health. It begins as an annoyance that can be easy to ignore. Several dental advancements make dealing with it easy and fast, without any pain or discomfort. A quick overview of the various kinds and advancements in approaches will help you know how to keep the dental demons away.

Each tooth has its own biography. It bravely starts out strong, white, pristine. It will share the challenges of fighting stress, wear, and decay like its neighboring teeth, but will do it uniquely. Until too stressed, it will quietly do its job of chewing and supporting its neighboring teeth, and is easy to take for granted. But when in danger, the tooth will send out pain signals of distress, demanding immediate attention.

No two cavities are alike, just as no two teeth are alike, and no two people are alike. Even with diligent home and professional care, some people are  more prone to cavities and decay than other. And, there can be ramifications to decay that you can’t even see, and may later cause the loss of the tooth. Cavities do not get smaller or go away, and if one tooth has a cavity unattended, it can also spread to an adjacent tooth.

Though a filling can last many years, it has a lifespan and will eventually wear out too. Many factors contribute to its demise:

• Chips or cracks in the filling will leave the tooth less protected to new areas of decay.

• Decay may leak under a crown. This is particularly dangerous if the decay is close to the nerve. A tooth with a crown has already received traumatic stress by being reduced to accommodate the crown. The crown will make the tooth functional for many years, but decay is relentless and patient.

Cavities may seem a minor annoyance when small, but they are really very large threats to overall health. Like most illness, the quicker caught, the easier and faster the cure.

There are several new technological developments that make dealing with cavities even more painless and efficient:

• Improved restorations (composites that are more durable than silver, bond more to the tooth, and match the tooth color)

• Isodry mouthpiece to make treatment comfortable for you as well as increase accuracy and speed in procedure.

• High speed water drill makes the process faster, quieter, and less stressful for the patient and the tooth.

• Improved anesthetics make receiving treatment painless and effects highly localized.

Cavities as minor annoyances, can remain minor if handled immediately. Most are slow to grow and fast to eliminate with a painless procedure. Your dentist can guide you into the best direction for treatment and materials. Your periodic checkups can best protect you from the annoyance, expense, time, and complications for what may seem just a minor cavity. This will keep your precious teeth from threatening trouble.

Please enjoy these related articles:

  • Tooth Decay” —educational video with clear and concise descriptions.
  • Inlays & Onlays” —porcelain inlays bond onto teeth to repair minor cracks or chips.
  • Restorative Overview” —repair options for damaged teeth and gums, with a guide for health solutions.
  • What is the Value of One Tooth?” —Scott Smith explains his realizations gained from hard experience.

“Comparisons give instant perspective. Coming home with bad news, I dragged my feet into the house, only to discover my wife sitting in the kitchen with a face sadder than mine! She cried, ‘This morning I lost my diamond ring!’ And she preceded to describe the sequence of events.

Once she calmed, I could then declare my own misfortune: ‘I cracked a tooth and it split to its base. I ran to Dr. Chernoff’s Evanston office, where he eased my pain, but gave me some bad news.’ Her tears dried up instantly when I told her that I lost the tooth.

Suddenly, our discussion shifted to value—which is the greater loss? Without hesitation, I concluded, ‘My loss is much bigger than yours. Dr. C explained to me all the ramifications of one lost tooth: my alignment will shift making my bite off, causing uneven chewing, receding gums, loss of bone, aging my face faster, and ultimately will affect my self image. A tooth is far more valuable than a diamond!’” —Scott Smith, Evanston, IL

  • Eight Steps to Dental Health” —of all the activities for ensuring health, dental diligence is the least time-consuming. Keep your teeth for a lifetime with only eight simple steps in a daily routine.

Of all the activities for ensuring health, dental diligence is the least time-consuming. Some people assume they will lose their teeth as they age, but that doesn’t have to happen. To keep our teeth for a lifetime only takes eight simple steps, according to David A. Albert, D.D.S., M.P.H., assistant professor of clinical dentistry at the Columbia University School of Dental and Oral Surgery. To keep our teeth and mouth healthy, follow:


STEP 1: Understand your own oral health needs.
“Your oral health depends on many factors, including your diet [what you eat], the type and amount of saliva in your mouth, habits, your overall health and your oral hygiene routine,” Dr. Albert said. Changes in our overall health often create changes in our oral health. “For example, many medications, including more than 300 common drugs, can reduce the amount of saliva in your mouth, resulting in dry mouth,” he said. “They also can make your saliva ropy or thicker in consistency. Women who are pregnant experience oral changes. This often includes inflammation of the gums, which is called pregnancy gingivitis. Patients with asthma often breathe through their mouths, particularly when sleeping, which can result in dry mouth and increased plaque formation and gingivitis.”

STEP 2: Commit to a daily oral health routine.
Set a regular time to form good habits. Everyone is in a hurry, so habit-forming must be a conscious effort to establish. But once we have a momentum, committing to the confidence gained, for only around five minutes per day, the long-term results are dramatic.

STEP 3:  Eat a balanced diet.
Limit snacks, particularly those high in simple sugars. When we eat, particles of food lodged around teeth provide fuel for bacteria. The bacteria produces acid every time we eat. The more often we eat and the longer food stays in our mouths, the more time bacteria has to produce acids that begin the decay process. Repeated acid attacks break down the enamel surface of our teeth, which leads to cavities. If you must snack, brush your teeth, or chew sugarless gum afterward. A balanced diet is also important. Deficiencies in minerals and vitamins can also affect your oral health, as well as your general health.

STEP 4: Brush regularly with fluoride.
Everyone should brush at least twice a day, preferably three times, or after every meal. Include fluoride to strengthen developing teeth in children and to help prevent decay in adults and children. Toothpastes and mouthwashes are good sources of fluoride. Your dentist can prescribe stronger concentrations of fluoride through gels or rinses if you need it.

STEP 5: Floss at least twice a day to remove plaque, in addition to brushing.
Millions of bacteria live in our mouths and feed off of food left on our teeth. Food particles lodged between teeth and caught in the gums surrounding teeth can not be removed completely by brushing alone. As bacteria flourish, they produce an acid that eats into tooth enamel and a sulfur compound that creates bad breath. Left alone, bacteria grows in a sticky mesh of mucus and debris called “plaque.” This plaque not only fosters enamel decay and cavities, but also irritates the gums, causing periodontal diseases. Flossing breaks up the colonies of bacteria sticking to our teeth. Follow with a dental rinse as a good way to swish and spit bacteria away. Flossing helps keep our teeth clean, and breath fresh, between visits to our dental hygienists for “professional plaque removal.”

STEP 6: If you use tobacco, in any form, quit.
Smoking or using smokeless tobacco increases your risk of oral cancer, gingivitis, periodontitis and tooth decay. Using tobacco also contributes to bad breath and stains on your teeth. If you smoke or use smokeless tobacco, your dentist or dental hygienist can show you where lesions are most likely to appear.

STEP 7: Examine your mouth regularly.
Even if we visit our dentists regularly, we are in the best positions to notice changes in our mouths. Your dentist sees you only a few times a year, but you can examine your mouth weekly to look for changes that might be of concern. These changes could include swollen gums, chipped teeth, discolored teeth, sores or lesions. A regular examination is particularly important for tobacco users, who are at increased risk of developing oral cancer.

STEP 8: Visit the dental office regularly.
You and your dentist should talk about the frequency of regular visits. We each need a different blend of oral and dental care, for no two people have mouths the same.

With these easy maintenance steps, regular checkups, and knowing what to watch for, we can ensure that our teeth remain strong as we age. It takes so little for such a beneficial long-term investment!

  • Teeth as Best Friends” —they are depended upon to help our well being. But, like any healthy relationship, they do need attention.

Until something happens, most of us take our teeth for granted. We may not always remember to brush and floss. We often procrastinate visits to the dentist. Teeth can be easy to ignore because problems don’t develop quickly. Rarely are there true emergencies. Like a best friend, they are always there to help our well being. Like a best friend, we depend on them when we need them. But, also like a best friend, they do need attention. They have needs as well.

The most common reasons a patient visits my dental office include concerns for:

1. Appearance/cosmetic

2. Function

3. Health & well-being

4. Quality of life and pain management

People can be judged by their friends. And we can be judged by our teeth. A glamorously dressed woman, immaculate and fashionable, can ruin the whole effect if her smile displays bad teeth! More importantly, we only feel as good overall as the condition of our teeth. When we smile, we immediately think of how our teeth look. When we bite into an apple, we know instantly the condition of our abilities. More lasting than hairstyles, our teeth may be the single biggest indication of self-concept. 

It is human nature to race forward based on the reliability of friends and tools. Teeth truly are both. Whatever investment of time and attention we give to them pays us back every moment of our days. These trusted friends deserve our care through extending this trust into our healthcare. By maintaining our teeth in a preventative manner, we ensure they are always there when we need them.

By working collaboratively with my team, we foster an atmosphere of educational and perceptive dentistry. Each patient has a story to tell through teeth. With focused and individualized care, patients can make the best decisions for their overall health. Regular visits allow us to check teeth for decay, support gum health, and catch any abnormalities that may arise. With plaque and tartar removed, when teeth are polished, this is one of the best feelings to have.

Because our teeth are such a major aspect to our quality of life, my team gets to know each patient. I consider family backgrounds, medical/dental histories, and can advise on any decisions that need to be made. There are always choices in how to be proactive or cautious and the treatment solutions. Plans are tailored preferences.

The open communication that we develop during your appointment will enable the best decisions for whether to be aggressive or moderate. Once values are identified, these choices become much easier.

Trust, communication, and honesty between patient and dentist creates the most nurturing and efficient treatment progress. Thoughtfulness, awareness, comfort, and dependability are important values that we, as patients, must embody to best help ourselves. We are vastly rewarded for our diligence. To smile confidently and proudly is one of life’s delights.
Arnold K. Chernoff, DDS

Being healthy in today’s society is time consuming and expensive without shortcuts. Diet, exercise, and healthcare all demand attention. One of the fastest and easiest ways to maintain overall health can start with oral health.

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