If you have dental problems, it’s mostly your fault. And if you want to have less dental problems, it’s your responsibility. It’s not the fault of the dental insurance company. It’s not the government’s responsibility. It’s on you. What you eat and how well you take care of your teeth are decisions that you’re in charge of. And you’re in charge of these decisions for your kids. So, will you rise to the challenge?
“Wow, Doc. Kinda harsh.”
Maybe, but I recently saw a PBS Frontline special called “Dollars and Dentists.” Among other things, it accuses dentists of not doing enough to help poor kids with dental care. I’m hearing this more and more and it really irks me. Because 95% of all dental disease is completely preventable.
What I’m saying is that if you’ve never had a cavity, you can choose to keep that perfect record. If you have gingivitis, you can change that. If you’ve had dental troubles, you can stop the destruction and turn it around. And that goes for your children, too.
“Sure, doc. But, what’s the catch?”
There actually is a catch. If you get a lot of cavities or have gum disease it’s likely that your diet and lack of brushing/flossing have a lot to do with it. You see, tooth decay and gum disease are biofilm infections. Your teeth and anything else in your mouth (crowns, dentures, implants) are covered with a film of bacteria and bacterial products called a biofilm. How much of this biofilm (a.k.a: dental plaque) there is and how healthy it is has everything to do with how much decay and gum disease you experience.
“O.K. Doc, I get the “how much” part, but how can bacteria in my mouth be healthy?”
It sounds weird, but what type of bacteria makes up your biofilm is at least as important as how much biofilm you have. Not all mouth bacteria will cause cavities. In fact, some bugs are actually protective! You pretty much always get your mouth bugs from your mom as a baby. If mom has a lot of cavities or gum disease, you’re probably going to pick up mouth bacteria that are more likely to cause cavities and gum disease. As a child, you rely on mom (and dad) to take care of her own teeth and make sure yours are taken care of as well. Good dietary habits as a child (few sugary snacks, eating sweets only at meal times) can help establish healthy teeth for a lifetime. The problem is that we humans are biologically driven to like sweets, which means we’ll constantly be fighting this impulse!
Once you become in charge of your own health, it’s time to step up. If you’ve been dealt the hand of tough mouth bugs, you’re responsible for changing them! Those who have already experienced dental troubles (cavities or gum disease) need to work even harder on their home care. The very fact that you’ve had dental problems lets us know that you have virulent (bad!) bugs. Brushing and flossing can reduce the number and location of these bugs on your teeth. But how do you change what kind of bugs you have?
Diet has a lot to do with the type of bugs that inhabit your mouth. If your mouth maintains a low pH (acid) for a long period of time, the kind of bugs that can tolerate that environment will become more numerous. What kinds of things keep a mouth acidy? Drinking pop. Specifically sipping pop slowly over a long period of time. Other habits like sucking on hard candies cause this, as well. Bathing teeth in a sugary, acidy environment will not only cause cavities but it creates an environment perfect for the nastier bugs. Changing your dietary habits can make a huge difference on the “environment” you create in your mouth. Reducing sweets, especially pop, as well as reducing how often a person snacks will go a long way to letting your natural defenses change the environment in your mouth. Chewing xylitol gum or mints can also change the kind of bugs you have in your mouth. Dentists can prescribe certain mouth rinses that can actually change the makeup of your biofilm over time as well.
Your biofilm is your problem. Most people only see the dentist a few times per year. The choices you make on a day to day basis about diet and taking care of your teeth (or not) are the ones that really count. I can’t control what you or your kids eat. We can clean up your biofilm a couple times per year, but it will be back to the same the day after we clean your teeth. The choice is yours. So step up and take care of those teeth!
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If you’re looking for a dentist in Saginaw, we’re always happy to accept new patients! You can request an appointment online or call the office at (989) 799-9133. And, as always, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I always answer my own emails!