The Millennials, those born around the turn of the Millennium in 2000, are entering adulthood. Like any generation, they have their collective promise—and problems. An example of the latter seems to involve their teeth: an estimated one in three people between the ages of 18 and 34 have some form of tooth decay.
If a recent survey is correct, that may be a result of poor oral hygiene practices. The absence of a consistent, daily habit of brushing and flossing to remove disease-causing dental plaque is the number one cause for dental disease. But a survey of 2,000 millennials found only three in ten brushed their teeth at least once a day with many often skipping brushing for two or more days a time.
Interestingly, more than half of the survey also reported an aversion to dental visits. That will likely need to change if these trends in poor hygiene continue, as aging millennials will eventually need extensive treatment for tooth decay and its close counterpart periodontal (gum) disease to save their teeth. Dental professionals recommend a different dental care track: stop dental disease before it develops. And the key to that is a simple but powerful daily brushing and flossing routine.
This routine should involve brushing teeth up to twice and flossing at least once a day. Brushing should be done with gentle strokes, but include all exposed tooth surfaces (about two minutes to perform a thorough job). Flossing is less popular than brushing, but it’s essential for removing plaque between teeth your brush can’t reach. To make it easier, you can use pre-threaded floss or a water flosser that removes plaque with a stream of water.
To round out your prevention strategy, you should see a dentist at least twice a year for professional cleanings of hardened plaque deposits (calculus), as well as overall monitoring of your dental health. And if dental visits make you anxious, your dental professional has a number of ways to help you relax.
One thing’s for sure: like any other generation, millennials prize both good health and an attractive smile. Adopting a solid oral hygiene lifestyle will do the most to achieve both.
Most dental problems arise from tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. But they aren't the only source of danger to your teeth—gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) could be just as damaging to your tooth enamel as dental disease.
GERD usually occurs when a ring of muscles at the top of the stomach weaken, allowing stomach acid to enter the esophagus. This resulting acid reflux can make life unpleasant and pose potential health dangers—over time it can damage the lining of the esophagus and cause ulcers and pre-cancerous cells. It can also erode tooth enamel if acid enters the mouth and raises its level of acidity.
This can be a problem because acid can soften and dissolve the mineral content of tooth enamel. This is the primary cause of tooth decay as acid produced by oral bacteria attack enamel. The more bacteria present, often thriving in dental plaque, the higher the potential levels of acid that can damage enamel. Stomach acid, which is strong enough to break down food, can cause similar harm to enamel if it causes higher than normal acidity in the mouth.
There are some things you can do to protect your teeth if you have GERD, namely manage your GERD symptoms with lifestyle changes and medication. You may need to avoid alcohol, caffeine or heavily acidic or spicy foods, all known to aggravate GERD symptoms. Quitting smoking and avoiding late night meals might also ease indigestion. And your doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription drugs to help control your acid reflux.
You can also boost your teeth's enamel health by practicing daily brushing and flossing—but not right after a reflux episode. The enamel could be softened, so brushing can potentially remove tiny particles of mineral content. Instead, rinse with water mixed with or without a little baking soda to help neutralize acid and wait about an hour—this will give saliva, the mouth's natural acid neutralizer, time to restore the mouth's normal pH level.
And be sure you're using a fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride strengthens enamel—in fact, your dentist may recommend topical fluoride applications to boost the effect.
These and other tips can help minimize the effects of GERD on your dental health. With an ounce of prevention, you can keep it from permanently damaging your teeth.
If you would like more information on managing your dental health with GERD, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “GERD and Oral Health.”
Cavities can happen even before a baby has his first piece of candy. This was the difficult lesson actor David Ramsey of the TV shows Arrow and Dexter learned when his son DJ’s teeth were first emerging.
“His first teeth came in weak,” Ramsey recalled in a recent interview. “They had brown spots on them and they were brittle.” Those brown spots, he said, quickly turned into caviÂties. How did this happen?
Ramsey said DJ’s dentist suspected it had to do with the child’s feedings — not what he was being fed but how. DJ was often nursed to sleep, “so there were pools of breast milk that he could go to sleep with in his mouth,” Ramsey explained.
While breastfeeding offers an infant many health benefits, problems can occur when the natural sugars in breast milk are left in contact with teeth for long periods.Â Sugar feeds decay-causing oral bacteria, and these bacteria in turn release tooth-eroding acids. The softer teeth of a young child are particularly vulnerable to these acids; the end result can be tooth decay.
This condition, technically known as “early child caries,” is referred to in laymen’s terms as “baby bottle tooth decay.” However, it can result from nighttime feedings by bottle or breast. The best way to prevent this problem is to avoid nursing babies to sleep at night once they reach the teething stage; a bottle-fed baby should not be allowed to fall asleep with anything but water in their bottle or “sippy cup.”
Here are some other basics of infant dental care that every parent should know:
Fortunately, Ramsey reports that his son is doing very well after an extended period of professional dental treatments and parental vigilance.
“It took a number of months, but his teeth are much, much better,” he said. “Right now we’re still helping him and we’re still really on top of the teeth situation.”
If you would like more information on dental care for babies and toddlers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “The Age One Dental Visit” and “Dentistry & Oral Health for Children.”
For some kids, having a cavity or two is just part of growing up. Not for Giuliana Rancic. When she was a child, the TV personality didn't have a single cavity — and she still doesn't. But for her husband Bill, co-star of the Style Network reality show Giuliana and Bill, it was a different story. A cavity-prone kid, he was never certain what a visit to the dentist might hold in store. “I can still remember the anticipation,” he recently told Dear Doctor magazine. “I always hoped I would get out of the checkups without a cavity!”
Why do some people get more cavities than others? There are a number of factors at work, but to understand it better, let's look at how tooth decay occurs.
How Cavities Form
Cavities — also called dental caries — are small pits or holes in the teeth that are caused by tooth decay. Tooth decay itself is a chronic disease that can flare up when plaque isn't kept under control. A thin, bacteria-laden film, plaque sticks to tooth surfaces both above and below the gum line, and can build up in the absence of effective oral hygiene.
Of course, everyone has bacteria in their mouth, both “good” and “bad” (pathogenic) types. But when the bad guys outnumber the good, trouble can start. When you consume sweets, plaque bacteria process the sugars and release acid as a byproduct. The acid eats into tooth surfaces, causing decay — and cavities that need filling. Left untreated, decay can work its way into the tooth's pulp, resulting in infection and pain. Eventually, treatment might involve a root canal — or, in the worst case, extraction.
What can you do if you seem to be prone to cavities? One effective way to fight tooth decay is by maintaining good oral hygiene. Brush at least twice daily, for at least two minutes each time. Use a soft-bristled brush and a dab of fluoride toothpaste to clean all around your teeth. Most importantly, floss above and below the gum line, every day. And just as important, don't forget to have regular dental checkups every six months.
A Healthy Balance
Another cavity-fighting strategy is eating a balanced diet. Avoid soda, sugary “energy” drinks and sweet treats — but if you choose to consume sugar, have it with meals instead of between meals. This will give your saliva, which has natural cavity-fighting properties, a chance to work.
“It's all about maintaining a healthy balance,” Giuliana told Dear Doctor. And Bill agrees: “I love nuts and fruit for a healthy snack,” he said, adding that he's meticulous about brushing and flossing. And when the couple smiles, you can see how those healthy habits pay off.
If you would like more information on preventing tooth decay, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Decay” and “Tooth Decay – How To Assess Your Risk.”