Tooth Decay Prevention

Tooth decay is a progressive disease resulting in the interaction of bacteria that naturally occur on the teeth and sugars in the everyday diet. Sugar causes a reaction in the bacteria, causing it to produce acids that break down the mineral in teeth, forming a cavity. Dentists remove the decay and fill the tooth using a variety of fillings, restoring the tooth to a healthy state. Nerve damage can result from severe decay and may require a crown (a crown is like a large filling that can cap a tooth, making it stronger or covering it). Avoiding unnecessary decay simply requires strict adherence to a dental hygiene regimen: brushing and flossing twice a day, regular dental checkups, diet control and fluoride treatment. Practicing good hygiene avoids unhealthy teeth and costly treatment.

Sealants

The grooves and depressions that form the chewing surfaces of the back teeth are extremely difficult (if not impossible) to clean of bacteria and food. As the bacteria reacts with the food, acids form and break down the tooth enamel, causing cavities. Recent studies indicate that 88 percent of total cavities in American school children are caused this way.

Tooth sealants protect these susceptible areas by sealing the grooves and depressions, preventing bacteria and food particles from residing in these areas. Sealant material is a resin typically applied to the back teeth, molars and premolars and areas prone to cavities. It lasts for several years but needs to be checked during regular appointments. It is important to understand that cavities CAN form under sealants. Talk to your dentist to see what is best for your child.

Fluoride

Fluoride is a substance that helps teeth become stronger and resistant to decay. Regularly drinking water treated with fluoride and brushing and flossing regularly ensures significantly lower cavities. Dentists can evaluate the level of fluoride in a primary drinking water source and recommend fluoride supplements (usually in tablets or drops), if necessary. As of 2008, very few communities in Louisiana have fluoridated tap water. Depending on where you live, your dentist may recommend your child take a fluoride supplement. 

Children will receive a topical fluoride varnish applied to their teeth by the hygienist as part of their preventative visit. This treatment is recommended by the American Dental Association 3-4 times per year. We will be happy to apply the fluoride varnish for adults for a nominal fee.

Thumb Sucking

Sucking is a natural reflex that relaxes and comforts babies and toddlers. Children usually cease thumb sucking when the permanent front teeth are ready to erupt. Typically, children stop between the ages of 2 and 4 years. Thumb sucking that persists beyond the eruption of primary teeth can cause improper growth of the mouth and misalignment of the teeth. If you notice prolonged and/or vigorous thumb sucking behavior in your child, talk to your dentist.

Here are some ways to help your child outgrow thumb sucking:

  • Don’t scold a child when they exhibit thumb sucking behavior; instead, praise them when they don’t thumb suck.
  • Focus on eliminating the cause of anxiety—thumb sucking is a comfort device that helps children cope with stress or discomfort.
  • Praise them when they refrain from the habit during difficult periods.
  • Place a bandage on the thumb or a sock on their hand at night.

 

Oral Cancer Screening

Our practice continually looks for advances to ensure that we are providing the optimum level of oral health care to our patients. We are concerned about oral cancer and look for it in every patient.

One American dies every hour from oral cancer. Late detection of oral cancer is the primary cause that both the incidence and mortality rates of oral cancer continue to increase. As with most cancers, age is the primary risk factor for oral cancer. Tobacco and alcohol use are other major predisposing risk factors, but more than 25% of oral cancer victims have no such lifestyle risk factors. Oral cancer risk by patient profile is as follows:

  • Increase risk: patients ages 18-39 -sexually active patients (HPV 16/18)
  • High risk: patients age 40+; tobacco users (any age, any type within 10 years)
  • Highest risk: patients age 40+ with lifestyle factors (tobacco and/or alcohol use); previous history of oral cancer

We have recently incorporated ViziLite® Plus into our oral screening standard of care. We find that using ViziLite® Plus along with a standard oral cancer examination improves the ability to identify suspicious areas at their earliest stages. ViziLite® Plus is similar to proven early detection procedures for other cancers such as mammography, Pap smear, and PSA. ViziLite® Plus is a simple and painless examination that gives the best chance to find any oral abnormalities at the earliest possible stage. Early detection of pre-cancerous tissue can minimize or eliminate the potentially disfiguring effects of oral cancer and possibly save your life.

The ViziLite® Plus exam will be offered to you annually. This enhanced examination is recognized by the American Dental Association code revision committee as CDT 2007/08 procedure code D0431; however, this exam might not be covered by your insurance.