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Dental care concerns, tips from a top-rated dentist

 

Your mom was right because dentists agree: Sugar will rot your teeth. Dr. Fred Wilbur, a highly rated dentist in Austin, Texas, counsels patients against eating too many sweets and urges frequent brushing and flossing. He also uses sealants to keep food and bacteria out of the pits and grooves of patients’ teeth.

The Austin dentist has kept many smiles — starting with the smallest — cavity-free, and recommends taking kids, starting at age 2, to a pedodontist, who’s specially equipped to care for the tiniest of teeth.

Here are some problems Wilbur encounters in his dental practice and ways you can avoid them:

Gingivitis

This low-grade gum infection with inflammation can be a devastating dental problem. "It's what threatens the foundation of the teeth," Wilbur says. The signs are subtle, often missed. Be on alert for redness, puffiness or bleeding while brushing. Better yet, stop it before it starts by flossing once a day. Wilbur recommends at least three to four floss strokes on each side between gums and teeth.

Tooth staining

The morning coffee can leave its mark as can tar in cigarettes — browning your pearly whites over time. A self-confessed coffee lover, Wilbur has his teeth professionally cleaned every 90 days, but says most people only need it done every six months. Bleaching, or whitening procedures, can also help.

Cavity/decay

Decay is a bacterial infection that attacks tooth structure, starting in the outer enamel. "Sugar is the king of decay," Wilbur says. "It's the 800-pound gorilla." Bacteria break down sugar molecules into many smaller acid molecules, eroding teeth. Starches — long-chain sugars — do essentially the same thing at a slower rate. To prevent decay, brush gently and thoroughly with a soft brush three times a day. Use circular strokes at a 45-degree angle toward gums. Remember to floss because brush bristles can't reach the insides of teeth.

Cold sore

Caused by the herpes simplex virus, this annoying, unsightly and uncomfortable problem tends to last about a week or two. Pills and ointments are used to treat cold sores, but Wilbur believes the most important thing for those with the virus is preventing outbreaks. Because sunlight can trigger an outbreak, he recommends applying sunscreen or lip products with SPF protection.

Oral cancer

On an X-ray, a cancerous growth is often a dark spot, sometimes with ragged, "chewed-up looking edges," Wilbur says. He looks for changes in size, color and texture in the soft tissue of the lips and mouth, the presence of pain, and small open sores. Heredity or tobacco are commonly to blame. To reduce your chances, see your dentist regularly, and if you smoke, dip or chew tobacco, quit.


Comments

I take L-Lysine daily and have not had a fever blister in many years, it will help in controlling this viral breakout. Also, I love the sign in my dentist's office: "How many teeth should you floss? Just the ones you want to keep!" it inspires me to take time to do it.

Smoking is still the leading cause of oral cancer. The relationship between HPV and oral cancer also exists, but the evidence isn't as strong yet. Smokeless tobacco use is also a risk factor.

You should also ask your dentist (before your appt!) if he/ she has a Velscope. It's a non-invasive special lighting system for looking in the mouth, that improves the ability to find oral cancers (and other problems) at an earlier stage. See my review of Dr. Jacqueline West, a local dentist. Make sure you do this if you smoke or dip!

"Herpes ulcers" are called cold sores or fever blisters. Aphthous ulcers are commonly known as canker sores. Etiology uncertain, probably "autoimmune" problem.

Two corrections: HPV (the wart virus)has replaced smoking as the most common cause of oral cancer. Most cold sores (aphthous ulcers)are not the same as herpes ulcers, the cause of most cold sores is still uncertain

Excellent article! My wife has worked in the dental field for over 20 years and has been telling the patients the same exact things as written in this article!

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