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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.