Monday, April 13, 2009

Cavity Prevention

If Dr. Meiners has given this for you to read, most likely you or a family member has a problem with tooth decay (cavities). The patient may have numerous large areas of decay, may have decay occurring under existing dental restorations (such as fillings or crowns), or there may be very small cavities just starting between the teeth that we are trying to stop from getting bigger. Or you may just want to PREVENT getting cavities.

There are about 650 types of bacteria that can be found in our mouths. At any one time, there are about 350 types of these bacteria in our mouth. Of all these types of bacteria, there is only ONE that actively causes tooth decay – Streptococus mutans is it’s name. When you eat a food with ANY sugar in it (even very small amounts of sugar cause problems), the S. mutans bacteria also eat the sugar. When these bacteria eat sugar, their waste product given off is lactic acid. You know what acid does don’t you? That’s right, it eats holes in your teeth. No S. mutans = no tooth decay. No sugar = no tooth decay.

If you were to have no tooth decay, you would probably still have S. mutans in your mouth, but it would be found in very low numbers. But if you do have tooth decay, the cavities act as S. mutans bacteria hatcheries, and your mouth becomes LOADED with high numbers of S. Mutans. Our job is to get rid of the tooth decay (unless you only have small cavities between the teeth that we are trying to stop), your job is to lower the number of S. Mutans bacteria in your mouth. If the numbers stay high, you will just form new cavities as fast as we can fix them, and the small cavities will continue to grow.

Lowering the numbers of Streptococcus mutans in your mouth:

1) Brush well, at least twice a day. This means using a good brush, either manual, or better yet, electric. If we haven’t done so yet, we’ll be telling you how to properly use the brush.

2) Floss well at least once per day (twice a day is better).

3) Reduce the FREQUENCY of sweets. For instance, sucking on Tic Tacs several times a day will ‘kill’ your teeth.

4) Rinse with a fluoride rinse for 60 seconds twice a day (not for children age 5 or younger). One of these rinses should be immediately before sleep. Do not rinse with water, eat, or drink for at least thirty minutes after rinsing with the fluoride rinse. We want the fluoride rinse to continue working even after you spit it out. Children may use ACT fluoride rinse in multiple flavors. Adults would be better using ACT Restoring Mouthwash because in addition to fluoride, it helps keep gums healthy (although adults may use ACT if they’d like – even the bubblegum ACT FOR KIDS)

5) Chew Xylitol Gum or use Xylitol Mints. You need to eat or chew xylitol products at least five times throughout each day (about 5 minutes each time). One or two times a day has nearly NO value. You may use xylitol gum, xylitol mints, and xylitol also comes granulated like regular sugar, to be used in place of regular granulated sugar. 100% xylitol products can be hard to find. You can find them at health food stores (listed on back page) or at

The products you find at these places have 100% xylitol. Popular gums such as Orbit or Trident ADVERTISE on their package that they have Xylitol, but if you read the ingredients you’ll notice that they also have sorbitol, manitol, sucralose, aspartame, etc.. and that Xylitol is often the 3rd or 4th ingredient. These products do not have a high enough percentage of Xylitol to be effective.

6) Have the active areas of decay (cavities) removed (that’s our job)

7) Get a fluoride treatment each and every time you have your teeth professionally cleaned. Effective for both children AND adults. This professional strength fluoride is absorbed really well by the teeth and gives excellent added protection.

8) Seal off the tiny natural pits where bacteria hide and start cavities, and replace defective fillings/crowns that allow bacteria to seep under and cause decay (that’s also our job)

Brushing and flossing will lower the numbers of Streptococcus mutans by physically removing them. Reducing the FREQUENCY of sugar intake reduces the number of times per day that acids are produced by bacteria. Fluoride rinses help make the teeth stronger against the acids produced by S. mutans. And the xylitol gum actually helps kill bacteria.

There are many types of natural sugars. There is glucose found in honey, lactose found in milk, fructose found in fruits, and sucrose (table sugar) found in sweets and other foods. It’s the sucrose (sometimes listed as corn syrup) that causes the problems. Xylitol is also a natural type of sugar found in some fruits, berries, and vegetables. When S. mutans bacteria try to eat Xylitol, it kills many of them. And it injures the other ones so that they cannot produce acid for a few hours. You can see that chewing the Xylitol gum can be very beneficial. Not only will it NOT cause tooth decay, but it can actually help prevent it.

Please don’t think that by chewing Xylitol gum it means you don’t have to do the other things above. Xylitol is not a ‘magic bullet’ , but it is useful in the fight against tooth decay.

Closely follow the instructions above, and you will have much success in preventing new cavities. You’ll also be amazed at how much better your mouth will feel.