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Understanding Cavities

October 25th, 2017

Getting a cavity seems like delayed punishment for eating that special dessert every weekend or for the few days you forgot to floss. When you are doing everything right with minimal exception and a cavity is diagnosed, it is discouraging. Knowing how cavities form and what causes them is valuable in knowing how to prevent them. In this blog post, Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi will help you understand cavities!

A cavity is not a one-time event. It is actually a symptom of a disease called caries. Tooth decay is a result of an active infection and condition in the mouth. There are ingredients to this infection, which include bacteria, acid, your tooth, and a food source. The main bacterial culprit is S. Mutans. Bacteria live in a housing structure called biofilm. This offers them protection, food, and an ideal replicating environment.

Biofilm can be healthy if there is a balance of good bacteria. When you have caries, the numbers of “bad” bacteria increase and produce an environment where they thrive and therefore cause tooth decay. A main indicator of this is a pH measurement of your saliva.

Several factors can influence the biofilm pH. Foods and beverages all have different pH levels. The lower the number, the higher the acidity. Since acid promotes tooth decay, a beverage like soda will promote a cavity. Water, being neutral, is a good choice to promote healthy oral pH. Healthy eating can still cause cavities. Here is an example of a highly acidic, yet traditionally healthy meal:

Toast with store-bought strawberry jam, and a cup of cottage cheese topped with fresh cranberries.

Instead, here is a better choice, which involves mixing acidic healthy foods with alkaline (non-acidic) foods to reduce the overall pH:

Toast with almond butter, and Greek yogurt topped with fresh blueberries.

The first example will result in a very low pH in the mouth and even in the rest of the body. The second meal mixes highly acidic blueberries with an alkaline Greek yogurt. Dairy products from cows are highly acidic. Toast is acidic because of the yeast and almonds are alkaline.

A natural buffer is saliva. Whenever mouth breathing or medications compromise the saliva flow, the pH is going to drop and caries can go rampant. Getting a cavity is not just about the sweets or forgotten flossing sessions. It is about the pH levels and bacterial management.

For more helpful tips about how to avoid cavities, contact our Tukwila, WA office.

Electric or Manual Toothbrush: Why It Does (and Doesn't) Matter

October 18th, 2017

You live in the golden age of toothbrushes. Until a few decades people used twigs or brushes made from animal hair to clean their teeth: not very soft and none too effective.

Now, you have a choice of manual brushes with soft, medium, or hard bristles. Or you might choose to go with an electric toothbrush instead.

Have you ever wondered whether manual or electric brushes provide better cleaning? Actually, they both do the job. The key is to brush and floss every day, regardless of the kind of brush you prefer.

At our Tukwila, WA office, we like to say the best brush is the one you'll use. So if you prefer manual, go for it. If you prefer electric, turn it on.

Both types have their advantages but both types will get the job done as far as removing plaque.

Electric Toothbrushes

  • Provide power rotation that helps loosen plaque
  • Are great for people with limited dexterity due to arthritis or other problems
  • Are popular with kids who think the electric brushes are more fun to use
  • Can come with variable speeds to help reduce pressure on sensitive teeth and gums

Manual Toothbrushes

  • Can help brushers feel they have more control over the brushing process
  • Allow brushers to respond to twinges and reduce the pressure applied to sensitive teeth and gums
  • Are more convenient for packing when traveling
  • Manual brushes are cheaper and easier to replace than the electric versions.

In many ways, the golden age is just beginning. There are already phone apps available to remind you to brush and floss. New apps can play two minutes worth of music while you brush, help you compare the brightness of your smile or help explain dental procedures. Maybe someday we’ll even have programs that examine your teeth after brushing and identify spots you might have missed.

What are dental sealants and how do they work?

October 11th, 2017

A dental sealant is a liquid that is applied to the teeth. The sealant hardens and provides a protective coating that is designed to reduce cavities and create a smoother tooth surface. Dental sealants are clear or white; they do not take away from the appearance of teeth. You can think about this treatment as being similar to varnish that protects a wood floor.

Sealants are not the same as fluoride treatments. The application is similar, but sealants are a semi-permanent protective coating. Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi and our staff recommend that sealant applications for children begin soon after molars erupt, first molars around the age of six, and second molars around the age of 12.

Simple Application

Having sealants applied is not uncomfortable at all. First, your child's teeth will be cleaned and dried. A gel is applied, which helps the sealant adhere to the tooth, and then is rinsed away. Your child's teeth are dried again and the sealant is applied. A few seconds of exposure to a light source may be used to cure the sealant and make it semi-permanent. Sealants should last for a long time, normally between five and ten years.

Sealant Benefits

The coating on the surface of your child's teeth reduces the amount of acid contact. Normal acids in foods that are consumed can eat away at the surface of teeth. Bacteria also react to plaque formation and create more acid in the mouth. These small pits or weakened areas are prone to caries or cavity formation. Preventing cavities is a much better choice than drilling and filling damaged teeth.

A sealant also helps to smooth the chewing surfaces of your childn't teeth. The smoother surface is not as likely to retain small particles of food and bacteria. Your child's mouth stays cleaner and food is not left behind to form acids. The protective application can also be used on other teeth that have a rough surface, to protect the grooves or pits from decay.

After the sealant is applied, your child still needs to take proper care of his or her teeth. Regular brushing and flossing is required. Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi may recommend fluoride treatments to strengthen and protect your child's teeth further.

If you have any concerns about sealants, please discuss them with during your child's next appointment at Southcenter Dental. We want your little one's teeth to stay healthy for life.

Four Oral Health Issues Seniors Face

October 4th, 2017

Oral health is an important and often overlooked component of an older person’s general health and well-being. Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi and our team know that for many of our older patients, oral health can become an issue when arthritis or other neurological problems render them unable to brush or floss their teeth as effectively as they once did. Today, we thought we would discuss four common oral health issues our older patients face and how they can avoid them:

Cavities: It’s not just children who get tooth decay—oral decay is a common disease in people 65 and older. Ninety-two percent of seniors 65 and older have had dental caries in their permanent teeth, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The risk for tooth decay increases because many older adults don’t go to the dentist as often as they used to, thus cavities go undetected and untreated for longer than they should. Keeping regular appointments with Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi is the key to getting cavities treated in a timely manner.

Difficulty eating: Oral health problems, whether from missing teeth, cavities, dentures that don’t fit, gum disease, or infection, can cause difficulty eating and can force people to adjust the quality, consistency, and balance of their diet.

Dry mouth: Also called xerostomia, dry mouth is a common issue for a lot of seniors. Our friends at the Oral Cancer Foundation estimate that 20 percent of elderly people suffer from dry mouth, which means the reduced flow of saliva (saliva plays a crucial role in preventing tooth decay). Many seniors are on multiple medications for a variety of chronic illnesses or conditions. Common medications taken that may cause dry mouth are decongestants, antihistamines, blood pressure medications, pain pills, incontinence medications, antidepressants, diuretics, muscle relaxers, and Parkinson’s disease medications. To help counter this, we suggest drinking lots of fluids and limiting your intake of caffeine and alcohol. We also encourage you to check with Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi during your next visit if you think your medications are causing your mouth to feel dry.

Gum Disease: Gum (periodontal) disease is an infection of the gums and surrounding tissues that hold teeth in place. While gum disease affects people of all ages, it typically becomes worse as people age. In its early stages, gum disease is painless, and most people have no idea that they have it. In more advanced cases, however, gum disease can cause sore gums and pain when chewing.

Gum disease, which can range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease, is usually caused by poor brushing and flossing habits that allow dental plaque to build up on the teeth. Plaque that is not removed can harden and form tartar that brushing simply does not clean. Only a professional cleaning at our office can remove tartar. The two forms of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis. In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen, and can bleed easily; in periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces that become infected.

Proper brushing, flossing, and visiting our office regularly can prevent gum disease. Seniors with limited dexterity who have trouble gripping a toothbrush should ask Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi about modifying a handle for easier use or switching to a battery-powered toothbrush.

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