When Brushing And Flossing Isn’t Enough

Issue 16.16

Some people still get cavities despite their very diligent efforts.  They ask, “What more can I do than I am already doing?”  The good news is that there is a group of therapies that can be applied to help those at high risk for cavities by fortifying the teeth, reducing the acid secreting bacteria that cause cavities, and buffering the acid itself.

Controlling the acid secreting bacteria that cause cavities is best done by mechanically removing them on a daily basis with normal brushing and flossing and avoiding a diet that supports their growth.  However, sometimes that isn’t enough.  In these cases there are several compounds can be easily applied to the teeth that are stronger than regular toothpaste.  They can be applied to the teeth in the form of a thick varnish 2-4 times a year in the dental office or applied to the teeth at home with a custom mouth guard for minutes a day or minutes a week, depending on the formulation.  Some of these formulations also fortify the teeth in addition to killing bacteria.

Buffering acids in the mouth and increasing the pH can be done by avoiding acidic food and keeping stomach acid down, stimulating saliva flow with sugar free gum, and coating the teeth with Arginine rich protein snacks like hard cheese, nuts and seeds.  When it comes to artificial sweeteners in “sugar-free” gum and mints, only one cannot be used by the bacteria that cause cavities—Xylitol.  This natural product has been shown to prevent cavities in adults that use at least 1 gram four times a day for 10 minutes.  It’s not a good idea to exceed this amount as it can cause abdominal upset in some people and don’t leave it lying out in the open as it is lethal to pet dogs.

Knowing your risk of cavities and getting the appropriate additional help can protect your teeth and help them last a lifetime.  A custom risk assessment and management strategy for cavities at the dentist is an ounce of prevention that can be worth a pound of cure.

Dr Rodney Andrus is Southern Utah’s only ADA recognized board certified specialist for missing and damaged teeth issues—a prosthodontist.  Call St George Center for Specialized Dentistry for a FREE consultation (435) 674-3100.

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