Don’t Want Implants? Hopeless Teeth Can be Saved | Alhambra Dentist

A combination of traditional techniques and latest technology can save teeth previously diagnosed as hopeless. This innovative approach can often save seemingly loose, hopeless front teeth and prevent tooth loss.

If a patient presents with teeth that have hardly any bone left due to periodontitis (gum disease), this new approach would offer the stabilization of the loose teeth with the traditional method of splinting. The latter calls for bonding (gluing) wiring on the back (lingual) side of the teeth and making them, in effect, one unit. This splinting process is like tying loose boards together to make them stronger. Once the teeth are not loose, but stable, they can be deep cleaned without having to do surgery, as it traditionally indicated. However, with the use of endoscopy dentists and hygienists can now remove tartar sticking to the roots of the teeth under the gums without surgery. Endoscopy calls for the use of a miniaturized cameras that is inserted under the gum to broadcast magnified images of the tartar on the roots. Using special ultrasonic instruments, the tartar is removed thoroughly. Thus, the roots become infection-free.

With the teeth stabilized and source of infection removed, it has been found that gums will likely heal and be free of infection long term if the patient follows strict standard maintenance and special home care instructions. In many cases, even bone will grow back.

In some cases, the bite has changed because of drifting of the teeth. Gapes open between front teeth. Some teeth may look longer. The good news is often the teeth can be brought together in the first visit and then splinted together. The original smile can be restored in one visit, in many cases. Sometimes spot adjustment of the longer teeth may need to be done to provide a more normal bite and a normal smile line.

Most patients must return for follow-up care every three months indefinitely. And they must follow strict home care instructions in between visits. So, if you want to explore conservative alternatives to extractions, followed by implants or bridgework, contact your dentist and discuss your options thoroughly.

If you would like more information about splinting, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

2019-08-16T18:33:42+00:00June 12th, 2019|Dr. John Chao, General Dentistry|

Coming Soon: Get a Sniff of Novacaine, Rather than a Shot | Alhambra Dentist

Since its introduction in 1844 by dentist Dr. Horace Wells, the use of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to the medical world as a means for inducing conscious sedation for surgery, dentists have been in the forefront in discovering, testing and applying new techniques and materials for obtaining anesthesia for their patients. In 1884, Carl Eihorn introduced cocaine for use as an anesthetic. This was widely used until the addictive quality of cocaine became evident. The first successful cocaine substitute, called Stovaine, was invented by Ernest Fourneau in 1904. Stovaine was delivered by needle. But it was commonly known as “novacaine,” because this was the “new” cocaine. Novacaine became popular as a local anesthetic both in dentistry and medicine. Various kinds of improvements have been made in the effectiveness and duration of local anesthetics since that time, but the only means of achieving deep local anesthesia (numbness) for extensive dental treatment was still by injection.

Now a new discovery may replace the needle for many dental procedures. Scientists are reporting evidence that a common local anesthetic, when administered to the nose as nose drops or a nasal spray, travels through the main nerve in the face and collects in high concentrations in the teeth, jaw, and structures of the mouth.

This discovery could lead to a new generation of intra-nasal drugs for noninvasive treatment for dental pain, migraine, and other conditions, the scientists suggest in the current issue of the American Chemical Society’s bi-monthly journal Molecular Pharmaceutics.

William H. Frey II, Ph.D., and colleagues note that drugs administered to the nose travel along nerves and go directly to the brain. One of those nerves is the trigeminal (V) nerve, which brings feelings to the face, nose and mouth. Until now, however, scientists never checked to see whether intranasal drugs passing along that nerve might reach the teeth, gums and other areas of the face and mouth to reduce pain sensations in the face and mouth.

Neil Johnson, working in the labs of Frey and Leah R. Hanson, Ph.D., at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minn., found that Lidocaine or Xylocaine, sprayed into the noses of laboratory rats, quickly traveled down the trigeminal nerve and collected in their teeth, jaws, and mouths at levels 20 times higher than in the blood or brain. The approach could provide a more effective and targeted method for treating dental pain/anxiety, trigeminal neuralgia (severe facial pain), migraine, and other conditions, the scientists say.

Furthermore, these scientists discovered an improved future location to administer anesthetic, the maxillary sinus. The maxillary sinus is a golf ball-sized space located underneath each cheek where the drug can be sprayed. Delivery into this confined space may be the next generation approach beyond a nasal spray in providing a more rapid and focused delivery of anesthetic.

For dental phobics and those avoiding dental treatment because of high anxieties, there is no need to wait for intra-nasal anesthetics. Advances in devices and techniques used for injection have proven to be predictably successful in anesthetizing teeth without pain. Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC has been successfully using a special technique for alleviating pain and fear of dentistry in treating thousands upon thousands of patients since the 1970’s. It is called “iatrosedation”. For further information regarding “iatrosedation” click on to iatrosedation, AlhambraDental.com.

If you would like more information about anesthetic treatment options, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

2019-08-16T18:38:31+00:00June 6th, 2019|General Dentistry, Sleep Dentistry|

Acid Reflux | Alhambra Dentist

Teeth are so hard you would think they would be indestructible and that they would not be adversely affected by anything. Due to the strength of enamel and bone, they should remain the same from the day the teeth come into the mouth to the day they are no longer needed. Unfortunately, this is far from true. While we would like to think of teeth as being strong and unchanging, most people know that teeth can be damaged by tooth decay-causing bacteria. We know, too, that teeth can be damaged by mechanical means – attrition caused by tooth grinding and clenching and abrasion caused by improper tooth brushing. However, few people know that there is a third factor that can destroy teeth – chemical erosion.

Chemical erosion is caused by excess acid coming in contact with a tooth for extended periods of time. The acid attack can be self-inflicted (bulimia) or more commonly from a problem with acid reflux. In acid (gastric) reflux, the acidic and partly digested contents of the stomach are returned back into the throat and oral cavity. Normally, the lower esophageal sphincter muscle (LES), connecting the esophagus with the stomach, closes once food passes into the stomach. This closure prevents the stomach contents from flowing back up into the esophagus. Acid reflux occurs when this sphincter does not work properly and allows acidic fluid to return to the esophagus and higher – the mouth.

This condition sometimes can actually be noted by a dentist long before it is acknowledged by a patient or physician. The dentist will see a characteristic smooth and circular erosion of the cusp tips of the lower first molars. The cusp tips (bumps on a tooth) lose their peak, flatten, and become concave. Soon the enamel cover is broached and the underlying dentin is exposed. Because dentin is “softer” than enamel, the erosion can progress more quickly. This acid erosion has a very different appearance from tooth loss due to a mechanical etiology. Attrition and abrasion have a very sharp, edged, and well-delineated look. Chemical erosion has a softer and more rounded presentation and is localized first to lower first molars (lower first molars are the first permanent molars to erupt into the mouth) so that the permanent teeth have the longest potential exposure. When the acid refluxes (returns) to the mouth, it pools mostly around the lower first molars. This is the site of the most erosive features.

A significant portion of the population experiences acid reflux at least once a month. About 25% of those who are affected are unaware of their problem. Infants and young children can be affected, and there may be a genetic component to this disease. Early diagnosis from erosion of the permanent lower first molars can be made as early as 7 or 8 years of age. A hiatal hernia may weaken the LES and cause reflux. Diet and lifestyle contribute to acid reflux. Chocolate, peppermint, citrus, tomatoes, fried or fatty foods, coffee (especially acidic coffee), alcoholic beverages, garlic, and onions are foods to avoid. Weight gain (also weight gain associated with pregnancy) and smoking (by relaxing the LES) may be contributing factors.

As is true with most medical and dental problems, the earlier the diagnosis is made, the easier it is to treat. Variable factors include the nature and severity of the problem, as well as frequency and type of fluid that refluxes from the stomach. Under supervision of your physician, change in diet, eating habits, and/or medication (over-the-counter or prescription) can be effective. It is recommended that you first consult your physician or a specialist (gastroenterologist) if you suspect you have gastric reflux or other gastro-intestinal ailments.

Dentally, once the enamel is broached and the dentin becomes visible, it is recommended that the affected areas be protected by covering them with an enamel replacement – a tooth-colored bonding material. This material not only protects the dentin and enamel, it may be more resistant to the acid than is naturally occurring dentin. Many times, drilling preparation is not needed. See your dentist regularly so that problems like these can be detected and treated in time.

If you would like more information about acid reflux, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Gum Disease: Rubber Tipping Better Than Antibiotics | Alhambra Dentist

A recent study showed that massaging the gums with a rubber tip (found at the other end of some toothbrushes) is actually more effective in reducing germ count than a regimen of antibiotics!

Bacteria that cause gum disease are like vampires. They must live in the dark. Oral bacteria are “anaerobic,” meaning that they cannot live in the presence of oxygen. They thrive in dark spaces between the gum and the roots of the teeth called gum “pockets”. Brushing and flossing are effective in part because oxygen is introduced into these pockets.

Vigorous massaging of the gums with the rubber tip introduces fresh air into these dead spaces. In comparing the percentage of bacteria between those who massage their gums with the rubber tip and those who took antibiotics, the rubber tipping group actually had slightly more reduction in bacterial count. Both groups brushed and floss their teeth during the experiment.

The additional benefit of massaging your gums with the rubber tip is that plaque and cellular fluids are flushed out and circulation in the gums is improved.

This is not to say that you should only massage your gums, and not brush and floss your teeth. In fact, you should only massage your gums after you have thoroughly brushed and flossed your teeth. As a precaution, if you have moderate to severe gum disease, it may not be a good idea to massage your gums before you talk to your dentist.

Here is how you can massage your gums: Grasp the handle firmly in your hand and place the rubber tip between the spaces between two teeth. Point the rubber tip toward the center of the teeth. Gently press the rubber tip upward if you are massaging the upper arch, and downward if dealing with the lower arch. If you encounter bleeding from the gums, you are either massaging too hard, or you have a gum condition that should be checked by your dentist. Continue to massage every space between the teeth for 10 to 15 seconds. Do not massage the spaces between the front teeth. Slight temporary soreness is to be expected. This soreness will likely disappear over two weeks. If soreness persists, then you should consult your dentist. Do not massage your gums if there is heavy plaque formation. Under certain circumstances, your dentist may ask you to massage your gums vigorously. In other circumstances, your dentist may instruct you not to use the rubber tip at all.

And if you are still unsure of how to use the rubber tip properly, ask your hygienist or dentist for a demonstration.

If you would like more information about rubbertipped toothbrushes, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.askyourdentistaboutpinhole.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

2019-08-16T23:16:01+00:00May 17th, 2019|General Dentistry, Periodontal|

Saliva Can Predict Diabetes

Certain proteins (biomarkers) in the saliva of children have been identified to be possible predictors of Type II diabetes in a study published online in Public Library of Science, June 2014. Based on this study, it is anticipated that salivary testing can in the future displace other more invasive methods, such as blood tests. It is speculated that in the future, saliva collected during a dental visit can be used to help diagnose medical conditions in conjunction with your physician.

The present study was conducted by researchers from the Forsyth Institute in Cambridge, MA. They evaluated metabolic differences in 774 11-year-old children who were underweight, of normal healthy weight, overweight or obese.

In this study four salivary biomarkers, including insulin and C-reactive protein, changed with increasing obesity. Other biomarkers can be identified in future studies that can be used to diagnose or prognosticate (predict) risk of disease, regardless of body weight.

The advantage of salivary testing is that it is non-invasive and can be easily used to screen large numbers of people, especially children. This sort of non-invasive testing is important in developing disease prevention programs focused on children.

Called Salivary Diagnostics, this kind of testing “could provide a more acceptable alternative, which could create a new paradigm for research in preventive health,” said Dr. Max Goodson, author and senior member of the staff at Department of Applied Oral Sciences at The Forsyth Institute. More and more, your dentist will be corroborating with your physician, working together to bring you better dental health, as well as system health.

Seeing your dentist regularly has become even more important than ever.

If you would like more information about diabetes, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Why Doesn’t My Insurance Cover This? | Alhambra Dentist

One of the most commonly asked questions is, “Why doesn’t my insurance cover this?” There is no such thing as “Dental Insurance.” The term “insurance” means “protection against loss.”

Dental plans do not insure the patient against loss of any kind. That is why dental plans never include the word “insurance” after their name. Dental plans do not fully insure you for the expenses needed to keep you in good dental health for life.

Dental plans are merely a collection of benefits determined through negotiation between the dental plan representatives and employers. These benefits are based on what the employer can afford to pay. Therefore, the higher the premium paid by the employer, the better your benefits will be. These benefits will help defray the cost of treatment covered by the plan.

If a dental procedure is not covered, it means that the premium paid by your employer does not allow for this procedure to be covered. Again, your dental plan does not insure you against loss of dental health. If you allow your dental coverage to determine your dental treatment, you can place your teeth at risk of inadequate treatment, lack of treatment altogether or recurrence of a disease. Your dental plan cannot be held responsible for the loss of your teeth as a result of lack of treatment or under-treatment.

The good news is that most standard procedures needed are likely to be covered at least to a certain extent. The actual amount covered for a particular procedure depends on what your dental plan decides is the “usual, customary and reasonable” (UCR) fee for that procedure. The bad news is that UCR’s vary greatly among dental plan carriers. Sometimes the same carrier has different UCR’s for different policies. Some plans cover very little, while others cover more. Your dentist, however, can generally estimate the amount that would be covered based upon previous experience and can help you negotiate the complicities of dental plans.

Sometimes the amount of benefits covered is lower than what the patient expects; this is due to the fact that the annual maximum of most dental plans is $1000 to $1500. This annual maximum was adopted in the 1960’s and has been the standard for approximately 50 years. Inflation over 50 years has eroded the value of the annual maximum. Nevertheless, this amount of benefits is still substantial and should be properly and intelligently utilized. For example, your dentist may offer you the option of postponing some non-urgent treatment until the next calendar or contract year so that you can take advantage of the next year maximum. No matter what kind of plan you have, your dentist is likely to recommend that you not leave that yearly benefit unused when treatment is necessary.

If you believe a procedure should be covered better than estimated, inform your employer of the problem. Your employer can most effectively correct the problem for you because the employer is paying the monthly premiums and has the option of not renewing the contract at the end of the contract period (generally November). Engaging the help of your employer or your personnel department would probably be the most effective way to address the issue. In the meantime, if you want to proceed with a procedure that is not covered but find it hard to afford it, discuss the problem with the dental office staff. Most offices offer extended payment plans, sponsored by financial institutions that offer no interest or relatively competitive interest rates.

There is nothing more important than a healthy smile. However, keeping your smile white and beautiful will sometimes require a financial commitment that might be temporarily uncomfortable, but remember that a smile is the universal language and “when you give someone a smile, the world smiles back.”

If you would like more information about insurance, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

2019-08-16T23:23:09+00:00April 25th, 2019|Family Dentistry, General Dentistry|

Vitamins and Minerals for Dental Health | Alhambra Dentist

Certain vitamins and minerals are especially beneficial to your dental health. These nutritional building blocks may be essential for keeping your teeth and gums healthy while benefiting your entire body.

Calcium. Throughout the body, this mineral helps build bones and provide structural support. In your mouth, calcium helps harden your enamel and strengthen your jawbone. Milk, cheese, yogurt, broccoli and salmon are some known sources of calcium.

Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium while boosting bone mineral density, so it’s crucial to get an adequate amount of vitamin D to get the most out of your calcium intake. Your body naturally makes vitamin D when it’s exposed to sunlight, but the vitamin can also be found in fatty fish, canned tuna and portobello mushrooms. You can also look for foods and drinks that have been fortified with vitamin D, such as milk, orange juice and cereal.

Potassium. Like vitamin D, potassium improves bone mineral density. It also works with magnesium to prevent blood from becoming too acidic, which can leach calcium from your bones and teeth. Bananas are well known sources of potassium, but they’re not alone. Other fruits and vegetables with high levels of the mineral include lima beans, tomatoes, Swiss chard, potatoes, sweet potatoes, avocados and prunes.

Phosphorus. Phosphorus supports calcium in building strong bones and teeth. Phosphorus is found in a wide range of foods. Rich sources of the mineral include seafood, such as scallops, sardines, cod, shrimp, tuna and salmon. If you’re looking to get your phosphorus from plant-based foods, consider soybeans, lentils and pumpkin seeds. You can also find phosphorus in beef, pork and cheese.

Vitamin K. Think of this vitamin as a shield – it helps block substances that break down bone. It also helps your body produce osteocalcin, a protein that supports bone strength. A vitamin K deficiency can slow down your body’s healing process and make you more likely to bleed. Leafy greens, such as kale, collards and spinach, can help increase vitamin K in your diet. Other great sources include parsley, broccoli and Brussel sprouts.

Vitamin C. Vitamin C strengthens your gums and the soft tissue in your mouth. It can protect against gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease, and can prevent your teeth from loosening. You probably already know that citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, but you can also find it in potatoes and leafy greens.

Vitamin A. This vitamin helps keep the gums healthy. It prevents dry mouth and helps your mouth heal quickly. Vitamin A is found in fish, egg yolks and liver as well as leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale and collard greens, or in orange-colored fruits and oranges, apricots, cantaloupe, pumpkin, carrots and sweet potatoes. These fruits and veggies contain high levels of beta-carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A.

Please check with your physician and dentist as to whether any foods or supplements containing these vitamins and minerals are appropriate for you. Also ask for advice as to quantity, duration, frequency and dosage.

(Portions of the above information were excerpted from a Delta Dental publication.)

If you would like more information about vitamins and minerals, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

2019-08-16T23:24:44+00:00April 17th, 2019|Dental Information, General Dentistry|

Floss Only the Teeth You Want to Keep | Alhambra Dentist

Yes, floss only teeth you want to keep, and forget the rest! Seriously, only floss removes plaque and debris that adhere to tooth surfaces between teeth. Toothbrushes do not reach these in-between spaces. Since caries (cavities) and gum disease develop most frequently between teeth, the wise choice is to floss the teeth, rather than lose them. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, “Floss is the single most important weapon against plaque, perhaps more important than the toothbrush.” Of course, this is not to say you don’t need to brush your teeth. Brushing should always be done, followed by flossing.

Bluntly speaking, flossing requires a certain level of manual dexterity that many people don’t have and a steep learning curve for which many people don’t have patience. However, there is an easier way. This is called the “loop method.” Take an 18-inch piece of floss and tie together the two ends, to form a circle, or loop. Place all your fingers within the loop except for the thumb. Then simply use your index fingers to guide the floss through the lower teeth, and the thumbs to guide the floss through the upper teeth. Try it. It’s easy.

If you still don’t like it, try “floss-holders.” These devices, which may be disposable, can be shaped like a miniature sling-shot, with the floss stretched between the two prongs. Or, they can look like a miniature hack-saw, with the floss stretched between two ends. With the aid of a mirror and very little practice, you can get the floss between the teeth without too much trouble.

Now that you’ve got the floss in between your teeth, what do you do? First of all, don’t cut your gum by going down too far. And don’t drag the floss back and forth like you are polishing your shoes. Just go up and down between the teeth. That’s all.

Do it between all the teeth at least once a day. If your gums bleed easily, be sure to see your dentist. You might have gingivitis, or periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease.

If you feel that even floss doesn’t quite get all the debris out, then, in addition to flossing, you can buy or obtain from your dentist special brushes designed to get between the teeth. They are called “proxy brushes.” Shaped like a pipe-cleaner with an angle, these tiny brushes can be slipped between the teeth. Back and forth movement of the tiny brushes will further clean and remove plaque and debris that may remains after flossing.

If you have certain spots between the teeth that almost always trap food when you eat, it’s a good idea to bring some floss with you so that you can floss after meals. However, it also advisable to use “proxy brushes” to cleanse those food traps after meals. Some brands of proxy brushes come with a convenient cap, so that you can keep it in your purse or pocket. If you have these habitual food traps, you should consult your dentist about how these spaces may be closed. Filling, crowns, or even orthodontic treatment may be necessary. If left untreated, food traps can lead to gum disease, or cavities despite regular flossing.

Lastly, waterpicks are also effectively in cleaning between the teeth, but only after you brush and floss first. Waterpicks are especially recommended if you have bridge work. Your dentist may also suggest that antibacterial agents or mouth wash be mixed with the water in the waterpick to better control bacterial infection of the gums.

Even though brushing and flossing greatly reduces your risk of cavities and gum disease, you still need to see your dentist regularly to check for abnormal changes.

If you would like more information about flossing, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

2019-08-16T23:30:15+00:00April 5th, 2019|General Dentistry|

Your Tongue and Bad Breath | Alhambra Dentist

In traditional Chinese medicine, some doctors can diagnose an issue just by looking at the patterns and colors on the tongue. Medical doctors and dentists can also tell a lot about your health by looking at your mouth and tongue.

What if you notice your tongue has white spots? It could be tongue plaque. Your tongue naturally cleans itself and renews the cells on the surface to get rid of bacteria, dead cells, and debris. But when someone has tongue plaque, that renewal doesn’t happen, and your tongue gets covered in a white film. This can happen with age, dry mouth, tobacco and alcohol use, and also with fever or illness. You can clean off tongue plaque by scraping your tongue and using mouthwash. There are a few other conditions that can cause white spots on your tongue. If you see separate white spots on your tongue, it could be a sign of a superficial fungal infection, an inflammatory condition, or even early signs of tongue cancer. It would be best if you see your dentist or doctor when you suspect something is wrong.

Another reason for having white coating on your tongue is if you’ve been on antibiotics for a while. Prolonged antibiotic therapy could lead to a yeast infection in your mouth that turns your tongue white. For this reason, doctors will also encourage you take probiotics to replenish the “good” bacteria in your intestines when you are undergoing antibiotic therapy.

A healthy tongue should be pink and covered with small, uniform papillae bumps. When you’re brushing your teeth, it’s a good idea to brush your tongue to get rid of any bacteria that might be lingering on the surface. A tongue scraper also does the same thing and is a handy tool to have. Your dentist or dental hygienist can show you how to do this if you’re not sure.

Another side effect of having plaque on your tongue would be bad breath which has other causes. So, if you are plagued by bad breath, it could be periodontal (gum) disease. In this disease, bacteria induce a chronic inflammatory process which, over time, results in loss of bone around the roots of the teeth. This loss of bone is for the most part symptom-free and painless until the advanced stages, when a white coating on the tongue appears, along with bad breath and loose teeth.

Untreated, periodontal disease is associated with systemic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, osteoarthritis and even Alzheimer’s disease. So, if you see white spots, a cream-colored coating or any lesions on your tongue, see your dentist or physician for diagnosis and treatment.

There appears to be more and more medical experiments and studies delving into what about Chinese medicine makes it work, how it works, and why it works. Maybe Chinese medicine has more to contribute to western medical science than what is known in the public sector.

If you would like more information about your tongue, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

2019-08-16T23:33:09+00:00March 21st, 2019|General Dentistry|

Conquer Tooth Decay with Sugar? | Alhambra Dentist

Yes! A new kind of sugar, called xylitol, when incorporated into chewing gum, can not only prevent tooth decay, but may also help “re-mineralize” or heal small cavities that have not penetrated the enamel, according to an article published in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA). This article states, “The evidence is strong enough to support the regular use of xylitol-sweetened gum as a way to prevent caries, and it can be promoted as a public-health preventive measure.”

To understand how xylitol can prevent tooth decay it is important to understand how cavities are formed. Sugar does not directly cause cavities. Rather, sugar introduced into the mouth is converted into acid by bacteria (e.g., Streptococcus mutans) in dental plaque. The increased acidity of the plaque causes “demineralization” of the enamel, which is the highly mineralized, hard covering layer of the crown of the tooth. The reason xylitol is effective in preventing cavities is that its chemical properties does not allow microorganisms to convert it into acid. Furthermore, unlike common sugars, xylitol does not decrease the pH (increase acidity) in dental plaque that would result in more acid formation. In fact, chewing xylitol gum has been shown in some studies to lower plaque formation. Other studies seem to indicate that regular use of xylitol gum can “re-mineralize” enamel undergoing the initial stages of chemical breakdown.

Xylitol tastes almost the same as sorbitol-sweetened gum (sugar-free gum). Xylitol, according to the JADA article, is more beneficial “in terms of reducing caries risk than does sorbitol-sweetened gum.” Sorbitol-sweetened gum is a “low cariogenic sweetener” rather than a “non-cariogenic sweetener”, such as xylitol.

Xylitol contains only 2 grams of sugar in two sticks of gum. Substituting some xylitol products in the diet can significantly reduce caloric intake. Consider the fact that the average consumption of all sugar is 141.5 pounds per capita in the U.S. in 2003. Much of the sugar intake has come in the form of sodas and juices, both of which have replaced milk and formula in the diets of infants and young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics has strongly opposed the practice of manufacturers of sodas and juices in contracting with school districts for the sole right to stock vending machines in the schools, known as “pouring rights.”

Another interesting discovery is that the regular use of xylitol may interrupt the transmission of cavity-causing bacteria from mother to child, according to a study from Finland. It was reported that there was a “significant reduction in the colonization of mutans streptococci” in the saliva of the infants in this study which involved 195 mother-infant pairs. The cavity rate of the children in the xylitol group was 70% lower than the other groups.

It is recommended by some dental experts that it is beneficial to have a regimen of chewing xylitol-sweetened gum three to five times a day for minimum of five minutes to inhibit plaque accumulation and chemical breakdown of enamel. In combination with regular home care and visits to the dentist, xylitol can be a beneficial adjunct to maintaining your smile for a lifetime. Check with your dentist as to whether xylitol may be right for you.

If you would like more information about cavity prevention, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

2019-08-16T23:36:40+00:00March 5th, 2019|Cosmetic Dentistry, General Dentistry|