It may be alarming to learn that you have gum disease, but the truth is, there are a number of successful options to treat the problem. Maybe your issue began with an infection that included very little to no pain or irritation. Some people may not even realize they have this milder form of the disease, known as gingivitis. However, without proper treatment, even a mild case of gum disease can develop into the more severe form, periodontitis. But, again, fortunately there are a number of effective treatment options. — all with the goals of controlling infection, preventing tooth loss, and keeping the disease from damaging tissue.
Why Toothpicks Shouldn’t Be Your Pick for a Dental Tool
Toothpicks. You see them everywhere: minty-fresh and plastic wrapped next to the cash register at your neighborhood diner, spearing a bite-size cheese cube and sporting colorful plastic frills at a cocktail party, swimming in a martini and wearing nothing but an olive at the bar, or simply resting in a box of 100 at your local grocery store. In fact, toothpicks are so readily available, it may seem hard to believe that they could be bad for you in any way. The truth is, however, frequently using toothpicks can damage your teeth and gums, and lead to swallowing splinters and worse.
Toothpicks are old news
Toothpicks are primitive devices that are the oldest dental cleaning tool around. Fossils of 7,500-year-old teeth suggest that humans were using wooden sticks to clean their teeth a long time before toothbrushes were even thought about. But again, this is because these ancient people didn’t have any alternative. Here are a few reasons why jabbing a stick around in your mouth in hopes of dislodging food, today, may not be such a great idea:
- Lacerating gums. If you use toothpicks frequently and roughly, you could risk damaging your gums, causing bleeding and tearing.
- Damaging tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is the covering that makes up the outer layer of each tooth. Although it’s pretty tough stuff, it’s still vulnerable to the type of damage chewing on a toothpick can easily cause.
- Damaging tooth roots. If your gums have pulled away from your tooth roots, they could be especially prone to damage by a toothpick. Not to mention the fact that touching exposed tooth roots with anything at all can also be very painful.
- Chipping veneers or crowns. Vigorous toothpick use can cause both to become damaged or even fall out altogether.
- Splinters. Toothpicks can fall apart and leave splinters in your gums, tongue and throat, which are not only painful and hard to remove, but could also result in a dangerous infection.
- Swallowing. Toothpicks could kill you. In fact, on average, there are about 9000 choking incidents reported each year from someone either swallowing or inhaling a toothpick.
So what should I use?
Sure, toothpicks can remove food debris from between teeth, but dentists recommend other cleaning alternatives that are much less damaging to your teeth and gums, including:
- Dental floss. Dental floss or tape can quickly and effectively remove food particles without damaging teeth or gums. Flossing also removes plaque, which can lead to cavities, and promotes healthy gums, protecting you from gingivitis and periodontitis.
- Interdental brush. Interdental brushes have small bristled heads that are designed specifically to fit between your teeth. Like floss, they can dislodge bits of food and clean plaque from surfaces that can’t be reached just by brushing.
So should I ever use a toothpick?
The best answer to this question is simple: only when you’ve got no other choice. As discussed above, there are many things that make toothpicks bad for teeth. And perhaps the only thing they have going for them is that they are portable and convenient to carry. If you have a bit of food stuck in your teeth that is painful or irritating and a toothpick is your only option, then it’s better to remove it for your own comfort.
But even then, it’s important to ask yourself just how frequently you are having to use that toothpick. We’ve all experienced a niggling bit of food getting stuck between your teeth every now and then. No big deal, right? Well, if it happens on a regular basis and (most importantly) in the same place each time, then that is reason enough to visit the dentist. That’s because food can become stuck due to fillings that haven’t been properly finished, teeth that have shifted or teeth that have developed a hole due to decay. And if you’re just relying on toothpicks to try to remedy these problems, you’re probably going to be seeing much bigger problems down the line.
So, are toothpicks bad? No, toothpicks are great … glued together to create memorable fourth-grade art projects, stuck in a birthday cake to see if it is ready to take out of the oven, and for hundreds of other uses. But are toothpicks bad for you? Yes, especially if they’re used frequently or without sufficient care for your teeth and gums. And because there are other ways that are so much better at getting bits of food free from your teeth, there is really no reason to resort to some crude tool that was invented by primitive man.
Deciduous teeth are baby teeth. We’re born with two full sets of teeth and this first set is also called primary, milk or lacteal dentition. These teeth begin to erupt anytime after 6 months of age, which is commonly referred to as “teething.” Teeth normally erupt in pairs and the first that normally come in are the lower central incisors. By the time your child is 2, he or she should have a full set of deciduous teeth.
Why Two Sets?
As an infant, our mouths are too small for a full set of permanent teeth, so we require deciduous teeth until our jaw is able to sustain the permanent set. Baby teeth are essential in the alignment, spacing and occlusion of primary teeth. They prepare the adult jaw for their permanent fellows.
As the adult teeth (seccedaneous teeth) form, special cells called odontoclasts absorb the roots of the baby teeth, so that when your adult teeth start to emerge from your gums the deciduous teeth have no roots, making them loose and able to easily fall out.
Caring for Deciduous Teeth
A gross misconception about baby teeth is that since they will eventually be replaced by primary teeth, there’s no reason to take care of them. But cavities are a very real cause for concern — even for deciduous teeth. Children who suffer from dental cavities in their baby teeth are more prone to cavities in their permanent teeth. And every dentist will agree that oral hygiene habits begin in childhood. So it is essential that you take excellent dental care of your little ones’ baby teeth, as they won’t be able to do so themselves for the first handful of years.
Good oral hygiene begins at teething. Simply rubbing your infant’s gums with a wet washcloth will begin to develop habits that he or she will require for life. Once the first teeth erupt, begin brushing them twice a day. Once more teeth fill in, you can begin flossing, too. And be sure to set up your child’s first dental visit when the first tooth appears or by age 1.
Deciduous Tooth Dental Cavities
Sometimes your toddler will get a dental cavity in one of the baby teeth. In that case, your regular pediatric dentist will take X-rays and fill any dental cavity so that tooth decay does not go unchecked and the primary tooth can emerge in the best condition possible.
Like all teeth, deciduous teeth must be cared for properly so that you have a healthy mouth and healthy body. It’s up to parents to ensure that their child develops healthy deciduous teeth and good oral hygiene. If you need help maintaining your child’s oral health, give us a call; we’re glad to help.
What Is Cementum?
Cementum is a hard layer of tissue that helps the periodontal ligament attach firmly to a tooth. Made of cementoblasts, cementum slowly forms over a lifetime.
Cementum is a hard, calcified layer of tissue that covers the root of the tooth. On its outer side, cementum is attached to the periodontal ligament; on its inner side, the dentin. Along with the periodontal ligament, alveolar bone and gingiva, cementum helps a tooth stay in its place. In fact, if it weren’t for cementum, the periodontal ligament wouldn’t be able to attach firmly to a tooth.
Slowly formed throughout life, cementum is created when the root of the tooth excretes cementoblasts. Though cementoblasts are somewhat of a mystery, it is known that cementum is yellow in color and softer than dentin. Its chemical makeup is similar to that of bone — but unlike bone, cementum is avascular (not supported by blood vessels).
Types of Cementum
There are three types of cementum: acellular cementum, cellular cementum and afibrillar cementum. Acellular cementum covers about 1/3-1/2 of the root and has little to no cellular components. Cellular cementum covers about 1/3-1/2 of the apex and is permeable. Afibrillar cementum sometimes extends onto the enamel of the tooth.
If you have periodontal disease, your acellular cementum, cellular cementum or afibrillar cementum may also be diseased. A gum disease treatment called scaling and root planing can be performed to remove the diseased cementum, as well as dental tartar and diseased dentin.
If it has been awhile since your last dental visit, make an appointment today.