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Oct 30, 2008

Healthy Living: How to keep healthy teeth

There will be enough sweets to go around this weekend in the Halloween festivities and with the Christmas season quickly approaching, Healthy Living this week looks at how best to keep healthy teeth.

Marleni Cuellar
“It’s that time of the year again when the kids … and the adults get to indulge in a little bit of sweet. I’ve got my candy, I’ve got my toothbrush. But is that enough?”

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting
Enough to keep me safe from the painful symptoms of tooth decay. That’s right, in the midst of the Halloween festivities; we look at dental health: in particular the ever-so common dental cavity.

Dr. Carl Meggs has been the senior dental surgeon for the Ministry of Health for the past ten years. He speaks about the causes of those agonizing craters in your teeth. As he explains, the first culprit is plaque.

Dr. Carl Meggs, Senior Dental Surgeon, M.O.H.
“Plaque is the substance which is a—it looks like a thin film material that you can observe in the mornings on your teeth. What that is, that is a colony of organism and these organisms is what stick to the surface of your teeth.”

This is called bacterial plaque and when it sticks to your teeth this creates the breeding ground for other bacteria to accumulate in your teeth.

Dr. Carl Meggs
“The bacteria, they tend to go in particular you have bout four areas, particularly the chewing surface or what we call the occlusal surface. You have the bacteria that stick along the gum line or the gingival, or between the teeth where there’s a point of contact. Those are the most susceptible area where the bacteria will be produced.”

And these are precisely the areas where cavities are most common. The most important step in cavity prevention is not allowing the accumulation of plaque on your teeth. This can be remedied by, of course, regular brushing and flossing. But your body does its part as well, by producing saliva.

Dr. Carl Meggs
“Each person secretes approximately one point five liters of saliva per day. Now saliva has different function is one; wash away those free flowing bacteria. It also forms a buffer and it also has the capability to re-mineralize the structure of the teeth.”

So where does the intake of sugar fit into the cavity equation?

Dr. Carl Meggs
“When a person eat, whatever you eat is broken down to sugars particularly sucrose. That sucrose in your mouth is then converted by the saliva and the main bacteria S mutans is the one now that really is the one that initiate cavities because what it does … whenever you eat your mouth goes through an acid attack. You have the tooth, you have plaque, you have food. When those three things combine together in your mouth the acid, it drops the PH level in a person’s mouth and when that PH level decrease then for the bacteria to function and do its damage, that capability increase.”

So the food creates an environment for the bacteria to grow and to damage your teeth. But cavities are not necessarily directly related to brushing and eating.

Dr. Carl Meggs
“The frequency of eating, to every time you eat, your mouth goes through this acid attack in this stage. So what we advise, particularly with children, its very difficult if almost impossible to tell child on Halloween with so much candy, not to eat the candy. However, what as parents can be done simple just dictate to the best of your ability when they eat. For example, if they have their breakfast in the morning they would eat their candy in the afternoon. But where the damage comes in is when you have candy in your pockets and constantly popping one by one because then this acid attack is on a continuous basis and what that does it means bacteria is continuously being formed and attacking the calcified surface of the teeth and break it down. Hence, we come up with the cavities. If a person does their part with the brushing and flossing and has a dental exam and cleaning once a year, that is the greatest method of preventative treatment that anyone can have.”

Even the method in which you brush is important. Dr. Meggs demonstrates the most effective brushing method, the rolling technique.

Dr. Carl Meggs
“You start on one side and instead of doing this brushing, this brushing is very close to scrubbing, and that is what causes the abrasions at the gum line. What you would do is the rolling technique you roll and you come down and you just continue that motion all the way around. Then you open and you do the chewing surfaces. So you just go in the chewing surface and the anterior surface and you would angle your toothbrush and come up and you’ll do that probably five or six times per tooth just coming up in this area. But very lastly and very importantly, this is where the tongue comes then you take the toothbrush and rub it across your tongue. Don’t brush or scrub your tongue, rub it gently about three or four times. This is your health, it’s worth it. And not to jump on the bandwagon of prevention is better than cure but the truth is not only is prevention better than cure, but its very cheaper.”

And with the cost of one minor cavity running at approximately sixty-five dollars per filling and a root canal anywhere from three hundred to six hundred, we’d say Dr. Meggs is certainly right. Besides, there is no value to a beautiful smile.

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