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Understanding Cavities

March 29th, 2019

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. Richard Malek 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 Norwalk, CT office.

Does smoking affect oral health?

March 15th, 2019

By now, everyone knows that smoking is bad for you. But the truth is its broad-reaching health effects are not all known by everyone. This is especially true of oral health. Smoking can have serious repercussions in this regard. To give you a better idea of how smoking can affect your oral health, Dr. Richard Malek and our team have listed some issues that can arise.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer can have steep ramifications for anyone that gets it. Surgery can be required to eliminate the cancer before it spreads to more vital parts of your body. Any type of cancer is about the worst health effect you can get, and this especially holds true to the affects that smoking has on your mouth. The type of mouth surgery required with oral cancer can leave your face deconstructed in certain areas, and it is all due to smoking or use of other tobacco products.

Tooth Discoloration and Bad Breath

At the very least, it is fair to say that as a smoker you will often have bad breath, and while you may try to cover it up with gum or mints, tooth discoloration is a whole other story. The chemicals and substances in cigarettes stick to your teeth staining them brown and yellow colors that are increasingly difficult to disguise.

Gum Disease and Loss of Bone

Another effect of smoking is the increased risk of gum disease. Your gums may start to recede, which can eventually lead to the loss of teeth. Smoking can also increase bone loss and density in your jaw which is vital to the health of your mouth. Gum disease and bone loss are two signs that smoking is definitely bad for your mouth.

When it comes to the health of your mouth, the question is not whether smoking affects your health, it's how does it affect your health and to what degree. If for no other reason than because smoking involves your mouth as its entry point, it is safe to say that it can have long-lasting and detrimental consequences on your oral health.

To learn more about smoking and your oral health, contact our Norwalk, CT office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Malek.

Is a Crown Necessary for My Child’s Baby Tooth?

March 8th, 2019

Part of the charm of your child’s smile is those delicate, diminutive baby teeth. We enjoy those smiles while we can, because soon enough, primary teeth make way for the adult teeth that will last your child a lifetime. So you might be surprised if Dr. Richard Malek and our team recommend a crown for your child’s baby tooth. Is this procedure necessary when the tooth is going to fall out eventually anyway?

Yes, it really is. If a primary tooth is lost before its normal lifespan, several problems can arise.

  • Biting and chewing—a full set of baby teeth is best for proper chewing and digestion. And chewing also helps develop face and jaw muscles.
  • Speech development—primary teeth help guide speech production and pronunciation.
  • Spacing—a baby tooth serves as a place holder for the adult tooth waiting to replace it. If a primary tooth is lost too early, teeth may drift from their correct location and cause overcrowding or misalignment.

When is a Crown Necessary?

The enamel in a baby tooth is thinner than the enamel found in adult teeth, and a cavity can spread quickly throughout a tooth. Within a short period, the tooth’s structure might be too weak for a regular filling. Sometimes the pulp inside the tooth becomes injured or infected and an endodontic treatment is necessary to remove pulp tissue from inside the tooth. The interior will be filled, but the delicate enamel surrounding it will be fragile. Or an accident can leave a tooth fractured or broken, but still vital.

In each of these cases, a crown will protect the tooth from further decay or damage, and will allow the tooth to function normally until an adult tooth is ready to replace it.

What Types of Crowns are Available?

By far the most common choice for a primary tooth is a stainless steel crown. These crowns are prefabricated and can be fitted snugly to your child’s individual tooth. They are easy to place, less expensive than other crown alternatives, and will last until the tooth is ready to fall out in its proper time. If your child suffers from a metal allergy, or a more natural looking crown is necessary, talk to us about other possible options during your appointment at our Norwalk, CT office.

Sure, preserving a baby tooth that was never designed to be permanent seems contradictory. But saving a tooth that helps your child develop proper eating habits, speech production, and correct adult tooth alignment? Those are benefits that will last a lifetime.

How do I make my child’s diet safe for his or her teeth?

March 1st, 2019

The food you feed your child can have a lasting effect on his or her oral health. In fact, diet plays a major role in whether a child develops cavities and decay, which can lead to many dental visits and potential tooth loss. So what should you feed your child to ensure he or she has a healthy smile for life?

Foods to Avoid

It is normal for your child to take interest in many foods -- especially those filled with sugar and carbohydrates. But as tasty as these foods are, they can cause rapid decay when eaten in excess. That’s not to say your child can never have sugar again. Dr. Richard Malek and our staff suggest limiting starchy and sugary foods such as candy and potato chips as much as possible.

Remember that some seemingly healthy foods can present the threat of decay too. Some of the most common culprits are sticky foods like peanut butter, raisins, and granola bars, which can stick to the teeth after eating. If you serve these foods to your child, be sure to have him or her brush immediately after eating to remove any lingering sugary residue.

Beverages

Many beverages marketed toward children contain sugar servings that far exceed the daily recommendations from national health organizations. They suggest no more than three to four teaspoons of added sugar per day for young children.

Make an effort to serve only water to your child any time other than meal times. During meals, allow your child to have milk or juice, but in limited serving sizes. Most importantly, never allow your young child to sleep with a bottle or “sippie cup” full of juice or milk. Doing so can cause rapid tooth decay: a condition known as “baby bottle caries.”

A Healthy and Balance Diet

So long as your child is brushing regularly and eating a healthy, balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains, you should have little or no problem with tooth decay. For more questions about how your child’s diet affects his or her oral health, contact our Norwalk, CT office to schedule a consultation.

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