It was the end of a long day and I was deeply immersed in my nightly bedtime ritual of brushing, flossing, and getting ready for some badly needed sleep. My Troop of Chore Police (my doggies) came in and informed me that I had forgotten something very important–I had forgotten to check their water. As I grabbed the water bowl, my thumb noticed a film on the inside of the bowl.
“Ewww! Gross! And there are floaters in the water too!” I said to the Chore Police.
At that moment, my thought bubble popped out of my head.
Biofilms form when bacteria adhere to surfaces in some form of watery environment and begin to excrete a slimy, gluelike substance that can stick to all kinds of materials–metals, plastics, soil particles, medical implant materials, biological tissues. Biofilms can be formed by a single bacterial species, but biofilms more often consist of many species of bacteria, as well as fungi, algae, protozoa, debris, and corrosion products. Essentially, a biofilm may form on any surface exposed to bacteria and some amount of water.1
So that is the long definition of biofilm. How does this affect you, the person reading a dental blog? I want you to think in terms of this–biofilm=plaque. Plaque is our nemesis in the dental office. We know that plaque (biofilms) do bad things when they are allowed to hang out in your mouth. When you see your dentist or dental hygienist for your evaluations, you probably have been nagged, excuse me-I mean instructed, by your dental professional to use a toothbrush and floss at least once a day to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Is that verbal instruction from a professional enough to keep you motivated? Probably not, since most people do not floss on a daily basis or even on an every other day basis.
For those of you that require a little more motivation let me introduce to you a video. This video is especially good for those visual learners. There is no distraction from sound or color-just the facts. It is about 2 minutes long and shows the bacterial growth in 24 hours. These bacteria are not actors, they are the same types of bacteria growing and flourishing in your mouth right now. If you want to skip to the last 15 seconds, that’s fine. The end shows how much the bacteria colony has grown in 23-24 hours. Yuck!!
Okay, so I hope I have moved you to want to take action. What can you do?
Brush daily. I suggest brushing at least twice a day using an ultrasonic toothbrush. The action of brushing mechanically breaks up the protective slime barrier and helps to obliterate the colony. An ultrasonic toothbrush, such as Sonicare or Oral-B, utilizes ultrasonic vibration and mechanical means to disrupt the bacteria.
Floss at least once a day. Flossing is an important tool used to reach areas between the teeth and below the gumline. Brushing alone is inadequate in these areas to break up the bacteria. Flossing is another mechanical means of breaking up the bacterial colony.
Brush your removable dental appliance. If you are wearing some sort of removable dental appliance such as a full denture, a partial denture, a mouthguard or nightguard, you will want to use a soft toothbrush on a daily basis to clean the surfaces. These appliances build up the same biofilm and can cause problems if left to multiply.
Check your denture or partial dentures for wear and report to your dentist. Cracks, rough areas, and peeling of your dental appliance will give the bacteria a place to hide and multiply.
The decision is yours.
Are you willing to let the biofilm have a place to live and thrive in your mouth by giving them a safe place to stay, allowing them to eat what you eat, and possibly taking over your dental and all-over health by their increasing numbers and by-products? Or do you become your own Chore Police and train yourself to spend a few extra minutes per day to brush and floss so that bacteria isn’t allowed to run rampant in your mouth and become a sticky, slimy biofilm?
Be your own Super Hero!!
Have a great week and remember that KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!
Your comments are appreciated and read by the author. Your idea could be our next blog topic.
Happy Halloween time everyone! How many of you are having visions of piles of sugary treats of all types right now. Let me share my thoughts with you. I envision many different types of chocolate treats which include chocolate bars, chocolate with peanut butter hidden inside, chocolate with caramel, chocolate covered fruit, the list is endless, and that makes me happy. (I like chocolate, can you tell?) There are also the hard candies, such as Jawbreakers, Red Hots (cinnamon flavored goodness), Jolly Ranchers, and Lemonheads. I cannot forget the soft taffy-like candies: Skittles, Laffy Taffy, gumdrops, jelly beans, and gummy-anything. There is also the old Halloween favorite, a black or orange wrapped unidentifiable candy (?). Did any of you envision fruit or veggies when you read, “Give me something good to eat”? Me neither, but if you did I think you may be in the minority.
As a dental professional, a parent, and someone who doesn’t want to be a party pooper, I enjoy Halloween. I enjoy watching the variety of costumes from both young and old trick-or-treaters. My favorites are the little kiddos that come to the door dressed as pirates, monsters, or your pick of princesses. I will also admit that I enjoy the candy; especially the hard candies (Lemonheads and Red Hots-I have not told my dentist about this.). My disclaimer is this: You should suck on the hard candy, not crunch it. I have a couple of crowns to prove it.
I have a childhood Halloween memory which resembles a scene from the Charlie Brown Halloween special. There is a bright moon outside to lighten our way through the neighborhood. My friends and I are running from house to house, costumes flying behind us as we try to get to as many houses as we can before quitting time. “Trick or Treat,” we scream and hold our bags open, politely waiting for the sound of candy to drop to the bottom of our bags. “Thank you” and then we were off to another house. Our pirating for candy for the evening was almost complete when we stumbled upon the dentist’s house. Once again, “Trick or Treat” and “Thank You, Mister,” then back to the van to check our booty for the evening by the dim interior light of the van.
“A toothbrush?!? What is this?” We were all thinking the same thought at the same time. It was the equivalent to Charlie Brown’s disappointment when he says, “I got a rock.” Yes, it was a toothbrush and yes we were disappointed but that dentist was on to something. I can have candy but I also needed to brush afterwards. Ta-Da! It seems so simple now. Eat candy, and then brush away anything that sticks to my teeth. How easy is that? That man had a secret weapon against cavities and he gave each of us one of our own. He was a super hero against decay!
Now, I am far too old to be out on the Trick or Treat trail, but if you have kids, you may be out there. Be safe and remember that you too can be a super hero against tooth decay. Simply give a toothbrush or help your kids brush to help save teeth.
Happy Halloween from Count Porkula and our office!
What price are you willing to place on your children’s teeth?
We invest in our kids. There are the usual things: clothes, food, and school. We equip them with all kinds of technology which includes cell phones and computers, but investing in their teeth seems to be another story. I was surprised to read an article that highlighted an issue that our children are not receiving preventive care for their teeth. I was flabbergasted at the number of children missing out on care which could prevent bigger problems for them in the future.
Let me throw out some numbers for you to process, by way of a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC:
Approximately 23% of children aged 2-11 years have at least one primary tooth with untreated decay and 20% of adolescents aged 12-19 year have at least one permanent tooth with untreated decay.*
Untreated decay=cavity. When we use the word cavity, people seem to feel that it is not a big deal. “Oh it’s JUST a cavity. It’s not hurting.” But cavities left untreated will continue to get bigger and bigger until the decayed portion eats away at tooth structure, can cause pain, broken teeth, and worse, infection.
A systematic review of randomized controlled trials found that dental sealants reduce decay in permanent molars by 81% approximately 2 years after placement and continue to be effective up to 4.5 years after placement. *
81% reduction in decay/cavities by placing a sealant on the chewing surface of the tooth! Prevention is what we believe, teach, and preach here at the office. It is so important to protect tooth structure. Yet for some reason parents are not taking advantage of this simple procedure. How can parents leave without scheduling an appointment to place sealants on their kiddo’s teeth? The main reason I hear repeatedly is THE COST. A study by the CDC addressed several issues which could help explain the lack of preventative care for children. Let’s see if you agree that these could be obstacles to healthcare:
Lack of dental insurance,
If dental insurance is available, the out-of-pocket costs compared to medical expenses were more expensive.
And this is what the study found,
In 2009, the total dental expenses for U.S. children aged 5-7 years were approximately $20 billion (5), accounting for 17.7% of all health-care expenses among this age group (6). Approximately 40% of dental costs were paid out of pocket (5), compared with 17% for medical care (6). Approximately one fourth of U.S. children do not have dental insurance (private or public) (7). The types of services covered by dental insurance vary widely by plan, but typically have higher copayments and lower annual limits than services covered by medical insurance (8). *
In relation to cost, preventive care is usually less costly than restorative treatment. Or another way to put that is, fluoride varnish and sealants placed on teeth will be less expensive than a filling, root canal, or crown. An added bonus to not having to pay for the more expensive restorative procedures is that tooth structure was saved! Plus, another child did not have to have to have an injection or feel anxious about having “work” done on them. There is also less time spent away from school and school activities. Those are all good things to keep in mind when “preventive care” is presented at the recall appointment.
If you have children and have questions about preventive care such as sealants, fluoride varnish, or rinses, call our office or your dental provider and get as much information as possible about those important services.
As you may have noticed, I tend to use my own dental experiences in writing this blog. Write what you know about, right? Well, this morning while enjoying my morning tea, one thought that popped to mind was that it was time to touch up my whitening. I’m sure for most of you that would not be the thought that breaks up that beautiful moment when your first caffeine hit of the day takes place. So why is touching up my whitening such a big deal? Mainly because I want to put my best smile forward from the moment I step into my office. I think of myself as a reflection of what is possible for everyone-a happy, healthy smile.
I will admit that I work really hard and have made a real investment in my keeping my teeth healthy. I do the daily flossing thing, well, except on the weekends. My toothbrush of choice is a Sonicare, because I find that it delivers what I paid for it to do-removes the plaque and stain from my teeth. The tongue scraper I have is used every time I brush my teeth, which is at least twice a day. My daily investment of time pays off when I put my lipstick on and smile in the mirror. Or when I see my dentist for my recall and evaluation. But what about the financial investment? Just like you, I have invested many $$ over time for my healthy smile and I haven’t regretted one cent of it.
Since I use myself as a demo on this blog, I have had a chance to REALLY see my investment in pictures. I have a couple of crowns to protect my fractured teeth from the massive chewing forces I put on them when I chew gum and eat Lemonheads (Shhh, don’t tell my dentist). I have several fillings-more than several, really-I have lots of fillings throughout my mouth. I have even paid to wear braces for a few years, which I paid for out-of-pocket, because my dental insurance did not have orthodontic coverage for someone my age. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the Waterpik I used while in my braces to ensure I didn’t get areas of discolored decalcification after those braces came off.
All that said, I can remember a time when I would not smile because I was embarrassed of my smile. I would hold my hand over my mouth when I smiled or laughed. Sad, huh? For many years I tried to hide the one thing that universally is a sign of happiness-a smile. This shame was due in part to the dentist that degraded me as a child because of my inadequate brushing habits. He did not take the time to ask how I was brushing then correct my behavior. He didn’t even ask if anyone was helping me to brush. He did let me know, in no uncertain terms, that he was very disappointed in my mouth. I was a little older the first time I went to a dentist, so this little kid at the time was appalled! His chairside manner was atrocious! I felt so bad about myself and not just about how dirty my teeth were at the time. This embarrassment carried over to my adulthood.
I’m so glad that we have such a wide variety of dental professionals to choose from today. We don’t have to endure the bad treatment from our dental teams as I did back then (in the old days). I am willing to investment in myself, both time and money, to avoid the pain and humiliation I felt all those years ago. I understand the fears and concerns our patients have when they walk into our office. BELIEVE ME, I understand and want to help others get to a place where they are able to enjoy a happy, healthy smile.
I wish I could keep my excitement at bay, but it’s difficult to not put on my super duper big smile: )) and sing, “Oh, it’s Friday! Oh, yes it’s Fri…day!!”
We have had a productive week taking care of our patients. Decay has been destroyed, fractures removed, plaque and stain polished away, and no signs of oral cancer this week. Our goal is that our patients will notice less pain, enjoy better tasting food, and for some….nicer breath.
Over the weekend remember that your time in our office, no matter how comfortable, can be determined by your home care. Spend some time on the teeth you want to keep. Be friendly and brush the plaque off them, they should not be wearing sweaters. Floss between your teeth to keep the touchy parts healthy and flossing will also help keep those gums from bleeding. If you haven’t tried it yet and you are feeling adventurous, try a tongue scraper. You breath will thank you.
Have a great weekend and remember to KEEP BRUSHING!
What a wonderful way to reach out and be involved with our patients and others! We are able to address concerns and questions that we encounter on a daily basis. The goal is to bring forth answers to questions that people often forget to ask until after they have left the office. Our hope is to educate, and maybe even entertain, while we are navigating to the answers you search.
A dental office visit can be a VERY scary adventure for some people, uncomfortable in the very least. BUT….our aim is to help you help yourself. Our team of trained dental professionals are here to help you in your quest for a happy, healthy mouth and smile. We have armed ourselves with some of the latest technologies to provide you with a road map to wellness. Our tools of the trade we have available in our office are used together with our education and experience to help provide you with the information you need to make educated choices about your dental health.
For some people the scariest part of visiting their friendly dental team is the financial part of the visit. But the dollar amounts associated with dentistry are only part of the full picture. Insurance companies and the policies they negotiate with their customers are often below standards to pay for the optimum, long-term treatment for their customers. Often the insurance language needs translation so our patients understand the benefits they have paid for with these companies. We hope to adequately address questions and concerns about insurance in the future.
I have said that we view ourselves as part of a team to help you help yourself to a happy, health mouth. I want to be clear that this does not mean that we will be expected to show up at your house or workplace to brush and floss your teeth for you. Nor does it mean that we will be able to sugar-coat some dental truths so that they are not painful or uncomfortable to hear or read. With knowledge you have power and that is an awesome first step, wouldn’t you agree? We look forward to hearing your concerns and questions in the future. This will help us to know what you want to know.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to the adventure!