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How Does Bacteria Cause an Infection in the Mouth? From Plaque to Abscess

Serious dental infections all start simply enough, bacteria lands on some food stuck to a tooth and starts eating. As the bacteria replicate they start forming a biofilm, a layer of bacteria, that we know as dental plaque.

As the bacteria continue to feast, they start producing acid as a byproduct. This acid starts eroding the outer layer of the tooth – the enamel. But the erosion doesn’t stop there. Once they break through the enamel they make their way through the second level of the tooth – the dentin.

After eating their way through the two layers of the tooth, the bacteria finally reach the center – the pulp. In the pulp the bacteria and the toxins they produce create a condition called pulpitis. At this point, left untreated, the pulp would need to be removed in a root canal procedure in order to save the tooth.

If a root canal is not used in order to save the tooth, the tooth will eventually reach a state of necrosis, essentially meaning that the tooth is now dead and beyond saving. At this point if the tooth is not pulled, the site of the dead tooth can be a source of infection. The body’s immune system will react against the bacteria trying to stop the spread. The result of the body’s reaction is an abscess full of pus.

This journey is a messy affair, but with regular dental visits you should be able to stop the damage before the abscess forms.

4 Most Common Ways People Chip Their Teeth

There are many ways for people to chip their teeth; some are preventable, and others are not. By discussing the most common ways teeth get chipped, we’re hoping you’re armed with enough knowledge so that you don’t find yourself in this situation. Here are some of the most common ways people chip teeth and how to prevent them:

Eating hard foods – You may be surprised to learn that many people break their teeth on seemingly innocuous foods like bread or popcorn. If you’re eating extremely crusty bread or other hard foods, make sure to bite down carefully and take your time chewing. Your teeth and your stomach will thank you.

Facial injury – While tooth injury in certain accidents is out of your control, you can at least reduce the chances of it happening while performing dangerous activities. For example, a lot of preventable tooth injuries happen while playing sports. Make sure to wear a mouth guard and protective gear while playing sports – it’s not just for the pros.

Using teeth improperly – Teeth are meant for chewing and smiling. They’re not meant for cracking open nuts or trying to open bottles or packaging. Use the appropriate tools to open things and prevent a trip to the dentist.

Bruxism – Some people have a condition called bruxism that causes the jaw and teeth to grind and clench. In extreme cases the clenching can lead to chipped teeth. While you can’t control if you have it or not, you can seek treatment if you see any of the signs of bruxism in order to prevent it from leading to extensive damage.

If you do end up cracking, chipping, or otherwise damaging your teeth, don’t hesitate to give us a call and we’ll get you fixed up.

The Dental Impact of Switching to Diet Containing Refined Carbs

For the longest time, the Alaskan natives were semi-nomadic and subsisting off of hunting and fishing. However, sometime around 1920, some started developing more permanent settlements. An analysis of their diet in 1955-1957 painstakingly measured the amount of macronutrients (i.e. fat, carbs, and protein). Then in 1965, another dietary analysis was performed, this time through observation and interviews. The change in diet was dramatic, the Alaskan Natives had started eating significantly more carbs and about 50% less protein.

The observations didn’t stop there. The scientists also noticed that the amount of decayed teeth rocketed. All of the people who didn’t have dental caries during the initial study in 1955-1957 now had signs of dental decay. Not much had changed in their lives; not their housing, clothes, or climate. The biggest difference was they stopped hunting as much, and instead chose to create souvenirs for greater profit, using the money to buy processed foods.

This case study of the Alaskan Natives is another item in the pile of evidence showing that refined carbohydrates play a significant role in causing dental caries, in addition to other health issues. Next time you reach for a bag of chips, remember the Alaskan Natives and consider an alternative snack.

The Battleground At the Root of An Infected Tooth

When a tooth is so badly infected that the bacteria make their way through the entire tooth and reach the gums beneath, the result is a painful infection at the base of the tooth (known as a periapical lesion). In addition to the general inflammatory pain at the site of infection, any pressure applied on the tooth would result in extreme pain. But what exactly is happening at the site of infection on a microscopic level?

When the bacteria first break through the bottom of the tooth and reach the gums, the body is signaled to send a large number of defensive cells (neutrophils) to the site of the infection. The body’s main objective is to contain the infection and prevent it from spreading. The spread of infection is halted in three ways:

  • Degranulation – The neutrophils release a substance that contains enzymes that attack the bacteria.
  • Extracellular traps – The neutrophils release some of their DNA strands to form nets that capture and entangle the invading bacteria.
  • Phagocytosis – Finally, the neutrophils ‘eat’ the bacteria, encasing them within their own cellular walls in order to destroy the bacteria.
  • After the battle is over, there’s a large mass of dead cells, dead bacteria, enzymes, and neutrophil DNA at the site of infection. To the naked eye, this may look like pus or an abscess. The enzymes in the pus irritate the surrounding tissue, leading to what dentists call “acute apical periodontitis”.

    All of this can be avoided with regular visits to the dentist, ensuring that the tooth doesn’t even reach this level of infection. Be sure to book an appointment with your dentist before it’s too late.

    5 Badass Dentists in History

    There are some historical badasses, some of which you may have even heard of, that also happened to be dentists. We’ll start with the most famous and work our way down.

    Paul Revere – This Patriot that played some key roles in the American Revolution was also a dentist for a short period of time. His dental tools are preserved to this day and you can still find old newspapers that advertise his dental services. Aside from his role in the revolution, he’s also known for being a master metalworker, being the first American to successfully roll copper into sheets.

    John Henry “Doc” Holliday – This gun slinger, along with Wyatt Earp, is known for his role in the infamous O.K. Corral gunfight. A lesser known fact is that he graduated with a degree in dentistry at the age of 21 and set up shop in Georgia, before moving to Arizona to make a living as a professional gambler. Surprisingly, he didn’t die in a gunfight – it was tuberculosis that finally got him.

    Robert Tanner Freeman – Fighting discrimination, he was one of the first people to enter Harvard’s fledgling dental program. He was also the first black person to get a dental degree in the US. Unfortunately, he passed away from the plague only 4 years after graduating. Still, his legacy helped establish and normalize the acceptance of black people in American dental schools.

    Lucy Hobbs Taylor – As a woman in the mid 1800s, she faced discrimination, being rejected from Eclectic Medical College in Cincinnati due to her gender. Undeterred, she sought mentorship and tried again, this time applying to Ohio College of Dentistry, where she met the same discrimination. She sought some more private mentorship to complete her training. She then moved to Iowa where she could practice dentistry without a degree. When the Ohio College of Dentistry finally started allowing women into their program, she signed up and became the first woman in the world to graduate from a dental college.

    Benjamin Lewis Salomon – He started off as an army dentist during WW2 but replaced a surgeon in his battalion after they were wounded, placing him on the front lines. On a day of particularly fierce fighting, his position was overrun and he picked up a gun to defend the field hospital as enemy combatants tried to enter. He held the enemy off as the wounded were evacuated but was eventually killed. He was later found with 98 enemy troops piled in front of him and his body contained multiple bullet and bayonet wounds. For his service, he was awarded the medal of honor.

    While we may not be as badass as these dentists, we like to think we’re all badasses in our fight against tooth decay. We don’t expect any medals, we just want to care for your teeth.

    Is Your City Fluoridating Their water? Here’s One That Didn’t

    Although scientists have already provided ample evidence that fluoridating drinking water can help reduce dental carries (cavities), many cities still choose to forego fluoridation.

    If your city is choosing to stop fluoridating their water or if the water isn’t currently being fluoridated, this story of what happened in Juneau, Alaska might be a wake-up call. When Juneau stopped adding fluoride to their water, they started seeing an increase in cavities in their population.

    Even if the city did save the tax payers some money by no longer fluoridating the water, locals are now facing preventable dental health costs that might outweigh the cost of adding the fluoride.

    That being said, people’s personal freedoms and choices need to be considered, and if people vote for stopping fluoridation, that’s their choice. But if you have concerns about the oral health of your children and yourself, be sure to talk to one of our dental professionals about it so that we can give you advice on how to deal with a lack of fluoridated water.

    How Do Different Types of Water Affect Your Dental Health?

    By now, you’re probably aware that drinking soda and even fruit juice can affect your dental health. It makes sense after all, considering they each contain high sugar levels. But what about water?

    Yes, even water–our (often) trusty and reliable friend–can have surprising effects on your teeth. Between bottled water, filtered tap water, straight tap water, and distilled water, it turns out that not all water treats your pearly whites the same way.

    Bottled Water
    People often rely on bottled water as the epitome of clean, risk-free drinking water. However, as it turns out, FDA standards for bottled water aren’t very strict. In fact, once the seal is broken, bottled water can become susceptible to bacteria.

    In addition, bottled water often lacks fluoride, which is essential to keeping a healthy smile.

    Filtered Tap Water
    If you drink straight from the faucet, you’re probably drinking through an attached filter. However, this may be removing fluoride as well as other important compounds found in tap water that help keep your smile strong.

    Straight Tap Water
    The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that straight tap water contains the proper chemicals, vitamins, and minerals that keep both your water and you healthy.

    If you’re like the majority of Americans, you’re probably wary about possible contaminants in your drinking water. As it turns out, most towns and cities actually offer safe-for-drinking tap water that provides you with proper vitamins and minerals without negative side effects to your health.

    Distilled Water
    If you want what many consider to be the “purest” water, you may opt for distilled water, which you can often buy in jugs. Although distilled water doesn’t negatively effect your teeth, it also won’t provide the fluoride your smile needs to stay healthy.

    Overall, drinking enough water is one of the best things you can do to stay healthy. If you have any questions about the effects of drinking these different types of water, don’t hesitate to ask your dentist.

    Source

    The Spicy Food Paradox

    As you may already know, dental caries (cavities) are caused by bacteria-eating carbohydrates that get stuck in teeth and leave acid behind. This acid then erodes away at the enamel of teeth, causing cavities that, if left untreated, could result in more serious dental issues.

    Luckily the body has some protection against bacteria and acid in the form of saliva. The saliva acts as a sort of mouth rinse that washes away debris and makes the mouth less acidic. In fact, many people chew sugar-free gum for this very reason. The gum stimulates saliva flow and helps clean the mouth.

    But there might be other ways to stimulate saliva flow. Recently, researchers confirmed what many spice aficionados would tell you, that spicy foods provide extra salivary stimulation. More specifically, they found that capsaicin, the chemical that makes chili peppers spicy, stimulates salivary glands in human and animals, even in dysfunctional transplanted salivary glands.

    But before you go bite a chili pepper for your teeth’s sake, it’s worth remembering that, for some people, spicy food might trigger increased acidity in the mouth. Some people suffer from a condition called acid reflux (more commonly known as heartburn), where the acid from the stomach climbs through the esophagus and into the mouth, making it a more acidic environment. If acid is the culprit behind tooth decay, then it should come as no surprise that people who have acid reflux are also more likely to have enamel erosion.

    This paradox of spicy food stimulating the salivary glands but also potentially causing acid reflux can be confusing, but if you consult with your dentist you can get a better idea of your risk. Don’t hesitate to ask at your next appointment!

    What Are Periodontal Pockets and Can You Keep Your Phone In One?

    We’ll start off by making it clear that, no, you can’t keep anything in your periodontal pockets. In fact, the smaller they are the better.

    You may not notice it, but your gums are not completely attached to your teeth at the gum line. At first, there’s actually a small gap between the tooth and the gums. This gap is called a periodontal pocket.

    As you can imagine, if this gap goes deeper than a couple of millimeters, it can become problematic. If the probing goes deep, it’s a sign of periodontitis (i.e. gum disease). The deeper it goes, the worse the periodontitis!

    If you ever had a dentist probe the gums and then mention a number to the hygienist or assistant, that number refers to how deep the probe went. Here’s a general guideline for what each probing depth means:

    • 1-3 mm: Healthy gums. Keep up the good work!
    • 3-5 mm: Mild periodontitis. If you start flossing and brushing
      regularly, you could prevent it from getting worse.
    • 5-7 mm: Moderate periodontitis. You may need a deeper cleaning
      called scaling and root planing.
    • 7-10 mm: You might need surgical intervention by a periodontist (gum specialist).

    As you can see, early intervention can prevent a trip to a dental specialist. Make sure to visit the dentist regularly to catch periodontitis as early as possible.

    Please, Please, Please, Don’t File Down Your Teeth!

    We’ve seen a disturbing trend in the past where people, mostly teens, have been filing down their front teeth in order to make them ‘even’ or ‘straight’. We can’t believe we have to say this, but please don’t do it. We can’t stress enough just how bad this is, but let’s discuss the gruesome details of what you’re actually doing to your mouth.

    First, let’s talk about the trauma you’re inflicting on your teeth. If you’re lucky, you’ll get away with thinned enamel that increases the sensitivity of your teeth to hot and cold. This might not sound so bad, but when we say sensitivity, we basically mean the pain of a severe brain freeze, but in your teeth. And as we said, that’s if you’re lucky. If you’re unlucky you might actually expose a nerve and cause unimaginable pain.

    The thinned enamel also increases the tooth’s susceptibility to really bad cavities that could result in needing a root canal. The root canal treatment won’t really hurt, but the hours or days waiting to get into the dental chair will be excruciating, as anyone who’s had a root canal can attest to.

    Now let’s address the myth that filing down a tooth would even make it ‘even’ or ‘straight’ to begin with. Put simply, that is not the case, the tooth will only have the appearance of being straight when in reality the tooth will now be misshapen if it were ever to be shifted into an actual straight position later on. Not only that but changing the shape of the tooth could change the way you bite down in an unexpected way that could result in other dental complications down the line.

    Orthodontists spend years in training to make sure that teeth are not only straightened but done so in a way that doesn’t cause issues at the root level or cause an uneven bite. If you want straight teeth, go to a dentist and ask about your options instead of causing major harm to your teeth.