Category Archives: dentist

Solutions for Teeth Sensitivity

There’s nothing like a hot cup of coffee in the morning or a cold glass of ice water on a hot day – unless that first sip brings a jolt of discomfort to the mouth. The culprit? Tooth sensitivity.

“You can notice tooth sensitivity while eating hot or cold foods, drinking cold or hot beverages, or breathing cold air,” says Craig Valentine, DMD, a spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry.

What’s Behind Teeth Sensitivity

Each tooth is made up of dentin, a tissue at its core, which is covered by a protective coating of enamel. If the enamel wears away or decays and exposes the dentin, the tooth (or teeth) can experience sensations including pain.

Gum recession caused by brushing too hard or with an incorrect technique can lead to dentin exposure, as can having cracked or chipped teeth or grinding and clenching the teeth. A medical condition, like bulimia or acid reflux, can also be a cause. Even diet may play a role – acidic foods like tomatoes and lemons and beverages like sports and energy drinks can dissolve enamel.

Preventing Enamel Loss and Teeth Sensitivity

“Damage to enamel is irreversible,” says Dr. Valentine. “Once enamel is worn away, there is no way to ‘grow’ it back.” The trick is preventing or stopping the damage.

First and foremost, Valentine recommends good oral hygiene:

  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and avoid brushing the teeth too hard. Employ a proper technique, including holding the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the teeth and moving it in a circular motion. Consider investing in an electric toothbrush, most of which use a circular cleaning pattern.
  • Reduce or eliminate acidic foods and beverages from your diet. When that’s not possible, rinse your mouth with water after eating or drinking these items and then wait at least a half-hour before brushing your teeth.
  • Be on the alert for clenching and grinding. Valentine says that both can cause tooth sensitivity. “This is best treated by wearing a mouth guard while sleeping and avoiding clenching or chewing gum during the day,” he says.
  • Don’t forget to see a dentist for cleanings and an examination every six months.

After Damage Is Done

Sometimes no matter how hard you try, one or more teeth will become sensitive. If your sensitivity is on the upper or lower cuspids (also known as the “canine teeth”) or premolars, the likely cause is receding gums. Decay or enamel erosion can affect any tooth.

The first step is to see a dentist who can develop an appropriate treatment plan. Depending on your situation, options include:

  • Using special toothpaste. After being applied several times, certain kinds of toothpaste can help block the sensation of sensitivity from the nerve.
  • Applying fluoride gel. Used in the dental office, fluoride gel can help make tooth enamel stronger and lessen the feeling of sensitivity.
  • Looking into serious dental treatments. When sensitivity is the result of decay or another tooth problem, a crown may help. If gum tissue receding from the tooth’s root is the cause, a surgical gum graft may correct the problem. In severe cases, a root canal may be the best option to help treat teeth sensitivity.

When sensitive teeth are a problem and lifestyle changes aren’t enough to ease the ouch, working closely with your dentist will lead you to the best solution.

The Top 7 Reasons We Avoid the Dentist

Has a painful past experience given you a fear of the dentist? Do you fear getting bad news about your dental health? Whatever the reason, you’re not alone — many Americans are simply skipping visits to the dentist. Overall, about 65 percent of us go to the dentist, but in some states, that number is much lower, even as low as 51.9 percent in Mississippi.

This is more than unfortunate — it can be downright dangerous, because regular dental visits are a key component of overall dental health. “We use our teeth multiple times a day, every day,” says Jennifer K. Shin, DDS, a dentist in private practice in New York City. “They take on a lot of abuse, so coming in twice a year gives us an opportunity to assess any changes that can be easily addressed. If problems are caught early, the solutions are easy, quick, and inexpensive. But a cavity left undiagnosed can lead to a toothache, requiring much more extensive and costly treatments.”

Why We Fear the Dentist

Why are people avoiding dental visits? The answer includes a wide range of reasons:

  • Cost. High prices are the major factor preventing many people from getting regular dental checkups. A recent survey found that 44 percent of people were not visiting the dentist because they don’t have dental insurance. “The truth is that if you take good care of your teeth and mouth, yearly dental visits won’t cost a ton of money,” says John Dodes, DDS, a dentist in Forest Hills, N.Y., and author of Healthy Teeth: A User’s Guide. “Easy additions to your routine, like flossing and rinsing with a therapeutic mouthwash like Listerine, can help get and keep your mouth healthy.”
  • Dental anxiety. Many people simply are afraid of the dentist’s office, but David S. Keen, DDS, a dentist in private practice in Beverly Hills, Calif., says there are a number of things you can do to minimize this. An effective way to make the experience positive is to speak with your dentist about your fears, and consider listening to pleasant music to promote an environment that is positive and soothing, more like a spa, he says. “Communication is usually the best way to develop a positive dental experience.”
  • Fear of needing dental work. “I’ve found in my 40 years of practice that very few patients are afraid of the actual cleaning, but rather they don’t want to hear any bad news about their teeth or any dental problems they’ve acquired,” says Dr. Dodes. “Avoidance and denial are strong human emotions, which can play a role in why people don’t visit the dentist as often as they should.”
  • Fear of instruments. The reason people fear that bad news, Dodes adds, is that treatment might be a painful or frightening procedure involving a scary dental instrument. Luckily, this is rarely the case today. “There have been so many new advances in dental care, including laser dentistry, which usually requires no Novocain,” says Jeffrey Gross, DDS, a dentist in the Cleveland area. “Also, the drills used today are so advanced that there is little noise or discomfort.”
  • Bad memories. Even the most advanced dental techniques can’t erase bad memories from dental visits of years past. “Many people fear the dentist because when they were children, they were told to not be afraid,” says Dr. Gross. “This actually instilled fear that has lasted many years. Dental visits today are very different, with many dentists offering music, TVs, and new high-tech procedures that can help erase old memories.”
  • Just too busy (or lazy). Sometimes, people have too much going on in their lives or just don’t want to make the effort to go to the dentist. “We are all creatures of habit,” says Gross. “If we don’t build it into our routine, it becomes one of those things that we have to ‘get around to doing.’ Once we skip a visit or more, it is out of our routine. This is why progressive dental offices work so hard on reminding people and setting up their visits. These programs are specifically designed to combat these issues.”
  • Fear of getting lectured. Nobody likes to be lectured about their dental health. And if you’ve been neglecting your brushing and flossing for some time, then you might fear that a lecture is coming. “In my office, I recognize this fact, and ‘lecturing’ or reprimanding is the last thing on my mind,” says Gross. “These types of comments are counterproductive — the patient’s discomfort, which brought them into the office, is reprimand enough. But the fear of a lecture is a pervasive thought on the minds of many patients. Many times this is due to guilt as they know better, and they simply don’t want to hear any more about it.”

The best way to address your personal reasons for avoiding dental visits is to voice them to your dentist. Give him or her the opportunity to reassure you and get you back on course for good dental health.

What You Need to Know About Kids’ Dentist Appointments

Most kids don’t light up at the idea of going to the dentist (and that goes for many adults, too).

But regular dental care is a must for all children. According to the American Dental Association, kids should visit the dentist within six months after their first tooth appears and no later than their first birthday. What can you expect at your child’s firstdentist appointment?

  • The dentist will examine your child’s baby teeth to look for tooth decay or other dental health issues
  • He will assess your child’s risk for tooth decay
  • He should teach you how to properly clean your child’s teeth
  • You and your child’s dentist can talk about habits, such as thumb sucking and misuse of sippy cups, which can harm your child’s teeth

The Basics of Pediatric Dental Care

After your child’s first dentist appointment, he or she should continue to have regular check-ups at least every six months. In some cases, such as with children who are at increased risk of tooth decay, your child’s dentist may recommend more frequent visits.

Regular dentist appointments can help reduce your child’s chances of having cavities since his teeth will be cleaned to remove plaque build-up and a fluoride treatment will be applied to strengthen the enamel of the teeth. The dentist will also examine your child’s teeth, jawbones, and oral tissues to check for any potential problems.

Sometimes, children will need to have a cavity filled or other dental work done — but should you go through with it if your child still has her baby teeth? Dental work is necessary even for kids who still have their primary or baby teeth, since cavities can be painful, and healthy baby teeth are important to help your child chew food, speak properly, and guide permanent teeth into their proper position.

Making Kids’ Dentist Appointments More Pleasant

As a parent, you can help calm your child’s nerves and make each dentist appointment go more smoothly. The better experience children have, the more trust and security they will feel when visiting the dentist, which can promote a lifetime of good dental health.

Try these steps to help your child feel at ease about going to the dentist:

  • Choose a pediatric dentist. Pediatric dentists – dentists that specialize in children’s dental health — are specially trained to calm anxious children. The offices of pediatric dentists are also often designed to be especially welcoming to youngsters.
  • Talk about the visit in advance. In a relaxed setting, calmly discuss the upcoming dentist visit with your child. Explain what might happen at the appointment and that the dentist can help keep your child’s teeth bright and healthy.
  • Schedule a sneak preview. If your child is visiting a dentist’s office for the first time, ask if it is okay to stop by before the actual appointment. This will give your child the chance to get comfortable in the new surroundings before the check-up.
  • Stay close to young children. If your child is younger than four years old, it can help your child to have you nearby during the dental appointment.

As you prepare your child for an upcoming dentist appointment, remember that your attitude has a significant influence on your child’s perception of the dentist. If the thought of dental work on yourself or your child makes you anxious, do your best to remain relaxed and calm when you talk about the dentist with your child. Researchers have found that having parents who have dental anxiety increases the risk of dental anxiety in young children.

Dental Filling Options for Cavities

Cavities, also called caries or tooth decay, develop when plaque damages the enamel that protects the outer surface of the teeth.

If you have cavities, it is important to have them treated by a dentist as soon as possible. Without prompt treatment, cavities can eventually progress and affect the delicate tissue and nerves deep within your teeth. When cavities are treated early, serious complications, such as nerve damage and tooth loss can be prevented.

How Are Cavities Treated?

If your dental hygienist or dentist finds a cavity, your dentist can treat the cavity by removing the decayed tissue and placing a dental filling, special material put in the tooth to protect it from further damage and decay.

Before removing your cavity, your dentist will apply a local anesthetic to numb the surrounding tissue. A dental drill will then be used to remove the decayed portion of your tooth and prepare it for a filling.

Laser therapy or a procedure called air abrasion can also be used to get rid of cavities.

Dental Filling Options

Fillings have come a long way over the years, and today there are many options beyond traditional metal fillings. Types of dental fillings that are currently available include:

  • Amalgam fillings. Amalgam has been used for more than 100 years to fill cavities and is still widely used today. Amalgam is a resilient combination of elemental metals, and may include components of mercury, silver, tin, copper, and other metals. Since amalgam fillings are silver in color, they aren’t as good as tooth-colored fillings for use in more visible teeth near the front of the mouth.Because amalgam contains mercury, questions have been raised about its safety. High mercury exposure is linked to some neurological problems, particularly among infants and children. Research done by the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and other major health organizations, however, has determined that dental amalgam is a safe option for fillings. The other metals used in amalgam fillings are thought to stabilize the mercury component and reduce the risk of ill effects.
  • Composite fillings. Composite is a tooth-colored material that is made of glass or quartz and resin. Composite fillings are durable and more natural looking than amalgam fillings. They are generally more costly than amalgam fillings and can take longer to place. In addition, composite fillings may become stained over time.
  • Glass ionomer fillings. Like composite fillings, glass ionomers are also tooth-colored. They are made of acrylic and glass, and are most often used to fill cavities at the root surfaces of teeth. Glass ionomers are also designed to release fluoride that can help protect your teeth from additional decay. Since glass ionomers are not as durable as amalgam or composite fillings, they are best used on areas of your teeth that are not exposed to much friction during chewing.
  • Resin ionomer fillings. Similar to glass ionomers, resin ionomers are natural-looking fillings that are also made from acrylic and glass filler. They are usually used to fill small cavities between teeth or on the root surfaces of teeth.
  • Custom-made dental restorations. In some cases, your dentist may need to make your filling in a laboratory from a special mold of your tooth. This type of filling includes a custom-made inlay that fills the removed portion of your tooth, along with a crown that covers the top and sides of your tooth. It takes two or more visits to place a custom-made restoration. These restorations can be made from porcelain, metal alloys, gold, and/or composite materials. Porcelain restorations are durable, but the material can irritate adjacent teeth. Gold and metal alloys are highly resilient, but depending on the location in your mouth, can be very noticeable.

If you have a cavity, talk with your dentist about your preferences, as well as the benefits and disadvantages of the various filling options. After evaluating your overalloral health and preferences, your dentist can help you decide which type of filling is best for you.

How to Deal With a Dental Emergency

Like cavities and gum disease, many dental problems develop gradually after months (or years!) of dental-health neglect. But sometimes, pain or sensitivity in your teeth can come on suddenly, and you may need immediate dental care, either at the emergency room or from your dentist.

It’s not always easy to know whether a tooth, gum, or mouth problem requires emergency care — or what to do about it. In fact, most Americans are unprepared to handle a dental health emergency, according to a survey of 1,000 participants.

Think your mouth issue is a dental health 911? Here’s a handy guide to situations that are generally considered dental emergencies:

  • Lip or tongue bite with excessive bleeding. If you accidentally bite your lip, tongue, or other soft tissue in your mouth, clean the area and apply a cold compress to decrease swelling. If the bleeding is severe, or will not stop, go to the emergency room.
  • Broken or cracked tooth. In the case of a broken or cracked tooth, call your dentist immediately. Until you can get to your dentist’s office, rinse your mouth with warm water and apply a cold compress outside the affected area.
  • Damaged braces. If your braces become damaged, call your orthodontist right away. Some instances of damaged braces need to be fixed immediately; others can wait until your next appointment.
  • Injury to your jaw. If you suspect you may have broken your jaw, apply a cold compress to the area and immediately go to your dentist’s office or to the emergency room.
  • Loose tooth. If one of your teeth is partially dislodged, see your dentist right away — they may be able to save the tooth. Until you can get to your dentist’s office, take an over-the-counter pain reliever and apply a cold compress to the affected area to relieve pain.
  • Tooth that has been knocked out. Grasp your lost tooth by the crown and rinse its root if it is dirty, avoiding scrubbing the tooth or removing pieces of tissue that may be attached. You can attempt to reinsert the tooth into its socket in your mouth, but if that doesn’t work, you’ll need to see your dentist quickly. The American Dental Association recommends placing the tooth in milk, which acts as a preservative until you can get to a professional.
  • Lost filling or crown. When one of your fillings or crowns falls out, put the filling or crown in a safe place and call your dentist to make an appointment. Applying clove oil to the sensitive areas in your mouth and dental cement from the drug store on your tooth’s surface can help decrease sensitivity, but check with your dentist before doing these things.
  • Object lodged between your teeth. If something gets stuck between your teeth, try to gently remove it with dental floss. If the object still won’t come out, call your dentist. Depending on the situation, he or she may want to see you quickly.
  • Painful swelling. Call your dentist to schedule an appointment if you have painful swelling in your mouth, as you may have an abscess, an infected pocket of pus that can lead to a serious systemic infection. Until you can see your dentist, try rinsing your mouth with saltwater to relieve the pain and pressure.
  • Pericoronitis. This is an infection that occurs when your wisdom teeth don’t come into your mouth properly. If you experience symptoms of pericoronitis, which may include swollen and irritated gums, a bad taste in your mouth, or bad breath, or you are not able to fully open your mouth, see you dentist as soon as you can.
  • Sudden or severe toothache. If your tooth is aching, rinse out your mouth with warm water and gently floss around the tooth to make sure there is nothing lodged between your teeth. Call your dentist if your toothache does not go away.

Some dental emergencies can lead to life-threatening infections or permanent damage if not treated rapidly, so if you’re in doubt, always call your dentist. The earlier you seek treatment for a dental problem, the better your chances are for a full recovery and continued dental health.

What You Need to Know About Dental X-rays

Depending on your oral health history and your dentist’s preferences, you will probably need to have dental X-rays taken from time to time. Dental X-rays allow your dentist to more closely monitor the health of your teeth and gums, so that changes and problems can be detected early, when treatment is most effective.

What Are Dental X-rays?

Dental X-rays are special images that allow your dentist to get a closer look at some of the structures inside your mouth, including your teeth, the roots of your teeth, your bite, and your facial bones.

The process involves placing an X-ray film in a piece of cardboard or plastic, which your dentist will ask you to bite down on to hold the film against the area he or she wants the X-ray to capture. Depending on how many angles or areas of your mouth your dentist wants to see on X-ray, this may be repeated several times. While the X-ray pictures are being captured, you will wear a protective apron to shield your body from the X-ray machine’s radiation.

Your dentist may use dental X-rays to look for:

  • Tooth decay, also called cavities or caries, between your teeth or under your fillings
  • Infections in the bones of your mouth
  • Symptoms of gum (periodontal) disease
  • An abscess, cyst, or tumor in your mouth
  • Changes in your teeth or bones
  • Problems with the ligaments that hold your teeth in place
  • Dental developmental problems (in children)
  • The location of an impacted or unerupted tooth (a tooth stuck in your gum tissue or bone)

Who Should Get Dental X-rays?

If you’re seeing a particular dentist for the first time, there’s a good chance that he or she will want to take a set of dental X-rays, unless you can provide the dentist with copies of recent X-rays. Your dentist will use these initial X-rays to evaluate your oral health, look for gum disease, and have a basis for future comparisons.

Your dentist will then determine how often you need follow-up X-rays to monitor for changes in the health of your gums and teeth. The interval at which you receive follow-up dental X-rays will depend on your age, overall oral health, and risk of having dental problems in the future.

Risks of Dental X-rays

X-rays are one of the most commonly used tools for medical screening and diagnosis, but they are not without risks. The most worrisome issue associated with dental X-rays, as well as other types of X-rays, is a small increase in the risk of developing cancer, which is associated with exposure to radiation. The more X-rays you get throughout your lifetime and the younger you are when you have the X-rays, the higher your risk of developing cancer. There is also evidence that women are more susceptible to developing cancer caused by X-ray radiation exposure than men.

Still, in most cases, the benefits of having X-rays done outweigh the potential risks. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recommended that people take steps to reduce their exposure to radiation from X-rays. Here are some tips to help reduce your exposure:

  • Bring a copy of previous X-rays to your new dentist to avoid having unnecessary, repeat X-rays.
  • Ask that a lead apron or other protective shield be used when you are getting an X-ray.
  • Inquire about E- or F-speed film for X-rays, which are faster than conventional D-speed film, and will reduce the radiation dose.

You should also avoid having dental X-rays if you’re pregnant, since there may be a risk to your unborn baby. In cases where a dental X-ray is recommended even though your dentist knows you are pregnant, keep in mind that the radiation exposure from dental X-rays is very low, and that your oral health is important for the health of your baby as well.

Many Americans Don’t Receive Preventive Dental Care

Too many Americans lack access to preventive dental care, a new study reports, and large differences exist among racial and ethnic groups.

For the study, researchers analyzed telephone survey data collected from nearly 650,000 middle-aged and older adults between 1999 and 2008. The investigators found that the number who received preventive dental care increased during that time.

However, 23 percent to 43 percent of Americans did not receive preventive dental care in 2008, depending on race or ethnicity. Rates of preventive care were 77 percent for Asian Americans, 76 percent for whites, 62 percent for Hispanics and Native Americans, and 57 percent for blacks, the results showed.

The study was published online Dec. 17 in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.

Factors such as income, education and having health insurance explained the differences in access to preventive dental care among whites and other racial groups except blacks, according to a journal news release.

The lower rate of preventive dental care among blacks may be due to a lack of awareness about dental health and dental care services, and to an inadequate number of culturally competent dental care professionals, suggested Bei Wu, a professor and director for international research at Duke University’s School of Nursing, and colleagues.

Many Native Americans who live on reservations don’t receive proper dental care, partly because too few dental care professionals choose to work for the Indian Health Services, the researchers pointed out in the news release.

The investigators also found that people with health insurance were 138 percent more likely to receive preventive dental care than those without insurance. Women were one-third more likely to get preventive dental care than men.

Smokers were also less likely to receive preventive dental care, which is of particular concern because tobacco use is a threat to oral health, the researchers noted.

The findings demonstrate the need to develop public dental health programs that target middle-aged and older Americans, improve access to dental care, and create a dental workforce that is culturally competent, the study authors said.

Dental Care Safe for Pregnant Women

Dental cleanings and X-rays are safe for pregnant women, a U.S. obstetrician/gynecologist group says.

The group also advised ob-gyns to perform routine dental health assessments at women’s first prenatal visit and to encourage their patients to see a dentist during pregnancy.

“These new recommendations address the questions and concerns that many ob-gyns, dentists and our patients have about whether it is safe to have dental work during pregnancy,” Dr. Diana Cheng, vice chairwoman of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women, said in a college news release.

Dental health problems are associated with other diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and respiratory infections.

“We want ob-gyns to routinely counsel all of their patients, including pregnant women, about the importance of oral health to their overall health,” Cheng said.

The college noted that 35 percent of all women say they haven’t seen a dentist in the past year and about 40 percent of pregnant women in the United States have cavities or gum disease. Physical changes caused by pregnancy can cause changes in teeth and gums. Dental problems during pregnancy are most common among black women, smokers and women on public assistance.

“We can all reassure our patients that routine teeth cleanings, dental X-rays and local anesthesia are safe during pregnancy,” Cheng said. “Pregnancy is not a reason to delay root canals or filling cavities if they are needed because putting off treatment may lead to further complications.”

Among the potential benefits of good dental health during pregnancy is that it may decrease the transmission of cavity-causing bacteria from mother to baby, which can help reduce the child’s future risk of cavities.

Diet Soda Habit as Bad for Teeth as Meth Addiction

Heavy consumption of diet soda can damage teeth as badly as methamphetamine or crack cocaine, a new study contends.

“You look at it side-to-side with ‘meth mouth’ or ‘coke mouth,’ it is startling to see the intensity and extent of damage more or less the same,” said Dr. Mohamed Bassiouny, a professor of restorative dentistry at the Temple University School of Dentistry in Philadelphia.

Methamphetamine, crack cocaine and soda — sweetened or not — are all highly acidic and can cause similar dental problems, Bassiouny said in a study published recently in the journal General Dentistry.

The acid in soda is in the form of citric acid and phosphoric acid, Bassiouny said. Without good dental hygiene, constant exposure can cause erosion and significant oral damage, he said.

In his study, he found that a woman in her 30s who drank 2 liters of diet soda daily for three to five years experienced tooth rot and decay remarkably similar to that suffered by a 29-year-old methamphetamine addict and a 51-year-old habitual crack cocaine user.

The younger man had used methamphetamine for three years, and often downed two or three cans of regular soda a day because the drugs made his mouth so dry. The older man reported an 18-year history of crack abuse.

The woman said concerns about weight gain led her to choose diet soda over regular, and admitted that she had not seen a dentist in many years, according to the study. She also associated sweetened beverages with a higher risk of tooth decay.

Her teeth were soft and discolored, with many destroyed by erosion. She usually sipped the beverage directly from a can or a bottle, and held the soda in her mouth before swallowing, Bassiouny said.

“She also mentioned that when doing so, she habitually leaned on her left side against the arm of the sofa while watching television,” he said. The “massive” damage to the left side of her mouth bore this out and resulted in what is called a collapsed bite.

“None of the teeth affected by erosion were salvageable,” Bassiouny said. The woman had to have all of her teeth removed and replaced with dentures.

Methamphetamine and crack are known to ravage the mouths of users, and the two drug abusers needed all of their teeth extracted.

Besides exposing teeth to damaging acid, these illegal drugs reduce the amount of saliva in the mouth, providing less opportunity for the acids to wash away. The drugs also cause systemic health problems that affect dental hygiene. Previous studies have linked “meth mouth” with rampant decay.

A group representing soft drink manufacturers said this case study should not be seen as an indictment of diet sodas generally.

“The woman referenced in this article did not receive dental health services for more than 20 years — two-thirds of her life,” the American Beverage Association said in a statement. “To single out diet soda consumption as the unique factor in her tooth decay and erosion — and to compare it to that from illicit drug use — is irresponsible.

“The body of available science does not support that beverages are a unique factor in causing tooth decay or erosion,” the group said. “However, we do know that brushing and flossing our teeth, along with making regular visits to the dentist, play a very important role in preventing them.”

Dr. Eugene Antenucci, spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry, said he was not surprised by Bassiouny’s findings.

“From my experience, the damage that happens to people’s mouths from cocaine or methamphetamine are degrees greater than what I see from soda, but I see a lot of damage from soda,” said Antenucci, a dentist in Huntington, N.Y.

Damage from excessive soda consumption can cause “very deep brown stains, where it’s actually eroded into the tooth, and the teeth are soft and leathery,” he said.

Prevention is the best cure, Bassiouny said. How often you drink soda, how much you drink and how long it’s in your mouth all are important factors. “You can help prevent it from happening by reducing any of those,” he said.

Sugar-free soda is no better than regular soda when it comes to dental decay, Bassiouny added. “Both of them have the same drastic effect if they are consumed in the same frequency, the same amount and the same duration,” he said.

Antenucci said people need to keep in mind that they are drinking something that is highly acidic when they pick up a soda.

“Knowing that, you limit it and understand that you need to clean your mouth afterward,” he said. “Even simple water will wash away the acidity. And everyone should brush twice a day, if not more often.”

Should people give up drinking soda? “You’d be better off if you didn’t drink the soda,” Antenucci said, “but in my mind there’s not a reason for that extreme.”

Vitamin D May Prevent Tooth Decay

Vitamin D might help prevent tooth decay, a new review of existing studies published in the journal Nutrition Reviews found.

The review includes data from 3,000 children enrolled in 24 clinical trials published from the 1920s to the 1980s. Overall, the trials showed that vitamin D supplementation led to a 50 percent drop in the incidence of tooth decay, perhaps because vitamin D helps the body absorb the tooth-building calcium it needs.

In the trials, the vitamin was delivered either via supplemental UV radiation or by diet products, such as cod liver oil, which contain it.

Philippe Hujoel, PhD, DDS, of the University of Washington, conducted the trial, saying his main goal was to summarize the existing research, so dental professionals could “take a fresh look at this vitamin D question.”

But Hujoel’s results come as no surprise to researchers who have also studied vitamin D and dental health. “The findings from the University of Washington reaffirm the importance of vitamin D for dental health,” Michael Holick, PhD, MD, professor of medicine at the Boston University Medical Center told Science Daily. He went on to say that children who are vitamin D deficient experience late teething and a risk of tooth decay.

Dental caries, or decay, among children are increasing while vitamin D levels among many populations have dropped, Hujoel said in the study. “Whether this is more than just a coincidence is open to debate,” he said. “In the meantime, pregnant women or young mothers can do little harm by realizing that vitamin D is essential to their offspring’s health,” also noting that systematic reviews do have some flaws based on possible biases in some of the clinical trials that damaged the results.

In recent years, vitamin D has gained a reputation as sort of a vitamin cure-all. Most recently, women with the highest levels of vitamin D were shown to have the lowest risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by researchers at the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis. A second separate study found that low vitamin D levels results in a greater Alzheimer’s risk, even when isolating for other lifestyle and health factors such as body-mass index, diet, and cognitive performance. Other strong links have been identified between low levels of vitamin D and cancer and low levels of vitamin D and heart disease.