Dentistry’s Little Secret

Some people break every rule when it comes to taking care of their teeth, and they never have a dental problem! It’s true. They don’t brush or floss, they eat the wrong foods, and they never visit the dentist. Yet, they never seem to develop cavities or gum disease? Why is this?  Is there no justice in this world?

The answer lies in genetics. Some people are genetically resistant (or less prone) to dental diseases. Despite their lack of dental care, they don’t seem especially at risk for these dental problems. Unfortunately this is a very small minority of people. Research is seeking to better understand the genetic factors involved in genetic susceptibility and resistance in dental as well as other diseases. Dental risk assessment is currently a hot topic in dentistry. This discipline seeks to identify an individual’s risk of future dental disease so that dental treatment can be tailored to their individual need.

What are you supposed to do with this information? First, know that your odds of winning the genetic Lotto, when it comes to dental health, are very poor. Second, since we cannot accurately predict whether or not you are going to have dental disease in the future, it’s best to follow the recommendations that dentists have been making for years.

  1. Thorough oral hygiene at least twice daily

Plaque forms on your teeth regardless of whether or not you have eaten. The plaque bacteria are the primary cause of most dental disease. Completely removing this plaque on a regular basis is critical to preventing dental disease. Cleaning your teeth is like detailing your car. Start with the heavy cleaning (tooth brush) and finish with the detailing (floss, a critical step). Don’t forget to brush your tongue.

 2. Avoid frequent sugary or starchy snacks

Plaque bacteria on your teeth take sugars and starches that you eat and use them for energy (just like a marathon runner carbo-loads before a race). The bacteria produce acid as a waste product of their metabolism. This acid eats away at the tooth structure and causes dental decay. Every time you eat something sugary or starchy, there is about 20 minutes of acid production by the bacteria in your mouth. When it comes to dental health, frequency of exposure is more important than amount. A person who is nibbling a small quantity of sugary or starchy snacks throughout the day is doing more damage to their teeth than had they eaten twice the amount in one sitting. Take a look at your dietary habits. Are you a nibbler? If so, stay away from starchy or sugary snacks. Are you a coffee or tea sipper through the day? Be aware that cream, sugar, and non-dairy creamers contain sugar.

  3. See your dentist twice a year for examination and dental cleaning

Regular dental examinations are essential to catching problems early (and treating problems conservatively). Dental cleanings remove hardened plaque deposits (tartar or calculus) that cannot be removed by your tooth brush and floss. Make sure your dentist and hygienist are checking for gum disease as part of your regular dental examination.

Don’t let “dentistry’s secret” lull you into a false sense of security. Following the time tested recommendations outlined above will best assure that you live a healthy life with your own teeth.


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