“Prevention. I can’t stress it enough. Preventive dentistry and preventive medicine can stop problems before they become serious and then require radical remedial procedures,” Dr. Paul Meyerhoff said. At a time when few dentists served internships, Dr. Meyerhoff interned under legendary physician and dentist Dr. Ira Berloff at New York hospitals. The tutelage taught the young graduate procedures as well as a sense of integrity and dedication not learned in dental school.
Thirty years later, Dr. Meyerhoff, now retired, still offers the best advice anyone willing to listen and heed can learn. Prevention is the best medicine. In dentistry regular check-ups and hygiene for youths and adults can save radical procedures and loss of teeth.
“My mother gave me apple juice. Every time I cried she gave me a bottle with apple juice. The sugar ruined my baby teeth and caused problems with my adult teeth when they grew in,” a woman with chronic tooth issues revealed.
Sugar is in everything we eat and drink. Even the most fastidious label reader will find it is difficult to avoid sugars in any of their forms. Sugar left on teeth causes bacteria which leads to decay. What happens to baby teeth affects adult teeth that grow up under them. Good dental habits must begin with infants and should be continued throughout adolescence and adulthood.
I was always taught to brush, up and down strokes, using a firm toothbrush. The result has been gum erosion. I am right handed, therefore the most abrasion is on the left side of my jaw. The use of fluoride toothpaste helped prevent cavities; however, the toll has been on gums beneath the teeth.
“Use a water pick. Do not let it remain stationary in the mouth. Move it sideways, never up and down. If you leave the water pick stationary or move it up and down you can cause gum damage. A water pick helps remove tartar,” Dr. Meyerhoff suggested.
He also advocates the use of a soft toothbrush. Times were when dentists insisted on firm toothbrushes and vigorous up and down brushing. Dentists visited schools with models and showed students how to brush. Kits were provided with dentifrice and toothbrushes with written instructions on their use. What the students came away with was the firm idea that a firm brushing was required after every meal.
The use of mouthwash is a good way to remove bacteria that lodge in the gum line. Many mouthwashes are high in alcohol content and some have products that may be harmful. In one case, reported in the press, a person brought a lawsuit against a mouthwash maker after developing cancer as a result of continuous use of the brand’s mouthwash. That is an extreme situation. The only one I have ever heard about although there may be other incidents.
What is important, in all of this, is moderation. Consistent brushing with a soft toothbrush, using it up and down with only enough force to remove tartar is important. Use of mouthwash as a support to brushing and the use of a water pick every night to remove tartar along with regular dental check-ups will help insure healthy teeth that last a lifetime.
Some bad habits are formed that are difficult to overcome. Many people clench or grind their teeth. A habit that most often occurs at night during sleep, it can be a serious detriment to healthy teeth.
“Grinding teeth is usually a symptom of a greater problem,” Dr. Meyerhoff explained. “Patients are referred to psychiatrists to diagnose the deeper problem that is at the cause of grinding teeth. It is the result of somebody that has a problem and this is how it is relieved.”
Dr. Meyerhoff recommends that a dentist fit an appliance in the patient’s mouth that will protect the teeth from grinding. “Another problem is, if the teeth are not in perfect alignment, so the bite is evenly distributed, grinding can break a tooth or break a filling. An appliance has to be soft enough so the patient can bite into it.”
Many products are available on the market that can protect teeth from grinding. Some have to be placed in hot water and molded with the person’s bite. Plackers, a company in Grand Rapids, MI, has devised a BPA free dental night protector that can be used for three applications then discarded. These disposable, light-weight appliances fit along the gum line with pliable grooved bite plates that overlap the molars.
Plackers Grind-No-More™ dental night protectors come in boxes of 14 disposable units and provide patient comfort without the need to boil, or cut them to size. One patient has used them with great success. Not only has the Grind-No-More™ protected her teeth at night from harsh effects of grinding and clenching, they have served to help alleviate the problem. After use for about a month, grinding at night has subsided and only occasionally does the person feel the need to use the soft, disposable night protector.
Humans only get one set of permanent teeth. To obtain adequate nutrition from food the health and hygiene of teeth is the first and most important avenue for digestion. Regular check-ups with a dentist, brushing after every meal with a soft toothbrush and good dentifrice is key to oral hygiene. Use of mouthwash as a supplement to brushing, regular use of a water pick and, when called for, the use of dental night protectors to prevent damage from clenching and grinding teeth will help insure good overall health and lifelong healthy teeth.
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