Chula Vista Dentist - David Littlefield


Oral Health Topics

This section is dedicated to the latest information about these and other oral health topics. The source of this information comes from authoritative sources such as the American Dental Association.



Fluoride

For decades, fluoride has been held in high regard by the dental community as an important mineral that is absorbed into and strengthens tooth enamel, and thereby helping to prevent decay of tooth structures.

In nearly every U.S. community, public drinking supplies are supplemented with sodium fluoride because the practice is acknowledged as safe and effective in fighting cavities. Fluoride has come under some recent scrutiny by public health officials, some of whom question how effective it is in preventing cavities. Bottled Water and Home Water Treatment Systems The American Dental Association has maintained that consistent use of bottled water could result in individuals missing the benefits of optimally fluoridated water. Moreover, the ADA has held that some home water treatment systems change fluoridated water supplies for the worse. Toothpaste Warning Labels The American Dental Association has stated that the FDA-required warning labels on toothpaste packaging, which state that poison control centers should be contacted if one swallows fluoride toothpaste, "could unnecessarily frighten parents and children, and that the label greatly overstates any demonstrated or potential danger posed by fluoride toothpastes."


Fillings

Fillings, known clinically as amalgams, are synthetic materials that are used to restore a portion of a tooth damaged by decay or traumatic injury. There are different types of materials used to fill cavities, including gold and metal alloys.

Conventional amalgams are the silver-colored material many people have had placed in their teeth following treatment of a cavity. Many amalgams are actually a combination of various metal alloys, including copper, tin, silver and mercury. Mercury, a binding agent used in amalgams, has come under scrutiny lately by some health officials who claim it may cause long-term health problems.

Is Mercury in a Dental Filling Safe?

The American Dental Association cautions that emotional reports claiming amalgam is responsible for a variety of diseases are confusing and perhaps even alarming people to the point where they will not seek necessary dental care. Moreover, the ADA maintains that there has been no scientific evidence to show that amalgams are harmful because the miniscule amounts of mercury are so stable, they present no risks to humans. There have been rare cases of patients developing allergic reactions to amalgams.

Alternative Materials

There are alternatives to conventional substances used in amalgams, such as gold and metal alloys. These include materials made from porcelain and composite resins, which are colored to match natural tooth enamel. Unfortunately, few materials can match the strength and durability of conventional dental amalgam and may need more frequent replacement.

Common amalgam alternatives include:

- Composite fillings - As stated, composite fillings are just what the name implies: a mixture of resins and fine particles designed to mimic the color of natural teeth. While not as strong as dental amalgam, composite fillings provide a pleasing aesthetic alternative. Sometimes composite resins need to be cemented or bonded to a tooth to allow for better adhesion.

- Ionomers - Like composite resins, these materials are tooth-colored. Ionomers are made from a combination of various materials, including ground glass and acrylic resins. Ionomers are typically used for fillings near the gum line or tooth root, where biting pressure is not a factor. They are more fragile than dental amalgam, however. A small amount of fluoride is released by these compounds in order to facilitate strengthened enamel in the affected area.

- Porcelain (ceramic) - These materials are usually a combination of porcelain, glass powder, and ceramic. Candidates for porcelain fillings are typically crowns, veneers, and onlays and inlays. Unlike ionomers, porcelain fillings are more durable, but can become fractured if exposed to prolonged biting pressures.

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Infection Control

With all of the increased media attention on infection outbreaks such as AIDS and multi-drug resistant strains of viruses, it's no wonder people have heightened concerns about infection control during a medical procedure.

Gloves, gowns and masks are required to be worn in all dentist offices today. After each patient visit, disposable items as gloves, drapes, needles, and scalpel blades-are thrown away, hands are washed, and a new pair of gloves used for the next patient.

All hand instruments used on patients are washed, disinfected and/or sterilized with chemicals or steam after each use.

One of the most effective methods for preventing disease transmission-washing one's hands-is practiced in our office. It is routine procedure to wash hands at the beginning of the day, before and after glove use, and after touching any surfaces that may have become contaminated. Concerns about the quality of water used in a dentist's office are unfounded, provided the dentist follows the infection control guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and the American Dental Association.

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Latex Allergy

Naturally occurring latex has been linked in recent years to allergic reactions in people who use such products as latex gloves. The proteins in the latex, which can also become airborne, can cause problems in vulnerable people such as breathing problems and contact dermatitis. Some allergic reactions, including anaphylactic shock, have been more severe.

Many health experts have rightly attributed the dramatic increase of allergic reactions to latex in the health care community to the increased use of gloves and other personal protection equipment in light of the AIDS epidemic.

Latex is a pervasive substance in many household items-from toys and balloons to rubber bands and condoms.

Latex allergies could cause the following symptoms:

- Dry skin
- Hives
- Low blood pressure
- Nausea
- Respiratory problems
- Tingling sensations

If you are vulnerable to latex or have allergies related to it, please notify our office and, by all means, seek medical attention from your family physician.


The Prevention Program

Both natural teeth and teeth with restorations survive best in an oral environment that is clean and where the intake of harmful foods is controlled. Our program is designed to help prevent new cavities, preserve teeth that have been restored and manage periodontal disease.

At the initial visit oral hygiene instructions are reviewed and are reinforced at subsequent recall visits. The following are helpful recommendations:

1. Brush your teeth twice a day in a circular motion with a soft bristled toothbrush
    aimed at the gum.
2. Floss every night in an up and down motion while keeping the floss in a U-shape and
    against the tooth surface.
3. Avoid smoking
4. Avoid sticky sugary foods.
5. Eat a balanced diet.
6. Use antiseptic and fluoride rinses as directed.
7. Sealants placed on young permanent teeth.

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