My BEST Dentists Journal


Five Amazingly Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Cavities

"Brush and floss your teeth to avoid cavities." Sound familiar? Just about everyone knows they should brush (and floss). But do you know why?  

While we all know we're supposed to brush and floss to keep our teeth healthy, cavities remain a common problem that we all have to contend with at one point or another:

Tooth decay, an infectious disease -- is the second most common disease, after the common cold.

One in four adults have cavities, and more than half of teenagers in the US have had cavities. Oral health is often taken for granted, but it is an essential part of our everyday lives. It’s never too late to take control of your oral health, and prevent dental problems.

While brushing and flossing are two of the most important daily habits for maintaining healthy teeth and gums -- there are several other simple things you can do to avoid toothaches or worse -- tooth loss. Here are 5 things that most people can easily do to prevent cavities.

1. Know your cavity risk level.

The first step in taking control of your oral health is knowing what your cavity risk level is. The best way to know this is through a comprehensive dental exam. With regular examinations, and discussion with your dentist, you will know where you stand, which treatments may be needed, as well as which changes in oral hygiene and diet may help. Once you know your risk level, then you take a more specific, effective approach to improving your oral health.

Another advantage of knowing your cavity risk level: it will also determine how often dental visits are needed.  The lower your risk, the less often you should need dental visits. Find out and discuss your risk level with your dentist during regular dental exams.

At UIC, we take a scientific, evidence-based approach to cavity prevention.

UIC College of Dentistry uses a modern approach to dental cavity prevention called Caries Management by Risk Assessment, or CAMBRA. It is an evidence-based approach to preventing and treating caries (cavities) with a focus on catching the problem at its earliest stages, and on using actual evidence gathered from each patient’s case to tailor the treatments and preventive actions we take.

2. Brush your teeth regularly, properly and with the right brush.

This is the most obvious tip, and you’ve heard it since you were too small to ride the big rides. But, let us tell you why it’s so important for your oral health – and your overall health.

Did you know your mouth is actually home to about a billion microbes that are recycling what you eat and drink?

That’s how they cause tooth decay in our mouths – by feeding on the sugars in the foods and drinks we consume to grow – then leaving behind the waste, in the form of a biofilm known as dental plaque. This plaque allows all those little recyclers to stick around your teeth longer, until eventually they make acids, which wear down the tooth enamel and cause cavities.

If left untreated, the eventual disease process that can start from bacteria in the mouth, can potentially spread to other areas of the body, which can complicate chronic conditions ranging from diabetes to heart disease.

Brushing Helps Get Rid of Bacteria!

Because of the huge bacteria and plaque fighting power it provides in just a few minutes a day, brushing your teeth is one of the simplest, yet most effective ways to prevent cavities. Be sure to brush after meals and before bed. Brushing before bed (after your late night snack) is particularly important because letting those bacteria linger on your teeth overnight can allow enamel damaging acid to form (ultimately leading to cavities).

Also, using an antimicrobial mouthwash helps to clean away the bacteria while freshening breath.

Want to add even more bacteria fighting power throughout the day? Try brushing after lunch at work. Keep a separate tooth brush and paste kit at work if possible to fill in those long gaps between morning and night.

Proper Brushing Techniques

The American Dental Association recommends the following for brushing your teeth:

Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and apply gentle pressure, both of which may help reduce the risk of gingival injury.

Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against the gums. Move the brush back and forth gently in short (tooth-wide) strokes, brushing the outer inner and chewing surfaces of the teeth.

Use the tip of the brush to clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, using a gentle up-and-down stroke.

Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.

Don’t forget to replace your tooth brush at least every 3 or 4 months.

3. Cut back on sugary and acidic drinks -- and drink more water.

Need that morning latte, daily cup of coffee, or hot cup of tea?  Prolonged exposure to teeth of acidic coffee or tea, compounded by added sugar or even just added milk can increase your risk for new cavities. Go ahead, enjoy your coffee! But try to keep it to 20 minutes or less, and rinse your mouth with water after.

The problem with sipping coffee with cavity causing additives such as sugar, syrups and cream is that the harmful sugars stay in your saliva over a long period of time. To counter this, drink some water along with other drinks to rinse your mouth and keep saliva from becoming too sugary and eating away at your teeth. Also, try sipping coffee from a straw which helps to keep those sugary liquids off your teeth and out of your saliva.

How Does Drinking Water Prevent Cavities?

Drinking water with fluoride, is one of the easiest and most beneficial things you can do to help prevent cavities. 

Water is unlike any other drink, and is by far the healthiest drink available. Our bodies are made of 60% water, and staying hydrated helps your system distribute healthy nutrients, gets rid of waste, gives your skin a healthy glow and keeps your muscles moving. And--drinking water really helps your teeth stay health – especially if it’s fluoridated.  

4. Get into the habit of flossing (we promise, it’s easy once you start).

We know, no one like to floss. But think about it this way: our teeth have 5 sides, and all of them need to be cleaned on a regular basis. Even when we brush every day, we’re still only cleaning 3 of those sides. So, without flossing, you’re really only cleaning about half of your teeth surface with brushing alone.

And remember, flossing only takes a few minutes a day – what else can you do for just a few minutes that can improve your health so much?

So, how do you start the flossing habit? Think of it as ‘multi-tasking’, something we all love doing. Try flossing while watching TV, or while reading a book in bed. Ideally, you should floss soon after a meal, or before bedtime, as with brushing your tooth. However, flossing is actually easier and more convenient because you can do it on the go. It’s really just like any other healthy habit – the key is starting small, and developing a routine that sticks.

5. Quit smoking.

It is well known that smoking and tobacco use can cause many different medical problems. Smoking leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ of the body, and over 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking.

However, most people don’t realize the harm that smoking and oral tobacco use pose to the mouth, gums and teeth. Smoking can do a lot more than just stain your teeth – this unhealthy habit can also lead to gum disease, tooth loss, and even oral cancer.

by University Of Illinois

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Can we make bones tooth formation heal faster?

A new paper in Science Advances describes for the first time how minerals come together at the molecular level to form bones and other hard tissues, like teeth and enamel.

The University of Illinois Chicago researchers who published the paper described their experiments -- which captured high-resolution, real-time images of the mineralization process in an artificial saliva model -- and their discovery of distinct pathways that support bone and teeth formation, or biomineralization.

"Until now these pathways, particularly at the early stages when molecules are first starting to organize into a structure, have not been understood clearly," Reza Shahbazian-Yasser, UIC professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at the College of Engineering and corresponding author of the paper.

Shahbazian-Yasser and his colleagues observed that both direct and indirect formations of hydroxyapatite crystals -- the foundation of hard tissues -- can be achieved by local variations in energetic pathways for nucleation and growth.

"The control over the dissolution of amorphous calcium phosphate affects the assembly of hydroxyapatite crystals into larger aggregates," Shahbazian-Yasser said. "Using technology developed at UIC, we found evidence that these pathways coexist simultaneously -- explaining why different groups had reported seemingly different or opposite results. In addition, we now understood how hydroxyapatite materials nucleate and grow on amorphous calcium phosphate templates. The control over the nucleation and growth of hydroxyapatite will aid in developing new drugs and medical treatments to heal lost or broken bone faster or cure tooth cavities."

To capture the images, the researchers used a unique micro-device that made it possible to use electron microscopy with a liquid model. Using this method, the researchers were able to monitor chemical reactions in the model on the smallest scale.

"Our study provides clear, new evidence of how minerals organize and grow into bone materials, and this finding has many important implications for further research on bone or teeth healing," Shahbazian-Yasser said.

"By better understanding these pathways, scientists are one step closer to engineering ways to better treat dental diseases and bone injuries -- like those from traumatic injuries -- or prevent medical conditions that can develop when normal mineralization processes in the body go awry," he said.

Medical conditions caused by dysfunctional mineralization in the body can include everything from a tendency to develop cavities to osteoporosis.

"In the next step, we would like to learn how molecular modifiers can affect the process of biomineralization, which is important to develop effective drugs," Shahbazian-Yasser said.

by UIC

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One in 10 older dental patients inappropriately prescribed opioids

A new study by researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago and the University of Pittsburgh suggests that a significant proportion of older patients receiving opioids at dental visits also use psychotropic medications—a potentially harmful combination. Their findings are published in the journal Pharmacotherapy.

Rates of polypharmacy, or taking multiple medications, are high among older adults who are more likely to be managing more than one health issue at any given time. Psychotropic medications that act on the central nervous system, such as antianxiety or antidepressant medications, are especially dangerous if taken with opioids because they can interact with each other and have negative effects.

"Some of the most concerning negative outcomes of these combinations include overdosing on opioids or falling, which can necessitate a visit to the hospital, which in itself carries greater risk for older adults," said Gregory Calip, associate professor of pharmacy systems, outcomes and policy at the UIC College of Pharmacy and corresponding author on the paper.

The researchers looked at medical, dental and pharmacy claims data from 40,800 older adult dental patients who visited a dentist between 2011 and 2015 and were prescribed opioids. The data was from the IBM Watson MarketScan databases.

The average age of the patients included in the study was 69 years old and 45% were female. Of these patients, 10% were taking medications that are associated with increased risks for harm with opioid prescriptions.

There were a total of 947 hospitalizations or emergency room visits among these patients.

The researchers found that among patients prescribed opioids by their dentist, 1 in 10 were already taking a prescription medication that should not be prescribed with opioids.

They also found that patients inappropriately prescribed an opioid medication combination by their dentist were 23% more likely to be hospitalized or visit an emergency department in the 30 days after the dental visit where they were prescribed an opioid, compared with dental patients who were not prescribed an opioid medication.

"Dentists are among the top prescribers of opioids," said Katie Suda, professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and principal investigator of the study. "It seems that the increased messaging regarding limiting opioid prescriptions has been aimed primarily at medical physicians and not tailored to other specialist providers, including dentists. This can have dire consequences. As we saw in our study, opioid interactions with other medications was likely responsible for the significant rise in emergency room visits and hospitalizations."

"Although the percentage of opioids prescribed by dentists has decreased in the last 20 years, dentists must continue interprofessional collaboration with primary care physicians, pharmacists, and other health care providers to address devastating and preventable drug interactions affecting vulnerable patients who look to them for safe and compassionate care," said Dr. Susan Rowan, executive associate dean and associate dean for clinical affairs at the UIC College of Dentistry.

by University of Illinois at Chicago

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Everything you need to know about canker sores

Canker sores are easily identified in the mouth; they are a widespread, well-known condition.

Although they can be very uncomfortable, they are rarely a cause for concern.

In this article, we ask if there is anything that can be done to relieve canker sores, and if there are times when they require medical attention.

A canker sore is a type of mouth ulcer, known medically as an aphthous ulcer. Canker sores are one of the most common complaints of the mouth.

They can occur at any age but are more likely in younger adults and women.

Children as young as two years may develop canker sores, but they do not normally appear until adolescence.

Although most people only have occasional canker sores, around 20-30 percent of people have recurrent episodes.

Canker sores are sometimes split into two categories:

Simple canker sores: they appear 3-4 times a year; they generally occur in people aged 10-20, and last about one week.

Complex canker sores: less common, larger, and more painful. They may last up to one month and leave a scar. Complex canker sores are often due to an underlying condition, such as a compromised immune system, Crohn’s disease, or vitamin deficiency.


Researchers have not yet provided a scientific explanation of why canker sores develop; however, there are some factors that are known to be involved, including viral infection.

The causes of recurrent cases of canker sore – known as recurrent oral aphthous ulcers or recurrent aphthous stomatitis – are also unclear, although there are links with a number of factors including a family history of aphthous ulcers, and allergies.

Ulcers are sometimes associated with other conditions needing medical attention, such as inflammatory bowel disease, compromised immunity, allergies, and nutritional deficiency.

The following factors are thought to be involved in the development of canker sores:

1. Hormonal changes.

2. Physical trauma (damage to the lining of the mouth, such as during dental treatment).

3. Drugs

4. Food hypersensitivity – for instance, citrus fruits and tomatoes can trigger or worsen a canker sore.

5. Nutritional deficiencies, including iron, folic acid, zinc, and vitamin B12.

6. Stress

A report by the United States Surgeon General estimates that up to 25 percent of the general population are affected by recurrent canker sores, noting there may be higher numbers among selected groups, such as health professional students.


Canker sores cause local pain and can be easily irritated. In simple cases, these are the only symptoms, although the pain may cause feelings of being fed up with the mouth ulcer.

Common features of canker sores include:

Well-defined, round, smaller than a centimeter across, and usually shallow in the mouth’s lining – mucosal surface.

Sometimes there is a tingling sensation before they appear.

White or yellow-gray center surrounded by an inflammatory red margin.

Often fading to gray over time.

Normally in the front part of the mouth, on its floor, inside of the lip (labial mouth), inside of the cheeks (buccal), or under the front or sides of the tongue.

Sometimes affecting the gums and, relatively uncommonly, the surface of the back part of the mouth.

Typically persists for 1-2 weeks before healing.

In some, more severe cases, symptoms can include:

1. feeling sluggish

2. swollen lymph nodes

3. fever

Canker sores and cold sores are different conditions:

Canker sores appear as white circles with a red halo; cold sores are normally fluid-filled blisters.

Canker sores appear inside the mouth; cold sores appear outside the mouth- often under the nose, around the lips, or under the chin.

Canker sores are not contagious; cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) and, more rarely, HSV-2 (the genital herpes virus). Cold sores are contagious.

Common canker sores usually heal without the need for medical treatment. More severe or recurrent cases may be eased by prescribed treatments, although these do not “cure” the ulcers.

The home remedy below is suggested by the U.S. Library of Medicine and can be followed three or four times a day:

Rinse with mild, over-the-counter mouthwash or salt water (do not swallow).

Make a mixture that is half hydrogen peroxide and half water.

Use a cotton swab to apply some of the mixture directly to the sore.

Dab a small amount of milk of magnesia on the sore.

So-called alternative therapies may also be worth trying. A review of the management of canker sores written for the journal American Family Physician, listed a number of options, although it noted that there had been no randomized controlled trials to properly test safety and efficacy:

Anecdotes of relief and better healing from sucking on zinc gluconate lozenges (sold for the common cold).

Vitamin C, vitamin B complex, and lysine “may speed healing when taken orally at the onset of lesions.”

Sage and chamomile mouthwash 4-6 times a day may help – infuse equal parts of the two herbs in water.

Carrot, celery, and cantaloupe juices “have been reported as helpful.”

by UIC

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