Sweet treats may taste delicious, but they’re not so harmless when it comes to our dental health.
While our smiles rely on our dental hygiene habits, there’s much more to oral health than brushing, flossing, and getting a dental cleaning every six months. Our diets can have a massive impact on our smiles, especially when we overindulge in tasty sweets. Frequently eating milk chocolate, which often happens when we have too much Halloween candy lying around, can ruin our teeth and dental health.
Sugar and Tooth Decay
The sugar in chocolate is a huge attractor for oral bacteria, which creates a thick film of dental plaque when in contact with saliva. Plaque steals the minerals protecting enamel against tooth decay, allowing bacteria to eat through it and begin attacking the dentin and dental pulp below. Once the pulp is breached, it causes a terrible toothache that can be either lasting and striking or come and go. Pulp contains the blood vessels and nerves keeping the tooth alive. Without these crucial structures strong and healthy, the tooth will eventually die.
Tooth decay can often go unnoticed before a painful toothache develops. If you frequently snack on chocolate and other sweets, be sure to look out for these warning signs:
White spots on teeth, which can darken over time
Visible holes in the tooth
Sharp sensitivity to hot and cold
Lingering sensitivity to sweets
How Is Tooth Decay Treated?
When bacteria and plaque have only demineralized a tooth, this early tooth decay stage can be treated through excellent dental hygiene habits and fluoride treatments. Fluoride mouthwashes and toothpastes are popular for quickly restoring the nutrients your teeth lost. However, once decay breaks through the tooth and forms a cavity, you’ll need to see your dentist for professional care.
Cavities don’t disappear on their own. They instead work their way through your smile until your tooth’s soft inner tissues are destroyed. To prevent this, you will need one or more of the following treatments:
Dental fillings are performed when there is only minimal, surface-level damage to the enamel or dentin layers. All decayed parts of the tooth are removed, and the tooth is disinfected. Once the tooth is cavity-free, it will be filled with tooth-colored composite resin to restore its look, feel, and function.
You may need a dental crown for more severe damage requiring more of the enamel to be restored. Crowns remake the entire natural tooth crown, and they are often made of porcelain or metal. Porcelain crowns allow you to recreate a natural-looking crown and can last more than 25 years with good care. More durable metal is often used for molars to withstand better the greater force put on these back teeth.
If tooth decay reaches the central dental pulp, a simple tooth filling or crown won’t be enough. You will need a root canal to expertly remove any damaged tissue, which often requires clearing out an entire tooth canal or root. Root canals can also help with draining any dental abscesses that have formed. Once the tooth is decay-free, it will be filled and reinforced with either a filling or crown.
When enough of the dental pulp is destroyed, all tooth pain may suddenly disappear. While this might seem like a relief, it’s a sign that the tooth may die. A root canal won’t be enough to save the tooth. Nothing is. The tooth will need to be extracted. Otherwise, bacteria and decay may spread to the nearby teeth and gums, putting the rest of your smile at risk.
Is It Necessary To Fill Cavities In Baby Teeth?
Tooth decay is one of the most common childhood diseases. Not only are baby teeth more prone to cavities, but kids don’t watch their sugar intake as closely as their parents might want. This makes for a killer combination. More than a quarter of children under five years old have had at least one cavity, and this percentage jumps up to 42% by the time they’re 11 years old.
So what do you do if a child has a cavity? Some parents think that baby teeth don’t need to be treated since adult ones will eventually replace them. However, this can spell disaster for a kid’s smile. Unless a tooth is about to fall out on its own, it should always be treated. Any cavities left untreated can eventually spread to the adult teeth lying in wait. If ignored for too long, a child’s permanent teeth may need to be removed before ever having a chance to come in.
Is Dark Chocolate Good For You?
Dark chocolate is often considered the healthier twin to milk chocolate. This more bitter kind contains much more natural cacao, between 50 to 90% compared to milk chocolate’s meager 10%. Cacao has been known to have several significant benefits for our body’s health, from lowering blood pressure and heart disease risk to improving brain function. It also can have an incredible effect on our oral health.
Cacao contains certain antioxidants that make it more difficult for plaque and bacteria to attack your teeth. By eating dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cacao, you can help neutralize certain oral bacteria and prevent others from sticking to your enamel to form plaque. Some studies show that cacao may be better at fighting cavities and gum disease than fluoride.
Stains and Yellowing
As strong as enamel needs to be to fight off plaque and bacteria, it’s also porous like a sponge. Our teeth soak up the dark pigments in our foods—coffee, red wine, soy sauce, tomato sauces, etc.—and chocolate is no exception. Cacao gives chocolate its dark color, so the darker the chocolate, the more it discolors your teeth. While all foods play a part in staining your smile, letting your sweet tooth run wild and enjoying chocolate will give you yellow teeth much faster.
How Do Dentists Whiten Teeth?
Here at South Pasadena Dental, we don’t make you rely on weak, store-bought smile bleaching kits that take weeks to achieve minimal results. Instead, our dentists can professionally brighten your teeth and make sure they stay pearly white for years, not months.
In-House Teeth Whitening
For the best teeth whitening results, you should see your dentist for an in-house brightening session. We apply a potent but safe peroxide gel to them to lift a decade of stains and yellowing right out of your enamel. In just a single, hour-long visit, you can leave our dental office with a smile more than half a dozen shades brighter. Unlike generic products, an in-office whitening can last more than two years as long as you take good care of your teeth and keep your chocolate-loving sweet tooth at bay.
Professional Teeth Whitening Kit
If you want to whiten your teeth on your schedule, you can instead use a professional whitening kit in the comfort of your own home. We’ll first take an impression of your mouth to help us design custom-made trays that fit your smile exactly. Once they’re ready, we’ll have you come in for a final fitting and instruct you on using the whitening peroxide we provide you.
You'll apply the gel to these trays for 30 minutes to an hour each day until you reach your whitening goal. Your trays' fit is crucial for precisely brightening your smile without any bleach touching your sensitive gums. Most patients only need a week or two to achieve the healthy white smiles they want.
Tooth bonding is another type of cosmetic dentistry that can whiten your teeth, but it doesn't use peroxide. This method doesn't focus solely on brightening your smile. It is flexible for your cosmetic needs, covering several common dental aesthetic problems:
Gaps between teeth
Minor cracks and chips
Lumpiness or misshapenness
Wear and tear
Bonding applies composite resin to your enamel, which your cosmetic dentist molds to recreate the tooth’s appearance. Composite’s color can be chosen precisely, allowing us to either match it to your natural tooth or choose a whiter, brighter shade. Composite bonding usually lasts four to eight years.
Porcelain veneers are incredibly similar to dental bonding as it also redesigns your entire tooth by applying a new surface. However, veneers can tackle more severe cases by dentally cementing thin porcelain facades to the tooth. The underlying enamel is filed down slightly to give us more freedom to adjust your tooth's shape and prevent unwanted bulkiness.
Are veneers safe long-term? While this may seem like a drastic change, your teeth stay in perfect health. We never go past the hard enamel, leaving the dentin and pulp below untouched. With durable porcelain casings, your teeth also stay well protected against damage and decay. Dental veneers are longer-lasting than bonding, with an average lifespan of 10 to 15 years. They can even last more than two decades with great maintenance and care.