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Tooth Worms? The History of Cavities and Tooth Fillings

January 25th, 2017

Scientists have discovered tooth decay in specimens that are more than 15,000 years old. The ancients once thought that cavities were caused by something called “tooth worms” … Eew! They didn’t exist, of course, but how else could humans explain the holes that cavities make in teeth?

The appearance of cavities on a widespread basis is often traced to the rise of farming. The new diet filled with grains and carbs made our mouths a haven for cavity-causing bacteria. As we added more sugar to our diets, our teeth got worse.

The “tooth worm” idea didn’t completely disappear until the 1700s when scientists finally began to understand the process of dental caries. Once that part of the puzzle was solved, they began focusing on filling existing cavities and preventing new ones.

Dental Fillings Come of Age

Many different materials, including beeswax, cork, aluminum, tin, and even asbestos, have been used to fill the holes caused by dental decay. Sometime in the mid-1800s, however, dentists began to use metal fillings such as gold, platinum, silver and lead amalgams.

The amalgam we use today is mixed from liquid mercury, silver, tin, copper, zinc, and other metals, but some patients still like the look of a gold filling. Newer options include composite-resin fillings, which are made from a tooth-colored mixture of plastic resin and finely ground glass-like or quartz particles that form a durable and discreet filling. Porcelain or ceramic fillings are natural in color, but more resistant to staining.

Dr. Dustin James can help decide which filling is best for you, based on cost as well as your dental and lifestyle needs. You may not have “tooth worms,” but if you have cavities, contact our Wilsonville, OR office so we can take the proper action to protect the health of your mouth.

How can I protect my child's teeth during sports?

January 18th, 2017

Sports are great for children for a variety of reasons. Children can develop their motor skills, learn how to solve conflicts and work together, and develop their work ethics. As a parent, you may recognize the benefits of sports, but also naturally worry about your child’s health and safety. Your job goes beyond providing a water bottle and making sure your child follows the rules of the game.

Although you may not think of your child’s teeth first when you think about sports, accidents can happen that affect your children’s teeth. A stray hockey stick, an errant basketball, or a misguided dive after a volleyball are examples of ways a child could lose a tooth. In fact, studies show that young athletes lose more than three million teeth each year.

Becoming a Better Athlete to Protect Teeth

Becoming a better athlete involves refining skills, learning the rules of the game, and being a good sport. These components are not just about winning. They are also about safety. Young athletes who are better ball-handlers and who are careful to avoid fouls and penalties are less likely to have harmful contact with the ball, teammates, or opponents. Children who are better roller-bladers are less likely to take a face plant into the blacktop, and more likely to save their teeth. Being a good sport and avoiding unnecessary contact is one way to protect teeth.

Proper Protective Equipment for Teeth

If your child is in a sport that poses a high threat to teeth, it is essential for your child to wear a mouthguard. Mouthguards fit your child’s mouth and consist of soft plastic. Dr. Dustin James can custom fit a mouthguard if generic ones are uncomfortable. While children may resist wearing a mouthguard initially, your persistence in insisting that they wear it should be enough to convince them. A helmet or face mask provides additional protection.

While prevention is best, rapid treatment can improve the situation if your child does happen to lose a tooth during sports. Rapid implantation can work in about ten percent of cases. To learn about ways to save a lost tooth, contact our Wilsonville, OR office.

Pediatric Dental Emergency Know-How

January 11th, 2017

First aid training is a must when you are a parent. You can put on a bandage with your eyes closed. Perhaps even apply butterfly tape to avoid stitches. What about a dental injury? Do you have a checklist in mind on what to do when a tooth is knocked out, broken, or displaced from impact? All of these situations happen often and should be in a parent’s emergency training regiment. Luckily Dr. Dustin James and our team are here to be a resource for such an incident!

Children’s most common dental injury is chipping a front tooth. It is so common that it seems like a right of passage. Say, for example, a two year old trips and hits her front teeth on the tile floor. First, check to see if the teeth have been broken to the nerve. You can tell if you see layers and a pinkish center. Then, wiggle each tooth and make sure it is not loose. If the teeth feel firmly in place, that is a good sign. Even if they are a little loose, the teeth will tighten again with time. If she develops a severe temperature or bite sensitivity then you know treatment is needed, which may include a root canal. If there are minor symptoms that diminish with time, continued observation will be fine.

Knocking out a tooth is also common and requires more attention than observation alone. As soon as possible, locate the tooth, touch only the crown (not the root), and rinse any debris gently with milk or water. Place it back into the tooth socket as soon as possible. The American Association of Endodontists states a tooth has a high chance of survival and retention for life if it is re-implanted within five minutes or up to 60 minutes if soaking in milk or saline solution. Our team at Dentistry for Kids know many parents are nervous about the thought of doing this alone, but not to worry, our team is here to help!

Here’s another dental emergency example: Your child takes an elbow to the mouth during a basketball game and severely displaces a tooth but does not knock it out. What to do? First, apply light pressure in an attempt to move it back into place. Be extremely careful not to use excessive force. Place a cold pack for swelling and contact our office as soon as possible.

A dental emergency can be frightening. It is often messy and painful. The best initial reaction is to remain calm, and remember that we are here to help! Contact us at our Wilsonville, OR office if your child encounters a dental emergency.

Five Nutrition Tips for Healthy Kids' Smiles

January 4th, 2017

If your child could have it his way, chances are he would eat Lucky Charms for breakfast, a peanut butter and fluff sandwich for lunch, and chicken fingers slathered in ketchup for dinner.

Kids will be kids, and maintaining a healthy diet is often the farthest thing from their minds. Do you remember the old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Well, that folksy wisdom can be applied to oral health, too. Think of it like this: an apple a day keeps the dentist at bay. Here are five nutrition tips Dr. Dustin James and our team at Dentistry for Kids wanted to pass along that will give your child a healthy, bright smile.

  1. Eat a well-balanced diet of fruits and vegetables. We weren't joking about the apple. An apple naturally scrubs and cleans your teeth. The nutrients and antioxidants in vegetables are good for the entire body.
  2. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, calcium is a mineral needed by the body for healthy bones and teeth, and proper function of the heart, muscles, and nerves. Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are good sources of calcium. Dark leafy vegetables and calcium-fortified foods like orange juice and tofu are also healthy options.
  3. Keep snacking to a minimum. Sticky and gummy snacks can increase a child’s risk of tooth decay. Unless a child brushes after every snack (and what child does?), sticky snacks can easily get lodged between the teeth.
  4. Limit soda intake. Drinking large amounts of soda has been linked to childhood obesity. Soda is loaded with sugars and acids, and these ingredients also damage the teeth. Soft drinks have long been one of the most prominent sources of tooth decay. Have your child drink water throughout the day or juice that’s low in sugar concentrate.
  5. Chew sugarless gum. After all those fruits and vegetables, sooner or later your child is going to want a treat. Chewing gum stimulates saliva, which in turn helps keep teeth clean and bacteria-free. Sugarless gum contains xylitol. The combination of excess saliva and xylitol reduces plaque, fights cavities, and prevents the growth of oral bacteria.

For more information on keeping your child’s smile looking its very best, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Dustin James, please give us a call at our convenient Wilsonville, OR office!

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