Mutans Streptococci (Strep Mutans) – Cavity-Causing Bacteria

Before the science of tooth decay was well understood, there were all kinds of theories about things that harm the teeth. For instance, some people believed that decay was a result of worms found in fruits that bored holes in the teeth. Today, the dental profession maintains one theory: that tooth decay is caused by acid-producing bacteria that attack tooth enamel.

Narrowing Down the Cause of Cavities

Mutans Streptococci Cavity Causing BacteriaDecades of research across the globe have linked as many as two to three hundred different species of bacteria to the production of plaque – the cavity causing biofilm. However, only within the last couple of decades have scientists managed to completely link one specific bacterium: Streptococcus mutans, to the pathogen-caused caries. Specific studies on this bacterium have revealed that the key bi-product of its anaerobic fermentation is lactic acid – which is extremely harmful to tooth enamel.

More about Mutans Streptococci

Mutans Streptococci, or Strep Mutans in short, is a gram positive, anaerobic bacterium. The fact that it is anaerobic means that the bacteria don’t need air to survive, and can comfortably live between adjacent teeth or in deep crevices on the biting surface (occlusal) of teeth.

Although research has revealed that there are many bacteria and microorganisms found in the mouth, the entire genome of S. mutans – comprising over two million base pairs – has been fully identified and sequenced as the main halitosis (bad breath) and cavity causing bacteria. This discovery has been quite instrumental, as Dr. Jeffrey Hillman of the University of Florida managed to engineer the genome of S. mutans so that after it completes fermentation, it does not release lactic acid as a bi-product.

Scientists around the world largely agree that this species of bacteria has lived with humans in harmony for thousands of years, but the implication of more refined sugar into the human diet led to the evolution or “mutation” of this species to digest this sugar, producing the harmful acids. The lactic acid breaks down the mineral content on tooth enamel, creates holes on the outer surface, and then progresses into the inner section of the tooth (dentin). Penetration of the dentine marks the beginning of all kinds of dental problems.

Keep Your Teeth Clean

Scientists also agree that every single person has this bacteria species in their mouth (except newborns until it is transferred to them), which means that preventive measures provide the only means to reduce the impact of the lactic acid.

There are a number of ways to accomplish this, including proper brushing and flossing, reducing the intake of processed and refined sugars (found in colas, sweets, and processed sweeteners), maintaining a diet rich in calcium, proteins, and phosphorus to aid in enamel re-mineralization, and using mouth rinse, among others.

Thinking of Replacing Your Dental Fillings?

A dental filling is a type of restoration intended to replace tooth structure lost through trauma or decay. Dental fillings typically last many years, but the constant assault from eating and drinking, combined with stress from clenching or grinding, may eventually cause a dental filling to fail.

Replacing Dental FillingsFillings that have chipped, cracked, worn away, or fallen out may leave spaces between the tooth and the filling, providing entry points for bacteria in your mouth – in saliva and plaque. If the seal between the filling and tooth breaks down, food debris and caries-causing bacteria may find a place to hide inside the tooth where a toothbrush cannot reach them easily, causing decay to develop along the edge of the filling or underneath it.

Decay that is undetected and untreated can progress and infect the dental pulp (contains the tooth’s blood supply and nerves) resulting in loss of the tooth, or endodontic treatment (root canal).

Other reasons to consider replacing a filling:

The factors mentioned above are actually the only reasons why a dentist may recommend the removal and replacement of a filling. However, some patients may want a replacement for esthetic reasons, like:

  • You don’t like how the composite filling was shaped
  • You don’t feel like the colors were properly matched, or bleaching your teeth left the enamel whiter than the filling
  • The fitting done on your filling feels uncomfortable

Importance of Routine Dental Check-ups

Going for regular dental examinations is important because any problems with existing fillings can be detected in the early stage. While you may not be able to identify when your filling is worn, your dentist can detect any weaknesses, chips, or decay in it during a routine check-up.

During the checkup, the dentist evaluates whether the existing fillings are intact or worn away using an instrument called an “explorer” to gently check worn spots around the filling’s edge. This is a useful tool that helps the dentist establish if the dental filling is sealed to the tooth, or if it is worn to the extent that a replacement is necessary.

In some cases, X-rays may be required to help detect caries under existing dental fillings or between teeth, neither of which can be identified by simply looking at the tooth. Once the dentist finds proof that a filling has failed, or spots decay on the radiograph, it is important that the filling be replaced promptly. You should never wait until a crack appears in the filling or the tooth starts to hurt.

Early detection and treatment of failed fillings can reduce the need for extensive, and usually costly, restoration procedures. There are a number of tooth-colored materials that can be used for your new fillings, with varying levels of performance, longevity, and cost. These include amalgam, composite, and glass ionomers.

The best choice of material should be determined by the patient in consultation with the dentist. So, discuss your options before commencing any treatment.

Is Flossing Really Necessary for Good Oral Hygiene?

why should i floss my teethWhen it comes to maintaining proper oral hygiene, dentists recommend that you cultivate multiple good oral practices, including brushing, flossing, cleaning your tongue and mouth roof, and regular dental checkups with professional cleaning. Dentists agree that an all-inclusive dental care approach is necessary to clean the different areas in your mouth where bacteria and plaque can gather, and possibly lead to tartar, dental cavities, gum disease, and even more serious concerns.

Yet, some people are reluctant about flossing, and tend to avoid it altogether. Do they perhaps think that it is not as necessary if you brush your teeth properly, twice a day?

What Do Scientists Think About Flossing?

Studies performed to identify the benefits of flossing have yielded different results. One study involving school children who had their teeth flossed five days per week – by a professional hygienist – reported a 40 percent decrease in risk of cavities. However, there was no change for those who were trained to floss and asked to do it on themselves. That said, the lack of positive results may be attributed to the poor tooth-brushing habits by the children, combined with low exposure to fluoride – the element in fluorine that helps prevent cavities.

Other studies comparing the effects of flossing when combined with brushing on the levels of plaque and gingivitis have shown that flossing provides either miniscule or no reduction in plaque buildup and levels of gingivitis. Considering that studies of professional flossing have shown considerable reduction in plaque buildup, scientists argue that the participants were probably flossing incorrectly.

How to Floss Correctly

Those who floss incorrectly simply insert the string in between the teeth to yank out some bits of food and assume that it’s over, which is wrong. The American Dental Association recommends that you:

  • Cut a length of about 18 inches dental floss and hold it between your thumb and fingers using both hands.
  • Insert the string firmly but carefully in between your teeth, apply pressure carefully if needed.
  • Curve the flossing string into a “C” shape around the side of each tooth and move it up and down gently. Clean both sides of the teeth, and make sure that the floss to reaches under the gumline.
  • Discard the floss after use, and never re-use.
  • If your gums bleed excessively, stop flossing. Consult your dentist.

Verdict – “Why Should I Floss My Teeth”
Flossing may not be as easy to do as brushing, but it is probably the most effective habit that could help you prevent disease and the need for a dentist. Dentists and scientists agree that flossing will keep your teeth free from decay and sparkling, keep your gums healthy, and protect you from heart disease.

Do You Suffer from Dental Anxiety?

overcoming dental anxiety causesAnxiety is an issue that comes in many different forms. It also happens to be a large part of dentistry, often keeping people from obtaining optimal oral health. The issue is known as dental anxiety.

What Research Has Shown

Estimates conclude that roughly 10-15% of Americans avoid the dentist strictly out of fear. To put this into perspective, 10-15% of Americans equates to about 30-40 million people. That’s a lot! A British survey was conducted on this topic and 36% of the respondents mentioned that the reason they did not visit the dentist was simply because of fear.

What Are People Afraid Of?

Dentists want to know this answer because it helps them create an environment that allows someone to feel relaxed and comfortable, in other words not anxious.

Common fear triggers include:

  • Pain
  • Loss of control
  • Embarrassed to reveal mouth
  • Traumatic experiences in the past

It is no surprise that people with dental anxiety, or dental phobia as it’s often referred to, have poorer oral health. They may suffer from periodontal disease or discolored teeth that impact their own self-esteem.

How To Overcome Dental Anxiety

Communicating your fears and concerns to your dentist. By being open and honest with your dentist, they can work to help alleviate your fears. If the issue is pain related, there are plenty of sedation dentistry options to consider. Perhaps the issue stems from embarrassment? Your dentist can assist with these concerns and work towards improving your oral health – which is the primary reason you’re at the dentist.

Our Las Vegas dentists @ Cheyenne Dental Group work hard towards creating an environment in which you can comfortably voice your concerns with our dentists & staff.
Did you know many people actually lie to their dentist about their flossing habits?

Have You Ever Considered Dental Sealants as a Way to Prevent Decay?

dental sealants cavity prevention adultsProper dental hygiene practices, including regular brushing and flossing, eating a healthy diet with infrequent snacking, and regular dental visits help to prevent oral health problems from ever occurring. But there is another way to reduce the incidence of tooth decay, especially for children, namely dental sealants.

What Are Dental Sealants?

Dental sealants refer to a safe plastic cover that is painted on the grooves of the back (chewing) teeth. The sealant is applied in liquid form and solidifies in a few seconds, forming a plastic coating on the chewing surface of your back teeth that protects the grooves from decay and cavities. Sealants are easily painted by dentists or dental hygienists without the requirement for drills or needles. The application process involves:

  • Application of a special liquid on the teeth by brushing – to prevent the sealant from sticking to the teeth
  • After one minute, the liquid is washed off and the tooth dried completely
  • The liquid sealant is painted on to the teeth surface
  • It bonds directly with the teeth and hardens in a few seconds
  • The protective cover is formed

How Effective are Dental Sealants for Cavity Prevention?

The chewing surfaces of your back teeth are typically rough and uneven, owing to small pits and grooves. Food particles and germs easily get stuck in the uneven surface and stay there for a long time because your toothbrush bristles cannot adequately clean them. This makes your premolars and molars prone to tooth decay and cavities, even with proper dental hygiene. Fortunately, you can use dental sealants to cover up the grooves and provide a smooth surface for effective brushing.

Benefits of dental sealants include:

  • Decay prevention and reduced risk of cavities and fillings, caps, or crowns in the future
  • Saves you time at the dentist
  • Savings on dental bills
  • Long-lasting – up to 10 years of protection

Curious to try? Contact our Las Vegas family dentist today @ (702) 803-1796.

Do You Lie to Your Dentist About Your Flossing Habits?

lie dentist flossing habits studyTurns out, many people do! A relatively recent national study has come up with very interesting information regarding our flossing habits – or lack thereof.

Of course you already know (or at least we hope you do) the importance of flossing in maintaining oral health. Brushing alone is not enough. The reason why is because the bristles are often unable to penetrate the small pockets in between your teeth; flossing can. That’s why you are recommended to both brush AND floss.

The National Study Background Information & Results

The study was conducted on behalf of the American Academy of Periodontology to roughly 2,000 adults who submitted their answers online. Respondents were taken from the top 10 U.S. markets from those 18 years of age or older.

27% of the survey respondents had mentioned that they do in fact lie to their dentist about how often they floss. Most likely due to avoiding having the dentist briefly lecture them on flossing.

Read about why people fear the dentist.

The shocker…

The shocking part wasn’t the fact that people lie about their flossing habits, but the fact that 36% of the survey respondents said they would rather participate in an unpleasant activity than floss.

Exactly what constitutes an unpleasant activity?

  • Washing a sink full of dirty dishes (18%)
  • Sitting in gridlock traffic for an hour (9%)
  • Waiting in a long check out line (14%)
  • Do their taxes (9%)
  • Cleaning the toilet (14%)

The interesting part is that 33% of the respondents also mentioned that a smile is the first thing they notice when meeting someone – indicating the inherent importance of a nice smile.

So we have to ask, is it really THAT bad to floss? Once you realize it only takes one minute and can prevent you from a lifetime of dental problems, you might be thinking otherwise about these unpleasant activities!

Do You Grind Your Teeth at Night? Listen Up!

grinding teeth at night

Grinding your teeth typically occurs at night!

Many of us have a habit of grinding our teeth at night, a condition known as bruxism. By definition, bruxism is known as the involuntary or habitual grinding of teeth. However, here’s the problem: most of us are unaware that we’re doing it in the first place because it’ll happen when we are sound asleep in a sleep cycle known as R.E.M. sleep.

What Causes Teeth Grinding at Night?

There are a few reasons why someone may develop an unknown habit of grinding teeth at night:

  • Having an abnormal bite
  • Having a sleep disorder
  • Having teeth that are crooked or missing

However, sometimes the issue is not grinding teeth at night, but during the day when we are consciously awake. The reason here is usually anxiety. People use grinding their teeth as a nervous tic when they are under stressful circumstances.

How Do I know if I’m Grinding My Teeth at Night?

Those who do suffer from teeth grinding at night typically possess these symptoms:

  • Having a spouse or friend notify you of your sleeping patterns at night if they are awake while the event occurs
  • Dull headaches that have no explanation
  • Sensitive or irritated gums
  • Sore jaw with no reasonable explanation
  • Loose or fractured teeth with no easily identifiable cause

If you possess a couple or more of these symptoms, then there is a good chance you may be grinding your teeth at night. An appointment with an experienced dentist or orthodontist will help you solve the puzzle.

Our orthodontists help treat teeth grinding issues at Cheyenne Dental Group.

The Solution: Night Guards

A common solution is the use of night guards while you sleep. They’re similar to mouth guards you wear when engaging in sports except they are custom made to fit your mouth and prevent movement of friction between teeth, which is what causes problems. They also help stabilize your jaw while you sleep, preventing unwanted soreness.

Night guards could be purchased over-the-counter but they are not custom-fit for the mouth and will not give you the relief you seek. This is why it is recommended to visit an orthodontist or dentist in order to tackle the issue the right way.


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