by John E. Wilmes, D.D.S.
entistry and dental materials have become quite advanced in recent years. We have become experts at placing natural looking and esthetic restorations and we are also quite good at replacing lost teeth. However, as a professor of mine once said, “the best restoration is no restoration.”
Our goal therefore should be to break the cycle of decay and restoration. Three conditions must be satisfied for dental decay to exist:
1. A Host (tooth structure available for decay to attack)
2. Bacteria in the form of dental plaque. Dental plaque produces acid which damages the tooth and eventually cavitates the surface of the tooth.
3. Fermentable carbohydrates in the form of sugars, such as bread, pasta, juice, milk sugars, etc. Bacteria in dental plaque use the fermentable carbohydrates for their metabolism and produce acid as a byproduct.
We must alter one or more of our risk factors. First and foremost we must try to be diligent and remove all the plaque from our teeth twice daily. If all dental plaque is removed on a frequent basis, decay cannot form.
Secondly, we can alter our diet. Refined, fermentable carbohydrates provide instant fuel for the decay-causing bacteria. Diet modification can certainly help prevent decay. However, occasionally, we all eat and or drink things we shouldn’t and subsequently supply our bacteria with fuel for acid production.
Everyone needs some chemotherapeutic help preventing decay. Luckily our local Co-op also offers a wide array of products which can help you maintain your oral health. Below is a brief discussion of a few ingredients found within the products in the dental section at the Co-op:
1. Xylitol is a natural, plant-based sweetener. Chemically, xylitol is a polyhydric alcohol and is similar in structure to pentose sugar. Because of its chemical structure, oral bacteria are not able to use xylitol to produce acid. Xylitol reduces the amount of decay-causing bacteria in dental plaque. Xylitol is also thought to prevent decay by stimulating the activity of an antimicrobial enzyme, lactoperoxidase, in saliva. Xylitol also increases the body’s output of saliva. Saliva is a natural pH buffer and is our body’s natural defense against decay. Xylitol is most effective against decay when consumed frequently. Xylitol gum, when chewed 3-5 times daily can be quite effective. Ingesting xylitol does not aide in decay prevention. Xylitol can be found in the following products at the Co-op:
Spry Oral Rinse
Nature’s Gate Cool Mint Gel Toothpaste
Kiss My Face Triple Action Toothpaste
Tom’s of Main Toothpaste
Tom’s Wicked Fresh Mouthwash
Burt’s Bees Toothpastes
2. Tea Tree Oil is another naturally-based product. It is obtained from the distillation of the leaves of the tea tree. Tea Tree oil contains over 100 different types of naturally occurring alcohols, often referred to as “essential oils.” The most common alcohol found in tea tree oil is terpen-4-ol, which is thought to work by disrupting the outer surface of decay causing bacteria. Many different oral rinses contain tea tree oil. Tea tree oil can be found in the following products at the Co-op:
Tea Tree Therapy Mouthwash
Jason Healthy Mouth Mouthwash
Desert Essence Dental Tape and Dental Floss
Preserve Tea Tree Mint Toothpicks
Desert Essence Tea Tree and Neem Toothpaste
Kiss My Face Whitening Toothpaste
Kiss My Face Triple Action Toothpaste
Jason Healthy Mouth Toothpaste
Veriditas Gingivitis Treatment, Canker Sores, Cold Sore Treatment
3. Fluoride was the first known agent to be active in preventing dental decay. Fluoride can be found naturally in the ground water in many locations and is also extracted from ore. Fluoride in most products is bound with sodium, and is often listed as “NaF.” Fluoride interferes with the bacterial enzymes of decay-causing bacteria. It also incorporates into and remineralizes damaged hydroxyapetite (the main component of tooth structure) in the form of fluoroapetite. Fluoride is most effective when applied topically. Fluoride can be found in several Tom’s of Maine toothpaste flavors at the Co-op:
Tom’s of Maine Children’s Silly Strawberry with Fluoride Toothpaste
Tom’s of Maine Simply White Sweet Mint Gel Toothpaste
Tom’s of Maine Cavity Protection Toothpaste – peppermint, wintermint, or spearmint.