“This morning, as I held my new puppy Juno, she licked my face, and I was greeted with fresh puppy breath – that sweet smell of a healthy mouth that’s clean and has yet to develop any bacteria or plaque. Bacteria typically causes bad breath in dogs,” says Nanaimo’s Dr. Rob Wolanski, from Lakeside Dental Clinic. “Same goes for humans.”
By and large, 90 per cent of dental problems are caused by bacteria or excessive bite force.
Botox to ease excessive bite force
Excessive bite force is caused when people clench or grind their teeth. In the past, standard treatment involved making the patient a custom brux / grinding guard which helps to protect the teeth.
However, these guards are bulky, not fun to wear and half of patients don’t wear them regularly, says Dr. Wolanski.
“Today, there’s another solution available: therapeutic Botox. This treatment can reduce the force the muscles bite with, protecting the teeth and in cases of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD), Botox injections can reduce the associated pain and headaches.”
Bacteria and gum disease
Most dental problems are caused by bacteria, including damage caused to the gums surrounding the teeth and damage to the teeth themselves.
Tissue surrounding the teeth includes the soft gums and the bone. “Bacteria that hide along the gum line or in tartar that builds up on teeth attack those surrounding tissues, causing inflammation typically seen as bleeding,” Dr. Wolanski explains. “As this continues, it can melt the bone around the teeth causing root exposure and pockets where more bacteria can hide. This in turn leads to the loosening and eventual loss of teeth.
“It’s a lot like a tree that has all the soil washed away from the roots then falls over.”
If bite forces are high, as mentioned above, this process becomes accelerated.
“Some people are more susceptible to gum disease because of the chemistry of their saliva or the effects of medications,” Dr. Wolanski says, but adds that good dental hygiene is the most important treatment, including regular cleaning and check-ups starting from a very young age. “Gum disease is almost 100 per cent preventable if preventative therapies are started early in life. Most of the severe cases of periodontal disease are of patients that have not seen a dentist for many years.”
Bacteria and tooth decay
This leads us to the last major category of damage caused by bacteria: tooth decay (dental caries). When dental caries become large enough we call them cavities. It’s a process of softening of the enamel and/or dentin (root) of the tooth.
Once soft, bacteria can live inside the soft tooth structure and continue the decaying process. The bacteria can then invade the hollow chamber inside the tooth that contains the nerves and blood vessels, leading to pain and even an abscess.
“If decay is caught early enough a simple filling can stop the processes. If left too long, the tooth will require a root canal to stop the infection and save the tooth.”