Causes and Symptoms (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Dental diseases fall into four major categories: dental caries, or tooth decay; periodontal disease, including gingivitis and pyorrhea; Vincent’s infection, or trench mouth; and oral cancer. The first of these diseases was the largest contributor to tooth loss among people under thirty-five in the United States before the widespread fluoridation of drinking water was begun; it remains a major cause of tooth loss in much of the world. Periodontal disease in its two stages, gingivitis and pyorrhea, is the most widespread dental problem for people over thirty-five. Most people who suffer the loss of all of their teeth are victims of this condition. Vincent’s infection, which shares many characteristics with gingivitis, is bacterial. The infection flares up, is treated, and disappears, whereas gingivitis is more often a continuing condition that requires both persistent home treatment and specialized treatment. The most serious but least frequently occurring dental disease is oral cancer. It is the only dental disease commonly considered life-threatening, and there is a risk that it may spread to other parts of the body.
Dental caries occur because the food that one eats becomes trapped in the irregularities of the teeth, creating lactic acids that penetrate the enamel through holes (often microscopic) in it. Once lodged between the teeth or below the gum line, carbohydrates and starches combine with saliva to form acids...
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Treatment and Therapy (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Modern dentistry has succeeded in controlling most dental diseases. In the United States, dental caries have been almost eliminated in the young by the addition of fluoride to most water systems. Used over time, fluoride strengthens the teeth by increasing the hardness of the enamel, making it resistant to the acids that form in the mouth and cause decay.
Since the 1950’s, most American children have been reared on fluoridated water. Those whose water supply is not fluoridated have usually had their teeth treated with fluoride by their dentists. Many have brushed their teeth regularly with fluoridated toothpaste, which offers considerable protection from dental caries. From the 1950’s to the 1990’s, fluoride reduced dental decay in Americans under the age of twenty-one by more than 70 percent.
Current research into ways of preventing dental decay centers on several projects of the National Institute of Dental Research. Researchers for this organization discovered in the mid-1960’s that a substance found in the mouth’s streptococcal bacteria creates dextran. Dextran enables bacteria to cling to the surface of the teeth and invade them with the lactic acid that they generate. Researchers ultimately discovered dextrase, an enzyme effective in dissolving dextran. Strides are being made to use dextrase in toothpaste or mouthwash to reduce or eliminate the effects of dextran.
Some people’s teeth seem...
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Perspective and Prospects (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Great strides have been made in the United States in preventing and treating dental disease, as researchers have reached deeper understandings of the root causes of such disease. Dentistry has become increasingly less painful through the use of anesthetics and high-speed, water-cooled drills. The public at large has grown aware of the close relationship between dental health and general health. People are unwilling to accept tooth loss as a natural consequence of aging. They have also begun to realize that orthodontistry is more than a cosmetic procedure. Rather, it is a necessary procedure for correcting misalignments of the teeth that can result in difficulty if uncorrected.
National attention has been given to preventing tooth decay through the fluoridation of water supplies and, although some groups still fight fluoridation, it is for most Americans an accepted fact of modern life. Fluoridation, more than any other factor, has changed the emphasis in dentistry from preventing and treating dental caries to more sophisticated pursuits such as orthodontistry, endodontistry, and periodontistry. The establishment of the National Institute for Dental Research by Congress in 1948 has, more than any other single factor, stimulated dental research in the United States.
Advances in preventing and treating dental disease are constantly being made. Through genetic engineering, it is almost inevitable that substances...
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For Further Information: (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Anderson, Pauline C., and Alice E. Pendleton. The Dental Assistant. 7th ed. Albany, N.Y.: Delmar, 2001. Designed as a textbook for dental hygienists, this popular volume is particularly clear in its discussion of periodontal disease and dental caries. Although it is not directed specifically to laypersons, the book is easily accessible to nonspecialized readers.
Diamond, Richard. Dental First Aid for Families. Ravensdale, Wash.: Idyll Arbor, 2000. Retired dentist Diamond discusses what to do when a dental problem arises and an immediate visit to the dentist is impossible. His practical, easy-to-understand advice is built on just enough basic science to put dental problems in context.
Fairpo, Jenifer E. H., and C. Gavin Fairpo. Heinemann Dental Dictionary. 4th ed. Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1997. This is the fourth edition of a dictionary of dental and medical terms that includes several quick-reference charts on anatomy, abbreviations, and journals. The purpose is to provide a reference for dental students and other professional and nonprofessional people associated with the science and practice of dentistry.
Foster, Malcolm S. Protecting Our Children’s Teeth: A Guide to Quality Dental Care from Infancy Through Age Twelve. New York: Insight Books, 1992. This book, written especially for parents, is clear and easy to understand. The illustrations, too, are...
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