Dental Health

What should I look for when choosing a toothpaste?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm confused by the many types of toothpaste on pharmacy shelves. What should I look for in a toothpaste?

DEAR READER: To prevent cavities and tooth decay, you need to brush away plaque -- that sticky, bacteria-laden material that builds up on teeth. It's best to brush at least twice daily: once after you eat breakfast, and then again before you go to sleep.

What should I do to prevent gum disease?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My dentist is always going on about gum disease. Is it really a big deal? If so, what should I do to prevent it?

DEAR READER: I understand your skepticism. It seems hard to believe that your gums could cause serious problems. The kidneys, the liver, the heart, the brain -- of course. But the gums?

How can I take better care of my children’s teeth?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I just took my 4-year old to the dentist, and she has three cavities! How can I better care for her teeth? And what can I do for my infant son so he doesn't end up with cavities, too?

DEAR READER: Our mouths are home to many bacteria. They live there pretty much all of our lives, taking advantage of one convenient fact: When we put food in our mouth, that's food for bacteria, too. And while we have to work to put food in our mouths, they just sit there. Doesn't seem fair.

What can I do to relieve burning mouth syndrome?

DEAR DOCTOR K: For some time, I've had a burning and tingling in my mouth. My dentist and doctor seem to be mystified. What could be causing my symptoms, and what can I do?

DEAR READER: Several things might be causing these bothersome symptoms. Some that come to mind are nutritional deficiencies -- particularly of B vitamins, iron and zinc. These problems can be detected by simple blood tests.

Why do dentists recommend chewing gum?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Why do dentists recommend chewing gum? Doesn't gum cause cavities?

DEAR READER: Dentists don't recommend just any chewing gum. They recommend sugar-free gum, specifically gum that contains xylitol, a sugar-free, no-calorie sweetener made from the bark of birch trees. It may actually lower your risk of tooth decay and cavities by interfering with the growth of harmful mouth bacteria.