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Educational and Entertaining Enamel Experiments

May 15th, 2019

Let’s talk about the science of our teeth for a moment. Our enamel has a very high mineral content, making it extremely strong.  In fact, enamel just happens to be the hardest substance in our bodies.  But, unfortunately, it is not indestructible! Certain foods we eat can actually damage the surface of our teeth. Some simple and entertaining experiments can show children how our teeth can be affected by things we eat and drink, and how we can help protect them.

If you have a science-minded student at home, there are many activities you can do together, using educational websites, common household products and lots and lots of eggs. (Why eggs? Eggshells are a great substitute for teeth in these experiments. Not only are they various shades of white--like our own teeth, they are also calcium-rich—like our own teeth.) You can find any number of experiments using uncooked eggs, hardboiled eggs, whole shells with the contents blown out, or eggshells alone, so you can find just the right activity for whichever egg treatment works best for you.

Examine Enamel Erosion

One of the ways we protect our teeth is with healthy eating. The bacteria in plaque use the sugars and starches in our foods to produce acids. These acids are the substances that break down the minerals in our enamel and leave the enamel weaker. Weaker enamel is more easily attacked by bacteria and acids, which leads to cavities.

With eggs or eggshells and some carefully selected food products, you can see just how acidity affects teeth. Different websites suggest a variety of acidic liquids to dunk your eggs in, such as vinegar, soda, or citrus juices, so it’s easy to find an experiment that works with your pantry. Always use a plain water sample when you submerge eggs or shells to act as a control to measure differences against. How do the egg shells soaked in acidic liquids differ from those in plain water? It’s also fun to add simple sugar water as a test liquid to see what happens. Is it sugar or acid that causes more damage? And why might that be?

The Fluoride Fix

Fluoride is well known as a mineral that protects the structure of our teeth and helps prevent cavities. And there are actually experiments out there to test the protection fluoride provides using your egg stand-ins.

In some experiments, a hardboiled egg is coated with fluoride toothpaste or rinse for a specific amount of time and then dunked into vinegar. An untreated egg also gets a vinegar bath. You are asked to observe what is happening to each egg as it sits in its vinegar bath—are there bubbles on one egg and not the other? What do the bubbles mean? Other experiments require longer exposure to fluoride and then to vinegar—what happens to the shells of the treated and untreated eggs? What could this mean for our teeth?

Staining Studies

Our diet can do more than help create cavities. Enamel is very strong, but it is not stain-proof! Dark colored foods and drinks can make our teeth appear darker or more yellow. (And teeth that have suffered enamel erosion can pick up stains more easily.) How does food affect the brightness of our smiles?

If this question interests you, find experiments that use favorite beverages as a soak for your eggs. Choose liquids with a range of color, such as coffee, soda, and apple juice. Or choose an experiment that uses different varieties of soft drinks. Will foods the same color cause the same amount of discoloration in your egg volunteers? Do you want shorter or longer soaks in each liquid? Do you want to make use of a recycled toothbrush to see if brushing that discolored shell makes a difference? With toothpaste or without?

Even though these activities are designed for older children, they still require adult supervision. You can find detailed instructions for any of these experiments at many science and educational sites online. With some household supplies, plenty of extra cups, and a quantity of eggs, you and your child can demonstrate some of the basic effects our food choices have on the health and appearance of our teeth. It’s a wonderful way to promote healthy eating and brushing habits, scientific curiosity, and shared experiences!

Don’t forget to let Dr. Pamela Clark know how your experiments turned out the next time you visit our Pearland, TX office!

What Are Chalky Teeth?

May 8th, 2019

You’ve always taken care of your child’s smile. You make sure thorough brushing and flossing take place twice a day. You serve foods high in vitamins and minerals and low in sugar. You make and keep regular dental appointments at our Pearland, TX office. But even with the best dental routines, sometimes conditions can occur that will require additional professional care.

One of these conditions can affect your child’s enamel while the tooth is still forming. When baby teeth or adult teeth appear, you might notice white, creamy yellow, or brown spots in otherwise healthy-looking enamel. These spots are softer and rougher than normal hard, smooth enamel. Because of their texture and color, such teeth are often referred to as “chalky teeth,” but this condition is actually known as enamel hypomineralization.

What is hypomineralization?

Enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies—stronger even than bones. Enamel is largely composed of minerals. If something disrupts the process of enamel development in baby or adult teeth, the result can be abnormally low mineral content in the enamel. This leaves teeth weaker and more likely to suffer decay and damage.

Premature birth, low birth weight, and other pre-natal factors have been suggested as risk factors for hypomineralization in primary teeth enamel. Permanent teeth can be vulnerable to this condition as well. Adult teeth are forming in young children well before they make an appearance. It’s been suggested that certain early childhood factors, such as recurring high fevers, some diseases, even specific antibiotics, can interrupt the formation of the enamel and lead to hypomineralization of adult teeth.

What are the results of enamel hypomineralization?

Children with this condition are much more likely to experience rapid tooth decay because of their weaker, more porous enamel, especially in the molars. Further, they tend not to respond as well to the numbing effects of local dental anesthetics, while their teeth tend to be more sensitive to pain. Cases can be mild, moderate, or severe. In severe cases, teeth might require crowns or possibly extractions, but even mild discoloration and other cosmetic problems can lead to self-consciousness in your child.

How can we help?

Catching this condition early is very important. If your child has had any medical conditions that might affect tooth development, let Dr. Pamela Clark know even before that first tooth comes in. If you notice anything unusual about a new baby or adult tooth, give us a call. For primary or permanent teeth, the sooner we can begin treatment, the better the long-term outlook.

We might suggest fluoride applications or desensitizing treatments. We can apply sealants to reduce the risk of cavities, and use bonding to restore discolored or weak patches in the tooth. Both of these methods have greater success if the enamel near the affected area is in good condition, so early treatment is vital. If teeth require more protection, crowns are often the best choice. We will design a treatment program to suit your child’s individual needs now and for the future.

How can you help?

Dental hygiene is important for every child, but especially for a child with weak and porous enamel. Because children with hypomineralized enamel develop cavities more quickly that those with strong enamel, it is very important to watch your child’s diet and keep to a regular, careful, and thorough routine of brushing and flossing at home. Be attentive to any sensitivity problems, and be sure to follow any suggestions we might have for strengthening enamel.

Remember, early diagnosis and treatment is always best! If at any time you notice chalky patches, or have any other concerns about the appearance of your child’s teeth, if they seem to be causing your child pain or are unusually sensitive, call Dr. Pamela Clark immediately. We want to work with you to treat any current problems and to prevent new ones.

May Marks National Physical Fitness and Sports Month!

May 1st, 2019

The merry month of May also happens to be National Fitness and Sports Month, so take advantage of the warmer days to get outside and exercise! Bringing a friend, family member, or coworker with you when you go for a brisk walk during a lunch break can provide an opportunity to socialize as well as health benefits. If you need a little more motivation, here are some good reasons to stay active and fit.

Exercise provides:

  • Improved stamina and energy as well as toned muscles and bone strength and density
  • Improved circulation and breathing for a healthier heart and lungs
  • Reduced risk for Type 2 diabetes and certain forms of cancer
  • For older adults, regular exercise may help improve balance and reduce the risk of falls as well as improved cognitive abilities

Children and Teens

Children and teenagers spend long hours at their desks in school, on the computer, watching television, and involved in other sedentary activities that result in obesity and poor health later in life. Getting them engaged in school or community sports teams can help them form good life-long exercise habits. One important note: If they are participating in contact sports, Dr. Pamela Clark and our team at Pearland Pediatric Dentistry recommend your kids wear an approved mouthguard to protect those valuable teeth from injury! Ask us for a proper fitting of your safety appliance during your next visit!

A gym membership is nice but not necessary to stay fit; try these easy ways to work some exercise into your daily routine.

At Home

  • Take a friend along for company on a walk through your neighborhood.
  • Pursue gardening or other yard work, including mowing or raking.
  • Take your kids on a bike ride or have them push a baby stroller around the block.

Couch potatoes take note: simply moving from the sofa to the floor for some sit-ups, leg-lifts, or push-ups while you’re watching television can help you get in better shape in no time.

At Work

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Take exercise breaks for walks around the building or parking lot.
  • Walk or ride a bike to work.

So what are you waiting for? Get moving!

For more information on exercise techniques, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pamela Clark, please give us a call at our convenient Pearland, TX office!

What Are Dental Sealants?

April 24th, 2019

You’re constantly playing defense. Your child spends two minutes in the morning and two minutes at night carefully brushing and flossing with a fluoride toothpaste. You make sure sugary and acidic foods are not a major part of your diets. Your child visits our Pearland, TX office for regular exams and cleanings. Really, how can a cavity get past all that?

But even with the best defensive practices, you don’t have a level playing field—literally. The tops of our molars and premolars don’t have the smooth, easy-to-clean surfaces that our other teeth have. If you look at the chewing surfaces, you will notice deep grooves which toothbrush bristles have a much harder time reaching.  

Plaque and food particles can become trapped in these grooves (known as pits and fissures), providing perfect conditions for a cavity to develop. That is why cavities are so common in newly erupted molars. Dental sealants protect these teeth from cavities by providing a barrier which smooths out the surface of the tooth and prevents food and bacteria from reaching the molar’s crevices.

Most sealants are invisible plastic resin coatings which we apply in our Pearland, TX office. Usually the procedure is so quick and easy that no dental anesthetic is required. Each tooth will be examined first. If we find any signs of early decay, we will gently treat that area before beginning.

When the tooth is ready, it will be cleaned and dried. An etching solution will be brushed on to the dry surface to roughen the area a bit so that the sealant will hold to the tooth more effectively. A thin coat of the sealant is then painted on and hardened under a curing light. And that’s it!

Once teeth are sealed, they should be cleaned and flossed just as carefully as before. Regular exams and cleanings are still very important, and we can monitor the condition of the sealant and the sealed teeth. Properly applied, sealants can last from three to five years, or even longer.

Who should consider sealants? Sealants are typically recommended when the permanent molars first erupt. Children’s enamel takes a while to become its strongest, and so these just-erupted teeth are more at risk for cavities. Sometimes Dr. Pamela Clark will recommend sealants for primary (baby) teeth if needed. But even adults can benefit—talk to us if you are interested and we will let you know if sealants might be right for you.

Sealants are a simple, safe, and minimally invasive way to prevent cavities. Studies of sealed molars and premolars show a dramatic reduction in cavities compared to untreated teeth. Sealants are one of the most effective ways to defend your teeth or your children’s teeth from tooth decay. And as we’ve all heard—defense wins championships!