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Cavity Cops Dis 'Drill and Fill'

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"The insurance companies are not, as a whole, as interested in preventive techniques, and that's one of the areas that's going to have to be adjusted," Messina tells WebMD.

Panel member Alan Lurie, DDS, of the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine, pointed out that controlling the amount of sugar that children eat is important in preventing disease. And according to the report, sugarless chewing gum with xylitol (a type of sugar that doesn't seem to promote tooth decay) also is effective in preventing caries. However, the gum is not yet widely available in the U.S.

The panel did note that brushing teeth with fluoridated toothpaste and widespread community water fluoridation have made significant dents in dental caries in recent decades. Moreover, dentists have been effective in preventing some disease by "sealing" teeth with plastic film.

"The awareness with parents of the value of taking their kids to the dentist on a regular basis and starting at a young age has really grown, along with proper brushing," Messina tells WebMD. "We're producing a generation of kids that has had very little experience at the dentist, and a very low decay rate."

"The reduction in dental caries is as much as two-thirds in the past 30 years," Alfano says, "so we've been doing something right as a society."

At the same time, he says, "We've got pockets of disease in economically underprivileged and minority individuals that need to be addressed."

The panel noted that low socioeconomic status is linked to a higher risk of tooth disease. For adults and the elderly, it said that risk factors include poor oral hygiene, a lack of adequate salivary flow, and gum recession.

The expert panel also lamented that scientific research on tooth disease often has been flawed. Future dental care advances may be dependent on higher standards, it warned, calling for a new focus on tooth decay research.

"Despite the fact that it just about affects everybody in this room, caries is not life threatening, so in terms of garnishing a lot of attention both public and in terms of funding for research, it is at a slight disadvantage," says panel member Ian Coulter, PhD, from the University of California Los Angeles School of Dentistry.

The panel's consensus statement can be found online via http://consensus.nih.gov.

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Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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