Archive for General Dentistry

The link between sugar and tooth decay

The link between sugar and tooth decay

Thousands of bacteria live in your mouth. Most of them are harmless, but unfortunately, some are harmful and they can cause tooth decay. Their food source is sugar, so if you put lots of sugar in your mouth, these bacteria will cause tooth decay.

In this post, we’ll discuss bacteria, sugar and tooth decay in more detail. By the end, you’ll know how to prevent tooth decay and also what foods are high in sugar.

What causes tooth decay?

As we mentioned, many species of bacteria live in your mouth, but only a few species actually do any harm. The main harmful species are Streptococcus mutans, Lactobacillus, Actinomyces and Nocardia. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of them before – the only thing you need to know is that these bacteria can harm your teeth. They do this by feeding on sugar, which they turn into lactic acid. It’s this acid that erodes your enamel.

How can I prevent tooth decay?

One of the best things you can do to prevent tooth decay is to limit the amount of sugar you eat. Sugar is the food that feeds the bacteria in your mouth, so the less sugar you eat, the better.

However, it’s not just about the amount of sugar you eat; It’s also important to think about how often you eat sugar as well. For example, if you eat an entire packet of sweets in one go, you might feel a bit sick afterwards but it’s actually not too bad for your teeth. You’re only putting your teeth under one single sugar attack. What would be worse for your teeth is if you ate the same packet of sweets slowly over the whole day. If you did that, then you would be bathing your teeth in sugar throughout the whole day, and that long exposure to sugar would be much more likely to cause tooth decay.

So, it’s not only important to limit the amount of sugar you eat, but also how often you eat sugar as well. Try to eat sugar only at mealtimes – this way, the number of sugar attacks will be lower than if eat sugar throughout the whole day.

And of course, avoiding sugar is just one of the things you should do to prevent tooth decay. Other things you can do is brush your teeth twice a day, floss, and see a dentist for regular checkups.

What foods are high in sugar?

There are many obvious foods that are high in sugar, such as sweets, fizzy drinks, biscuits, cakes and chocolates. Many foods are high in sugar but aren’t so obvious. For example, did you know that ready meals are usually high in sugar? Another hidden source of sugar is alcohol – a bottle of beer can sometimes contain more than 20 g of sugar.

To learn how much sugar a food or drink contains, read the packet, as the nutritional information will tell you exactly how much sugar there is inside.

You can also visit, which is a website that will tell you roughly how much sugar there is in most types of foods.

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How to look after your teeth after you turn 40

How to look after your teeth after you turn 40

Turning 40 is a milestone that many people consider to be the start of middle-age. As well as being a time for transition and reflection, it’s also time to think about your dental health. That’s because if you’d like to reach old age with all your teeth still intact, then it pays dividends to start thinking about your teeth now. So, in this post, we’ll get you off to a good start by going over the main oral health problems suffered by people over the age of 40.

Gum disease

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, can occur at any age, but it’s more likely to occur as you get older. In fact, after you turn 35, you’re more likely to lose a tooth to gum disease than to tooth decay.

The good news is that gum disease is preventable. The main thing you can do to prevent it is to brush your teeth and gums for two minutes, twice a day. Make sure to pay special attention to your gums, brushing them thoroughly. Flossing once a day can also help prevent gum disease.

Note that if have bright red gums or if your gums bleed regularly, then you may already have gum disease. Make sure to see a dental if this is the case.

Oral cancer

Oral cancer, which includes cancers of the mouth, tongue and throat, is more frequent in people over the age of 40.

Oral cancer is usually first spotted by a dentist at a routine dental check-up, so make sure you keep going to the dentist regularly. Also, do watch your alcohol and tobacco use, as they both increase your risk of getting oral cancer.

Breakdown of dental fillings

Did you know that fillings don’t last forever? It’s true: over time, they break down and no longer work as well as they should. In fact, fillings are only expected to last around 10 years, although some can last longer. Your dentist will look up for worn out filings during your regular check-ups.


Changes in female hormone levels during menopause can lead to several unwanted oral symptoms, including gum inflammation, mouth pain, dry mouth and increased susceptibility to plaque. That’s why brushing and flossing are more important than ever during menopause to prevent tooth decay and fight gum disease.

Dry mouth

As we get older, our mouths produce less saliva. This is bad for our teeth because it increases our risk of dental decay. If you suffer from dry mouth, then one solution is to keep your mouth moist by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Seeing a doctor can also help to rule out underlying causes.

Sensitive teeth

Aging means that our tooth enamel gradually wears away. One sign that your enamel is wearing away is tooth sensitivity. Your teeth might feel more painful when you brush them for example, or when you eat hot and cold foods. Sensitive teeth aren’t only a sign of aging, however. It can happen for several reasons, such as tooth decay, worn out fillings, and gum disease. Tell your dentist if you’re suffering from sensitive teeth because you will want to rule out the possible causes.

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Six reasons why your wisdom teeth might need to be removed

Six reasons why your wisdom teeth might need to be removed

Did you know around 35% of people are born without wisdom teeth? It’s true! These lucky people don’t have these troublesome teeth to deal with.

The other 65% of us, however, do have wisdom teeth. Furthermore, many of us end up having them taken out.

But what are the reasons why a dentist would need to remove your wisdom teeth? In this post, we’ll go over some of the reasons why you might need your wisdom teeth removed.

1) Cavities

No one wants cavities, but unfortunately, your wisdom teeth are at a higher risk of cavities than your other teeth because they’re harder to clean. Being at the very back of your mouth, your wisdom teeth are certainly easy to neglect. They’re also more difficult to see than your other teeth, which means you can’t visually inspect them as easily.

Partially impacted wisdom teeth (which is where the wisdom tooth has only partially emerged from the gum) are at an even higher risk of cavities because bacteria can easily get trapped between the tooth and the gum.

2) Pericoronitis

Partially impacted wisdom teeth can sometimes leave a flap of gum covering the tooth. This flap of gum can be problematic because food can get stuck under it and cause an infection called pericoronitis.

Pericoronitis is the most common reason for why people need their wisdom teeth taken out. Did you know that it usually happens with the lower wisdom teeth rather than upper ones?

3) Pain

Impacted wisdom teeth can push against your other teeth and cause pain. In this case, your dentist will recommend that you get the wisdom tooth removed. However, many people have impacted wisdom tooth and feel no pain at all, in which case removing your wisdom teeth might not be necessary.

4) Crowding

Crowding is another complication of impacted wisdom teeth. Crowding happens when your wisdom teeth push against your other teeth and cause them to become crooked. If you want to make your teeth straight again, then braces and removal of the wisdom tooth are the order of the day here.

5) Cysts

Wisdom teeth can also cause cysts, which are fluid-filled growths that can permanently damage your teeth, bone and nerves. If a dentist sees a cyst on an x-ray, then he or she will almost certainly recommend that you get the cyst and wisdom tooth removed as soon as possible.

6) Tumours

Finally, the most serious type of complication arising from wisdom teeth are tumours. Don’t worry though because they’re very rare. Furthermore, most tumours are non-cancerous (benign).

For the very small number of people who do have a tumour, removal of tissue and bone may be required, along with the tumour and wisdom tooth.

What to do if you have problems with your wisdom teeth

There’s not much you can do to prevent problems with your wisdom teeth apart from brushing and flossing twice a day. You should also visit to a dentist for regular check-ups as this can help spot problems before they get worse. To make a check-up appointment with us, simply call our friendly receptionists!

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How to brush your teeth correctly

How to brush your teeth correctly

Brushing your teeth is the single most important thing you can do for your oral health. It not only gives you fresher breath and a whiter smile; it also reduces your risk of cavities and gum disease. However, despite the importance of brushing your teeth, there are many people don’t know how to brush properly. So, in this post, we’ll give you some useful tips to ensure you’re brushing the right way.

How to brush your teeth

Follow these four simple steps to become a toothbrush master!

  1. Place the toothbrush against your teeth at a 45° angle with the head of the toothbrush facing your gums. Using short and gentle strokes, move the brush back-and-forth against your teeth and gums. Of course, if you’re using an electric toothbrush, then there’s no need to use a brushing motion. Instead, simply move the toothbrush slowly across your teeth and gums.
  2. Continue brushing until you’ve done all your teeth (front and back!).
  3. Brush the chewing surface of each tooth.
  4. Finally, spend a few seconds paying special attention to the backs of your front teeth. Using the tip of the toothbrush, clean these areas carefully.

Should I brush my tongue?

Yes, definitely! Most people neglect to brush their tongue, but dentists recommend it because harmful bacteria often live there.

There’s no need to buy any special tool to brush your tongue – you can just use the bristles of your toothbrush. Simply put a dab of toothpaste onto your toothbrush, and then start brushing at the back of your tongue, and then work forwards to the front.

Should I rinse my mouth after brushing my teeth?

This is a frequent question we get from our patients. The answer is no, you shouldn’t rinse your mouth with water after brushing your teeth. This is because toothpaste contains fluoride, which is a mineral that helps keep your teeth strong and healthy. Rinsing your mouth with water would wash away the fluoride, thereby defeating the purpose of brushing your teeth in the first place. So, the only thing you should do after brushing your teeth is spit any excess toothpaste into the sink.

Does having braces affect how I should brush my teeth?

Yes, it certainly does. This is because it’s easy for bits of food to get stuck in braces, which is why wearers of braces have to be super-diligent when brushing. If you have braces, then make sure to brush under your wires and between your brackets, as these are places with food can become easily trapped. And if you have trouble cleaning your teeth thoroughly, you might want to try an interdental toothbrush. These are small toothbrushes that easily fit into the small spaces around your wires and brackets.


We hope that by reading this post, you’ve picked up a few tips about how to brush your teeth properly. If you’d like to speak to a dentist about this topic or indeed any other, then simply call us on 0121 357 5000 and make an appointment. We’re here for you!

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Microabrasion with Dr Emma Franks


This young patient came to us because she was becoming very conscious of staining on her front teeth. She had been told previously she would have to wait until age 18 to have them whitened.

We decided to carry out a conservative treatment known as microabrasion. This involves polishing the teeth with a mild abrasive polish, to remove the staining in the enamel.

The treatment is carried out without anaesthetic, and completed in approximately 10 minutes. It is very safe and conservative.

The patient was very happy with her new appearance and has gained the confidence to smile again.

This treatment is suitable for various types of staining- depending on the cause and severity of the stains. It can be used in conjunction with whitening before or after the microabrasion, for more complicated aesthetic cases.

If you are interested in this treatment please contact the practice.




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Everything you need to know about dental check-ups

ScottArms_SMM_20171101_patient-and-dentistsDental check-ups are something that many people see as inconvenient and unnecessary. Why bother going to the dentist if your teeth are perfectly healthy? The truth of the matter is that we all need to see the dentist every now and then. Dentists can catch any problems in their early stages and treat them before they get worse. A check-up is also an opportunity for you to discuss your oral health and hygiene habits with your dentist. In this post, we’ll answer some of the most common questions our patients ask about dental check-ups.


How often should I have a check-up?

The typical advice is to see a dentist every six months. This allows your dentist to spot tooth decay before it becomes serious. However, six months isn’t necessarily the best option for everyone: the ideal frequency of your check-ups depends on you. Some people need to visit a dentist every three months, whereas luckier patients only need to see a dentist every couple of years. It all depends on the health of your teeth and your risk of developing problems.


What’s the purpose of dental check-ups?

Dental check-ups are important because they allow dentists to catch problems such as cavities or plaque. And if do you have problems then the dentist can take care of them there and then instead of letting them get worse. After all, the longer you leave a dental problem, the more difficult it becomes to treat. That’s why it’s best to catch problems early and to see a dentist frequently.


What typically happens at a dental check-up?

At a check-up, your dentist will typically:

  • Examine your teeth
  • Ask you if you’ve had any problems with your teeth since your last visit.
  • Ask you about your teeth-cleaning habits and advise you if you can make improvements
  • Tell you when you need to come back for your next visit


What about appointments for other things?

Along with general check-ups, you might also need to visit the dentist for other reasons. For example, if you have braces, then you’ll need to visit the dentist every few weeks to have the braces adjusted.
And if you experience problems with your teeth between check-ups, then you should contact your dentist and make an appointment as soon as possible. If you wait until your check-up appointment then the problem may be worse by that point.


What about dental check-ups for children?

Children need regular dental check-ups too. NHS dental care for children is free, so there’s really no excuse! A child’s first appointment should be when her first milk teeth appear. After that, your dentist will advise you how often your child needs check-ups. Typically this will be around every six months.



We hope that you now feel more comfortable about dental check-ups. If you have any more questions, then feel free to contact us at 0121 357 5000 or visit in person at our clinic in Great Barr. If we don’t see you, then we’ll be sure to see you at your next check-up!

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How can conscious sedation can help the anxious patient?

How big a problem is dental anxiety in the UK?

According to the oral health foundation, almost half of UK adults have a fear of the dentist. They also found that visiting the dentist is ranked first (22%) for making people nervous- even more popular than heights (19%). This is significant and it is the job of dentist to put people at ease, build a rapport and try to reduce the prevalence of dental anxiety in the UK.

For some, an upcoming visit to the dentist can cause anxiety and fear in the days and weeks leading up to the appointment. The specific thing that causes this apprehension is different from person to person. For some, it’s the needle, others it’s the sound of the drill. Even the fear of an x-ray causing gagging or the smell of the dentist can cause anxiety in some patients.

Some patient’s may never have experienced dental anxiety before- they may never of had extensive treatment before and now the day is looming. Things that they have never been scared of or thought about before suddenly come to light.

How can we help?

In-house sedation can be a perfect solution for these scenarios. It is both effective and safe to use. Whether someone has always suffered from dental anxiety or perhaps feel they need a little something to get them through their first course of treatment, sedation is often a helpful tool. It may also be used if a procedure is going to be a little uncomfortable, for example, extractions.

What is conscious sedation?

Conscious sedation is when a sedative drug is given through a plastic tube into a vein in the hand or arm to help a patient relax.

Intravenous sedation is different from general anaesthesia. Many patients misunderstand and believe they will be put to sleep. This is not the case and is one reason why sedation is safer than general anaesthesia. The patient remains conscious throughout, however are often drowsy, have little awareness of what is going on and often no memory of the procedure afterwards.

What drug is used and what is the procedure?

Most commonly the drug used is midazolam, which is in the group of drugs called benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines help to dampen down stimulation in the brain, and therefore help the patient remain calm and relaxed. As it is given intravenously (through a canula in a vein) the amount of sedative drug given can be easily, and therefore safely controlled. This is what we use at Scott Arms and it makes visiting the dentist far less scary for many of our patients.

Once sedated, we still numb the gum close to the area to be treated, to ensure the patient is numb throughout and for a short while after the procedure. Patients are monitored closely throughout the procedure. Afterwards clumsiness, sleepiness and forgetfulness are all very common and are all good signs the sedation has worked well.

Sedation can help patients cope with dental treatment and reduce anxiety. It can help interrupt the cycle of anxiety and patients are often more willing to come to the dentist afterwards. It is a very safe and effective option to ensure patients get the care and treatment they need, as well as being able to relax in the dental environment.

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What’s the deal with fluoride in the water supply?



Since the 1960s, the government has added fluoride to the drinking water in some parts of the UK with the aim of preventing tooth decay. The first large scheme began in Birmingham in 1964. Today, 10% of England’s population receives fluoridated tap water, which is 5.8 million people. The places where fluoridated water is most common are Birmingham, Staffordshire and Dudley.

Fluoridation is a controversial topic. On one side of the argument, people claim that water fluoridation poses health risks and is therefore too dangerous to add to tap water. Meanwhile, supporters of water fluoridation point out that that there is no evidence of side-effects at normal doses.


The evidence

In the early 20th century, scientists noticed that people living in areas with naturally high levels of fluoride also had low levels of tooth decay. This led to an experiment in an American city called Grand Rapids, where the city’s officials started adding fluoride to the water supply. Over the next few years, scientists found that the people in Grand Rapids enjoyed lower rates of tooth decay. In light of these findings, other towns and cities around the world quickly adopted artificial water fluoridation.

In 2015, an independent organisation of researchers known as the Cochrane Collaboration analysed studies into water fluoridation. They found many flaws in these studies. For example, they found that studies from before 1975 are no longer relevant because there was a widespread adoption of fluoride-containing toothpaste after 1975. The findings of the Cochrane Collaboration shed doubt on the usefulness of mass water fluoridation.


What are the benefits of fluoridated water?

We know for certain that fluoride helps to prevent cavities. This is shown in cities across the UK and the world. For example The Telegraph claims that in Manchester, where there is no fluoridated tap water, the rate of tooth decay is twice that than in Birmingham, where fluoridated tap water is commonplace.


What are the dangers of fluoride?

One known danger of fluoride is a condition known as fluorosis. The condition is where bones and teeth lose their minerals and become porous. However, fluorosis only occurs at very high levels of fluoride. The amounts added to tap water are too small to cause fluorosis.

Some preliminary research suggests that high doses of fluoride might be toxic to the brain and nerve cells. Furthermore, other studies have found that fluoride might cause learning and memory problems at high doses. However, the fluoride level used in these studies is higher than the levels found in water supplies.


The bottom line

We know for certain that fluoride helps prevent cavities. But since we already add fluoride to toothpaste, so do we really need to add it to our drinking water as well?

To answer this question, more research is needed. Governments need to know exactly how much fluoride they should be adding to the water supply. Given that too much fluoride poses health risks, we shouldn’t add use any more fluoride than necessary. Scientists also need to perform more research on the adverse health effects of fluoride on the brain.

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When do you need a sports mouth guard?

sadp-mouth-guardDo you play contact sports such as football, rugby, boxing or basketball? These sports are intensely physical and unfortunately injuries are quite common, especially injuries to the teeth. Luckily, there’s something you can wear to protect your gnashers: a mouth guard.

How do mouth guards protect my teeth?

While mouth guards may not be seen as cool, they do help protect your teeth in a variety ways:

  • Mouth guards protect you from direct blows from your opponents. If you’re a boxer and your opponent punches you in the teeth, then a mouth guard will (hopefully) absorb the blow.
  • Mouth guards prevent your upper and lower teeth from clashing together. Your teeth are the strongest part of your body, so when they collide it can be like two rocks hitting one another. You don’t want that. A mouth guard will keep your upper and lower teeth separate during the game.
  • Mouth guards prevent you from biting your tongue during a game. A bitten tongue doesn’t sound too serious, but people sometimes need stitches after biting their tongue too hard. Mouth guards also prevent you from accidentally biting your lip too.


When should I wear a sports mouth guard?

You should wear a mouth guard for any sport involving a risk of injury to the mouth. This is basically any sport that involves speed, falls, body contact or flying objects like hockey pucks and rugby balls. You’d be surprised at the number of sports that are potentially hazardous to your teeth. We’re not just talking about football, rugby and boxing, but also sports like skateboarding, mountain biking, and gymnastics. If there’s a risk of injury to your mouth, then you should be wearing a mouth guard.

By the way, you’ll typically only need a mouth guard for your upper teeth. However, some dentists recommend mouth guards for lower teeth if you have braces or bridges.


Different types of mouth guards

There are three broad types of mouth guards:

  1. Off-the-shelf mouth guards. These are the cheapest type of mouth guard. No moulding is required, which means they are ready to wear straight out of the packet. Although these mouth guards are cheap and convenient, they are also often bulky and uncomfortable.
  2. Boil and bite mouth guards. These mouth guards become soft when you place them in boiling water. You can then mould it to the shape of your teeth by biting down into it. After the mouth guard cools down, it retains its new shape. This makes the boil and bite mouth guard superior to its off-the-shelf cousin, as you can mould the mouth guard to the shape of your teeth.
  3. Dentist-made mouth guards. These mouth guards are made by dental professionals in a laboratory. The lab technicians will make the mouth guard to fit your mouth exactly. Therefore, dentist-made mouth guards offer the best fit and protection. However, they are also the most expensive option.

No matter what type of mouth guard you get, make sure it fits well and feels comfortable. Also ensure it’s strong and tear-resistant – it’s going to be protecting your teeth, after all.

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Could tooth loss cause dementia?

Could tooth loss cause dementia?

There are almost a million people in the UK with dementia, which is a disease that makes it hard to think and remember. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which comprises over half of dementia cases.

There’s no cure for dementia and no real treatments either. Therefore, it’s no wonder that people are anxious to know what causes it. Sometimes this can lead to people getting a little too excited about new discoveries, like what happened last March.

What happened last March?

In March, The Express newspaper ran a story with the headline “Dementia breakthrough: Brushing your teeth can ‘help ward off devastating condition’”. Meanwhile, The Mirror covered the same story with the headline “Keeping more of your own teeth lessen [sic] the risk of getting dementia”.

Both stories were about a Japanese study published that same month. This study found that tooth loss is linked to an increased risk of dementia. Essentially, the participants with few teeth were more likely to develop dementia over the five years of the study. Specifically, people with 10-19 teeth had a 62% higher risk of dementia than people with 20 or more teeth, and people with only 1-9 teeth had an 81% higher risk of dementia. These figures certainly sound convincing.

How could tooth loss cause dementia?

The researchers offered several explanations for how tooth loss could cause brain disease. Perhaps people with a full set of teeth have healthier diets, and in turn their good diets help protect them from dementia. Or perhaps even the act of chewing stimulates blood flow to the brain.

The study’s flaw

Before you start brushing your teeth vigorously in an attempt to stop dementia, you should know about the study’s flaw: the researchers found no cause and effect between tooth loss and dementia. In other words, does tooth loss really cause dementia, or is there something else going on? Perhaps tooth loss and dementia were both just signs of poor overall health in the participants.

So what does cause dementia?

Instead of just one cause like tooth loss, dementia probably has many interlinked causes. Scientists think that factors like smoking, alcohol, a poor diet and lack of exercise can all contribute to the onset of brain disease. So, if you want to protect your brain, then certainly look after your body as well as your teeth.

So as long as I exercise and eat well, I won’t get dementia?

Unfortunately, nothing is certain with dementia. Some people seem to be have a genetic predisposition to it, which means that a healthy lifestyle isn’t guaranteed to protect them.

Furthermore, dementia risk greatly increases with age. Only 3% of people in the 65-74 age bracket have dementia, yet this figure jumps to nearly 50% for those aged over 85. Basically, if you’re lucky enough to live until your nineties, you’ll more than likely have dementia.

Take-home message

Don’t believe everything you read in the newspaper. And keep brushing those teeth – good oral health is important for many reasons, even if we don’t know if dementia is one of them.

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