Dr. Joel McFaul
Dr. Betty Wong

(415) 921-0434
2300 Sutter St. Suite #204
San Francisco, CA 94115

Our Blog

Tooth Worms? The History of Cavities and Tooth Fillings

August 16th, 2017

Scientists have discovered tooth decay in specimens that are more than 15,000 years old. The ancients once thought that cavities were caused by something called “tooth worms” … Eew! They didn’t exist, of course, but how else could humans explain the holes that cavities make in teeth?

The appearance of cavities on a widespread basis is often traced to the rise of farming. The new diet filled with grains and carbs made our mouths a haven for cavity-causing bacteria. As we added more sugar to our diets, our teeth got worse.

The “tooth worm” idea didn’t completely disappear until the 1700s when scientists finally began to understand the process of dental caries. Once that part of the puzzle was solved, they began focusing on filling existing cavities and preventing new ones.

Dental Fillings Come of Age

Many different materials, including beeswax, cork, aluminum, tin, and even asbestos, have been used to fill the holes caused by dental decay. Sometime in the mid-1800s, however, dentists began to use metal fillings such as gold, platinum, silver and lead amalgams.

The amalgam we use today is mixed from liquid mercury, silver, tin, copper, zinc, and other metals, but some patients still like the look of a gold filling. Newer options include composite-resin fillings, which are made from a tooth-colored mixture of plastic resin and finely ground glass-like or quartz particles that form a durable and discreet filling. Porcelain or ceramic fillings are natural in color, but more resistant to staining.

Dr. Joel McFaul and Dr. Betty Wong can help decide which filling is best for you, based on cost as well as your dental and lifestyle needs. You may not have “tooth worms,” but if you have cavities, contact our San Francisco, CA office so we can take the proper action to protect the health of your mouth.

How do I prevent oral cancer?

August 9th, 2017

The fact is, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, close to 40,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year, resulting in more than 8,000 deaths. Men face twice the risk of developing oral cancer as women, and men who are over age 50 face the greatest risk. The American Cancer Society recommends an oral cancer screening exam every three years for people over the age of 20 and annually for those over age 40. The five-year survival rate is only 50 percent, and oral cancer, which is the sixth-most common diagnosed form of the disease, is one of the few cancers whose survival rate has not improved. Today, Dr. Joel McFaul and Dr. Betty Wong and our team would like to take this opportunity to remind all of our patients about the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene to prevent the disease.

So, what can you do at home to take an active role in preventing oral cancer?

The American Cancer Society recommends an oral cancer screening exam every three years for people over the age of 20 and annually for those over age 40. In addition, we encourage you to:

  1. Conduct a self-exam regularly. Using a bright light and a mirror, look at and feel your lips and gums. Try tilting your head back to look at and feel the roof of your mouth, and pull your cheeks out to look inside of your mouth, the lining of your cheeks, and your back gums. Pull out your tongue and look at all surfaces. Feel for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes in both sides of your neck and under your lower jaw. Please give us a call immediately if you notice any changes in the appearance of your mouth or any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above.
  2. Don’t smoke or use any tobacco products and drink alcohol in moderation.
  3. Eat a well-balanced diet. This includes eating a wide variety of foods from the five primary food groups on a daily basis to meet the recommended amounts of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats you need in a given day.
  4. Limit your exposure to the sun. Repeated exposure increases the risk of cancer on the lips, especially the lower lip. When out in the sun, be sure to use UV-A/B-blocking sun protective lotions on your skin as well as your lips.

Please let us know if you have any questions about your oral health, either during your next scheduled visit, by giving us a call, or asking us on Facebook.

Is soda really bad for your teeth?

August 2nd, 2017

You take a sip of soda – and someone remarks, “That’s going to ruin your teeth!”

Is that true? Is sweet soda the enemy of a healthy smile? The answer, unfortunately, is that one glass might not hurt your teeth, but drinking soda regularly can do some real damage.

Sodas are one of America’s favorite drinks. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry says about half of us drink soda regularly, averaging 2.6 glasses each day.

That’s a lot of soda considering the drinks are acidic, full of sugar, and have little or no nutritional value. It may surprise you to learn that it’s actually the acidity of cola, not the sugar, which poses the biggest threat to teeth. Over time, repeated exposure to soda wears down tooth enamel, leaving teeth stained and less able to prevent cavities.

As enamel wears away, teeth can become discolored, take on a rough texture, and become highly sensitive to hot or cold. Your teeth may start to tingle, and brushing or flossing can cause pain. If not checked by dental care, teeth may start to erode, becoming thinner and more likely to crack. It’s a pretty high price to pay for a glass of soda.

Of course, sodas are not the only culprits in tooth erosion. Coffee, wine, and some fruit juices are also acidic, though these drinks tend to have less acidity that a typical soda.

So what can you do to protect your teeth?

1. Cut back – way back – on acidic drinks.

2. Add more water to your daily diet in place of sodas.

3. Use a straw when you drink.

4. Don’t confuse diet soda with a healthy alternative. Diet drinks are just as acidic as regular sodas.

5. Rinse your mouth with water after drinking soda. The rinse may remove some acid from your teeth, although abstaining from the soda would do more good.

6. Hold off on brushing your teeth after drinking soda. Brushing too hard can weaken enamel that is already covered in acid.

7. Pay attention to your teeth, both how they look and how they feel. Let Dr. Joel McFaul and Dr. Betty Wong know if you see signs of discoloration or erosion, or feel tingling. Make an appointment at our San Francisco, CA office if you feel tooth or gum pain when eating or drinking.

Ease up on your gums — don’t brush your teeth too hard!

July 26th, 2017

A lot of patients go at their teeth like they were sanding an old floor—that is to say, way too hard! Brushing too hard is probably the most common mistake patients make in their oral care routine, and it can be detrimental to the gums and teeth.

What can brushing too hard cause?

  • Receding gums
  • Bone loss around teeth
  • Loss of teeth
  • Tooth sensitivity, especially to hot and cold
  • Worn down enamel

Brushing too hard wears away at your gums, which can lead to the neck of the teeth being exposed. This part of the tooth isn’t covered by hard enamel like the rest of the tooth and hence the soft inner layer, or dentin, is exposed. Dentin is very sensitive to hot and cold and much more susceptible to bacterial decay. Once the gums recede due to improper brushing, it’s usually irreversible.

How to brush your teeth properly

You know you’re supposed to brush your teeth twice a day, so why not do it right? First and foremost, you should only ever brush with a soft bristled brush—not medium or hard—unless directed otherwise by Dr. Joel McFaul and Dr. Betty Wong. Unless you have braces or specific oral health issues, brushing twice a day for two minutes is usually plenty.

The main purpose of brushing is to remove plaque from your teeth and gums. Plaque is actually soft and is a buildup of bacteria, saliva, and food debris. You really don’t need to brush hard to remove it, just make sure you aim your toothbrush at the gum line (where plaque grows) and brush in small circular motions, never a back-and-forth motion.

It’s also wise to hold your toothbrush gently. People tend to brush harder the tighter they hold their toothbrush.

Still have questions about proper tooth brushing technique or gum health? Ask any staff member or Dr. Joel McFaul and Dr. Betty Wong during your next visit to our San Francisco, CA office; we’d be happy to help!

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