What Happens When Food Gets Stuck In Your Teeth?

Dr Sandeep Patel of Confidental Greenwich

Dr Sandeep Patel takes a look at the tooth decay process.

The fact is that whilst most of us do clean our teeth reasonably diligently, twice a day, only a small minority apply the same regularity when it comes to flossing, with many of us never using it at all.

Failing to floss though, is asking for trouble as failure to remove food that gets stuck between the teeth is a recipe for tooth decay, as well as gum disease.

The decaying process

Although we may attempt to remove any larger pieces of food that gets trapped in the spaces between our teeth, we may barely even notice smaller ones which can remain there for some time. Brushing is essential of course, but this often does not clean effectively between the teeth.

As food particles break down, they provide a food source for the bacteria within our mouth. This causes them to multiply and, as they metabolise the sugars produced by decaying food, they produce acids which start to eat away at the enamel on our teeth. Although our teeth remineralise under normal circumstances, to replenish enamel that is lost through the normal eating process, the speed at which these bacteria grow means that there is insufficient time for this to happen effectively and enamel will start to become compromised. It is at this stage that small cavities start to form.


A dental cavity starts off very small and then gets larger if not treated. It can actually take several years for a cavity to be fully formed, which is why seeing your Greenwich dentist every six months helps to prevent large cavities from forming. As the cavity becomes larger and eats away at the enamel, the bacteria will eventually reach the dentin layer underneath it. This is a softer material than enamel and the decaying process is then likely to speed up.

Once the bacteria reaches the dentin layer, you are more likely to experience toothache due to the porous nature which enables the nerves to be affected more easily.

Root canals and beyond

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Join In With Stoptober For A Healthier Smile

Encouraging our Greenwich patients towards a healthier mouth by kicking the smoking habit.

Although Stoptober officially started at the beginning of this month;  the campaign, by Public Health England, is relevant at any time. There are advantages to starting at the beginning of course, but just because you may have missed out on this does not mean that you have missed the chance to stop this dangerous habit once and for all.

Although some of the struggle to quit smoking comes down to you alone, you may still be able to find local support groups, especially during this campaign. In many cases, these groups will offer continued support, long after Stoptober has ended.

Why should I stop smoking?

There are so many good reasons to quit smoking that it is difficult to know where to start. The following are just some of the reasons that immediately spring to mind.

  • Causes lung disease
  • Responsible for many heart diseases
  • Emphysema
  • Trigger serious attacks in asthmatics
  • Factor in other cancers, including oral cancer

These are just a handful of the medical reason. There are others too, including:

  • Bad breath
  • Cost (a 20 a day smoker will spend approximately £3000 per year)
  • Smelly clothes
  • Anti social, with smoking banned in public places
  • Wrinklier looking skin

So why are dentists concerned about my smoking habit?

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Tartar And Calculus

Dental hygienist at Confidental Clinic in Greenwich

Our dental hygiene team explains what these terms mean and the implications for your teeth.

It is quite likely that several of you will have wondered what some of the words mean that dentists use, for example when recording information during your six monthly check ups.

Some of the terms are ones that patients rarely come across, but some you may be more familiar with, but not really know what they mean. Two common words used that fall into this bracket are ‘tartar’ and ‘calculus’. In fact, these two terms essentially mean the same thing.

Both of these terms sometimes get mixed up with ‘plaque’ which is slightly different. Plaque is a collection of bacteria that forms in a sticky substance on the teeth and gum line. Providing that you brush and floss your teeth well, this should not cause any real problems, providing that you also see a hygienist every six months or so.

What is tartar (calculus)?

Tartar is a form of hardened plaque. A mixture of saliva and fluid from the gums acts to kill off the bacteria, but this then forms a type of ‘crust’ on the teeth. This rough surface is then, an ideal collecting ground for further bacteria that is much harder to remove. The rough surfaces will also attract staining materials and tooth discolouration is more likely. These are not the only problems though, and tartar (calculus) , where not removed, will lead to some of the more common symptoms associated with gum disease; namely inflamed or receding gums and halitosis, or bad breath.

To put the two terms into historical context. The word ‘calculus’ is thought to come from Latin, meaning ‘small stones’, whereas tartar is thought to originate from the Greek word ‘tartaron’, meaning  the crust that formed inside flasks. It is easy to see how these words become synonymous with this particular dental condition.

How it affects your teeth and gums

As we have already mentioned, the rough surface formed is a ‘magnet’ for further bacteria. As this causes the gums to become inflamed, they can pull away from the teeth. This allows the calculus to spread deeper and even as far as the roots of the tooth and the bone tissue; becoming a serious threat to the survival of your teeth, and also proving very difficult to treat.

How do I know if I have it?

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Make Your Teeth Resilient To Ageing

Older patients at the dentist

Dr Lynn Hutchinson discusses how our Greenwich team can help you with age related dental issues.

Good quality dental care is essential for everyone. Whether you are 1 year old or 101 years old, having healthy teeth is important and can have a significant impact on your well being.

Attitudes also change over time, and whereas, once upon a time, the older generation would often not bother seeing a dentist as regularly and accept poor quality and unattractive teeth, this is rarely the case now. Even into their 70s and 80s, and beyond, many people enjoy an active social life and take an ongoing pride in their appearance.

Whilst our teeth may remain healthy and reasonably attractive during our more youthful years, there are a number of challenges that can arise as we get older. There is usually a solution though, and we take a look at some of the more common problems with teeth and gums that are associated with old age.


Cavities can occur at any age, and although older people may not be continually eating sweets as children are prone to do, tooth decay is quite common in older patients. These cavities often occur at the lower part of the tooth near the root. Much of this problem can be prevented by ensuring that you brush around the gum line as well as the upper part of the tooth. Where cavities do occur though, they can often be restored using our popular white dental fillings which is an aesthetically more pleasing option when compared to traditional amalgam fillings. Where the damage is more extensive and fillings are not longer suitable, other treatments such as a crown may be used instead.

Tooth sensitivity

One common oral health issue in older people is that the gums tend to recede, This exposes more of the tooth, and especially the less well protected dentin part which makes them more vulnerable to decay. Keeping your gums healthy with regular cleaning, and routine scale and polishes by our hygienist will help to delay this, although it can still happen eventually. There are a number of treatments including special toothpastes that are available to relieve this problem and we will be pleased to discuss these with you.

Mobility issues

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Correcting A Gappy Smile

Dentist Dr Krina Patel

When a tooth is lost, simply leaving a gap isn’t the answer, advises Dr Krina Patel.

Few of us will retain all of our teeth for our whole lives, however well we look after them.

At some point, whether in our teen years or later life, there is a reasonable chance that one or two may be damaged through an accident, or perhaps lost due to poor oral health care finally catching up with us.

Especially if the tooth is not a visible one, it may be tempting to just leave a gap but this is inadvisable, for reasons we will discuss. However, where the gap in the teeth is visible, we will almost certainly want to do something about it.


Before we move on to where a tooth is missing, it is worth mentioning another kind of ‘gappy smile’. This is one known as a diastema and is where there is a gap between the top two front teeth. Whilst this look has its fans, it is generally unwise as it may cause other teeth to also become crooked if the gap is left. At the Confidental Clinic in Greenwich, we can correct a diastema, either through using one of our cosmetic dental braces, or sometimes, through the use of dental veneers.

Missing teeth

Before we look at the potential solution to replacing a missing tooth, patients should consider the risks if one is not replaced, whether it is a visible or less visible at the rear of the mouth. When a tooth is lost, the supporting bone structure will start to degrade and be reabsorbed by the body. As it does this, it causes a certain amount of facial shape change. Especially where more than one consecutive tooth is missing, this can cause aesthetic issues such as sunken cheeks, causing you to look older than you are.

Another real risk is that, when a tooth is lost, it creates a vacant space. Over time, it is likely that the adjacent teeth will encroach into this space, possible followed by others moving into theirs. The ‘domino effect’ of this is that you could potentially end up with crooked teeth.

The solutions

There are, essentially three replacement solutions for a missing tooth; dentures, bridges and dental implants.


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Why Some Patients Prefer White Fillings

Dr Sandeep Patel of Confidental Greenwich

Practice Principal, Dr Sandeep Patel, looks at why patients are switching from amalgam fillings.

From time to time, there are negative stories about amalgam fillings in the media and claims that these can be dangerous are likely to deter patients from having them.

However, research by the General Dental Council, has shown that the use of mercury compounds is safe in this type of situation. Although they are safe to use, there is a drive to reduce the use of mercury in medical situations, including amalgam fillings. This is largely to reduce the amount of mercury that is released into the environment.

Any possible health issues surrounding the use of mercury should, of course, be investigated, and action taken where appropriate. This is not the only reason why patients of the Confidental Clinic in Greenwich are increasingly moving over to white dental fillings though.

Better aesthetics

Everybody knows that amalgam fillings, whilst strong, are dark in colour and very unsightly. They can even be seen on usually well hidden rear teeth when we yawn or laugh. Where they are used on the more visible front teeth it can be very difficult to hide and can cause some people to become somewhat reluctant to smile.

Because white fillings are made to match the exact shade of your natural teeth, they are all but invisible to those around you. This is probably the main reason for the increasing change from amalgam fillings to white fillings by many dental patients.


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Why You Should Consider An Electric Toothbrush

Hygienist at Confidental Clinic Greenwich

Dental hygienist, Holly Gail, explains the benefits of an electric toothbrush.

The electric toothbrush is now widely found in households across the country. Although they feel very different initially, most people that have tried them do not switch back to a manual brush.

It is definitely possible to clean your teeth well with a manual brush, but we do feel that electric toothbrushes offer a better opportunity to have really clean teeth and gums.

As gum health is one of the key things that we look to improve, as dental hygienists, we not only perform routine procedures such as a ‘scale and polish’, but also like to arm our Greenwich patients with information they need to help them improve their own care.

Why an electric toothbrush?

It is true that there is an initial cost to buying an electric toothbrush, but, whilst they are nearly always more expensive than a manual brush, there are some very good ones available at a quite reasonable cost. We believe that the extra money is well worth spending for the benefits they can provide for your teeth and gums.

The shape of the electric toothbrush head means that it can access certain areas more easily than a manual brush. Providing that you change the heads regularly (approximately every three months or so), this alone should help improve the cleanliness of your mouth.

Using an electric toothbrush is arguably more fun. This probably doesn’t affect adults as much, but is a real benefit for children. Especially before bedtime, when tired, children are likely to give their teeth a half-hearted brushing. With an electric toothbrush, much of this work is done for the child, providing a better cleaning experience. We often find that children like brushing their teeth with an electric brush, and enjoy making different sounds as they clean!

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Is Our Snacking Habit Destroying Our Teeth?

Changing dietary habits presents a major challenge to both teeth and gums.

At one time, most people ate three meals a day; breakfast, dinner and tea (or breakfast, lunch and dinner, depending on where you came from). Times change though and whether through people being time poor or through clever marketing, many of us now snack throughout the day, rather than eating main meals.

It might surprise some of our Greenwich patients to know that, even if we eat healthy snacks throughout the day, this is still potentially harmful for our teeth.

Unhealthy food

Especially for people who snack because they have little time to cook a main meal, buying a ready made snack is a convenient option. Whilst it is possible to choose healthy snacks when we do this, many foods on offer will be high in fats and sugars and may prove to be too tempting to resist. Any high sugar foods are bad for our teeth and should be avoided as far as possible.

The time factor

It isn’t just what we eat, but how we eat it that causes much of the damage to our teeth. Even if we eat a main meal that is high in sugar; providing that we don’t eat again for a few hours, our mouths have time to produce sufficient saliva to wash away much of the food debris and sugars from the teeth and gum line. When we continually snack throughout the day, our teeth are exposed to sugars and acids for a very long period of time, with virtually no opportunity to allow the teeth to recover.

Consequences of snacking

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Giving Bad Breath The Boot In Greenwich

Stop looking for temporary ‘fixes’ and get rid of bad breath!

Most of us probably associate bad breath with something that we have eaten. Garlic is probably the most well known food that can lead to bad breath, but others, such as spicy foods and even coffee can cause our breath to smell. These smells are temporary though, and are simply a hangover from what we have just eaten. In a short time, our breath usually returns to normal.

Some people buy breath mints or sprays to mask these smells, and, as a temporary fix, these may work. If you find that you are having to use these on a regular basis though, there is every likelihood that your bad breath is caused by something more serious.

Causes of halitosis

If you have ever reeled back when someone has spoken to you, because of the smell of their breath, the chances are that it is not caused by food, but by oral health issues. The reality is that if your breath is unpleasant every day, it is time to pay a visit to your local Greenwich dentist to have your mouth checked.

One of the most significant causes of halitosis is, in fact, gum disease. This occurs when the bacteria in our mouth grow in number to the point where they are not being controlled properly. As these bacteria damage our gums and break down, they release gases which are what you can smell when someone has halitosis. Even where a spray or mint helps to hide this smell, your gums are still being damaged, eventually leading to possible tooth loss, and should be treated as soon as possible.

Bad breath treatment

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The Post Dental Implant Diet

No, not yet another eating craze, but sound advice for our dental implant patients!

If you are planning to have dental implants placed to replace a missing tooth, or a number of teeth, you have probably done some research into what the procedure involves, and, quite possibly, also the cost.

Making sure that your dental implant placement is a success though, comes down to more than just the skills of our Greenwich dentist, very important though they are. Aftercare is also important. This includes not only how we clean our teeth, but the diet that we follow afterwards too.

Immediately following the procedure

Given that your treatment involves minor oral surgery, you will certainly need to pay close attention to what you eat in the days and weeks following the implant procedure.

When the implant has just been placed into the bone, and the osseointegration period where bone and implant bond has not really started, you will need to avoid putting any stress on your new replacement tooth. This means no chewing of hard foods. Indeed, we strongly recommend that you follow a liquid diet only for a short while and avoid the temptation to ‘test out’ your new implant.

Intermediate term

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