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Seeing Through Fog

Sept. 1, 2008
When fluffy clouds come down from overhead and touch the earth’s surface, they are no longer called clouds but fog.

By Karen Kaiser, RDH

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When fluffy clouds come down from overhead and touch the earth’s surface, they are no longer called clouds but fog.

Fog arises when cool air reaches a dew point along with a multitude of amassed moisture; the water vapor floating in the air then becomes the familiar thick fog. Another way to figure the formation of fog is more fundamental in nature. Air becomes thick with water droplets and condenses. Because the droplets are close to the ground, fog forms. With no wind, fog settles close to the ground; a breeze will cause the fog to spread and likely form in low-lying areas. After a rain, evaporating moisture on the surface of the ground gives rise to precipitation fog. Another type of fog is that which floats over water. Fog forms over the cold water and rolls over onto land. In the morning, evaporation fog is common. This type is formed by dew evaporating as the sun rises, burning off the fog at first light.

Visibility Hazard

As anyone who drives a motor vehicle during foggy conditions knows, visibility is reduced and extreme caution must be taken. Because fog can be dense and difficult to see through, automobiles can come equipped with fog lamps, which provide a low-beam headlight to see better through the fog layer. Fog develops on dental mirrors as well, making visibility in the mouth difficult. When patients inhale and exhale, the breath may form condensation, fogging the mirror and distorting tooth and tissue images. This makes it impossible for the clinician to work, because he or she has to rinse the mirror with water or keep wiping the reflective face of the mirror on the patient’s inner moistened cheek repeatedly throughout treatment.

A quick solution is to apply mirror defogging products to coat the mirror and improve viewing. Cetylite Company has a product called Dee Fog available in a convenient spray, making application on the mirror surface simple. This spray has an agreeable, mild taste so there is little objection from the patient when the clinician uses the product. Preventing fogging with these simple products is inexpensive, and they last quite awhile once they are applied. Liquid preparations may be applied with a moistened 2x2 when needed or simply dripped evenly on the glass. Sunstar Americas has a defogger product called Clear Dip which is available in a 16 ounce bottle.

When merely wiping the mirror face is too time consuming, try the Mirror-Wipe System from Holmes Dental. This system has a wick that is saturated by cotton rolls complete with a dispenser. Here’s how it works. The antifog solution cleans and protects the mirror face with a defogging agent when the mirror face is wiped across the wick and reservoir from the no-spill dispenser.

A cloud that is not yet true fog lingering on the ground surface may still become fog when it reaches a higher elevation, such as a hilltop or mountain rim. Fog, however, is distinct from mist (which may also be found in higher elevations) only in density. For a germ-killing mist for your mouth, look to Listerine brand. The Listerine oral care PocketMist is a handy, palm-sized breath freshener in a nonaerosol spray which may be fastened to a keychain for easy dispensing. Each unit delivers more than 140 breath-freshening blasts that eliminate 99.9% of odiferous germs with a finger-activated trigger. Listerine offers two types of PocketMist. Both cool mint and fresh citrus mist are sugar-free and leave the mouth feeling clean and fresh.

Sometimes precipitation occurs in the form of drizzle as a result of droplet-filled fog. When a fog’s humidity reaches the 100% mark due to large water drops, rainy drizzle occurs. When the mouth feels less than watery from xerostomia and requires nourishing moisture, try a product designed to bring rapid relief. Xlear has an all-natural mouth spray, Rain, that includes a dose of the natural sweetener xylitol. With insufficient saliva flow, mouth bacteria can thrive and cause decay and other infections. Available in natural-flavored spearmint, the mouthrinse is mild and pleasing to the palate. It comes in a pump spray. By naturally increasing saliva production, sufferers find relief while speaking, chewing, and swallowing when they use the Spry line.

Surprisingly, an absolutely dry field is not always required when working in the confines of a moist mouth. In fact, some products fortunately take into account the fact that wetness is present, and these products bond in either a dry or moist field. Products like these are very welcome when saliva is flowing and the sealing surface is tricky to reach. Sealant materials are generally designed for air-dried tooth surface placement; however, some products formulated as a glass ionomer type may even be placed on a surface which remains moist. GC America offers radiopaque Fuji TRIAGE, which is delivered via a clinician-activated, premeasured capsule and carrier. No agent is required for bonding to the tooth as the material is self-sealing. Another benefit of this glass ionomer is that it is fluoride-releasing to further become a sub and surface protector. An additional glass ionomer, capsule-type sealant is Riva Protect from SDI Company. This protective shield bonds to teeth and fortifies those tough-to-seal areas, such as partially erupting molars or areas of root decay. It comes complete with fluoride and amorphous calcium phosphate for enhanced remineralization.

Fog may be an unexpected hazard for drivers when they are suddenly caught off guard by the fog’s thickness, low visibility, and precarious driving conditions. To prevent finding oneself in a foggy situation in the mouth, consider using antifogging agents on reflective mirror surfaces. Localized fog is especially risky, and so is being faced with stale breath. Spray a germ-fighting mouth mist when breath becomes a fetid fog. When oral conditions require additional humidity, swish some Rain for relief. Consider applying moisture-friendly, quick-setting glass ionomer sealants for success when dampness arises. Eliminate hazy conditions by using products to boost moisture or fight the fog.

The author did not receive compensation for products mentioned. Have a clear view and visit the net at,,,,, and

About the Author

Karen Kaiser, RDH, graduated from St. Louis’ Forest Park dental hygiene program in 1994 and currently practices at the Center for Contemporary Dentistry in Columbia, Ill. She has written several articles for RDH and other publications, sits on dental hygiene panels, and is an evaluator for Clinical Research Associates. She can be contacted at [email protected].