Dental Tips Blog


Benefits of Sedation Dentistry

Are you one of the millions of Americans who avoid getting much needed dental care because just the thought of going to the dentist fills you with dread and fear?  Or maybe you are or are a caregiver for a special needs patient who cannot tolerate traditional dental care due to physical limitations.  Fortunately, sedation dentistry offers a solution that allows dental anxiety patients and special needs patients to get the dental care they need.

Traditional dentistry relies on the use of Novocain and similar local anesthetics to numb the area of your mouth where the dental work is performed.  Sedation dentistry takes it to the next level by providing intravenous sedation in addition to local anesthetic that relaxes the patient and provides a comfortable, anxiety free dental experience.

Depending on the needs of the patient, a dentist who practices sedation dentistry can administer different levels of sedation from mild sedation to deep sedation.  With mild levels of sedation, the patient is very relaxed but conscious and can respond to questions and communicate with the dentist.  At deeper levels of sedation the patient will fall asleep, but can be awoken.  The deepest level of sedation is full, unconscious sedation.  This is sometimes called hospital sleep dentistry because the dental procedure is often performed in a specially equipped surgical suite or hospital operating room.

Sedation dentistry is a safe, effective way for many patients to get much needed dental care who would otherwise compromise their health by avoiding the dentist altogether.  Only a few dentists have the special training needed to practice sedation dentistry.  For more information and to find out if sedation dentistry is right for you, talk to a dentist in your area who practices sedation dentistry.


Porcelain Dental Veneers

Dental veneers are generally considered a type of cosmetic dentistry.  Dental veneers are a thin shell of tooth colored material, usually porcelain or composite material, which is bonded to the front of the patient’s teeth.  Veneers are generally placed to give the patient a whiter, more even smile but they also protect the surface of damaged teeth.

Porcelain veneers are less invasive than crowns or dental implants and result in a beautifully aligned, bright smile.  They can solve a wide range of dental issues.  Over time, a patient’s natural enamel can become discolored, stained, worn, and dull due to genetic characteristics or use of tobacco products or drinking coffee or tea.  Dental veneers are the perfect solution in this situation.

Dental veneers can also correct moderately uneven and misaligned teeth.  Instead of years of orthodontics, veneers can create an even, perfectly aligned smile instantly.  They can also compensate for years of wear and tear, chips and other defects.

Placing dental veneers requires some shaping of the teeth prior to the placement.  If the patients teeth are only discolored or very moderately misaligned, the dentist may recommend that the patient try a less invasive procedure including teeth whitening and orthodontic treatment before proceeding with the veneers.

Patients with dental veneers have to take good care of them.  They can chip or break so patients have to watch what they eat.  Also, if they grind their teeth they may want to consider sleeping with a mouth guard.

For most patients, porcelain veneers are an excellent way to get straight, white teeth and a beautiful smile.  Talk to your dentist and see if dental veneers are right for you.


Safe, Comfortable Sleep and Sedation Dentistry

Sleep and sedation dentistry provides the most comfortable, relaxed, pain free dental experience possible.  Sleep dentistry and sedation dentistry are similar, but there are some significant differences.  The primary goal of both sleep and sedation dentistry is to provide patients a safe, comfortable, painless, and anxiety free dental care experience.

In sedation dentistry, the patient is given oral or IV sedatives and enters a drowsy, relaxed state.  Many patients are so relaxed that they doze off during the dental procedure. However, the patient is conscious and can be aroused and respond to questions. Patients generally don’t remember much about the procedure afterwards.

IV sedatives are preferred because it is easier for the dentist to control the level of sedation by adjusting the flow of the sedative.  It is difficult to predict exactly how a patient will be affected by oral sedatives.  The sedative may wear off too early or the patient may be too sedated or not sedated enough.

In sleep dentistry, the patient is placed under general anesthesia.  The patient is unconscious and has no memory of the dental procedure at all.  Sleep dentistry is a safe and effective way to treat many patients who cannot tolerate traditional dental cares.  This includes patients with severe dental anxiety, panic disorder, or dental phobia, patients who cannot get numb with local anesthetics, and special needs patients.

Sleep and sedation dentistry is also an excellent solution for lengthy procedures or handling multiple procedures in one visit.  Handling all of the necessary procedures in a single visit can be a real time saver for busy working patients.


What Causes Cavities?

Posted in Fillings

Tooth decay or cavities are caused by acids that erode the surface of the tooth.  Naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth build up and form a sticky substance called plaque. Plaque tends to collect in cracks, pits or grooves in the teeth, around the gum line, and between the teeth.

Some of these bacteria create acids that eat at the enamel of the teeth and form tiny pits.  These pits grow over time and eventually cause the entire tooth to decay and fall out if left untreated.  Cavities often have no symptoms, but in some cases they cause sensitivity to hot and cold food and drinks.

Daily brushing and flossing will reduce the amount of plaque on your teeth as will regular dental checkups and cleanings.  Fluoride strengthens teeth and helps prevent cavities from forming.  In addition, sealants can be applied to permanent teeth to provide additional protection.

Cavities are treated by removing the decayed material and filling the cavity.  Dental fillings can be amalgam (silver colored), gold, or composite resins.  Composite resins are tooth colored so they are particularly appropriate for front teeth where the appearance is more important.  If the damage is too extensive or the tooth is too weak to hold a filling, you dentist may protect the tooth with a crown.

If the tooth is damaged internally or if the tooth pulp is infected, you may be referred to an endodontist for a root canal.  Then a protective crown will be placed by your dentist.

Cavities that are detected and repaired early have the best prognosis.  A small cavity that has been filled by your dentist may last a lifetime.  Since small cavities usually have no symptoms, regular dental checkups are very important for finding and treating cavities.


When is a Root Canal Necessary?

Posted in Root Canals

A root canal is a dental procedure that can save an injured tooth.  Inside your tooth is a soft tissue called the pulp.  This tissue is necessary to feed and nourish a growing tooth, but once the tooth matures the pulp is no longer necessary for the health of the tooth.

If the tooth gets damaged by severe decay, a crack, or break, bacteria can get into the pulp and cause an infection.  This infection can be very painful and can lead to a painful abscess that will cause damage to the jawbone.  The only alternatives are to either remove the tooth or to perform a root canal procedure.

Although there are some excellent artificial teeth such as dental implants, your natural teeth are the best teeth.  Root canals may last a lifetime and are much less expensive and less invasive than removing the tooth and placing a dental implant.  Your dentist may perform the root canal procedure, or you may be referred to a dentist who specializes in root canals called an endodontist.

During a root canal, your dentist or endodontist will removed the infected pulp, clean and disinfect the root canal, then fill it with a rubber substance.  A cap is placed on top of the tooth to protect it.

Symptoms that indicate you might need a root canal include painful tooth sensitivity to hot foods and drinks, pain when biting or chewing, tooth pain that keeps you awake at night, and tooth pain that radiates to another area.


Is Teeth Bleaching Safe?

Teeth bleaching, also called teeth whitening, is a process that whitens natural teeth through the use of bleaching agents.  Teeth whitening has become very popular in recent years with many over the counter bleaching systems on the market.  In addition, many dental practices offer teeth bleaching to help their patients get a brighter, whiter smile.

For most patients, teeth bleaching is safe and done at home or in the comfort of your dentist’s office.  In the past, some teeth whitening products used harsh abrasives that could harm the enamel of your teeth but modern tooth whitening products rarely cause any damage to your teeth and are safe to use except in a few circumstances.

If you have caps, veneers, composite fillings cosmetic restoration you may need to have them replaced to match the brighter color of your teeth.  Tooth whitening products only work on natural teeth and your artificial teeth or restoration material will look darker than your brightened teeth.

Almost all teeth bleaching systems contain peroxide so if you are sensitive to peroxide, consult with your dentist.  Also, if you have damage to your teeth or are suffering from gum disease the peroxide can make it more sensitive so it is best to have your dentist take care of any dental issues before you have your teeth whitened.

There is some concern about the effects of the peroxide mixing with cigarette smoke.  If you are a smoker, consult with your dentist before you start a tooth whitening program.  Also, there is no data that shows that teeth whitening with peroxide based products poses a health risk to pregnant or nursing women or their babies, but it is probably a good idea to wait to have your teeth whitened.

The most effective teeth whitening products are only available for application by a dentist or supplied by your dentist.  For the safest, most effective teeth whitening procedure, see your dentist.


Common Dental Terms

If you’ve ever wondered what the difference between a crown and a bridge, here are a few dental terms you should know.

Cavity – Erosion or damage to the tooth enamel caused by natural acids in your mouth.  Left untreated, the entire tooth will eventually decay.

Filling – The material your dentist will use to fill cavities in your teeth to restore them and protect them from future decay.  Dental fillings can be silver (amalgam), gold, composite, ceramic, or porcelain.

Crown – A protective cap that looks like a tooth and covers an protects the stump of a tooth that is too damaged or decayed for a filling.

Bridge – Several crowns or false teeth put together to replace a group of missing teeth.  These are permanently placed and attached to existing teeth.

Implants – False teeth attached to posts which are permanently implanted in your jawbone.

Dentures – this is a full set of false teeth that can be removed.  Partial dentures are similar, but the patient still has some natural teeth.

Plaque – A sticky material that forms on the surface of your teeth naturally and causes tooth decay.  Brushing and flossing removes plaque and helps prevent tooth decay.

Whitening – A procedure that uses a bleaching agent to make teeth whiter.

Veneer – A thin composite or porcelain shell that is bonded to the tooth to protect it and improve its appearance.

Gingivitis – A infection of the gums caused by the bacteria in plaque.  Left untreated it can progress to serious gum disease.

Sedation – The use of nitrous oxide and oral or intravenous medications to help a patient relax during the dental procedure.  Most dentists practice conscious sedation where the patient is relaxed yet responsive during treatment.  If full sedation is necessary for the safety, health, or comfort of the patient, the treatment is completed in surgical suite.


Dental Specialties

Do you know the difference between an orthodontist and a pedodontist?  If you need to make an appointment for dental care, you will need to know what the different dental specialties are.  Here are a few dental specialties that you are most likely to need.  Many dentists and dental practices work in more than one of these areas.

A general dentist or family dentist is a family practitioner that you are probably most familiar with.  These dentists provide general dental care such as dental cleanings and checkups, routine examinations, preventative dental care, fillings, crowns, and caps.  They may also offer other services such as teeth whitening.

Orthodontists use braces and other methods to straighten teeth.  Not only do straight teeth give you a pleasant smile, but they are also important for your oral and overall health.

Endodontists deal with treating diseases and decay in the soft tissue and pulp of your teeth.  If you need a root canal, you may be referred to an endodontist for treatment.  Endodontists can also replace teeth which have been knocked out.

Oral surgeons specialize in surgery of the mouth.  They remove wisdom teeth, treat TMJ and other disorders of the jaw, remove oral cancers, and place dental implants.

A pedodontist is also known as a pediatric dentist.  They specialize in dental care for children and primarily do preventative dental care.

Cosmetic dentists focus their practice on enhancing the appearance of your teeth.  They may provide teeth whiting, caps, veneers, dental implants, and bonding.

A sleep and sedation dentist specializes in treating patients while under partial or full anesthesia.  This type of dentistry is primarily intended for patients who cannot tolerate traditional dentistry treatment such as special needs patients and those with severe dental anxiety.


Don’t Put Off Dental Care

Going to the dentist is not at the top of anyone’s “fun to do” list and most people tend to put off going to the dentist as long as possible.  However, procrastinating about visiting the dentist can make matters worse.  If you are having any problems with your teeth you should make an appointment and have a good dentist take a look at it promptly.  Semi-annual cleanings and oral examinations will also go a long way toward keeping your teeth in great shape.

Putting off dental visit can be an expensive mistake.  Dental issues that are caught early are usually easy and inexpensively treated but problems that are left untreated for months or years can seriously affect your health and require extensive costly treatment.  For example, if you have a cavity that is caught in the early stages, it is a simple and relatively inexpensive matter for your dentist to fill the cavity which stops the spread of decay and preserves the tooth.

However, if you wait too long the tooth decay will have spread and you may need a more expensive crown rather than a filling.  In extreme cases you may need a root canal or possibly lose the entire tooth and need an implant.

Most routine dental problems can wait a few days until an appointment with your dentist is available, but if your teeth are damaged in an accident or if you lose a filling or crown, you should seek emergency dental care as soon as possible.  In these cases, getting treatment within a few days or even hours can make the difference between being able to save the tooth or not.  The same is true if you have an infection which can be very painful and spread quickly.  You need to be seen by an emergency dentist right away to get it taken care of before the problem gets worse.


Dental Care for the Patient With Cerebral Palsy

Good oral hygiene and dental care are important parts of an overall health care program for children and adults with cerebral palsy.  These patients have the same susceptibility to oral and dental diseases as the general population, but they often do not get adequate dental care.  The result is that their oral health and overall health suffers.

The lack of dental care can be due to a variety of factors including delaying dental care to deal with more pressing health care issues, but in many cases, cerebral palsy patients do not receive the same level of dental care because they can be challenging patients and many dental practices do not have the experience or the inclination to take the time necessary to meet the special needs of these patients.

Cerebral palsy patients may present a number of issues that make traditional dentistry difficult to perform.  They often have poor motor control and unable to remain still during a dental procedure.  Patients may also have severe gag reflex and difficulties swallowing.  In addition, cerebral palsy patients may experience high levels of anxiety about dental care and have trouble tolerating teeth cleaning or minor dental procedures.

Fortunately, there are dental practices that specialize in caring for patients with developmental disabilities.  They understand and are equipped to deal with special needs patients.  In some cases, patients are able to receive the dental care they need in the dentist’s office using a combination of a caring, trained dental staff and mild sedatives.

In other case, dental care is safely performed in a specially equipped operating room while the patient is under general anesthesia.  Sleep dentistry is a safe and humane way for special needs patients to get the dental care they need.

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