Dental Tips Blog

Oct
25

Root Canals

Posted in Root Canals

You just come from the dentist, and you have been told you need a root canal.  This short article will explain what a root canal really is, and what to expect.

A root canal is the space inside of your tooth that travels from the inside pulp chamber to the tip of the tooth.  The dental procedure known as ‘root canal therapy’ involves removal of the root end that connects to the nerves so that the tooth ache will go away.

To perform a root canal, you will receive a local numbing agent.  A rubber ‘dam’ will be placed in your mouth to keep the area dry.  This may feel uncomfortable, as you are required to open your mouth very wide, but does not hurt.  If you have a hard time keeping your mouth open for long periods, let your dentist know so that you can have ‘breaks’ during the procedure.  After you are completely ‘numb’ a small hole will be drilled in your tooth, and then the root extracted.  Depending on the damage, root canals may take just one visit, or may need several visits.  Typically, each visit will take a couple of hours.  You will feel no pain.  If you do experience pain, immediately let your dentist know so more numbing agent can be given.

If the tooth was damaged from trauma or infection, your dentist may start you on antibiotics prior to the procedure.  You may need to complete antibiotics after the procedure.  When the root canal is completed, the tooth will need to have a crown placed to protect the tooth structure.

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort with any of your teeth, contact your local dentist today for a complete consultation.

Oct
25

Crowns

Posted in Crowns

After certain dental procedures or trauma, your dentist may recommend that you have a dental crown placed to help keep the tooth structure intact.  This article will briefly explain what dental crowns are, and the procedure for placing a dental crown.

Dental crowns are a type of restorative dental surgery.  The crown is actually a covering that is cemented in place.  When this crown is placed, it fully covers the tooth that is seen above the gum line.  Crowns are used when fillings become too large to maintain tooth structural integrity, or after certain dental procedures and sometimes after traumatic events.

Crowns may be made out of porcelain, metal, or a combination of both.  Most dentists will use a porcelain outer for any tooth that shows when you smile.  Careful attention will be made to your surrounding teeth color to make sure that the porcelain ‘matches’ your other teeth.  Your dentist may actually use a color chart to match the tooth color prior to ordering the crown.

Placing a crown involves several trips to the dentist.  A mold of the tooth will be made, and a temporary crown placed.  In a few weeks, the crown will be placed and fitted.  You will be asked to gently ‘tap’ on colored paper to see if any raised areas or other issues of concern arise after placement.  A permanent crown is placed with hard cement that is not easily removed.  Depending on the cause for the crown, you may or may not need local numbing.  However, this should always be a pain free procedure, so if you do have any pain, always let your dentist know.

Oct
25

Oral Health

Good oral health starts with healthy teeth.  Having healthy teeth allows you to eat properly and fully, speak more effectively, and gives you a bright smile!  The term ‘oral health’ refers to areas in your mouth, including your teeth.   Poor oral health can lead to other major problems.

Your teeth are composed of four dental tissues.  Enamel, dentin and cementum are hard, calcified areas of the tooth.  The pulp is a soft area that is non-calcified.  The visible part of the tooth is called the crown.  Enamel is the main part of the crown.  Enamel is a cement hard substance.  It is also ‘non-living’…this is important in the fact that if a tooth is damaged, it can not repair itself (like your skin can after a cut, self-repair is not possible).  The only way to correct tooth damage is by seeing a dentist.

Other parts of your teeth include your gingiva.  Gingiva are your gums, that are composed of soft tissue.  They provide the support for the teeth to remain upright.  The neck of your tooth is where the crown joins the tooth root.  Dentin is the part of the tooth beneath the enamel and cementum.  Another important part of tooth structure is the alveolar bone (jawbone).  This is the part of the jaw that surrounds the roots of the teeth.  Severe prolonged tooth decay can actually cause deterioration in the jawbone itself.

Maintaining good tooth structure requires preventative dental care including routine dental cleanings and examinations by a dentist.  A licensed, registered dental hygienist should perform all dental cleanings.  Dental cleanings should be performed twice a year, every six months, to help ensure the healthiest teeth possible.

If you need a dental check up, contact your local professional dentist for an appointment.

Oct
24

Cosmetic Dentistry

Cosmetic Dentistry focuses on improving the appearance of a person’s mouth, teeth, and smile.  Generally, it includes treatments or services that are desired or elective.  However, cosmetic dentistry may also have restorative benefits such as filling a decayed tooth with porcelain or composite fillings that closely match the tooth’s natural color.

Technological advances in cosmetic dentistry such as the use of lasers and new techniques have expanded the options available to patients.  Some common cosmetic dentistry treatments currently in use are outlined in the following sections.

Inlays/Onlays

Inlays/onlays are sometimes referred to as indirect fillings.  They are made from composite or porcelain materials and provide a long-lasting and cosmetic way to fill teeth with tooth decay or structural damage.  Inlays/onlays are created in a dental laboratory first and then are fitted and adhesively bonded into place by a dentist.

Composite Bonding

Composite bonding is a procedure used to correct the appearance of teeth that have been broken, chipped, discolored, or decayed.  A dental composite material that looks like enamel and dentin is applied into the cavity or onto the surface of a tooth.  It is then sculpted into shape, contoured and hardened with a high-intensity light.  The composite material blends invisibly with the remainder of the surrounding tooth structure and creates a bright, healthy smile.

Dental Veneers

Dental veneers are used to correct and repair chips and cracks in teeth.  They are also used to improve the appearance of teeth that are extremely discolored or worn.  Dental veneers consist of porcelain or composite laminates that are adhesively bonded to the surface of a tooth.  They may also be used for patients with gaps in their teeth or for patients who have not had success with teeth whitening.

Dental Implants

Dental implants fall under the category of prosthetic dentistry.  They are artificial replacements used to compensate for tooth loss.  Replacing missing teeth with dental veneers can enhance a patient’s smile and give them a more youthful appearance.

Teeth Whitening

Teeth whitening procedures involve bleaching teeth that are stained from smoking, drinking coffee, tea or red wine, or poor dental hygiene.  It can greatly enhance a patient’s smile and is currently the most common cosmetic dental procedure in use.

Other more dramatic cosmetic dental procedures such as full mouth reconstruction and smile makeovers are also available.  These procedures involve combining two or more of the options above to improve the appearance of a patient’s mouth, teeth or smile. 

Cosmetic dentistry provides a host of options for patients who are currently unhappy with their smiles.  If you are interested in getting more information about any of the cosmetic dental procedures discussed, please make an appointment with your dentist today.

Oct
20

Oral Cancer

Posted in Oral Cancer

Cancers that occur in the lips, mouth or throat are generally referred to as ‘oral’ cancers.  Most of these cancers begin at the base of the tongue and the floor of the mouth (underneath your tongue).  This is why your dentist lifts your tongue and examines that area closely during your routine dental exams.

Oral cancers are common in all ages, races, and genders.  However, the risk is higher in men over the age of 40 who are smokers or who have a history of using smokeless tobacco.  There is also an increased incidence in oral cancers if you have had any other type of head or neck cancer.  Prolonged exposure to the sun places you at risk for cancer that begins on the lip.

More recently, a dramatically increased incidence of oral cancers have been seen in individuals who have been exposed to the human papillomavirus (HPV).  This is the virus associated with genital warts, and there is a vaccine for young girls now.

Some signs and symptoms of oral cancers include:

  • White or red patches in your mouth that do not go away, or appear to be getting progressively worse
  • A mouth sore that just won’t heal
  • Loose teeth
  • Earaches
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck (shows up as a lump in your neck)
  • Pain with swallowing or frequent choking

If you have any of these symptoms, you should immediately contact your local dentist for an examination.  Your dentist is the appropriate person to screen for all oral cancers, and this is one of the main reasons to have a routine dental check up and cleaning at least twice a year.

Oct
20

Preventing Gum Disease

Posted in Gum Disease

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is very common in the United States.  Recent estimates have shown that almost 80% of all Americans have some type of gum disease.  Regular preventative dental care is very important for preventing and treating gum disease.  Preventative dental care can stop a small problem from becoming a big problem.

Gum disease can be mild to extreme.  It can range from mild gum inflammation to more serious disease that will cause bone destruction and tooth loss.  Mild gum inflammation is also called gingivitis.

Signs of gingivitis include red and swollen gums that may bleed easily.  Bad breath may also occur.  Signs of further progressing gum disease include gingivitis symptoms, as well as loose teeth, increased sensitivity of teeth, abscesses in the mouth, gums or tooth area, and unexplained tooth loss.

Gingivitis can be reversed through regular dental cleanings, twice daily brushing and daily flossing.  Gingivitis that is left untreated can progress to further gum disease, leading to periodontitis.  In periodontitis, the gums pull away from the teeth and form pockets that become easily infected.  If periodontitis is not treated, the jaw bone, gums and connective tissue can be destroyed.  Tooth loss will then occur.

The most common cause of gum disease is plaque and tartar build up.  Other things that lead to gum disease include smoking and use of chewing tobacco, grinding of teeth and some genetic factors.  Some medications, including immunosuppressant use, and some chemotherapies for cancer, can cause gum disease.  It is very important if you are taking these type of medications to be carefully followed during this time by your dentist.

Gum disease can be a sign of a more serious problem.   If you think you may have symptoms of gum disease, please see your local dentist right away.

Oct
20

Routine Dental Care

You may have wondered if it is really necessary to have preventative dental care such as routine dental cleanings.  Simply put, good oral hygiene is important not only for your looks, but to maintain your overall health.  Individuals with poor oral hygiene end up with many different problems, including gum disease, tooth decay and loss, bone loss, and heart disease.  General dental care including routine and regular check-ups and cleanings can help prevent these problems.

There are many reasons to have routine dental cleanings and check-ups.  Below are the most important reasons to have a dental cleaning.  Later articles will focus on each of these topics.

  1.  To prevent oral cancer.  Believe it or not, someone in the US dies every 4 hours from oral cancer.  Routine exams screen for oral cancer
  2. To prevent gum disease.  Gum disease can lead to loss of teeth and bone structure.  When caught early in a routine exam, it can be treated.
  3. To maintain overall good health.  Studies have shown that there is an increased incidence of heart disease and stroke in individuals who do not have their teeth cleaned on a regular basis.
  4. To maintain your tooth structure.  Routine cleanings and check-ups keep your teeth healthy…and in place!
  5. To find small, underlying problems.  It is much easier to treat a small problem than a large one.
  6. To have good oral health.  Routine cleanings will help maintain good oral health.  It will also help you have a bright, white smile, and help prevent bad breath!

Contact your local dentist today for a routine check-up and cleaning.  Your teeth will thank you!

Oct
20

Use Your Flexible Spending Account On Year End Dental Expenses

Posted in Dental Costs

Each year, many of us decide to participate in ‘cafeteria’ plans offered by employers to help provide a tax spending on health care or child care expenses.  At the end of the year, it is very common to have some extra money left over in the health care flexible spending account.  This is a good thing.  It means you have been healthy this last year.  But, it is bad because this money is ‘use or lose’ money.  So, what to do with your leftover cafeteria plan money?

Did you know that dentistry costs are qualified expenses under the flexible spending account rules?  Have you been putting off getting that crown, bridge, or dental implant because you are concerned the cost?   

Maybe you are embarrassed by the look of your teeth?  Do you have an extra space or gap?  Perhaps a missing tooth that never was replaced?  Did you take frequent antibiotics as a child, causing some dental changes to occur in your tooth enamel or tooth structure?

Maybe you just haven’t had a regular dental check up and cleaning in a while?  Routine dental check ups are important to ensure the health of your teeth, gums, mouth and lips.  Routine cleanings, when performed by a licensed dental hygienist will help keep your teeth healthy for months to come.

All of these expenses are great ways to use your flexible spending account money and it will be like a free trip to the dentist!  Don’t ‘lose’ the money!  Instead, find a great way to help improve yourself and put that money to work for you.

Oct
20

Preventative Dental Care Promotes Good Health

Recent reports have shown increasing links between gum disease and other, more serious problems such as heart disease and stroke.  Research has shown that individuals with gum disease are more than twice as likely to have heart disease or artery disease.

There are a few different reasons why this may exist.  The most commonly held belief is that bacteria from your mouth grow in higher numbers when you have periodontal disease.  As these bacteria numbers increase, the bacteria enter the blood stream.  This bacteria then ‘attaches’ itself to major vessels and arteries, causing build-up.  This build-up is commonly referred to as plaque on the coronary arteries.  This plaque eventually will become so large that blockages will occur, resulting in heart disease, vessel damage and / or stroke.

Another possibility is that any type of inflammation (including the inflammation associated with gum disease) causes overall inflammation.  Prolonged inflammation in the body is known to also cause plaque build-up in the arteries.

Infections from the mouth can also ‘travel’ and cause other major problems.  One recent study has shown that an increased incidence of strokes was noted in individuals who had a severe oral infection in the last 90 days.  It is also known that bacteria from the mouth can travel to heart valves, causing endocarditis.  Certain patients may need to be treated with antibiotics prior to dental work because of this.

Maintaining good overall health also means good oral health.  Regular trips to the dentist for routine examinations and preventative dental care are part of routine oral health, and should be done at least twice a year.

Oct
14

True Cost of Sedation Dentistry

Many people who have heard about the benefits of sedation dentistry are reluctant to make an appointment because they believe that it will be too expensive.

It is a common misconception about sedation dentistry that it costs more than ordinary dentistry.  The reality is that sedation dentistry can save you money in the long run.

One way that sedation dentistry can save you money is that because sedation dentistry patients are so much more relaxed, your dentist can often complete your dental work in just one visit.  Had you gone to an ordinary dentist, it may have taken two, three, or more visits to complete the same work.  With sedation dentistry, you only pay for one visit but with ordinary dentistry you might have to pay for several visits.

In addition, with sedation dentistry the patient only has to miss work or other important activities  and arrange for child care once rather than two, three or more times.  The patient who visits the sedation dentist only has to make one trip to and from the dentist for the work to be done, and only has to recover one time.

Finally, sedation dentistry can save you money because some people who are too anxious to go to an ordinary dentist find that they have no problem visiting a sedation dental practice.  For these people, sedation dentistry saves money because they get ongoing dental care to keep their teeth healthy that they otherwise would not get.  Without low anxiety sedation dentistry, these patients would eventually be facing very expensive dental repair work because their dental health had been neglected.

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