Dental Tips Blog


Dental Sealants Prevent Tooth Decay

Even though tooth decay is easily preventable, millions of children and adults in the U.S. suffer from tooth decay.  About half of all children entering high school have had one or more cavities.  Eating a good diet, regular brushing and flossing, and scheduling teeth cleanings and routine examinations twice a year will go a long way toward preventing tooth decay.

Applying dental sealants is another excellent way to prevent cavities, yet only about one third of children in America have dental sealants.  Dental sealants are a thin plastic coating applied to the surface of the teeth to protect the tooth enamel from harmful plaque and bacteria.  Sealants are inexpensive and easily applied by your dentist usually following a routine cleaning.

Teeth sealing has proven not only to be an effective method of preventing tooth decay, but also to stop the progression of early tooth decay before it becomes necessary to treat the decay with a filling.

Dental sealants are usually applied to the chewing surface of the molars which are the most common location for tooth decay in children.  The procedure only takes a few minutes and involves no discomfort or drilling.  After your teeth are cleaned, your dentist will apply a solution that prepares the tooth for the sealant.  The sealant is then painted on the tooth and allowed to harden for a few minutes.

Sealants typically last five to ten years, but will need to be re-applied if the sealed tooth is replaced by an adult tooth.  Your dentist will check the condition of the sealant during regular check-ups and re-apply the sealant as needed.


Are Composite Fillings Safe?

Posted in Fillings

A recent study suggesting that composite dental fillings may be linked to behavioral changes in children has many parents concerned about composite dental fillings in their children.  The study, which is scheduled to be published in the August 2012 issue of Pediatrics, examined the behavior of children with at least two dental fillings five years after they got the fillings and found that children with composite fillings had slightly higher incidence of behavioral and emotional issues than children with no fillings or amalgam fillings.

Dentists have been using composite materials to fill dental cavities since the 1970s.  Composite fillings are popular with patients because they are tooth colored and more aesthetically pleasing than silver colored amalgam fillings.  Composite fillings have other advantages over amalgam.  Since composites bond to the tooth, they add strength and support to a damaged tooth.  Also, less tooth material has to be removed to place a composite filling.

However, composite fillings contain BPA, a chemical that is suspected of causing health problems including developmental problems in children.  BPA is used in a wide variety of products.  The FDA has looked at the use of BPA in recent years and decided not to ban its use in the US although it suggested that further research was necessary.

The amount of BPA in composite fillings is very small and researchers were quick to caution against jumping to any conclusions.  They pointed out that much more research was needed to determine if there is causal link between composite fillings and behavior problems.  In addition, the alternative to using composite materials is to use amalgam which contains mercury.  Concerns have been expressed about the level of mercury in amalgam for years.

The best solution is to avoid needing to have a filling placed.  Cavities are almost entirely preventable by following good oral health practices.  Talk to your dentist about how to best prevent cavities in your child.


Prevention of Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is almost entirely preventable, yet the incidence of tooth decay in young children has begun to increase.  This trend is a serious concern because it reflects the first such increase in years.  For decades, the incidence of tooth decay has been declining across the board, but this new trend indicates that we may have become complacent or drifted away from good oral health care.

The lifetime benefits of good oral health and dental care are well known.  Tooth decay and cavities are known to cause a reduced quality of life due to the associated discomfort and poor aesthetics.  Children with poor dental health do not do as well in school and often have a lower level of self-esteem, both of which lead to lower levels of success.  Tooth decay and gum disease have been linked to cardiovascular disease and other health concerns.

You can give your child a head start by taking steps to prevent tooth decay.  Preventing tooth decay starts early.  Experts point to several causes of tooth decay in young children. According to the American Dental Association, you should avoid giving bottles at bedtime or nap time, especially those containing sugary drinks.  The sugar and bacteria will sit on the child’s teeth while he or she is sleeping.  Also, cleaning a child’s pacifier or spoon with your mouth can transfer bacteria from you to your child.

Wipe an infant’s gums with a soft cloth or brush very lightly with a soft child’s tooth brush to help remove food particles and to help the child become accustomed to regular brushing.  Once the child’s teeth begin to come in, brush after meals with a soft toothbrush.  Start your child on regular dental visits by age one and follow your dentist’s recommendations for good dental health.  Experts recommend taking your child to a pediatric dentist instead of your regular dentist.   Pediatric dentists have the skills and experience to address the dental needs of children.


Dental Care and Your Flexible Spending Account

Posted in Uncategorized

Flexible spending accounts (FSAs)are offered as a benefit by many employers to help make health care and child care expenses more affordable.  Money that the employee contributes to a flexible spending account are “pre-tax” dollars that can be spent on qualified medical and child care expenses.

What many people don’t realize is that most dental care and treatments are allowable medical expenses.  Any dental care for the prevention or treatment of dental disease can be paid for with pre-tax dollars from you FSA.  This includes routine cleanings and checkups, sealants, fluoride treatments, x-rays, fillings, caps, dental implants, dentures, extractions, root canals, treatment of gingivitis or gum disease, and orthodontics.

The only dental expenses that are not allowable are those that are purely cosmetic such as teeth whitening.  Everything else is an allowable health care expense.  These days, many health care policies don’t cover dental care and even those that do often have high deductibles and co-payments for dental care.  The irony is that poor oral health has been linked to a decline in health, especially in older Americans, and also to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Maintaining your oral health is important to your long term overall health and your FSA can help you pay for preventative and restorative dental care.  Information complied by the Center For Disease Control (CDC) show that more than 30% of Americans have not had a routine cleaning and dental exam in the past year. If you have been putting off routine cleanings and checkups, now is the time to schedule your appointment and use your FSA to help reduce the cost of dental care.


Misconceptions About Root Canals

Posted in Root Canals

If you need a root canal, you may be dreading it because of all the bad things you have heard about root canals.  Fortunately, most of that information simply isn’t true.  A root canal should not be painful.  In fact, it usually relieves the pain you have been having in your tooth and you will feel much better following the root canal.

If your dentist has told you that you need a root canal, don’t put it off.  A root canal is dental procedure that preserves a natural tooth that has an infection in the pulpy are in the middle of the tooth.  These infections are not only usually painful, but left untreated they typically result in the loss of the tooth.  You are far better off preserving your natural teeth if possible than replacing a lost tooth with an implant, bridge, or denture.

Some people are under the misconception that root canals only prolong the inevitable and that the tooth will eventually need to be removed even after a root canal.  Actually, a root canal should be permanent restoration of the infected tooth.  Barring any additional problems, with normal oral health care the restored tooth should last a lifetime.

Additionally, in some cases you may need a root canal even if you are not feeling any pain or discomfort in the tooth.  Sometimes the tooth’s pulp can be damaged or infected without you feeling any pain.  In other cases, your dentist can tell that the pulp cavity has been compromised and that it is only a matter of time before an infection sets in.

In these cases, the sooner you get the root canal done, the easier the procedure will be and the better your outcome will be.  Don’t avoid having a root canal.  The procedure is not painful and it will save your natural teeth.


Is a Root Canal Uncomfortable?

Posted in Root Canals

If you’ve been told by your dentist that you need a root canal and you’ve never had the procedure before, you will be more comfortable and be less anxious if you know what to expect.  Having a root canal has an undeserved reputation for being an unpleasant experience.  Common phrases such as “I’d rather have a root canal that to (fill in the blank)” lead people to believe that the procedure is painful or uncomfortable.

The reality is that although root canals take a little longer and are somewhat more invasive than a filling, having a root canal should not be an uncomfortable experience at all.  Your dentist will use a local anesthetic to numb the area around the tooth.   In the past the injection of the anesthetic was painful for many people, but modern dentistry has developed better injection methods and topical numbing agents to reduce or eliminate pain.  As a result, there should be very little discomfort from the injection.

Dental anxiety is very common and if you have any concerns about your level of anxiety related to your root canal, talk to your dentist about sedation.  Most dentists offer some level of sedation using nitrous oxide and oral or intravenous sedatives.  The patient is conscious but may doze and time seems to pass very quickly.  For more serious cases, some dentists specialize in unsconscious sedation.

Following the procedure, your tooth may be sore for a day or two and may be sensitive to hot or cold.  The soreness can be managed with over the counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin.  The soreness and sensitivity should go away within a few days.  If your tooth is still sore more than three or four days after the root canal, see your dentist.


Root Canal Procedure

Posted in Root Canals

If you are about to have a root canal, you may be experiencing some anxiety about the procedure especially if you have not had a root canal or have unpleasant memories of a root canal done many years ago.  The good news is that having a root canal is not the ordeal that many people believe it to be.  Knowing what to expect can help reduce your anxiety and allow you to have a comfortable root canal.

Root canals take longer than having a cavity filled or your teeth cleaned, but with modern dental techniques such as topical numbing agents, improved injection methods, and the use of sedatives when needed, your root canal treatment should be virtually pain free.  You can expect the tooth to be sore for a day or two following the procedure, but nothing that cannot be handled with over the counter pain relievers like Tylenol or Advil.

Your dentist will first numb the area around the tooth so that you will feel no pain during the treatment. A small rubber dam will be placed around the tooth to keep the area dry.  A hole will be drilled through the top or back of the tooth to access the pulp chamber.  The infected pulp will be removed, the pulp chamber disinfected, and the area filled with a sterile material.

A temporary cap or filling will be placed on the tooth.  Usually, you will need a second visit to have a permanent cap placed on the tooth.  A cap protects the pulp chamber and adds strength to the tooth.  Once the procedure is complete and the soreness has subsided, your tooth should no longer hurt or be sensitive to hot and cold.  It will act and feel like your other natural teeth and should last almost indefinitely.


Understanding Tooth Structure

There is a lot more to your teeth than meets the eye.  A tooth has many layers and the root extends below the surface of your gums and into your jawbone. Taking good care of your teeth means taking care of the entire tooth, not just the pearly white enamel that shows when you smile.

A tooth is divided into three areas.  The crown is the part of the tooth that is visible above the gum line. The root is the part of the tooth that extends into the jawbone.  Most teeth have a single root, but molars can have as many as three roots.  The neck is where the crown meets the root.

The crown is composed of a thin outer layer of enamel that covers the dentin, a bony material that makes up most of the tooth above and below the gum line.  Enamel is translucent which means that it is not clear, but light can shine through it.

The white color of teeth is mostly due to the color of the dentin and the enamel gives the tooth its “pearly” appearance. In the middle of the tooth is the pulp and pulp cavity.  In this area is found the blood vessels and nerves that feed the tooth and keep it alive.

The root is similar to the crown.  In the middle is the root canal where the blood vessels and nerves run from the jaw bone to the pulp cavity.  The root canal is surrounded by the dentin which is covered by cementum, a material similar to enamel but not as hard.  The cementum protects the dentum and helps hold the root in place.

Regular dental cleanings and checkups by your dentist will help keep all of the parts of your teeth healthy.


Understanding Why You May Need Root Canal Therapy

Posted in Root Canals

Your teeth are primarily made of dentin, a bone-like substance that is covered by an outer layer of enamel.  In the middle of the tooth is the pulp that contains the nerves and blood vessels that nourish the tooth.

When the pulp becomes infected or damaged by a fracture or some other trauma, your dentist may recommend a root canal treatment.  Not only are such infections painful, but if left untreated, the infection in the pulp can spread to the bone and cause an abscess.  Ultimately the tooth may need to be removed.  Root canal therapy can save the tooth and avoid the need for an extraction.

Although the blood vessels in the pulp feed and nourish the tooth, a mature tooth can live without the pulp because it also receives nourishment from blood vessels in the gums surrounding the tooth.

If the pulp is infected or damaged, your dentist or a root canal specialist called an endodontist will complete a root canal treatment to save the tooth. Root canal treatment consists of removing the infected or damaged pulp and filling the root canal with an inert filling such as gutta percha.  Your dentist will drill into the tooth from the crown to gain access to the pulp cavity.  The infected material will be removed and the infection will be treated.

Then, the pulp cavity will be filled and sealed.  After most root canals, a cap will be placed to help protect the tooth although in some cases a filling will be used.  A successful root canal is a permanent restoration and the tooth can last a lifetime.


Why Dental Care Matters

Taking good care of your teeth is an important part of maintaining your oral health.  Developing good oral health care habits will help your natural teeth stay strong and healthy and can avoid tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss.  Many people take their oral health for granted, but despite being very preventable, oral health problems are widespread throughout the U.S.

About half of all children suffer from tooth decay as do many adults.  In addition, about ten percent of adults suffer from gum disease that can destroy gum tissue and bone causing painful loose teeth that makes chewing difficult.  Gum disease ultimately leads to tooth loss and has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Tooth loss in older adults is a serious problem.  About one quarter of Americans aged 65 and older have lost all of their natural teeth and about 40 percent have lost six or more teeth.  Tooth loss leads to poor diet, loss of jaw bone, and lower overall health.

Most older Americans with full or partial tooth loss rely on dentures to replace their missing teeth, but many denture wearers have trouble eating properly, learning to speak, and have reduced confidence levels due to loose or slipping dentures.  Tooth implants are a better alternative because they are as stable and strong as natural teeth and also stop bone loss, but the initial cost of implants can be expensive.

You can avoid the hassle of dealing with dentures later in life or the expense of tooth implants by taking good care of your teeth.  Brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and seeing your dentist twice a year for dental cleanings and checkups will go a long way toward keeping your teeth and gums healthy.

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