Dental Tips Blog


Advantages of Composite Fillings

Dentists have been filling cavities with amalgam for over a hundred years.  Amalgam is the silver colored metal that your dentist uses to fill your cavity after he has removed all of the tooth decay.

Amalgam is made by mixing liquid mercury with powdered silver and other metals.  It forms a soft past that your dentist uses to fill the cavity in your tooth.  The amalgam then hardens in place.   Amalgam is durable, relatively inexpensive, and easy to work with although it hardens quickly which means that your dentist has to work fast once the amalgam mixture has been made.

However, amalgam has become somewhat controversial in recent years.  Some experts claim that the mercury in amalgam causes mercury poisoning, especially in children.  These experts say that a small amount of mercury leaches out of the filling and is either inhaled or ingested.

To date, there is little scientific evidence to support these claims of mercury poisoning and the American Dental Association, US Food and Drug Administration, and Center for Disease Control have all concluded that amalgam is a safe and effective substance for dental fillings for most patients.

Fortunately, there is an excellent alternative to amalgam.  Resin composites are made from a plastic material with hard fillers such quartz or silica.  Resin composites are just as strong as amalgam, but they are colored and can be made to exactly match the color of your teeth.  Also, they cure using light so your dentist has much more time to properly form the filling.  Finally, composites are glued into your teeth so they actually add support and help strengthen the tooth.

As your general family care dentist about using resin composites instead of amalgam for your next filling.


Mercury Dental Fillings

An advisory panel to the US Food and Drug Administration recently urged the FDA to reconsider its prior ruling that the mercury in dental fillings is safe.  In 2009, the FDA ruled that mercury in amalgam dental fillings did not pose a health risk for most patients.

Responding to public concern following that ruling, the advisory panel was formed and heard two days of testimony from thirty witnesses.  The panel agreed that the FDA’s 2009 ruling was soundly based on information available at the time, but recommended that the FDA consider information that has become available since the 2009 ruling.

Amalgam has been commonly used for dental fillings for decades.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), amalgam is a safe and effective material for dental fillings.  Amalgam is a metallic substance made by a dentist by mixing liquid mercury with powdered silver and other metals to form a putty-like substance.  After removing tooth decay from a tooth, the dentist fills the cavity with amalgam to restore the damage from tooth decay.

Some experts contend that the mercury in amalgam dental fillings poses a neurotoxic health risk, especially for children and fetuses.  However, the American Dental Association and the CDC both maintain that there is no scientific evidence to support the notion that mercury dental fillings are a health hazard.  The results of two clinical trials show that mercury in dental fillings has no harmful health effects in children.

Talk to your dentist if you are concerned about the effects of mercury in your fillings.  Alternatives such as resin composite fillings are an excellent alternative to amalgam.   Your general family care dentist will be happy to explain the advantages of resin composit fillings.


Improving Your Smile With Porcelain Veneers

If you have stained, chipped, or misaligned teeth or just want to improve your smile, talk to an experienced cosmetic dentist about porcelain veneers. Porcelain veneers are very thin porcelain shells that are bonded to the front and sides of your teeth.

Porcelain veneers are made of a hard, translucent porcelain material that looks just like tooth enamel, but is more durable and resistant to staining. Once they are bonded to your teeth, porcelain veneers are very durable, typically lasting anywhere from 10 to 30 years.

The primary purpose of porcelain veneers is to create a beautiful smile. They are a very versatile solution to many cosmetic dental issues. They have been called “instant orthodontics” because they can be used to create the appearance of straight teeth rather than using orthodontics. Unlike orthodontics that canbe uncomfortable and take years to correct misaligned teeth, porcelain veneers can be installed in two or three visits to the dentist with little discomfort. If your teeth are severely misaligned, porcelain veneers might not be appropriate for you so be sure to consult with an experienced cosmetic dentist.

Porcelain veneers are especially well suited for improving the look of teeth that are stained, chipped, or otherwise flawed. They can restore chipped teeth, cover stained or yellowed teeth, hide imperfections, fill gaps between teeth, and extend short or worn teeth.

Installing porcelain veneers usually only involves two or three dental visits. Your cosmetic dentist will first prepare the surface of your teeth to accept the porcelain veneers, then take impressions so that the veneers can be made. Temporary veneers will be installed until the permanent veneers are ready. Your dentist will then remove the temporary veneers and permanently bond the new porcelain veneers to your teeth.


Dentistry for Developmentally Disabled Persons

Obtaining dental care for developmentally disabled persons poses a real challenge.  Many  Americans have mental or physical disabilities that prevent them for sitting in a dentist’s chair for more than a few minutes.  Since most dental procedures take at least an hour and can last as long as eight hours, people with these disabilities are prohibited from seeking traditional dental care.

Also, developmentally disabled persons often experience a high level of anxiety related to dental care.  In addition, there are often transportation issues and concerns about Medicaid reimbursement.

For those with developmental disabilities, the lack of available dental care is problematic because they face situations which lead to dental pathology more often than the general population.  The lack of available dental care for this population only further compromises the generally poor state of their dental health.

Because of the special needs of developmentally disables persons, most dental practices are not set up to provide dental care to the developmentally disabled.  Finding a dentist willing to provide dental care might take some diligent effort.

Dentistry for developmentally disabled persons is generally provided in a specially equipped hospital operating room.  Assisted by a trained anesthesiologist and surgical nurses, a dentist specially trained in dental care for developmentally disabled persons performs the dental procedures while the patient is under general anesthesia.

Medical colleges provide the specialized training necessary for developmentally disabled dentistry.  One way to locate a local provider is to contact one of these programs for a referral.  Also, your state Dental Association or the American Dental Association may be able to refer you to a local provider.


Benefits of Sedation Dentistry

Many people suffer from mild to intense anxiety when even considering a visit to the dentist.  Approximately one third of Americans suffer from some level of dental phobia.  Many people avoid routine dental care which causes their oral health to suffer.

Even worse, some people needlessly live with oral pain because they are anxious about getting the dental care they need.  Not only are these people suffering, but the longer they delay getting dental care, the more their oral health is compromised.

Fortunately, sedation dentistry offers anxiety free dental care for these patients.  Dentists who practice sleep sedation dentistry offer anxiety free, comfortable, painless dental care.

In some circumstances such as severe dental phobia, special needs patients, or patients who cannot tolerate local anesthesia (such as Novocain)  a dentist specializing in sleep sedation dentistry will perform the dental care in a specially hospital operating room with the patient under general anesthesia.

However, for most patients suffering from dental phobia, sedation dentistry can be safely performed in the dentist’s office with the patient fully conscious.   Depending on the patient’s anxiety level, the dentist will use a combination of oral sedatives, nitrous oxide, and Novocain to ensure that the patient receives comfortable, anxiety free, painless dental care.

The patient will be relaxed and may feel drowsy, but the patient is conscious throughout the treatment.  Most patients are so relaxed that later, they do not even remember the entire treatment.  To the patient, it seems as if the procedure only took a few minutes while in reality it may have taken hours.


Teeth Whitening

Most of us are born with bright white teeth, but over time out teeth naturally become stained and, along with the natural effects of aging, our teeth begin to yellow.  The degree of yellowing depends on many factors including exposure to tobacco and dark beverages such as coffee, tea, and soft drinks.

If you want to regain that blinding white smile, you have several options to choose from.  Each of these options will work to some degree, but the results will vary depending on the extent of the discoloration and other factors including age. 

Teeth whitening, also called teeth bleaching, is generally more effective for younger people because the stains on their teeth is not as deeply embedded as it is for older people.  However, with some persistence, even the most heavily stained teeth can be significantly brightened with modern teeth whitening techniques.   

Over the counter teeth whitening products usually use a low concentration bleaching agent applied to the teeth using strips or a gel in a one-size-fits-all tray.  These products can be effective for mild discoloration, especially for younger people.  However, the whitening effect can be uneven.

Professionally dispensed teeth whitening kits available from your dentist use a stronger bleaching agent in a gel with a custom made application tray.  Most patients using professionally dispensed whitening kits see good results if they consistently use the product as instructed.

In-office whitening treatments use high concentration bleaching agents applied by the dentist or a trained technician.  This method produces the quickest results, but it is also the most expensive. 

No matter which technique you choose, you will need follow up whitening maintenance to keep that bright smile.  Also, if you have any colored tooth restorations, they will be unaffected by the brightening treatment and will need to be replaced after your teeth have been whitened.


How Long Do Crowns Last?

Posted in Root Canals

If you have recently been told that you need to have tooth repair and crown work performed, you may wonder how long the repaired tooth will last when trying to decide what type of repair work to have performed.

Tooth repairs are often required after serious dental decay, or after accidents.  Depending on the type of damage, these tooth repairs may take only one or two visits to the dentist, or may require several more trips.  Patients sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t just be easier, faster, and less expensive to have the tooth pulled.

Tooth repair is designed to save the tooth, and keep your natural smile in place.  Even if this is not a visible tooth, the loss of any teeth makes it more difficult to eat, talk, and places individuals at an increased risk of developing jaw bone infections.  Tooth repair is the best option for overall health.

A properly repaired tooth often requires crown placement.  With proper care (including regular dental visits) the repaired tooth can last a lifetime.  Dental crowns that are professionally made and installed by a dentist can last up to 40 years.  It is very important to continue to see your dentist after tooth repair and crown placement, especially if a root canal has been performed.  Root canals remove the center (the pulp) of the tooth.  When this happens, the tooth is more likely to break. 

If you do not receive routine dental exams, you could develop gum disease.  Gum disease causes the gums to pull away from the tooth itself, making the tooth more vulnerable.  Even if a tooth has been repaired, routine dental exams are a necessity.


Root Canals

Posted in Root Canals

If you have been experiencing tooth pain, a dentist may have told you that you need a root canal.  A root canal is a dental procedure where the center of the tooth (the pulp) is removed, cleaned and then repaired.  Often times, a root canal is the first step in tooth repair and crowning.

The idea behind root canal treatment is to save a tooth that in years past would have required removal, or that would have fallen out on its own.  Root canals also remove the damaged area of the tooth, making it less likely that infection will occur, that may damage the jaw bone.

The most common reasons that someone requires a root canal and crown are from  cracked teeth, deep or large cavities, or injuries to the tooth.  Common injuries include falling on the tooth, being hit in the tooth area, or receiving a blow to the head that impacts the tooth.  Tooth repair is frequently needed after automobile accidents when passengers or the driver fly forward into the airbags, and suddenly snap their mouth shut.

After the inside of the tooth is cleaned, your dentist will determine how severe the damage is.  If the tooth has extensive damage, or is very broken down, a post may need to be placed as part of the tooth repair process.  This allows for the tooth to be ‘built up’ before the crown is placed.

It is important to have all necessary steps of the tooth repair process completed.  Failure to do so may result in further damage, including damage to the bone in the jaw.


How Crowns Are Made

Posted in Crowns

You may have been told that you need to have a tooth capped or crowned.  Generally, teeth have crowns placed on them because they have decay or deterioration.  In some cases, crowns are placed when the tooth is badly discolored.  Placing a crown on a tooth allows for teeth to be repaired.

After any necessary dental procedures have been performed, the dentist will first clean around your gum line with a piece of thick dental floss.  This will allow the gum to be pushed down and a good imprint of the tooth made.  Next, a mold of the tooth itself will be made.

During the molding process, a bit of soft, formable rubber-like substance will be placed in your mouth.  This substance has the texture of smooth putty.  You will be asked to ‘bite down’ and the mold will form around your tooth.  This allows for a complete tooth repair, and the crown is an accurate fit for your mouth.  Try not to move, sneeze, or cough (if possible) during this time. 

If you have any discomfort, let your dentist or his assistant know.  Having the mold made should not hurt, but may require you to keep your mouth open for several minutes.  Sometimes, a piece of rubber is placed in your mouth to keep saliva from dripping into the mold.

The mold will then be sent to a professional for creation of the crown.  You will return to the dentist in a few weeks to have the new crown placed.


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.

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