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.
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 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 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 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 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 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Contact your local dentist today for a routine check-up and cleaning. Your teeth will thank you!
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.
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.
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.
Severe anxiety, phobia, severe gagging, life threatening allergies and the inability to use local anesthetics are among the myriad of reasons that over 100,000 Georgians are unable to receive the dental care they need in a dentists’ office. For these people, dentistry ranges from almost torture to a life threatening experience – yet many want and need care.
In 1999, to little fanfare, the state senate of Georgia passed a law to help these people. Since their only alternative is to have their dental work done while they are truly and fully asleep, “Senate Bill 66” mandates Medical Insurance to pay the additional costs of general anesthesia and hospital costs for these people. Once the often prohibitive costs of being fully asleep in the hospital are handled, a lot more of these people can afford the dental care they really need.
Dr. David Kurtzman, a Marietta, Georgia, dentist who has been treating these cases for over twenty (20) years says, “No one really talks about this law – certainly not the insurance companies!” He had worked for years trying to get these costs paid. Even when he got to speak with people within the insurance companies he called, nobody ever mentioned it. Not until a chance call to the Insurance Commissioners’ office in Atlanta lead Kurtzman to the obscure bill did his office start getting more and more coverage for their patients.
The law states that medical insurance must pay hospital and anesthesia fees for any person for whom a successful result cannot be expected using local anesthesia (Novocaine, etc.) “Because of physical, intellectual or other compromising medical condition” of the insured patient. Anyone who really needs it can now expect coverage for sedation dentistry.
“We are seeing people who have lived with pain and infection for literally years!” says Kurtzman. Care under general anesthesia in the hospital operating room gives thousands of these people hope for a healthy, painless and beautiful smile.
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