Different types of fillings and restorations

Nowadays, thanks to advances in dental techniques and materials, patients have a much wider range of choices when they have to repair missing, worn, damaged or decayed teeth.

For example, materials such as ceramics and polymer compounds that look more like natural teeth help dentists create pleasing, natural-looking smiles.

The traditional materials such as gold, base metal alloys and dental amalgam are still widely used as they have many advantages.

The strength and durability of traditional dental materials continues to make them useful in many situations. For example, they are good when fillings are required in the back teeth because the pressure of chewing is high in that area.

The choice of the best option will depend on several factors such as the patient’s oral and general health, where and how the filling is placed and the number of visits needed to prepare and adjust the restored tooth.

The choice about which option is best depends on each individual�s needs so you should discuss the options with your dentist.

How mouth protectors can save your teeth

If you take part in sports that carry a significant risk of injury, you should wear a mouth protector.

Accidents can happen during any physical activity and, if you participate in sports such as football, hockey, basketball, baseball, gymnastics and volleyball, you might be grateful for the extra protection one day.

Something as simple as a misdirected elbow in a game, or a spill off a bicycle, can leave you with chipped or broken teeth, nerve damage to a tooth or even tooth loss.

Mouth protectors usually cover the upper teeth and they can cushion the effect of a blow to the face, reducing the risk of broken teeth and injuries to the soft tissues of the mouth.

In addition, if you wear dental appliances such as braces on your lower jaw, your dentist may suggest a mouth protector for these teeth as well.

A properly fitted mouth protector will stay in place while you are wearing it, making it easy for you to talk and breathe. The three main types of mouth protectors are:

Stock: These are inexpensive and come ready to wear. But they often don�t fit very well and they can be bulky � making breathing and talking difficult.

Boil and bite: These can also be bought at many sport stores and may fit better than stock mouth protectors. You first soften them in water, then insert them and allow them to adapt to the shape of your mouth.

Custom-fitted: Protectors that are specially made for you by your dentist are more expensive but are likely to fit better than one you buy off the shelf.

Choosing to wear the right mouth protector can help you avoid serious long-term damage to your teeth and mouth.

Why it�s not inevitable that you�ll lose your teeth as you get older

Advancements in dental techniques and the increased focus on preventive dentistry means older adults are keeping their natural teeth longer than ever before.

A survey by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research showed that the rate of toothlessness in the 55 to 64 age group has dropped 60 percent since 1960.

Whatever your age, it�s important to practice good oral hygiene at home and to visit your dentist regularly. A few simple steps can help you maintain good oral health throughout your life.

Plaque, the sticky, colorless layer of bacteria that causes tooth decay and gum disease, can build up quickly on the teeth of older adults, particularly when they neglect oral hygiene. This can increase the risk for tooth decay and periodontal disease.

So it�s important to brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners.

Regular dental checkups are also an important part of caring for your teeth.

This can help you save your teeth and gums and prevent other dental problems. It will save you time and money in the long-run as well.

How dental x-rays help improve your oral health

Many diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissues cannot be seen when your dentist examines your mouth so an X-ray examination can reveal important additional information:

For example, X-rays can help show:
– Small areas of decay between the teeth or below existing fillings
– Infections in the bone
– Gum disease
– Abscesses or cysts
– Developmental abnormalities
– Some types of tumors

The way they work is that more X-rays are absorbed by the denser parts (such as teeth and bone) than by soft tissues (such as cheeks and gums). This creates an image called a radiograph.

Tooth decay, infections and signs of gum disease appear darker because of more X-ray penetration. The interpretation of these radiographs allows the dentist to safely and accurately detect hidden abnormalities.

The frequency of X-rays (radiographs) will depend on your specific health needs.

Your dentist will review your history, examine your mouth and decide whether you need radiographs and what type.

When you are a new patient, the dentist may recommend radiographs to establish how the hidden areas of your mouth currently look to help identify changes that occur later.

X-rays can help identify and treat dental problems at an early stage and so can save time, money and unnecessary discomfort.

How a bridge can bring back your smile even with missing teeth

If you’re missing one or more teeth, it probably affects your smile and you may also notice a difference in chewing and speaking.

But there are options available to help you restore your smile and limit other problems.

For example, a bridge – sometimes called a fixed partial denture – replaces missing teeth with artificial teeth.

Bridges help maintain the shape of your face, as well as reducing the stress in your bite by replacing missing teeth.

They literally bridge the gap where one or more teeth may have been previously.

The restoration can be made from gold, alloys, porcelain or a combination of these materials and it is bonded onto surrounding teeth for support.

Bridges can be removable � so that you can take them out and clean them � or fixed and so can only be removed by a dentist.

An implant bridge attaches artificial teeth directly to the jaw or under the gum tissue.

Your dentist will recommend which approach is best for you.

Whatever type of bridge you choose, its success depends on its foundation. So it’s very important to keep your remaining teeth healthy and strong.

How a baby’s first teeth develop

A newly born baby usually has no teeth visible but most have begun to develop primary or baby teeth.

These generally begin to appear about six months after birth.

Over their first few years, they will develop all 20 primary teeth and will usually have them all in place by age three.

The teething process is uncomfortable for many babies and they can become sleepless and irritable. They also might lose their appetite or drool more than usual.

If your infant has a fever or diarrhea while teething or continues to be cranky and uncomfortable, call your physician.

Sometimes when a tooth erupts, an eruption cyst may develop. The tooth will eventually rupture this as it pushes through the gums and these cysts are usually harmless and should be left alone.

If a baby has sore or tender gums when they are teething, it can help to gently rub the gum with a clean finger, a small, cool spoon or a wet gauze pad.

When this happens, your dentist or pediatrician may suggest a pacifier, teething ring or a special �numbing� salve for the gums.

When the teeth begin to erupt, you should brush them with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a little water to prevent tooth decay.

Toothpaste is not recommended until a child reaches age two. When a child begins using toothpaste, you need to supervise the brushing to make sure they don’t swallow it.

Regular dental checks should begin after your child’s first tooth appears or by their first birthday.

How orthodontic treatment could help you

Orthodontic treatment is the process of straightening out crooked and crowded teeth, often using appliances such as braces.

Most dentists are trained to treat some minor orthodontic problems but, if they feel a patient needs specialist treatment, they will provide a referral to an orthodontist.

An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities.

One of the main aims of orthodontics is to straighten teeth and correct jaw alignment through braces, corrective procedures and other appliances.

Braces are the most common appliance and there are two types:

– Fixed, which are worn all the time and can only be removed by the dentist
– Removable, which the patient can take out of the mouth

Most patients wear braces for between one and three years, depending on what conditions need correcting. This is followed by a period of wearing a retainer that holds teeth in their new positions.

There may be a little discomfort during treatment but modern braces are more comfortable than ever before. They apply a constant, gentle force to move teeth and usually require fewer adjustments than older apparatus.

While braces work best when children are still growing, they can be effective at any age.

What to expect when having a tooth extracted

The process of having a tooth extracted may seem worrying but you’ll find it much easier if you know what to expect on the day and afterwards.

Your dentist will make the process as comfortable as possible for you by numbing the area around the tooth to be extracted.

In most cases, a small amount of bleeding is quite normal and your dentist will advise you what process to follow to allow healing as quickly as possible.

Generally, you should avoid anything that might prevent normal healing.

For example, it’s best not to smoke, rinse your mouth vigorously or drink through a straw for 24 hours afterwards as these could delay healing.

For the first few days, if you need to rinse your mouth, do it gently. If you are suffering pain or swelling, apply a cold cloth or an ice bag.

If necessary, your dentist will recommend something for any pain.

At the beginning, don’t clean around the socket where the tooth has been removed but you should brush and floss the other teeth as usual.

Modern procedures make having an extraction and the follow-up more comfortable than ever before.

Maintaining proper nutrition as an older adult

Maintaining proper nutrition is important for everyone, young or old but many older adults find it difficult to eat a balanced diet.

They may avoid meats, raw vegetables and fresh fruits because they have trouble chewing or swallowing.

These problems can be caused by painful teeth, ill-fitting dentures, dry mouth or changes in facial muscles.

Others find their sense of taste has changed, sometimes due to a disease or certain medications.

As a result, older adults often have diets lacking in calcium, protein and other nutrients essential to dental and overall health.

A balanced diet has to be based on the five food groups:
– Milk and dairy products
– Breads and cereals
– Meats and dried beans
– Fruits
– Vegetables

Sometimes a multi-vitamin or mineral supplement will help but its best to use supplements only after discussion with your physician.

If your teeth are stopping you from eating the food you enjoy or that you need for good health your dentist will be able to help you find a solution.

Treating facial pain and jaw problems

Chronic facial pain is a problem faced by millions of Americans.

Common symptoms can include pain in or around the ear, tenderness of the jaw, clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth or even head and neck aches.

If you are suffering from this type of pain, your dentist can help identify its source with a thorough exam and appropriate x-rays.

Sometimes, the problem is a sinus or toothache or it could be an early stage of periodontal disease.

But for some pain, the cause is not so easily diagnosed.

There are two joints and several jaw muscles which make it possible to open and close the mouth. They work together when you chew, speak, and swallow.

These structures include muscles and ligaments, as well as the jaw bone, the mandible (lower jaw) with two joints, the TMJs.

Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working together properly may result in a painful TMJ disorder.

There are several ways the TMJ disorders may be treated.

Diagnosis is an important step before treatment.

Part of your clinical examination includes checking the joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty moving.

Your dentist may take x-rays and may make a cast of your teeth to see how your bite fits together.

To help you deal with this pain, your dentist will recommend what type of treatment you need and may refer you to a specialist.