Different types of dentist and how they help your oral care

While many people see dentists as the single group of people who look after the health of your teeth and mouth, there are various specialist categories that help you in different ways.

The categorization of a dentist will depend on their education, training and experience.

Here are some of the main specialist areas of dentistry:

Endodontics: Concerned with the dental pulp – the part in the center of a tooth made up of living soft tissue and cells and root canal therapy

Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology: This deals with the identification, and management of diseases affecting the oral and maxillofacial regions

Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology: Deals with the production and interpretation of images and data produced by radiant energy that are used for the diagnosis and management of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral and maxillofacial region

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery: Diagnosis and surgical treatment of diseases, injuries and defects of the tissues including extractions, facial surgery and implants

Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopaedics: Mainly deals with diagnosis, prevention and treatment of misaligned teeth and modification of midface and mandibular growth

Pediatric Dentistry: Provides preventive and therapeutic oral health care for infants and children through adolescence.

Periodontics: Prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth and the maintenance of the health, function and esthetics of these structures and tissues. Most periodonitist place implants

Prosthodontics: Diagnosis, treatment planning, rehabilitation and maintenance associated with missing or deficient teeth and/or oral and maxillofacial tissues. Includes dentures, bridges and the restoration of implants.

Plus, of course, general dentists provide everyday care and many specialist services to maintain your oral health.

How sedation and general anesthesia can make your visit to the dentist easier

While local anesthetics are often used in dental treatment, there is sometimes a need for anti-anxiety agents – such as nitrous oxide – or sedatives to help people relax during dental visits.

Dentists may use these agents to induce “minimal or moderate sedation”.

In this case, the patient reaches a relaxed state during treatment but can respond to speech or touch.

Sedatives can be administered before, during or after dental procedures by mouth, inhalation or injection.

More complex treatments may require drugs that can induce “deep sedation”.

This reduces consciousness and causes a loss of feeling which helps to reduce both pain and anxiety.

Sometimes patients undergo “general anesthesia” where the drugs lead to a temporary loss of consciousness.

A dentist may recommend deep sedation or general anesthesia for certain procedures with children or with adults who have severe anxiety or for people who have difficulty controlling their movements.

While these techniques to control pain and anxiety are used to treat tens of millions of patients safely every year, its important that you let your dentist know anything that might affect your ability to benefit from them for example, tell them about any illnesses or health conditions, whether you are taking any medications and if you’ve had any problems with allergic reactions to medications.

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.

Why dry mouth can be a problem and what to do about it

Your saliva plays an important role in your oral health and reduced saliva flow can lead to health problems.

Reduced saliva flow can lead to a dry mouth and this is a common problem among older adults.

It can be caused by various medical disorders and is often a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers and diuretics.

Dry mouth can be associated with various problems such as a constant sore throat, burning sensation, problems speaking, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or dry nasal passages.

Drying irritates the soft tissues in the mouth, which can make them inflamed and more susceptible to infection. Without the cleansing effects of saliva, tooth decay and other oral health problems become more common.

So, if dry mouth is not treated, it can damage your teeth.

Without adequate saliva to lubricate your mouth, wash away food, and neutralize the acids produced by plaque, extensive decay can occur.

Your dentist can recommend various methods to restore moisture. Sugar-free candy or gum stimulates saliva flow, and moisture can be replaced by using artificial saliva and oral rinses.

The early years of dentistry and teeth

Although there have been huge advances in dental care in recent years, there are records of people dealing with teeth going back over thousands of years.

Here are some of the key dates from the early years in the development of dentistry.

5000 BC: A Sumerian text describes tooth worms as the cause of dental decay.

2600 BC: Hesy-Re, an Egyptian scribe, often called the first dentist, dies. An inscription on his tomb includes the title the greatest of those who deal with teeth, and of physicians.

500-300 BC: Hippocrates and Aristotle write about dentistry, including the eruption pattern of teeth, treating decayed teeth and gum disease, extracting teeth with forceps, and using wires to stabilize loose teeth and fractured jaws.

166-201 AD: The Etruscans practice dental prosthetics using gold crowns and fixed bridgework.

500-1000: During the Early Middle Ages in Europe, medicine, surgery, and dentistry, are generally practiced by monks, the most educated people of the period

700: A medical text in China mentions the use of silver paste, a type of amalgam.

1130-1163: A series of Papal edicts prohibit monks from performing any type of surgery, bloodletting or tooth extraction. Barbers often assisted monks in their surgical ministry because they visited monasteries to shave the heads of monks and the tools of the barber trade sharp knives and razors were useful for surgery. Following the edicts, barbers assume the monks surgical duties: bloodletting, lancing abscesses, extracting teeth, etc.

1210: A Guild of Barbers is established in France. Barbers eventually evolve into two groups: surgeons who were educated and trained to perform complex surgical operations; and lay barbers, or barber-surgeons, who performed more routine hygienic services including shaving, bleeding and tooth extraction.

1400s: A series of royal decrees in France prohibit lay barbers from practicing all surgical procedures except bleeding, cupping, leeching, and extracting teeth.

How older adults can handle dry mouth and taste problems

Reduced saliva flow that results in a dry mouth is a common problem among older adults.

It is caused by certain medical disorders and is often a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers and diuretics.

Some of the common problems associated with dry mouth include:
– Constant sore throat
– Burning sensation
– Problems speaking
– Difficulty swallowing
– Hoarseness or dry nasal passages

Left untreated, dry mouth can damage your teeth. Without adequate saliva to lubricate your mouth, wash away food, and neutralize the acids produced by plaque, extensive cavities can form.

Your dentist can recommend various methods to restore moisture. For example, sugar-free candy or gum stimulates saliva flow, and moisture can be replaced by using artificial saliva and oral rinses.

Another issue that can affect older adults is a loss of appetite due to a change in your sense of taste. Besides an age-related decrease in the sense of taste and smell, certain diseases, medications and dentures can contribute to a decrease in your sense of taste.

Whether you are suffering from dry mouth or problems with your sense of taste, your dentist will be able to make suggestions to help.

Is bottled or tap water better for your teeth?

With many people concerned about the taste and purity of tap water, the sales of bottled water have increased significantly in recent years.

Tap water goes through a process of purification designed to eliminate suspended materials, remove tastes and odors and kill microorganisms.

Fluoride is added to most tap water supplies with the aim of reducing cavities.

Fluoride becomes incorporated into our teeth as they develop and makes them more resistant to decay. It can reverse the progress of early cavities and reduce the need for dental treatment.

Mass water fluoridation has played an important role in reducing tooth decay.

The problem with bottled waters is that they usually don’t contain fluoride.

So there is a risk that drinking bottled water can increase the risk of cavities for some people.

If you drink a lot of bottled water, you can make up for this by using fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinse.

Your dentist may even suggest a fluoride supplement if they notice an increase in cavities.

How to take care of your teeth with braces

Braces are orthodontic apparatus used to help fix crooked and crowded teeth.

While modern braces can be comfortable and inconspicuous, you may have to take extra steps to care for your teeth when wearing them.

Its important that you continue good oral hygiene practices while wearing braces.

You need to continue brushing regularly, following the approach suggested by your dentist, as well as flossing daily and making regular visits to the dentist.

People with braces should stick to a balanced diet and limit the number of snacks between meals.

Your dentist may suggest that you avoid certain foods that could interfere with braces or accidentally bend the wires. This can include nuts, popcorn, hard candy, ice and sticky foods such as chewing gum or caramel.

You can still continue to enjoy sports and other activities but a protective mouth guard is often recommended to reduce the risk of injury to the mouth or jaw. Your dentist will suggest an appropriate mouth guard when the braces are in place.

Braces can make a big difference to your smile and your future dental health. Modern technology and following good practices means you should be able to wear them with comfort and confidence.

Things to look out for during pregnancy

Every woman wants to maintain their own health during pregnancy and to take whatever steps are necessary to give the baby the best possible start.

There are a few factors in your oral health to look out for during this time.

One consideration is that its common for pregnant women to have the urge to eat between meals. The risk is that frequent snacking on carbohydrate-containing foods can encourage tooth decay.

Bacteria in your mouth called plaque can convert the sugar and starch in your mouth into an acid that attacks tooth enamel. After repeated attacks, tooth decay can result.

So, when you need a snack, try to choose foods that are nutritious for you and your baby such as raw fruits and vegetables and dairy products.

During pregnancy, your bodys hormone levels rise considerably. Gum problems, such as gingivitis, are especially common during the second to eighth months of pregnancy. They may cause red, puffy or tender gums that bleed when you brush.

This is an exaggerated response to plaque caused by higher levels of progesterone in your system. Your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings at some stages to help you avoid problems.

Occasionally overgrowths of gum tissue, called pregnancy tumors, appear on the gums during the second trimester. These localized growths or swellings are usually found between the teeth and are thought to be related to excess plaque.

They bleed easily and are often surgically removed after the baby is born.

Studies indicate that pregnant women who have severe periodontal (gum) disease may be at increased risk for pre-term delivery, which in turn increases the risk of having a low-birth-weight baby.

So its particularly important to maintain good oral health during pregnancy. Make sure you clean your teeth carefully and visit your dentist regularly.

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.