Why your routine dental cleaning is not routine

For many patients, the dental cleaning appointment may seem little more than a more complicated version of brushing your teeth.

However, this appoinment plays a crucial role in patient education and prevention of dental disease.

The appointment is called a dental prophylaxis, or prophy and it’s one of the most important steps in your dental care program.

Here are some of the elements that it may include, depending on your needs:

– Oral hygiene evaluation

– Tooth brushing and flossing instructions

– Scaling above the gum to remove plaque and tartar

– Debridement of tartar beneath the gum

– Polishing the teeth

– Periodontal charting

It’s important to remove plaque from the teeth as it ultimately forms a hard, rough sediment known as tartar or calculus, which must be removed by a dental professional to help prevent periodontal disease.

Polishing the teeth removes stains and creates a feeling of fresh breath and a clean mouth.

The hygienist or dentist may recommend a prophylaxis visit every two to six months.

Although insurance may only cover two prophies a year, recall frequency depends on many factors and should be based on individual needs.

These appointments can help you have much better dental health and could save you a great deal of time and money in the long run.

How cancer treatment can affect your oral health

More than 1 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year and many of them will develop problems with their oral health as a result of their cancer treatment.

While its natural that theyll be focused on their cancer treatment, its important not to overlook the importance of a dental examination as part of the process of maintaining overall health.

For example, radiation therapy of the head and neck area may lead to certain complications such as dry mouth, sensitive lesions in the oral cavity, hypersensitive teeth, rapid tooth decay and difficulty swallowing.

Chemotherapy and other medication can also have significant effects in the mouth.

To help prevent, minimize and manage such problems, the dentist and oncologist can work together before and during cancer treatment.

Many medications lead to dry mouth, which can lead to a higher risk of gum disease and other problems. The dentist may therefore recommend a saliva replacement, an artificial saliva that is available over-the-counter at pharmacies.

Frequent fluoride applications may also be recommended.

If you are receiving treatment, schedule regular screenings with your dentist and contact your dentist or physician immediately on any sign of mouth infection. This may have serious implications for your overall health.

Your dentist and physician both want your treatment to be as safe and effective as possible.

Taking steps to stop oral cancer before its too late

Oral cancer hits more than 30,000 Americans every year but you can minimize the risk by taking steps to ensure its caught early enough.

The first indications of oral cancer may be a very small, but dangerous, oral spot or sore that you are not even aware of.

In a routine examination, your dentist will carefully examine the inside of your mouth and tongue.

If they notice a flat, painless, white or red spot or a small sore, this may be completely harmless. But harmful spots or sores often look the same as harmless ones.

To ensure that a spot or sore is not dangerous, your dentist may choose to perform a simple test, such as a brush test. This collects cells from the lesion which can them be analyzed.

Any positive results from a brush test must usually be confirmed by a biopsy before deciding the next step.

If precancerous cells are found, the lesion can be surgically removed if necessary during a separate procedure.

When caught early enough, the chances of preventing the cancer developing are high but only half of those diagnosed survive more than five years.

Thats why regular dental examinations are so important for your overall health and not just to have good teeth.

Should you be concerned about thumbsucking?

Some children suck on their thumbs and parents often wonder if it is harmful.

Sucking on something is a child’s natural reflex. It can help them feel more secure so they start to suck on their thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or other objects.

Since thumbsucking is relaxing, it may also help them sleep.

However, after the permanent teeth come in, sucking may cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and the alignment of teeth. It can also cause changes in the roof of the mouth.

Whether or not dental problems will result depends on the intensity of the sucking.

A child who vigorously sucks their thumb is more likely to have difficulties than one who rests their thumb passively in their mouth. Young children who suck their thumbs aggressively may even cause problems with their baby teeth.

If you notice changes in your childs primary teeth, consult your dentist.

Usually children will stop sucking their thumbs between the ages of about two and four. They should have ceased sucking by the time the permanent front teeth are ready to erupt.

If your child is continuing to suck their thumbs, here are some tips:

– Praise them for not sucking, instead of scolding them when they are
– If they are sucking because they feel insecure, focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety
– For older children, involve them in choosing the method of stopping

If necessary, your dentist can help by encouraging the child and explaining what could happen to their teeth if they do not stop sucking.

Why cavities arent just for kids

Tooth decay or cavities result from destruction of the tooth enamel and can lead to a range of problems from toothache to bad breath.

Cavities occur when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) such as milk, sugared drinks, cakes or candy are frequently left on the teeth.

Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on these foods, producing acids as a result. Over a period of time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay.

Many people associate cavities with children but the changes that occur with aging make cavities an adult problem, too.

Recession of the gums away from the teeth, combined with an increased incidence of gum disease, can expose tooth roots to plaque.

Tooth roots are covered with cementum, a softer tissue than enamel. They are susceptible to decay and are more sensitive to touch and to hot and cold. The majority of people over age 50 have tooth-root decay.

Decay around the edges of fillings is also common to older adults. As many of them did not benefit from fluoride and modern preventive dental care when they were younger, they often have a number of dental fillings.

Over the years, these fillings may weaken, fracture and leak around the edges.

Bacteria accumulate in these tiny crevices causing acid to build up which leads to decay.

You can help prevent tooth decay by following these tips:

– Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
– Clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaner
– Eat nutritious and balanced meals and limit snacking

Its also worth asking your dentist about supplemental fluoride, which strengthens your teeth, and about dental sealants, a plastic protective coating which is applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to protect them from decay.

In addition, its important to visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral examination.

Treating Sensitive Teeth

Sensitive teeth is a common problem that causes many people to feel discomfort with hot or cold foods and drinks.

It can also make it uncomfortable to brush or floss the teeth and therefore can lead to further oral problems.

However, sensitive teeth can be treated.

If you suffer from this, your dentist may suggest that you try a desensitizing toothpaste, which contains compounds that help block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve.

For desensitizing toothpaste to work, you normally have to make several applications.

If the desensitizing toothpaste does not help, your dentist may suggest further solutions.

For example, fluoride gel – which strengthens tooth enamel and reduces the transmission of sensations – may be applied to the sensitive areas of the teeth.

If the sensitivity is caused by receding gums, your dentist may use bonding agents that “seal” the sensitive teeth.

The sealer is usually made of a plastic material.

If there is severe hypersensitivity which cannot be treated by other means, there is the option of endodontic (root canal) treatment.

Sensitive teeth is a problem that can stop you enjoying your food but is one that can often be solved.

Diagnosing jaw problems and pains – TMD and TMJ

More than fifteen percent of American adults suffer from chronic facial pain.

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.

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.

The TM joint is one of the most complex joints in the body. Located on each side of the head, these joints work together and can make many different movements, including a combination of rotating and gliding action when chewing and speaking.

Several muscles help open and close the mouth. They control the lower jaw (mandible) as it moves forward, backward, and side-to-side.

Both TM joints are involved in these movements. Each TM joint has a disc between the ball and socket. The disc cushions the load while enabling the jaw to open widely and perform rotating and translocational movements.

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

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

Often, 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.

The pain could be related to the facial muscles, the jaw or temporomandibular joint, located in the front of the ear.

Treatments for this pain may include stress reducing exercises, muscle relaxants, or wearing a mouth protector to prevent teeth grinding.
They’ve been successful for many and your dentist can recommend which is best for you.

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.

How braces help both children and adults

Crowded or crooked teeth known as malocclusion not only spoil your smile, they also increase your risk of dental health problems.

Corrective procedures and appliances such as braces straighten teeth and correct jaw alignment.

Malocclusions are often noticed around ages 6 12, when the adult teeth begin to erupt.

The process of straightening out teeth, known as orthodontic treatment, often begins between ages 8 and 14. The best results are obtained when a child begins treatment while they are still growing.

This means its a good idea for a child to have an orthodontic evaluation by age 7. At this stage, they have a mix of baby teeth and adult teeth.

Its possible for braces to work later and even in adults but there are many advantages in starting as soon as possible.

Your dentist will be able to spot problems with emerging teeth and jaw growth early on, while the primary teeth are present.

Thats why regular dental examinations are important.

For adults, its not too late to correct problems such as crooked or crowded teeth, overbites, underbites, incorrect jaw position or jaw-joint disorders. The biological process involved in moving teeth is the same at any age.

The difference is that adult treatment takes a little longer than a child’s treatment. As an adult’s facial bones are no longer growing, certain corrections may not be accomplished with braces alone.

But, whatever your age, it’s never too late to improve your dental health and improve your smile.

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.