Cleanings

Importance of regular exams

Because of our commitment to prevevtitive dental care, we recommend a check up every six months. Most dental problems start small, but then they go through a rapid growth phase. Regular checkups enable us to catch these problems before they become serious conditions:

  • Plaque builup

  • Gingivitis

  • Cavities

  • Cracked or leaking fillings

  • Bad bite

Serious conditions begin as treatable problems

Plaque, which is a sticky film of food and bacteria that forms constantly on your teeth, can harden in as little as 24 hours to become tartar. Even with proper brushing and flossing, most people aren't able to remove all the plaque every day. The result is tartar buildup.  Plaque and tartar buildups are the main cause of gingivitis, which is an inflammation that makes gums swell and bleed. Gingivitis is reversible, but if itÕs not treated, it can lead to periodontal disease, which is an infection that causes receding gums, bone loss, an sometimes tooth loss.

The bacteria in plaque can also cause tooth decay. A small cavity can easily be fixed, but if it grows into the softer inner dentin layer of the tooth, it can reach the pulp chamber very quickly, causing pain and further infection.

Failed fillings can also lead to more decay. Unless it's treated early, decay will most likely lead to a need for root canal treatment and crowns.

Misaligned or missing teeth can contribute to problems with the jaw joint, such as pain and soreness, difficulty in opening and closing your mouth, and earaches.

Regular checkups allow us to treat problems early

To keep these dental problems from becoming serious, we recommend twice yearly checkups. Regular cleanings enable us to keep tartar from accumulating on your teeth. During your regular visits, we will also perform a thorough exam to check your gums, measure the bone levels around your teeth and look for cavities, check your restorations, and examine your bite.

Regular exams are the best way to eliminate the growth phase of dental problems, and minimize the time and money you spend in the dental chair.

 

The hygienist

A dental hygienist is a highly trained and licensed oral health professional who provides you with educational, clinical, and therapeutic services to enhance your oral and overall health.

Hygienists' education and training

Hygienists receive intensive, specialized education and training which includes courses in chemistry, head and neck anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, pathology, nutrition and pharmacology, as well as courses in advanced dental sciences and dental hygiene.  Prior to graduation, hygienists must complete hundreds of clock hours of supervised instruction in clinical practice.

What hygienists do

Hygienists serve several functions in the dental office. They check for and treat many dental conditions. They also clean your teeth, use specialized tools and techniques, and educate patients.  A hygienist will carefully examine your teeth, mouth, and gums, and pre-screen for any signs of decay, periodontal disease, or other problems.  As part of the preventive function of the hygienist's job, she will thoroughly clean all surfaces of your teeth, removing plaque, tartar, and stains from above and below your gumline.

During your dental cleaning, your hygienist will use floss, special cleaning compounds, and instruments specifically designed to clean your teeth efficiently and comfortably, like ultrasonic cleansers and rotary instruments. She may be involved with the specialized treatment of advanced periodontal disease, such as scaling and root planting. Your hygienist may apply fluoride gels of other treatments.  She also takes and develops dental x-rays so the dentist can view them and quickly diagnose any problems that may exist.

Your hygienist will teach you how to effectively take care of your teeth at home to help you prevent decay and periodontal disease, show you how to select the proper toothbrush, and dental floss, and demonstrate the most effective techniques for brushing and flossing.  Your hygienist may also explain the relationship between a healthy diet and dental health, offering suggestions about which foods to select and which to avoid.

Gingivitis

What is gingivitis?

Gingivitis, which is a swelling and inflammation of the gums, is the first stage of periodontal disease.

What causes gingivitis?

The main cause of gingivitis is the accumulation of plaque, the sticky film of food and bacteria that forms constantly on your teeth.  If plaque isn't removed each day, the bacteria in plaque invade the space between the teeth and gums and begin producing toxins. These toxins irritate and inflame the gums, causing them to swell and bleed.  Gingivitis is easily reversed, but if it's not caught in time, it can lead to periodontal disease, a more serious infection of the teeth, gums, and jawbone that can lead to tooth loss.

The warning signs

Some of the warning signs of gingivitis are redness where the gums and tooth meet, swollen gums, bleeding when brushing and flossing, and bad breath.  There is usually no pain associated with gingivitis. It's the mildest for of gum disease, and many people aren't aware they have to condition.  To determine whether you have gingivitis, we'll perform a thorough examination. We'll look for any changes in the shape, color and contour of the gums, and bleeding in the gums upon probing.

The treatment

If we determine that you do have gingivitis, treatment always includes a professional cleaning, which removes plaque buildup from the teeth.  Sometimes, additional steps are required. These could include using a disclosing solution regularly to determine where the plaque is, reviewing the most effective techniques for brushing and flossing, and using antibacterial rinse to help kill destructive bacteria. We may also need to set up more frequent office visits to monitor the health of your gums.  It's important to catch and treat gingivitis early, before it progresses and results in the bone and tooth loss of periodontal disease.




Oral cancer

The American Cancer Society estimates that oral cancer strikes tens of thousands of Americans each year. Only about 56 percent of those diagnosed with oral cancer will survive more than five years.  The reason these statistics are so grim is that oral cancer is often detected in its later stages. But when it's detected early, before the disease spreads to destroy healthy tissue, the chances of survival are greatly improved.

How do we detect oral cancer?

Because early detection is vital to surviving oral cancer, we will perform a thorough oral cancer screening each time we see you in our office for an exam.  We'll feel for lumps or abnormal tissue changes on your neck and inside your mouth. We'll also thoroughly examine the soft tissues in your mouth, especially the most frequent oral cancer sites: your tongue, the floor of your mouth, your soft palate, your lips, and your gums.

What you can do

Come to see us at least twice a year for regular checkups, and let us know if you notice any of these warning signs: a sore that does not heal or that bleeds easily; a red, white, or otherwise discolored patch or lump in or around your mouth; an area that seems to have thickened, raised, or become hardened; a rough patch of tissue; difficulty chewing or swallowing; or a chronic sore throat or hoarseness.  It's vital that you not ignore a mouth sore just because it doesn't hurt. Most pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions are completely painless.

You can also minimize your chances of developing oral cancer by making some lifestyle changes. Don't smoke or use chewing tobacco, avoid excessive alcohol usage, and make sure you're eating plenty of fruits and vegetables each day.


Frequency and timing

Recent research has found that your dental health can also be affected be how often you eat. Every time you eat a sweet or starchy food, the bacteria in your mouth feast on it, and in turn, produce acids that attack your teeth for 20 minutes or more.  And the more frequently you eat, the more your teeth are exposed to these acids, which can eventually dissolve your tooth enamel and cause decay.

One way your diet can benefit your dental health is to combine your foods into a meal. Sticky or starchy foods create less acid in your mouth when they are eaten as part of a mean because saliva production increases at mealtime. Saliva not only rinses away food particles, but it also neutralizes harmful acids and helps to remineralize your teeth so they're more resistant to acid attacks.

So to maximize your nutrition and your dental health, eat a well-balanced diet, limit sugary, starchy, and sticky foods and drinks, and avoid between-meal snacking.


Bitewing x-rays

Why do I need bitewing x-rays?

Bitewing x-rays are the most common x-rays in dentistry. We use them to find a variety of conditions, including:

  • Cavities between the teeth

  • Tartar on the tooth roots

  • Worn-out or broken fillings or crowns

  • Receding bone levels resulting from periodontal disease

What happens during the procedure?

First we cover you with a lead apron to protect the rest of your body while we take x-rays of your mouth. Then we place a small packet of x-ray film inside your mouth. When you bite on the tab on the side of the packet, the film is properly lined up to get a picture of your upper and lower teeth at the same time.

Are bitewing x-rays safe?

Dental x-rays use high-speed film, so the amount of radiation exposure is very low.  Though machines vary, bitewing x-rays add only as much radiation as you'd get in four days from natural sources such as sunlight, minerals in the soil, home appliances, and through the atmosphere from space.  Even if you've recently had x-ray taken of other parts of your body, bitewing x-rays don't add to the total amount of radiation in your system because x-ray radiation does not stay in the body.  Bitewing x-rays are a necessary part of regular dental checkups. They give us vital information that we can't get from any other source.


Brushing

Whether you use a manual toothbrush or an electric toothbrush, proper tooth brushing involves these things:

  • The proper tools

  • The right technique

  • Good timing

The Proper Tools

  • A soft toothbrush: A soft toothbrush is kinder to your teeth and gums, and also makes it much easier to remove the plaque below the gumline, where periodontal disease starts.
  • Toothpaste with fluoride:  Use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste that contains fluoride. Flouride hardens the outer enamel layer of teeth. It might stop a cavity in its tracks and will give you more resistance to future cavities.

The right technique

  • The correct angle of brushing:  Angle of the bristles of the brush along the gumline at a 45-degree angle and apply gentle pressure so the bristles slide under the gumline. Vibrate the brush while you move it in short back-and-forth strokes and in small circular motions. Brush two or three teeth at a time, and then move to the next teeth, allowing some to overlap. To brush the backs of the front teeth, tilt the brush and use the tip of the brush.
  • Brushing in a pattern:  Its fine to brush in any regular pattern you choose, but since the insides of the teeth tend to get the less attention, you might start with the insides of the upper teeth, then go to the insides of the lower teeth. Next, switch to the outside of the lower teeth, and end by gently brushing your tongue and the roof of your mouth. This removes bacteria and keeps your breath fresh.

Good timing

  • Brushing after breakfast and before bed:  The timing of your brushing is important, too. Brushing after breakfast cleans away the morning's food debris, and prevents the bacteria that naturally live in your mouth from living behind the destructive acid they produce when they digest that food. And brushing your teeth before bedtime protects your teeth all night.

Using these brushing techniques, your teeth and gums will stay fresh and healthy.


Electric toothbrush

Electric toothbrushes have become more and more popular for a variety of reasons:

  • They do a good job of removing plaque and stains.

  • They can be easier to manage than a manual toothbrush

  • They are fun to use

No matter why you've chosen an electric toothbrush, it's important to use it correctly

How to brush with an electric toothbrush

  • Make sure the brush head has soft bristles, and apply a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste.

  • Put the toothbrush in your mouth, and close your lips slightly to prevent spattering. Hold your jaw in a relaxed, open position so you can easily reach all tooth surfaces.

  • Angle the brush against a tooth at about a 90-degree angle, then turn the toothbrush on, holding it gently against the tooth and gum for a few seconds. Don'tpress hard-let the toothbrush do the work. Then move to the next tooth.

  • Brush all of your teeth in any regular pattern you like. However, since inside teeth often get less attention, you might try starting with the inside upper teeth, and then the inside lower teeth. Lastly, brush the chewing surface and outside of the upper teeth.

  • Your brushing routine should last about two minutes. If your electric toothbrush has a timer, use it to help ensure that your brushing is thorough and complete.

  • Make sure you brush twice a day, and don't forget to floss.


Flossing

Why is flossing important?

Most cavities and periodontal disease begin between the teeth. While brushing is important, the bristles of your toothbrush simply donÕt remove plaque and bacteria from between your teeth. That's why we recommend that you floss every day.

How to floss

  • Don't worry about the type of floss; they all work pretty much the same. Choose the type of floss you like.

  • Wind 18 inches of floss around the middle fingers of each hand, leaving about five inches between your hands. Pinch the floss between your thumbs and index fingers, and leave about one inch in between to work with.

  • Gently guide the floss down between the teeth using a side-to-ide motion. If your teeth are too tight to floss, or if it catches or tears, let us know about it. These are problems that need to be fixed.

  • Pull the floss tightly in a c-shape around the side of the tooth and slide it under the gumline. Clean the surface of the tooth by moving the floss up and down several times to remove all food and bacteria. Then pull the floss around the next tooth and repeat the process. Wind the floss to a fresh section and gradually work your way around your mouth, cleaning both sides of every tooth. If you have problem reaching some areas, you may want to use a floss fork.

  • If your gums are infected, they'll bleed when you floss. That's to be expected if you are just beginning to floss. After a week or so of regular flossing, the bleeding should go away, and you'll be well on your way to healthier teeth and gums.


Fluoride

The greatest breakthrough in preventative dentistry during the last fifty years has been the use of fluoride.  Almost all water naturally contains some fluoride. About two-thirds of American cities add additional fluoride to the water supply for the prevention of tooth decay. In fact, fluoridation of public water systems can reduce cavities in baby teeth by 60 percent and those in permanent teeth by 35 percent.

The benefits of fluoride

There are many benefits in the use of fluoride for people of all ages. When children are young and their teeth are forming, fluoride joins with the enamel surface and makes it harder and more resistant to decay.  The benefits for adults are just as great. Fluoride can help repair an early cavity, even before its become visible in the mouth, by rebuilding the enamel layer of the teeth. Fluoride is also helpful in older adults, to help solve the problem of cavities in the tooth root or root sensitivity.

Sources of fluoride

We recommend fluoride toothpaste for all our patients. We may also recommend additional sources of fluoride for you to use at home. This includes fluoride drops, tablets, or prescription toothpaste. Fluoride rinses or gels are sometimes prescribed to help eliminate germs that cause gum disease.  We may also apply fluoride to your teeth immediately following a dental cleaning in our office. A tropical gel is applied with the use of a tray or with a cotton applicator directly on the teeth.

Fluoride is an important part of every prevention program. When combined with the good dental habits of brushing and flossing, the number of cavities in children and adults can be dramatically reduced.

Nutrition and health

Keeping your teeth and gums beautiful, healthy, and strong is about more than just brushing, flossing, and avoiding sweets. Good nutrition also plays a large role in your dental health. It requires smart food choices and good timing.

A balanced diet

A balanced diet will help to boost your body's immune system, so you'll be less vulnerable to oral disease. It will also provide you with the nutrients your body needs to maintain strong teeth and healthy gums.

So what is a healthy diet? It includes plenty of mixed fruits and vegetables, and moderate portions of protein, complex carbohydrates like whole grains and beans, low-fat dairy products, and unsaturated vegetable fats.  Also, eating foods like nuts, cheese, onions, and certain teas have been shown to actually slow down the growth of bacteria that causes tooth decay.

Foods to limit

In contrast, eating too many sweets, foods that stick to your teeth (like potato chips and dried fruit) and foods that are slow to dissolve in your mouth (like hard candies and granola bars) encourage tooth decay.  One of the main offenders when it comes to tooth decay is soda pop. Soda is one of the biggest sources of refined sugar in the American diet. In fact, a twelve-ounce can of soda contains about 12 teaspoons of sugar. Soda also contains phosphoric and citric acids, which can erode the protective enamel layer of your teeth.

Bad Breath

What causes bad breath?

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is often easily treatable. There are several causes of bad breath:

  • Strong foods like garlic and onions

  • Smoking

  • Periodontal disease

  • Dry mouth

  • Various medical condition

  • Improper or inconsistent dental homecare

Treating bad breath

Eliminating the bacteria found on your tongue and gums is one of the first steps in getting rid of bad breath. The tongue surface is made up of many tiny fissures. Small particles of food can get trapped in these fissures and begin to decompose. A type of bacteria, called anaerobic bacteria, thrives in these areas, where there is little or no oxygen. Bad breath odor occurs when these bacteria produce a common compound called sulfur.

Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is another source of sulfur-producing bacteria. The plaque and tartar that build up around your teeth and gums create pockets that trap food and bacteria, and create environments where sulfur is produced. It's fortunate that the treatment of periodontal disease will also help treat the bad breath symptoms.

When we treat bad breath, we first remove the sulfur-producing bacteria from your mouth during a professional cleaning.  If your bad breath was caused by dry mouth, we'll investigate the causes and suggest treatment options. We'll also let you know if we discover signs of any medical conditions.  Next, we'll work with you to set up a homecare routine that will include daily brushing and flossing, and may also include tongue cleaning and an anti-bacterial rinse. We may also suggest several return appointments to monitor your success and fine-tune your efforts.

Bad breath is uncomfortable and embarrassing, but the good news is that with the right tools, regular care in our office, and the proper homecare routine, it's reversible. With treatment, you'll notice improvement right away, and soon be enjoying fresh breath and a healthier mouth.