Your Oral Health

Your Oral Health

There are a myriad of topics when considering one’s oral health and an equal number of questions that come up during routine check ups. Does my child need fluoride supplements? Is the mercury in my silver fillings doing any long term harm to my health? What are the sterilization methods used in the dental office?
The following section is an overview of some of the most current information relating to oral health topics, chosen from discriminating and authorative resources like the ADA and CDA.

Feel free to also visit the American Dental Association and Canadian Dental Association websites for the more current news and information.

X-Rays

X-Rays

When X-rays pass through your mouth during a dental exam, more X-rays are absorbed by the denser parts (such as teeth and bone) than by soft tissues (such as cheeks and gums) before striking the film or x-ray sensor (in the case of digital x-rays). This creates an image on the radiograph. Teeth appear lighter because fewer X-rays penetrate to reach the film. Cavities and the resultant bone loss from gum disease appear as darker areas because of more X-ray penetration. The interpretation of these X-rays allows the dentist to safely and accurately detect hidden abnormalities.

How often dental X-rays (radiographs) should be taken depends on the patient`s individual health needs. It is important to recognize that just as each patient is different from the next, so should the scheduling of Xray exams be individualized for each patient. Your medical and dental history will be reviewed and your mouth examined before a decision is made to take X-rays of your teeth.

The schedule for needing radiographs at recall visits varies according to your age, risk for disease and signs and symptoms. Recent films may be needed to detect new cavities, or to determine the status of gum disease or for evaluation of growth and development. Children may need X-rays more often than adults. This is because their teeth and jaws are still developing and because their teeth are more likely to be affected by tooth decay than those of adults.

Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that erupt in the back corners of the upper and lower normal adult mouth. Unfortunately, most people experience problems from wisdom teeth; in most cases, this is because the teeth erupt too close to existing permanent teeth, causing crowding, improper bites, and other problems.

If wisdom teeth are causing a problem and are not pulled, they can sometimes become impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth can be extremely painful, as well as harmful to your oral health. Symptoms are easy to spot: pain, inflammation, and some kinds of infections.

Many people need to have their wisdom teeth extracted to avoid future serious problems. In general, the lack of the four wisdom teeth does not hamper one’s ability to properly bite down, speak or eat.

Women and Tooth Care

Women and Tooth Care

Women have special needs when it comes to their oral health. That’s because the physical changes they undergo through life-things like menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth, breast-feeding and menopause-cause many changes in the body, some harmful to teeth and gums.

Lesions and ulcers, dry sockets, as well as swollen gums, can sometimes occur during surges in a woman’s hormone levels. These periods would be a prime time to visit the dentist. Birth control pills have been shown to increase the risk of gingivitis, and hormone replacement therapy has been shown to cause bleeding and swollen gums. Gum disease can also present a higher risk for premature births.

Some research has shown that women may be more likely to develop dry mouth, eating disorders, jaw problems such as temporomandibular joint disorders, and facial pain-all of which can be difficult from a physical and emotional standpoint.

Taking care of your oral health is essential, and can go a long way to helping you face the physical changes in your body over the years.

What is involved in the placement of my dental implant?

What is involved in the placement of my dental implant?

Dental implant treatment is often performed with a team.

The team consists of a restorative dentist who will ultimately fabricate the prosthesis or teeth that are to be replaced; and an experienced surgeon who will place the dental implants in the jaw bone. Careful evaluation of the patient and meticulous planning is essential in providing predictable and satisfactory results.

The treatment consists of 3 phases. The first phase of treatment is the placement of the implant (the root shaped, titanium screw that is commonly referred to as the ‘fixture’) by the surgical specialist. The second phase of the implant treatment is performed after an appropriate period of healing. Bone heals slowly. A period of approximately 3-6 months is required for the process of osseointegration to be complete. The second phase of treatment consists of the placement of abutments or small metal posts to the implanted fixtures. The third phase of treatment consists of the restorative phase. In this phase the new replacement teeth are fabricated and placed on the implants and abutments.

Veneers

Veneers

A conservative procedure usually requiring minimal anesthesia, veneers are an excellent option to improve the appearance of front teeth. These extremely thin shells of either composite resin filling material, or the more durable ceramic (porcelain), are bonded to the teeth.

Whether enhancing tooth color or shape, masking discolorations, closing moderate spaces, or straightening out minor crowding, veneers can be an excellent alternative to full crowns to create pleasing and esthetic smiles. They have the added advantage of requiring less tooth preparation than full crowns.

Cases involving front teeth with deep staining (eg. discoloration of teeth due to exposure to the antibiotic tetracycline- in utero or in infancy), older discolored fillings, damage due to injury or wear, or unattractive gaps or minor crowding of front teeth may only require a few appointments to achieve pleasing cosmetic results that last for years.

Types of Dental Floss

Types of Dental Floss

Types of Floss

Dental floss comes in a variety of colors, materials and even flavors. Waxed varieties slide through the teeth, allowing people with extremely tight spaces to floss more easily. Popular flavors of floss include wintergreen and cinnamon. Waxed floss does tend to fray more than unwaxed floss.

A type of material called dental tape can be effective for people with large spaces between their teeth, or for people with bridge work.

Floss can be purchased in small self-dispensing boxes. Floss can also be purchased in special, single-use holders, which are useful for people who have a hard time wrapping floss around their fingers, including those with dexterity problems or arthritis.

Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

Teeth grinding, also called bruxism, is often viewed as a harmless, though annoying, habit. Some people develop bruxism from an inability to deal with stress or anxiety.

However, teeth grinding can literally transform your bite relationship and worse, severely damage your teeth and jaws over long periods of time.

Teeth grinding can cause abrasion to the chewing surfaces of your teeth. This abnormal wear and tear will prematurely age and loosen your teeth, and open them to problems such as hypersensitivity (from the small cracks that form, exposing your dentin.) Bruxism can also lead to chronic jaw and facial pain, as well as headaches.

If no one has told you that you grind your teeth, here are a few clues that you may suffer from bruxism:

  • Your jaw is often sore, or you hear popping sounds when you open and close your mouth.
  • Your teeth look abnormally short or worn down.
  • You notice small dents in your tongue.

Bruxism is somewhat treatable. A common therapy involves use of a special appliance worn while sleeping. Less intrusive, though just as effective methods could involve biofeedback, and behavior modification, such as tongue exercises and learning how to properly align your tongue, teeth and lips.

Toothaches

Toothaches

Simple toothaches can often be relieved by rinsing the mouth to clear it of debris and other matter. Sometimes, a toothache can be caused or aggravated by a piece of debris lodged between the tooth and another tooth. Avoid placing an aspirin between your tooth and gum to relieve pain, because the dissolving aspirin can actually harm your gum tissue.

Broken, Fractured, or Displaced Tooth
A broken, fractured or displaced tooth is usually not a cause for alarm, as long as decisive, quick action is taken.

If the tooth has been knocked out, try to place the tooth back in its socket while waiting to see your dentist.

First, rinse the mouth of any blood or other debris and place a cold cloth or compress on the check near the injury. This will keep down swelling.

If you cannot place the tooth back in its socket, hold the dislocated tooth by the crown – not the root. Next, place it in a container of warm milk, saline or the victim’s own saliva and keep it in the solution until you arrive at the emergency room or dentist’s office.

For a fractured tooth, it is best to rinse with warm water and again, apply a cold pack or compress. Ibuprofen may be used to help keep down swelling.

If the tooth fracture is minor, the tooth can be sanded or if necessary, restored by the dentist if the pulp is not severely damaged.

If a child’s primary tooth has been loosened by an injury or an emerging permanent tooth, try getting the child to gently bite down on an apple or piece of caramel; in some cases, the tooth will easily separate from the gum.

Tobacco

Tobacco

The American and Canadian Dental Associations, along with all North American regional dental associations and societies have been at the forefront in the battle against tobacco-related disease, working to educate the public about the dangers inherent in tobacco use and encouraging dentists to help their patients break the cycle of addiction. The dental community has continually strengthened and updated its tobacco policies as new scientific information has become available.

Frequently asked questions: tobacco products

What effects can smoking have on my oral health? Are cigars a safe alternative to cigarettes? Are smokeless tobacco products safe? The American Dental Association has some alarming news that you should know.

Smoking and Implants

Recent studies have shown that there is a direct link between oral tissue and bones loss and smoking.

Tooth loss and edentulism are more common in smokers than in non-smokers. In addition, people who smoke are more likely to develop severe periodontal disease.

The formation of deep mucosal pockets with inflammation of the peri-implant mucosa around dental implants is called peri-implantitis. Smokers treated with dental implants have a greater risk of developing peri-implantitis. This condition can lead to increased resorption of peri-implant bone. If left untreated, peri-implantitis can lead to implant failure. In a recent international study, smokers showed a higher score in bleeding index with greater peri-implant pocket depth and radiographically discernible bone resorption around the implant, particularly in the maxilla.

Many studies have shown that smoking can lead to higher rates of dental implant failure. In general, smoking cessation usually leads to improved periodontal health and a patient’s chance for successful implant acceptance.