One of the toughest enemies your teeth face is dental plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles. Accumulated dental plaque can trigger both tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease, which is why removing it is the true raison d'etre for daily brushing and flossing.
But if you do indeed brush and floss every day, how well are you fulfilling this prime objective? The fact is, even if your teeth feel smooth and clean, there could still be missed plaque lurking around, ultimately hardening into tartar—and just as triggering for disease.
The best evaluation of your brushing and flossing efforts may come at your semi-annual dental cleanings. After thoroughly removing any residual plaque and tartar, your dentist or hygienist can give you a fairly accurate assessment of how effective you've been doing in the plaque removal business.
There's also another way you can evaluate your plaque removal ability between dental visits. By using a plaque disclosing agent, you can actually see the plaque you're missing—otherwise camouflaged against your natural tooth color.
These products, usually tablets, swabs or liquid solutions available over-the-counter, contain a dye that reacts to bacterial plaque. After brushing and flossing as usual, you apply the agent to your teeth and gums per the product's instructions. After spitting out any remaining solution, you examine your teeth in the mirror.
The dye will react to any residual plaque or tartar, coloring it a bright hue like pink or orange in contrast to your normal tooth color. You can see the plaque, and perhaps even patterns that can show how you've missed it. For example, if you see brightly colored scallop shapes around the gum line, that's telling you you're not adequately working your toothbrush into those areas.
The dye eventually fades from the teeth in a few hours, or you can brush it away (and fully remove the plaque it disclosed). Although it's safe, you should avoid ingesting it or getting it on your clothes.
Regularly using a disclosing agent can give you excellent feedback for improving your hygiene techniques. Getting better at brushing and flossing will further reduce your risk for dental disease.
If you would like more information on daily plaque removal, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Plaque Disclosing Agents.”
Up and coming performers are often pressured by their handlers to change their appearance, and many have over-the-top stories to prove it. But they'd be hard pressed to outdo Kirsten Dunst's experience just before filming 2002's Spider-Man: Producers actually drove her to a dentist for her to get what they considered a more attractive "Hollywood" smile.
Dunst didn't get out of the car: Although a 19 year-old newbie in the business, Dunst had enough fortitude to hold fast about her appearance. And perhaps she had a bit of intuition about what she calls her "snaggle fangs": Her quirky smile is one of her appearance trademarks.
The lesson here is not to avoid any cosmetic dental changes, but rather to choose the smile you want. If you count your slight front tooth gap or the faint crookedness of your teeth as unique to your personality, then rock on.
On the other hand, if you're uncomfortable with your dental flaws, then there are numerous ways to upgrade your smile, from a simple whitening procedure to a comprehensive "smile makeover." You simply have to decide what you want to keep and what you want to change about your smile.
To help guide you along this potentially life-changing journey, here are few key tips to follow.
Find your "right" dentist. If you're going to change your smile, you need a partner—a dentist who is not only skilled in cosmetic techniques, but with whom you feel comfortable. One of the best ways to do this is to make note of smile changes your friends and family have undergone that you find attractive, and ask who did their dental work.
Dream a little. Finding the right dentist is important for the next step: Exploring the possibilities for a new and improved smile. After assessing your current smile, your skilled dentist can give you a range of options to improve it. And, to actually help you "see" how those options might turn out, "virtual smile" technology can show you the proposed changes applied to an actual photo of you on a computer monitor.
Match it to reality. Once you're aware of all the possibilities, it's time to narrow them down to what you really desire. At this point, you'll want to decide what "quirks" you want to keep, and what you want to improve. You'll also have to consider your overall dental health and financial wherewithal to see what's truly practical and doable.
With that in mind, you and your dentist can then formulate a treatment plan. And just like Kristen Dunst, the end result should be the smile that makes you happy and confident to show.
If you would like more information about to get the best smile for you, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cosmetic Dentistry: Fix Your Smile With Veneers, Whitening and More.”
Finding out you have a cavity can be an unwelcome surprise. The truth is, though, it didn't happen overnight, but the result of ongoing conditions in the mouth.
Those conditions usually begin with harmful oral bacteria. As a life form, these bacteria need food and lodging, which they readily find from the carbohydrates in your diet. The bacteria and food remnants form a thin biofilm that accumulates tooth surfaces called dental plaque. The bacteria in turn produce oral acid, which can soften and erode the teeth's protective enamel. As bacteria multiply the mouth's acidic levels rise, making cavity formation more likely.
But there's also a flip side to this scenario: Interrupting bacterial growth can help prevent cavities and other dental diseases. Here's how you can do just that.
Remove plaque buildup. It's a simple principle: Deprive bacteria of their refined carbohydrates to reduce their toxicity and remove daily plaque buildup with brushing and flossing. For an added boost, see your dentist at least twice a year for a thorough dental cleaning.
Curtail snacking on sweets. Bacteria love the refined sugar in pastries, candies and other sweets as much as we do. Thus, constant snacking on sweets throughout the day could actually foster bacterial growth. Instead, ease up on your sugar intake and limit sweets to meal times only.
Rinse after sugary drinks. Sodas, sports or energy drinks also provide bacteria with added sugar. They may also contain added forms of acid that further lower your mouth's pH level into the acidic danger zone for teeth. Make it a habit, then, to rinse out your mouth with clear water after drinking one of these beverages to dilute excess sugar or acid.
Take care of your saliva. Saliva neutralizes acid even more than plain water, usually in 30 minutes to an hour after eating. By contrast, not having enough saliva increases your risk for decay and other dental diseases. So, be sure to drink plenty of water, monitor medications that might interfere with saliva production, and use saliva boosting products if needed to keep your saliva production healthy.
If you would like more information on managing your dental health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cost-Saving Treatment Alternatives.”
Dental implants have taken restorative dentistry by storm for a number of reasons: They're incredibly life-like; and their unique design allows them to function much like natural teeth. But perhaps the clincher for many is their longevity. Numerous studies show that more than 95% percent of implants are still performing after 10 years.
The reason for their durability is wrapped up in their "unique design" mentioned earlier—a titanium metal post imbedded into the jawbone, to which a dentist attaches the visible crown. The titanium attracts the growth of new bone cells, which adhere and accumulate on the implant surface.
This "integration," a process which occurs over a few weeks after implantation, creates a strong bond between the implant and jawbone. This ultra-strong hold enables the implant to withstand years, if not decades, of chewing forces you generate on a daily basis.
With that said, though, there are rare instances when an implant loses its hold—or doesn't properly develop it. Integration may not fully succeed due to infection either before or right after surgery, which can inhibit bone growth around the implant.
Other conditions can compromise the bone's integrity like a weakened immune system, diabetes or osteoporosis. And even if integration occurs normally, later problems like gum disease or a teeth-grinding habit can damage the connection between implant and bone.
There are things you can do, however, to further minimize the risk of implant failure.
- Brush and floss daily (especially around implants) and maintain regular dental visits to lower your risk of gum disease;
- See your dentist if you notice swollen, reddened or bleeding gums, an indication of a gum infection that could impact your implants;
- Stop smoking, which increases your infection risk, or abstain a few weeks before and after surgery;
- Manage issues like diabetes, osteoporosis, or teeth-grinding that could affect your implants.
Implants can be a great long-term solution to tooth loss. You can help ensure their longevity by looking out for both your oral and general health.
If you would like more information on dental implant restorations, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants: A Tooth-Replacement Method That Rarely Fails.”
It's common for people to sip freshly brewed coffee or take a bite of a just-from-the-oven casserole and immediately regret it—the searing heat can leave the tongue and mouth scalded and tingling with pain.
Imagine, though, having the same scalding sensation, but for no apparent reason. It's not necessarily your mind playing tricks with you, but an actual medical condition called burning mouth syndrome (BMS). Besides scalding, you might also feel mouth sensations like extreme dryness, tingling or numbness.
If encountering something hot isn't the cause of BMS, what is then? That's often hard to nail down, although the condition has been linked to diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, acid reflux or even psychological issues. Because it's most common in women around menopause, changes in hormones may also play a role.
If you're experiencing symptoms related to BMS, it might require a process of elimination to identify a probable cause. To help with this, see your dentist for a full examination, who may then be able to help you narrow down the possibilities. They may also refer you to an oral pathologist, a dentist who specializes in mouth diseases, to delve further into your case.
In the meantime, there are things you can do to help ease your discomfort.
Avoid items that cause dry mouth. These include smoking, drinking alcohol or coffee, or eating spicy foods. It might also be helpful to keep a food diary to help you determine the effect of certain foods.
Drink more water. Keeping your mouth moist can also help ease dryness. You might also try using a product that stimulates saliva production.
Switch toothpastes. Many toothpastes contain a foaming agent called sodium lauryl sulfate that can irritate the skin inside the mouth. Changing to a toothpaste without this ingredient might offer relief.
Reduce stress. Chronic stress can irritate many conditions including BMS. Seek avenues and support that promote relaxation and ease stress levels.
Solving the mystery of BMS could be a long road. But between your dentist and physician, as well as making a few lifestyle changes, you may be able to find significant relief from this uncomfortable condition.
If you would like more information on burning mouth syndrome, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Burning Mouth Syndrome: A Painful Puzzle.”
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