Patient Focused Dental Care
Why should I go to the dentist regularly?
Many people do not see a dentist on a regular basis. They only go when they have a problem. This is known as ‘crisis treatment’ versus ‘preventive treatment’. While these patients may feel they are saving money, it often ends up costing much more in dollars and time. This is because many dental problems do not have symptoms until they reach the advanced stages of the disease process. An example is tooth decay. Tooth decay often does not hurt until it gets close to the nerve of the tooth. It is not uncommon to see a patient with a huge cavity who has never had any symptoms. The dentist can usually detect a cavity 3-4 years before it develops any symptoms. This early detection can help you prevent root canal treatment and/or unnecessary pain and expense.
How can I prevent cavities?
Always spend two to three minutes brushing your teeth. It takes that long to get rid of the bacteria that destroy tooth enamel. Always use an extra-soft or soft bristled toothbrush and do not brush too hard. It takes very little pressure to remove bacteria and plaque. Floss at least once a day. Flossing is the only way to remove bacteria from between your teeth.
Both powered and manual toothbrushes clean teeth well. Manual brushes with mixed bristle heights or angled bristles clean better than those with all flat, even bristles. Powered toothbrushes may be more effective at removing plaque and often have timers to encourage you to brush longer.
Set a reminder to replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months. Toss it sooner if the bristles look bent or splayed out. Bent bristles don’t clean as well. (They’re also a sign you may be brushing too hard.)
Watch the sugar you eat. There is sugar in candy, fruits, crackers and chips. These are the foods that the bacteria in your mouth like best. Be mindful of foods like raisins and peanut butter that stick to your teeth. They can provide a constant nutrition supply for the bacteria that can damage your teeth. Try to minimize the times during the day when sweet items are eaten and brush your teeth afterwards.
If you cannot brush after a meal, swish your mouth with water which can help to remove food from your teeth. Chewing sugarless gum after a meal can also help by increasing the flow of your saliva, which acts as a natural plaque-fighting substance. Do not forget your regular dental visits. Good dental habits will go a long way toward a no-cavity visit.
Do I really need to floss?
There’s no getting around the need to floss daily, as it is the only way to clear food and plaque from between teeth and under the gumline. If you don’t floss, plaque hardens into tartar, which forms wedges and widens the space between teeth and gums, causing pockets. Over time, gums pull away and teeth loosen.
Either waxed or unwaxed floss will do the job. Using floss picks, interdental brushes, or a water flosser are other easy options.
Why do I have to take antibiotics before my dental appointment?
There are certain conditions that require pre-medication with an antibiotic prior to dental treatment to prevent adverse effects and infection that can be caused by bacteria that enter the bloodstream during certain treatment. You will want to consult with your dentist about this prior to treatment.
Why does the dentist take X-rays, and are they safe?
Medical and dental experts study the use of X-rays and set limits for their safety. Digital X-rays are considered safe for dental diagnostic purposes. Sometimes dentists may recommend X-rays to diagnose a special problem. Advancements in technology means today’s digital X-rays release much less radiation and are safer than in the past.
Many diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissues cannot be seen when the dentist examines the mouth. An X-ray examination may reveal:
- small areas of decay between the teeth or below existing restorations (fillings)
- infections in the bone
- periodontal (gum) disease
- abscesses or cysts
- developmental abnormalities
- some types of tumors
Finding and treating dental problems at an early stage can save time, money and often unnecessary discomfort. X-rays can detect damage to oral structures not visible during a regular exam.
If you have a hidden tumor, X-rays may even help save your life. The dentist will evaluate your need for X-rays based on the conditions present in development. Any additional questions or concerns should be discussed with your dental care provider.
What is fluoride and why is it important to dental health?
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in many foods and in water. Some natural sources of fluoride are brewed tea, canned fish, cooked kale and spinach, apples, and skim milk. Some city water contains fluoride, so by drinking tap water you will acquire fluoride. If drinking water does not have fluoride, supplements are available.
The lack of exposure to fluoride places individuals of any age at risk for dental decay. Fluoride is important to dental health because it helps prevent tooth decay by making your tooth enamel more resistant to acid attacks from plaque bacteria in your mouth.
Studies have shown that children who consume fluoridated water from birth have less dental decay. Fluoride can reverse early decay and help prevent osteoporosis, a disease that causes degenerative bone loss. Talk to your dentist or dental hygienist about whether you’re getting the daily amount of fluoride you need.
What can I do about sensitive teeth?
Sensitivity toothpaste, which contains potassium nitrate, is very effective in treating sensitive teeth. After a few weeks of use, you may notice a decrease in sensitivity. Highly acidic foods such as oranges, grapefruits and lemons, as well as tea and soda can increase tooth sensitivity, and work against sensitivity toothpaste. If you do not get relief by brushing gently and using desensitizing toothpaste, see your dentist. There are special compounds that can be applied in-office to the roots of your tooth to reduce – if not eliminate – the sensitivity. High-fluoride containing home care products can also be recommended to help reduce tooth sensitivity.
Ask the friendly staff at Simons Dental for more information about sensitive teeth.
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is inflammation and infection of the gums and supporting bone structure, which if left untreated, can cause permanent jaw bone destruction and possible tooth loss. Untreated periodontal disease has been linked to increased risk for conditions such as heart disease, stroke, low birth weight babies, pre-term delivery, respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and prostate cancer.
An advanced stage of periodontal disease exhibits inflamed gums pulling away from your bone and teeth. Other signs of periodontal disease include:
- Bad breath
- Red or swollen gums
- Loose teeth or teeth that have moved
- Sensitive teeth
- Pus coming from around the teeth
- Pain when chewing
- Tender gums
- Bleeding gums
Treatment of early periodontal disease can be performed in-office. However, advanced stages may require referral to a periodontist or surgery. Periodontal disease can be prevented and treated successfully by seeing your dentist and dental hygienist regularly and following recommended care plans.
What should I do about bleeding gums?
People often respond to bleeding gums with the wrong method of treatment. Usually, gums that bleed are a symptom of the onset of periodontal disease or gingivitis. But often, people stop brushing and flossing as frequently and effectively because it may be painful or it may cause the gums to bleed again. However, when gums are inflamed, brushing and flossing could help reduce the inflammation. More importantly, you should see your dentist to have a periodontal screening and recording performed in order to determine the level of disease present and the best treatment course to pursue.
It is also worth noting that chronic dental pain and discomfort are obvious signs of a problem. Over-the-counter drugs may provide some temporary relief. These medications usually only mask the existence of a problem and should be taken on a temporary basis.
It is important to see your dentist as soon as possible if your gums begin to bleed.
Do whitening toothpastes work?
Commercial whitening toothpastes vary greatly in their ability to whiten teeth. They work by removing surface stains from the teeth with the use of abrasives. However, unlike professional whitening, some whitening toothpastes do not alter the intrinsic color of the teeth. Toothpastes that are effective in removing stains use harsh abrasives and can also destroy tooth enamel in the process. With repeated use, harsh abrasives begin to damage tooth enamel and can contribute to increased tooth sensitivity. If you would like to try a whitening toothpaste, consult with your dentist first.
I just found out I am pregnant. How can this affect my mouth?
About half of women who are pregnant experience a condition called pregnancy gingivitis. This condition can be uncomfortable and cause swelling, bleeding, redness or tenderness in the gum tissue. A more advanced oral health condition called periodontal disease (a serious gum infection that destroys attachment fibers and supporting bone that hold teeth in the mouth) may affect the health of your baby. Studies have shown a relationship between periodontal disease and preterm, low birth-weight babies. In fact, pregnant women with periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby that’s born too early and too small. The likely culprit is a labor-inducing chemical found in oral bacteria called prostaglandin. Very high levels of prostaglandin are found in women with severe cases of periodontal disease.