The secret to a bright, healthy smile is actually no secret at all: brush, floss and get a professional dental exam at least once every six months. Professional dental exams are all about prevention – preventing existing problems from getting worse and preventing dental problems from developing in the future. Regular dental exams make it possible to identify and treat a problem in its earliest stage – which is not only good for your oral health but also good for your budget!
There's nothing to fear with a dental exam. Your teeth will be visually examined for signs of plaque, tartar and tooth decay. Your gums will also be examined for puffiness or discoloration, which are signs of gum disease. A full set of dental X-rays may also be taken during your dental exam, to enable your dentist to see below the surfaces of your teeth. Dental exams typically end with a dental cleaning, to remove surface stains and buildup.
Dental X-rays have come a long way. Todays dental X-rays are safer, faster, more comfortable and more informative than the X-rays of years past. Digital X-rays, one of the latest and most advanced dental technologies, produce high-quality images of your teeth that can be viewed instantly by you and your dentist on a LCD monitor. Digital X-rays reduce radiation by up to 90% and provide exceptional diagnostic information to ensure that potential problems are caught in their earliest stages. Intraoral photography is another alternative to traditional dental X-rays. With intraoral photography, problems such as cavities, fractures and discolorations in the teeth are captured through clear and sharp photographic images that are taken with a 35mm or digital camera.
No matter how often you brush and floss, plaque and tartar deposits can still build up on your teeth. A professional teeth cleaning is the single most effective way to remove these deposits and prevent them from causing more serious problems in the future. While a traditional teeth cleaning involves manually scraping away these deposits with special dental tools, advances in dental technologies now give you more options for teeth cleanings.
A laser teeth cleaning, also known as an ultrasonic cleaning, is a popular alternative to traditional teeth cleanings. With a laser teeth cleaning, an ultrasonic scaler (rather than a manual probe) is used to remove deposits, kill harmful microbes and eliminate bacteria around the teeth and gums through high-frequency sound waves. Many patients find laser teeth cleanings more comfortable than traditional teeth cleanings because they are quicker, quieter and pain-free.
A deep cleaning may be recommended if excessive plaque and tartar deposits have developed below the gum line. Deep cleanings, also known as scaling and root planing, involve a two-part process: first, the stubborn deposits are removed, and then the root surfaces are smoothened. A deep cleaning helps prevent periodontal disease and restores gum tissues to a healthy state.
Oral Cancer Screening
Oral cancer affects nearly 35,000 Americans every year. The keys to surviving oral cancer are early detection and early treatment. This starts with a regular oral cancer screening – at least once every six months. An oral cancer screening takes just minutes, is pain-free and can be performed during regular dental exams. If you are male, a regular oral cancer screening is especially critical: Oral cancer is more than twice as common in men as it is in women. Other people at high risk of oral cancer include people over the age of 60, tobacco smokers and heavy drinkers.
A dental crown may not make you feel like royalty, but it is one of the premiere treatments for teeth with extensive decay or damage. Dental crowns can also used to hold a dental bridge in place, cover misshapen or severely discolored teeth, or cover a tooth after a root canal procedure. Made of either porcelain-fused-to-metal, ceramic or gold, dental crowns are placed during a multi-step process and sometimes require more than one dental visit. The first step is a dental impression. A temporary crown is then placed to protect the tooth while the impression is sent to an offsite laboratory to create the final restoration. In some cases, same-day crowns are possible, so be sure to inquire. With good oral hygiene and minimal wear and tear, your beautiful new dental crowns can last up to 15 years.
Dental bridges have been used for centuries to replace missing teeth. Today, dental bridges are still considered one of the most durable, conservative and cost-effective options for bridging the gap between a missing tooth and surrounding teeth. Comprised of two anchoring teeth and a replacement tooth, dental bridges help prevent surrounding teeth from drifting out of position, improve chewing and speaking, and help keep your natural face shape in tact.
There are three types of dental bridges: 1) traditional dental bridges, 2) cantilever dental bridges, and 3) Maryland bridges. Traditional bridges have either dental crowns or dental implants on either side of the missing tooth, plus a replacement tooth, which is held in place by a post-like structure called a dental abutment. Cantilever dental bridges are used in cases where there are surrounding teeth only on one side of the missing tooth. Maryland bridges are made of a specialized resin that is cemented to a metal framework and cemented to the enamel of surrounding teeth.
Dental bridges typically take 2-3 weeks to complete and are less invasive than other options, such as dental implants. With good oral hygiene and regular dental visits, dental bridges can last up to 30 years.
Using dentures to replace missing teeth is not only great for your oral health; it's a great way to look and feel younger! Today, there are a variety of natural-looking and comfortable dentures for patients who need to replace missing teeth. Made of a gum-colored plastic resin or acrylic base and either resin or porcelain replacement teeth, dentures are custom designed to fit your mouth. If you have several teeth or all teeth missing on the upper or lower jaw, full dentures may be your best option. Partial dentures, which can be either fixed or removable, are great for patients who have several missing teeth scattered along the upper or lower jaw.
The process of getting dentures may take a few months and several dental visits. In some cases, however, same-day dentures are also possible. With same-day dentures, the dentures are created right in the dentist's office instead of at an offsite laboratory. Same-day dentures aren't for everyone, though. If your dentures require a lot of customization, same-day dentures may not be right for you.
Just as with your natural teeth, dentures require daily maintenance. With regular wear and tear, your dentures can last 5-7 years. During that time, you may need periodic denture relines to accommodate changes in the contours of your mouth. Regular denture relines involve resurfacing the base to ensure that your dentures fit and function perfectly. If you break your dentures, it's critical to bring them to your dentist for professional denture repair. Home denture repair kits can cause more damage and be even more costly to fix.
Gum Disease Treatment
Red, swollen gums are a red flag for one thing: gum disease. If you have the symptoms, you're not alone. More than 80% of adults have some form of gum disease. Fortunately, there are many effective and pain-free gum disease treatments. For gingivitis, the mildest form of gum disease, treatment typically involves a thorough dental cleaning, followed by daily brushing and flossing. Advanced gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, requires scaling and root planing to remove stubborn deposits below the gum line. Laser gum surgery, a new alternative to scaling and root planing, uses beams of high-speed light to remove plaque and tartar buildup. If non-surgical methods of gum disease treatment are ineffective, a gingivectomy, or periodontal surgery, may be necessary.
Root Canal Treatment (Endodontics)
Root canals get a bad wrap. But don't believe the rumors; the dreaded root canal isn't dreadful at all! Root canals are needed when either decay or an injury infects the inner tooth (the pulp). In the earliest stages of infection, you may not feel any pain at all. But when it progresses, you could have a toothache and swelling, or a dental abscess might form. Root canals remove the infection and prevent it from spreading. Thanks to laser root canals, this process is faster, more comfortable and, in many cases, more thorough than conventional root canals. Pulp capping is an alternative to root canals that are used when the infection has yet to penetrate the pulp. Pulp capping can also prevent a large dental filling from getting too close to the nerve.
Oral surgery is an umbrella term for surgical treatments such as dental implants, wisdom teeth extractions and bone grafting. Dental implants, an excellent solution for missing teeth, are surgically placed tooth roots that hold dental crowns in place. A wisdom tooth extraction may be recommended if there isn't enough room in your mouth to accommodate wisdom teeth and they become impacted, partially erupted or infected. Bone grafting transfers bone from one part of the jaw to another, usually to accommodate a dental implant. While a general dentist can perform some oral surgery procedures, an oral surgeon is required for others.
If you've been living with persistent jaw pain, ear pain and headaches, you could have TMJ – temporomandibular jaw disorder. TMJ can often be traced back to an improper bite, misaligned jaw joints, or an injury to the jaw or face. TMJ treatment from a dentist can relieve the discomfort. Although TMJ treatment varies from patient to patient, it typically involves one or several procedures, including the use of an orthotic splint, enamel reshaping, dental crowns, dental braces or night guards. The goal of TMJ treatment is to stabilize your bite so that your teeth, jaw muscles and jaw joints work properly together without strain – and without pain!
It's becoming increasingly difficult to detect tooth decay in the mouths of Americans. Why? The fluoride that's widely used in drinking water and toothpastes hardens tooth enamel. Tooth decay, consequently, is forced to find microscopic tears in this enamel. Once these tears are found, the decay quickly spreads itself into the softer surface underneath. Seemingly healthy teeth, even according to conventional X-ray machine results, can hide (in the minds of some dentists) what's hidden underneath the surface.
It's believed by some that most tooth decay is not evident to dentists until it's one-third the width of the tooth. The tooth filling that such a large dental cavity requires can weaken the tooth structure and ultimately cause a never-ending cycle of dental problems. Early cavity detection may mean less repair work and better enamel integrity. Historically, dentists have relied on probing teeth with fine picks and taking X-rays every few dental visits; this method is effective in finding only 57 percent of cavities, and by contrast, the laser cavity detector is believed to be 90 percent accurate in finding dental cavities or suspicious areas.
Full Mouth Reconstruction
If you've spent a long time living with mouth pain or feeling insecure about some missing teeth, isn't it time to make a change? Full mouth reconstruction will not only help you feel better about how you look, it'll also improve your dental health. That's because full mouth reconstruction doesn't just replace missing or broken teeth. It also restores the function of your jaw and gums, the supporting structure of your mouth. The end result is a mouth that looks and works the way you need it to!
What Is Full Mouth Reconstruction?
Full mouth reconstruction combines multiple restorative, neuromuscular and cosmetic procedures. The goal is to restore not only the look of your teeth but also the structure and function. Why? Each of these things affects the other. For example, a broken tooth can cause a problem with your bite. This can lead to difficulty chewing, which creates wear on your teeth. This wear can then lead to jaw and neck soreness, headaches, even migraines.
Who Needs It?
There are several reasons why your teeth might be in bad shape, including neglect, injury and preventive dental care that has worn down and requires replacement. Full mouth restoration may be recommended if you:
- Have several worn down, chipped or broken teeth
- Have missing teeth
- Experience chronic jaw pain, clicking or popping of the jaw
- Have frequent headaches, back pain and muscle tenderness
If your dentist thinks you might be a candidate for mouth reconstruction, you will begin with an evaluation to figure out specifically what procedures you'll need.
In a nutshell, an intraoral camera is a small video camera that takes an X-ray of the outside of the gum or tooth. The intraoral camera resembles an oversized pen and although usage varies depending on the model-type, this image-taking device is typically outfitted with a disposable protective sheath for each new patient. While simultaneously viewing a monitor, the dentist inserts the camera into a patient's mouth and gently shifts it about so that images can be taken from a variety of angles.
First used in the early 1990s, the intraoral camera is still a relatively new piece of dental equipment. Not so long ago, only a handful within the dental community used this tiny camera to take pictures of the teeth and gums. Today, use of the intraoral camera is widespread. For those dentists who do use this device, the intraoral camera has been, and continues to be, extremely handy both in diagnosing dental conditions such as tooth decay and cracked teeth and in educating you, the patient.
Blood Pressure Screening
Believe it or not, the health of your heart is both impacted by and can impact the health of your mouth. In order to keep your mouth healthy we offer blood pressure screenings. Your blood pessure is usually indicative of other cardio-vascular problems, and it can only help you to have such a screening and talk to an appropriate professional about it.
Emergency Dental Care
Accidents happen all the time and not all of them require immediate care. But if you've had an injury to your teeth, mouth or jaw, you should see a dentist right away. If you’re not sure your problem is an emergency, here’s a list of the most common ones -- plus a few things you can do to minimize pain and damage before seeing your dentist:
Broken Tooth -- Save any pieces of the broken tooth and rinse your mouth out with warm water. Apply a cold compress to the area to decrease swelling and pain until you can be seen by the dentist.
Broken Jaw -- Apply a cold compress to limit swelling and see your dentist right away.
Knocked-Out Tooth -- Gently rinse off the knocked out tooth without removing any attached tissue. If possible, hold the tooth in place in the socket. Otherwise, put the tooth in a glass of milk and get to your dentist right away.
Something Stuck in Your Teeth -- Carefully try to remove the object with dental floss. (Don't try using a sharp instrument!) If you're unable to dislodge the object with dental floss, contact your dentist.
Toothache -- Rinse your mouth out with warm water. Then use dental floss to make sure there isn't any food or other debris causing the pain. If the pain persists, call the dentist.
Lost Dental Filling or Dental Crown -- For dental fillings, seal the area with a piece of sugarless gum or over-the-counter dental cement. If a dental crown has come loose, try to put it back in place with dental cement. If that doesn't work, bring it with you to the dentist.
Dental Abscess -- If you notice a painful, pimple-like swelling on your gums, rinse with salt water and immediately contact your dentist. Dental abscesses can lead to more serious infections if not promptly treated.