A Closer Look at Bonding

It’s not unusual to feel shy about smiling if your teeth aren’t everything you would like them to be. Stained teeth might inhibit you from smiling as often or as big as you normally would. Chipped teeth and gapped teeth can have a similar effect. But with a little dental bonding, you can start smiling again with confidence.

Dental bonding is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to make cosmetic improvements to your teeth.

During a bonding procedure, a tooth-colored resin, or plastic, is bonded to your tooth with an ultraviolet “curing” light. Unlike veneers and crowns, which are sometimes used to make similar improvements, a bonding procedure usually takes just 30-60 minutes per tooth and is often complete in just one dental visit. Another advantage of dental bonding: It requires less prep work than veneers or crowns, so more of your tooth enamel remains intact.

Bonding can even be used to replace existing amalgam (silver) fillings with natural-looking composites. It’s also ideal for treating cavities in the front teeth, where aesthetics are especially important.

Keep in mind that dental bonding isn’t the cure-all for every tooth defect. Bonding doesn’t work well on back teeth or larger cavities. But for the smaller changes, bonding can have a huge impact on the way you feel about your smile.


The Smoking Gun in Oral Cancer

Most people know smoking is hazardous to your health, especially concerning the lungs and heart. Unfortunately, less attention is placed upon smoking’s negative impact on oral health. Not only does smoking leave brown stains and sticky tar deposits on teeth or dentures, it also contributes to halitosis [bad breath]. But those are the least of the issues.

Smoking is a major risk factor in periodontal [gum] disease. For example, it’s common to see red inflammation on a smoker’s palate [roof of the mouth] from the high temperatures generated by cigarettes, cigars and pipes. This is actually the inflammation of the salivary gland openings and leads to a condition called sialadenitis (reduced saliva flow due to damage to the salivary duct).

Twenty years of research show that smokers are two to three times more likely to develop periodontitis [bone loss] and tooth loss is much more prevalent in smokers than non-smokers. Studies also show a higher rate of dental implant failure for smokers.

When it comes to the cause of most oral cancers, smoking is the “smoking gun.” Of the 9,000 deaths a year in the U.S. from oral cancer, tobacco use accounts for 75% of those tragic, preventable figures.

Even second-hand smoke poses a danger to oral healthcare, especially for children. For example, smoke breathed in by children can affect the development and eruption of their permanent teeth, a process that usually begins between three and six years of age.

The good news is that “kicking the habit” greatly reduces the risk of developing oral cancer. Studies show that, after 10 years of cessation, a former smoker’s risk or oral cancer is reduced to that of non-smokers.

While nicotine creates a formidable addiction to contend with, there are a number of ways to stop smoking without experiencing extreme withdrawal symptoms. For example, nicotine patches, nicotine gum and nicotine sprays or inhalers greatly ease the suffering associated with nicotine addiction.

If you some, or want to quit smoking, call our office and schedule an appointment. We are here to help you with the oral health issues associated with smoking.


Insurance Benefit

Time flies! The end of the year will arrive in a flash and, with it, the end of your annual dental insurance benefits.

Speaking of which, are you aware that insurance companies make millions of unearned dollars each year, free income derived from patients who forgo necessary and preventive dental care? It’s a little known insurance industry secret.

Unfortunately, many individuals paying for dental insurance don’t realize their plans provide coverage up to a certain dollar amount annually. Consequently, some patients fail to schedule the dental treatment they need, deserve, and already have covered.

Since the allocated dollars cannot be rolled over year-to-year, insurance companies pocket the unclaimed revenue. In short: what patients don’t use they lose.

So, before the year ends, we want to ensure you take full advantage of any remaining benefits you or your family might still enjoy. In fact, you might even save money if, by completing your treatment before year’s end, you avoid a new deductible next year.

We want to help you secure all insurance coverage available to you on every dental procedure you schedule. If you have any questions about how much coverage remains within your insurance benefit plan, please call our office we’ll research that for you. In parallel, we can schedule you for the earliest available appointment to ensure you maximize your insurance benefits.

We look forward to seeing you again and sharing some of the many innovative methods we now offer. We aim to remain at the forefront of modern dental healthcare to ensure you always benefit from the latest technologies, professional care and superior service.

Again, please call or email us to make an appointment before the end of the year. We are scheduling November and December appointments right now.

Don’t wait until the last minute! Our end-of-year schedule usually fills up quickly.


The Aging Mouth: What is Normal, What is Not

The natural process of aging takes its toll on your teeth and mouth just as it does your body. Here are some common oral health changes you can anticipate as you age:

Enamel Wear — Chewing, cleaning and the normal aging process means your teeth will eventually wear down over time.

Darker Tooth Color — Aging dentin (the tooth’s middle layer) holds stains easier than younger dentin, making your teeth appear slightly darker.

Gum Changes — Aging gums naturally recede over time.

Cavities — Cavities around the root of the tooth are more common as you age. Any fillings you have are also aging and can weaken or crack.

Other changes to your teeth and gums aren’t normal and shouldn’t be overlooked. These symptoms could signal something more serious and are reason to see your dentist right away:

Tooth Loss — Dental cavities and gum disease are the leading culprits of tooth loss in seniors, but neither is a normal part of aging. If your teeth and gums are healthy, there’s no reason why your teeth should fall out.

Dry Mouth – As you age, you may notice a reduced flow of saliva, sometimes as a side effect of medical conditions, medications or medical treatment. Saliva is important because it lubricates the mouth and neutralizes the acids produced by plaque.

Bleeding Gums — Bleeding gums are a sign of periodontal (gum) disease, a leading cause of tooth loss in seniors. But gum disease is not an inevitable result of aging; it’s caused by the build up of plaque. Left untreated, gum disease is linked to other health concerns like arthritis and heart disease.


Regular Checkups Can Save You Thousands

If you have dental problems like tooth decay, gum disease or even oral cancer, regular dental visits give your dentist a chance to catch it early on. That’s key. Because the earlier your dentist diagnoses a problem the easier it is to treat. For example, if you have gum disease and let it go unchecked (and untreated) for too long, you may need extensive — and expensive — gum disease treatment.

Regular dental checkups allow you and your dentist to stay ahead of problems, which can translate into thousands saved.

A professional dental cleaning is also a must because it’s the only way to effectively remove tartar (hardened plaque). Even if you brush and floss regularly, that’s not enough. Besides looking unsightly (tartar is a “stain magnet” and often has a brown or yellowish tint), tartar also contains cavity-causing bacteria. Preventing the need for a mouthful of fillings every year easily adds up to thousands saved in the long run.

Perhaps one of the most important reasons to invest in regular dental exams and cleanings is that it has a positive impact on your overall health. Recent studies have shown that there’s a link between periodontal disease and heart disease; when the former is present, the latter is twice as likely.

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, gum disease can have a domino effect on your health. The bacteria caused by periodontal disease can enter your bloodstream and attach to your heart’s blood vessels, causing dangerous blood clots. Another scenario is that the plaque buildup caused by periodontal disease can cause the heart’s blood vessels to swell.

In this way, regular checkups and cleanings are not only money-saving but life-saving. And that’s priceless.


Smile Safety for Active Kids

Active kids call for active safety. And while helmets, goggles and knee pads protect your kids’ bodies, it’s also important to protect their teeth. A mouthguard is an easy, reliable way to safeguard your child’s teeth during sports and play.
Mouthguards are especially crucial during contact sports such as football, hockey or boxing, where blows to the body and face are regular occurrences. But even non-contact sports, such as gymnastics, and recreational pastimes, such as skating or biking, pose a risk to the teeth.
In addition to cushioning your child’s teeth, using a mouthguard can prevent injury to the tongue, lips, face and jaw. Kids who wear dental braces should be especially careful to protect their mouths during physical activity.
A trip to the dentist can help you choose a mouthguard that’s right for your child. In general, there are three types of mouthguards to choose from:
– Stock Mouthguards. These pre-made protectors can usually be bought wherever sporting equipment is sold. Most dentists do not recommend their use because they cannot be adjusted to your mouth and provide only limited protection.
– Boil-and-Bite Mouthguards. Boil-and-Bite guards are softened with hot water and then molded over your child’s teeth. This somewhat custom fit leads to better protection and greater ease in talking and breathing. These are also available at most sporting goods stores.
– Custom Mouthguards. Your dentist can create a custom mouthguard designed specifically for your child’s teeth. These offer the best fit, comfort and protection, but may be more costly than store-bought varieties.

Are Baby Teeth Important?

Baby teeth are very important to your child’s development for several reasons. Not only do they encourage the development of the jaw bone – and reserve space required for the permanent teeth to follow – baby teeth also enable your child to chew solid food and assist in speech development. Moreover, they contribute to your child’s positive feelings about his or her appearance and help build confidence.

Therefore, it is important to begin a daily oral care routine for your child before the first tooth appears. After each feeding, wipe your child’s gums with a warm, wet cloth or a small gauze pad to remove excess food and bacteria. As soon as the first teeth appear, brush them with a small, soft-bristled brush moistened with warm water. When teeth begin to touch each other, add daily flossing to the routine.

With adult supervision, most children are able to brush and floss their own teeth by about age four. However, we recommend assisting your child at least once a day to ensure a thorough job. You should continue to monitor your child’s oral care throughout childhood. Remember, with your own healthy oral care habits, you serve as an important role model for your child.


Sinusitis Got You Down?

During the winter months – in fact, any time when the air is very dry – it’s important to keep your nasal passages moist. A simple home remedy is to sniff salt solution into both nostrils 2-4 times a day.

To prepare an effective homemade solution, add ½ teaspoon of table salt and ½ a teaspoon if baking soda into one cup of distillated water. If using tap water, make sure to sterilize it through boiling and then allow it to cool. Stir the cool water until the salt and baking soda dissolves completely.

To apply, fill a squeeze bottle with the saline solution. Direct the saline solution stream toward the back of your head (not toward the top). The saline wash should go through the nose and out the mouth or other nostril. Repeat the process several times a day for best results.

Alternatively, you can buy ready-prepared nasal saline products – such as Ocean®, Simply Saline® or generic equivalents – from a drug store. As with the home solution, these products wash away mucus from the membranous lining of nasal passages.

They also help by shrinking any swollen parts of the nasal passage. If this is not done, mucus and the swollen membranes may block openings of the sinuses into the nasal passages. Sinusitis often ensues when nasal bacteria infect the mucus, which can no longer drain from the blocked sinus. Treatment of sinusitis (rather than prevention) often requires the use of antibiotics.

Some doctors are not enthusiastic about nasal saline irrigation since researchers found it does not significantly reduce the incidence of colds. However, do not confuse the common cold with sinusitis. Viruses cause colds, while sinusitis is a bacterial-induced complication of some colds.

Irrigation of the nasal passages with saline cannot kill viruses or bacteria. However, it does help to reduce the incidence of sinusitis in people with a tendency to develop this common complication.


Bridging The Gap

How we perceive our smile and appearance affects our self-esteem, our mood and how we function in social as well as work settings. And, since most people aren’t tough, hardened boxers or hockey players, missing teeth don’t serve as a badge of honor. Rather, it’s source of insecurity and embarrassment.

In fact, many people have spaces, or gaps, in their teeth. Either the teeth aligned that way naturally or the gaps were created (e.g. by extraction of teeth, injury, gum disease). For many patients, the treatment of choice is a fixed bridge – an attached group of crowns (caps) – to replace the missing teeth.

Traditional bridges are made with porcelain fused to metal for both strength and esthetics. To prepare for the bridge, the teeth are cut into a conical shape to serve as abutments to which the fixed bridge is attached so the pontics (i.e. crowns that replace the missing teeth) are held in position. This procedure usually takes two to four visits, depending on the situation, and is completed when the bridge is permanently cemented to the abutment teeth.

Of course, each patient presents specific circumstances that must be evaluated on their own merits. Factors such as occlusion (bite), oral habits, available space, health of the gum tissue, severity of the problem and patient expectations must be taken into consideration while planning a cosmetic makeover.

Please call our office to discuss your particular situation. We welcome the opportunity to restore your smile and confidence.


Seniors at Higher Risk for Dental Cavities

You may think that as an adult you don’t have to worry about cavities anymore — but dental cavities aren’t just child’s play!

As we entered the new millennium, it was discovered that seniors were actually getting more dental cavities than children. Today, children and seniors are still the two highest at-risk groups for tooth decay.

Aging puts us at greater risk for dental problems — the wearing away of tooth enamel, receding gums and loss of jawbone are signs that our mouths are aging along with our bodies.

Your grandparents could probably tell you that, in their youth, most senior citizens had missing teeth. Many lost their teeth to dental disease, and a tooth extraction was a common treatment for dental problems.

With current dental technology, we’re relying less on old-fashioned dentistry and more on modern dental procedures to restore our smiles. That’s great news to seniors, who are keeping their teeth longer. Now for the bad news — anyone with natural teeth can get dental cavities. And the longer we have our teeth, the more we expose them to the elements that can cause tooth decay.

The Risk Factors

Unfortunately, geriatric teeth are less able to handle the normal wear and tear of those in younger generations. There are several reasons why seniors may be prone to more dental cavities:

Lack of Fluoride — Most of our nation’s seniors didn’t have the benefits of community water fluoridation while growing up. And with the popularity of bottled water today, seniors may still not be getting the fluoride they need. Fluoride strengthens teeth and helps prevent tooth decay.

Arthritis — Those who suffer from arthritis, or other medical conditions, may have a hard time gripping a toothbrush or floss, making it difficult to practice daily oral hygiene.

Gum Disease — Over 95% of seniors have receding gums, exposing the roots of teeth and making them vulnerable to the same dental diseases that affect the tooth’s crown. Root decay is becoming much more common among seniors.

Dry Mouth — Dry mouth is often a side effect of medications or health problems often associated with seniors. Saliva is needed to wash away food particles and neutralize the acid that promotes tooth decay. When our mouths are dry, our teeth become more susceptible to cavities.

Diet — Aging may cause our diet to change. Seniors often lean towards softer foods, which don’t always have the nutrients you need for healthy teeth. A diet heavy in carbohydrates and sugar also contributes to dental cavities.

Assisted Living — Although assisted living centers are designed to help our loved ones get the care they need, oral hygiene may fall by the wayside. Unfortunately, a lack of individual attention may keep seniors from maintaining their smiles.

Finances — When on a fixed income, oral health care may not be a priority. Some seniors can’t afford to pay for dental products or professional dental care.

Look Grandma — No Dental Cavities!

There are several ways seniors can improve their chances of staying dental cavity-free. A diet low in sugar and high in calcium promotes tooth health. If you aren’t getting enough fluoride, try using fluoride toothpastes, mouth rinses or tablets. Drinking water, sucking on sugar-free candy or chewing sugarless gum promotes saliva production and reduces dry mouth.

For seniors with dexterity problems, wrap tape or an elastic bandage around the toothbrush. If a wider grip is needed, you can even try taping a tennis ball, sponge or rubber bicycle grip to the handle. An electric toothbrush may also be helpful for those who cannot maneuver a manual toothbrush easily. And daily flossing should not be forgotten, either — floss holders and waxed floss may make it easier for seniors to continue their oral hygiene routine.

Because of the special dental needs of seniors, regular dental visits are necessary to maintain their oral health. Dentists use this time to check for the dental problems that affect older patients, including gum disease, root decay and oral cancer. If a senior you know is living in a nursing home, arrange for them to receive oral care and continue with their dental appointments. If transporting them to the dental office is impossible, try finding a dentist who can arrange in-house care at their facility.

Now that you have the chance to keep your teeth for a lifetime, you should take advantage of it. Taking the right steps to maintain your smile will help you remain cavity-free, so you can truly experience what your golden years have to offer!