Dental Sealants Prevent Decay

The application of systemic or topical fluoride since the early 1970’s has lowered the incidence of tooth decay on the smooth surfaces of the teeth. However, about 90% of the decay found in children’s teeth occurs in tooth surfaces with pits and fissures. To solve this problem, dental sealants were developed to act as a physical barrier so that cavity-causing bacteria cannot invade the pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of back [posterior] teeth.

A sealant is a plastic resin material that is usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth—premolars and molars. This material is bonded into the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) of the chewing surfaces and acts as a barrier, protecting enamel from attack by plaque and/or acids.

Dental sealants are usually professionally applied. The dentist, hygieniest or assistant cleans and dries the teeth to be treated; then paints a thin layer of liquid plastic material on the pits and fissures of the tooth. A blue spectrum natural light is shined on the applied material for a few seconds to cure the plastic. Some brands of sealants cure chemically.

After curing, the plastic becomes a hard, thin layer covering the treated portions of the tooth. Despite the incredible pressures placed on teeth during chewing each day, dental sealants often remain effective for five years or longer, although sealants do wear naturally and should be checked at regular intervals. If sealants wear or become damaged, they can be repaired or replaced simply by applying new sealant material to the worn or damaged portions.

Children should receive sealants shortly after the eruption of their first permanent molars, around age 6 and again at age 12 when their second molars appear.

During the child’s regular dental visits, we will check the condition of the sealants and reapply them when necessary.


Root Canals: Planting A Lasting Image

For a severely infected tooth, there are often only two treatment options: root canal therapy or tooth removal. In most cases, a root canal is the preferable choice, because it’s the only way to save a tooth. Extractions are the treatment of last resort.
A root canal consists of the dentist making a small hole in the tooth and then removing the tiny nerves and blood vessels within the root(s). The roots are then shaped, disinfected and filled with an inert material.
While root canals are the most feared of all dental procedures – largely due to lingering stories of outdated treatment methods, which paint the wrong picture – today this procedure can be performed with minimal discomfort. Furthermore, the success rate is quite high; 90% of patients experience no further complications after the procedure.
In the rare instances where a root canal fails, there are still options available. In many cases, the root canal can be performed again. If this isn’t possible, a procedure called an apicoectomy can be performed. An apicoectomy involves the removal of the root’s tip and then placing a filling over the severed root tip. If these measures fail, the tooth may have to be removed.
However, please remember that modern root canal therapy is both safe and overwhelmingly effective. Plus new techniques continue to build upon the already high success rate.
Call our office today if you experience severe tooth pain. We will examine your tooth and advise on the most appropriate course of treatment.


Toothpaste and Orange Juice – Not a Good Match

Ever wonder why orange juice tastes so bad after you brush your teeth?

You can thank sodium laureth sulfate, also known as sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES), or sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) for ruining your drink, depending on which toothpaste you use. Both of these chemicals are surfactants — wetting agents that lower the surface tension of a liquid — that are added to toothpastes to create foam and make the paste easier to spread around your mouth. They’re also important ingredients in detergents, fabric softeners, paints, laxatives, surfboard waxes and insecticides.
While surfactants make brushing our teeth a lot easier, they do more than make foam. Both SLES and SLS mess with our taste buds in two ways. One, they suppress the receptors on our taste buds that perceive sweetness, inhibiting our ability to pick up the sweet notes of food and drink. And, as if that wasn’t enough, they break up the phospholipids on our tongue. These fatty molecules inhibit our receptors for bitterness and keep bitter tastes from overwhelming us, but when they’re broken down by the surfactants in toothpaste, bitter tastes get enhanced.
So, anything you eat or drink after you brush is going to have less sweetness and more bitterness than it normally would. Is there any end to this torture? Yes. You don’t need foam for good toothpaste, and there are plenty out there that are SLES/SLS-free. You won’t get that rabid dog look that makes oral hygiene so much fun, but your breakfast won’t be ruined.


Sippy Cup: Friend Or Foe?

The sippy cup is a spill proof, lid-covered drinking cup designed to help parents teach their toddlers how to drink without spilling. Children can toss it, drop it and turn it upside down, but they can’t spill its contents. That’s thanks to a valve in the top that releases liquid only when a child puts his lips around the tip and sucks. Day after day countless parents reach for that sippy cup their toddlers love so well, proud that the bottle is a thing of the past, and thrilled that their car seats and living room carpets will be spared! These parents though, should think twice before resorting to extended use of the sippy cup.

Many parents operate under the mistaken impression that the sippy cup is better than allowing the child to sleep with a bottle. The damage done by the bedtime bottle is fueled by the fact that no saliva flows during sleep to clear liquids from the mouth or dilute them. Liquids bathe the teeth all night. The sippy cup filled with sweetened liquids can cause the same damaging effects. The child’s teeth are immersed in the liquid during drinking and many parents allow unlimited access to the sippy cup.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children be weaned from the bottle by 12-14 months of age and be encouraged to drink from a cup. Parents are cautioned however that the repetitive consumption of liquids that contain fermentable carbohydrates (milk, juice, soft drinks etc.) from a bottle or sippy cup should be avoided.

• Be very selective about the liquids that you give your child from the sippy cup. Avoid milk, juice, and soft drinks. Try water or sugar free beverages instead.

• Use the sippy cup only as a transition to a regular cup or adult drinking glass with no lid.

• Consider cup design carefully. A pop-up straw reduces the amount of time the liquid is in contact with the teeth.

• Some speech pathologists have expressed concern about over use of the sippy cup and liken its use to a thumb-sucking habit, the effects of which are well documented.


Preventive Dentistry: Toothbrushing

Toothbrushing is an effective way of removing plaque [sticky mixture of bacteria, food & debris] from your teeth. Daily removal of plaque can prevent tooth decay and periodontal [gum] disease. Select a toothbrush that will provide easy access to all areas of your mouth; this includes one with a small head [1 inch by ½ inch] and a flexible head or handle. The brush should have soft nylon bristles with round heads and a wide handle for a firm grip. There are also a variety of electric or sonic brushes that work well. Call our office for a recommendation. Establishing a daily pattern and a consistent approach to your brushing technique is important to ensure that you have accomplished adequate cleaning. One easy technique involves placing the toothbrush at a 45° angle to your teeth and gently brushing in an elliptical motion. Start on the same quadrant [same side, lower or upper] each time. Brush the outside of the teeth, the inside and the biting surface. Repeat this action with the other three quadrants. When you are finished, brush you tongue. Adequate brushing should take 3-4 minutes.

There are other effective brushing methods that may be appropriate for you, depending on the condition of your teeth and gums. Bring your brush to your next check-up visit and have our hygienist review your technique.

Toothbrushing is most effective if done right after eating. It would be a wise idea to keep an extra brush at work for after lunch or snacks. Toothpaste is not necessary if you are using fluoride toothpaste at home 1-2 times a day. Just rinse with water when you are finished.

Effective toothbrushing starts with habit and routine and ends with time, diligence and good technique. Please contact our Caliber Dental office at (973) 537-7500.


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.