Happy National Dental Hygiene Month

What better way to celebrate National Dental Hygiene Month than to share a few tips from the women in the dental office trenches, our dental hygienists Jamie and Nancy. They work each and every day to help ensure you’ve got the whitest, cleanest smile that you can flash day in and day out. And while the advice you tend to hear from them is the good old “brush twice a day, floss more often” variety. There are a few interesting bits in this list you may not have heard before, let’s check them out!

  1. Consider a children’s toothbrush. If you have noticed, or the hygienist has told you that you have a small mouth, or you have trouble maneuvering an adult toothbrush around in your mouth, you might want to pick up a children’s toothbrush next time you are in. Using too big a brush can cause you to miss spots when cleaning and can wear down your enamel if you aren’t careful.
  2. Brush first without toothpaste. Brushing without toothpaste first before brushing with toothpaste can help reduce plaque buildup by 63% according to a six-month study published by the Journal of the American Dental Association. This same study saw a 55% drop in bleeding around the gums as well. Now that is something worth considering.
  3. Braces can help keep your gums healthy. When your teeth are crowded it can create areas that are hard to keep clean with brushing and flossing. Plaque can build up in those areas and eventually lead to periodontal disease. Next time you are in for an appointment ask to see what options would be right for you whether it be Invisalign, traditional brackets and wires, or a different option that we might have available here in the office.
  4. Most in-office whitening products don’t work like you think they do. Most, if not all of the in-office whitening products work by dehydrating your teeth. A byproduct of dehydrating teeth is that they whiten in the process…temporarily. Teeth will stay white for a few days after the whitening appointment, but once they rehydrate, they get closer to the shade where they started. This is why we stopped doing in-office whitening here in our office. The best way to whiten your teeth would be with take-home whitening trays, and use them over time. This will ensure that you will have the time it takes for the whitening gel to actually work.
  5. Fluoride isn’t just for kids anymore. We have used fluoride gel for years to help kids protect their teeth against cavities, but studies have shown that the new fluoride varnish that we use can be used on adults as well. Not only does fluoride strengthen enamel, it can be used to help with tooth sensitivity as well. So if you have sensitive teeth and Sensodyne isn’t working for you, ask our hygienists to see if fluoride varnish would be a solution for you.

So there you have it, five simple, easyto-use tips that you should feel free to share with the rest of the world, and from our hygienists, and hygienists everywhere, thanks for taking care of your teeth!

Root Canals: What Exactly Are They, And Why Do I Need One?

The words root canal might possibly be the two most feared words in dentistry by patients. Root canals have had a negative connotation in patient’s minds for years, and the way they were done in the past, we aren’t surprised at all. In any movie or television show you see, if the words root canal are uttered, there is always a reference to how painful they are, or what a nuisance they are to have done. And any time you talk to someone that has had one done, they never have a positive story to tell about the experience.

It is true, root canals in the past haven’t been a pleasant experience for patients to go through. First, if you need a root canal, you are most likely in pain before the root canal is even performed. Secondly, root canals are a very meticulous procedure for a dentist to perform, so sometimes it can be a pretty lengthy procedure.

The good news in all this talk of root canals, is that most of the time, root canals can be totally avoided. Most of the time, a root canal is needed when a tooth has decay present, and that decay has been present for so long that the decay has eaten away at the enamel and dentin of the tooth and has reached the pulp chamber, or nerve, of the tooth. When decay reaches the pulp chamber it starts to infect the pulp, when that happens, an abscess starts to form under the tooth and creates a lot of pressure pushing on the tooth. That pressure equates to pain in the tooth, and can become very uncomfortable.

If the decay is caught before it reaches the nerve, a simple filling can be done. Resulting in a lot less sensitivity, a lot less cost, and the procedure itself is a lot less invasive, and a root canal can be avoided altogether. There are factors, other than decay reaching the neve, that lead to root canals as well. The most common being trauma.

If a tooth is traumatized (i.e. hit with a ball playing a sport, as the result of a car accident, etc.) the nerve inside the tooth could die, and the tooth might start to turn gray. If this happens, the graying can be reversible. What the dentist would need to do in this case, is perform the root canal to remove the necrotic root, and place a bleaching pellet inside the tooth. This pellet will whiten the tooth from the inside out. This tends to take a few visits to complete, with the dentist changing the bleaching pellet each time you come in, and then placing a filling over the access hole once it is done.

Sometimes, patients are apprehensive about getting a root canal done, simply because they don’t know exactly what it is. We wanted to dispel any apprehension by letting all of you know what exactly a root canal entails. A root canal starts out very similar to having a filling done, and you will be extremely numb, so you won’t feel a thing. The doctor will remove the decayed part of the tooth.

They then clean the nerve out of the pulp chamber, effectively relieving the pressure that was built up from the abscess. In the past, dentists used hand files to do this, and that is where most of the apprehension came from with patients. Performing a root canal with hand files takes a long time, and the hand files aren’t the most pleasant to look at. Thankfully, here in our office, we have new technology in the form of the Wave One Reciprocating Endodontic System. What that does is that it automates the file process, and cuts the length of the filing process pretty much in half. It also is a lot more pleasant to deal with than the hand files that we used a few years ago, and that most dentists still use today.

Once the nerve has been removed and the canals have been cleaned, the dentist then fills the canals with a substance called gutta percha. Gutta percha is a rigid natural latex derived from trees. Gutta percha is used to fill the canals because of its biocompatibility, ductility, and malleability, making it the ideal substance for dentists to use. Filling the canals after the root canal is performed is important to prevent them from getting re-infected with bacteria.

The dentist will then fill in the hole that was used to access the canals and build the tooth back up with filling material. This buildup prepares the tooth to be structurally sound enough to place a crown on the tooth. While the tooth is structurally sound with just the buildup done, it is still considered to be in a very fragile state until a crown is placed. The crown provides 360-degree coverage and protection for the very fragile tooth underneath, and is an essential part of the root canal process.

The alternative to having a root canal done, is usually just to have the tooth taken out. While extraction might look like an easier option at the time of treatment. If you choose this route, things get a lot more complicated in the long run. First of all, you will most likely be in more discomfort immediately following an extraction than you will be following a root canal procedure, as there is more trauma to the surrounding jaw and gum tissue during an extraction than a root canal. Then there is always the risk of a dry socket following an extraction, which can be extremely uncomfortable.

Secondly, if you do not replace the tooth that is taken out, you might not be aware of this, but it greatly affects the surrounding teeth and gums. When you chew, the forces of chewing on the teeth that you have stimulates the bone around each tooth, enabling growth and health of the jawbone. When a tooth is missing, there is nothing left to stimulate the bone, so the jawbone begins to break down, or resorb. This lead to issues resorptionsuch as:

  • Changes in your facial profile and distortion of facial features.
  • Surrounding teeth shifting and “tipping” in toward where the tooth is missing – changing your bite and putting extra forces on those teeth and the TMJ, temporomandibular joint.
  • Super-eruption of the opposing teeth – since the opposing tooth has nothing to bite against, it will become loose over time, and eventually will be lost as well.
  • Shifting and misalignment of other teeth – When there is a space created that wasn’t present before, the surrounding teeth will start to shift over time into that space, misaligning all of the other teeth in the mouth, that can normally only be corrected with orthodontics.

Lastly, it is usually more expensive to replace a tooth that has been extracted than it is to get a root canal done. There are a few options to replace a missing tooth, such as an implant, a bridge, and a partial denture, all of which have their own pros and cons associated with them.

So if you have been told that you need a root canal, and are holding off on getting the procedure done because of stories that you have heard from others or the media, give us a call to schedule an appointment so we can bring you in and walk you through the steps so you can see how simple and easy the procedure is. If you have cavities that you have put off getting filled for any reason, call the office and get in before a filling cannot save the tooth anymore. Or if you opted to have a tooth taken out instead of a root canal and have not had the tooth replaced yet, give us a call so we can discuss which option would be best for you.

The whole key, for everyone in general, is to catch issues when they are small and inexpensive. So really, the best way to avoid big expensive procedures is to come in for preventative maintenance as often as possible, and have great home care when you are away from the office, which our hygienists can help you with as well!

“Regular” Cleaning vs. Deep Cleaning

Our hygienist Jamie describes the differences between a “regular” cleaning and a deep cleaning. She also exposes a big secret about dentist offices across the country.

Transcription of video:

One of the biggest questions we get here in our office is, “What is the difference between a “regular” cleaning and a deep cleaning? And we wanted to make this video to help you understand the difference.

First, a “regular” cleaning, known in dental offices as a prophy, is a preventative cleaning done for the purpose of maintaining healthy gums. Healthy gums are firm, pale pink, and there is no bleeding when you brush your teeth. A regular cleaning can only be done when the gums re healthy and there is no presence of gingivitis or periodontal disease.

A deep cleaning, or what is known as scaling and  root planing in most dental offices, is done when a significant amount of bacteria and tartar has built up underneath the gums. A lot of times you cannot see the bacteria or tartar with the naked eye, but it does cause the gums to become puffy, inflamed, and start to bleed.

Last time you were in a dental office, you might have noticed the dentist or hygienist calling out numbers before they started the cleaning. What these numbers are, are measurements of your gums, and it helps the dentist and hygienist to determine the health of the gums. The lower the number the better, and if you hear all threes or under, you are in great shape. When you start to hear fours, fives, and sixes, that means that the bacteria has gotten under the gums and started to create pockets between the teeth and gums, and a deep cleaning needs to be done.

Those are the biggest differences between a regular cleaning and a deep cleaning, and if you have any questions about where you stand, we would be happy to answer them at your next appointment.

What Is Fluoride and What Can It Do For Patients?

Watch our hygienist Nancy describe what fluoride actually is, and the many different applications it has for you at home, and here in our office.

Transcription of video:

Fluoride is a natural mineral that has two properties that help our teeth. It helps fight cavities, and it also helps with tooth sensitivity.

At home, most toothpastes you buy will have fluoride additives already in them, and some mouthwashes as well.

Here in our office we use a fluoride foam, and also a fluoride varnish. The difference between the fluoride here in our office and the fluoride found in over-the-counter toothpaste is that ours comes in a higher dosage.

Both the foam and the varnish are applied after having your teeth cleaned. The foam, which is primarily used for it’s cavity fighting properties, is painted on the teeth, left there for about a minute, and patients are instructed to not eat or drink 30 minutes after the application to help the fluoride to adhere to the teeth.

The fluoride varnish is primarily used for it’s desensitizing properties. The varnish is painted on the teeth in the areas that are sensitive, and left there until you brush your teeth before you go to bed. We have had great results with fluoride varnish helping patients with sensitivity issues.

And that, my friends, are the ways that fluoride benefits both you and me.