One of the toughest enemies your teeth face is dental plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles. Accumulated dental plaque can trigger both tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease, which is why removing it is the true raison d'etre for daily brushing and flossing.
But if you do indeed brush and floss every day, how well are you fulfilling this prime objective? The fact is, even if your teeth feel smooth and clean, there could still be missed plaque lurking around, ultimately hardening into tartar—and just as triggering for disease.
The best evaluation of your brushing and flossing efforts may come at your semi-annual dental cleanings. After thoroughly removing any residual plaque and tartar, your dentist or hygienist can give you a fairly accurate assessment of how effective you've been doing in the plaque removal business.
There's also another way you can evaluate your plaque removal ability between dental visits. By using a plaque disclosing agent, you can actually see the plaque you're missing—otherwise camouflaged against your natural tooth color.
These products, usually tablets, swabs or liquid solutions available over-the-counter, contain a dye that reacts to bacterial plaque. After brushing and flossing as usual, you apply the agent to your teeth and gums per the product's instructions. After spitting out any remaining solution, you examine your teeth in the mirror.
The dye will react to any residual plaque or tartar, coloring it a bright hue like pink or orange in contrast to your normal tooth color. You can see the plaque, and perhaps even patterns that can show how you've missed it. For example, if you see brightly colored scallop shapes around the gum line, that's telling you you're not adequately working your toothbrush into those areas.
The dye eventually fades from the teeth in a few hours, or you can brush it away (and fully remove the plaque it disclosed). Although it's safe, you should avoid ingesting it or getting it on your clothes.
Regularly using a disclosing agent can give you excellent feedback for improving your hygiene techniques. Getting better at brushing and flossing will further reduce your risk for dental disease.
If you would like more information on daily plaque removal, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Plaque Disclosing Agents.”
Finding out you have a cavity can be an unwelcome surprise. The truth is, though, it didn't happen overnight, but the result of ongoing conditions in the mouth.
Those conditions usually begin with harmful oral bacteria. As a life form, these bacteria need food and lodging, which they readily find from the carbohydrates in your diet. The bacteria and food remnants form a thin biofilm that accumulates tooth surfaces called dental plaque. The bacteria in turn produce oral acid, which can soften and erode the teeth's protective enamel. As bacteria multiply the mouth's acidic levels rise, making cavity formation more likely.
But there's also a flip side to this scenario: Interrupting bacterial growth can help prevent cavities and other dental diseases. Here's how you can do just that.
Remove plaque buildup. It's a simple principle: Deprive bacteria of their refined carbohydrates to reduce their toxicity and remove daily plaque buildup with brushing and flossing. For an added boost, see your dentist at least twice a year for a thorough dental cleaning.
Curtail snacking on sweets. Bacteria love the refined sugar in pastries, candies and other sweets as much as we do. Thus, constant snacking on sweets throughout the day could actually foster bacterial growth. Instead, ease up on your sugar intake and limit sweets to meal times only.
Rinse after sugary drinks. Sodas, sports or energy drinks also provide bacteria with added sugar. They may also contain added forms of acid that further lower your mouth's pH level into the acidic danger zone for teeth. Make it a habit, then, to rinse out your mouth with clear water after drinking one of these beverages to dilute excess sugar or acid.
Take care of your saliva. Saliva neutralizes acid even more than plain water, usually in 30 minutes to an hour after eating. By contrast, not having enough saliva increases your risk for decay and other dental diseases. So, be sure to drink plenty of water, monitor medications that might interfere with saliva production, and use saliva boosting products if needed to keep your saliva production healthy.
If you would like more information on managing your dental health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cost-Saving Treatment Alternatives.”
The odds are extremely low that you'll read or hear about an infection outbreak in a dental clinic anytime soon. That's no happy accident. The more than 170,000 dentists practicing in the U.S. work diligently to protect their patients and staff from infectious disease during dental care.
Spurred on by both high professional standards and governmental oversight, American dentists adhere to strict infection control measures. The primary purpose of these measures is to protect patients from bloodborne infections like Hepatitis B and C and HIV/AIDS.
The term bloodborne refers to the transmission of a virus from person to person via contact with blood. This can occur when blood from an infected person enters the body of another person through a wound or incision.
This is of special concern with any procedure that can cause disruptions to skin or other soft tissues. Oral surgery, of course, falls into this category. But it could also apply to procedures in general dentistry like tooth extraction or even teeth cleaning, both of which can cause tissue trauma.
Each individual dentist or clinic formulates a formal infection control plan designed to prevent person to person blood contact. These plans are a set of protocols based on guidelines developed by on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Barrier protection is an important part of such plans. Dentists and their staff routinely wear gloves, gowns, masks, or other coverings during procedures to block contact between them and their patients.
Additionally, staff members also disinfect work surfaces and sterilize reusable instruments after each treatment session. They isolate disposable items used during treatment from common trash and dispose of them separately. On a personal level, dental staff also thoroughly wash their hands before and after each patient visit.
Because of these practices and the importance placed on controlling potential infection spread, you have nothing to fear in regard to disease while visiting the dentist. If you have any questions or concerns, though, let your dentist know—your safety is just as important to them as your dental care.
If you would like more information on infection control in the dentist's office, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Infection Control in the Dental Office.”
Best known for her roles in E.T. and Ever After, and more recently as a suburban mom/zombie on Netflix's Santa Clarita Diet, Drew Barrymore is now bringing her trademark quirky optimism to a new talk show, The Drew Barrymore Show on CBS. Her characteristic self-deprecating humor was also on display recently on Instagram, as she showed viewers how she keeps her teeth clean and looking great.
In typical Drew fashion, she invited viewers into her bathroom to witness her morning brushing ritual (complete with slurps and sloshes). She also let everyone in on a little insider Drew 411: She has extremely sensitive teeth, so although she would love to sport a Hollywood smile, this condition makes teeth whitening difficult.
Barrymore's sensitivity problem isn't unique. For some, bleaching agents can irritate the gums and tooth roots. It's usually a mild reaction that subsides in a day or two. But take heart if you count yourself among the tooth-sensitive: Professional whitening in the dental office may provide the solution you are looking for.
In the dental office, we take your specific needs into account when we treat you. We have more control over our bleaching solutions than those you may find in the store, allowing us to adjust the strength to match your dental needs and your smile expectations and we can monitor you during treatment to keep your teeth safe. Furthermore, professional whitening lasts longer, so you won't have to repeat it as often.
After treatment, you can minimize discomfort from sensitive teeth by avoiding hot or cold foods and beverages. You may also find it helpful to use a toothpaste or other hygiene product designed to reduce tooth sensitivity.
The best thing you can do is to schedule an appointment with us to fully explore your problems with sensitivity and how we may help. First and foremost, you should undergo an exam to ensure any sensitivity you're experiencing isn't related to a more serious issue like tooth decay or gum recession.
Having a bright smile isn't just advantageous to celebrities like Drew Barrymore—it can make a difference in your personal and professional relationships, as well as your own self-confidence. We can help you achieve that brighter smile while helping you avoid sensitivity afterward.
If you would like more information about teeth whitening, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”
There's a good chance you have an over-the-counter pain reliever in your medicine cabinet right now. They're handy for safely and effectively coping with mild to moderate pain, swelling or fever. They could also prove an invaluable resource after your upcoming dental work—your dentist may recommend one of these common drugs to help you manage your recovery period.
These particular drugs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. The most common sold under various brand names are aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. Unlike narcotics (opioids), which depress the central nervous system to control pain, NSAIDs block substances in the body called prostaglandins, which are released when tissues become inflamed or damaged. This in turn reduces pain, swelling or fever.
There's another significant difference between NSAIDs and narcotics—NSAIDs aren't addictive like opioids. Because they're also milder, NSAIDs don't require a prescription except for stronger formulations. With the trend to limit the use of narcotics in both dentistry and medicine, dentists are turning to NSAIDs as their primary means for managing dental pain.
There are, of course, some situations where narcotics are the preferred course. But dentists are finding NSAIDs are just as effective for managing discomfort following most dental procedures. They've also found that combined doses of ibuprofen and acetaminophen greatly amplifies the pain relieving effect.
Although NSAIDs are much safer than narcotics, they do have potential side effects. For one, they can reduce the blood's ability to coagulate, especially when taken consistently over several weeks. This could make it difficult to stop bleeding due to injury or illness.
NSAIDs can also irritate the stomach lining in some people over an extended period of use, leading to ulcers and other digestive issues. Prolonged use has also been linked to major problems like kidney damage, miscarriage or heart attacks.
But NSAIDs are still a safe alternative to narcotics: Their side effect risks are quite low when taken in proper dosages—between 400 and 600 mg for adults—within a limited amount of time like a few days. Their temporary use can help you cope with discomfort after a dental procedure and get you well on the road to full healing.
If you would like more information on managing discomfort after dental work, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Treating Pain With Ibuprofen.”
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