Prevention and early detection are the key to avoiding tooth decay and gum disease. A good home regimen, in addition to regular check-ups and visits, can spare you many expensive dental treatments. Prevention starts with controlling plaque, a colorless bacteria that sticks to the surface of your teeth, and calculus, a harder mineral deposit. These are the main sources of decay and disease. By maintaining a proper routine of daily hygiene, you can avoid most oral maladies. Our hygienist is available to assist you with your hygiene and management of your gums.
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HELP! Why do I have Cavities?
Everyone wants to know why they have cavities. Some things you have no control over. You inherited the shape of your teeth and the kinds of bacteria from your parents. There are many kinds of normal bacteria in the mouth but only a few that are directly associated with cavities. These bacteria produce acid when fed sugar which dissolves the enamel on your teeth ultimately forming cavities.
So what can I do?
Stop feeding the bacteria sugar
When you eat sugar, the bacteria eat sugar and they produce acid as a by product of their digestion. This includes candies, sugared drinks (like sweet tea), and snacks.
Stop eating or drinking acid
The worst thing you can do for your teeth is to drink soda all day long. The soda has sugar in it and the average pH of soda is 2.2. Enamel dissolves at pH 5.5. A soda a day isn't going to kill you but the guy who carries a 44 oz Mountain Dew around the office all day long is feeding the bacteria. This includes all carbonated beverages, citrus fruits and juices - orange, lemonade, grapefruit, etc. If you can't brush after a meal, at least rinse your mouth with water.
Chew Xylitol gum
Biotene, Orbit, Trident, and Xylifresh gum has xylitol in it. This sweetener is picked up by the bacteria but they can't use it! It slows them down. The gum chewing also stimulates saliva production. Saliva has calcium and phosphates which help remineralize the teeth. A new product called Trident White has calcium and phosphate in it (but no xylitol) to help remineralized teeth. The recommended dose is two pieces of gum for 10-20 minutes four times a day.
Stop smoking and chewing tobacco
The heat from the cigarettes dries out your mouth making you have less saliva and more cavities. There is a lot of sugar in chewing tobacco and you are feeding the bacteria all day long.
Get a mechanical toothbrush
Some people just clean better with a spin brush than a regular toothbrush. Brush twice a day. Try brushing after every meal.
A toothbrush never gets between the teeth. Floss scrapes the goo out from between your teeth. You will get better with practice.
Use more fluoride
Use a high fluoride prescription toothpaste like Prevident 5000, a fluoride mouth rinse like Act or Fluorguard.
Proper brushing takes 2-3 minutes. Use short gentle strokes paying attention to crowded or hard to get areas like the back of your lower front teeth.
Use a soft brush. If you use a hard bristle brush you run the risk of causing gum recession and exposing the roots of your teeth.
Use your wrist. If you scrub with your elbow, back and forth, you are probably putting too much pressure on your teeth. It's OK on the tops of your teeth, but on the sides use an up and down or small circle motion with your wrist.
Manual or Mechanical? It doesn't matter to me. Use whatever you are most comfortable with. I do recommend mechanical toothbrushes for children since they often haven't developed the dexterity to do a good job. People with arthritis or have hand problems can benefit from the larger handle of a mechanical brush.
What's the best toothpaste? For the most part it doesn't matter. The brush and the floss are doing the work. The paste is just fluoride and flavoring. Now if you can tolerate some of the toothpastes with triclosan I think that helps. Some patients though are sensitive to the ingredients they put in toothpaste. If you are sensitive, avoid the toothpastes with whitening agents, tricolsan, tarter control, and other ingredients.
Daily flossing is an effective way to clean teeth where regular brushing can't reach. To floss properly, take 18" of dental floss, wrap it around the middle finger of each hand, and pinch it between your thumb and index finger. Pull the floss taut, then slide it gently between each tooth and under the gum line. Slide the floss up and down the side of each tooth to remove plaque buildup. Be sure to use a clean section of floss as you move from tooth to tooth.
Over-the-counter mouth rinses can help to fight bad breath, remove loose food particles after brushing, and freshen the mouth. However, mouth rinses are never a substitute for brushing, flossing, or regular dental examinations, and may disguise warning signs of periodontal disease.
Early signs of gum disease include redness, swelling, or inflammation around the gum line. If these warning signs appear, your dentist will check for hardened plaque, also known as tartar or calculus, below the gumline. Finally, your dentist may use a tool called a probe to test gums for bleeding and measure periodontal pockets. When gums are unhealthy, they pull away from the teeth, forming these pockets. If the periodontal pockets are deeper than 3mm, advanced periodontal disease is confirmed.
Deep cleaning can effectively control and reverse gum disease by removing the germs that lead to infection. This deep cleaning involves techniques called scaling and root planing. Scaling involves scraping away plaque and tarter from above and below the gumline. Planing involves smoothing out rough surfaces of teeth which can foster the bacteria growth that leads to infection. Left with clean, smooth teeth, patients will notice reduced redness and inflammation as the gum is better able to attach to the tooth enamel. Dentists may prescribe antibiotics or mouth rinses to kill any remaining bacteria after scaling and planing procedures are performed.
Periodontal disease is marked by the breakdown of structures that surround, secure, and support the teeth. These structures include the jawbones, gums, and fibers which anchor the teeth to the gums. Periodontal disease is usually a result of untreated plaque buildup, and is the number one cause of tooth loss in adults. However, regular checkups and a strong home care regimen easily prevent periodontal disease.
Gingivitis is the early stages of periodontal disease, when only the soft tissues of the mouth are affected. Plaque buildup leads to tartar and bacteria below the gumline, which leads to inflamed, irritated, or bleeding gums. The good news is, gingivitis is reversible. A good professional cleaning, followed by regular brushing, flossing, and checkups, restores gums to good health by removing plaque and bacteria.
Regular dental cleanings, performed by a registered dental hygienist, are a crucial part of preventive dental care. By removing plaque and tartar, your dental hygienist enhances your oral health and minimizes your risk of gingivitis and periodontal disease. Your dental hygienist will utilize manual instruments to scale away moderate plaque and tartar buildup, or an ultrasonic device to scale away heavier buildup. The cleaning is finished with polishing, a pleasant procedure that cleans the surface of teeth, removes stains, and leaves the mouth feeling clean and refreshed.
No matter how diligent you are in your home dental care regimen, you should still get a dental exam and cleaning twice per year. The importance of regular dental exams cannot be overemphasized - dental exams are the cornerstone of good dental health. In particular, regular checkups are essential for early detection of more serious problems. Early detection makes treatment easier, less expensive, and more effective. In your dental exam, your dentist will perform the following routine checks:
- Examine and assess gum health; check for gum disease.
- Examine any existing tooth decay.
- Take and analyze x-rays, which may reveal decay, bone loss, abscessestumors, cysts, and other problems.
- Screen for the presence of oral cancer.
- Verify the stability of any existing fillings or other restorations.
- Inform you of all findings and make treatment recommendations.