By practicing good oral hygiene at home and scheduling regular checkups with your dentist, you can help keep your smile bright and healthy for many years to come. Here are a few simple ways that you can prevent the build-up of plaque and cavities:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Use fluoride toothpaste to remove food particles and plaque from the tooth surfaces. Also be sure to brush the top surface of your tongue; this will remove any extra plaque-causing food particles, and help keep your breath fresh!
- Clean between your teeth by flossing at least once a day. You can also use a mouthwash to help kill bacteria and freshen your breath. Decay-causing bacteria can linger between teeth where toothbrush bristles can't reach. Floss and mouthwash will help remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line.
- Eat a balanced diet, and try to avoid extra-sugary treats. Nutritious foods such as raw vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese, or fruit can help keep your smile healthy.
- Remember to schedule regular checkups with your dentist every six months for a professional teeth cleaning.
- Ask your dentist about dental sealants, protective plastic coatings that can be applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth where decay often starts.
- If you play sports, be sure to ask your dentist about special mouthguards designed to protect your smile.
If it's been six months since your last dental checkup, then it's time to contact our practice and schedule your next appointment!
There are times when it is necessary to remove a tooth. Sometimes a baby tooth has misshapen or long roots that prevent it from falling out as it should, and the tooth must be removed to make way for the permanent tooth to erupt. At other times, a tooth may have so much decay that it puts the surrounding teeth and jaw at risk of decay, so your doctor may recommend removal and replacement with a bridge or implant. Infection, orthodontic correction, or problems with a wisdom tooth can also require removal of a tooth.
When it is determined that a tooth needs to be removed, your dentist may extract the tooth during a regular checkup or may schedule another visit for this procedure. The root of each tooth is encased within your jawbone in a "tooth socket," and your tooth is held in that socket by a ligament. In order to extract a tooth, your dentist must expand the socket and separate the tooth from the ligament holding it in place. While this procedure is typically very quick, it is important to share with your doctor any concerns or preferences for sedation.
Once a tooth has been removed, neighboring teeth may shift, causing problems with chewing or with your jaw joint function. To avoid these complications, your dentist may recommend that you replace the extracted tooth.
Traditional dental restoratives, or fillings, are most often made of silver amalgam. The strength and durability of this traditional dental material makes it useful for situations where restored teeth must withstand extreme forces that result from chewing, often in the back of the mouth.
Newer dental fillings include ceramic and plastic compounds that mimic the appearance of natural teeth. These compounds, often called composite resins, are usually used on the front teeth where a natural appearance is important, but they can also be used on the back teeth depending on the location and extent of the tooth decay.
What's right for me?
Several factors influence the performance, durability, longevity and expense of dental restorations, including:
- The components used in the filling material
- The amount of tooth structure remaining
- Where and how the filling is placed
- The chewing load that the tooth will have to bear
- The length and number of visits needed to prepare and adjust the restored tooth
Before your treatment begins, your doctor will discuss with you all of your options and help you choose the best filling for your particular case. In preparation for this discussion it may be helpful to understand the two basic types of dental fillings — direct and indirect.
- Direct fillings are fillings placed into a prepared cavity in a single visit. They include silver amalgam, glass ionomers, resin ionomers, and composite (resin) fillings. The dentist prepares the tooth, places the filling, and adjusts it in one appointment.
- Indirect fillings generally require two or more visits. They include inlays, onlays, and veneers fabricated with gold, base metal alloys, ceramics, or composites. They are used when a tooth has too much damage to support a filling but not enough to necessitate a crown. During the first visit, the dentist prepares the tooth and makes an impression of the area to be restored. The dentist then places a temporary covering over the prepared tooth. The impression is sent to a dental laboratory, which creates the dental restoration. At the next appointment, the dentist cements the restoration into the prepared cavity and adjusts it as needed.
Dental Health and Root Canals
In the past, if you had a tooth with a diseased nerve, you would probably lose that tooth. Today, with a special dental procedure called root canal treatment, your tooth can be saved. Root canals are a relatively simple procedure involving one to three office visits. Best of all, having a root canal when necessary can save your tooth and your smile!
What is the purpose of a root canal?
A tooth's nerve is not vitally important to a tooth's health and function after the tooth has emerged through the gums. Its only function is sensory – to provide the sensation of hot or cold. The presence or absence of a nerve will not affect the day-to-day functioning of the tooth.
When a tooth is cracked or has a deep cavity, bacteria can enter the pulp tissue and germs can cause an infection inside the tooth. If left untreated, an abscess may form. If the infected tissue is not removed, pain and swelling can result. This can not only injure your jawbones, but it is detrimental to your overall health. Without the proper treatment, your tooth may have to be removed.
What are the signs that a root canal is needed?
Teeth that require root canal therapy are not always painful. However, signs you may need a root canal include severe toothache, pain upon chewing or application of pressure, prolonged sensitivity or pain in response to hot and cold temperatures, a dark discoloration of the tooth, and swelling and tenderness in the nearby gums. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor.
What happens during a root canal?
Root canal treatment involves one to three visits. During treatment, your general dentist or endodontist (a dentist who specializes in problems with the nerves of the teeth) removes the affected tissue. Next, the interior of the tooth will be cleaned and sealed. Finally, the tooth is filled with a dental composite. If your tooth had extensive decay, your doctor may suggest placing a crown to strengthen and protect the tooth from breakage. As long as you continue to care for your teeth and gums with regular brushing, flossing, and checkups, your restored tooth can last a lifetime.
Wisdom teeth are types of molars found in the very back of your mouth. These teeth usually appear in late teens or early twenties but may become impacted (fail to erupt) due to lack of room in the jaw or angle of entry. The most common type of impacted wisdom tooth is “mesial”, meaning that the tooth is angled forward toward the front of your mouth.
When a wisdom tooth is impacted, it may need to be removed. If it is not removed, you may develop gum tenderness, swelling, or even severe pain. Impacted wisdom teeth that are partially or fully erupted tend to be quite difficult to clean and are susceptible to tooth decay, recurring infections, and even gum disease.
Each patient's situation is unique. Your dentist will usually take a panoramic X-ray to determine whether your wisdom teeth will need to be removed. If your dentist recommends removal of your wisdom teeth, it is best to have them removed sooner rather than later.
Wisdom teeth are typically removed in the late teens or early twenties because there is a greater chance that the teeth's roots have not fully formed and the bone surrounding the teeth is less dense. These two factors can make extraction easier, as well as making the recovery time much shorter.
To remove a wisdom tooth, your dentist first needs to numb the area around the tooth with a local anesthetic. Your dentist can use additional medication to safely sedate you during the extraction if you are feeling nervous about the procedure. Since the impacted tooth may still be under the gums and imbedded in your jaw bone, your dentist will need to remove a portion of the covering bone to extract the tooth. To minimize the amount of bone that is removed with the tooth, your dentist will often “section” your wisdom tooth so that each piece can be removed through a small opening in the bone.
Once your wisdom teeth have been extracted, the healing process begins. Healing time varies depending on the degree of difficulty related to the extraction. Your dentist will let you know what to expect and will provide instructions for a comfortable, efficient healing process.