Monthly Archives: May 2012

Use of Lasers In Dentistry

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Technology has allowed the medical field to make many procedures faster and less painful. This applies to dentistry as well. Lasers have become widely accepted in many types of medical practice, and were first used in dentistry in 1994.

Lasers work by producing energy in the form of light. It is rather amazing that a tiny beam of light can actually be used as a cutting instrument. It vaporizes the tissue. This light energy also produces heat, which is why it is used to bond fillings and help lighten/whiten teeth. However, if a tooth already has a filling in it, lasers cannot be used. Compared to traditional cutting tools, a laser is extremely sterile—completely germ-free – and actually kills bacteria. Areas worked on by laser typically heal faster than with traditional methods.

Lasers can be used in several ways by dental offices. They can remove decay within a tooth or be used to harden/set a filling. They are frequently used to make in-office teeth whitening happen faster. The laser activates the bleaching solution that is placed on the surface of the teeth. Lasers are also used to move tissue such as a lesion in the mouth or a canker sore. They are used whenever a piece of tissue needs to be sent for examination—a biopsy. They can also be used to eliminate bacteria and even to reshape gums.

The use of lasers has become increasingly popular in root canal procedures. Endodontists—dentists who specialize in root canals—are finding lasers to be highly effective in providing pain-free, less time-consuming root canals. It is interesting to note that when lasers are used with soft tissue, sutures are typically not needed. Bleeding is also minimized.

Laser dentistry is very precise. It’s an effective way to perform certain dental procedures. It requires the dentist’s ability to control the power level of the laser as well as the length of time that the laser is exposed to the tissue or tooth. With skill, it is the ideal tool for treating a very small, specific area. Damage to surrounding tissue is reduced or completely eliminated.

Ask your dentist if they utilize lasers in treatment of patients. More and more dentists and especially endodontists are incorporating lasers into their everyday practice.  Depending on the situation, use of lasers can sometimes mean that anesthesia is not needed. For people who may have anxiety about dental procedures, use of a laser can help reassure them that the procedure just might not bother them at all!


Gum Disease and How to Prevent It

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Have you ever had gum disease? People over 40 are much more likely to develop gum disease. There are two forms of gum disease – gingivitis being the milder form, and periodontitis being the more serious kind. This means that the disease varies from simple gum irritation to major damage to the soft tissue around the teeth and to the bones that support the teeth. So we can say, “gum disease is no laughing matter”.

Whether you develop gum disease and how serious it gets depends largely on how well you care for your teeth. All those things the dentist tells you to do – brushing at least twice a day, brushing for a minute not just 10 seconds, flossing, mouth rinse – these good habits help ensure gum disease prevention or slowing. People with diabetes, genetic disposition, or who smoke are more likely to develop gum disease. Also people who are on medications that make the mouth dry (reduce saliva) can be more prone to gum disease.

Gum disease is caused by plaque (which is made of bacteria) forming on the teeth at the gum line. It hardens and becomes tartar, and traps bacteria. Brushing will not remove tartar – only a dentist can do this with the right tools. So if someone has tartar buildup and does not visit the dentist, the harbored bacteria starts to cause inflammation around the toothline, on the gums. At the gingivitis stage, it can be reversed. If allowed to continue, peridontitis develops and the gums actually pull away from the teeth, creating spaces (pockets) that become infected. Ouch!

Symptoms of gum disease include:

-Ongoing bad breath

-Tender gums – or bleeding gums

-Pain when chewing

-Sensitive teeth

-Red or swollen gums, or receding gums

None of these symptoms should be taken lightly. If you develop one, it is time for a visit to the dentist. The treatment implemented will control the infection by doing a deep cleaning of the teeth and in most cases prescribing medication. Good follow-up care at home is essential. Just as there are special dentists called endodontists who specialize in root canals, there are also special dentists called periodontists who specialize in treating gum disease and teeth affected by too much plaque and tartar. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary – such as when the inflammation and “pockets” remain after the deep cleaning process has been done.

Your best bet in avoiding cavities, decay and gum disease are to follow your dentist’s recommendations for good oral care.


Choosing a Dentist – What to Look For

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Not all dentists are alike. You obviously have choices when it comes to dental care. Maybe you have not been to the dentist in a long time, or maybe you don’t care for your current dentist and would like to make a switch. Whatever the reason, choosing a new dentist is an important decision. So what should you look for and how should you make your choice?

There are many things to consider when choosing a dentist. Obviously you want their office to be in physical proximity to either your home or your workplace. Visit the office to see that it is clean and orderly. Find out what the hours are and make sure that they are convenient for your schedule.

Seven out of 10 dentists are members of the American Dental Association and this provides credibility and assurance for consumers. Members of this organization agree to abide by the high ethical standards set by the ADA.

Determine the education of the dentist – don’t hesitate to ask about their degree. You want them to be a DDS—Dr. of Dental Surgery or DMD—Dr. of Dental Medicine, which are the same degree. They should be board certified by the ADA.

You always want a dentist that takes time to explain things and has time to speak with patients. Call your potential new dental office and ask to speak with the dentist. You can make up a dental question if you like. If they seem unwilling to speak to you or don’t call back promptly, then you know they will most likely be the same way when you are their patient. Good dentists take a personal interest in their patients’ health.

Find out how they handle emergencies outside of office hours. If you crack a tooth or have serious tooth pain when their office is closed, will they see you?

You of course want to find out about fees and payments—what methods of payment do they accept? If you have insurance then you obviously need to find out if they accept it.

If possible, try and speak to some current patients of this dentist. If they do quality work, the work lasts a long time. Low-quality work will decay or fall out in a few years. Good dental work takes time to do so if patients are not with the dentist very long, this is a sign that they may be doing lower quality work. You can also ask if they are or work with an endodontist, which is a dentist who specializes in root canals, and the type of dentist you want should you ever need this procedure.

One last reminder—if you are changing dentists, make sure to ask your previous dentist to provide you with your permanent records so that you can give them to your new dental office.