Monthly Archives: October 2012

What is Tartar and How to Prevent it

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Plaque and tartar: two words that you have most likely heard in your dentist’s office, and (if you’re lucky) hopefully not during your dental exam! Surprisingly, however, many do not know the proper care and prevention for these dental issues. Lots of us are unaware of what causes plaque and tartar. In this article, we will discuss why tartar is such an issue, and ways to prevent it. You can even help yourself by eating certain foods!

To start with the basics, we will discuss the difference between tartar and plaque. Plaque begins with bacteria that builds up on the teeth, which then interacts with food and saliva in the mouth. The most troublesome area for plaque buildup is the top of the tooth around the crevices between teeth and gums. Tartar is really just as a severe case of plaque buildup. Once plaque hardens, tartar is formed, and it then becomes a hard brownish substance. The troublesome area is again, around the gums, which are the hardest areas to clean. Cleaning becomes even more difficult if the gums bleed, and this increases the chances for the problem to worsen.

Don’t be discouraged, though, because preventing these issues is actually quite easy! Proper dental hygiene will not only prevent plaque and tartar, but even help you at your next dental exam. It can be costly to remove tartar, because it cannot be done at home, so the best advice is to practice good habits before tartar has a chance to develop. To do so, all it takes is to keep up with a few basics: flossing, brushing your teeth regularly, and dental exams/cleanings every six months.

Brushing your teeth needs to occur at least twice a day with appropriate bacterial fighting toothpastes containing fluoride. Brushing should be supplemented with flossing once a day (or more frequently if you like). With that said, dental exams are recommended to keep plaque buildup in check and identify any unseen issues.

Certain eating habits are known to reduce the risks of plaque and tartar, as well. Dentists will tell you that our worst enemy when it comes to our teeth and gums is sugar, so they will stress the avoidance of candy and soda. But there are even some foods you can eat preventatively. Hard foods, for example, like carrots and celery, have the ability to strengthen gums, which helps fight against plaque and the build up of tartar. Another way to naturally clean your teeth is by eating acidic fruits like grapefruit. The acid in these fruits helps clean and whiten teeth, and will definitely prevent bacteria from making a home in your mouth.

Usually, plaque and tartar can be avoided by following these simple guidelines. However, if there is a problem, it is very important to seek professional help by scheduling a dental exam. Once tartar sets in the mouth it cannot be removed at home. Staying on top of these appointments and professional cleanings will prevent future issues and guarantee healthy teeth and a beautiful smile! If you have questions about this topic, just ask your dentist.










Explanation of Root Canals & Crowns

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A trip to the dentist isn’t something that we look forward to, but proper dental care and treatment can lead to an overall healthier lifestyle. Two of the most common procedures that you may be faced with in your lifetime are either a root canal and/or a crown. These are basic procedures that are performed every day in dentists’ offices around the world. In this article, we will cover the most common questions attributed with these two procedures, such as what they are and why you may need them.

The first procedure that we are going to discuss is the root canal. If a tooth has just a small amount of decay, the cavity will be handled by a filling. But in cases where a tooth is infected or has become further decayed, a root canal will be performed. This procedure can save your tooth from falling out or even decaying the teeth around it. In this treatment the pulp of the tooth is removed and the root is completely emptied out/cleaned.

The center of the tooth is the area called the root canal. The pulp is the soft tissue that surrounds the tooth’s nerve. The role of the nerve is no longer prevalent once the tooth has protruded through the gums. In other words, removing the nerve from a tooth will not affect the tooth’s functioning.

The pulp of the tooth can become damaged, which can allow bacteria to form inside the pulp chamber and begin to infect the tooth. This can lead to many tooth and gum problems if not treated properly.

So how do you know if you need a root canal? Well, there are not always symptoms that are present, but there are some signs that may point to a possible infection. These symptoms can be: tooth pain when chewing, sensitivity to temperature, or even discoloring around the tooth. Regular dental checkups will catch these problems before a root canal is necessary.

The root canal procedure can be performed by a dentist or an endodontist  (infection specialist). A local anesthesia is performed and an access opening is drilled into the tooth so that  inflamed or infected pulp(nerve) tissue can be removed. There can be 1 or more canals that are cleaned, shaped and sealed and you are on your way home!

The second procedure is a dental crown. This is a process that can repair damaged teeth and also improve the visual appearance. Crowns are made of many different materials but they all serve the same purpose and cover the full tooth (unlike a filling which only covers a portion). These crowns are permanent and are cemented into place.

The procedure for a crown can take at least 2 visits. The first visit involves the shaping of the tooth, the tooth impression, and the temporary crown.

Like most dental procedures, local anesthesia is used. In order for the crown to fit properly, the tooth must be shaped and trimmed properly for the hard crown to fit. This proper fit will enable the crown to last longer and be more stable.

The tooth impression is the second important step in the process, in which the dentist takes a molding of the tooth to be crowned. The dentist then sends the impression to a dental lab for the crown to be fabricated, which can take about one to two weeks. The temporary crown is then placed on your tooth for the time in between your visits.

The second visit is where the cementing and placing of the final permanent crown is done. This process is very simple and involves placing the crown on without any cement to get the fitting just right and making any minor changes before finalization. The dentist will place the cement on the tooth and place the crown on, then clear off any excess cement. That is the final step and your new crown is set to last about five to fifteen years!

These two simple procedures are reasonably pain-free and help keep your gums and teeth healthy for your whole life.


Diagnosing Tooth Pain

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“Ouch–my tooth hurts!

Tooth pain is not fun. And sometimes it means that you need to see your dentist. However, some tooth pain can be handled by knowing what to do. Here we share some tooth problems and symptoms and what the most likely cause is.

Do you have pain when you bite down on something?

This could be due to several reasons: you could have a loose filling, or your tooth might be cracked. If there is a crack or even if there is not, there could be decay. You’ll need to visit your dentist to find out what is wrong with that tooth, but you can examine it closely yourself. Make sure you do not have any food particles wedged into it.

When you have something hot or cold in your mouth, do you get a twinge of pain in a tooth?

Having sensitivity to cold or hot foods usually does not mean you have a problem. Especially if the discomfort lasts just a few seconds. You could have a slightly loose filling or a small area exposed that is sensitive that is near the tooth root, maybe in a tooth that you’ve had worked on. Another cause is mild gum recession. You can try switching to a toothpaste made just for sensitive teeth. Brush your teeth several times a day with it, or you can apply the toothpaste to the sensitive area two or three times a day just using your finger. If it doesn’t help you, make an appointment with your dentist.

Having sensitivity to hot or cold foods after a dental treatment is normal, due to there being a bit of inflammation from the dental work. If you still have discomfort after several weeks, you should return to the dentist.

Any time that you have pain or discomfort for a minute or more after eating something hot or cold, you have pulp damage…decay that needs to be taken care of. If decay is extensive, often a root canal is done to save the tooth.

Do you have pretty serious pain, possibly combined with pressure and some swelling?

This means you have a cavity and possibly even an abscessed tooth. When you have pressure and swelling of your gums around the tooth and it hurts when you touch it, this is likely to be an abscess, which makes the bone around the tooth infected and sore. You can use an analgesic from the drugstore until you can get to the dentist. Endodontists specialize in working on this type of tooth problem so your dentist may recommend an endodontist or you could make an appointment with one directly.

Do you have pain in your ear, your face, your neck or maybe a spot on your head?

If no other answer seems obvious, do not rule out a tooth problem. A decayed tooth can cause pain in various places. But of course, there could be more going on. You should see an endodontist to fully examine your teeth and find the “root” (smile) of the problem.

Do you have an ache or pressure around your teeth and your jaws?

Sometimes a sinus condition can cause aching in the teeth and jaws so you can try sinus medicine to see if it alleviates the problem. It is also possible that you are a teeth grinder. Clenching or grinding your teeth at night while you sleep can cause aches and pains in your mouth area the next day. You can try wearing a guard over your teeth at night and see if this alleviates the problem.

In general, if you have tooth pain that persists, don’t ignore it…because if there is decay or gum disease, it will only get worse. The sooner you see your dentist, the better. Pain relief products should only be a temporary solution until your dental office visit.