Today’s Many Options for Braces

Young girl with braces

Source: BRENDA MICHELLE on Flickr

When you think of braces, you may think of months to years of a mouth full of metal, but just like all other technologies, the technology of straightening teeth has advanced in recent years. There are lots of options for braces these days, some of which you might not even call braces.

For example, invisible braces systems (like Invisalign®) use clear aligner trays to gently coax your teeth into position. These types of aligners can be removed temporarily to eat, so there are fewer restrictions on the foods you can enjoy when using clear aligners to get straighter smile.

There are also lingual braces, which are essentially invisible because they are on the backside of your teeth (near your tongue). Lingual braces are a great option for those who want to straighten their teeth without appearing to have braces. However, because lingual braces are very customized, they may cost more than traditional braces that go on the front of your teeth.

Clear or white braces are another option that can straighten your teeth nearly invisibly. Clear braces use clear or white brackets instead of metal ones, so your braces are not as obvious. From a distance, people may not notice your braces at all.

You can complete your braces treatment more quickly by choosing one of the fast or quick braces technologies. These braces systems use innovative new versions of orthodontic technology to move teeth more quickly, or only move a few teeth at a time, so you can have a straight, aligned smile in as little as three to six months, as opposed to the typical 12 to 18 months with regular braces.

And then there are traditional metal braces with metal brackets. While not the most aesthetically pleasing, traditional braces have a unique advantage over all the other types of tooth straightening technology: they can be used to treat nearly any orthodontic problem. Not everyone’s teeth can be helped by the clear, fast or invisible options mentioned above. Ultimately, a dozen or so months wearing braces is worth it for a new straight smile that will last for years to come.

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment when it comes to braces. There are lots of elements to consider when choosing an option for braces, including time, cost, appearance, & what needs to be fixed (overbite, underbite, crossbite, etc.). Your dentist & your orthodontist can discuss the options with you & help you choose a treatment plan that fits your needs & desires.

Signs of a Cavity

dentist pointing out signs of a cavity on dental x-rayCavities, or tooth decay, is a fairly common dental ailment, particularly in children or young adults. Even though most of our patients are familiar with what cavities are, we find that many are still surprised when we tell them they have a cavity! That’s because many cavities, especially early on, do not cause tooth pain & may not be visible to the untrained eye. So we’ve provided the following basic information about the signs of cavities so that you’ll be better informed in the hopefully unlikely event that we tell you you’ve got a cavity.

White Spots

White spots may appear on your teeth as a sign of early decay. These white spots are a sign of where minerals have been lost from the surface of your teeth. Luckily, when these white spots appear, it’s not too late. At this point, the development of a cavity can be stopped or reversed. Your tooth enamel can repair the damage naturally using minerals such a fluoride, found in saliva, fluoride toothpaste, & other sources such as fluoridated drinking water. These things can also help prevent decay in the first place by making your teeth stronger.

Brown Spots

Light or dark brown spots on your teeth are a sign of a more progressed cavity. These spots are where your tooth’s structure has started to soften & dissolve. You are most likely to see these spots on front teeth or the tops of molars. However, they can also exist between your teeth without being visible. That’s why it’s important to visit the dentist for cleanings & checkups. The dentist has techniques & technology for detecting cavities that are not easily visible otherwise.

Tooth Pain or Sensitivity

First of all, we should note that many cavities do not cause a toothache! You can have no pain or sensitivity at all & still have a cavity that is getting bad. However, if you do experience pain or sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet foods, this is a big sign that you may have a cavity.

Always call us right away if you have a toothache! The sooner we see you the sooner you’ll be out of pain.

Dark Spots on Your X-Rays

Typically, we take x-rays of your teeth every 12 months (roughly once a year) to get a deeper understanding of the health of your teeth. While dental x-rays have many uses for diagnosis & treatment of dental health issues, one of the primary purposes of getting x-rays regularly is to give the dentist an opportunity to check for cavities between your teeth (which dentists call inter-proximal caries) which might not be detectable otherwise. These cavities between your teeth show up as dark spots that the dentist is trained to identify.

Treatment for Cavities

Treatments for cavities vary depending on the severity & location of the cavity, & your individual dental health. Most of the time, a cavity that is caught early enough just results in a filling. In more serious cases, you may need a crown (i.e. a cap) to restore a tooth that has been extensively damaged by decay. If caught early enough, some micro-cavities can even be reversed using re-mineralization treatments to strengthen your enamel. If you suspect you may have a cavity, please contact us for an appointment right away. No matter what, we’ll keep checking your smile for cavities at your regular check-up & cleaning.

 

Your Intro to Dental Implants

info about dental implantsDental implants are the latest & greatest in dental technology that allows dentist to replace missing teeth permanently. You may know that implants can replace teeth & are used in complete smile reconstructions & makeovers. But you may also not be sure exactly what dental implants are, & how they work.

That’s why we’ve written this simple & quick intro to dental implants. If you want more detail about the implant procedure or want to find out if you’re a good candidate for dental implants, please call us to schedule an implant consultation visit.

First, we want to familiarize you with how natural teeth work. Natural teeth consist of a crown, which is the visible part of tooth that’s outside the gums, & a root, which is under the gums & attached to the bone of your jaw. Your smaller front teeth tend to have one root each while the larger teeth toward the back of your mouth (molars & bicuspids) tend to have more than one. The root of your teeth contain the nerve & the pulp, which nourish the inside of a healthy tooth. When this pulp becomes damaged or infected, that’s when the dentist tells you you need a root canal, a procedure which can save your tooth even when the pulp is compromised.

Traditional tooth replacement options such as bridges (partials) & dentures only structurally replaced the crown part of your missing tooth. Bridges or partials replace your tooth by attaching an artificial tooth to the healthy teeth nearby. Dentures replace an entire upper or lower arch of teeth & visually replace the gums too for a natural look. Neither of these options anchor replacement teeth in your jaw or gums, which means that people with these appliances have to avoid many foods & may experience slipping or discomfort when eating or speaking.

With the quickly-advancing technology of dental implants, we can finally offer a restorative dentistry option that replaces your missing teeth both visually & functionally.

Dental implants actually consist of two parts, just like your natural teeth. The implant itself acts as an artificial tooth root & is secured in the bone of your jaw just like a real root. Implants are made of a special kind of bio-safe titanium. Both this special metal & the screw-like shape of the implant’s lower portion are designed so that bone will grow around it, keeping it tightly in place.

The second part of the dental implant is the crown. This is an artificial tooth that is made of porcelain & is custom designed by a dental technician to match the color, size & shape of your natural teeth. It is attached to the metal implant using a permanent dental adhesive.

Once the procedure is complete & the patient has healed, they will have fully functional teeth that are virtually indistinguishable from natural teeth. The result is a return to eating any of the foods you want, speaking naturally, smiling confidently & being free of dental pain.

It’s true that dental implants cost more than most tooth replacement options such as bridges or dentures. If your biggest concern is cost, you may consider these other options. However, if you biggest concern is your longterm comfort, health & quality of life, implants are your best option.

Teeth Cleanings Are About More Than Clean Teeth!

teeth cleanings and your healthWhen most of a us thinking of a teeth cleaning appointment, we think of polishing & maybe a little scraping. But the truth is that teeth cleaning appointments are about so much more than clean, shiny teeth!

Most teeth cleaning appointments also include a quick examination by the dentist. That’s one of the reasons we call them check-ups: your teeth cleaning appointment is an opportunity for the hygienist & the dentist check up on your oral health.

The dentist will pop in at some point during your time with the dental hygienist & perform a quick examination. This exam looks for more than just cavities. The dentist & the hygienist will examine your gums for signs of gum disease & your entire mouth for other problems, such as early signs of oral cancer. This may involve a little poking & prodding with a small metal tool called an explorer & a dental mirror. They will also review your x-rays, which are often taken at the beginning of the appointment. The dentist will discuss any potential problems that they have spotted, introduce treatment options if necessary, & ask you if you have any concerns.

Your teeth cleaning appointment is also a great opportunity for educate yourself about your teeth. Even if all you need is to brush up (so to speak) on your toothbrushing & flossing techniques, your teeth cleaning is a great opportunity to ask questions. You can ask your dentist or hygienist for recommendations on which toothpaste to use, options for whitening your teeth, or any other topics of concern or curiosity. Regular dental care works best when the dentist, hygienist & the patient are all actively involved in the treatment process, so don’t be shy about getting informed!

It’s also extremely important to know that your dental health is part of your overall health. Just because you see one doctor for your teeth & another for your general health doesn’t mean these things aren’t related! Gum disease & tooth decay have been linked to other health problems like heart disease & low birthweight in babies. People with certain health problems like diabetes or cancer are more prone to dental problems than others. In addition to oral health related problems, your dentist & hygienist can spot signs in your mouth (such as dry mouth, bad breath or sores) that may indicate a problem in your general health.

We know not everyone looks forward to teeth cleanings, but going to your dentist frequently for a cleaning & checkup is the best way to prevent potentially painful & expensive dental problems in your future & keep tabs on your health in general. If we catch a problem early during your cleaning appointment, your treatment is likely to be more comfortable, less complicated, & less expensive.

Low Sugar Dessert Recipes to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

As the dental health professionals in charge of keeping your smile healthy, we want to do everything we can to keep potential health threats away from your teeth. We all know that sugar can cause major problems when it comes to oral health, particularly tooth decay. That being said, we know it’s unrealistic to tell you to stay away from sugar all together. Still, we want to give you the best opportunities to take good care of your teeth, so here are a few yummy low sugar dessert recipes you can use to satisfy your sweet tooth without overdoing it on sugar!

Fudgy Guilt-Free Brownies

These yummy brownies promise all the chocolaty goodness of a regular brownie without packing a big sugar punch. Rather that lots of granulated sugar, this recipe includes a liquid sweetener such as maple syrup or brown rice syrup instead. Get the complete recipe from Lauren at Oatmeal With a Fork here.

Key Lime Cheesecake Bars

These creamy & tangy key lime cheesecake bars are sure to be a refreshing treat despite the fact that they contain barely any sugar! If you’re a fan of raw diet options, you should also note that this is a no-bake recipe (but it does contain graham crackers, which are baked). Get the full recipe plus a great video showing the preparation process at Better Homes And Gardens here.

2-Ingredient Oatmeal Cookies

low sugar oatmeal cookies recipe to help you avoid tooth decay

Source: Power Hungry

You’ll be stunned at how easy these sweet & chewy cookies are to make! Just like the title says, there are only two ingredients: old-fashioned oats & super ripe bananas. Plus, as recipe-writer Camilla suggests, you can punch up the flavor & the texture with additional ingredients such as peanuts & shredded coconut. Get the entire recipe from Power Hungry here.

Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding

sugar-free pumpkin pie pudding recipe to avoid tooth decay

Source: Low Carb Yum

This twist on a traditional pudding is sure to satisfy your spiced pumpkin pie cravings without the usual load of sugar that goes along with it. This recipe is also no-bake, dairy free & contains chia seeds which are often called a superfood. Get the full recipe at Low Carb Yum here.

Got another low-sugar or sugar-free dessert favorite? Share it with us & we’ll be sure to tell the rest of our family of dental patients about it!

Yes, Flossing Really Is That Important & Here’s Why

closeup the importance of flossingAs dental professionals we often feel like a broken record (or a scratched CD, depending on your generation) telling patients that they need to floss more. We don’t mean to be nags, we just want you to have the healthiest, happiest smile possible!

While brushing cleans the front & back surfaces of your teeth, flossing is the only way to properly clean the spaces between your teeth (what dental pros call the inter-proximal region). Even if you’re a teeth brushing superstar, you’re not cleaning your entire tooth if you don’t floss.

Here are just a few of the problems you will avoid by flossing daily:

Tooth Decay

The same micro-organism filled plaque that accumulates on the front & back of your teeth can accumulate between them. This bacteria-ridden buildup can cause cavities & tooth decay if it isn’t cleaned away by flossing.

Bad Breath

The bacteria in plaque left between your teeth can also eventually lead to bad breath. So if you brush & use mouthwash & still find yourself with bad breath, not flossing may be the culprit.

Tartar Buildup

Plaque that is left on your teeth can eventually harden into a substance called tartar, which can lead to gum disease. You can prevent the development of tartar by flossing, but once tartar has formed, only scaling & cleaning at the dentist can remove it.

Other Health Complications

Poor dental hygiene has been linked to both heart disease & aggravation of symptoms for those with diabetes. Remember that your mouth is an entry point for your entire body, so keeping your teeth healthy by brushing & flossing can prevent disease-causing pathogens from getting in.

If you feel you need a reminder of the best way to floss, your dentist or dental hygienist will always be happy to give you a demonstration at your next visit. You may also be more likely to floss if you find the right type of floss for your mouth. Try different types, such as unwaxed, waxed or tape floss, or floss on a pick tool, until you find what feels the most comfortable for you.

Why Teeth Cleanings Are Important

teeth cleanings at the dentistOver time, plaque (a thick, bacteria-filled film) and tartar (a hard calcium-based build-up) can build up on your teeth. While regular brushing & flossing at home can help prevent this buildup, it can’t necessarily remove it. That’s why going to your dentist for a professional cleaning is so important.

Even if you have impeccable home oral hygiene habits (you floss & brush for at least two minutes twice daily, or even after every meal), there is still work for your dental hygienist to do at your teeth cleaning appointment. The cleaning you get at the dentist is a more thorough cleaning that you can get at home, even if you’re a brushing & flossing superstar.

If left on your teeth, icky buildups of plaque & tartar create an ideal habitat for bacteria to thrive. Allowing bacteria to stay on your teeth & near your gums can lead to both tooth decay & gum disease, both of which can cause you to lose your teeth (not to mention the pain & expenses). Bacteria have a harder time sticking to smooth, clean teeth than rough or fuzzy-feeling teeth with plaque & tartar on them.

Plus, having a professional teeth cleaning at the dentist means that you have a head start on keeping your teeth clean. Rather than battling potentially years of buildup (if you haven’t been to the dentist in a while), getting your teeth cleaned regularly means your get a clean start every six months & it will be that much easier to get a smooth, shiny smile at home between dental visits.

Best of all, cleanings can save you money in the long run. Most insured patients don’t pay anything out of pocket for their cleanings, so it’s essentially free. Plus, if you catch problems early or have the opportunity to prevent them you could eliminate the need for more expensive restorative procedures or gum disease treatments in the future.

No Need to Fear the Dentist

staying calm at the dental clinic no fearWith today’s modern sedation techniques & better understanding of the causes & solutions for dental phobia, there is no reason to fear the dentist. As dentists, the thing we fear the most is our patients being in pain or experiencing other challenges due to not visiting the dentist for checkups & treatment. Dentists & dental professionals are caring & compassionate people who got into dentistry to help others. Our primary goal is always your health & comfort, so if you experience dental phobia or fear, we will do everything we can to make visits to the dental clinic easy for you.

If you have dental fear or anxiety, it is very important that you tell the dentist, the dental hygienist, the dental assistant, & any of the other dental clinic staff who you directly interact with (for example, the receptionist or even the financial advisor). Don’t be afraid to tell us you’re uncomfortable! There is no way it’s the first time we’ve heard this & you are not alone. Plus, if we know you might be fearful or nervous, we can pull out all the stops to make sure you’re as comfortable & relaxed as possible.

We also recognize that dental anxiety can be a generalized anxiety about going to the dental clinic, or anxiety about a specific dental procedure or routine. For example, if you’re fairly comfortable at the dentist but feel anxious at the sound of an ultrasonic dental scaler, be sure to let us know so we can attempt to make you more comfortable.

We’re also aware that there’s such thing as dental phobia, that is more generalized & not necessarily rational. No matter your level of anxiety or fear, there are many ways we can put you at ease at our dental clinic & restore a positive relationship with your dental care.

Creature Comforts

For those with fairly mild dental anxiety, we can offer you creature comforts to distract or insulate you from certain irritations. If the sounds of certain dental procedures bother you, we can offer you earplugs. Or, you can wear headphones & listen to music that you find calming or that will distract you. We can offer you headphones if you do not bring your own. We can also provide sunglasses to protect your eyes from the light the dentist may be using to see inside your mouth.

Calming Techniques

From breathing exercises to simply talking to you, our dental hygienists & dentists are happy to walk you through calming techniques to guide you away from anxiety & back to calm. We’ll be encouraging when you’re doing well & understanding when you are not. If you’re starting to get uncomfortable, just signal us & we’ll pause the procedure until you’re able to go on.

Sedation

Sedation is a fantastic option for those who have dental anxiety or fear. And just like there are different level of dental anxiety, there are different levels of sedation to go along with it.

Intravenous or I.V. sedation is the most powerful form of sedation & is sometimes referred to as “being put under”. I.V. sedation is usually administered by an anesthesiologist or a dental professional certified in anesthesiology. With I.V. sedation you will be unconscious during your dental procedure & may have very little memory of it when you wake up. You’ll be groggy afterward, so a friend will need to take you home.

Pill sedation involves taking an oral sedative prior to your visit or procedure. This can be prescribed by the dentist once you have had a conversation about your dental anxiety. You will receive instructions on how soon before your appointment to take your pill so it will be in full effect during your visit. Similarly to I.V., you may be groggy as the sedation wears off, so a friend should help you get home.

Lastly & probably most common is nitrous oxide or “laughing gas” sedation. This involves inhaling a scentless gas that calms & relaxes you. Unlike the more powerful options of I.V. & pill sedation, nitrous oxide sedation only lasts while you are inhaling it. That means that after your procedure is over & the inhalation device has been removed, you’ll be back to normal without any grogginess.

Once again, we have to emphasize that it’s very important for you to tell us if you have dental anxiety. The last thing we would want is to put you in an uncomfortable situation that could have been eased or avoided by having a conversation about your anxiety. We have lots of experience working with anxious patients & we encourage you to think of us as a partner in healing & alleviating your dental anxiety.

 

 

The Facts of Gum Disease

Discussion of facts of gum diseaseEveryone knows about cavities & how they affect your teeth and your oral health, but you never hear very much about gum disease. What is gum disease? How can you protect your gums and teeth from gum disease? And what causes it anyway?

The Facts of Gum Disease

Gum disease is the infection of the gums. It is caused by bacteria getting under your gum tissue & eroding your gums & teeth. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to many health issues, including tooth loss, heart disease, stroke & diabetes.

Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease that manifests as inflammation. Your gums might be swollen & red, & they might bleed when you brush your teeth or floss. Gingivitis can be treated by maintaining your oral health with regular brushing, flossing & visits to your dentist.

Periodontitis is a more serious form of gum disease that erodes the bone & tissues surrounding your teeth. If left untreated, periodontitis can cause you to lose your teeth!

Causes of Gum Disease

Gum disease occurs when plaque builds up on your teeth, so the best thing you can do to combat it is to clean your teeth regularly!

Gum disease is caused by a variety of factors & has been linked to illnesses that affect your immune system. You are at a higher risk for gum disease if you have cancer, diabetes & HIV, because your immune system can’t fight the bacterial infections that might lead to gum disease as well.

Smokers, pregnant women & people with high stress levels are also at risk, & some medications that cause dry mouth can put you at risk as well.

How to Treat Gum Disease

In its early stages, gum disease can be managed & prevented by regular brushing & flossing. Visiting your dentist for a professional cleaning goes a long way toward keeping your gums & teeth healthy as well! If your dentist sees signs of gum disease during your dental exam, they can do deep cleanings called scaling & root planing to remove plaque & tartar from your teeth & keep your gums healthy. If your gum disease is more serious, it might require surgeries, such as gum tissue or bone grafts.

How Do I Know If I Have Gum Disease?

If your gums bleed when your brush or floss, or if you notice your gums are red, swollen or painful, please tell us right away at your next appointment. But keep in mind that many people who have the early stages of gum disease experience no obvious symptoms or pain.

Please note that there is no cure for gum disease. Once you have gum disease it can be treated & managed, but not cured. This makes prevention & early detection of the disease vital to keeping your mouth as healthy as possible.

Dentists & hygienists are trained to detect the signs of gum disease. That’s why controlling gum disease through regular cleanings is such a good way to take care of your teeth—& your overall health!

Replacing Missing Teeth: Dentures vs. Dental Implants

woman choosing dentures or dental implantsWhether you’ve lost teeth to decay, periodontal disease or an accident, we know that having a missing tooth can be embarrassing, inconvenient & often very uncomfortable. Luckily, there are many options for restoring your teeth, but with so many options, there is also some confusion. In this post we’re going to break down the choice between dentures & dental implants for replacing missing teeth.

What Are Dentures?

Dentures are a set of false teeth that fit over the gums (full dentures) or clip into place on existing teeth (partial dentures). You can get dentures for your upper teeth, your lower teeth, or both. Dentures also have a gum-colored acrylic base that can be matched to the color of your actual gums to look natural.

Pros of Dentures
  • Dentures are less expensive than implants, usually ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on quality.
  • Getting dentures is a fairly quick & painless process that doesn’t involve surgery.
  • Dentures are covered by most dental insurance plans.
  • Dentures can restore a more youthful look to your face by supporting lips & cheeks & fixing the sunken look created by tooth loss.
Cons of Dentures
  • Bone loss over time causes dentures to eventually stop fitting properly. Dentures will need to be adjusted or replaced.
  • Dentures need to be removed & cleaned thoroughly on a daily basis.
  • Dentures need to be removed at night to give the gums time to rest.
  • Dentures can often slip out of place, causing problems when eating or speaking.
  • Food can get caught under dentures causing discomfort & potential for infections.
  • People with dentures have to avoid eating many foods, leading to a less satisfying & nutritious diet.
What Are Dental Implants?

Dental implants are an artificial tooth root made from a titanium metal post. The implant is inserted into the bone of the jaw under the gums, where it can act as the foundation for an artificial tooth, called a crown, to be permanently attached with a dental cement. Dental implants have ridges on them that make them resemble screws. The purpose of these ridges is actually to give the bone of your jaw more surface area to hold onto & grow around, a process called osseointegration. Once in place, dental implants & crowns are nearly indistinguishable from natural teeth & function just like them too.

Pros of Dental Implants
  • Presence of the implant allows the pressure of chewing & biting to be transferred into your bone, promotion bone growth. Without this pressure, such as with dentures, bone loss begins to occur.
  • People with dental implants can eat essentially anything that someone with natural teeth can eat. There are not dietary restrictions.
  • Dental implants are permanent & can be cleaned easily with brushing & flossing just like natural teeth.
  • Dental implants are permanent & can last a lifetime, meaning less cost for maintenance into the future.
  • Dental implants can also restore a more youthful look to your face by supporting your lips & cheeks just as natural teeth would.
Cons of Dental Implants
  • Dental implants cost more than dentures, usually a few thousand for each individual implant & crown.
  • Dental implants involve oral surgery & some minimal post-operative discomfort.
  • Dental implants sometimes involve several months of healing time before the treatment is complete (3-6 months between implant placement & final crown placement).
  • Implants are sometimes considered a cosmetic procedure & not medically necessary by insurance companies & are therefore not covered by some dental plans.

 

Ultimately, most dentists will strongly encourage the use of implants for replacing missing teeth. Dentists know that dental implants are the best choice for both your oral health & your comfort.  As much as we think about teeth on a daily basis, we don’t want you to have to think of yours constantly! Once a patient’s implants are placed & healed, they can return to a life with a fully functional smile.

Like any dental procedure, your choice of which treatment to undergo & the results you can expect all depend in your individual dental condition. When we make a recommendation of treatment for replacing missing teeth, we take your current oral health, your health history, your ultimate goals & your financial preferences into account. If you’re interested in either dentures or dental implants, please arrange a consultation with us.