The Benefits of Fluoride

According to the American Dental Association, oral health benefits of fluoride have been known for over 70 years. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named water fluoridation one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century (http://www.ada.org/en/public-programs/advocating-for-the-public/fluoride-and-fluoridation).

Fluoride has multiple benefits for both children and adults:
• prevents cavities by remineralizing weakened enamel and recessed areas on the exposed roots
• insulates against tooth sensitivity from hot and cold foods and drinks
• controls bleeding by reducing bacteria in the mouth
• heals gum tissue and prevents reinfection after in-office periodontal treatment
• protects crown and bridge margins
• blocks plaque formation around implants
• moisturizes to relieve bad breath and dry mouth from dentures and partials
• relieves dryness discomfort from the side-effects of many medication
• helps with gingivitis and decalcification during orthodontic treatment

If you have questions about the benefits of fluoride and how it can benefit your oral health, please do not hesitate to contact our office. We are here to help!!!

Diabetes and Dental Health

Patients do not always realize the relationship between their overall health and the conditions of their mouth. Diseases like diabetes, AIDS, and Sjogren’s syndrome, manifest certain clues in the mouth, and dentists are able to recognize these early signs much earlier than patients notice any changes with their health.

Diabetes affects millions of Americans. This disease has to do with a reduced ability to move sugars out of the blood and into the cells to use for energy. There are two main types of diabetes. The first, Type I, happens when the pancreas is damaged and does not make insulin. Patients usually need to take shots of insulin to control their blood sugar. The second type is Type 2 Diabetes, and is usually treated with medicine. With Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas makes insulin but it may not be the correct amount or the body is not able to use it efficiently.

If not controlled properly, Diabetes can cause many problems in the body, including damage to the heart, kidneys, nerves, and eyesight. Diabetes also lowers the body’s immune system, which normally helps fight off infections and supports the healing process. There are several oral health problems associated with diabetes, including tooth decay, periodontal disease, fungal infections, and inflammation. In turn, problems in the mouth can negatively affect overall health and interfere with blood sugar levels. It is very important for patients to be involved, with both overall health and dental health. Please give our office a call if you need more information about your health or dental treatment!

Replacing Old Fillings

Regular dental exams and x-rays are important so that problem areas in the mouth can be diagnosed and treated early. Dental fillings replace areas of the tooth that have been lost to decay, and can last for many years. However, teeth that have previously been filled are at a higher risk of recurrent decay. Our mouths are under constant stress from food, drinks, and clenching or grinding. This stress can cause fillings to break down over time along the margins, allowing bacteria to enter those areas and cause new decay.

During the exam, the dentist checks for any signs of cavities, wear, or cracks, in the teeth and fillings, then recommends appropriate treatment. There are three common types of fillings in use today – amalgams, composites, and glass ionomers. Amalgams are “silver” fillings that are durable, easy to place, and less costly. Composites are tooth-colored fillings that can be used anywhere in the mouth, and are especially useful in matching the shade for restoring front teeth. Glass ionomers are also tooth-colored fillings that contain glass powderand fluoride. The dentist will present the options to the patient, and based on preference and finances will complete the restorative procedure.

Once identified, fillings should be completed or replaced in a timely manner, even if the tooth does not hurt. If left untreated, a small filling can quickly lead to a serious infection involving the nerve and blood supply, which would require a more costly treatment such as a root canal and crown, or in more severe circumstances could lead to the loss of the tooth. Early detection and treatment can minimize cost and discomfort, and prevent tooth loss. If you have any questions regarding your fillings or treatment plan, we are here to help!

Radiation Safety

Dental radiographs are an important part of a patient’s dental record. With the help of dental X-rays, we are able to diagnose and monitor conditions such as periodontal disease and tooth decay.

We’re also able to see the position of unerupted teeth, infections, tumors and effects of trauma. By looking at these images, we’re able to recognize changes or abnormalities to make an early diagnosis before symptoms occur.

It is understandable to have some concerns about radiation safety, especially when it comes to routine radiographs, such as annual bitewings.

Our office is focused on providing the best care by using the latest technology and radiography techniques to limit patient exposure. We place a lead apron over the patient’s torso and thyroid gland for all intra-oral radiographs to shield internal organs below the neck.

We use digital radiography, which requires less exposure than traditional film, while providing the best image. Digital radiography images can be enhanced and magnified on the computer screen.

The chart below shows some interesting information about the amount of exposure that patients can expect from dental X-rays in relation to everyday activities, such as eating bananas or flying in an airplane.

radiation chart

Understanding Gum Disease

Do you frequently experience any of the following: constant bad breath, red or swollen gums, bleeding gums, pain when chewing, overly sensitive teeth, loose teeth or receding gums? If so, you may be one of the many adults who suffer from some level of gum disease.

Gum disease is caused by bacteria. We all have good and bad bacteria that live in our mouths. When bacteria are not regularly removed by brushing and flossing, it starts to grow thick mucus (plaque) at the gum line. In response to the bacterial irritation, the gums swell and bleed when touched.

Bleeding gums and beginning gum disease is called gingivitis. If the disease is not treated at this point, and plaque is left undisturbed, it will start to harden and form calculus (tartar), which cannot be removed at home and must be treated in the office by a dentist or dental hygienist. The longer that calculus remains, the more the gums pull away from the teeth and form pockets. The pockets fill with bacteria, form calculus and start to destroy the supporting bone. Eventually, the teeth will become loose and fall out. This more severe level of gum disease is called periodontitis.

Some people may have gingivitis for many years before it causes irreversible damage. Certain factors can tip the scales toward disease. Periodontitis has some genetic components and may run in families. Some illnesses, such as diabetes or HIV, can negatively impact gum health.

Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during puberty or pregnancy, can increase the instance of disease. Smoking is a significant risk in developing periodontitis.

Like diabetes, periodontal disease does not have a cure, but it can be stopped and controlled with proper home care and periodic periodontal maintenance appointments at the dental office.

Bruxism and Night Guards

Stress is an unfortunate, but unavoidable part of life. Some individuals deal with stress in an unhealthy way by clenching or grinding their teeth during sleep. This condition is called bruxism. Most people are unaware that they are doing it unless another person overhears them grinding, or a dentist notices certain wear patterns on their teeth or problems with their jaw joint.

The forces people unknowingly put on their teeth and jaws at night are much greater than normal use from chewing or talking during the day. This can cause irreversible harm to their dentition. The damage can be in the form of flattened teeth, chipped teeth, cracks at the gum line, loose teeth, and impairment of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Some of the symptoms of bruxism include sore and tired jaw, difficulty opening and closing the jaw, headaches, earaches, sensitive teeth, and pain or clicking in the jaw joint.

The easiest, most effective, and least invasive treatment for bruxism is a custom-fitted night guard. This device is a clear plastic appliance that is custom-made from impressions of the patient’s teeth. When worn at night, the night guard absorbs the forces on the teeth and relieves pressure on the TMJ. Night guards that are not custom-made are not recommended because they can cause further damage to the TMJ, and may present a choking hazard because they are poorly fitted. As with most medical and dental conditions, early intervention is key to preventing major damage to the teeth and joint. In many cases, dental insurance will cover most or part of the cost for a custom-fitted appliance.

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above or are aware of your clenching or grinding at night, please give our office a call to inquire about a custom night guard.

Invisalign

Have you always wanted straighter teeth, but thought traditional metal braces were too uncomfortable and unsightly? There is another option. Dr. Valencia and her team have completed training to offer Invisalign treatment to our patients. Invisalign is a system of custom-made plastic aligners that slowly move teeth into desired position. The aligners are clear retainers,similar to whitening trays. Patients are encouraged to wear the aligners for at least 22 hours per day. This allows time for eating, brushing, and flossing.Every 2 weeks, a new set of trays replaces the old one, and teeth are moved precisely to a new position. The treatment typically takes 9-12 months,depending on the extent of the changes necessary to achieve the desired results.Some benefits of Invisalign over traditional metal braces include the clear look, their ease of removal, and comfort. The trays are almost invisible on the teeth, making them ideal for fitting in with the patient’s lifestyle and interactions with others. The trays are easily removable, making them the ideal system for eating, drinking, then brushing and flossing. There are no uncomfortable metal brackets or wires and less frequent visits to the dentist for adjustments, typically every 6 weeks.Interested in more information about this incredible orthodontic treatment? Please call our office and schedule your free consultation!

Tooth Sensitivity – Ouch!!!

Do you experience occasional sensitivity to air, or foods/beverages that are cold, hot, sweet, or sour?  If your teeth get a sudden jolt of pain, you may be suffering from dentinal hypersensitivity.  The most common reasons that teeth become sensitive are:

  1. Occlusal stress – stress can come about as a result of grinding or clenching or mal-alignment of the teeth.  With grinding or clenching, a night guard might be recommended to reduce stress.  For mal-alignment, orthodontic treatment could correct the problem.
  2. Loss of enamel – the problem usually starts when the hard outer enamel layer is compromised and the softer inner dentin layer becomes exposed. Dentin is not only weaker, it is more porous and communicates pain sensation to the nerve inside the canal. Enamel can be lost due to acid erosion from an acidic diet or abrasion due to improper brushing technique or over-use of coarse-bristled toothbrushes or highly abrasive toothpastes. In certain cases, bonding agents can seal off the dentin to help relieve the sensitivity. Using a specialty toothpaste that contains potassium nitrate and fluoride can reduce the flow of the pain signal to the nerve. Sometimes prescription-strength paste or rinse is recommended.
  3. Dental procedures – sometimes fillings that are too close to the nerve can produce temporary sensitivity, but often this resolves with time. Whitening procedures can also produce temporary discomfort. Using a sensitivity toothpaste for several weeks before starting whitening procedures can reduce the ache.

Sometimes, tooth sensitivity can be a sign of a deeper issue that needs to be addressed with the dentist. Please do not hesitate to voice your concerns during the exam so that we can provide the best care for your needs.
We are here to help!

Pregnancy and Infant Oral Care

Pregnancy is a busy and exciting time. Most women strive to keep a healthy lifestyle to protect the health of the baby and provide the best start for their child’s life. While eating a healthy diet, staying active, and regular check-ups with the doctor are essential, so is regular dental care. Oral bacteria can travel through the bloodstream and affect the health of the baby. Pregnant women have elevated levels of hormones, making it easier for plaque to grow. The two most common oral diseases associated with accumulation of bacteria are dental decay and gum disease.
  • Tooth decay can result from sugary food cravings, morning sickness, and frequent snacking. Reducing the frequency of sugary snacks and drinks will help keep the teeth free of cavities.
  • Gum disease often presents as bleeding gums and can be uncomfortable, unsightly, but most of all, unhealthy. Gingivitis is very common during pregnancy due to hormone changes, stress, and plaque accumulation. Left untreated, gingivitis can progress to a more serious condition called periodontitis, which is irreversible damage to the gums and supporting bone, and could lead to tooth loss.
In addition to taking care of the woman’s health, it is important to introduce healthy habits early for the baby. After birth, primary teeth start erupting between 3-9 months. A newborn baby’s gums should be cleaned regularly with a wet wash cloth or soft toothbrush. Once the teeth appear, they should be brushed regularly. Babies should NEVER be put to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, or juice, because sugar will cause rampant decay. For the first 2-3 years, toothpaste is optional. If used, a pea-sized amount is sufficient. Teeth should be flossed daily. Children require supervision until they are 7-10 years old. If you have further questions regarding pregnancy and infant oral care, please do not hesitate to contact our office. We are here to help!

Acidic Drinks

Many popular soft drinks are not only highly acidic, but also contain a large amount of sugar, which provides nutrition to bacteria in our mouths. People who frequently drink sodas, sports drinks, and juices are at a higher risk for cavities and enamel erosion. Once lost, enamel does not regenerate, and must be replaced with a filling. Cavities and acid erosion can be prevented by reducing exposure to sugars and acidic beverages.

There are several ways that we can help protect our teeth from acidic drinks:

  • Drinking acidic beverages in moderation
  • Having sodas at meal times instead of sipping through out the day
  • Using a straw
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Including milk and cheese products in the diet
  • Specialty toothpaste such as Sensodyne ProNamel
  • Excellent oral hygiene
  • Fluoridated products as recommended by a professional
  • Regular dental care

Some examples of popular drinks and their acid levels and sugar content (from drinksdestroyteeth.org)

drinksdestroyteeth