How scaling and planing can help clean your teeth properly

Dental plaque is a film that builds up on your teeth and, if it is not removed through good oral hygiene, it can lead to tooth decay and gum problems.

Over time it can ultimately form a hard, rough sediment known as dental tartar or calculus, which attracts further plaque buildup.

Calculus has to be removed by a trained professional such as a hygienist or dentist.

They may do this by manual tooth scaling or using an ultrasonic device.

If the buildup is light or moderate, the dentist or hygienist may use manual scaling instruments of various shapes and sizes.

If the buildup of tartar and stains is heavy, an ultrasonic cleaner may be used. This may be followed by hand scaling.

Build up of plaque can cause inflammation of the gums leading to breakdown of the connection between the teeth and the supporting structures.

Root planing is a procedure to treat gum disease by thoroughly scaling the roots of teeth to establish a smooth, calculus-free surface.

This treatment may require local anesthesia to prevent pain. Thorough periodontal scaling customarily involves several dental visits

If conditions are more advanced, surgery may be needed for complete debridement of the roots to arrest the disease process.

Some people tend to have more buildup of calculus than others and some may be more prone to periodontal inflammation or the development of tooth decay.

It’s therefore important to follow your hygienist’s advivce on how often to return for regular cleanings – even if your insurance only covers two a year.

How sealants can give your teeth extra protection

Sealants are made from plastic material applied to the back teeth to protect the enamel from plaque and acids.

The plastic bonds into the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) of the chewing surfaces of the back teeth – premolars and molars.

Although thorough brushing and flossing can help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth, the toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque.

The benefit of sealants is that they protect these vulnerable areas by “sealing out” plaque and food.

Your dentist can apply sealants quite easily and it takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth.

The teeth being sealed will first be cleaned. Then the chewing surfaces are roughened with an acid solution which makes it easier for the sealant to stick to the tooth.

The sealant is then ‘painted’ onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens.

Sometimes a special curing light is used to help the sealant harden.

As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay.
They usually last several years before a reapplication is needed. Your dentist will check the condition of the sealants during your regular visits and reapply them when necessary.

Sealants are ideal for children because the risk of developing pit and fissure decay starts early in life. However, many adults can benefit from sealants as well.

Your dentist can tell you whether sealants would help your oral hygiene program.

Taking care of your dentures

Your dentures are designed to last a very long time so it’s important that you take care of them as you would take care of your own teeth.

They are very delicate and may break easily if dropped even a few inches. So it’s a good idea to stand over a folded towel or a basin of water when handling dentures.

When you are not wearing your dentures, store them away from children and pets.

Like natural teeth, dentures must be brushed daily to remove food deposits and plaque.

Brushing helps prevent dentures from becoming permanently stained and helps your mouth stay healthy.

There are special brushes designed for cleaning dentures but a toothbrush with soft bristles can also be used. Avoid using hard-bristled brushes as these can damage your dentures.

Some denture wearers also use hand soap or mild dishwashing liquid for cleaning and that’s fine. But avoid using powdered household cleansers, which may be too abrasive. Also, avoid using bleach, as this may whiten the pink portion of the denture.

The first step in cleaning dentures is to rinse away loose food particles thoroughly. Moisten the brush and apply denture cleanser. Brush every surface, scrubbing gently to avoid damage.

Dentures may lose their shape if they are allowed to dry out. When they are not worn, dentures should be placed in a denture cleanser soaking solution or in water. Never place dentures in hot water, which could cause them to warp.

Ultrasonic cleaners are also used to care for dentures. However, using an ultrasonic cleaner does not replace a thorough daily brushing.

You can seriously damage your dentures by trying to adjust or repair them yourself. So see your dentist if your dentures break, crack, chip or if one of the teeth becomes loose.

Over time, dentures will need to be relined, rebased, or remade due to normal wear. They may also need to be replaced if they become loose and the teeth show signs of significant wear.

You need to make regular visits to your dentist to make sure the dentures are working as well as possible for you and to check for more serious problems in your mouth such as oral cancer.

How to overcome problems with teeth grinding

When under stress, many people find themselves grinding their teeth or clenching their jaws.

This habit actually has a name – bruxism – and often it’s something we do when we sleep.

It can be caused by stress and anxiety and it can also be due to sleep disorders, an abnormal bite or missing and crooked teeth.

It can lead to symptoms such as dull headache or a sore jaw.

Your dentist can fit you with a mouth guard to protect your teeth during sleep.

Severe grinding can lead to painful or loose teeth and this can lead to fractures in your teeth.

Taking stress out on your teeth in this way can lead to long term damage so, if stress is the cause, you need to find a way to relax!

Relaxants, counseling and even exercise may help reduce stress and tension and can be a big help to your teeth.

Different types of fillings and restorations

Nowadays, thanks to advances in dental techniques and materials, patients have a much wider range of choices when they have to repair missing, worn, damaged or decayed teeth.

For example, materials such as ceramics and polymer compounds that look more like natural teeth help dentists create pleasing, natural-looking smiles.

The traditional materials such as gold, base metal alloys and dental amalgam are still widely used as they have many advantages.

The strength and durability of traditional dental materials continues to make them useful in many situations. For example, they are good when fillings are required in the back teeth because the pressure of chewing is high in that area.

The choice of the best option will depend on several factors such as the patient’s oral and general health, where and how the filling is placed and the number of visits needed to prepare and adjust the restored tooth.

The choice about which option is best depends on each individual’s needs so you should discuss the options with your dentist.

What is plaque and how does it affect your teeth?

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that covers our teeth and, when we eat something, these bacteria release acids that attack the tooth enamel.

When these attacks are repeated over time, the enamel will break down and this will eventually lead to cavities.

When plaque is not removed through daily brushing and cleaning it hardens into calculus or tartar. When tartar collects above the gum line, brushing and cleaning between the teeth becomes more difficult.

The gum tissue can become swollen or may bleed. This is called gingivitis and it is the early stage of periodontal (gum) disease.

There are several steps you can take to protect yourself against this happening:

– Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
– Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner
– Eat a balanced diet and limit the number of snacks between meals
– Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams
– Ask your dentist about sealants – these are protective coatings that can be applied to the back teeth where decay often starts.

If you take steps to remove the plaque each day, you have a greater chance of avoiding tooth and gum problems.

Treating facial pain and jaw problems

Chronic facial pain is a problem faced by millions of Americans.

Common symptoms can include pain in or around the ear, tenderness of the jaw, clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth or even head and neck aches.

If you are suffering from this type of pain, your dentist can help identify its source with a thorough exam and appropriate x-rays.

Sometimes, the problem is a sinus or toothache or it could be an early stage of periodontal disease.

But for some pain, the cause is not so easily diagnosed.

There are two joints and several jaw muscles which make it possible to open and close the mouth. They work together when you chew, speak, and swallow.

These structures include muscles and ligaments, as well as the jaw bone, the mandible (lower jaw) with two joints, the TMJ’s.

Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working together properly may result in a painful TMJ disorder.

There are several ways the TMJ disorders may be treated.

Diagnosis is an important step before treatment.

Part of your clinical examination includes checking the joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty moving.

Your dentist may take x-rays and may make a “cast” of your teeth to see how your bite fits together.

To help you deal with this pain, your dentist will recommend what type of treatment you need and may refer you to a specialist.

How dentistry has developed over the last 300 years

When you visit a modern dental surgery, it’s hard to imagine the challenges of dental treatment without all the latest technology.

Yet specialists have been taking care of people’s teeth for thousands of years.

Here are some of the key developments over the last 300 years.

1723: French surgeon Pierre Fauchard – credited as being the father of modern dentistry – publishes the first book to describe a comprehensive system for the practice of dentistry.

1760: John Baker, the earliest medically-trained dentist to practice in America, immigrates from England and sets up practice.

1790: John Greenwood adapts his mother’s foot treadle spinning wheel to rotate a drill.

1790: Josiah Flagg, a prominent American dentist, constructs the first chair made specifically for dental patients.

1832: James Snell invents the first reclining dental chair.

1841: Alabama enacts the first dental practice act, regulating dentistry in the United States.

1844: Horace Wells, a Connecticut dentist, discovers that nitrous oxide can be used as an anesthesia and successfully uses it to conduct several extractions in his private practice.

1880s: The collapsible metal tube revolutionizes toothpaste manufacturing and marketing.

1890: Willoughby Miller notes the microbial basis of dental decay in a book which started a world-wide movement to promote regular toothbrushing and flossing.

1896: New Orleans dentist C. Edmond Kells takes the first dental x-ray of a living person in the U.S.

1938: The nylon toothbrush, the first made with synthetic bristles, appears on the market.

1945: The water fluoridation era begins when the cities of Newburgh, New York, and Grand Rapids, Michigan, add sodium fluoride to their public water systems.

1950s: The first fluoride toothpastes are marketed.

1960: The first commercial electric toothbrush, developed in Switzerland after World War II, is introduced in the United States. A cordless, rechargeable model follows in 1961.

Your options if you have many missing or damaged teeth

People who have not followed adequate dental care for some years may have already lost most of their teeth and feel a little hopeless.

Sometimes they ask a dentist to remove the remaining teeth as they are often broken and have deep cavities.

It’s true that, sometimes, removal of the remaining teeth and replacing them with full dentures is the only option.

But more often there are other options available.

Some or all of the remaining teeth could be repaired and used in conjunction with a partial denture. While a full denture replaces all of the teeth on the upper or lower jaw, a partial denture replaces some of the teeth.

If only a few weak teeth remain on the upper jaw, it might be preferable to have them extracted and a full upper denture made. Full upper dentures can be more secure than lower ones as the upper denture gets added stability from the palate and is not easily dislodged by the tongue.

If only a few teeth remain on the lower jaw, however, the dentist will usually aim to save them and use a partial denture if necessary.

Ideally, all teeth that can be saved should be saved but this is not always possible – often due to finances.

In such cases, having teeth removed and dentures may be the only option.

How to make visiting the dentist easy for kids

Your child should have their first trip to the dentist by the time they are 18 months old and it’s good to make the process as easy as possible for them from the start.

Dental staff are used to dealing with young children and they will know how to make them feel comfortable.

Sometimes, children under three may be treated on the parent’s lap. In this case, the parent sits in the dental chair facing the dentist, and the child is on their lap.

The dentist will tell the child what he or she is going to do in terms they can understand. They will usually have fun dental toys they can use to help.

They will start with an oral examination checking the teeth present and looking at the development of the jaw, gums and soft tissues.

Naturally, as in any new situation, some children are initially unsettled but this is usually short-lived as they get used to it.

Parents can help by ensuring they are calm and relaxed as any anxiety will transfer to the child.

With older children, the parents may stay in the background though sometimes children behave better when the parent is not in the room!

Work with your children and your dentist to find the best way of ensuring they get the treatment they need with minimum worries for everyone.