Not long ago, musician, businessman, and actor 50 Cent (AKA Curtis James Jackson III) joined the growing ranks of celebrities (like Demi Moore and LeAnn Rimes) who have sent out tweets from the dental chair. The rapper, who has had extensive cosmetic work done on his teeth, even live-tweeted an action shot of his dentist giving him an oral exam!
Some might consider this too much information — but we're happy whenever people are reminded of the importance of regular dental checkups. In fact, the “routine” dental exam is truly one of the most useful procedures (and one of the best values) in dental care. Let's “examine” some reasons why that's so.
For one thing, coming in to our office when you don't have a specific problem gives us the chance to talk to you about any concerns you may have in regard to your mouth — or your health in general. In fact, many of the questions we ask and the exam procedures we perform give us an opportunity to detect potentially deadly diseases. For example, simply monitoring your blood pressure may identify a risk for heart disease; or an examination of the oral tissues may reveal the first signs of oral cancer. Both conditions are treatable if caught early on.
Of course, at a dental exam we always look closely at your teeth for signs of cavities. We also check your gums for inflammation or bleeding, which could indicate gum disease. X-rays or other diagnostic tests are performed when necessary. Generally, the sooner we can diagnose and treat any problems we may find, the better (and less costly) the outcome tends to be.
A typical checkup also includes a thorough, professional teeth cleaning with specialized tools, performed by our skilled dental hygienists. This not only makes your mouth look and feel sparkly clean — it also removes the built-up hard deposits (called tartar or calculus) that can lead to bad breath or gum disease.
Once the exam and cleaning are done, we have a good idea of the general state of your dental health. We can then give feedback on your oral hygiene techniques, assess your risk for disease, and make recommendations tailored to your individual needs. And we can do all this in about half an hour.
So talk about it, tweet about it — but don't neglect it! Along with regular brushing and flossing, routine dental checkups are the best way for you to maintain good oral hygiene — and prevent future dental problems.
If you would like more information about the benefits of regular dental exams, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Dental Hygiene Visit.”
Anyone can get cavities. Eating food with carbohydrates — think candy, fruit, soft drinks and bread — increases your risk of suffering tooth decay, because the bacteria in your mouth triggers a chemical reaction turning those carbohydrates into enamel-dissolving acids. That leads to the development of holes in your teeth, called cavities, which at best need to be cleaned out and filled by your dentist. At worst, decay can continue to destroy your tooth, affecting your gums, causing you to lose teeth or require surgery to restore your oral health.
Cavities might be more common than you think: 92% of adults ages 20 to 64 have had at least one cavity in their permanent teeth, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. About a quarter of the people in that age group have teeth with untreated tooth decay, exposing them to further oral health issues in the future.
The good news is cavities can be easily repaired with dental fillings, given the decay is not so severe it requires additional treatment. Your dentist will check for cavities at your regular checkups, and you should always feel comfortable asking questions about how your dentist will treat any oral health issues he or she discovers, including tooth decay. Here are some things to know about dental fillings:
There are several kinds of dental fillings.
The American Dental Association lists six kinds of fillings patients receive in the U.S., but it's up to you and your dentist which material suits you best. Materials include amalgam, composite (resin), glass ionomer, resin ionomer, porcelain (ceramic), and gold alloys.
The average American adult has roughly 7 permanent teeth with fillings.
The number of fillings a person has relates to their access to dental care. As such, people with more education and higher incomes have more fillings, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Current smokers have fewer fillings than former smokers or people who never smoked, but smokers also have more untreated tooth decay and more missing teeth than nonsmokers.
A single tooth may require multiple fillings after treating decay.
Individual teeth have many surfaces, so the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey looks at fillings on surfaces, not just how many teeth have fillings. The average American between ages 20 and 64 has 17.31 permanent surfaces with fillings. The most educated and least impoverished adults average about 20 surfaces with fillings, and Americans ages 50 to 64 have an average of 27.35 filled permanent surfaces. (A mouth with a full set of teeth has dozens of tooth surfaces.)
If you're dealing with tooth decay or have recently learned you have a cavity, don't let it go untreated. The experts at Sweet Tooth Dental in Kona, HI, can answer any concerns you have about treating tooth decay and addressing your questions about dental fillings.
Most of us are quite familiar with what traditional braces look like. But occasionally we see more complex-looking devices being worn by young orthodontic patients: thicker wires that extend outside the mouth, with straps that may go behind the neck or over the chin. What are these devices, and why are they sometimes needed?
In general, orthodontic appliances with external parts braced by the head, neck or chin are referred to as “headgear.” These devices may be used to handle a number of particular orthodontic situations, but they all have one thing in common: They provide the additional anchorage needed to move teeth into better positions.
It may come as a surprise that teeth, which seem so solid, can actually be moved fairly easily over time. This is because teeth are not fixed directly into bone, but are instead held in place by a hammock-like structure called the periodontal ligament. Using a light, controlled force — such as the force of springy wires and elastics in traditional braces — teeth can be moved slowly through the jaw bone, like a stick being pulled through sand.
Of course, to pull a stick through sand, you need a firm anchorage — your legs, for example, bracing against a rock. Most of the time, the back teeth, with their large, multiple roots, provide plenty of support. But sometimes, the back teeth alone aren’t enough to do the job.
If a very large space between teeth is being closed, for example, the back teeth might be pulled forward as the front teeth are pulled back; this could result in poor alignment and bite problems. In other cases, the front teeth may need to be pulled forward instead of back. The back teeth can’t help here; this is a job for headgear.
Some types of headgear have a strap that goes behind the head or neck; they use the entire head as an anchorage. Other types, called “reverse pull” headgear, have a strap that comes over the chin or the forehead; they can pull teeth forward. Headgear can even influence the proper growth of facial structures — that’s why it is usually seen on preteens, whose growth isn’t yet complete.
Headgear is usually worn for 12 hours per day, for a limited period of time. In some cases, rather than headgear, appliances called “temporary anchorage devices” (TADS) may be recommended. These are tiny screws that are implanted into the jawbone in a minimally invasive procedure, and serve a similar function.
While it may not look pretty, orthodontic headgear is capable of moving teeth into their proper positions in a relatively short period of time — and ending up with a great-looking smile is what orthodontics is all about.
While she was pregnant with her son Camden Jack Cutler, 25-year-old Kristin Cavallari noticed an odd occurrence in her bathroom sink: “Every time I floss, my sink looks like I murdered somebody!” the actress and reality-TV personality exclaimed. Should we be concerned that something wicked is going on with the star of Laguna Beach and The Hills?
Before you call in the authorities, ask a periodontist: He or she will tell you that there's actually no mystery here. What Cavallari noticed is, in fact, a fairly common symptom of “pregnancy gingivitis,” a condition that affects many expectant moms in the second to eighth month of pregnancy. But why does it occur at this time?
First — just the facts: You may already know that gingivitis is the medical name for an early stage of gum disease. Its symptoms may include bad breath, bleeding gums, and soreness, redness, or tenderness of the gum tissue. Fundamentally, gum disease is caused by the buildup of harmful bacteria, or plaque, on the teeth at the gum line — but it's important to remember that, while hundreds of types of bacteria live in the mouth, only a few are harmful. A change in the environment inside the mouth — like inadequate oral hygiene, to use one example — can cause the harmful types to flourish.
But in this case, the culprit isn't necessarily poor hygiene — instead, blame it on the natural hormonal changes that take place in expectant moms. As levels of some female hormones (estrogen and/or progesterone) rise during pregnancy, changes occur in the blood vessels in the gums, which cause them to be more susceptible to the effects of bacterial toxins. The bacteria produce toxic chemicals, which in turn bring on the symptoms of gingivitis — including painful and inflamed gums that may bleed heavily when flossed.
Is pregnancy gingivits a cause for concern? Perhaps — but the condition is generally quite treatable. If you've noticed symptoms like Kristen's, the first thing you should do it consult our office. We can advise you on a variety of treatments designed to relieve the inflammation in your gums and prevent the harmful bacteria from proliferating. Of course, your oral health (and your overall health) are prime concerns during pregnancy — so don't hesitate to seek medical help if it's needed!
How did things work out with Kristen? She maintained an effective oral hygiene routine, delivered a healthy baby — and recently appeared on the cover of Dear Doctor magazine, as the winner of the “Best Celebrity Smile” contest for 2012. And looking at her smile, it's no mystery why she won.
If you would like more information about pregnancy gingivitis, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Expectant Mothers” and “Kristen Cavallari.”