One of the biggest challenges of dentistry is educating the patient. A large number of adult patients have never been shown how to floss or brush their teeth correctly or been told why it’s important. Dr. Citrin believes that he and all dentists have an obligation to teach patients about the benefits of good oral hygiene. The following patient education information covers some common oral health problems, dental treatment options and tips for good oral hygiene.
- Tooth Decay
- Amalgam Fillings
- Alternative Filling Materials
- Root Canals
- Periodontal Disease
- Dental Implants
- Oral Hygiene
Tooth decay refers to a tooth’s mineral content being dissolved away. This occurs when plaque, a sticky substance that accumulates on the teeth, mixes with sugars and starches from the foods we eat. This results in the making of acids that attack the tooth enamel. As the tooth enamel is destroyed, a hole called a “cavity” occurs in the tooth’s surface.
To avoid tooth decay and cavities, brush your teeth regularly, at least two times a day. Use toothpaste with fluoride. Floss each day to help remove food debris from between the teeth. Eat healthy foods, and avoid snacks, soft drinks and candy that contain high amounts of simple sugar.
Amalgam contains a mixture of metal alloys including silver, tin, copper, zinc and mercury. Amalgam has been used in dentistry for over 150 years. Yet, there has been ongoing concern about the health risks associated with amalgam fillings.
In addition, over time, the amalgam edges begin to fracture and break down. The above photographs show how the filling fractures, making them vulnerable to decay occurring at the sides of the fillings. This decay will quickly extend towards the nerve of the tooth, leading to an infection.
Is Amalgam Safe?
The mercury in an amalgam filling is chemically bound to other metal alloys. This chemical bond stabilizes the mercury, ensuring that dangerous levels of free mercury do not enter or harm the human body. The American Dental Association, the National Institute of Health and the American Medical Association have all reviewed this issue and come to the conclusion that amalgam dental fillings do not pose a health risk.
Dr. Citrin’s feeling are that the vast majority of the population is safe with their existing amalgam fillings. He feels there is probably a small percentage of the population that is sensitive to the amalgam. These fillings can be replaced with composite, gold or porcelain fillings.
Alternative Filling Materials
The alternatives to amalgam fillings are gold alloy, composite resin or porcelain materials. Gold alloy is a very durable and long lasting filling material. Composite resin fillings are tooth colored and bond well to tooth structure. Porcelain material such as onlays or inlays can hardly be distinguished from natural teeth. Although these alternative filling materials have their advantages, especially esthetically, they are more costly than amalgam and take more time to prepare and place.
A root canal is a common and safe procedure to treat an infection in the pulp of the tooth. Most people would A root canal is a common and safe procedure to treat an infection in the pulp of the tooth. Most people would probably refer to a tooth’s pulp tissue as its “nerve.” While a tooth does contain nerve fibers, it is also composed of arteries, lymph vessels, and connective tissue. Years ago, severely damaged or infected teeth were simply removed. Today, with modern dental techniques, we can save and repair infected teeth through root canal therapy.
Root canal therapy is usually done on one appointment. It is possible to experience any of the following symptoms after any one of these appointments: sensitivity to pressure, possible swelling and some discomfort.
If you experience any swelling, call our office; it may be necessary to prescribe an antibiotic for you.
A temporary filling may be used to seal the tooth between visits. If the temporary filling does not stay, it is imperative it is replaced. The temporary seals the hole in the tooth, preventing further decay.
Be gentle on the tooth while eating until the final restoration is placed. Over time, the tooth can become more brittle. A Crown and a Post and Core(a procedure to strengthen the tooth) and help protect it from cracking.
Periodontal disease is an infection of the teeth and gums as well as the bone that surrounds the teeth. It is caused by poor oral hygiene and certain unhealthy habits such as smoking. Periodontal disease causes bone loss and can eventually lead to losing teeth. There are three stages to periodontal disease:
3. Advanced Periodontitis
1. Gingivitis: Plaque, a sticky film of food and bacteria, forms constantly on our teeth. If it isn’t removed daily, it begins to harden and forms a substance called tartar. In this early stage, before bone loss has occurred, the gums become red and swollen. This is “gingivitis” and is the first stage of periodontal disease.
2. Periodontitis: As the plaque and tartar work their way down below the gum line, the gums begin to separate away from the teeth, forming pockets. Once a pocket has formed, the disease process accelerates, as new, even more destructive types of bacteria begin to populate the pocket. If the tartar isn’t removed by a dental professional, your body’s defensive reaction to the infection produces enzymes that cause the loss of supporting bone. This stage is known as “periodontitis.”
3. Advanced Periodontitis: If left untreated, periodontal disease causes supporting bone to be lost from around the teeth. Eventually, so much bone is lost that teeth can become loose and fall out. This is “advanced periodontitis.” Once it reaches advanced stages, periodontal disease cannot be reversed. It is the number one cause of missing teeth in the United States today.
Dental implants are today’s best alternative for replacing missing teeth. They provide a permanent and secure solution for restoring one or more lost teeth. Made of biocompatible materials, dental implants are similar to orthopedic devices, and function as anchors that support crowns, bridges or dentures.
Our patients tell us that dental implants have changed not only their smiles and their overall appearance but even their lives! If you want to replace missing teeth, there are numerous benefits to choosing dental implants.
Benefits of Dental Implants
Esthetically, they support teeth that look like real teeth. Functionally, dental implants feel and act like real teeth.
Implants can actually improve the taste of food. With less plastic covering the roof of your mouth or your lower gums, you can enjoy natural flavors and sensations again.
Lastly, dental implants can help maintain your bone structure and support facial tissues. They can reduce or eliminate bone atrophy, which causes “shrinkage” or facial cosmetic changes.
For healthy teeth and gums, oral hygiene is vital. Brushing and flossing teeth is essential for the health of your mouth and the appearance of your smile. Our goal is to help you understand and appreciate your role in maintaining your oral health.
Tips for Good Oral Hygiene
Good oral hygiene is an essential part of good health and well-being throughout life. By taking care of your teeth and gums, eating a balanced diet and visiting your dentist regularly, you can have healthy teeth and an attractive smile your entire life. Follow these tips for good oral hygiene:
Brush your teeth effectively twice a day with fluoride toothpaste that has been approved by the American Dental Association (ADA).
Floss at least once a day, preferably before you go to bed. Regular flossing helps to remove food debris that accumulates between your teeth, and it helps keep your gums and the neck of each tooth healthy.
Limit the amount of soft drinks (soda) you drink and the amount of candy you eat. The simple sugar in soda and candy is especially harmful to teeth.
Chewing sugarless gum containing the sweetener xylitol after you eat can help cleanse your mouth. Drinking water throughout the day also helps flush away excess bacteria and food debris.
Eat unsweetened yogurt. It reduces the compounds that cause bad breath and cuts down on plaque and gingivitis.
Visit your dentist at least twice a year. Regular dental checkups help detect oral health problems before they become serious. Early diagnosis and intervention helps many patients save their teeth and avoid the need for more expensive dental treatments.