Monthly Archives: March 2017

Solutions for Teeth Sensitivity

There’s nothing like a hot cup of coffee in the morning or a cold glass of ice water on a hot day – unless that first sip brings a jolt of discomfort to the mouth. The culprit? Tooth sensitivity.

“You can notice tooth sensitivity while eating hot or cold foods, drinking cold or hot beverages, or breathing cold air,” says Craig Valentine, DMD, a spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry.

What’s Behind Teeth Sensitivity

Each tooth is made up of dentin, a tissue at its core, which is covered by a protective coating of enamel. If the enamel wears away or decays and exposes the dentin, the tooth (or teeth) can experience sensations including pain.

Gum recession caused by brushing too hard or with an incorrect technique can lead to dentin exposure, as can having cracked or chipped teeth or grinding and clenching the teeth. A medical condition, like bulimia or acid reflux, can also be a cause. Even diet may play a role – acidic foods like tomatoes and lemons and beverages like sports and energy drinks can dissolve enamel.

Preventing Enamel Loss and Teeth Sensitivity

“Damage to enamel is irreversible,” says Dr. Valentine. “Once enamel is worn away, there is no way to ‘grow’ it back.” The trick is preventing or stopping the damage.

First and foremost, Valentine recommends good oral hygiene:

  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and avoid brushing the teeth too hard. Employ a proper technique, including holding the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the teeth and moving it in a circular motion. Consider investing in an electric toothbrush, most of which use a circular cleaning pattern.
  • Reduce or eliminate acidic foods and beverages from your diet. When that’s not possible, rinse your mouth with water after eating or drinking these items and then wait at least a half-hour before brushing your teeth.
  • Be on the alert for clenching and grinding. Valentine says that both can cause tooth sensitivity. “This is best treated by wearing a mouth guard while sleeping and avoiding clenching or chewing gum during the day,” he says.
  • Don’t forget to see a dentist for cleanings and an examination every six months.

After Damage Is Done

Sometimes no matter how hard you try, one or more teeth will become sensitive. If your sensitivity is on the upper or lower cuspids (also known as the “canine teeth”) or premolars, the likely cause is receding gums. Decay or enamel erosion can affect any tooth.

The first step is to see a dentist who can develop an appropriate treatment plan. Depending on your situation, options include:

  • Using special toothpaste. After being applied several times, certain kinds of toothpaste can help block the sensation of sensitivity from the nerve.
  • Applying fluoride gel. Used in the dental office, fluoride gel can help make tooth enamel stronger and lessen the feeling of sensitivity.
  • Looking into serious dental treatments. When sensitivity is the result of decay or another tooth problem, a crown may help. If gum tissue receding from the tooth’s root is the cause, a surgical gum graft may correct the problem. In severe cases, a root canal may be the best option to help treat teeth sensitivity.

When sensitive teeth are a problem and lifestyle changes aren’t enough to ease the ouch, working closely with your dentist will lead you to the best solution.

The Top 7 Reasons We Avoid the Dentist

Has a painful past experience given you a fear of the dentist? Do you fear getting bad news about your dental health? Whatever the reason, you’re not alone — many Americans are simply skipping visits to the dentist. Overall, about 65 percent of us go to the dentist, but in some states, that number is much lower, even as low as 51.9 percent in Mississippi.

This is more than unfortunate — it can be downright dangerous, because regular dental visits are a key component of overall dental health. “We use our teeth multiple times a day, every day,” says Jennifer K. Shin, DDS, a dentist in private practice in New York City. “They take on a lot of abuse, so coming in twice a year gives us an opportunity to assess any changes that can be easily addressed. If problems are caught early, the solutions are easy, quick, and inexpensive. But a cavity left undiagnosed can lead to a toothache, requiring much more extensive and costly treatments.”

Why We Fear the Dentist

Why are people avoiding dental visits? The answer includes a wide range of reasons:

  • Cost. High prices are the major factor preventing many people from getting regular dental checkups. A recent survey found that 44 percent of people were not visiting the dentist because they don’t have dental insurance. “The truth is that if you take good care of your teeth and mouth, yearly dental visits won’t cost a ton of money,” says John Dodes, DDS, a dentist in Forest Hills, N.Y., and author of Healthy Teeth: A User’s Guide. “Easy additions to your routine, like flossing and rinsing with a therapeutic mouthwash like Listerine, can help get and keep your mouth healthy.”
  • Dental anxiety. Many people simply are afraid of the dentist’s office, but David S. Keen, DDS, a dentist in private practice in Beverly Hills, Calif., says there are a number of things you can do to minimize this. An effective way to make the experience positive is to speak with your dentist about your fears, and consider listening to pleasant music to promote an environment that is positive and soothing, more like a spa, he says. “Communication is usually the best way to develop a positive dental experience.”
  • Fear of needing dental work. “I’ve found in my 40 years of practice that very few patients are afraid of the actual cleaning, but rather they don’t want to hear any bad news about their teeth or any dental problems they’ve acquired,” says Dr. Dodes. “Avoidance and denial are strong human emotions, which can play a role in why people don’t visit the dentist as often as they should.”
  • Fear of instruments. The reason people fear that bad news, Dodes adds, is that treatment might be a painful or frightening procedure involving a scary dental instrument. Luckily, this is rarely the case today. “There have been so many new advances in dental care, including laser dentistry, which usually requires no Novocain,” says Jeffrey Gross, DDS, a dentist in the Cleveland area. “Also, the drills used today are so advanced that there is little noise or discomfort.”
  • Bad memories. Even the most advanced dental techniques can’t erase bad memories from dental visits of years past. “Many people fear the dentist because when they were children, they were told to not be afraid,” says Dr. Gross. “This actually instilled fear that has lasted many years. Dental visits today are very different, with many dentists offering music, TVs, and new high-tech procedures that can help erase old memories.”
  • Just too busy (or lazy). Sometimes, people have too much going on in their lives or just don’t want to make the effort to go to the dentist. “We are all creatures of habit,” says Gross. “If we don’t build it into our routine, it becomes one of those things that we have to ‘get around to doing.’ Once we skip a visit or more, it is out of our routine. This is why progressive dental offices work so hard on reminding people and setting up their visits. These programs are specifically designed to combat these issues.”
  • Fear of getting lectured. Nobody likes to be lectured about their dental health. And if you’ve been neglecting your brushing and flossing for some time, then you might fear that a lecture is coming. “In my office, I recognize this fact, and ‘lecturing’ or reprimanding is the last thing on my mind,” says Gross. “These types of comments are counterproductive — the patient’s discomfort, which brought them into the office, is reprimand enough. But the fear of a lecture is a pervasive thought on the minds of many patients. Many times this is due to guilt as they know better, and they simply don’t want to hear any more about it.”

The best way to address your personal reasons for avoiding dental visits is to voice them to your dentist. Give him or her the opportunity to reassure you and get you back on course for good dental health.

What You Need to Know About Kids’ Dentist Appointments

Most kids don’t light up at the idea of going to the dentist (and that goes for many adults, too).

But regular dental care is a must for all children. According to the American Dental Association, kids should visit the dentist within six months after their first tooth appears and no later than their first birthday. What can you expect at your child’s firstdentist appointment?

  • The dentist will examine your child’s baby teeth to look for tooth decay or other dental health issues
  • He will assess your child’s risk for tooth decay
  • He should teach you how to properly clean your child’s teeth
  • You and your child’s dentist can talk about habits, such as thumb sucking and misuse of sippy cups, which can harm your child’s teeth

The Basics of Pediatric Dental Care

After your child’s first dentist appointment, he or she should continue to have regular check-ups at least every six months. In some cases, such as with children who are at increased risk of tooth decay, your child’s dentist may recommend more frequent visits.

Regular dentist appointments can help reduce your child’s chances of having cavities since his teeth will be cleaned to remove plaque build-up and a fluoride treatment will be applied to strengthen the enamel of the teeth. The dentist will also examine your child’s teeth, jawbones, and oral tissues to check for any potential problems.

Sometimes, children will need to have a cavity filled or other dental work done — but should you go through with it if your child still has her baby teeth? Dental work is necessary even for kids who still have their primary or baby teeth, since cavities can be painful, and healthy baby teeth are important to help your child chew food, speak properly, and guide permanent teeth into their proper position.

Making Kids’ Dentist Appointments More Pleasant

As a parent, you can help calm your child’s nerves and make each dentist appointment go more smoothly. The better experience children have, the more trust and security they will feel when visiting the dentist, which can promote a lifetime of good dental health.

Try these steps to help your child feel at ease about going to the dentist:

  • Choose a pediatric dentist. Pediatric dentists – dentists that specialize in children’s dental health — are specially trained to calm anxious children. The offices of pediatric dentists are also often designed to be especially welcoming to youngsters.
  • Talk about the visit in advance. In a relaxed setting, calmly discuss the upcoming dentist visit with your child. Explain what might happen at the appointment and that the dentist can help keep your child’s teeth bright and healthy.
  • Schedule a sneak preview. If your child is visiting a dentist’s office for the first time, ask if it is okay to stop by before the actual appointment. This will give your child the chance to get comfortable in the new surroundings before the check-up.
  • Stay close to young children. If your child is younger than four years old, it can help your child to have you nearby during the dental appointment.

As you prepare your child for an upcoming dentist appointment, remember that your attitude has a significant influence on your child’s perception of the dentist. If the thought of dental work on yourself or your child makes you anxious, do your best to remain relaxed and calm when you talk about the dentist with your child. Researchers have found that having parents who have dental anxiety increases the risk of dental anxiety in young children.

Dental Filling Options for Cavities

Cavities, also called caries or tooth decay, develop when plaque damages the enamel that protects the outer surface of the teeth.

If you have cavities, it is important to have them treated by a dentist as soon as possible. Without prompt treatment, cavities can eventually progress and affect the delicate tissue and nerves deep within your teeth. When cavities are treated early, serious complications, such as nerve damage and tooth loss can be prevented.

How Are Cavities Treated?

If your dental hygienist or dentist finds a cavity, your dentist can treat the cavity by removing the decayed tissue and placing a dental filling, special material put in the tooth to protect it from further damage and decay.

Before removing your cavity, your dentist will apply a local anesthetic to numb the surrounding tissue. A dental drill will then be used to remove the decayed portion of your tooth and prepare it for a filling.

Laser therapy or a procedure called air abrasion can also be used to get rid of cavities.

Dental Filling Options

Fillings have come a long way over the years, and today there are many options beyond traditional metal fillings. Types of dental fillings that are currently available include:

  • Amalgam fillings. Amalgam has been used for more than 100 years to fill cavities and is still widely used today. Amalgam is a resilient combination of elemental metals, and may include components of mercury, silver, tin, copper, and other metals. Since amalgam fillings are silver in color, they aren’t as good as tooth-colored fillings for use in more visible teeth near the front of the mouth.Because amalgam contains mercury, questions have been raised about its safety. High mercury exposure is linked to some neurological problems, particularly among infants and children. Research done by the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and other major health organizations, however, has determined that dental amalgam is a safe option for fillings. The other metals used in amalgam fillings are thought to stabilize the mercury component and reduce the risk of ill effects.
  • Composite fillings. Composite is a tooth-colored material that is made of glass or quartz and resin. Composite fillings are durable and more natural looking than amalgam fillings. They are generally more costly than amalgam fillings and can take longer to place. In addition, composite fillings may become stained over time.
  • Glass ionomer fillings. Like composite fillings, glass ionomers are also tooth-colored. They are made of acrylic and glass, and are most often used to fill cavities at the root surfaces of teeth. Glass ionomers are also designed to release fluoride that can help protect your teeth from additional decay. Since glass ionomers are not as durable as amalgam or composite fillings, they are best used on areas of your teeth that are not exposed to much friction during chewing.
  • Resin ionomer fillings. Similar to glass ionomers, resin ionomers are natural-looking fillings that are also made from acrylic and glass filler. They are usually used to fill small cavities between teeth or on the root surfaces of teeth.
  • Custom-made dental restorations. In some cases, your dentist may need to make your filling in a laboratory from a special mold of your tooth. This type of filling includes a custom-made inlay that fills the removed portion of your tooth, along with a crown that covers the top and sides of your tooth. It takes two or more visits to place a custom-made restoration. These restorations can be made from porcelain, metal alloys, gold, and/or composite materials. Porcelain restorations are durable, but the material can irritate adjacent teeth. Gold and metal alloys are highly resilient, but depending on the location in your mouth, can be very noticeable.

If you have a cavity, talk with your dentist about your preferences, as well as the benefits and disadvantages of the various filling options. After evaluating your overalloral health and preferences, your dentist can help you decide which type of filling is best for you.