Preventive Dental Care

Preventive Dental Care is Important to Having a Wonderful Smile and Healthy Teeth

Taking care of your teeth and gums is all part of preventive dental care that is an important part of having a healthy and wonderful smile your whole life.  Dr. Ferullo supplies this list of things you should do and preventive dental services you should have done regularly to make sure that your teeth and gums stay healthy and look great.

A Complete X-Ray Series

A full-mouth series of x-rays is the first step in a thorough dental examination which is very important to your preventive dental care. Your dentist take this series of x-rays so we can find…

  • Cavities between the teeth
  • Worn-out fillings and crowns
  • Tartar on the roots
  • Receding bone levels and abscesses

Your dentist will place 18 separate film packets throughout your mouth to make a thorough evaluation. A lead apron is draped over you to protect the rest of your body while she x-rays your mouth.

Dental x-rays use high-speed film, so the amount of radiation exposure is very low. Machines vary, but a full series of x-rays only adds as much radiation as you’d get from about 8 extra weeks of natural background radiation. Even if you’ve recently had other x-rays taken, a full-mouth set of x-rays does not add to that exposure.

A full-mouth set of x-rays is an important part of a thorough dental examination. It gives your dentist vital information she can’t get from any other source.

A Custom Mouthguard Can Save Your Child's Teeth

A Custom Mouthguard Can Save Your Child’s Teeth

Injuries to the mouth and face are the number-one sports trauma, and a dental injury is not only painful and costly; it’s also permanent. Fortunately, many mouth injuries can be prevented by wearing an athletic mouth protector—also called a mouthguard…
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A mouthguard is a soft plastic appliance that fits over the teeth. When a properly designed mouthguard is worn, the lips, cheek, tongue and jaws are protected, as well as the teeth. The American Dental Association estimates that mouthguards prevent 200,000 injuries each year in high-school and college sports alone.

Most people are aware that sports mouthguards are mandatory for participation in high-contact sports such as football, boxing and hockey. But what many people don’t realize is that the majority of mouth injuries occur in children between the ages of 7 and 14, often while participating in commonplace activities like skateboarding, rollerblading or bike riding! Mouthguards should be worn during all activities where there is a risk of falling or head contact, either with another player or a piece of equipment. The Academy for Sports Dentistry has identified 35 activities and sports in which mouthguards should be worn as preventive dental care to avoid serious injury, including baseball, soccer, basketball, martial arts, skiing, volleyball and gymnastics.

The most common mouth injuries are broken or lost teeth, but a blow to the mouth or jaw can also cause:

  • jaw fractures
  • concussions and cerebral hemorrhage
  • head and neck injuries
  • problems with the jaw joint
  • jaw dislocations

Choosing a mouthguard

There are three types of mouthguards available:

  • sufficient thickness in critical areas, so protection is maximized
  • the best possible fit and retention
  • greater durability, which means less frequent replacement

Custom mouthguards are created specifically for you by professional technicians, using a material that is resilient, odorless and tasteless. To fabricate a custom-made mouthguard, on the first appointment, impressions of your teeth are made. From these impressions, models of your teeth are created. The mouthguard is fabricated on these models to ensure that the fit is precise. Then, on your next appointment, your mouthguard is tried in and adjusted as necessary to make sure protection and comfort are optimized.

While any mouthguard is better than none at all, a custom mouthguard is far more comfortable, so it’s less likely to be left lying in the locker or the gym bag. They are also much more effective in preventing injuries, since they conform precisely to an individual’s teeth. A custom mouthguard costs a bit more than off-the-shelf varieties, but their precise fit, comfort and excellent quality make them well worth the additional cost.

Anesthesia

Will a shot hurt my child when my dentist fills her tooth?It really depends on your child. Some children can’t stand a simple dental cleaning, while others have abscessed teeth extracted or root canals performed without the slightest discomfort…

Will a shot hurt my child when my dentist fills her tooth?
It really depends on your child. Some children can’t stand a simple dental cleaning, while others have abscessed teeth extracted or root canals performed without the slightest discomfort. To make things easier, try not to tell your child that any part of treatment will or will not hurt. Instead, let your dentist explain the treatment to your child.

Bitewing X-Rays

Bite wing x-rays are the most common x-rays taken in dentistry….

Your dentist uses them to:

  • find cavities between the teeth
  • see tartar on the roots
  • find worn-out fillings
  • locate receding bone levels from periodontal disease

A small packet of x-ray film is placed inside your mouth. When you bite on the tab on the side of the packet, the film becomes properly aligned to get a picture of your upper and lower teeth at the same time. A lead apron is draped over you to protect the rest of your body while your dentist x-rays your mouth. Dental x-rays use high-speed film, so the amount of radiation exposure is very low. Though machines vary, bitewing x-rays only add as much radiation as you’d get from about 3 extra weeks of natural background radiation. Even if you’ve recently had other x-rays taken, bitewing x-rays do not add to that exposure. Bitewing x-rays are a necessary part of regular dental checkups. They give your dentist vital information that she can’t get from any other source

Checkups

Why is it important for my children to be seen by a dentist every six months? Children are growing and changing so fast that each of their six-month checkups is essentially a new-patient examination. Teeth are being lost, new ones are growing in, bones…

Why is it important for my children to be seen by a dentist every six months?
Children are growing and changing so fast that each of their six-month checkups is essentially a new-patient examination. Teeth are being lost, new ones are growing in, bones are lengthening and elongating, and the bite is being established. Seeing your child every six months lets your dentist track the progress of these events and catch any problems early, when they are easier to correct.

When should I bring in my child for his first dental examination?
Some dentists recommend that children be brought in for an examination as soon as their first tooth appears (usually between five and eight months, but definitely by one year) so that the parents can learn about preventive dental care to avoid infant tooth decay. During these early visits, most dentists will discuss the need to begin cleaning teeth as soon as they appear in your child’s mouth, the importance of not putting your child to bed with a bottle, and the use of fluoride supplements.

Co-Diagnosis

The diagnoses of periodontal disease and cavities are two important parts of a dental examination…
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Treatment
Since you may have periodontal disease, yet have none of the symptoms, your dentist will perform a thorough examination using x-rays and a periodontal probe to measure bone levels around the teeth.

When bone levels fall, the gums pull away from the tooth, forming a pocket. Your dentist will measure the depth of this pocket with a periodontal probe. The measurement is from the bottom of the pocket, where the gum is attached to the tooth, to the top of the gums.

Healthy gums are tight against the teeth, and there aren’t any pockets. Early periodontal disease will cause pockets to form. In general, the deeper the pockets, the greater the spread of periodontal disease.

Bleeding is a sign of infection—healthy gums don’t bleed! Your dentist also will examine the color and shape of your gums. Healthy gums are pink and have a lightly stippled appearance similar to the surface of an orange. In a case of moderate periodontal disease, there is a red and swollen infection of the gums. The stippling disappears when gums become swollen. X-rays tell us a lot about periodontal disease. In a healthy mouth, the bone comes up high around the necks of the teeth and it’s even throughout the mouth. In advanced periodontal disease, the bone level is much lower than in the healthy mouth.

So now you know how your dentist diagnoses periodontal disease:

  • probe readings greater than three millimeters
  • bleeding upon probing
  • swollen and red gums, especially between the teeth
  • bone loss or tartar on the x-rays

You also know what causes periodontal disease: the accumulation of plaque. The bacteria in plaque also produce acid. This acid destroys the enamel of your teeth and produces cavities.

Finding cavities is sometimes easy, but it can be difficult. For hard-to-find cavities, your dentist uses a dental explorer and x-rays. Your dentist also checks the tops and sides of your tooth with a dental explorer. X-rays are used to look for cavities between teeth. Metal fillings and crowns show up as bright white; cavities look like dark spots. It’s far better to catch and restore cavities while they’re still small and in the enamal layer of the tooth. Once they’re in the softer dentin layer, they grow very quickly. If they make it to the pulp chamber, the decay can progress to a whole new set of problems: root canals.

The dental profession has assigned each tooth a number and every surface of a tooth a letter. If your dentist finds cavities in your teeth, you’ll hear her call out the numbers and letters for each one. Of course, if you keep the plaque off your teeth, you’ll never need to know about these numbers and letters!

Digital X-Ray Systems

A digital X-ray (radiography) system can shoot a picture of your teeth, then almost immediately show it to you on a computer monitor while you are in the dental chair.You no longer have to sit there for fifteen minutes and wait for X-ray film to develop…and develop…

The on-screen picture will look like an X-ray image but a lot bigger, 400 percent bigger! With one mouse click, your dentist can zoom in on a single tooth, rotate it, sharpen it and colorize it – all to explain your treatment procedure. Want to take home that stunning tooth image? Your dentist can print out a color copy for you.

How It Works: Your dentist places a small, flat sensor in your mouth. The sensor is connected to a computer by a thin wire. Next, an X-ray beam is sent through your teeth and into the sensor, which records the image of your teeth and sends it to the computer. The sensor can then be repositioned to photograph other sections of your teeth.

Why It’s Good: Your dental checkups take less time. Because the Digital X-ray system is more sensitive than X-ray film systems, your exposure to X rays is cut as much as 90 percent. (Your dentist and staff receive less exposure, too.) The large and color-enhanced images let you see what your dentist sees, so it’s easier for you to understand how your dentist will treat your teeth. You fees don’t include payment for photographic chemicals, film, processing or film storage. Used photo chemicals and film are not dumped into the environment. Finally, it’s a blast to watch this system work! Most patients are amazed.

How It Could Be Better: Because the sensors are rigid, they can be hard to position and can cause some mouth discomfort, particularly for small children. Digital X-ray equipment is very expensive. And because it is expensive, not all dentists have a digital X-ray system. You may have to do some exploring to find a dentist who has one.

Disclosing Tablets

Disclosing tablets are made of a harmless vegetable dye that stains plaque bright red. The main cause of cavities and periodontal disease is the accumulation of plaque…

laque is the sticky film of food and bacteria that forms constantly on your teeth. It’s hard to see plaque, but it really shows up after being stained with disclosing tablets.

You must completely remove plaque each day, or it will build up and mineralize to become tartar, which is also called calculus. It takes a professional to remove tartar. There’s no way for you to remove it at home—a toothbrush or floss won’t even budge it. Disclosing tablets can help you prevent cavities and periodontal disease by helping you see the plaque that hasn’t been removed. Then you can remove it before it hardens to become tartar.

After brushing and flossing, simply chew a disclosing tablet, swish it around your mouth, and rinse with water. Using a small dental mirror, check your teeth for any signs of red, especially near the gum line. Brush and floss these missed areas and you can be confident that your teeth are plaque-free.

Fluoride

The greatest breakthrough in preventive dentistry in the last fifty years has been the use of fluoride…
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Almost all water naturally contains some fluoride. About three-fourths of American cities add additional fluoride to the water supply for the prevention of tooth decay. Fluoridated water alone has decreased the cavity rate for school children by 60 percent.

There are many benefits in the use of fluoride, for people of all ages. When children are young and their teeth are forming, fluoride joins with the enamel surface and makes it harder and more decay-resistant.

The benefits for adults are just as great. Fluoride can help repair an early cavity, even before it’s become visible in the mouth, by rebuilding the enamel layer of the teeth. Fluoride is also helpful in older adults to help solve the problem of root caries or root sensitivity. And fluoride rinses or gels are sometimes prescribed to help eliminate germs that cause gum disease.

Most dentists recommend fluoride toothpaste for all dental patients. Your dentist may also recommend additional sources of fluoride for increased protection. This includes:

  • drops
  • tablets
  • gels or rinses
  • prescription toothpaste

Another highly effective time for fluoride application is immediately following your cleaning in the dental office. A topical gel is applied with the use of a tray or with a cotton applicator.

Fluoride is an important part of every tooth decay prevention program. When combined with the good hygiene habits of brushing and flossing, the number of cavities in children and adults can be dramatically reduced.

Intraoral Camera

“Well, Dave, your old fillings are definitely not doing the job. In fact many of them have failed and are letting decay reach your teeth…think you should consider having them replaced.”

If your dentist tells you this, you may find yourself wondering whether your teeth are really as bad as he/she is saying. Maybe if you could actually see those old fillings yourself, you’d feel a lot better about having them fixed. Here’s where an intraoral camera is just the ticket.

An intraoral camera is about the size of a pen, so it fits easily into your mouth. Once positioned, it sends pictures to a monitor, where your teeth and gums appear in a full-color, usually as a very large image.

Yikes! Those fillings are cracked and that dark area is definitely decay. Want a copy of the image? Your dentist can print one for you. Take it home to help your spouse understand why you’re having dental treatment.

Keep Your Teeth Healthy and Young-Looking with the Help of Today's Dental Techniques!

As you age, certain things are inevitable. You don’t move as quickly as you once did. Your hair gets gray and your skin wrinkles. And it used to be that you lost your teeth and got dentures. ..

Not so anymore. Advances in cosmetic and preventive dentistry mean that more older adults are keeping their teeth. Only about 30 percent of adults over 65 now wear dentures, and that’s expected to drop to 20 percent within the next decade or two.

“I’ve gone 18 years from learning how to make dentures and thinking it is OK for people to lose teeth, to being appalled if anyone loses teeth. It is a failure,” said Washington D.C. dentist Judith Penski.

Dr. Linda Niessen, vice president of clinical affairs for DENTSPLY International, concurs. “Teeth were designed to last a lifetime. No one has ever lost a tooth because he or she celebrated a 75th birthday.”

Focus shifts from prevention to beautification
Years ago, dentistry’s focus was on the prevention of decay and periodontal (gum) disease. But now, with the incidence of cavities greatly reduced thanks to fluoride, improved oral hygiene and enhanced preventive care, much of the dental community has switched its focus to smile enhancement.

Face it. The public, rightly or wrongly, judges people—at least initially—by their appearance, and an attractive, healthy smile plays an important role in a positive first impression. Cosmetic dentistry can go a long way in polishing up an aging smile.

Signs of an aging smile
Your smile ages, just like the rest of your body. Teeth often darken somewhat, as the dentin layer of your tooth, located just beneath the enamel, undergoes natural changes. Teeth can also become crowded or crooked as years pass, as they naturally migrate forward. Plaque, the sticky, disease-causing layer of bacteria, builds up faster as you age, unfortunately at a time when brushing can be more difficult. This can cause gums to become infected with periodontitis, often resulting in unattractively recessed gums. And finally, the decreased saliva flow in your mouth, either a natural result of aging or a side effect of certain medications, can accelerate decay and gum disease; saliva acts as “nature’s mouthwash,” washing away food and neutralizing decay-causing acids in your mouth.

Cosmetic dentistry refreshes youthful appearance
Your natural teeth just look better in your mouth than dentures, and they’re much easier to care for. But when there are so many factors working against your keeping your natural teeth, what can you do?

Fortunately, dentists today have an arsenal of techniques and equipment to stop decay and gum disease in their tracks and enhance the appearance of your natural teeth.

Whitening
The simplest and most common cosmetic procedure, tooth whitening or bleaching is most effective on teeth with yellow, brown or orange stains. Gray-stained teeth, or teeth discolored due to intake of the antibiotic tetracycline, are very difficult to bleach.

Teeth can be whitened in the dentist’s office, or many dentists can supply you with an at-home bleaching kit, complete with a mouthguard that is custom-made for your teeth. Both forms use a form of hydrogen peroxide to remove stains and brighten teeth.

While in-office bleaching is considerably more expensive than at-home bleaching kits ($600-1000 per arch, compared to $200-500), the American Dental Association recommends in-office bleaching, because the process can be carefully controlled by your dentist.

In all instances, the ADA recommends against over-the counter bleaching kits. “(Bleaching kits) may cause damage to the tooth pulp, enamel, gums and other areas of your mouth,” said Dr. Kenneth Burrell, director of the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs.

“Your dentist first can tell you if any whitening procedure at all is appropriate for you. He or she can also monitor the procedure and determine if any adverse reactions do occur,” he said. Keep in mind that tooth-colored crowns, bridges and fillings will not bleach; whitening when you have visible tooth-colored restorations could result in a two-toned smile.

Porcelain Veneers
Porcelain veneers are custom-crafted, fingernail-thin tooth-colored shells that are bonded to natural teeth. They are subtle in color and nearly transparent, so they give a natural-looking enhancement to the shape, size, color or length of the teeth they are affixed to.

Porcelain veneers correct problems such as discolored, worn or misaligned teeth. The down side? Porcelain veneers are relatively expensive, averaging between $450-750 per tooth.

Implants
An implant is a stable replacement for a missing natural tooth. It is constructed of a metal cylinder with its base attached to the jawbone and its top attached to a natural-looking porcelain tooth. Over several months, the implant fuses with the jawbone, creating a strong, long-lasting tooth replacement that’s hard to distinguish from your natural teeth.

Bonding
Bonding is an excellent way to repair chips or cracks in teeth or to change their shape or color, particularly in front teeth.

First, your natural tooth color is carefully matched to the color of the bonding material. Then your teeth are lightly roughened, and a gel is applied to ensure adherence of the bonding material. Once the material is applied, it is sculpted and hardened with a high-intensity light. It is then polished to a natural-looking luster.

Bonding works best on small areas, as larger restorations are prone to breakage. In general, bonding lasts from three to five years.

Bonded porcelain or composite restorations (fillings)
Dark metal amalgam fillings can give a gray cast to your smile. They eventually wear out and need to be replaced; they can also cause teeth to fracture and split. Luckily, silver fillings can be removed and replaced with bonded porcelain or composite fillings. These tooth-colored fillings blend perfectly with your natural teeth, so they are nearly invisible. Plus they are usually stronger and more durable than silver fillings.

Tooth-colored fillings cost significantly more than silver amalgam fillings, and insurance plans generally don’t cover the extra cost. However, the difference in appearance, particularly in teeth that are exposed when you smile, is so drastic, many believe it is well worth the extra cost.

Just plain common sense
As you get older, it becomes even more important that you are scrupulous in your oral hygiene.

  • Floss each and every day to remove plaque from between your teeth.
  • Brush twice a day for at least two minutes each time.
  • See your dentist at least twice a year for an exam and a cleaning. Make sure your dentist checks your mouth for signs of oral cancer.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking discolors the teeth, fouls the breath and ages the skin.
  • Ask your dentist if she recommends fluoride rinses or gels. They can reduce tooth decay.
  • Notice if you have a dry mouth; if you do, ask your dentist how to correct the situation.
  • Tell your dentist if you have made any changes in the medication(s) you are taking.

Free and easy ways to keep your smile looking bright

  • Rinse your mouth with water, or better yet, brush your teeth after drinking beverages that might stain your teeth (dark-colored soda, coffee or tea).
  • Use a straw when drinking these beverages to minimize their contact with your teeth.
  • Avoid orange-toned or frosted lipstick; they make your teeth look yellow. Choose clear, bright shades to give the illusion of whiter teeth.
Multimedia Education

Not too long ago, a dentist had the first and the last word about a patient’s dental treatment. Well, the dental patient has turned into a savvy dental consumer who wants to be part of any treatment decision. And dentists have had to become patient educators…

Dentists have learned a few things about patient education. They’ve learned that words alone don’t cut it. Neither do static diagrams. Their patients want visual education. They want dazzling 3-D graphics, animation, and sparkling color. And patients want to control what they watch. They want multimedia patient education. Several programs are out there. But the hands-down, number-one multimedia patient education program for US dentists is CAESY (Clinically Advanced Education SYstem).

This is multimedia at its best. Whether you’re in your dentist’s waiting room, consultation room or dental chair, you can aim a remote at a television monitor, then click to find out what you want to know about your dental treatment. You select from over 140 Digital Video Disc (DVD) presentations covering cosmetic dentistry, crowns, root canals, and hygiene – the scope of this program is staggering.

Do your kids visit a children’s dentist (pediatric dentist)? The CAESY Clubhouse delights and educates children with presentations that feature Kirby, a real and very smart chimpanzee, and two curious terriers who take young viewers on a tour of a dentist office.

With full-motion video, amazing 3-D graphics, before-and-after photos, theater-quality music, and multi-language narratives, CAESY is the benchmark for multimedia patient education. It will definitely make you an informed dental consume

BNitrous Oxide: Is it Really Laughing Gas?

No matter how comfortable, gentle, modern, supportive or reassuring a dental care team may be, some people are still a nervous wreck when they need dental treatment. Sound a bit like you? Then nitrous oxide—also called “laughing gas”—may be just the ticket…

Nitrous oxide is a colorless, odorless combination of two gases—oxygen and nitrogen—that’s used for its calming effect in both adults and children. The nitrogen-oxygen mixture is combined with additional oxygen, then administered through a small, soft plastic mask that fits over your nose. Breathing in normally through your nose, you’ll soon notice that you’re feeling calm, relaxed, and disconnected from what’s going on around you. Eventually, you’ll reach what’s called “conscious sedation,” in which you are completely relaxed—even giddy—but can still respond to questions or requests from the dental care team. During conscious sedation, you also have a decreased perception of discomfort and a greater tolerance for lengthy dental procedures, even though nitrous doesn’t make any part of your mouth numb.

When breathing nitrous, you may feel as though you’re floating or drifting, and you’ll have an enhanced sense of well being. Your feet and hands may tingle, and you may have warm, fluid sensations throughout your body. You won’t be asleep, and your natural reflexes will be completely intact, but you’ll be profoundly relaxed, and the procedure will seem to go by very quickly. Once your treatment is complete, you’ll breathe pure oxygen for a few minutes to flush the nitrous oxide from your system.

Some minor complications you may experience
Nitrous oxide is completely safe and non-addictive when it’s administered as directed by a dental professional. It’s very mild, well-tolerated by most people, and quickly eliminated naturally by your body. But sometimes, minor complications arise. For example:

  • You may become chilled and start to shiver. A warm blanket will take care of this problem.
  • You may become nauseated, either during or after the procedure. If you start to feel that you are going to vomit, it’s vital that you tell your dental care provider so the nitrous flow can be discontinued and pure oxygen delivered.
  • Excessive sweating sometimes occurs; if it’s a problem, the flow of nitrous can be reduced or discontinued entirely.

It’s a great answer to anxiety in the dental chair…but it’s not for everyone
There are a few situations where nitrous oxide shouldn’t be used. They are:

  • during pregnancy
  • if you have an inner ear or an upper respiratory infection
  • if you’re extremely claustrophobic or don’t like to feel out of control
  • if you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • if your child has a severe behavior problem or personality disorder

A complete medical history is taken prior to administering nitrous oxide sedation. If it’s determined to be a suitable solution for your anxiety, you’ll be instructed to eat lightly four hours prior to your appointment and have someone drive you home after the procedure. You’ll be alert and will probably feel just fine, but your reflexes and judgement may be slightly dimished for a few hours until the nitrous wears off completely.

Sources
The Academy of General Dentistry
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
The American Dental Association

Overcoming Your Fear of the Drill

Does the sound of a dental handpiece (you may know it as a “drill”) cause a white-knuckle, cold-sweat reaction in you? Do you avoid going to the dentist, even for routine exams, because you’re afraid a cavity…

may be found, again bringing to mind the dreaded drill? If so, you’re not alone. Jay Orlikoff, D.D.S., spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry, says this reaction is common in many people. “Most of that fear is more psychological than physical,” Dr. Orlikoff said. The whining or buzzing sound of the handpiece, when used to remove decay in a tooth, is loud and, to some people, annoying to the point that it produces stress and anxiety. It is functioning right next to your ear, which greatly exaggerates the sound—and the subsequent psychological reaction—in many patients. With modern dental tools and techniques, it’s possible to be completely comfortable during each dental appointment. Here are some things to go over with your dentist before any treatment procedure that requires the use of a dental handpiece:

  • Your dentist should thoroughly explain the procedure before you arrive for treatment.
  • Your dentist should also show you the handpiece, turning it on so you can hear the noise it makes.
  • Tell your dentist about your fear and ask if he offers any alternatives for decay removal, such as air abrasion or laser treatment.
  • Ask about receiving nitrous oxide—commonly called “laughing gas”—to relax and calm you before treatment.
  • See if your dentist offers headphones, so you can listen to the radio, a tape, or a CD during treatment. This drowns out much of the handpiece noise. If he doesn’t, see if you can bring your own personal CD or tape player from home.
  • Some dentists offer “i-glasses,” which are like personal movie theaters. They are headpieces that allow you to listen to and watch a movie inside the glasses during dental treatment.
  • Perhaps most importantly, work out a signal system with your dentist—for example, a raised index finger during the procedure means “I feel that!” The dentist should then stop immediately and touch base with you, administering more anesthetic if necessary.

Finally, don’t be concerned about your anxiety; it’s a common, completely normal reaction to be anxious, or even fearful, about situations with which you are unfamiliar. Modern dentistry offers a wealth of treatment options to make your visits completely comfortable.

Pain-Free Dentistry - The Wand

The discomfort of a dental shot is caused primarily by the pressure of the anesthetic. By controlling the pressure at which the anesthetic is delivered, a computerized injection system (called The Wand) greatly relieves this discomfort…

Results are encouraging: 82 percent of the patients who experienced a computerized injection say it was absolutely painless.

Here’s how it works. A very thin needle attached to a pen-sized wand is positioned near the gum, but before the needle actually touches the gum, a drop of anesthetic numbs the surface tissue.

As the dentist gently guides the needle into the gum, the tissue just ahead of the needle tip is numbed by the anesthesia. Once the needle is inserted, the computer slowly releases a stream of anesthetic. There’s no sudden prick or burning sensation. And because the anesthetic can be targeted to just one tooth, the whole jaw doesn’t have to be numbed.

This means that there is less lingering numbness; you can talk, eat and drink sooner after your dental appointment. While a computerized injection system is a relatively inexpensive instrument (about $1,000), it’s also relatively new to dentistry.

Panographic X-Rays

A panographic x-ray gives your dentist a panoramic view of your mouth. It provides valuable information about…

  • the position of wisdom teeth
  • receding bone levels, which is a sign of periodontal disease
  • abscesses
  • jaw-joint problems
  • sinus problems

The x-ray film is positioned outside your mouth, and the x-ray head rotates around you. A lead apron protects the rest of your body while your dentist takes x-rays of your mouth. Dental x-rays use high-speed film, so the amount of radiation exposure is very low. Though machines vary, a panographic x-ray only adds about as much radiation as you’d get from 10 extra days of natural background radiation. Even if you’ve recently had other x-rays taken, a panographic x-ray does not add to that exposure.

Panographic x-rays are comfortable and safe. They give your dentist information that she can’t get from any other source.

Parents, Watch What You Say when Preparing Your Child for a Trip to the Dentist

Pediatric dentists are well aware that the language used during a dental visit can either relax a child or propel her into panic mode. After all, how many kids you know would welcome hearing the words “shot” or “injection” when they’re sitting in the dental chair?…

Fear of the unknown is a big reason why kids can be anxious or even frightened about an upcoming dental visit. To ensure that your child has a positive experience at the dentist, it’s important that you’re sensitive about the words you use when you talk about dental visits. The goal is not to mislead the child, but to avoid the formation of any negative attitudes about dentistry.

It’s also a good idea not to share with your child any negative experiences at the dentist that you may have had in the past. Remember, dentistry has evolved tremendously, thanks to new technologies and techniques; it’s now possible to undergo complex dental treatment with no pain!

Use words that don’t elicit a negative reaction

Greg Psaltis, D.D.S., a pediatric dentist in Olympia, Washington, uses the following terms to describe procedures and instruments used in the practice he shares with Kerry Tramontanas, D.D.S.:

Instead of: Shot, needle or injection
Say: Sleepy juice

Instead of: Drill
Say: Whistle

Instead of: Drill on your tooth
Say: Clean your tooth

Instead of: Gas or nitrous oxide
Say: Magic air

Instead of: Numb
Say: Sparkley

Instead of: Examination
Say: Count your teeth

Instead of: Pull or yank tooth
Say: Wiggle a tooth out

Instead of: Explorer
Say: Toothpick

Instead of: Rubber dam
Say: Raincoat

Instead of: Air abrasion
Say: Sand blower

Instead of: Tooth cleaning or scraping
Say: Tickle your teeth

Pre-visit preparation—less is more

How should you prepare your child for a dental visit? What should you tell her? “Simply say, ‘We’re going to the dentist,'” Psaltis said. “When you’re going to the zoo, you don’t say, ‘We are going to the zoo where the tigers have really sharp teeth!’ You simply say ‘We are going to the zoo!’ The goal is to avoid labeling dental visits as something to be afraid of,” he said.

“We ask that parents allow us to do the preparation for the procedure,” he said.

“When I am doing an exam and find decay, I say to the child, ‘While I was counting your teeth, I found out that you have 21 teeth and two sugar bugs. We need to fix the sugar bugs. Are you willing to help me next time like you did today?’ The child at this point is typically very positive and agrees enthusiastically to ‘help’ at the next appointment. That is all the preparation that’s necessary,” Psaltis said.

Problems occur, he said, when parents start talking to their children about “the shot” or “drilling.” And often, the concept of pain doesn’t even enter the child’s mind until the parent announces, “Don’t worry; it won’t hurt!”

“Parents may give the child information that is misleading or incorrect, so the child worries needlessly,” he said. “It’s very easy for well-meaning parents to transmit their own dental anxiety onto their child. Of course they don’t intend to do this. It just happens. Kids are very perceptive,” he said.

“The goal is to help the child form positive attitudes about dentistry that will stay with her throughout her life, making it much easier to maintain excellent oral health,” Psaltis said.

Pleasant Scents Ease Fear When You're at the Dentist

Scents that conjure up the image of a field of wildflowers or a freshly baked apple pie before a dental procedure could reduce your anxiety level. And while smelling the real thing may not be possible…

in a dental office, essential fragrance oils that duplicate these soothing scents have been proven to calm jittery nerves at the dentist.

Aromatherapy is the use of fragrance to alter a person’s mood or behavior. Its use is becoming widespread—from shopping malls to spas to office buildings.

Dentists at Case Western Reserve University wanted to find out if aromatherapy would have any effect on nervous dental patients, so they conducted a study in which they observed the anxiety levels of 42 patients about to undergo a root canal. One-third of the patients were unknowingly exposed to a soft floral scent; another third was exposed to a warm spicy scent. The final third had no scent added to their room.

After the procedure, the patients’ anxiety levels were again measured. The two-thirds who received aromatherapy were calmer and more relaxed than the group that had no added scent; the group exposed to the floral fragrance were the most relaxed.

Dentists today have the ability to make treatments completely comfortable and pain-free. But if a visit to the dentist still puts you a bit on edge, ask her if she uses aromatherapy in her treatment rooms or if she would be opposed to you bringing in your own.

Essential fragrance oils are available in health food stores, spas, and larger grocery and drug stores. Find one that soothes you, dab a little on a cotton ball, and bring it with you to your treatment appointment.

Source: Case Western Reserve University

Sealants

Are sealants really helpful for teeth?…

Sealants are very effective on permanent back teeth. Their effectiveness depends on how well they fill the very narrow, deep grooves of the sides and chewing surfaces of permanent teeth. They do not coat the entire tooth surface, so using them doesn’t guarantee that teeth will not decay. Yet they certainly decrease the chances of problems in the most commonly decayed areas of the back teeth.

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[wptabtitle]What are Sealants[/wptabtitle]
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ealants are a clear or white plastic that are placed in the grooves of the biting surfaces of back teeth.

Back teeth have deep grooves and pits that are very difficult to keep clean. Plaque, which is a nearly invisible film of bacteria and food, collects in these grooves…

Look how the plaque shows up after it’s stained with red dye. Every time you eat, the bacteria in plaque forms acid. Without sealants, these acid attacks can cause the enamel to break down and decay. Then you have a cavity. To place sealants, first your dentist thoroughly cleans and dries the teeth. A conditioning solution is applied, and then the sealant material is brushed into the grooves of the teeth.

Some types of sealants harden on their own, while others harden when exposed to a special light. Sealants are an important part of a preventive dental care program.

Space Maintainers

Are space maintainers really necessary?…

Yes. Often when a baby tooth is lost prematurely, the teeth behind the empty space will move and tip. This movement crowds the teeth and causes misalignment that may later have to be straightened through prolonged and expensive orthodontic treatment.

A space maintainer, on the other hand, is a relatively inexpensive and reliable way to prevent this crowding and tipping until permanent teeth come in.

Using Nitrous Oxide

The reason for using nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) is for its calming effect. Since it doesn’t numb the teeth, anesthetic is still necessary. Nitrous oxide just relaxes you…

You will breathe nitrous oxide in through a small mask that covers your nose. It takes just a few minutes for you to notice the effects. People most often describe the feeling as being relaxed, unconcerned, slightly numb all over, and disconnected from what’s happening around them.

Your dentist can adjust the dosage of the nitrous oxide gas to fit your needs. You can also control its effects by your breathing. The more deeply you breathe through your nose, the more you’ll feel its effects. There are no long-lasting effects of nitrous oxide; you can safely drive after a dental appointment.

Your dentist won’t use nitrous oxide if:

  • You’re pregnant
  • You have an inner ear infection
  • You have asthma
  • Let the staff know if you’d like to try nitrous oxide to feel more relaxed during your dental appointment.
Bad Breath

Bad breath can be caused by tooth decay, gum disease, lack of saliva (xerostomia), certain foods and drinks, tobacco, medications or illness…

Treatment

Schedule a dental appointment to find out if your bad breath is being caused by tooth decay, gum disease, or a medical condition that should be treated by a physician. If you have a dental problem, your dentist will recommend a course of treatment to stop any infection, clean and restore your teeth, and improve the health of your gums. Your dentist may also recommend that you take a hard look at your daily dental hygiene. Remember, you should be brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once daily. If your bad breath is not a dental problem, your dentist may suggest changes to your eating and drinking habits or refer you to a physician.

X-rays

I don’t want any X-rays taken of my of children. They’re not really necessary, are they?…

A dental exam isn’t complete without X-rays, since they show structures and disease processes that can’t be seen with the naked eye. If you’re concerned about radiation, consider this fact: the two X-ray examinations you receive at your six-month checkups equal approximately thirty minutes of exposure to the sun on a California beach.

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