Tuesday, October 3, 2017

New Season, New Toothbrush

October brings fall leaves, pumpkins - and National Dental Hygiene Month. As you change your summer clothes for a fall wardrobe, it may also be time to change your toothbrush for a new one. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends replacing your toothbrush every three to four months. If that sounds like a lot, just think: This small but very important tool gets a lot of use!

If you brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time as recommended by the ADA, that’s two hours of brushing action in one month. Three to four months of twice-daily brushing makes for six to eight hours of brushing time, or a couple hundred uses. This is all an average toothbrush can take before it stops doing its job effectively.

Toothbrush bristles are manufactured to have the right amount of give, tapering, and end-rounding for optimal cleaning. When new, a toothbrush can work its way around corners and between teeth to remove dental plaque. Old bristles, however, lose the flexibility needed to reach into nooks and crannies for a thorough cleaning. Worn bristles may curl, fray or break - and can scratch your gums or tooth enamel. A toothbrush with stiff, curled bristles does not leave your mouth feeling as clean. This may lead to brushing too often or too hard, which is bad for your gums.

A good rule of thumb is to replace your toothbrush every season - unless you see signs that you need a new one sooner. For example, if you wear braces, you may have to replace your toothbrush more frequently since brushing around braces puts more wear and tear on the brush.

For healthy teeth and gums, make sure your primary oral hygiene tool is in tip-top shape. Taking care of the little things now can avoid inconvenient and expensive dental problems later. Don’t forget to schedule regular professional dental cleanings, and be sure to ask if you have any questions about your dental hygiene routine at home. To learn more about the importance of good oral hygiene, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading "Daily Oral Hygiene: Easy Habits for Maintaining Oral Health" and "Dental Hygiene Visit: A True Value in Dental Healthcare" in Dear Doctor magazine.

Mayim Bialik's "Halloween Fairy" Helps Keep Her Kids' Teeth Cavity-Free

Halloween is great fun for kids... but maybe not so much fun for their teeth. Is there a way for this much-anticipated holiday to be less stressful to oral health? Actress Mayim Bialik of The Big Bang Theory thinks so! In an interview with Dear Doctor magazine, the mother of two young sons said, "We don't do candy for Halloween. We have a Halloween fairy who takes it all away, and they get to choose a small LEGO toy in its place."

Though this may not work for every family, it’s definitely an idea worth considering. After all, depending on how much candy your kids take in from trick-or-treating, they may have a supply that lasts for days or even weeks - and a steady diet of sticky sweets is just what their teeth don’t need.

Why is candy so bad for teeth? Disease-causing oral bacteria feed on the sugars in the candy. In the process of breaking down the sugar, the bacteria produce acids that start to break down the protective enamel covering of teeth - forming small holes, or cavities. This allows the bacteria to get deeper inside the tooth, increasing the size of the cavity. While this can happen with any food that contains sugar, the stickiness of many candies make them harder to clean off the teeth - essentially giving the bacteria more time to do their damage.

Is there anything that can be done - short of the candy exchange Mayim Bialik has managed to implement in her house? Nothing that would be as effective as eliminating candy altogether as Mayim has done, but there are a few ways to reduce the potential for harm. For example, you can try to weed out the stickiest candies, like taffy, and hard candies that stay in the mouth a long time. You can make sure your kids eat them only as a dessert at mealtime, and not throughout the day. And you can pay extra attention to how good a job your kids are doing with their daily oral hygiene. They should be brushing twice a day and flossing at least once each day. Drinking some water after eating a piece of candy can also be helpful.

It’s also important to keep up a regular schedule of routine dental visits. So if it’s been a while since your kids have been in for a checkup and cleaning, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article "Dentistry and Oral Health for Children." And Dear Doctor’s full interview with Mayim Bialik is available here.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Living with HIV includes Keeping a Close Watch on Your Oral Health

We've come a long way since the early 1980s when we first identified the HIV virus. Although approximately 35 million people worldwide (including a million Americans) now have the virus, many are living relatively long and normal lives thanks to advanced antiretroviral drugs.

Still, HIV patients must remain vigilant about their health, especially their oral health. In fact, problems with the teeth, gums and other oral structures could be a sign the virus has or is moving into the full disease stage, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). That's why you or a loved one with the virus should maintain regular dental checkups or see your dentist when you notice any oral abnormalities.

One of the most common conditions among HIV-positive patients is a fungal infection called candidiasis (or "thrush"). It may appear first as deep cracks at the corners of the mouth and then appear on the tongue and roof of the mouth as red lesions. The infection may also cause creamy, white patches that leave a reddened or bleeding surface when wiped.

HIV-positive patients may also suffer from reduced salivary flow. Because saliva helps neutralize excess mouth acid after we eat as well as limit bacterial growth, its absence significantly increases the risk of dental disease. One of the most prominent for HIV-positive patients is periodontal (gum) disease, a bacterial infection normally caused by dental plaque.

While gum disease is prevalent among people in general, one particular form is of grave concern to HIV-positive patients. Necrotizing ulcerative periodontitis (NUP) is characterized by spontaneous gum bleeding, ulcerations and a foul odor. The disease itself can cause loosening and eventually loss of teeth, but it's also notable as a sign of a patient's deteriorating immune system. The patient should not only undergo dental treatment (including antibiotics), but also see their primary care physician for updates in treating and managing their overall symptoms.

Above all, HIV-positive patients must be extra diligent about oral hygiene, including daily brushing and flossing. Your dentist may also recommend other measures like saliva stimulators or chlorhexidine mouthrinses to reduce the growth of disease-causing bacteria. Together, you can reduce the effects of HIV-induced teeth and gum problems for a healthier mouth and better quality of life.

If you would like more information on oral care for HIV-AIDS patients, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article "HIV-AIDS & Oral Health."

Treating a Young, Permanent Tooth Requires a Different Approach

Soon after the primary (baby) teeth begin to give way, the teeth a child will have the rest of their lives start erupting into the mouth. But while they're permanent, they're not as strong and developed as they will be in adulthood.

That's why we treat young permanent teeth differently from older adult teeth. For example, a decayed adult tooth may need a root canal treatment; but this standard treatment would often be the wrong choice for a child's tooth.

The reason why involves the pulp, the innermost layer of a tooth, which plays a critical role in early development. Young permanent teeth continue to grow in sync with the jaws and facial structure. Most of this growth is in the dentin, the layer between the enamel and pulp, which increases proportionally to the other layers as the tooth matures. The pulp generates this new dentin.

A root canal treatment completely removes the diseased tissue of the pulp. This isn't a major issue for a mature tooth because it no longer needs to generate more dentin. But it can have long-term consequences for an immature tooth whose growth may become stunted and the roots not fully formed. The tooth may thus become brittle and darkened, and might eventually require removal.

Because of these potential consequences, a root canal treatment is a last resort for a young permanent tooth. But there are modified alternatives, depending on the degree of pulp exposure or infection. For example, if the pulp is intact, we may be able to remove as much soft decayed dentin as we can, place an antibacterial agent and then fill the tooth to seal it without disturbing the pulp. If the pulp is partially affected, we can remove that part and place substances that encourage dentin growth and repair.

Our main goal is to treat a young tooth with as little contact with the pulp as possible, so as not to diminish its capacity to generate new dentin. Avoiding a full root canal treatment if at all possible by using these and other techniques will help ensure the tooth continues to develop to full maturity.

If you would like more information on dental care for children, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article "Saving New Permanent Teeth after Injury."

Composite Resin Could Transform Your Tooth's Appearance in Just one Visit

You've suddenly noticed one of your teeth looks and feels uneven, and it may even appear chipped. To make matters worse it's right in front in the "smile zone" - when you smile, everyone else will notice it too. You want to have it repaired.

So, what will it be - a porcelain veneer or crown? Maybe neither: after examining it, your dentist may recommend another option you might even be able to undergo that very day - and walk out with a restored tooth.

This technique uses dental materials called composite resins. These are blends of materials that can mimic the color and texture of tooth structure while also possessing the necessary strength to endure forces generated by biting and chewing. A good part of that strength comes from the way we're able to bond the material to both the tooth's outer enamel and underlying dentin, which together make up the main body of tooth structure. In skilled, artistic hands composite resins can be used effectively in a number of situations to restore a tooth to normal appearance.

While veneers or crowns also produce excellent results in this regard, they require a fair amount of tooth alteration to accommodate them. Your dentist will also need an outside dental laboratory to fabricate them, a procedure that could take several weeks. In contrast, a composite resin restoration usually requires much less tooth preparation and can be performed in the dental office in just one visit.

Composite resins won't work in every situation - the better approach could in fact be a veneer or crown. But for slight chips or other minor defects, composite resin could transform your tooth's appearance dramatically.

To see if composite resin is a viable restoration option for your tooth, visit your dentist for a complete dental examination. It's quite possible you'll leave with a more attractive tooth and a more confident smile.

If you would like more information on restorations using composite resins, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article "Artistic Repair of Front Teeth with Composite Resin."

Gum Disease can Prevent Your Gums from Protecting Your Teeth

Your mouth is a lot like the Wild West - home to millions of bacteria and other microbes, some of which are definitely not "the good guys." But your teeth are well-protected from these hostile forces and their acidic waste products: with enamel shielding the visible part of your tooth, your gums protect the parts you can't see.

As effective as they are, though, your gums aren't invincible: their greatest threat is periodontal (gum) disease. This bacterial infection arises from plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles accumulating on teeth due to inadequate brushing and flossing.

The infected tissues soon become inflamed (red and swollen), a natural defensive response from the immune system. The longer they're inflamed, however, the more likely they'll begin detaching from the teeth. The gums may eventually shrink back or recede from the teeth, often causing them to appear "longer" because more of the tooth is now exposed to view.

Gum recession doesn't bode well for your teeth's survival: the exposed tooth and underlying bone can become even more susceptible to infection and damage. In the end, you could lose your tooth and portions of the supporting bone.

Treatment depends on the severity of the gum recession. In mild to moderate cases, we may only need to perform the standard gum disease treatment of removing plaque and calculus from all gum and tooth surfaces (including below the gum line) with special instruments. This helps reduce the infection and allow the gums to heal and re-establish attachment with the tooth. In more advanced cases, though, the recession may be so extensive we'll need to graft donor tissue to the area using one of a variety of surgical techniques.

Although the right treatment plan can help restore your gum health, there's another approach that's even better - preventing gum disease in the first place. You can reduce your disease risk by practicing daily brushing and flossing and visiting your dentist regularly or when you see symptoms like gum swelling or bleeding. Taking care of your gums won't just save your smile - it might also save your teeth.

If you would like more information on diagnosing and treating gum disease, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article "Gum Recession."

Monday, June 12, 2017

Professional Whitening Offers an Effective Way to Restore Your Smile's Luster

Your teeth were meant to shine! Tooth enamel's polished translucence, framed by the dentin layer beneath it, has a way of vibrantly catching the light when you smile. But tooth wear and structural changes as you age can dim that shine. Add to that staining caused by foods and beverages or disease and your smile could further lose its luster.

On your supermarket or pharmacy oral hygiene aisle you'll find dozens of products promising to restore that lost luster, including toothpastes, whitening kits or even chewing gum. While such products work to some degree, our dental office may have the right solution for you: a safe and effective treatment for whitening teeth.

Why see us for teeth whitening? For one, professional whitening solutions contain a higher concentration of bleaching agent (usually 35-45% hydrogen peroxide) than home kits. We usually apply it in a gel form directly to the teeth while using barrier devices like dams to protect the lips and other soft tissue from irritation. We may then apply heat or light to the applied gel to enhance the release of peroxide into your enamel.

This professional procedure can often give you a brighter smile in fewer sessions than a home whitening kit - and it may last longer. What's more, we can control the level of brightness to produce only a subtle change or a dazzling "Hollywood" smile - whatever your preference.

Like a home kit, this procedure bleaches staining on the outer surface of enamel, known as extrinsic staining. But you can also have discoloration deep within a tooth, known as intrinsic staining, caused by a variety of reasons like tetracycline use early in life or complications from a root canal treatment. Home kits or even the professional treatment described above can't whiten intrinsic staining.

For intrinsic staining you'll need a special procedure that places a bleaching agent inside the tooth. Depending on the extent of staining the procedure could require more than one session.

To find out what kind of discoloration you have, visit us for a full examination. We'll then be able to give you your options for putting the shine back in your smile.

If you would like more information on teeth whitening, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article "Teeth Whitening."