Regular dental checkups are the first line of defense against damaging oral disease and decay. You’ve likely heard of the proven link between dental disease and overall well-being, and you understand the benefit of taking proactive steps to preserve the health of your mouth – and your body. A dental checkup is a crucial step on the path to lifelong oral wellness. As in all facets of your health, prevention is key. Most doctors recommend dental checkups every six months to monitor oral health and keep track of what’s going on with your smile. Some patients need more frequent checkups. Your doctor will let you know the right regimen for you. At your dental checkup, the doctor will assess your teeth, gums, and jaw to identify and treat problems in the early stage and prevent irreparable dental damage. A comprehensive dental assessment may include:
A tooth-by-tooth check for decay
Analysis of the health of your gums
A check of how well your top and bottom teeth fit together (called occlusion) An oral cancer screening
An evaluation of jaw joint function
X-rays may be taken, as well. Some doctors use a small intraoral camera to take pictures inside your mouth. These pictures aid in the diagnosis of dental disease and let you become a proactive partner in your treatment. Your doctor may also employ magnification and transillumination to examine teeth for tiny fractures and small areas of decay not visible on X-rays. Following your exam, it’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations to maintain or improve your oral health. A strong smile free from disease and decay is a critical component affecting whole-body health. Dental checkups give you a head start on a lifetime of healthy smiles.
A full set of healthy teeth is crucial for oral well-being and overall health. Even a single missing tooth can be cause for concern. Here is what happens when a single first molar is removed:
1. Top tooth moves down. Tooth in back tilts forward, tooth in front tilts back
2. Food and bacteria catches develop leading to root cavities, inflammation, bleeding gums and jaw bone periodontal disease.
3. Teeth now take bite forces on angles leading to fractured cusps
4. Bite shifts forward so front take more stress. Spaces develop between front teeth as they are pushed forward.
5. Jaw bone where tooth was removed atrophies and shrinks making tooth replacement less ideal or more difficult.
Basically, three ways exist to replace missing teeth.
1. Removable Partial Denture Traditionally this was a plastic appliance held in place by metal clasps or hooks. More recently, many ways to hide clasps have been developed, including clear or white clasps, flexible plastics with gum-colored clasps, and hidden snaps that connect to crowns or dental implants.
- Advantages: Least expensive. Can replace multiple teeth with one appliance.
- Disadvantages: Not as natural as other alternatives. Lower partials can be difficult to wear.2. Fixed Bridges: A crown (cap) is placed on the teeth in front and back of your missing tooth with one or more replacement teeth locked into the crowns. When the crowns are cemented, the replacement teeth are cemented with them.
- Advantages: Comfortable, natural biting. Many insurance plans may cover close to half the cost.
- Disadvantages: You can still get decay (cavities) under the crowns, so you must be careful tokeep crowns clean and check them every six months. More expensive than partials. Bridges typically last 10-15 years.One variation of fixed bridges are bonded bridges, which use porcelain veneers or metal plates glued (bonded) to the teeth adjacent to your space. Bonded bridges are not strong enough for many situations.3. Dental Implants are artificial roots placed into the gum and bone tissue where your tooth once sat. Crowns, bridges, partials, and full dentures can be cemented or snapped onto implants. Titanium implants are made of the same material as artificial hips and knees and are well tolerated by the body.
- Advantages: The most natural and comfortable tooth replacement technique.
- Disadvantages: Cost. Requires surgery and a waiting period of several months, typically, before tooth replacements can be put on them. May need grafting to fit implants.
Dental implants are widely accepted as the optimal option to replace missing teeth. Here are some reasons why you should consider replacing a single missing tooth or an entire mouthful of teeth with dental implants.
- Improved quality of life. Old-fashioned dentures can make you look older, cause embarrassment if they slip or click, and make chewing uncomfortable. Implant dentures are permanently secured, offering much greater comfort and stability.
- Affordable tooth replacement option. With proper care, dental implants may last a lifetime. Other tooth replacement options must be replaced every 8 to 10 years. Dental implants can save you time and money in the long run.
- 98% success rate. Replacement of missing teeth with dental implants is backed by 50 years of research. Scientific journals report that dental implants boast an overall success rate of 98.5%.
- Preservation of healthy teeth. Dental implants don’t rely on surrounding teeth for support, so they won’t damage natural teeth or cause additional tooth loss. Dental implants also provide “anchors” for neighboring teeth to prevent them from drifting out of position.
- A younger-looking you. Missing teeth will lead to significant bone loss which can result in a shrunken or sagging facial appearance. Dental implants promote bone regeneration to support a more youthful facial profile.
- Wide range of eligibility. Candidates for dental implants can be young, middle-aged, or older adults. Even patients with health concerns such as existing medical conditions, gum disease, and bone loss can receive dental implants with a little additional planning.
Tooth pain can range from mild sensitivity to a severe ache that impacts the jaw and face. Because nerve fibers in your teeth work differently than nerves in the rest of the body, determining the source of tooth pain can be difficult. Nerve fibers that connect to the teeth send pain signals to the brain, but they don’t specify the location. For example, a damaged molar may cause the entire jaw to ache, making it difficult to pinpoint the source of discomfort.
Common causes of tooth pain include:
- An old filling that has cracked or become loose
- An abscess from a deep cavity
- A cracked or fractured toothInfection from gum disease
- Dental sensitivity caused by receding gums
- Jaw joint (TMJ) problems
- Teeth grinding or jaw clenching
Sometimes, more serious health conditions such as heart disease, oral cancer, or nerve disorders can elicit pain in the teeth or jaw. For this reason, it’s important to consult a dentist right away if you experience discomfort. Your doctor will perform a thorough examination to identify and remedy your tooth or mouth pain.
Inside every tooth is hollow canal that is filled with the same kind of tissue that is in your arm or any other part of your body. If you get a cut in your arm, bacteria can enter and produce an infection. Likewise, if bacteria get into the tissue inside your tooth (usually from a deep cavity or broken area) that tissue inside will also get infected. Why Do Teeth Abscess? Infections in teeth often spread into your jawbone and general system. That is what we call them an abscess. Classic signs and symptoms include pain and swelling, but extensive infections often occur without symptoms; before suddenly erupting into a severe problem. How is Root Canal done? Once you clean infection out of your tooth, the infection that spilled into your jaw and body system will normally heal. To clean out the root canal infection, dentists use tiny pipe cleaner-like instruments and antibacterial solutions until they are completely clean, and sealed. Do Root Canals hurt? Unlike years ago, modern techniques make root canal fast, easy, very successful and virtually pain-free. Millions of teeth have been saved with root canals all over the world.
Evidence continues to grow illustrating the link between oral and overall health. Numerous studies show that the bacteria that cause gum disease can gain entry to the body and spread throughout, damaging internal systems and contributing to a lessened quality of life. The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) indicates that approximately 3 out 4 people have some form of gum disease.
Steps to Combat Gum DiseaseEarly-stage gum disease (gingivitis) can be eliminated with a deep dental cleaning and effective brushing and flossing at home. Advanced cases of gum disease are often treated with topical antibiotic therapy. Severe cases of gum disease may require the services of a specialist called a periodontist. Here are a few things you can do to lessen your risk of gum disease:
- Brush as directed by the dentist, floss daily, and attend regular dental checkups and cleanings.
- Don’t ignore the warning signs of gum disease, which include bleeding when brushing, chronic bad breath, loose teeth, and red, swollen gums.
- Follow a good homecare regimen and keep your dental appointments.
- Read up on gum disease and talk to your dentist about reducing risk factors.
Modern cosmetic dentistry offers a variety of treatment to improve the looks, feel, and function of teeth. If you’d like to transform the appearance of your smile or restore a damaged tooth, the doctor will explain your options and help you decide the best one for your unique needs.
Cosmetic Bonding: Dental resin tinted to match natural tooth color can be applied to one or more teeth in order to eliminate chips, close small gaps, and give teeth a more aesthetically appealing appearance. The resin bonds with natural structure and is polished to look and feel like your own enamel. Bonding offers a cost-effective alternative to porcelain veneers, but it doesn’t last as long. It’s a good option to improve the appearance of the teeth that show when you smile.
Veneers: Made from dental porcelain that reflect light like natural tooth enamel, veneers cover teeth to alter shape, size, and/or color. Custom veneers are designed by a dentist and handcrafted in a lab. They’re permanently bonded to teeth that have been altered slightly be smoothing away some natural enamel. Minimal-prep veneers require little or no alteration of tooth enamel and can be removed by the dentist to reveal your natural smile.
Crowns: A dental crown is a covering in the shape of a natural tooth. It restores the form and function of a tooth damaged by fracture, severe decay, or wear. Crowns can be made from porcelain, porcelain fused to metal, or metal. The location of your crown and the chewing forces it will endure dictate the type of material used. A crown delivers durable, long-lasting protection to preserve a damaged tooth.
An estimated 80 million people in North America snore. Many snorers are unaware of the noise they make until they’re informed by someone else! Snoring is an annoying sound made when air forces its way through blocked passageways. Snoring itself isn’t a dangerous condition, but the sleep apnea with which it’s often associated can pose serious health risks, including heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure. First of all, what is sleep apnea? Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing repeatedly halts for periods of 10 seconds or longer throughout the night. The causes include obesity, soft tissues at the back of the throat that relax and collapse in on each other, the tongue falling back to block the throat, or a genetic propensity. When the brain senses a lack of oxygen, it alerts the body to wake up and breathe. Sleep apnea sufferers may fully awaken or enter a lighter sleep stage – several times a night. I snore. Do I have sleep apnea?The two conditions are often related. In fact, 12 to 20 million Americans suffer some degree of sleep apnea, and many of these people snore, as well. Answer the following questions to assess if you may suffer from sleep apnea:
- Is it difficult for you to fully awaken in the morning?
- Do you experience drowsiness that lingers throughout the day?
- Do you have trouble concentrating?
- Do you feel stressed and irritable during the day?
A dentist can perform a comprehensive examination to evaluate your symptoms and may refer you to a sleep medicine doctor for a confirmed sleep apnea diagnosis. Following a confirmed diagnosis, your dentist may recommend a customized nightguard to eliminate your apnea episodes and associated snoring.
What’s a night guard?: A night guard is a small, plastic, oral appliance, similar to an athletic mouthguard, that’s designed specifically for your mouth. It fits comfortably over teeth and holds the jaw slightly forward to keep airways open and eliminate sleep apnea and its noisy counterpart, snoring.
There are many ways you can prevent a dental emergency. The American Dental Association (ADA) provides excellent precautionary guidelines to avoid dental discomfort and trauma. For example:
- Wear a mouth-guard to greatly reduce your chance of an oral injury on the playing field
- Avoid risky habits like chewing ice or hard candy that can cause your teeth to chip or crack
- Don’t use your teeth to help open stubborn plastic packaging or cut tape
- Be aware of situations in which falls might occur
- Drive safely to prevent accidents
- Brush and floss daily and attend regular dental checkups to keep your smile in optimal condition
Additionally, be aware of tooth or mouth pain and seek treatment before significant damage or an acute injury occurs. Remember, pain is a signal from your body, warning you that something’s wrong. Even if oral discomfort subsides for a while, it doesn’t mean that the underlying problem has disappeared. Common causes of tooth pain include:
- An old filling that is no longer sealing a tooth • Dental abscess from a deep cavity
- Cracked or fractured tooth
- Infection from gum disease
- Tooth sensitivity from gum recession
- Dental joint (TMJ) problems from teeth grinding or jaw clenching
Sometimes, though, even your best efforts can be hampered by an unexpected problem or injury. If this happens, call your dentist right away. The doctor will assess your condition and provide care to relieve your situation.
Numerous studies report a link between gum disease and heart health, proving that maintaining a health smile is a crucial first step to maintaining a healthy body. Ways Gum Disease Impacts the Heart
- Coronary Artery Disease: Gum disease may double your risk of developing coronary artery disease. This disease occurs when fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances form plaques in artery walls. Bad oral bacteria may travel through these arteries and attach to the plaques, increasing the potential for blood clot formation.
- Heart Attack: The total bacteria count in your mouth affects heart health, with a high bacteria count increasing the risk of heart damage. Additionally, two oral bacteria associated with gum disease may increase heart attack risk.
- Infections: If you’ve had a heart transplant, have artificial heart valves or other cardiac prosthetics, or suffer from a congenital heart defect, your doctor may prescribe preventive medication for you to take prior to dental visits. This is to prevent bacterial endocarditis from occurring if oral bacteria enter the bloodstream during a dental procedure.
To keep your smile – and your heart – healthy and strong, brush twice a day or as directed the dentist, floss daily, and attend regular dental checkups and cleanings. Always tell your dentist about any changes in your medical history and whether you have a known heart condition.