Signature Dental

5 Tips to Maintain Healthy Teeth During the Holidays

The holidays are here and with them come all the joys of the season – lights and decorations, time with friends and family, and those special treats we only get this time of year. Unfortunately, the special treats we love so much can lead to damaged teeth and an unwanted trip to the dentist, which will definitely not have you feeling holly and jolly.  We don’t want you to miss out on all the fun, but we do want you to keep your oral health intact, so we’ve pulled together a few tips to help you care for your teeth during this festive time of the year.  

  1. Remember, teeth aren’t present-openers or nutcrackers.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but when an inpatient child hands you a toy double sealed in Teflon-strength packaging, your instinct might be to do whatever you can to rip it open. Do yourself a favor; resist the urge and seek out a pair of scissors! The same goes for cracking nutshells. Forgoing the real nutcrackers will save you thirty seconds but might cost you a broken tooth and an expensive dental bill. 

Teeth are great for many things – think chewing and enunciating – but they do not make good tools. Using your teeth to open bottles, packages, crack nuts, etc. weakens the enamel and fragile edges of your teeth. In turn, this leads to tooth cracking and breakage, and likely costly cosmetic dental work. 

  1. Watch what you eat and drink! 

Grandma’s homemade caramels may only come once a year, but if you’re not careful, your teeth could pay the price for the next twelve months. This sticky substance, and others like it (hello toffee), clings to dental work and tooth enamel long after it’s eaten. Plus, when it’s drizzled on popcorn, the gooey-covered pieces tend to get lodged between teeth leaving you picking at your molars. When selecting sweets, a good rule of thumb is that sugar should stay in the mouth as briefly as possible (we’re looking at you, candy cane).

If you’re like most of us, candy canes and cookies aren’t the only treats you indulge in during the holidays. If the merriest time of year includes seasonal favorites such as mulled wine and pomegranate cosmopolitans, you might be ringing in the New Year with a tainted smile. 

The color in beverages comes from chromogens, which can attach to tooth enamel that has been weakened by the acid in alcohol, resulting in stained teeth. One way to enjoy your favorite festive beverage and still have a sparkling smile for New Year’s is to use a straw to drink colored alcoholic beverages. Opting for light-colored or clear drinks is another way to keep your teeth white. 

  1. If you imbibe, don’t forget to add the cheese. 

Everyone loves a bit of eggnog or a champagne cocktail during the holidays. However, even light-colored or clear alcoholic beverages have a high acid content, which can damage tooth enamel. To cut the acid content without avoiding holiday toasts, try nibbling on a chunk of cheese between sips. The alkaline in the cheese neutralizes the acid in the beverage. Bonus – they both taste great!

  1. Drink plenty of water.

Drinking water has many health benefits, especially during the holidays when you’re likely out and about and want to look and feel your best. Not only does water keep your skin looking fresh and hydrated, it also freshens your breath and aids in digestion and elimination. When it comes to healthy teeth, another advantage of drinking water is that it can clean away newly formed bacteria, helping you to stay cavity-free during this sweetest time of year! Carry a water bottle or keep a glass nearby for a quick rinse while indulging. 

  1. Stick to your oral health routine. 

Taking a break from our daily routine is part of what makes the holidays special, but it can also make it challenging to get “back to normal” once the decorations are put away. Even if you’re traveling this season, set an intention to stick to your daily oral health regimen. Making it a point to stick to twice-daily brushing and regular flossing will not only keep your smile photo-ready, but it will also leave one less thing to get back to in January (like the gym). 

Schedule An Appointment

Remember, when it comes to oral hygiene, prevention is better than treatment any time of year.  Ultimately, while it’s wise to drink substantial amounts of water and not overindulge in sugary snacks, following a dental care routine year-round is the best way to preserve your teeth this season.  

Do you need a checkup before or after the Holiday season ends?  Give us a call today to schedule an appointment and keep your dental health in check!

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Dental Insurance – What You Need to Know

Unlike homeowner’s or automobile insurance, dental insurance is something you definitely WANT to use. Other insurance plans are often designed to cover a loss. For example, your homeowner’s insurance will reimburse you if you lose your home to a fire or natural disaster and if your car is damaged in an accident, your car insurance pays to have it repaired. Of course, specific coverage amounts vary depending on the policy, but the premise is the same (i.e., the insured must incur a loss before they receive reimbursement). Dental coverage, however, is set up as a benefit plan, which means it covers certain costs up to a maximum amount.

How does dental insurance work?

The typical dental insurance plan is structured based on a 100-80-50 model. While it can sound confusing, this means that they pay for 100 percent of preventive care (exams, cleanings and X-rays), 80 percent of basic treatments like cavity fillings, and 50 percent of major procedures such as tooth extractions and root canal therapy.

In addition, dental insurance companies also set yearly maximums for the amount they will pay towards certain types of treatment. It’s common to have a limit of $1,500 to $2,000 annually for restorative procedures (fillings, crowns, etc.), and a $1,500 to $2,000 lifetime benefit for orthodontics.

While dental insurance is an asset, it’s not a complete catch-all. It is possible that some procedures recommended by your dentist won’t be covered at all by your dental plan. Another key factor is that the vast majority of dental plans are based on care delivered within a calendar year. What you don’t use between January – December of that year, you lose. So, if your plan offers $2,000 a year for restorative procedures and you didn’t need any in 2020, that $2,000 expires on December 31st. Instead of going towards keeping your smile healthy, unused funds go back to the insurance provider. To maximize your dental insurance, make sure you match or exceed your yearly maximums before they expire.

How to choose a dental plan

Selecting the right dental plan for you and your family is a personal choice and there are many options. Below are three of the most popular types of plans:

  • Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) A PPO is a dental plan that uses a network of dentists who have agreed to provide dental services for set fees. The number of dental services covered depends on the plan. If you have a PPO plan and see a dentist out of the network, you will most likely have more out of pocket expenses.
  • Dental Health Maintenance Organization (DHMO) DHMO is like an HMO. Network dentists are paid a set fee every month to provide covered dental services to you whether you see the dentist or not. Some of the covered services are no cost to you, while other services require a co-payment on your part.
  • Discount or Referral Dental Plans Under this model, the company selling a discount or referral plan contracts with a group of dentists who agree to discount their fees. Discounts are usually applied to all services, including cosmetic procedures. Unlike PPOs and DHMOs, these plans do not pay for services received. Instead, you pay for treatment at the time of service at the reduced rate determined by the plan.

Between PPOs, DHMOs and 100-80-50 formulas, navigating the ins-and-outs of dental insurance can be stressful. However, our dental team is here to address your questions and help you maximize your benefits. Don’t hesitate to contact our office to discuss options or schedule an appointment for your year-end cleaning.

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Tongue Brushing, Really?

 

You know brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing are staples of good oral hygiene, but is brushing your tongue really necessary? In short, yes.

Why is my tongue important?

Though the tongue often plays second fiddle to your pearly whites, it’s actually a critical body part. Without a tongue we wouldn’t be able to speak, chew, taste, or swallow food.
Your tongue is an organ made up of a group of muscles that each have a specific job. There is a small muscle at the tip of the tongue that moves quickly, using the surface of the teeth to create certain sounds, such as pronouncing the letter ‘L’.
This muscle also moves food from the front of the mouth to the back, where it mixes with saliva and breaks down into digestible pieces. Other muscles in the tongue allow it to change shape and move in different directions. Additionally, muscles at
the back of the tongue make it possible for us to articulate hard sounds of speech, such as the letters ‘K’ and ‘G’. These rear muscles also move food into the esophagus in small, controlled amounts to prevent choking.

The muscles that make up your tongue are covered with moist, pink tissue known as mucosa and tiny bumps called papillae, which are covered in thousands of taste buds and give the tongue its rough texture.

What happens if I don’t brush my tongue regularly?

Just as bacteria can build up on your teeth and create plaque, it can also accumulate between taste buds and other crevices on your tongue. Along with dead skin cells and food debris, bacteria become trapped on the tongue and need to be physically
removed with brushing or scraping. If not cared for properly, your tongue essentially becomes a sponge spreading bad bacteria throughout the mouth, which can cause a number of health issues including:

  1. Bad Breath – The most common side effect of bacteria buildup on the tongue is halitosis. The odor-causing bacteria tends to congregate at the back of the muscle, so be sure to get your brush back there!
  2. Duller Tastebuds – The biofilm that builds up and coats your tongue can also cover your taste buds, leaving your sense of taste dulled.
  3. Black, Hairy Tongue – While it sounds like a horror movie, this is a real condition that occurs when the papillae become stained from leftover food and drink particles. These remnants give the tongue a dark, furry appearance.
  4. Oral Thrush – This occurs when bacteria levels in your mouth go beyond the normal range and naturally occurring yeast grow out of control.
  5. Periodontal Disease – Because bacteria buildup on your tongue can spread to your teeth and gums, it increases the likelihood of gingivitis (red, inflamed gums). If left untreated, the inflammation can advance to periodontal disease,
    which occurs when the gums pull away from the teeth and the space in between becomes infected. Not only can this lead to loss of teeth, chronic inflammation caused by periodontal disease is linked to more severe health issues, such as a
    higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and miscarriage.

How do I keep my tongue healthy?

A healthy tongue should be pink in color with papillae (tiny bumps) covering the surface. The best way to ensure your tongue stays healthy is to brush it every time you brush your teeth. Be sure to brush front to back and side to side, as bacteria
hide in hard-to-reach places. Just be careful not to over brush, as that can cause irritation. Some patients prefer to use a tongue scraper and, though not necessary, inexpensive scrapers are generally available where toothpaste and dental floss
are sold. Remember – a  healthy tongue color isn’t a guarantee of good dental health, so don’t forget to schedule regular dental exams and cleanings.

What if I still have questions?

That’s what we’re here for! If you have any questions or concerns about your oral health, don’t hesitate to contact our practice.

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Is Cosmetic Dentistry for the Long Haul?

If you or a loved one are considering cosmetic dentistry, you may be wondering what the long-term outlook is on your investment. To help, we’ve broken down four of the most popular types of cosmetic dentistry and included the average lifespan of results, as well as ways they can be maximized.

So, what determines if a dental procedure is  “cosmetic” or “general”? General dentistry  focuses on preventing and treating oral disease, whereas cosmetic dentistry refers to any dental work that adjusts the appearance of teeth, gums and/or bite. These procedures and treatments are considered elective and primarily focus on improving dental aesthetics (i.e., color, position, shape, alignment, and overall smile appearance).

Inlays and Onlays

Also known as indirect fillings, inlays and onlays are used when a tooth has mild to moderate decay or there is not enough tooth structure to support a traditional filling. Using an adhesive dental cement, an inlay is placed directly on the tooth’s surface. When greater damage is present, an onlay is used instead to cover the tooth’s entire surface. Made of durable materials, inlays and onlays can last up to 30 years with proper oral hygiene (i.e. daily brushing and flossing, as well as regular dental check-ups and cleanings).

Dental Veneers

Veneers are a great option for patients who have a tooth that is cracked, chipped, or severely discolored.  This form of cosmetic dentistry can also be used to close a gap or fix teeth that are worn down or uneven. Cosmetic veneers are ultra-thin shells made of porcelain or composite resin materials that cover the front surface of a tooth.  Custom created to look exceptionally realistic, these shells bond to a patient’s tooth with a strong dental adhesive designed to hold up to daily rigors.  Though not exactly “permanent,”  the average well-placed veneer lasts around 10 years but can last longer with proper maintenance. To increase your veneer’s lifespan, gently brush with a non-abrasive toothpaste, take extra care when flossing around veneers, limit consumption of staining foods and drinks, and avoid cigarettes and tobacco products.

Composite Bonding

Bonding is generally used for the repair of decayed, damaged, or discolored teeth. Dentists apply material that resembles the color of tooth enamel onto the tooth’s surface, then sculpt it into shape before curing it with a high-intensity light. Similar to veneers, bonding covers the damage and creates the appearance of a healthy tooth. Bonding is a good choice for patients who have minor aesthetic issues that don’t require extensive treatment.  Depending on tooth location and a patient’s bite and eating/chewing habits, enamel-colored bonding can last four to eight years on average. Because the composite resin used is not as strong as natural teeth, patients should avoid biting their fingernails, chewing on pens or pencils, and biting down on hard food or candy.

Teeth Whitening

Everyone desires a whiter smile, which makes professional whitening treatments one of the most commonly requested forms of cosmetic dentistry. Depending on a patient’s lifestyle, the results can last anywhere from six months to two years and may require occasional touch-ups. To make the most of your whitening, brush regularly with a whitening toothpaste and minimize your intake of staining food and beverages, such as red wine. If you need another reason to quit smoking, this habit is one of the fastest ways to reverse whitening.  It’s important to note that outcomes are not permanent, as some degree of enamel staining is inevitable, but good oral hygiene will help to extend the whitening.

Schedule Your Cosmetic Dental Consultation

No matter what type of cosmetic procedure you select, your dentist will help you come up with a plan that fits your needs.  If you think you might benefit from cosmetic dentistry, don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation with our practice to learn more.

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10 Common Dental Emergencies and First Aid

There’s nothing worse than realizing something is wrong in your mouth. This is partly because it’s really difficult to examine it for yourself.  As a layperson, it’s often difficult to know whether the problem is a dental emergency or something you can take care of yourself.  Often, you can help alleviate your symptoms with some at-home first aid remedies. Other times, you should call your dentist immediately.

To help you determine what action you should take, here are 10 common dental emergencies:

1. You Fell and Injured Your Mouth

If you are over the age of 10 and have all your adult teeth, you should never experience loose teeth.  If you’ve fallen or had an accident, your tooth or several teeth may become loose.  In this case when you’ve experienced trauma, you should call your dentist immediately. In fact, you should go to the emergency room if you’ve experienced a fall.  On the way to the ER contact your dentist and explain what has happened.  Ask if they can meet you at the ER.  It is a good idea to ask your dentist to check and make sure your jaw isn’t broken. This may be overlooked in the ER.

2. Tooth Knocked Out

If your tooth gets knocked out, do NOT touch it by the roots.  Instead, pick the tooth up by the other side (the one you chew on) and do so very carefully. If at all possible, try to place your tooth back inside its socket.  It is important to make sure you position your tooth back into the socket the correct way. You don’t want to place it in your mouth backward.  If you can’t position it back in the socket, that’s okay.  Put the tooth in a glass of milk and take it with you.  If there’s no milk available, gently place your tooth in your mouth between your teeth and your gums. Your tooth must remain moist.  It is important to call your dentist immediately. A knocked out tooth should be positioned back in your mouth within 30 minutes.

3. Pain

Common dental emergencies all cause some degree of pain or discomfort. The extent of pain and discomfort determine the difference on how you should handle it.  If you experience pain when you bite down, it could mean a cracked tooth or it could be the result of you grinding your teeth.  However, this can also be a sign that you have an abscess.  If the pain is minimal, then take some Tylenol for the pain to reduce swelling.  You can also use an ice pack on the sensitive area.  You should contact your dentist within a week to have everything checked out. If you suspect a cracked tooth, don’t chew or bite on it until you see your dentist.  If you’re experiencing extreme pain, then call your dentist or visit the ER immediately.

4. Infections

Infections are not going to go away on their own.  It’s a sign that something is seriously wrong with your body.  If you think you have a dental infection, call your dentist immediately. You can also take some over-the-counter medications like Tylenol to help alleviate the pain.

5. Tooth Sensitivity

Some people are sensitive to extreme temperatures. They bite into an ice cream cone and all of a sudden, they feel extreme sensations.  The same is true when they ingest hot beverages or certain foods. While tooth sensitivity isn’t an emergency, it should be examined as soon as possible to make sure there’s nothing more serious.  In the meantime, you can buy an over-the-counter toothpaste that helps reduce sensitivity.

6. Mouth Sores

There are a variety of common dental emergencies that are considered mouth sores.  They can range from canker sores to food, hand, and mouth disease. However, a sore in your mouth can also be a sign of gum disease.  While mouth sores are not life-threatening, they can be painful.  If you’re experiencing pain due to a mouth sore, try taking some Tylenol. You can also wash your mouth out with hydrogen peroxide. It’s a natural mouthwash and will kill any germs. Don’t swallow any of it, though.  There are some over-the-counter pain remedies you can find at your local pharmacy.  Contact your dentist and schedule an appointment if you notice the sore isn’t healing properly or if it gets progressively worse.

7. Abscessed Gums

While abscessed gums are a common type of dental emergency, they actually don’t look like it at first.  In fact, a gum abscess looks like a pimple. It could be yellow, red, clear, or whitish, and you’ll find it located on your gum.  An abscess usually means your tooth or gums are infected, which results in a root canal or an extraction.  It is important to call your dentist immediately. Do NOT pop your abscess.  It’s not a pimple.  You should keep brushing and flossing the area until you are able to visit the dentist.

8. Broken Teeth

A broken tooth is annoying but usually not life-threatening. However, it all depends on how your tooth was broken and how much broke off.  If it’s only a slight chip, there’s nothing to be too concerned about. Schedule an appointment with your dentist at your earliest convenience.  If it’s a large break and especially if you’re in pain, contact your dentist immediately.

9. Bleeding

Bleeding in your oral cavity should not be taken lightly. If you see blood on your dental floss, it’s usually an early sign of gum disease or gingivitis. While not an emergency, it should be examined sooner rather than later to prevent further problems. However, blood in your saliva might indicate an advanced stage of cancer or an extremely advanced stage of gum disease.  Bleeding from the mouth isn’t normal. Even if you’ve had a tooth extracted, bleeding that won’t stop is a problem!  Keep your head elevated and call your dentist right away.

10. Swelling

While swelling is one of the more common dental emergencies, it’s never a good sign.  It could indicate you have a serious dental infection. It’s safe to bet that it won’t heal on its own.  If you are experiencing swelling, do not wait. Contact your dentist right away.  Stay upright and do not lie flat until after you visit the dentist. You should also drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

Take Care of Your Mouth

Unlike sharks’ teeth, our teeth aren’t replaceable.  It is critical to maintain a healthy diet and drink plenty of water.  You should always brush your teeth at least twice per day and don’t forget to floss.

It is important to schedule your dental exams regularly for cleanings.  Signature Dental is equipped to handle a variety of dental emergencies. We encourage you to contact our Beverly Hills office with any dental emergencies or questions!

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Are You Going To Need Dentures?

Did you know that this year in the United States alone, the number of adults expected to be wearing dentures is a whopping 37.9 million? That’s about 4.3 million more people than just 30 years ago!

So, you’re not alone if you think you may be headed down that path. Even people that take great care of their teeth sometimes end up requiring dentures, simply due to the many years of wear and tear.

To help you recognize if you may need dentures – now or in the near future – we’ve provided the top five warning signs that you may require dentures.

Note, if you’re currently experiencing warning signs #1, #2 or #3, it may not be too late to save your teeth, assuming you visit a dental provider in a timely manner. However, if you’re experiencing warning signs #4 or #5, it may be too late. Regardless, we’d strongly urge you to schedule a consultation with your dentist right away, as there is still some opportunity available for preserving your valuable teeth.

Warning Sign #1: Severe Toothaches

The first and most prominent denture warning sign is a painful toothache that won’t go away. This type of nagging toothache could indicate that tooth decay is occurring and has already made its way to your nerve. At this stage, a routine root canal could save the tooth. However, if the decay is too excessive, you’ll need a dental implant or partial denture. So, it is important to promptly visit your dentist if you are experiencing any tooth discomfort. It may be the difference between saving your original teeth or requiring dentures.

Warning Sign #2: Inflammation and Bleeding of the Gums

A fundamental rule of thumb for preserving optimal oral health – When you feel sensitivity or have bleeding gums, make an appointment with your dentist right away! It’s always better to detect and address the issue in its early stages. If left untreated, that inflammation can progress from the beginning stages of gingivitis to severe periodontal disease. Once you experience periodontal disease, bone loss around your teeth begins to occur. Unfortunately, this ultimately leads to the loss of teeth and the need for dentures.

Warning Sign #3: You’re Having Trouble Eating Hard or Chewy Foods

If you experience severe pain when eating hard or chewy foods, it may indicate a cracked tooth, cavities, or gum disease. It’s always important to promptly address these matters with your dentist and they can take any needed action to preserve your teeth. Your dentist will often recommend root canal treatment, then placing a crown on the tooth to prevent further decay. In addition to eliminating the cause of your pain, you’ll often get to maintain your original teeth and preserve strong bone density.

Warning Sign #4: Loose or Shifting Teeth

Once your teeth start to shift or become loose, it typically means bone loss around the teeth has already started. If this is occurring, your dentist will need to examine your teeth as soon as possible to determine if they can be saved or if they will need to be extracted. Once a tooth is removed, there is no good option for keeping it. It is also important to note that this bone loss can cause a myriad of other issues, including the reshaping of the jawbone.

Warning Sign #5: Tooth Loss

While a loose tooth should certainly motivate you to visit your dentist ASAP, a tooth that has fallen out should prompt even more immediate action. Unfortunately, due to the misconception that tooth loss is not a significant issue as long as you can still chew properly, recent statistics show that nearly 19% of adults aged 65 and over were edentulous (had complete tooth loss). It is important to understand that besides further bone loss occurring in the jawbone, the fewer teeth you have doing all the work, the higher the chance of losing more teeth. The remaining teeth often take on too much-added pressure, causing them to fall out as well.

Conclusion

While our dental team believes in taking all the necessary actions to preserve your original teeth, it’s sometimes too late and dentures are required. If you are currently experiencing any of the above warning signs, we advise you to contact us today to make an appointment. Whether taking preventative actions or providing you with denture treatment options, we’re here for you every step of the way.

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Why A Smile Makeover Can Dramatically Change Your life

What is the most powerful and profound facial expression of all time? The one expression that transcends all cultures while simultaneously bringing positivity to yourself and those around you.

It’s the humble Smile!

Even though there are drastic differences between the many cultures around the world, psychologists have discovered that the smile transcends them all. When we smile, it signals friendliness, openness to engaging, and an interest in people.

3 Facts About Having a Nice Smile

  • Smiling Improves Your Relationship Prospects. According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, 99.7% of the population perceives a “smile” as an essential social asset. Those who have a great smile are seen as more attractive, happier, engaging, and more appealing.
  • Your Smile can Have an Impact on Your Career. Surveys reveal that smiling can impact how far you’ll go up the career ladder. While smiling does not correlate with your work itself, those that have a great smile are perceived as smarter and more successful.
  • Smiling Makes You Feel Good. Literally. When you smile, your body releases feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin.

So what do you do if you are dissatisfied with your Smile?

Not being comfortable with your smile will ultimately diminish how frequently you do smile. Fortunately, there are many ways you can quickly and easily improve your smile through cosmetic dentistry.

5 Ways Cosmetic Dentistry Can Upgrade Your Smile

  1. Crooked Teeth. Using Invisalign or conventional braces, misaligned teeth will be straightened to perfection.
  2. Repair Chipped or Broken Teeth. You can transform your smile into one you enjoy showing off with the aid of cosmetic bonding, porcelain veneers, caps, and porcelain crowns.
  3. Missing Teeth or Gaps can be Fixed. Large spaces between your teeth can cause functional problems on top of being unattractive. Solutions include dental implants, a dental bridge, dentures, or porcelain veneers.
  4. Brightening Your Smile. If you are not satisfied with the brightness of your teeth, you can effortlessly get professional teeth whitening.
  5. Increasing the Fullness of Lips and Reducing Wrinkles. Adding thickness to your teeth with the application of veneers actually pushes out the natural lip curve, creating a more rounded, supple shape while reducing wrinkles at the corners of the mouth.


Contact Us

Whether you want to be in the movies or simply bring more joy to yourself and those around you, we assure you that a visit to our dental office is the first step in obtaining a smile you can be proud of. We hope that you’ll give us a call today and take a step towards brightening the world with your new-found smile.

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5 Dental Myths

Even though our dental team enjoys working with teeth on a daily basis and looks forward to taking care of our patient’s oral health, most people don’t rank going to the dentist at the top of the fun list. However, sometimes the reasons people don’t come in for check-ups are due to preconceived dental myths. Let’s examine five of the most common myths.

Myth 1: My Teeth Feel Fine, So Why Do I Need to Go to the Dentist?

Skipping regular dental check-ups because you are not experiencing any apparent problems or any discomfort can be a recipe for trouble. By addressing dental related problems before they develop into a more significant issue, you will save unnecessary dental expenses and avoid painful dental conditions. It is important to keep in mind that your dentist is the first line of defense against oral health issues.

Myth 2: Oral Health is Not Connected to My Overall Health

Your oral health is absolutely connected to your systemic (overall) health. The mouth is not an isolated ecosystem, but an integral part of the immune system. A mouth with severe tooth decay and periodontal disease is more likely to cause bacteria, which then, in turn, can enter into the bloodstream. When this occurs, it can result in other health issues. Studies have found a link between periodontal disease and heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and more.

Myth 3: Going to the Dentist is Painful

Dentistry has changed a lot over the past few decades. Today’s dental visits are typically uneventful and pain-free. If you maintain routine dental visits, you can often prevent more significant dental conditions. If you haven’t visited a dentist in years and are concerned, you can rest assured that new dental technology, developments in anesthetics and analgesics, and more conservative dental procedures have made visits to the dentist office a more comfortable, enjoyable experience.

Myth 4: You Don’t Need to Take Your Child to the Dentist Until They Have Their Adult Teeth

Baby teeth are very important! As soon as your child has teeth, they can (and should) be seen by the dentist. Baby teeth provide the necessary space for permanent teeth to develop properly. Cavities in baby teeth can cause tooth loss much earlier than is natural.

Myth 5: Bleeding Gums are Normal

No! If your gums are bleeding, then something is wrong. Unless you’re scrubbing your teeth with a toothbrush that is too hard, healthy gums shouldn’t bleed when you brush or floss. If your gums do bleed, you may be experiencing the beginning stages of gum disease. Gum disease is the number one cause of tooth loss in the United States, so if you find yourself looking at pink in the sink after you brush, make an appointment to see your dentist ASAP!

If you have any other concerns about coming in for a check-up or want to discuss a potential myth you heard about, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’d be glad to address all of your questions. We are here for you!

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Detecting Oral Cancer

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2020 about 53,260 people will get oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer, and an estimated 10,750 people will die from these diseases. If you think the mortality rate is high, you wouldn’t be wrong. However, this is not because oral cancer is hard to detect or diagnose, but because it is often discovered late in its development.

That is why regular dental visits are more important than just maintaining a pearly white smile. Dentists are highly trained and experienced in recognizing diseases of the mouth, such as oral cancer, and can immediately detect and diagnose you. They are your first line of defense against this disease.

With that said, you play an important role in early detection as well. According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, you should be performing this 6-step oral cancer self-exam every month.

6-Step Oral Cancer Self-Exam

Using a bright light and a mirror:

  • Remove any dentures
  • Look and feel inside your lips and the front of your gums
  • Tilt your head back to inspect and feel the roof of your mouth
  • Pull your cheek out to inspect it and the gums in the back
  • Pull out your tongue and look at its top and bottom
  • Feel for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes (glands) on both sides of your neck, including under the lower jaw

Be on the lookout for anything suspicious, like:

  • White patches of the oral tissues (leukoplakia)
  • Red patches (erythroplakia)
  • Red and white patches (erythroleukoplakia)
  • A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
  • An abnormal lump or thickening of the tissues of the mouth
  • Chronic sore throat or hoarseness
  • Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
  • A mass or lump in the neck

Should you discover any of these signs, we encourage you to promptly call us to make an appointment for an examination. People have an 80-90% survival rate when oral cancer is diagnosed during the early stages of development. So the sooner the cancer is detected, the easier the treatment, and the higher the chance of a cure.

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How Your Dentist Can Help Relieve Minor Sleep Apnea

Sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, have become a significant health issue in the United States. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, it is estimated that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with 80 percent of the cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea still undiagnosed.

When left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to a myriad of problems, such as high blood pressure, chronic heart failure, atrial fibrillation, strokes, and even traffic accidents (due to the persistent drowsiness from the chronic failure of not getting a good night’s sleep).

Is there a difference between snoring and sleep apnea?

The first step to effectively treating these conditions is understanding the differences between sleep apnea and snoring. For all those people across the country who are constantly getting nudged or elbowed throughout the night from annoyed bed partners, it’s important to understand what their snoring could mean.

Snoring

Snoring is the result of tissues in the throat relaxing to the point that they partially block the airway. This blockage causes vibration and, ultimately, the sound you hear when someone is snoring. Snoring can be caused due to being overweight, the position of sleep, and even lifestyle factors such as alcohol consumption (as alcohol relaxes your jaw and throat muscles).

Snoring once in a while isn’t usually a serious problem, but if you’re a long-term snorer, you may be hindering your quality of sleep.

When Snoring Could Mean Sleep Apnea

Loud, frequent snoring is one of the first indicators that you or a partner may have sleep apnea. You will also start to notice pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep. When people with sleep apnea fall asleep, they can stop breathing for 10 seconds or more, even up to a minute! This pattern is often followed by gasping or choking, as the person starts to breathe again.

If you or your partner regularly snore loud, stop breathing, gasp or choke during sleep, experience excessive restlessness at night, or feel excessively sleepy during the day, you should definitely address it with your primary care doctor to determine whether a sleep study is necessary.

How Your Dentist Can Detect Signs of Sleep Apnea

In addition to loud snoring and gasping for breath, people with sleep apnea typically have the following issues:

  • Grind their teeth. Your dentist will be able to see excessive wear on the teeth
  • Cracked teeth. The pressure on the teeth by clenching your jaw may also cause cracks on the tooth surfaces.
  • Dry mouth or even a sore throat upon waking up.
  • Pain in the jaw or teeth.

If you’re not ready to schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor, you should at least ask your dentist for their expert opinion. They will be able to assess oral health cues that can possibly confirm your concern about sleep apnea. Your dentist will then be able to work with you and your doctor in order to provide you with the best treatment plan possible.

Dental Treatment For Minor Sleep Apnea Cases

One way your dentist can help treat minor sleep apnea is by providing you with a specially designed mouth guard that can be worn during sleep. This mouth guard keeps the jaw and tongue in a position where airflow is not obstructed.

Note, although you may be able to find commercially available mouthguards, it is recommended that you consult your dentist or doctor before using any dental device for snoring. This will ensure that you are not self-diagnosing sleep apnea and possibly overlooking other related serious medical condition(s).

It is also important to be aware that in more severe cases of sleep apnea, it will require a doctor’s help. Some advanced treatment options include surgery to correct the obstruction or using a device called a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) system.

First Step is to Get Evaluated

If undiagnosed or untreated for a long period of time, sleep apnea can result in a number of serious health problems. If you think you or a partner may be suffering from sleep apnea, we’d encourage you to call us to schedule a time for a dental sleep apnea evaluation. We can assist with your initial assessment and guide you onto a path to improved sleep and overall health!

 

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