Signature Dental

Are There Options for Repairing Severely Damaged Teeth?

Anyone who has ever experienced the agony of a toothache knows that poor oral health is more than an inconvenience; it negatively impacts your quality of life. Not only can damaged teeth cause physical pain, but they can also create extreme self-consciousness and pose significant health risks if left untreated.

Damage occurs to teeth for a variety of reasons, from disease and facial trauma to years of teeth grinding or a misaligned bite. Fortunately, dental advancements allow us to treat or correct even the most severely damaged teeth. Specific treatment options will depend on a patient’s circumstances and health history; however, we’ve outlined some common corrective procedures below:

Dental Implants

When possible, saving natural teeth is the preferred option; however, there may be instances where preservation is not feasible. For example, in some cases of overcrowding or tooth or bone structure loss, extraction may be the best solution. In these situations, dental implants will be a likely option.
Dental implants are essentially artificial tooth roots that create a strong foundation for dental crowns. Crowns are custom-made to fit a patient’s mouth and match their natural teeth. Many dentists and patients prefer dental implants because they offer the same function as natural teeth and help prevent bone atrophy in the jaw. Not only do today’s implants restore function, but, just as importantly, they also fulfill patients’ esthetic expectations. As long as facial growth and development are complete, dental implants can be an excellent option for those who have lost teeth due to injury or decay. They can be used to replace a single missing or damaged tooth or to restore an entire smile. Ideally, implant surgery candidates are non-smokers with good oral health, including a sufficient amount of bone in the jaw and healthy gums.

Inlays and Onlays

Also known as indirect fillings, inlays and onlays are used when a tooth has moderate decay, or there isn’t enough tooth structure to support a traditional filling. Using adhesive dental cement, an inlay is placed directly on the tooth’s surface. When more significant 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.

Dental Veneers

Veneers are an excellent option for patients who have a tooth that is cracked, chipped, or severely discolored. They 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.

Full mouth Reconstruction

Intended for patients with extensive damage to their teeth and mouth, full mouth reconstruction involves a combination of dental treatments to rebuild or restore teeth, gums, and jaw function. A full reconstruction plan can include any number of the procedures listed above, as well as:

  • Dental bonding
  • Dental bridges and crowns
  • Dental fillings
  • Complete or partial dentures
  • Root canal treatment
  • Periodontal disease treatment

Though cosmetic elements, such as teeth whitening, may be a treatment plan component, full mouth reconstruction is not purely aesthetic, and patients need to meet a certain baseline of health to be considered candidates.

Our practice understands that the thought of extensive dental work can be intimidating, but we also know that the results can be life-changing. Don’t wait until you can’t stand the pain to schedule a consultation. Give us a call today!

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Toothbrush 101

The toothbrush is a staple of good oral hygiene, but owning a toothbrush and knowing how to use it properly are two different things! Most of us don’t really give it much thought; we apply toothpaste, brush, rinse, and move on with our day. Unfortunately, simply brushing twice a day doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Read on for some toothbrush knowledge you’ll wish you had known! 

Choosing your toothbrush – If you’re using the wrong toothbrush for your mouth, all the brushing in the world won’t help. In fact, it might damage your gums or tooth enamel. When selecting a toothbrush, the size and shape of the brush should fit your mouth, allowing you to reach all areas easily, including hard-to-reach back teeth. If the brush is too large, you can damage your gums. Generally, a soft-bristled toothbrush is best for teeth, as medium and stiff bristles might be too hard on your gums and enamel. 

Caring for your toothbrush – Selecting the right toothbrush is not a one-and-done purchase. While we wouldn’t go six months or a year without having the oil changed in our car, many of us don’t think twice about using a toothbrush for that length of time.  To maintain your toothbrush’s effectiveness, it’s important to replace it every three months or as soon as it shows wear and tear (i.e., fraying). Additionally, what you do with your toothbrush when it’s not in use is also important. A 2012 study by Manchester University in the UK showed that more than 10 million bacteria can live on your toothbrush – including human fecal matter. In fact, as gross as it sounds, about 60% of the toothbrushes examined in the study contained trace amounts of feces. This is likely caused by flushing the toilet with the lid open, which can spray toilet water particles into the air. So, where should you put your toothbrush? The American Dental Association recommends thoroughly rinsing your toothbrush with tap water after brushing to remove remaining toothpaste and debris and storing the brush in an upright position that allows it to air-dry between uses. Routinely covering your toothbrush or storing it in a closed container creates a moist environment, which is more conducive to the growth of bacteria than the open air.

Using your toothbrush correctly – We know that using bad form at the gym essentially cancels out our effort, and the same is true when it comes to brushing. A common mistake is brushing in a side-to-side motion. To clean teeth more effectively and help prevent damage to your tooth enamel and gum line,  hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and make small circles. This technique gets slightly below the gumline for a more thorough clean. And, don’t forget to brush your tongue! Bacteria accumulate between taste buds and other crevices, which can lead to bad breath and potentially more serious issues. 

When you brush – We tend to think that the best way to tackle plaque and avoid cavities is to brush immediately after eating or drinking. But it really depends on what we ate or drank. Brushing your teeth right after a meal is intended to prevent acid attacks; however, this only works if the acid hasn’t already started to attack your tooth enamel. For example, if you’ve just finished consuming something highly acidic, such as citrus fruit, the acid attack will likely be underway when you start brushing. This is problematic since acidic foods and drinks leave tooth enamel soft, and if you brush your teeth before the enamel has hardened, you may end up removing the enamel. To avoid enamel damage, it’s best to wait 30 minutes after consuming acidic foods and beverages before brushing your teeth. By that time, your enamel will be re-hardened and won’t be damaged by your brushing. 

Contact Our Dental Office

Of course, you can’t count on brushing alone to maintain good oral health. Regular flossing, dental exams, and twice-yearly cleanings should also be part of your oral hygiene routine. Plus, our team is happy to provide you with a toothbrush and floss at your check-up! Contact our dental team to schedule your appointment today.

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Save Your Tooth or Pull It?

If you’ve been experiencing tooth pain, your inclination might be to just pull the problematic tooth and be done with it! Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. So, before you choose to extract it, make sure you take time to understand the ramifications.

Benefits of saving a natural tooth

When possible, saving your natural teeth is the best option. While today’s dental prosthetics are made to last, they simply don’t have the same strength as natural teeth. Not only are natural teeth stronger, but they also offer better functionality than prosthetics or crowns. Plus, your natural teeth will are more durable and easier to care for.

When a tooth is extracted, it leaves behind a gap, even those back molars no one sees. While that gap can likely be filled with a bridge or implant, it will not take long before your healthy teeth on either side of the gap start to shift into this newly available space. Shifting teeth can result in issues with bite alignment, which may lead to further damage.

It’s important to remember that even if the goal is to ultimately opt for implants, the longer a space remains empty, the more movement is possible. Realistically, it could be several weeks or months before your permanent prosthetic can be placed. Gaps in smiles can impact your self-confidence, and patients often find that they are reluctant to laugh or smile due to embarrassment over how their teeth look.

Fortunately, we have many ways to rehabilitate a tooth gone bad. Common procedures include:

  • Filling a cavity to match the color of your existing teeth
  • Root canal treatment to replace damaged nerves and preserve the tooth
  • Lengthening an existing crown

When to opt for an extraction

While it is preferable to save your tooth, there are instances when an extraction is the best option. Your dentist will go over the best options for your individual situation, but an extraction will likely be recommended in the following instances:

Severe Tooth Decay – Tooth decay is caused by a build-up of plaque and tartar, which erode the enamel on your tooth, causing them to become brittle and weak. In cases of severe decay, an infection will likely occur, causing redness, swelling, and pain. When a tooth reaches this stage of infection, it is generally too weak to undergo rehabilitation. In these cases, tooth extraction is necessary and can be replaced with a dental bridge or implant to prevent future infection.

Gum Disease – Similar to tooth decay, plaque build-up is the primary cause of gum disease. Periodontitis, an advanced form of gum disease, impacts the bones that hold your teeth in place. If left untreated, it can ruin the gums, bones, and tissues connected to your teeth. When this happens, the only solution is to have the tooth extracted and replace it with a dental bridge or crown to safeguard the other teeth.

Tooth Impaction – Tooth impaction occurs when a tooth is positioned against another tooth, bone, or soft tissue. This makes it unlikely that the tooth will fully erupt through the gums to reach its normal position. This pressure makes the tooth vulnerable to infection, which can cause pain, swelling, and redness, or bleeding gums. While impaction can occur with any tooth, it’s most common with wisdom teeth.

Tooth Trauma – Trauma to teeth, whether from a sporting injury or a car accident, can be extremely painful. Depending on the severity of the trauma, your tooth might be too damaged to be saved. This is often the case when the tooth has been severely cracked, and the damage extends below the gum line.

Overcrowding – Much like tooth impaction, overcrowding occurs when there is insufficient space in your mouth for all of the teeth. Not only can overcrowding make straight smiles appear crooked, it can also cause a lot of pain. In situations where overcrowding makes it impossible to achieve proper alignment, removing the teeth in the back of the mouth opens space for the rest of the teeth to grow properly.

Lack of tooth structure – Each time your dentist works on a tooth, they remove some of your tooth structure. Every tooth has its limits in terms of how many times it can be worked on before it begins to fail. By the time you’ve had several fillings, crowns, and attempts at a root canal, there won’t be enough tooth structure left to support a long-lasting crown. In these cases, teeth generally cannot be, or are not worth, saving and should be removed and replaced with a dental implant.

As you can see, deciding when to save your tooth and when to have it removed requires consideration. The most important thing to remember is that time is of the essence! The longer you wait to see a dentist, the more damage may be incurred to gums and bones. And, since implants require healthy bone, waiting to see the dentist can limit your options.

Contact us today, so we can assess the situation and discuss the best options for you.

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Should I Be Worried About Tooth Enamel Loss?

As children, we’re taught that if we don’t take care of our teeth properly – brush daily, floss regularly, and watch our sugar intake – we’ll get cavities. However, as adults, we realize that there’s more to oral health than avoiding cavities alone – enter enamel erosion.

What is tooth enamel?

Enamel is the tooth’s thin, translucent outer layer. Harder than bone, tooth enamel is the first line of defense against decay. It protects the inner, sensitive part of the tooth, called dentin. Without enamel, the inner part of your tooth, which houses thousands of microscopic channels, is exposed and vulnerable to acidic substances, more susceptible to breakage, and can become extremely sensitive and painful.

How do I know if I have enamel erosion?

Enamel loss can show up in various ways, including discoloration, general or localized sensitivity, and teeth that more easily chip or crack.

If your enamel has started to wear away, you might:

  • Feel pain or sensitivity when consuming hot, cold, or sweet drinks
  • Notice a yellowish discoloration of the teeth
  • Find that your fillings have changed
  • Have an increased risk of more cavities over time
  • Experience tooth loss (in extreme cases)

If you notice any of these symptoms or otherwise suspect that you are experiencing enamel loss, tell your dentist so the issue can be addressed before it progresses.

Can tooth erosion be reversed?

Enamel loss is permanent. However, depending on the cause and severity, weakened enamel may be treated with tooth bonding, crowns, or veneers, which protect the tooth and enhance its cosmetic appearance.

Enamel might also be strengthened through remineralization. This process uses products with fluoride, such as fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwash, to replace lost minerals and strengthen the enamel. The fluoride acts as a barrier between your teeth and harmful substances like sugars, starches, and acids, protecting the weakened enamel and your teeth.

How can I prevent enamel erosion?

As is often the case with oral health, enamel erosion is far easier to prevent than treat. In fact, your daily routine plays a significant role in preventing the loss of tooth enamel.

Your toothbrush – Using the wrong toothbrush can damage your tooth enamel (and gums). Generally, a soft-bristled toothbrush is best for teeth, as medium and stiff bristles might be too hard on gums and enamel. To maintain your toothbrush’s effectiveness, it’s also important to replace your toothbrush every three months or as soon as it shows wear and tear (i.e., fraying).

When you brush – We tend to think it’s best to brush immediately after eating or drinking, but it really depends on what we ate or drank. Brushing your teeth right after a meal is intended to prevent acid attacks; however, this only works if the acid hasn’t already started to attack your tooth enamel. For example, if you’ve just finished consuming something highly acidic, such as citrus fruit, the acid attack will likely be underway when you start brushing. This is problematic since acidic foods and drinks leave tooth enamel soft, and if you brush your teeth before the enamel has hardened, you may end up removing the enamel. To avoid enamel damage, it’s best to wait 30 minutes after consuming acidic foods and beverages before brushing your teeth. By that time, your enamel will be re-hardened and won’t be damaged by your brushing.

What you eat – When it comes to oral health, even “nutritious” foods can be damaging. For example, acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits can have harmful effects on tooth enamel, so it’s best to eat them as part of a meal and not by themselves. Dried fruits, including raisins, can also cause problems because they are sticky and adhere to teeth, which means the acids produced by cavity-causing bacteria continue to harm teeth long after you stop eating them. It can be hard to know what to eat for physical and oral health, but as a general rule of thumb, if what you’re consuming is citrus or citrus-flavored, carbonated, or sour, it’s best to limit how much you consume.

Maintain regular dental visits – While we’re partial, visiting your dentist every six months is key to ensuring that your entire mouth gets a regular cleaning, including those hard-to-reach areas where destructive bacteria can hide. Seeing your dentist at least twice a year also allows them to track potential enamel loss or damage.

If you have questions about tooth enamel erosion or are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned, please call our team to schedule a visit.

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How Can Invisalign Improve Oral Health?

If you’re considering treatment with Invisalign® clear aligners, you’re probably focused on the aesthetic benefits – straighter teeth and a movie star smile! But, the oral health benefits of using Invisalign go beyond a megawatt smile. A popular option for patients with mild-to-moderate alignment issues, Invisalign has also proven to be effective in helping patients improve function and general oral health. In contrast to traditional braces, which consist of metal brackets glued to the teeth and tied together with wires and small rubber bands, Invisalign uses aligner trays made of smooth, BPA-free clear plastic worn over teeth. These trays focus much of the pressure on the upper part of the tooth, pushing it into the correct position from top to bottom, including the root. Invisalign aligners have been shown to alleviate temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain, reduce excessive teeth grinding, address early periodontal disease, and even improve the outcome of dental implant placement.

TMJ Pain

The most common cause of temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ) disorders is a misaligned bite. Invisalign is a discreet way to straighten teeth and correct instances of malocclusion, including cross and overbites. Though additional therapeutic options may be recommended, patients often notice that the pain they experienced before treatment is significantly decreased with the use of Invisalign, sometimes disappearing altogether.

Bruxism

While chronic jaw clenching and teeth grinding, known as bruxism, can have a variety of causes, the condition almost always results in damaged teeth. Over time, untreated bruxism can lead to tooth pain and loose or chipped teeth. In some instances, parts of the teeth are literally ground away, and the surrounding bone and gum tissue are destroyed. It can also lead to painful jaw issues, such as temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ). In instances where a patient is looking for relief from bruxism and straighter teeth, Invisalign aligner trays are able to address both concerns. Invisalign trays are designed similar to night guards, protecting teeth while a patient sleeps and preventing problems caused by grinding.

Early Periodontal Disease

A common oral health concern, periodontal disease can have a far-reaching impact. It has been connected to a variety of other conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis (scientists believe that inflammation may be the link between these systemic diseases). In its early stages, proper brushing and flossing are essential to combat disease progression; however, when teeth are crowded or unevenly spaced, practicing good oral hygiene becomes difficult. If left untreated, periodontitis can ruin your gums, bones, and tissues connected to your teeth. The impact of periodontitis is irreversible, but you can prevent it from advancing. This is where Invisalign comes in; whether used as a supplement or an alternative to a longer orthodontic treatment plan, Invisalign corrects dental alignment which helps to minimize the effects of periodontal disease.

Dental Implants

When a patient needs their smile restored, dental implants may be recommended. While today’s implants look very natural, it’s important to remember that they’re also permanent. The shape, position, and angle of an implant cannot be changed. However, the teeth around the dental implants can be repositioned and adjusted. As a minimally invasive option, Invisalign can be used before, during, or after the implant process to achieve successful, long-term results.

Before – In most instances, Invisalign treatment before dental implants is preferred, as it makes the process easier overall. This gives the orthodontist more flexibility before placing a permanent implant, although there are exceptions. For example, if your dentist is concerned that your bone may deteriorate before implant placement, they may recommend moving forward with the restoration first.

During – If necessary, you can get dental implants while undergoing Invisalign treatment. Your dentist will need to determine the correct order of sequences, keeping in mind that the dental implant will be in a permanent position.

After – Even if you already have dental implants, you may still be a candidate for Invisalign. Your dentist will develop a specific treatment plan to address the teeth around your existing implant and straighten your overall smile.

Schedule A Consultation

In the end, the most suitable orthodontic treatment depends on your specific oral concerns and the problem you need to have corrected. While Invisalign offers a number of benefits, it may not be the best option for you. To see if you’re a good candidate for Invisalign, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.

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Ouch! Do I Have Sensitive Teeth?

Have you ever winced with sudden pain after gulping an icy beverage or slurping a spoonful of hot soup? If so, you’re likely one of the 40 million Americans the Academy of General Dentistry estimates experience tooth sensitivity each year.

What causes tooth sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity (i.e., dentin hypersensitivity) occurs when tooth enamel wears away, leaving the dentin exposed. This soft, inner part of your tooth houses thousands of microscopic channels that, when left unprotected, allow stimuli to reach the nerves causing pain.

Some people naturally have more sensitive teeth due to having thinner enamel. However, in many cases, tooth enamel can be worn down from:

  • Brushing your teeth too hard
  • Using a hard-bristled toothbrush
  • Grinding your teeth
  • Regularly eating or drinking acidic foods and beverages

Anything that leaves sections of the tooth exposed and unprotected can lead to sensitivity. This includes gum recession, tooth decay, and broken or chipped teeth. Temporary sensitivity may also occur after dental work like fillings, crowns, or teeth bleaching. There are also medical conditions that can lead to tooth sensitivity. For example, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) can cause acid to come up from the stomach and esophagus, which deteriorate tooth enamel over time. Similarly, conditions that cause frequent vomiting, such as gastroparesis and bulimia, can result in acid erosion.

Symptoms of tooth sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity can cause temporary or chronic pain in a single tooth, several teeth, or throughout your mouth. If you have sensitive teeth, everyday foods and drinks can unexpectedly trigger a jolt of nerve pain. It’s common for people with sensitive teeth to experience pain or discomfort at the roots of the affected teeth in response to certain triggers, such as:

  • Hot or cold foods and beverages
  • Cold air
  • Sweet foods and beverages
  • Acidic foods and beverages
  • Cold water, especially during routine dental cleanings
  • Brushing or flossing teeth
  • Alcohol-based mouth rinses

Symptoms can range from mild to intense and may come and go periodically for no apparent reason.

How is tooth sensitivity treated?

There are several at-home and in-office treatments that can provide relief to sensitive teeth. Depending on the cause and severity the sensitivity, your dentist will likely recommend one or more of the following treatments:

  • Desensitizing toothpaste – These contain compounds that help block the transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve. For best results, use twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Desensitizing toothpaste can also be applied directly to sensitive areas.
  • Fluoride mouth rinse – Fluoride re-mineralizes tooth enamel, making teeth harder and stronger, which helps to prevent sensitivity and tooth decay.
  • In-office fluoride treatment – Professional fluoride treatments come in several forms, such as gels, varnishes, foam, and highly concentrated rinses. While they work similarly to over-the-counter products, professional-grade treatments have a much higher fluoride concentration and may be recommended every three, six, or twelve months.
  • A crown, inlay, or bonding – Your dentist may use these methods to correct chipped or broken teeth that are causing sensitivity.
  • Surgical gum graft – When loss of gum tissue leaves your tooth root exposed, a graft takes a small amount of gum tissue from elsewhere in your mouth and attaches it to the affected site. This can protect exposed roots and reduce sensitivity.
  • Root canal – If severe sensitivity is unable to be treated by other means, your dentist may recommend this procedure, which treats problems in the tooth’s soft core.

While tooth sensitivity is not uncommon, pain can be an indication of a more serious dental problem. If you’re experiencing sensitivity, please call our office. We’ll evaluate your specific symptoms and determine the best treatment to help relieve the pain.

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Am I a Good Candidate for Full-Mouth Reconstruction?

We’ve often been told that less is more, but sometimes more is needed. This is often the case when patients are dealing with multiple or complex dental issues. These cases, whether a result of oral health habits, trauma, genetic conditions, or years of teeth grinding, may require a full-mouth reconstruction.

What is full-mouth reconstruction?

Full-mouth reconstruction (also known as full-mouth restoration) goes beyond improved cosmetics and involves a combination of dental treatments to rebuild or restore your teeth, gums, and jaw function. Depending on individual needs, full-mouth reconstruction can include any number of restorative and cosmetic dental procedures, including:

  • Dental bonding
  • Dental bridges and crowns
  • Dental fillings
  • Complete or partial dentures
  • Dental veneers
  • Dental inlays or onlays
  • Dental implants
  • Root canal treatment
  • Tooth extraction
  • Periodontal disease treatment


How do I know if a full-mouth reconstruction is right for me?

Patients can find themselves in need of full-mouth reconstruction for a variety of reasons. You may have had an accident that damaged your teeth, experienced widespread decay, or spent years grinding your teeth. Full-mouth reconstruction is not a light undertaking and is generally recommended for patients who have extensive damage to their existing teeth. Issues commonly addressed with a full-mouth reconstruction include:

  • Broken or cracked teeth
  • Decayed teeth
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome
  • Genetic conditions, such as dentinogenesis imperfecta or ectodermal dysplasia
  • Gum disease
  • Infection
  • Difficulty chewing normally or properly cleaning your teeth

To be a good candidate for full-mouth reconstruction, patients must also meet a certain baseline of health. For example, if you have an infection, it will need to be treated before reconstruction begins. Additionally, depending on the procedures required for your mouth restoration, you may also need to be able to tolerate certain dental procedures or types of anesthesia. Furthermore, it’s critical that patients be committed to attending appointments and adhering to their dentist’s instructions.

Schedule an Evaluation

Every patient is unique, and the best way to find out if full-mouth reconstruction is right for you is to come into our office for an evaluation. Our team is committed to ensuring the best patient experience possible. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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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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