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Word Quiz on Oral Hygiene: Havasu Dentist

Yes, you brush your teeth every day. But how much do you really know about this important habit? Test your knowledge with our quiz on dental vocabulary.

Choose the correct meaning for:

  1. Oral Hygiene
    1. Clean language
    2. The practice of keeping your teeth and gums clean
    3. A shade of lipstick
    4. A type of dental surgery
  2. Biofilm
    1. A movie about a person’s life, such as “Ray Charles”
    2. A new kind of cling wrap
    3. An accumulation of bacteria that forms a whitish, sticky film
    4. A tooth whitener
  3. Dental plaque
    1. A type of instrument used to clean teeth
    2. Bacteria that accumulate on teeth and gums
    3. An award given at the Dental Oscar ceremony
    4. Your dentist’s framed diploma
  4. Inflammation
    1. The body’s response to harmful bacteria
    2. A condition in which your gums become red and swollen and bleed easily
    3. A cause of gingivitis
    4. All of the above
  5. Periodontal disease
    1. Any disease caused by bacteria
    2. Tooth decay
    3. Whitish sores on the lips
    4. Gum disease caused by dental plaque
  6. Disclosants
    1. Simple dyes that can stain plaque and make it visible
    2. Television reality shows
    3. Dental x-rays
    4. A section of your annual tax report
  7. Gingivitis
    1. Any infection in the oral area
    2. Tooth decay
    3. Inflammation of the gums that can lead to periodontal disease
    4. All of the above
  8. Dental caries
    1. Gum disease
    2. A task carried out during your teeth cleaning
    3. A technique of orthodontia
    4. Tooth decay
  9. Fluoride
    1. A mineral that has been found to prevent tooth decay
    2. The location of a famous dental school
    3. A gasoline additive
    4. A type of house paint
  10. Inter-dental Area
    1. Referring to the area between your teeth
    2. The area regular proper flossing will keep clean
    3. Area that wood points and specially designed brushes can be used to clean
    4. All of the above

Answers: 1. b, 2. c, 3. b, 4. d, 5. d, 6. a, 7. c, 8. d, 9. a, 10. d

How did you do on our quiz? The more you know about keeping your teeth and gums clean and healthy, the better you will look and feel. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about oral hygiene. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor article, “Oral Hygiene Behavior.”

Which is Better for Cleaning Your Teeth: Ultrasonic or Hand Tools: Havasu Dentist

Dental plaque (a film of bacteria that forms on your teeth) is known to be the main cause of periodontal (gum) disease. When the bacteria settle on your teeth they form a whitish film called biofilm. Those that are not removed cause formation of “pockets,” areas of separation between the teeth and their surrounding gums, in which plaque hardens into deposits known as calculus or tartar. The purpose of having your teeth cleaned regularly by a trained professional hygienist is to remove deposits of plaque and calculus. Removal of hard deposits on your teeth is called “scaling.” This can be done either by using hand-held scalers or by newer technology: ultrasonic power scalers.

Let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of both types of instruments.

Power Scalers

How they work: These instruments use the energy of ultrasonic vibration to crush and remove hard, calcified deposits of calculus. They also create shockwaves that disrupt bacterial cells. Use of these tools includes washing and flushing the pockets and any exposed root surfaces with water.

Pros: They are as effective as manual instruments for calculus removal in shallow gum pockets and significantly more effective in pockets greater than 4mm. They are very effective in removing calculus from root surfaces and from within periodontal pockets. Their small tips can penetrate deeper into periodontal pockets than manual instruments and are more comfortable to experience, and they are more effective for cleaning difficult nooks and crannies. Coolant sprays flush the area and remove bacteria and their by-products. They require less time than manual instruments.

Cons: A contaminated mist may form so that the hygienist needs to wear protective equipment. The vibration of the ultrasonic instruments may make it difficult to feel if the root surface is completely smooth and free of calculus. Power scalers affect some heart pacemakers.

Conventional Hand-held Scalers

How they work: These depend on the skill and knowledge of the hygienist to manipulate them and scrape away calculus (tartar) from teeth and within pockets.

Pros: They are equally effective for plaque and calculus removal from shallow gum pockets. They do not interfere with electronic equipment like heart pacemakers. They can be used more easily on teeth in which there are areas of demineralization (areas where minerals have been removed from the tooth’s enamel, making it more vulnerable to decay). They are easier on the tooth’s surface and are thus better for use with porcelain or composite restoration, or sensitive teeth.

Cons: They take longer to complete a cleaning. Sometimes they cause more discomfort than ultrasonic scalers.

In most cases the choice of scalers is not really an either/or situation. Most experts say that the best results come through using both types of instruments. As a result, cleanings can be done with effective and efficient outcomes and greater patient comfort.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about dental cleanings. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article, “Dental Cleanings Using Ultrasonic Scalers.”

Ultrasonic Plaque Removal an Effective Alternative to Manual Scaling: Havasu Dentist

Undergoing regular dental cleanings is an essential part of periodontal (gum) disease prevention. While a daily habit of brushing and flossing cleans bacterial plaque from most tooth surfaces, it’s difficult to remove from places your brush or floss can’t access well. That, as well as hardened plaque deposits known as calculus, must be removed by a hygienist or dentist with a technique known as scaling.

Scaling is traditionally performed manually using specialized hand instruments known as scalers. Although hand scalers are quite effective, they must be used carefully to avoid damage to gum tissue or, during deeper cleaning known as root planing, the tooth roots. A different method for plaque removal known as ultrasonic scaling has grown in popularity as an alternative to manual scaling.

Ultrasonic scaling uses equipment emitting vibrational energy that crushes and loosens plaque and calculus, and disrupts growing bacterial colonies in biofilm. Plaque particles are then washed away using water irrigation. The most recent models of ultrasonic scalers have matched the effectiveness of hand scaling in removing plaque and calculus in shallow gum pockets, and surpassed the manual technique in cleaning out pockets greater than 4 mm. In experienced hands, they’re kinder to tooth structure and other tissues. Water irrigation also improves healing by removing bacteria and scaling by-products, which also makes the area easier to view by the hygienist.

On the other hand, any type of power scaler must be used with caution with patients who have pacemakers, and are not recommended for those with hypersensitive teeth or teeth that are in the early stages of de-mineralization. The technique may also produce an aerosol of finely misted particles (with possible contamination) that requires added measures to contain them.

For most patients, though, ultrasonic scalers are an effective tool for plaque and calculus removal. As ultrasonic devices continue to evolve, patients will ultimately benefit from greater comfort and reduced treatment times.

If you would like more information on plaque removal with ultrasonic scalers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Cleanings Using Ultrasonic Scalers.”

Stop Gum Disease Before it Gets Started with Daily Oral Hygiene: Havasu Dentist

While tooth decay seems to get most of the “media attention,” there’s another oral infection just as common and destructive: periodontal (gum) disease. In fact, nearly half of adults over 30 have some form of it.

And like tooth decay, it begins with bacteria: while most are benign or even beneficial, a few strains of these micro-organisms can cause gum disease. They thrive and multiply in a thin, sticky film of food particles on tooth surfaces called plaque. Though not always apparent early on, you may notice symptoms like swollen, reddened or bleeding gums.

The real threat, though, is that untreated gum disease will advance deeper below the gum line, infecting the connective gum tissues, tooth roots and supporting bone. If it’s not stopped, affected teeth can lose support from these structures and become loose or out of position. Ultimately, you could lose them.

We can stop this disease by removing accumulated plaque and calculus (calcified plaque, also known as tartar) from the teeth, which continues to feed the infection. To reach plaque deposits deep below the gum line, we may need to surgically access them through the gums. Even without surgery, it may still take several cleaning sessions to remove all of the plaque and calculus found.

These treatments are effective for stopping gum disease and allowing the gums to heal. But there’s a better way: preventing gum disease before it begins through daily oral hygiene. In most cases, plaque builds up due to a lack of brushing and flossing. It takes only a few days without practicing these important hygiene tasks for early gingivitis to set in.

You should also visit the dentist at least twice a year for professional cleanings and checkups. A dental cleaning removes plaque and calculus from difficult to reach places. Your dentist also uses the visit to evaluate how well you’re doing with your hygiene efforts, and offer advice on how you can improve.

Like tooth decay, gum disease can rob you of your dental health. But it can be stopped—both you and your dentist can keep this infection from ruining your smile.

If you would like more information on preventing and treating gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

Proper Oral Hygiene is Just as Important for Implants as it is for Natural Teeth: Havasu Dentist

One of the great benefits that patients with implants enjoy is their imperviousness to decay: unlike a natural tooth, bacteria have no effect on the materials in an implant’s construction. That doesn’t mean, however, you can become lax in your hygiene habits — although the implants may not be susceptible to disease, the surrounding gum tissue and bone are. If those tissues become infected you could start to lose the implant attachment and, as it progresses, the implant itself.

In fact, the gum tissue that surrounds the implant may be more susceptible to infection than those around natural teeth. Teeth maintain a connection with the jawbone through the periodontal ligament. Besides securing the tooth, the gum tissue has fibrous attachments to the tooth to help the gum tissue endure a lot of wear and tear and resist the invasion of bacteria and food particles. Implants are anchored directly into the jawbone (where bone eventually grows and attaches to the titanium implant surface) and don’t develop an attachment with the ligament. Implants, therefore, don’t have the benefit of resistance to bacteria and food particles that natural teeth receive through these fibrous attachments.

As a result, patients with implants need to establish a conscientious habit of effective oral hygiene. Daily removal of bacterial plaque from teeth surfaces through brushing and flossing (and semi-annual office cleanings and checkups) greatly reduce the risk of infection and subsequent inflammation. It’s also important to monitor the condition of your gums, especially around implants. If you begin to notice bleeding, red or swollen gums, or other signs of possible gum disease, you should contact us as soon as possible for an assessment.

Proper care for implants and their supporting tissues is just as necessary, and perhaps more so, than it is for natural teeth. By providing that care, you’ll help ensure years of effective service from your implants.

If you would like more information on hygiene practices with implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Infections Around Implants.”

More Than a Scaling, But Not Periodontal Surgery, It’s Root Planing: Havasu Dentist

Root planing is a procedure that allows us to achieve your — and our — basic goal in dentistry: healthy, clean gums and teeth.

At a level in between scaling by your hygienist and periodontal (from peri, around and odont, tooth) surgery, root planing is a conservative treatment that attempts to eliminate the need for gum surgery.

The Problem:
Plaque is a film of bacteria (a biofilm) that adheres to your teeth at the gumline. This is what you try to remove with daily brushing and flossing. Plaque that is not removed can form a hard coating called calculus or tartar. These substances irritate your gums and cause inflammation, which in turn causes your gum tissues to lose their attachment to your teeth. The resulting gaps between the teeth and gums are called pockets, and they act just like pockets in your clothing.

Your teeth are fastened in your jaws by a combination of bone and soft tissue including the gums and the periodontal ligament, tissues that holds each tooth in place. When pockets form and bacteria move into them, the bacteria and the toxins they emit can become ingrained into the surface of the roots of your teeth (the bottom parts that are below the gumline) and cause further inflammation and infection. This can lead to loss of attachment of the gum tissues and bone that anchor your teeth. In the worst cases you can lose the teeth.

The Solutions:
1. The first level of defense is your own daily brushing and flossing. Ask us to check your technique to make sure you are effectively removing plaque.

2. Second, your dental hygienist can remove superficial collections of calculus by scaling, using hand tools or a sonic scaler.

3. Third, root planing actually planes the surface of the roots of your teeth, in the same way as a carpenter planes a piece of wood. It removes calculus, bacteria and toxins ingrained into the root surfaces so that the infected gum tissues can heal.

Root planing is usually done using local anesthesia to numb the teeth and surrounding soft tissues. The planing may be done first with an ultrasonic device that cleans by vibrating particles off the root surfaces and simultaneously flushes the pockets with water. The root planing is finished with delicate hand instruments called curettes. The area may then be flushed with antibacterial medication to fight infection.

The response to root planing is usually evaluated three to four weeks later. The gum tissues are checked for healing, and probing measurements of the pockets are retaken. Depending on the results, additional root planing may be needed.

4. Finally, in cases of the worst periodontal infections, you may need periodontal surgery. Each person’s situation is unique and should be based on an examination and evaluation.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about dental hygiene and root planing. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor article, “Root Planing.”

Keeping up Good Hygiene Still a Necessity with Dental Implants: Havasu Dentist

Dental implants are widely considered the most durable tooth replacement option, thanks in part to how they attach to the jaw. But durable doesn’t mean indestructible — you must take care of them.

Implants have a unique relationship to the jawbone compared to other restorations. We imbed a slender titanium post into the bone as a substitute for a natural tooth root. Because bone has a special affinity with the metal, it grows to and adheres to the implant to create a secure anchor. This unique attachment gives implants quite an advantage over other restorations.

It isn’t superior, however, to the natural attachment of real teeth, especially in one respect: it can’t match a natural attachment’s infection-fighting ability. A connective tissue attachment made up of collagen fibers are attached to the tooth root protecting the underlying bone. An elastic gum tissue called the periodontal ligament lies between the tooth root and the bone and attaches to both with tiny collagen fibers. These attachments create a network of blood vessels that supply nutrients and infection-fighting agents to the bone and surrounding gum tissue.

Implants don’t have this connective tissue or ligament attachment or its benefits. Of course, the implants are made of inorganic material that can’t be damaged by bacterial infection. However, the gums and bone that surround them are: and because these natural tissues don’t have these same biologic barriers to infection and perhaps access to the same degree of antibodies as those around natural teeth, an infection known as peri-implantitis specific to implants can develop and progress.

It’s therefore just as important for you to continue brushing and flossing to remove bacterial plaque that causes infection to protect the gums and bone around your implants. You should also keep up regular office cleanings and checkups. In fact, we take special care with implants when cleaning them by using instruments that won’t scratch their highly polished surfaces. Such a scratch, even a microscopic one, could attract and harbor bacteria.

There’s no doubt dental implants are an excellent long-term solution for restoring your smile and mouth function. You can help extend that longevity by caring for them just as if they’re your natural teeth.

If you would like more information on caring for dental implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implant Maintenance.”

Instill Good Dental Habits in Your Child as Early as Possible: Havasu Dentist

Philosopher Will Durant wrote, “…We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” While that observation could aptly apply to a great deal of life, it’s certainly true of dental health. Strong, healthy teeth and gums are largely the result of good oral habits started in early childhood.

Here are some important dental care habits you’ll want to instill in your child, as well as yourself.

Practice and teach daily oral hygiene. Keeping your child’s mouth clean helps prevent future dental disease. It should begin before teeth appear by wiping your baby’s gums with a clean, wet cloth after every feeding to keep decay-causing bacteria from growing. Once teeth appear, switch to brushing with just a smear of toothpaste until age 2, when you can increase to a pea-sized amount. As your child matures, be sure to teach them to brush and floss for themselves, especially by modeling the behavior for them.

Begin dental visits early. Besides daily hygiene, regular professional dental care is one of the best habits for keeping healthy teeth and gums. Plan to begin your child’s dental visits by age 1 when some of their teeth may have already come in. And by beginning early, it’s more likely your child will view dental visits as a routine part of life, a habit they’ll more likely continue into adulthood.

Keep your oral bacteria to yourself. Many strains of bacteria, especially harmful ones, don’t occur spontaneously in a child’s mouth. They come from the outside environment, most often from their parents or caregivers. To avoid transmitting disease-causing bacteria from you to your baby don’t share eating utensils, don’t lick a pacifier to clean it, and avoid kissing infants (whose immune systems are immature) on the mouth.

Encourage your teenager to avoid bad habits. Hopefully when your children reach adolescence, they’ve already developed good oral habits. But there are some bad habits you should also help your teen avoid. While piercings are a popular expression among this age group, teens should avoid tongue and lip bolts and other piercings that could damage teeth. A tobacco habit can also have negative consequences for dental health including increased decay or gum disease risk and cancer.

If you would like more information on dental care for children, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dentistry & Oral Health for Children.”

Inflammation is a Key Element in Both Oral and Systemic Diseases: Havasu Dentist

Anybody can contract periodontal (gum) disease if they don’t brush and floss every day. Inadequate hygiene allows a thin film of disease-causing bacteria and food particles called plaque to build up.

But while we’re all at risk for gum disease, some people are more so. This is especially true for those with diabetes, heart disease or other systemic conditions. The common denominator among all these conditions is inflammation, the body’s defensive response to disease or injury.

When tissues become infected or damaged, the body causes swelling at the site to isolate the affected tissues, clear out diseased or dead cells and start tissue repair. Inflammation also produces redness, pain and, particularly with gum tissues, bleeding.

Inflammation is an important part of the body’s ability to heal itself. It’s possible, though, for the inflammatory response to become chronic. If that happens, it can actually begin doing more harm than good.

We’re learning that chronic inflammation is a factor in many systemic diseases. For example, it can interfere with wound healing and other issues associated with diabetes. It also contributes to fatty deposit buildup in arterial blood vessels, which can lead to heart attacks or strokes. And in gum disease, chronic inflammation can cause gum detachment, followed by bone and tooth loss.

We’re also learning that inflammation can create connections between these various health conditions. If you have an inflammatory disease like heart disease or diabetes, your risk for gum disease not only increases but it may also be difficult to bring under control. Likewise, if you have persistent gum disease, the associated inflammation could aggravate or even increase your risk for other systemic diseases.

Researchers hope continued discoveries about the interrelationship of inflammation with various conditions will lead to better treatment strategies, including for gum disease. In the meantime, getting prompt treatment for any inflammatory condition, especially gum disease, could help your treatment prospects with other conditions.

If you would like more information on connections between dental disease and other health conditions, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Link between Heart & Gum Diseases.”

Havasu Dentist: How Do You Know If You’re Brushing And Flossing Your Teeth Correctly?

You’ve probably brushed your teeth every day since early childhood when your parents handed you your first toothbrush. But do you really know if you’re doing it effectively and removing disease causing bacterial plaque or biofilm? Let’s take a look at the basics of tooth brushing.

What is the goal of brushing and flossing your teeth? While it is true that brushing your teeth freshens your breath and removes stains from the surfaces of your teeth, the principal goal of tooth brushing is to remove dental bacterial plaque. This biofilm grows in the nooks and crannies of your teeth, and especially at the gum line — regardless of what you eat or drink. If left on your teeth, this bacterial film can cause gingivitis (inflammation of your gums). It can progress to periodontal disease, affecting the supporting bone of your teeth and even result in tooth loss. This means that flossing should also be an important part of your daily dental hygiene routine to remove plaque from the protected areas between your teeth.

Can you actually brush too much? More is not always better and can be damaging. We advise you to use a soft brush and to brush gently. It does not take force to remove plaque, and using a toothbrush too vigorously can damage your gums and cause them to recede (shrink away from your teeth), causing sensitivity and tooth wear. It takes between 12 and 24 hours for plaque to form on your teeth, so you don’t need to brush more than twice a day and floss once a day.

How do you know when you’ve done a good job? A good test is that your teeth should feel like you’ve just had a professional cleaning. Your tongue is a great evaluator — just feel for smoothness at the gum line.

Is a powered toothbrush better than a manual one? An evidence-based study comparing all the research available found little difference between power and manual toothbrushes. The conclusion was that some powered toothbrushes with a rotation-oscillation action achieve a modest reduction in plaque and gingivitis compared to manual toothbrushes. But as we say, “it’s not the brush, it’s the hand that holds it.”

Come to our office for a demonstration. Any brush, whether electric or hand-powered, requires professional demonstration and training so that you know how to remove plaque correctly. Bring your toothbrush with you on your next visit to our office, so we can see your brushing technique and make sure you are doing it correctly for the most efficient plaque removal. And don’t be embarrassed — nobody really knows how to brush effectively until they’re shown!

Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about tooth brushing and oral hygiene. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Manual vs Powered Toothbrushes.”