Preventing dental disease starts at home with good oral hygiene and a balanced diet. It is continued in the dental office by the efforts of your dentist and dental hygienist to promote, restore, and maintain your oral health.
Prevention also includes regular dental exams, cleanings, and x-rays. Sealants and fluoride are also great preventive treatments that help protect the teeth.
Prevention helps avoid serious and costly dental problems and is the key to having a healthy, confident, beautiful smile.
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The cephalometric X-ray is a unique tool that enables the dentist to capture a complete radiographic image of the side of the face. X-rays in general offer the dentist a way to view the teeth, jawbone, and soft tissues beyond what can be seen with the naked eye. Cephalometric X-rays are extraoral, meaning that no plates or film are inserted inside the mouth. Cephalometric and panoramic X-rays display the nasal and sinus passages, which are missed by intraoral bitewing X-rays.
Cephalometric X-rays are usually taken with a panoramic X-ray machine. The adapted machine will have a special cephalometric film holder mounted on a mechanical arm. An X-ray image receptor is exposed to ionizing radiation in order to provide the dentist with pictures of the entire oral structure. The advantage of both cephalometric and panoramic X-rays is that the body is exposed to less radiation.
Cephalometric X-rays are not as common as “full sets” or bitewing X-rays, but they serve several important functions:
Cephalometric X-rays are completely painless. The head is placed between the mechanical rotating arm and the film holder, which is placed on another arm. The arm rotates around the head capturing images of the face, mouth, and teeth. The clarity and sharpness of these images will depend on the positioning of the body. The images are usually magnified up to 30%, so any signs of decay, disease, or injury can be seen and treated.
After capturing cephalometric X-rays, the dentist will be able to see a complete side profile of the head. This can assist in orthodontic planning and allow an immediate evaluation of how braces might impact the facial profile and teeth. Another common use for this type of X-ray is to determine specific measurements prior to the creation and placement of dental implants.
If you have any questions or concerns about cephalometric X-rays, please ask your dentist.
Tooth decay can be extremely painful and puts the teeth at risk. Many extractions and restorative treatments are performed every single day because tooth decay has become too severe for the tooth to be saved. Diagnodent® is a safe fluorescent laser that detects hidden tooth decay accurately, quickly, and in its earliest stages.
All dentists are advocates for healthy, natural teeth. Restoration devices like crowns and bridges are popular because they allow the natural tooth to remain in the mouth. Diagnodent® accurately exposes areas of tooth decay without scratching, probing, or “opening up the tooth.” This provides a greater chance of identifying, treating, and retaining a natural tooth without the need for expensive and time-consuming restorations.
Diagnodent® accurately exposes more caries than X-rays and examinations. In fact, this revolutionary diagnostic tool is over 90% accurate. Sometimes, caries “go underground” due to fluoridation. This essentially means that lesions that once lay on the surface of the tooth bed down, and remain invisible to the naked eye. Because Diagnodent® exposes caries earlier, more treatment options are possible.
Here are some of the other benefits associated with Diagnodent®:
The Diagnodent® process is performed within the scope of a regular dental checkup. It is strikingly similar to having a laser pointer aimed at the teeth. Diagnodent® is a hi-tech tool, which first scans a clean tooth surface with a laser beam. This scanning procedure serves to calibrate the instrument by providing information about the tooth structure.
The Diagnodent® System is actually measuring the amount of laser fluorescence within the tooth. As each tooth is scanned, the amount of reflected laser light is recorded to produce a digital readout. If the tooth contains little or no decay, little or no laser light will be reflected back to the instrument. However, if a tooth contains caries of any significance, more laser light is reflected back. High readings (compared to the tooth originally scanned) indicate that caries are present within the structure of a particular tooth. The amount of laser light reflected back correlates with the amount of decay within the tooth.
Once we determine which teeth are suffering from decay, a plan can be formulated and treatment options can be discussed. In most cases, the early detection of caries means more treatment options and a greater chance of saving the affected tooth.
If you have any questions about Diagnodent®, please contact our office.
Regular dental check ups are essential for maintaining excellent oral hygiene and diagnosing potential problems, but they are not a “fix-all” solution. Thorough oral homecare routines should be practiced on a daily basis to avoid future dental problems.
Periodontal disease (also called gum disease and periodontitis) is the leading cause of tooth loss in the developed world, and is completely preventable in the vast majority of cases. Professional cleanings twice a year combined with daily self-cleaning can remove a high percentage of disease-causing bacteria and plaque. In addition, teeth that are well cared for make for a sparkling white smile.
There are numerous types of oral hygiene aids on the supermarket shelves, and it can be difficult to determine which will provide the best benefit to your teeth.
Here are some of the most common oral hygiene aids for homecare:
Dental floss is the most common interdental and subgingival (below the gum) cleaner and comes in a variety of types and flavors. The floss itself is made from either thin nylon filaments or polyethylene ribbons, and can help remove food particles and plaque from between the teeth. Vigorous flossing with a floss holder can cause soft tissue damage and bleeding, so great care should be taken. Floss should normally be used twice daily after brushing.
Many hygienists and periodontists recommend interdental brushes in addition to dental floss. These tiny brushes are gentle on the gums and very effective in cleaning the contours of teeth in between the gums. Interdental brushes come in various shapes and sizes.
There are two basic types of mouth rinse available: cosmetic rinses which are sold over the counter and temporarily suppress bad breath, and therapeutic rinses which may or may not require a prescription. Most dentists are skeptical about the benefits of cosmetic rinses because several studies have shown that their effectiveness against plaque is minimal. Therapeutic rinses however, are regulated by the FDA and contain active ingredients that can help reduce bad breath, plaque, and cavities. Mouth rinses should generally be used after brushing.
Oral irrigators, like Water Jets and Waterpiks have been created to clean debris from below the gum line. Water is continuously sprayed from tiny jets into the gum pockets which can help remove harmful bacteria and food particles. Overall, oral irrigators have proven effective in lowering the risk of gum disease and should not be used instead of brushing and flossing. Professional cleanings are recommended at least twice annually to remove deeper debris.
The rubber tip stimulator is an excellent tool for removing plaque from around the gum line and also for stimulating blood flow to the gums. The rubber tip stimulator should be traced gently along the outer and inner gum line at least once each day. Any plaque on the tip can be rinsed off with tap water. It is important to replace the tip as soon as it starts to appear worn, and to store the stimulator in a cool, dry place.
Tongue cleaners are special devices which have been designed to remove the buildup of bacteria, fungi and food debris from the tongue surface. The fungi and bacteria that colonize on the tongue have been related to halitosis (bad breath) and a great many systemic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease and stroke. Tongue cleaners can be made from metal, wood or plastic and shaped in accordance with the contours of the tongue. Tongue cleaning should be done prior to brushing to prevent the ingestion of fungi and bacteria.
There are a great many toothbrush types available. Electric toothbrushes are generally recommended by dentists because electric brushes are much more effective than manual brushes. The vibrating or rotary motion helps to easily dislodge plaque and remove food particles from around the gums and teeth. The same results can be obtained using a manual brush, but much more effort is needed to do so.
Manual toothbrushes should be replaced every three months because worn bristles become ineffective over time. Soft bristle toothbrushes are far less damaging to gum tissue than the medium and hard bristle varieties. In addition, an appropriate sized ADA approved toothbrush should be chosen to allow proper cleaning to all the teeth. Teeth should ideally be brushed after each meal, or minimally twice each day.
If you have any questions about oral hygiene aids, please contact our office.
Panoramic X-rays (also known as Panorex® or orthopantomograms) are wraparound photographs of the face and teeth. They offer a view that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye. X-rays in general, expose hidden structures, such as wisdom teeth, reveal preliminary signs of cavities, and also show fractures and bone loss.
Panoramic X-rays are extraoral and simple to perform. Usually, dental X-rays involve the film being placed inside the mouth, but panoramic film is hidden inside a mechanism that rotates around the outside of the head.
Unlike bitewing X-rays that need to be taken every few years, panoramic X-rays are generally only taken on an as-needed basis. A panoramic X-ray is not conducted to give a detailed view of each tooth, but rather to provide a better view of the sinus areas, nasal areas and mandibular nerve. Panoramic X-rays are preferable to bitewing X-rays when a patient is in extreme pain, and when a sinus problem is suspected to have caused dental problems.
Panoramic X-rays are extremely versatile in dentistry, and are used to:
The panoramic X-ray provides the dentist with an ear-to-ear two-dimensional view of both the upper and lower jaw. The most common uses for panoramic X-rays are to reveal the positioning of wisdom teeth and to check whether dental implants will affect the mandibular nerve (the nerve extending toward the lower lip).
The Panorex equipment consists of a rotating arm that holds the X-ray generator, and a moving film attachment that holds the pictures. The head is positioned between these two devices. The X-ray generator moves around the head taking pictures as orthogonally as possible. The positioning of the head and body is what determines how sharp, clear and useful the X-rays will be to the dentist. The pictures are magnified by as much as 30% to ensure that even the minutest detail will be noted.
Panoramic X-rays are an important diagnostic tool and are also valuable for planning future treatment. They are safer than other types of X-rays because less radiation enters the body.
If you have questions or concerns about panoramic X-rays, please contact our office.
A sealant is a thin, plastic coating applied to the chewing surface of molars, premolars and any deep grooves (called pits and fissures) of teeth. More than 75% of dental decay begins in these deep grooves. Teeth with these conditions are hard to clean and are very susceptible to decay. A sealant protects the tooth by sealing deep grooves, creating a smooth, easy to clean surface.
Sealants can protect teeth from decay for many years, but need to be checked for wear and chipping at regular dental visits.
Sealants are easily applied by your dentist or dental hygienist and the process takes only a couple of minutes per tooth.
The teeth to be sealed are thoroughly cleaned and then surrounded with cotton to keep the area dry. A special solution is applied to the enamel surface to help the sealant bond to the teeth. The teeth are then rinsed and dried. Sealant material is carefully painted onto the enamel surface to cover the deep grooves or depressions. Depending on the type of sealant used, the material will either harden automatically or with a special curing light.
Proper home care, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits will aid in the life of your new sealants.
Oral cancer is often deemed the “forgotten disease,” because it kills more people than testicular cancer, cervical cancer and cancer of the brain each year and receives little publicity in return. Each year, over 30,000 Americans contract oral cancer, and only 57% of these people will live for more than five years without treatment.
Many people believe that if they abstain from tobacco and alcohol use, oral cancer will not affect them. Tobacco and alcohol use does contribute to oral cancer; however, 25% of those diagnosed abstain from both substances.
The best way to stay protected from oral cancer is to get annual oral cancer screenings. Most dentists perform an oral cancer exam during a regular dental checkup. The FDA-approved VELscope® offers dentists another examination tool to help detect oral cancer in its earliest stages. The VELscope® is a blue excitation lamp, which highlights precancerous and cancerous cell changes.
The VELscope® uses Fluorescence Visualization (FV) in an exciting new way. Essentially, bright blue light is shone into the mouth to expose changes and lesions that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye. One of the biggest difficulties in diagnosing oral cancer is that its symptoms look similar to symptoms of less serious problems. The VELscope® System affords the dentist important insight as to what is happening beneath the surface.
The healthy soft tissue of the mouth naturally absorbs the VELscope® frequency of blue light. Healthy areas beneath the surface of the soft tissue show up green, and the problem areas become much darker.
Here are some of the advantages of using the VELscope® System:
The VELscope® examination literally takes only two or three minutes. It is a painless and noninvasive procedure that saves many lives every single year.
Here is a brief overview of what a VELscope® examination is like:
Initially, the dentist will perform a regular visual examination of the whole lower face. This includes the glands, tongue, cheeks and palate as well as the teeth. The dentist provides special eyewear to protect the integrity of the retinas. The lights in the room are dimmed to allow a clear view of the oral cavity.
Lesions and other indicators of oral cancer are easily noticeable because they appear much darker under the specialized light.
If symptoms are noted, the dentist might take a biopsy to determine whether or not this is oral cancer. The results of the biopsy dictate the best course of action from there. Otherwise, another oral cancer screening is performed in one year’s time.
If you have any questions or concerns about oral cancer screening or the VELscope® system, please contact our office.