HAPPY, HEALTHY SMILES FOR A LIFE TIME.
We all know it’s important for our oral health to have routine dental care. Regular checkups and cleanings keep teeth and gums healthy . . . and help us keep our smiles for life.
But with recent studies linking oral health with systemic (whole body) health, regular dental care isn’t only important for teeth. It’s important for excellent health from head to toe. Good dental health is especially important in helping to manage diabetes, and helpful in preventing pulmonary and cardiovascular complications.
From preventive care such as sealants and fluoride treatments to regular exams, cleanings and periodontal treatment to restoring teeth to health, Dr. Sams and his team at Cypress Lake Dental do all they can to keep patients of all ages, healthy and strong.
Dental Cleaning Procedures
Next to daily brushing and flossing (including water flossing with devices like the Water-Pik), the most important step you can take to prevent dental disease is regular cleanings and exams at the dental office.
Tarter, plaque and stain will be removed from your teeth and your gums and teeth will be examined for signs of decay and periodontal disease. The most important thing is catching the signs of dental problems early. A cavity caught early can usually be restored with a filling. If the cavity is allowed to enlarge however, a crown and sometimes even a root canal might be required to address the problem.
Fluoride has proven to be a safe and effective cavity fighter for over 60 years. It is available in many forms: in the water supply, in tooth pastes, and at the dental office. Fluoride in the dental office historically has been administered to children, but in recent years it has become apparent that office administered fluoride treatments are even more important for our senior citizens.
Dry mouth, which can be caused my medications, is a significant cause of dental decay. Fluoride varnish is applied in the office help prevent this.
For patients with severe recurrent decay, custom fluoride trays can be made, which allows patients to give themselves a four minute fluoride treatment at home. This is the most effective treatment for runaway decay. Also, high potency fluoride toothpastes can be prescribed.
Sealants are used to prevent decay on the biting surfaces of molars and are usually used for children. The sealant consists of a flowable resin which is bonded to the molar. Usually no drilling is involved. Sealants are an excellent preventive measure.
Removing plaque through daily brushing and flossing and professional cleaning is the best way to minimize your risk.
Everyone knows to brush their teeth twice a day, but many people forget about their gums! The word disease sounds scary and it can be if you don’t take care of your gums. Here is some information about what gum disease is, what causes it, and how you can prevent it.
Periodontal means “around the tooth.” Periodontal disease is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Periodontal disease can affect one tooth or many teeth. It begins when the bacteria in plaque (the sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth) causes the gums to become inflamed. Gingivitis is the mildest form of the disease. In this stage, the gums redden, swell, and bleed easily. There is usually little or no discomfort.
As mentioned, plaque is recognized as the primary cause of gum disease. If plaque isn’t removed each day by brushing and flossing, it hardens into a rough, porous substance called calculus (also known as tartar). Toxins produced and released by bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. These toxins cause the breakdown of the fibers that hold the gums tightly to the teeth, creating periodontal pockets that fill with even more toxins and bacteria. As the disease progresses, pockets become deeper, and the bacteria move down until the bone that holds the tooth in place is destroyed. Eventually, severe infection may develop with pain and swelling. The tooth may loosen and later require removal. There are other factors, too. Smokers and tobacco users are at a higher risk of developing gum disease. Changing hormone levels in pubescent teenagers and women who are pregnant also can increase the risk of gum disease. Stress, clenching or grinding your teeth, an unhealthy diet, and diabetes can increase your chances of developing gum disease as well. And, in some cases, it’s in your genes—nearly 30 percent of the human population is genetically predisposed to gum disease.
In the early stages of gum disease, most treatment involves a special cleaning called scaling and root planing, which removes plaque and tartar around the tooth and smooths the root surfaces. Antibiotics or antimicrobials may be used to supplement the effects of scaling and root planing. In most cases of early gum disease, scaling and root planing and proper daily cleaning will definitely help. More advanced cases may require surgical treatment, which involves cutting the gums—sometimes with the assistance of a laser—to remove the hardened plaque build-up and then recontouring the damaged bone. The procedure also is designed to smooth root surfaces and reposition the gum tissue so it will be easier to keep clean. This procedure may be performed by your general dentist or by a specialist, like a periodontist.
Sticking to a maintenance program is crucial for patients who want to sustain the results of periodontal therapy. You should visit the dentist every three to four months (or more frequently, depending on the patient) for spot scalingand root planing and an overall exam. Between visits, brush at least twice a day and floss daily.
Removing plaque through daily brushing and flossing and professional cleaning is the best way to minimize your risk. You also should try to reduce the activities mentioned above (smoking, eating an unhealthy diet, grinding your teeth, and so forth). Talk to your dentist and he or she can design a personalized program for home oral care to meet your needs.
Bruxism (teeth grinding)
Is work or school stressing you out? You may be taking it out on your teeth through a condition called bruxism. Bruxism is characterized by the grinding of the teeth and is typically accompanied by clenching of the jaw. Researchers classify bruxism as a habitual behavior as well as a sleep disorder. Untreated bruxism can lead to other health problems, damage to the teeth and gums, and even temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).
Bruxism can have numerous causes, such as bite problems, stress, medical conditions, or certain medications.
Most people with bruxism are not aware of the condition, and only approximately 5 percent develop symptoms (such as jaw pain and headaches) that require treatment. In many cases, a sleeping partner or parent will notice the bruxism before the person experiencing the problem is even aware of it. The noise resulting from bruxism can be quite loud.
Bruxism can result in abnormal wear patterns on the top surfaces of teeth, unusually sensitive teeth, notching of the teeth at the gumlines, as well as severe damage to the teeth, including fractures. Bruxism also is a significant cause of tooth loss, gum recession, and loosening of the teeth.
The symptoms of bruxism vary and can include anxiety, stress, and tension; depression; earache; eating disorders; headache; insomnia; and a sore or painful jaw. If left untreated, bruxism eventually shortens and blunts the teeth being ground and can lead to facial muscle pain and TMD. In severe chronic cases, it can lead to arthritis of the temporomandibular joints.
The patient often becomes aware of the condition during a routine dental examination. Your dentist will be able to recognize the signs of bruxism during a dental exam and may even suggest further analysis of your bruxism, such as recommending an overnight stay at a sleep laboratory.
There is not always a definitive cure for bruxism, but the signs and symptoms can be reduced or eliminated through dental treatment. Treatments can include mouthguards, bite adjustments, biofeedback devices, and repair of damaged teeth. Do you have questions about bruxism? Talk to your dentist.
Xerostomia (Dealing with Dry Mouth)
Xerostomia is a condition related to the salivary glands, which help keep the mouth moist, thus preventing decay and other oral health problems. When the salivary glands do not work properly, the amount of saliva in the mouth decreases, resulting in xerostomia—or, as it’s more commonly known, dry mouth.
Prescription and over-the-counter medications are the most common cause of dry mouth. There are more than 400 medications that can contribute to mouth dryness, including antihypertensives, antidepressants, painkillers, tranquilizers, diuretics, and antihistamines.
Dry mouth also can be caused by radiation therapy and chemotherapy, hormonal alterations, or diseases, such as diabetes, lupus, Alzheimer’s disease, and kidney disease. Other contributing factors include stress, anxiety, depression, nutritional deficiencies, and dysfunction of the immune system, as is seen in individuals with HIV/AIDS.
Saliva is vital to everyday processes such as tasting, swallowing, speaking, and digesting. Saliva is a natural defense for teeth. Without saliva, teeth are vulnerable to tooth decay and bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. Human saliva is composed mostly of water but also includes electrolytes, mucus, antibacterial compounds, and various enzymes. The components of saliva play a major role in keeping your mouth healthy by rinsing away food particles, neutralizing harmful acids, and providing enzymes to help digest food.
Symptoms of dry mouth may include the following:
- Increased need to sip or drink fluids when swallowing
- Difficulty speaking
- Difficulty swallowing
- A burning sensation or soreness in the mouth
- Inability to eat certain foods
- Diminished or altered sense of taste
- Increased susceptibility to oral infection
- Sleep interruptions due to thirst
- Difficulty wearing dentures
- Tooth decay
- Stale or bad breath
If you exhibit any of the symptoms of dry mouth, it’s important to contact your dentist so that he or she can properly evaluate and diagnose the condition. A variety of methods are available to help patients manage dry mouth. Your dentist may recommend using saliva substitutes and over-the-counter mouthwashes, gels, and sprays. To ease discomfort, your dentist also may recommend brushing and flossing twice a day, chewing sugarless gum, drinking plenty of water, and maintaining regular dental visits. In addition, your dentist may suggest that you change your diet, avoiding alcohol, caffeine, smoking, citrus juices, dry foods, and overly salty foods. For more information, talk with your dentist.
Tooth erosion, or tooth wear, is the loss of the surrounding tooth structure. This loss occurs when the hard part of your teeth—which is called the enamel—is worn away by acid. Over time, this erosion can leave your teeth sensitive, cracked, and discolored.
Acid is the main cause of tooth erosion. So, drinking carbonated beverages, energy and sports drinks, and pure fruit juice, which all contain high levels of acid, can cause tooth erosion, especially when consumed in large amounts. Certain medical conditions, including acid reflux and bulimia, also can cause tooth erosion because they cause increased levels of stomach acids in the mouth.
Tooth erosion can present in a variety of ways. Below are some common signs and symptoms:
- Sensitivity—Since protective enamel is wearing away, you may feel a twinge of pain when you consume hot, cold, or sweet foods and drinks. As more enamel wears away, teeth can become increasingly sensitive.
- Discoloration—Teeth can become yellow as the dentin, the second layer of the tooth, is exposed.
- Rounded teeth—Your teeth may havea rounded or “sand-blasted” look.
- Transparency—Your front teeth may appear slightly transparent near the biting edges.
- Cracks—Small cracks and rough areas may appear at the edges of your teeth.
- Cupping—Small dents may appear on the chewing surfaces of your teeth, and fillings might app
You can help prevent tooth erosion from occurring by taking these simple steps:
- Cut down on your consumption of carbonated beverages, sports and energy drinks, and pure fruit juice.
- Drink acidic drinks quickly and with a straw. This helps prevent acid from coming in contact with your teeth. Also, don’t swish these liquids around or hold them in your mouth for long periods of time.
- After consuming acidic drinks, rinse your mouth with water to neutralize the acids and wait at least one hour before brushing your teeth.
- Chew sugar-free gum, which helps your mouth produce more saliva to remineralize your teeth.
- Brush with a soft toothbrush and be sure your toothpaste contains a high amount of fluoride.
- Don’t let your child consume highly acidic drinks or fruit juices in his or her sippy cup or bottle.
You can reduce sensitivity by using specially formulated toothpaste or over-the-counter enamel-building products. However, always be sure to check with your general dentist before you try any new dental products.
Tooth erosion impacts everyone in different ways. Make sure you speak with your dentist about your oral hygiene and find out what else you can do to protect yourself from tooth erosion.
Oral Cancer Screening
Oral cancer is a common form of cancer, with roughly 35,000 new cases reported annually in the United States. The most frequent oral cancer sites are the tongue, the floor of the mouth, the soft palate, and the tissues in the lips, gums, and back of the tongue. If not diagnosed and treated in its early stages, oral cancer can spread, leading to chronic pain, loss of oral function, irreparable facial and oral disfigurement following surgery, and even death. For this reason, it’s important to regularly visit your dentist so he or she can perform a thorough screening for oral cancer.
Your dentist will screen for oral cancer during routine checkups. During the screening, he or she will feel for lumps or irregular tissue changes in your neck, head, cheeks, and oral cavity and will thoroughly examine the soft tissues in your mouth, specifically looking for sores or discolored tissues.
Scientists aren’t sure of the exact cause of oral cancer. However, the carcinogens in tobacco products and alcohol, as well as excessive exposure to the sun, have been found to increase the risk of developing oral cancer. Research also suggests that some forms of oral cancer may be caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Oral cancer—represented by red, white, or discolored lesions and patches or lumps in or around the mouth—is typically painless in its early stages. As the malignant cancer spreads and destroys healthy oral tissue, the lesions or lumps may become more painful. See your dentist immediately if you observe any sore that persists longer than two weeks; a swelling, growth, or lump anywhere in or about the mouth or neck; white or red patches in the mouth or on the lips; repeated bleeding from the mouth or throat; difficulty swallowing; or persistent hoarseness.
You can help prevent oral cancer by abstaining from all forms of tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption. Because successful treatment and rehabilitation are dependent on early detection, it is extremely important to regularly check your mouth for changes in appearance and see your dentist for an oral cancer screening and regular checkup at least every six months. Survival rates greatly increase the earlier oral cancer is discovered and treated. During your next dental visit, ask your dentist to do an oral cancer screening.