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June 16, 2015

With such a huge variety of toothpaste available, does it matter which brand I use?

478248949A trip to the grocery store or drugstore will make it obvious that there are dozens of toothpastes on the market these days. How are we supposed to choose between tartar control, fluoride, whitening, fresh mint, anti-cavity, gel, paste, baking soda, breath-freshening and all the other fun features promised by the toothpaste boxes? Even dentists can get a little intimidated by the wide array of choices of toothpaste on the store shelves.

If you’re concerned about your oral health, you probably have wondered: “What brand of toothpaste is the best? What variety of toothpaste should I use?”

Here are a few bits of advice for choosing (and using) toothpaste:

  • Don’t buy into brand names. First of all, there is no “best” brand of toothpaste. Most of the toothpastes on the market contain the American Dental Association’s recommended ingredients. If you have a favorite brand of toothpaste, then feel free to buy it – if you like the flavor or consistency or if you’ve had a reliably good experience, then feel free to continue. But don’t worry about finding the “best” brand of toothpaste, because for the most part it doesn’t matter which brand you use.
  • Find the fluoride. There are tons of different options in toothpaste. It seems like every single package is proclaiming a different and more unique combination of ingredients (“Tartar Control/Anti-cavity with Baking Soda and Sparkling Mint Crystals!”). One thing you should definitely look for is fluoride. This is one of the most important elements in preventing tooth decay – if you brush with fluoride toothpaste twice a day, you’ll be ahead of the game.
  • Less is more. TV commercials have taught us that you need to squeeze a long, looping strand of toothpaste onto your brush, right? Wrong – you actually don’t need to use very much toothpaste – only about a pea-size portion will be sufficient.
  • Brush longer, spit later. The way you brush your teeth is more important than the toothpaste you use. You need to brush your teeth for about 2 minutes – about as long as it takes to hum the Star-Spangled Banner. (If you’re embarrassed to hum our national anthem while you brush, set a stopwatch or use an egg timer – or use an electric toothbrush with an automatic timer setting.) If you brush for less than 2 minutes, you’re not giving your teeth the full benefits of brushing – and if you spit out the toothpaste too soon, that helpful fluoride and bacteria-scrubbing foam is not going where it needs to be.
  • Floss. Okay, this one has nothing to do with toothpaste – but bear with me. Flossing is so important! And not enough people do it regularly. It doesn’t matter how carefully you weigh your options in the toothpaste aisle if you go home and fail to floss. Flossing is one of the best things you can do for the health of your gums and teeth – so keep it up.

If you feel that the toothpaste options available to you are not doing a good enough job of cleaning your teeth, or if you have special concerns (sensitive gums, receding gums, stained or discolored teeth), talk to your dentist. Your dentist can recommend a dentifrice (sophisticated medical term for “toothpaste”) that you can’t get at the store which might be able to help.

April 16, 2015

I’m afraid of the dentist. What can I do?

462389477Dentists do our best to be approachable, friendly and reassuring for our patients. But some people find themselves afraid of us – not afraid of the smiling person in the white coat, but afraid of what happens in the dentist’s chair.

Dental fear, also known as dental phobia, odontophobia, or dentophobia, is surprisingly common – and it can be a serious problem for many people. People with extreme dental fear have serious qualms and reservations about going to see a dentist – so much so that they go out of their way to avoid making a dental appointment.

It’s perfectly normal to have some anxiety about going to the dentist – after all, most of us do not enjoy having our teeth drilled. Some of us are afraid of the discomfort or inconvenience that can arise from routine dental treatments – or we’re afraid of unpleasant surprises (“What? I have another cavity?”).

But for some people, anxiety about going to the dentist gets to the point where it actually harms their oral health. For approximately 5-10% of American adults, dental phobia is so severe that they avoid dental care at all costs.

Sadly enough, if you are afraid of going to the dentist, the worst thing you can do for yourself is to avoid going to the dentist. When people with dental phobia stay away from the dentist for too long, they tend to develop more severe, costly and uncomfortable dental problems. For example, if you’re afraid to get your teeth checked every six months, and so you go six years without seeing a dentist, in the end, you might find yourself with severe dental problems that require extensive treatment to correct – which means you’ll be seeing a lot more of your dentist than you had imagined!

So, if you find yourself paralyzed with anxiety about going to the dentist, what can you do?

Here are a few tips:

  • Talk to your dentist. It can be very difficult to do this, but it has to be done: tell your dentist about your struggles. If it’s too hard to talk directly, write it down in a letter and mail it to your dentist’s office. And you don’t have to say you’re “afraid” – just say, “I am struggling with some issues – I do not feel comfortable going to the dentist. I had some bad experiences earlier in life and I need to feel reassured about my dental care.”
  • Try a different dentist. Is there something about your dentist’s demeanor that makes you uneasy? Are you just not able to feel comfortable at your dentist’s office? Perhaps you should shop around. Interview a few other dentists, or ask friends for recommendations. There are usually other options available if you just don’t feel like your current dentist is a good fit. Some dentists even offer special services to help patients who suffer from dental fear – if you can find a good, empathetic dentist who understands your feelings, you might be surprised at how quickly your fears go away.
  • Breathe deeply. If you feel persistently anxious and uncomfortable while at your dentist’s office, your dentist can recommend some relaxations techniques that can help. Breathe in slowly through your nose and exhale out through your mouth.
  • Get informed. Sometimes people are most fearful about the things that are unfamiliar to them – so if you have anxiety about a certain dental procedure, ask your dentist to show you exactly what needs to be done. This will help you feel more in control of your dental care and not feel like things are just being done to you – it’s important to feel empowered about your health care, and dental care is no different.
  • Find help online. The Internet makes it possible for people who are struggling with almost any problem to find other people with similar challenges – and dental phobias are no exception. Do a Google search for “dental fear support group” and see what you can find – you can learn a lot just from reading other people’s ideas and helpful suggestions. You are not alone in your fear of going to the dentist. Many other people have been in your situation and have gone on to conquer the anxiety.

Don’t let fear and anxiety keep you from getting the oral health care that you need. Dental phobia is a real problem – but it can be helped.

January 16, 2015

I keep getting painful ulcers in my mouth – why?

465464685Mouth ulcers are a common problem for many people, and there are a number of possible types of mouth ulcers and many possible causes.

One of the most common types of mouth ulcer is a canker sore. These are painful and annoying, but usually not harmful. Canker sores can appear almost anywhere inside your mouth. They usually are caused by minor health issues or changes in your body – for example, emotional stress, minor deficiencies in your diet, hormonal changes, or a viral infection. Canker sores can also result from excessive tooth brushing, or biting your tongue or cheek.

Canker sores and other mouth ulcers are usually nothing to worry about, and they usually go away on their own. Some people get canker sores more often than others; they often run in families.

How can I treat mouth ulcers?

Most mouth ulcers can be treated by improved oral hygiene. Try using a mouthwash or gargle – even a simple homemade mixture of salt and warm water. Flush the sore spot a few times a day and see if it gets better.

If you have severe discomfort from the mouth ulcer, talk to your dentist. Your dentist can recommend an over-the-counter topical ointment that you can rub directly onto the ulcer – for example, an antihistamine or antacid. If these don’t do the trick, your dentist can prescribe other more advanced treatment  like corticosteroid medication.

Another way to relieve mouth ulcers is to avoid hot and spicy foods, as these tend to exacerbate the discomfort.

Mouth ulcers and oral cancer

It’s important to pay attention to what’s going on in your mouth. If you have an ulcer or sore spot in your mouth that won’t heal, you should call your dentist to get it looked at as soon as possible. Some mouth ulcers can be a sign of oral cancer – and oral cancer needs to be detected early so it can be treated.

If you have a sore or ulcer in your mouth that doesn’t go away on its own after 3 weeks, go see your dentist. Make sure to ask your dentist specifically about oral cancer – and if you’re not confident in your dentist’s ability to diagnose oral cancer, get a second opinion. If your dentist is concerned that the mouth ulcer may be a sign of oral cancer, you will need to get a biopsy of the affected area of your mouth.

I don’t mean to alarm anyone by writing this, but I can’t emphasize it enough: it is crucial to diagnose oral cancer in the early stages of the disease. If oral cancer is not caught early, it can lead to death. Oral cancer is one of the few types of cancer that have not had a decline in death rates during the past 20 years – it can be treated and cured, but if left undiagnosed it can be deadly.

Smokers, heavy drinkers and tobacco chewers are at the highest risk of getting oral cancer, but this type of cancer can occur in anyone. So be sure to pay attention to mouth ulcers when they happen – usually they’re nothing to worry about and will go away quickly, but if you have a bad mouth ulcer that has been around for awhile, it might be a sign of something much more serious.

December 16, 2014

What is a cavity?

A cavity is a hole in your tooth. Cavities are caused by tooth decay – the process of wearing down the tooth enamel that is caused by bacteria on the teeth.

Tooth decay happens as a result of sugar being left on the teeth – for example, after eating candy, cakes, cereals, breads, or other foods that contain starches, sugars and carbohydrates. Sugar is the culprit for tooth decay because bacteria that live on our teeth love to eat sugar – and when bacteria eat sugar, they digest the sugar and convert it into acid, which then goes to work attacking the enamel of our teeth.

This probably sounds menacing – it’s not! It’s perfectly normal to eat carbohydrates and sugar; it’s perfectly natural to have bacteria on your teeth – all people do. The problem happens when sugar is left to sit for extended periods on the surface of your teeth – or when we eat too much sugar and do not have a balanced diet. Then the bacteria in our mouths get out of control, leading to buildup of plaque – that thick, opaque substance on the surface of teeth – and the acid buildup on the surface of our teeth gets to be overwhelming. This is when tooth decay and cavities happen.

How can cavities be prevented?

Here are the two most important things you can do to prevent cavities:

  • Eat a good, balanced diet. Most people in modern-day America eat far too much sugar and carbohydrates. This is one of the contributing factors to the obesity rate, and it also leads to poor dental health. If you drink lots of soda and eat lots of sugary foods every day, you are going to be at higher risk for cavities. The health of your teeth is connected to the health of the rest of your body – and it starts with the kind of food that you are putting into your body.
  • Brush and floss every day. Think of the process of avoiding cavities as an ongoing battle – every day, the bacteria in your mouth go to work trying to damage your teeth, and you need to keep stopping them. By brushing your teeth (twice a day – once before bedtime and once in the morning) and flossing every day, you are helping to slow the buildup of plaque and avoid the harmful acids that can break down your tooth enamel over time. There’s no “magic bullet” for fighting cavities; instead it’s a process of ongoing, steady resistance.

What if I brush and floss, and still get cavities? Is something wrong with me?

Some people are at higher risk for getting cavities – even if they don’t have a high-sugar diet, even if they do have good brushing and flossing habits. Often people think of cavities as something that only happens to children who eat too much candy – but cavities can occur in older adults as well. Some people are at higher risk for cavities due to family history or due to the unique characteristics of their teeth. Pregnant women are often at higher risk for cavities because of the sugar cravings that often accompany pregnancy – so if you’re pregnant, pay extra attention to your dental care.

Cavities are best avoided – as with so many other aspects of health, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If you can do your best to avoid getting cavities, your teeth will thank you for it.

November 16, 2014

What is a filling? What are the different types?

178845072When you get a cavity in one of your teeth, you will need to get a filling. This is also called a “restoration” because it involves repairing and renewing a tooth. There are several main options for dental fillings – talk with your dentist to determine which option is best for you.

Fillings fall into two main categories: direct and indirect restorations. The type of filling you receive is affected in part by the type of restoration you need.

In a direct restoration, the work is fairly straightforward and uncomplicated –the dentist is able to remove any tooth decay, create the filling and complete the work of repairing the tooth all within the same office visit.

With an indirect restoration, the dental work is usually a bit more complicated and requires two or more visits to your dentist – for example, there might be bridgework involved that affects multiple teeth, or crowns or veneers to repair damaged teeth, or other complications. Your dentist will take an impression of your affected teeth and send the work to a dental laboratory to create the permanent restoration. Then, at a follow-up appointment, your dentist will do the final step of cementing the restoration onto your teeth.

Depending on whether you need a direct or indirect restoration, you and your dentist can choose from the following types of filling materials. Each one has its various advantages and disadvantages; your dentist can help you decide on the material that is best for your needs.

Direct restoration fillings:

  • Amalgam: This is the most common type of filling and has been used for over 100 years. The amalgam is made from a mixture of mercury, silver and other metals – they are often called “silver fillings” because of their silver color.
    • Advantages: Inexpensive, durable, highly resistant to further tooth decay, and can usually be placed in just one office visit. Amalgam also performs well as a biting surface – it holds up to the pressures and wear of chewing and eating over time.
    • Disadvantages: Placement of amalgam requires the removal of a small amount of healthy tooth material. Amalgam also tends to be less attractive looking than some of the other options for filling material – after all, natural teeth are not silver. For this reason, amalgam fillings are usually used only on the back teeth.


A note about amalgam and mercury: Some individuals and advocacy groups have questioned the safety of dental amalgam because it contains mercury and releases a small amount of mercury vapor over the course of its life. Dental amalgam has been the subject of numerous research studies over the years, and no valid scientific research has proven that dental amalgam causes harm to patients, except in rare cases of allergy. So if you need to get amalgam fillings, rest assured that they are safe – and if you do have an allergy to the materials, a different filling can be used.

  • Composite resin: Composite is made from a combination of acrylic resin and glass-like particles that create a natural-looking tooth material.
    • Advantages: Natural looking – the color can be matched to your existing teeth. It tends to allow for the preservation of a greater portion of the original tooth.
    • Disadvantages: Composite fillings are usually more expensive than metal fillings. They also tend to wear down faster and can be prone to breaking more often – resulting in the need for additional dental work in the future to repair or replace the fillings. Composite fillings cannot be used for certain situations – as always, talk to your dentist.
    • Glass ionomer: Glass ionomers are made from acrylic and glass powder and are used primarily for small fillings.
      • Advantages: Natural tooth color. Low incidence of allergic reaction – most people do not have allergies to this material. Glass ionomer fillings can be made to include fluoride to help resist further tooth decay.
      • Disadvantages: This is not as durable of a filling material as the other options – it is only used for small fillings and in areas that are not subject to a lot of heavy biting and chewing. This material can become rough as it ages, resulting in plaque buildup. It is also more costly than amalgam fillings – similar in price to composite resin.
      • Resin ionomer: This type of filling is made from glass filler, acrylic acids and acrylic resin. It is often used for fillings in baby teeth and on non-chewing surfaces.
        • Advantages: Natural tooth color – is even more translucent than glass ionomer fillings. Can contain fluoride. More durable than glass ionomer.
        • Disadvantages: Not recommended for biting surfaces in adult teeth; less durable than composite and amalgam.

Indirect restoration fillings:

  • Porcelain (ceramic): This type of filling material is commonly used in indirect restorations. The ceramic porcelain can also be fused to metal as part of the tooth restoration – which improves the durability of the filling but also increases the complexity and cost of the dental work.
    • Advantages: Natural tooth color. Requires very little healthy tooth material to be removed.
    • Disadvantages: Tends to be more brittle than other materials. May not be recommended for molars. Usually requires two or more office visits to place the filling, and tends to be more costly.
    • Gold (or other metal) alloy: Gold alloys (containing gold, copper and other metals) are another option for indirect restorations.
      • Advantages: Excellent durability, does not break under stress.
      • Disadvantages: Gold is usually the highest-cost option for a filling. Not a “natural” tooth color.

As always, talk with your dentist to find the right choice of fillings for your needs.

October 16, 2014

What is dry socket?

462039415It’s not most people’s idea of a good time, but sometimes it has to happen – sometimes a tooth needs to be pulled. This is what we in the dental profession call an “extraction” – a tooth is removed from a patient in order to treat decay, reduce crowding in the mouth, or to prevent infection and other problems (for example: Wisdom teeth).

Whenever a tooth is removed, the patient need to take certain precautions and follow guidelines to help care for their mouth as it heals. The site of the tooth extraction is going to be sore. There will be some bleeding. In the hours after the tooth is pulled, you will need to use ice, gauze and follow instructions closely to help ensure that your mouth heals properly.

But sometimes, in spite of all of our best efforts, something goes wrong, and the patient gets a “dry socket.”

What is “dry socket?”

Dry socket occurs when the blood clot in the site of the tooth extraction gets dislodged or washed away – exposing the nerves and jawbone below. This is not fun, to say the least; in fact, it hurts – a lot. Dry socket is not a great experience, but it can be prevented – and if you do get a dry socket, it can be treated.

Dry socket occurs in only about 3 to 5 percent of all tooth extractions – so most people will never experience dry socket. It’s much more common after removing Wisdom teeth – especially impacted Wisdom teeth that are embedded in the jawbone and are more complicated to remove.

How does dry socket happen?

When a tooth is removed, the gum line where the tooth used to be needs to heal. There is some bleeding whenever a tooth is pulled, but in time, the “socket” where the tooth used to be will fill in with a blood clot – the beginning of the new tissue that will form to fill in the gap.

The trouble is, sometimes this blood clot gets washed away or dislodged.  Or sometimes the blood clot never forms properly in the first place. There might be a bacterial infection in the socket, or roots and bone fragments that prevent the socket from healing properly. If a tooth was impacted (which tends to be more likely for Wisdom teeth in particular), it is often more difficult for the socket to heal.

How do I know if I have dry socket?

Usually whenever a tooth is pulled, the person’s mouth will quickly heal and start to feel better with each passing day. When a person has a dry socket, instead of gradually feeling better, there is a persistent and growing pain that tends to get worse. Here are some other signs of dry socket:

  • If you are feeling severe pain within a few days of getting a tooth removed…
  • If you look into your mouth and notice that the blood clot where the tooth used to be is missing (totally or partially), resulting in an empty-looking (“dry”) socket…
  • If you can see through to the jaw bone at the tooth socket…
  • If you feel pain that travels to your ear or eye on the same side of your face where your tooth was removed…
  • If you notice that you have bad breath or an unpleasant odor coming from your mouth…
  • If you have an extremely unpleasant taste in your mouth…
  • If the lymph nodes around your jaw or neck are swollen…

…then you might have dry socket. Call your dentist immediately to make an appointment.

How can dry socket be treated?

Dry socket is not pleasant, but it can easily be treated. It’s just a slightly longer and more complicated healing process than a “non-dry” socket. Here are some things to expect from dry socket treatment:

  • Medicated dressings: Your dentist will apply specially medicated dressings to the inside of your mouth to cover up the socket and protect your exposed nerve endings. This will help relieve pain and stimulate your gums and jawbone to heal.
  • Pain medication: Of course, you’re going to need pain relief. Your dentist can prescribe you some – or you might be able to treat the pain just with over-the-counter pills like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Flushing out the socket: Your dentist will give you self-care instructions on how to keep your dry socket clean and free of debris – this is a critical part of recovering from a dry socket.
  • Time: It takes awhile to recover from a dry socket – usually around 10-14 days. But most patients are able to return to school, work and normal activities within the first few days.

Having a dry socket can be painful and a bit discouraging, but if you quickly recognize the problem and can get treated, you’ll be on the road to recovery before you know it.

September 16, 2014

How often should I visit my dentist?

178067655People are busy. Life is getting more hectic all the time. It seems like we all have too many demands on us and too few hours in the day – so how can we find time to fit in a dental appointment along with everything else? Why do we have to go to the dentist, and how often should we go?

The short answer is: every six months.

The long answer is, well, longer…

Modern dentistry evolved in the past 50-60 years starting after World War II. One of the challenges faced by the U.S. during World War II was that the American military leaders discovered that many of their new Army recruits did not have very good teeth – in the “olden days,” the practice of dentistry was more focused on fixing problems (mainly: pulling teeth) than it was on preventing dental problems and maintaining overall dental health. Most Americans, especially those in small towns and rural areas, never saw a dentist unless they had a painful toothache, which usually led to having a tooth (or multiple teeth) pulled.

In the years since World War II, American dentistry has shifted its focus from “pulling teeth” to “preventing problems” – before they develop into more harmful, painful and costly oral health issues.

So this is the reason why you need to see your dentist every six months: even if you have good teeth and rarely have any problems with your oral health, your dentist needs to check up on your teeth just to make sure everything is OK. Your dentist is there to help maintain your overall oral health and prevent problems before they come up.

Even if you’ve never had a cavity in your life and you brush and floss every day, your dentist can detect problems with your teeth that you are unable to see. Your dentist can look for the signs of tooth decay and other warning signs so that if a problem with your teeth does start to develop, it can be fixed before it reaches a stage where it is more costly and difficult to correct.

Another benefit of going to the dentist every six months is to receive a thorough teeth cleaning from a dental hygienist. Most of us cannot come even close to getting our teeth as clean as they feel after a good scrubbing by the hygienist – and your dental hygienist can also help check for signs of trouble – whether it’s receding gums, bleeding gums or other potential warning signs.

In fact, for some patients, every six months might not be often enough. If you have a history of oral health problems, or if you are going through a particularly stressful time in your life, your dentist might want to see you more frequently. For example, pregnant women are often at higher risk for gingivitis – and severe gingivitis can be a risk factor for pre-term delivery and low-birthweight babies. If you are one of these “high-risk” dental patients, you might need to see your dentist even more often than every six months.

So that’s “the long answer!”

Even though we’re all busy and it’s hard to get excited about “yet another” appointment on the calendar, keeping your six-month appointment with your dentist is a good investment of your time – and money.

August 16, 2014

How often should I brush my teeth? Why?

general dentistryTooth brushing is one of the first lessons of personal care that we learn as children – for many of us, brushing our teeth is one of the first “health habits” that we are taught in life.

Brushing your teeth is the simplest and most cost-effective way to preserve your oral health and to enjoy a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. But it has to become a habit – it has to be something that you do every single day, whether you “feel like it” or not.

It’s interesting how often adults allow their tooth brushing to lapse. Or they might forget about the proper brushing technique, or how often to brush.

Do you know how often you’re supposed to brush your teeth? Let’s take a pop quiz:

People should brush their teeth….

  1. At least once a week
  2. Every day – in the morning
  3. Every day – at night
  4. Every day, but only after lunch
  5. Every day – twice a day – at night and in the morning

The answer is… e!

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that people brush their teeth twice every day – once at night before going to bed, and once in the morning. Brushing your teeth at night helps to remove bacteria and keeps your mouth clean while you sleep. Brushing your teeth in the morning helps freshen your breath and  removes any bacteria that built up during the long night of sleep.

But what if you only have time to brush your teeth once a day, or what if you forget?

In that case – and again, you should always try to brush twice each day – it’s most important to brush at night before going to bed. The reason? During the eight (or so) hours that you are asleep, the bacteria in your mouth have an entire night to themselves. This makes it especially important to brush your teeth before going to sleep.

For example, if you drink a can of soda or eat something sugary right before bed, and then go to sleep without brushing your teeth, you are basically allowing the bacteria on your teeth to have a party all night without supervision!

But by brushing your teeth at night, you are getting a head start on the constant battle that goes on inside your mouth every night. You are beating back the bacteria and preventing them from damaging your teeth and gums. (Okay, maybe it’s not always quite as dramatic as that – but you get the picture, right?)

Bonus tip:

In addition to brushing your teeth twice a day, the ADA recommends that you floss once a day as well. Flossing is important because it allows you to clean in between your teeth – removing bacteria and plaque, and keeping your gums healthy. Flossing helps keep your gums in shape – if you don’t floss often enough, your gums might bleed, which, if you’re not careful, can be a sign of possible gum disease and infections.

June 16, 2014

I have receding gums – what can I do?

Receding gums are one of the most common dental problems – especially after the age of 40. So if your dentist tells you that you have “receding gums,” don’t feel bad – you are not alone!

Thing of receding gums as being similar to having a “receding hairline” – it means that your gums are slipping backward, away from their regular position. (“Receding hairlines” are also more common after the age of 40.) Receding gums are a problem because they result in the nerves of your teeth getting exposed – and this can lead to pain and infection.

Here are several common causes of receding gums, and ideas for what to do about them:

  • Overly aggressive brushing. If you’re one of those people who likes to scrub your teeth really hard, this could be the reason why your gums are retreating. When you brush too hard, it scares away your gumline – and this can lead to the same dental problems that you were trying to avoid by brushing!

What to do: Lighten up. Use a toothbrush with softer bristles. Or buy an electric toothbrush that will provide a steady, consistent brushing motion.

  • Not enough brushing and flossing. The opposite end of the dental care spectrum can also lead to receding gums. If you don’t brush  and floss often enough, bacteria can build up between your teeth, leading to problems with the underlying bone structure of your mouth. 

What do do: Brush, brush, brush – and floss, too. A lot of people neglect to floss because they feel like they don’t have time, or because they don’t know how. You’ve got to discipline yourself to make oral hygiene a regular part of your day. Every night before bed and every morning when you wake up – brush your teeth. Your gums (and your fellow human beings) will appreciate it!

  • Gum disease. Often, receding gums can be a sign of a more serious problem – like gingivitis or other diseases of the gums.

What to do: Make sure to see your dentist regularly – every six months for a checkup. If you’re a regular visitor to your dentist’s office, he/she can help you keep track of the health of your gums, and can help to correct any serious issues. If you do have gum disease, you might need to be referred to a periodontist, a dental professional who specializes in diseases of the gums.

  • Other causes. Do you have braces, or are you undergoing other orthodontic work? This can contribute to receding gums, especially for older adults. Do you have any piercings in the lip or tongue? These piercings can rub against the gums, causing the gums to recede. Do you chew tobacco? This can be harmful to the gums as well.  Finally, receding gums can also be a sign of eating disorder – repeated vomiting can damage the gums and cause them to recede.

What to do: Talk to your dentist if any of these causes sound familiar – receding gums can be caused by a number of complex factors; it’s not always just a matter of changing to a softer toothbrush.

What if none of these solutions work? What else can I do to help solve my problem with receding gums?

If your receding gums are creating severe discomfort and inconvenience in your life, and none of the other solutions seems to help, you might ask your dentist about “gum grafts.”

Gum grafts are a type of surgical treatment for extreme cases of receding gums. In a gum graft surgery, a periodontist takes some tissue from the roof of the patient’s mouth and implants it onto the area of the gumline that is receding.

Another treatment that is still being researched is called “Guided Tissue Regeneration,” or GTR. This involves taking some blood cells from the patient and creating a collagen-based membrane which is then placed over the affected area of the gumline. Results from a recent Tufts University study have been promising, but this treatment is not yet widely available.

So if you have receding gums, don’t worry – it’s a common dental problem and there are a number of options for treatment.

May 16, 2014

What are Wisdom teeth?

wisdom teethAs soon you are born, your teeth start coming in. Over time, all of the “baby” teeth arrive, eventually falling out during childhood to be replaced by “permanent” or “adult” teeth.

The last teeth to arrive – the ones that indicate that you are truly “old” and (hopefully) “wise” – are your “Wisdom teeth.”

The Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars to appear, and they are placed at the very back of your mouth. These teeth usually appear when a person is in his/her late teens or early twenties. Wisdom teeth usually cause problems and need to be removed.

Why are Wisdom teeth such “troublemakers?”

Getting Wisdom teeth removed is a rite of passage – something almost everyone has to go through during the high school years or early adulthood. But why? What is it about Wisdom teeth that make them such “troublemakers?”

For one thing, Wisdom teeth are often misaligned. They tend to come in at odd angles that interfere with the rest of your teeth. If Wisdom teeth come in too close to your other teeth, they can crowd your teeth, causing damage and increasing the risk of tooth decay. Wisdom teeth can also trap plaque and debris, resulting in cavities and infection.

The other kind of complication that is often seen with Wisdom teeth is when the tooth becomes “impacted” – or permanently stuck within the jawbone or soft tissue of the gum line. Impacted Wisdom teeth can lead to infection, tooth decay and gum disease.

What can be done about Wisdom teeth?

Your dentist will monitor the growth and progress of your Wisdom teeth over the years. This is one of the things that dentists watch for on those dental X-rays that they take of your mouth – by keeping an eye on the Wisdom teeth, your dentist will know if the teeth are coming in crooked, if they are impacted, or if they are likely to cause other problems for the rest of your smile.

Often, your dentist will recommend getting your Wisdom teeth removed. It is usually easiest to remove Wisdom teeth before they cause any problems – and it is also easier to remove Wisdom teeth from people while they are young, because the roots of the teeth are not as solidly-entrenched. Wisdom teeth can be removed from older people, but the work to remove the teeth is often more difficult, and it takes longer for the person to heal afterwards.

How are Wisdom teeth removed?

It depends on the positioning of your Wisdom teeth and other factors. Some people are able to have their Wisdom teeth removed by their regular dentist with only some local anesthetic. Other people need to see an oral surgeon for more complex work – especially if their Wisdom teeth are impacted. Sometimes Wisdom teeth can be removed one at a time as they emerge within the mouth; for other patients, it’s best to remove all four Wisdom teeth at once.

Talk to your dentist if you have any concerns or questions. Again, almost everyone has to get their Wisdom teeth removed, and it tends to be a relatively easy experience.

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555 N. New Ballas Rd., Suite 355, St. Louis, MO 63141 USA
Dr. Jeffrey Dalin Dalin Dental Associates is the dental office of Dr. Jeffrey Dalin and is located in St. Louis, MO offering cosmetic dentistry, general and restorative dentistry to families. (314) 567-3555 (314) 567-9047