We believe everyone should be educated on dental health. Here is some educational material courtesy of your Austin dentist, McLane Family Dental.
We recommend patients brush twice a day (first thing in the morning and last thing before bedtime) with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Proper technique is important; you should brush all of the teeth on the inside and the outside, pressing just hard enough to bend the bristles and tickle the gums. It should take about two minutes to brush all of the teeth. Also, brushing the tongue helps keep breath fresh.
Everyone should floss once a day. Technique is important for flossing, too; you should floss in an up-and-down motion (not sawing), making sure to curve the floss around the tooth in front, and then the tooth behind. Be sure to floss the front and back of each tooth, and it’s also a good idea to floss behind the last tooth on each side.
While brushing and flossing are by far the most important aspects of daily oral hygiene, an oral rinse can be helpful. Ask us which rinses would be best for you.
Diet and Teeth
The frequency of your sugar intake is the most critical aspect of diet with respect to oral health. Every time sugar goes in your mouth, the bacteria in plaque use it to make acid, which causes cavities. This acid attack may last for up to twenty or thirty minutes each time. If this only happens with meals three times a day, this does not add up to a long time, but if someone sips on a sugary beverage – like soda, fruit juice, milk, or energy drinks- or eats sugary snacks between meals, these acid attacks can add up, increasing your risk of developing cavities.
Aside from simply cutting down on the frequency of sugar intake, you can minimize your exposure to these acids by drinking plenty of water, brushing your teeth after meals, and chewing sugar-free gum, especially those with the sweetener xylitol.
Sealants are a resin material that is placed in the pits and fissures of the chewing surfaces of teeth, particularly the molars, as toothbrushes can’t reach all the way into the grooves to clean them well. Sealants are typically recommended for newly erupted teeth in young children but they may also be recommended for anyone who is particularly prone to tooth decay. Dental sealants fill in and smooth out the grooves and fissures in teeth that tend to hide food particles and attract cavity-causing bacteria. Sealants work by ‘sealing out’ food particles and plaque which is helpful for even those with excellent oral hygiene habits because toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the deep depressions and grooves of teeth.
If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard the word “BPA” quite a few times in recent years. Bisphenol A (BPA) has been present in many consumer plastic products and food packaging since the 1960s. Some studies have suggested that BPA may have adverse health effects, which has raised concerns about its widespread use. Dental sealants and other resin materials do not contain BPA. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dental caries remain the most common chronic disease among children 6 to 19 years of age. Untreated cavities can cause pain, dysfunction, absence from school, poor appearance, and can lead to the spread of infection – problems that greatly affect a child’s quality of life. The utility of composite resin materials for both restoring dental health and preventing caries is well established, while any health risks from their use are not. The American Dental Association fully supports continued research into the safety of BPA but, based on current evidence, the ADA does not believe there is a basis for health concerns relative to BPA exposure from any dental material.
Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease)
Periodontal disease is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone that support the teeth. Periodontal disease can range from simple gum inflammation to a serious disease that results in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. It is caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms constantly on teeth. You can remove plaque by brushing twice a day and cleaning the spaces between your teeth daily with floss. If plaque is not removed, it can cause your gums to pull away from your teeth, forming pockets in which more bacteria can collect. Plaque that is not removed also hardens into calculus (tartar) along and under your gums. The pockets and hard calculus make it difficult to remove plaque without help from a dentist, and periodontal disease can develop. If left untreated, periodontal disease can damage the soft (gums) and hard (bone) tissues that support your teeth.
Symptoms of periodontal disease include bright red, swollen gums that bleed easily, gums that seem to have pulled away from the teeth, constant bad breath, and/or teeth that seem to be loose or moving away from one another. Various stages of periodontal disease range from gingivitis (early stage) to periodontitis (advanced disease). Certain risk factors that may increase your chances of developing periodontal disease, including heredity, poor oral hygiene, tobacco use, diabetes, poor nutrition, and decreased immune response, which can be caused by HIV/AIDS or chemotherapy.
The early form of periodontal disease, gingivitis, can generally be reversed with a professional dental cleaning and more regular daily care at home. More advanced forms of the disease require cleanings with specialized instruments that go more deeply below the gum line. This procedure is known as Scaling and Root Planing (SRP), sometimes called a ‘deep cleaning.’ After the SRP is completed, regular, more frequent dental cleanings are necessary to keep the disease at bay. In more advanced or aggressive cases of periodontal disease, your dentist may refer you to a periodontist for specialized treatment and regular cleanings to manage the disease. It is important to know that periodontal disease cannot be cured, but its symptoms can be managed by a dentist or periodontist to prevent further destruction of the supportive tissues of the teeth.
Research has shown that periodontal disease is associated with several other systemic diseases and has shown that inflammation may be responsible for this association. Therefore, treating inflammation may not only help manage periodontal diseases but may also help with the management of other chronic inflammatory conditions. In addition, several studies have shown a strong association between periodontal disease and heart disease, with many findings indicating that periodontal disease increases the risk of developing heart disease. Periodontal disease can also exacerbate existing heart conditions. Patients at risk for infective endocarditis may require antibiotics prior to dental procedures. Your dentist and cardiologist will be able to determine if your heart condition requires use of antibiotics prior to dental procedures.
Dental Pain Management and Sedation Dentistry
Many patients avoid seeing their dentist for fear that it will hurt. A visit to your dentist does not have to be a painful experience! A number of different techniques and medications may be used by your dentist to control pain, depending on your condition. These techniques and medications are used to fight certain oral diseases, to prevent or treat infections, or to control pain and relieve anxiety. Local anesthesia, general anesthesia, nitrous oxide, or sedation techniques are commonly used in dental procedures to help control pain and anxiety. Other pain relievers used for more chronic dental pain include prescription or non-prescription anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Anxiety about receiving dental treatment is normal and quite common. However, avoiding the dentist due to fear and anxiety only causes dental disease to worsen, leading to the need for more complex and expensive treatment and/or eventual loss of teeth. During any dental procedure that may cause pain, your dentist will anesthetize the area to be treated. Once the area is numbed, you are not expected to feel pain. If anxiety is a problem for you, there are several techniques that can be used to manage it. Oral anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed and taken prior to the treatment appointment, greatly reducing any anxiety the patient may feel about the treatment. Nitrous oxide, known as laughing gas, is another option to manage anxiety. Nitrous oxide is a safe and effective sedative agent that is mixed with oxygen and inhaled through a small mask that fits over your nose and helps you relax during your dental procedure. Once the procedure is completed, the patient breathes pure oxygen for a few minutes and the effects of the nitrous oxide are reversed. Nitrous oxide has few side effects, and the patient may return to normal daily activities following their dental procedure.
Some patients have a more intense fear of the dentist than most. For those patients, sedation dentistry may be an option to ease anxiety enough to allow them to undergo necessary dental care. Several levels of sedation, from mild sedation – nitrous oxide inhalation- to general IV sedation. Many patients, even those with severe anxiety, undergo dental treatment successfully with a mid-level sedation known as conscious sedation. This type of sedation is achieved with an oral medication that may be combined with inhaled nitrous oxide. In conscious sedation, the patient is very drowsy, but remains conscious throughout the procedure and is able to respond to simple commands. Dental treatment is much easier to render on a conscious patient, and conscious sedation carries a much lower risk of complications than deep, general IV sedation. Some patients become so relaxed that they fall asleep during the procedure, but can usually be awakened with a gentle shake.
Bruxism (Grinding, Clenching Teeth)
Bruxism is a condition in which the affected person grinds or clenches their teeth. Some people exhibit this behavior only when they are asleep. Sleep bruxism is considered a sleep-related disorder, and a person who clenches or grinds their teeth during sleep is more likely to have other sleep disorders, such as snoring and pauses in breathing, known as sleep apnea. Causes of teeth grinding may include anything from high stress to an abnormal bite to crooked teeth. The masseter, the cheek muscle that helps us chew, is one of the strongest muscles in the entire body; it can exert up to 600 pounds of force per square inch on the molars in the rear of our mouths. It’s quite a strong muscle and can have a big impact on jaw and mouth health.
Mild bruxism may not require treatment. However, in some people, bruxism can be frequent and severe enough to lead to jaw disorders, headaches, receding gums, wear of teeth enamel, and damaged or broken teeth. If you have noticed any of these symptoms in your own teeth, you may grind, or brux, your teeth and not even realize it.
Bruxism’s most common cause is stress and therefore may be treated by reducing any stressors that may cause the behavior Since that is more easily said than done, the use of an occlusal guard or mouth guard, is the best treatment to prevent damage to teeth. An occlusal guard is a custom-made device that fits over the chewing surfaces of the teeth and works to reduce the ability of the wearer to exert heavy forces on the teeth. It also protects the surfaces of the teeth by preventing the top teeth from sliding against the bottom teeth, thereby preventing enamel wear and tooth damage. Your dental professional can help you manage bruxism complications and keep your teeth strong and healthy for a lifetime.
At McLane Family Dental, we are honored to provide exceptional dental care to everyone in Austin Texas. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment with a dentist from our team!