How dental x-rays help improve your oral health

Many diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissues cannot be seen when your dentist examines your mouth so an X-ray examination can reveal important additional information:

For example, X-rays can help show:
– Small areas of decay between the teeth or below existing fillings
– Infections in the bone
– Gum disease
– Abscesses or cysts
– Developmental abnormalities
– Some types of tumors

The way they work is that more X-rays are absorbed by the denser parts (such as teeth and bone) than by soft tissues (such as cheeks and gums). This creates an image called a radiograph.

Tooth decay, infections and signs of gum disease appear darker because of more X-ray penetration. The interpretation of these radiographs allows the dentist to safely and accurately detect hidden abnormalities.

The frequency of X-rays (radiographs) will depend on your specific health needs.

Your dentist will review your history, examine your mouth and decide whether you need radiographs and what type.

When you are a new patient, the dentist may recommend radiographs to establish how the hidden areas of your mouth currently look to help identify changes that occur later.

X-rays can help identify and treat dental problems at an early stage and so can save time, money and unnecessary discomfort.

Why a dental abscess should be treated quickly

If you have any kind of swelling in your gum, it almost certainly indicates a serious infection that should be treated urgently.

Dental abscesses result from a bacterial infection in the teeth or gums.

For example, it may come from an untreated cavity. Cavities result when some of the bacteria in our mouths mix with sugars and starches in our diet to produce acid.

This acid attacks the hard enamel coating of our teeth and, as the cavity gets deeper, it eventually infects the nerve and blood supply of the tooth.

In some cases, a dental abscess is caused by an infection of the gum. Bone loss from gum disease can create a pocket between the tooth, gum and bone.

When bacteria and other debris get into this pocket, an abscess can form.

The treatment for an abscess depends on how severe the infection is.

If the abscess has been caused by decay, root canal treatment may be needed or the tooth may even have to be removed.

If the abscess has been caused by the gum, the gum will need deep cleaning or surgical treatment. Again the tooth may need to be removed.

Sometimes, a small incision may be made into the gum to drain the abscess. If this happens, antibiotics and pain medication may be used to relieve discomfort.

If you wait until the gum is severely swollen before seeking treatment, the situation can become very serious.

The abscess at this stage can prevent you breathing properly and can be life-threatenting.

So if you have any signs of swelling in your gum, contact your dentist immediately.

Dental plaque – what it is and how to avoid it

You’ve probably heard people talking about plaque and maybe you’ve some idea of what it is.

But it’s useful to know a bit more about it so that you can do what’s necessary to minimize the risks.

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums.

When you’ve eaten a meal or snack, the bacteria in plaque release acids that attack tooth enamel. When this happens regularly, the enamel can weaken. This eventually leads to tooth decay.

The food we eat often causes plaque bacteria to produce acids. So, if you eat a lot of snacks, your teeth may be suffering acid attacks all day.

If you don’t remove the plaque through effective daily brushing and cleaning between the teeth, it can eventually harden into calculus or tartar.

Another effect of plaque is that it also produces substances that irritate the gums, making them red and tender or causing them to bleed easily.

If you want to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, make sure you have a balanced diet and avoid having too many snacks between meals.

When you feel like a snack, go for foods such as raw vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese or a piece of fruit.

How orthodontic treatment could help you

Orthodontic treatment is the process of straightening out crooked and crowded teeth, often using appliances such as braces.

Most dentists are trained to treat some minor orthodontic problems but, if they feel a patient needs specialist treatment, they will provide a referral to an orthodontist.

An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities.

One of the main aims of orthodontics is to straighten teeth and correct jaw alignment through braces, corrective procedures and other “appliances”.

Braces are the most common appliance and there are two types:

– Fixed, which are worn all the time and can only be removed by the dentist
– Removable, which the patient can take out of the mouth

Most patients wear braces for between one and three years, depending on what conditions need correcting. This is followed by a period of wearing a “retainer” that holds teeth in their new positions.

There may be a little discomfort during treatment but modern braces are more comfortable than ever before. They apply a constant, gentle force to move teeth and usually require fewer adjustments than older apparatus.

While braces work best when children are still growing, they can be effective at any age.

How cosmetic dentistry can change your smile – and your life

Modern cosmetic dentistry has created many opportunities that did not exist before for people to improve their appearance and change the way they feel about themselves.

Although cosmetic dentistry really did not exist a few yaears ago, it now attracts interest from a wide range of people.

There are few people who don’t want to improve their appearance by making their teeth straighter and whiter so that they look better when they smile.

New technology and procedures have created many more opportunities for dentists to help patients look better.

One of the most important opportunities for doing this is porcelain veneers.

These are custom-made wafers that the dentist places over the front of the teeth to repair damage and make them look better.

They can overcome many cosmetic dental problems such as whitening stained or discolored teeth, closing gaps between teeth or correcting a crooked smile without the need for braces.

They can also cover up chips and imperfections so that the smile looks much better.

Another important cosmetic trend is the increased use of white fillings.

White fillings now are more lifelike than ever and they last longer than previously.

They have become the material of choice for many dentists as they blend in with teeth and look better.

If you feel your smile is less than perfect, talk to your dentist about how it could be better.

How the food you eat can cause tooth decay

When you put food in your mouth, it immediately meets the bacteria that live there.

Plaque, for example, is a sticky film of bacteria.

These bacteria love the sugars found in many foods. So, when you don’t clean your teeth after eating, the bacteria and the sugar can combine to produce acids which can destroy the enamel – the hard surface of the tooth.

In time, this can lead to tooth decay. The more often you eat and the longer foods are in your mouth, the more damage occurs.

Many foods that are nutritious and important in our diet contain sugars – such as fruits, milk, bread, cereals and even vegetables.

So the key is not to try and avoid sugar but to think before you eat.

When you eat is also important because each time you eat food that contains sugars, the teeth are attacked by acids for 20 minutes or more.

This means that foods that are eaten as part of a meal cause less harm. More saliva is released during a meal, helping to wash foods from the mouth and reduce the effects of acids.

Here are some tips to follow when choosing your meals and snacks.
– Eat a variety of foods from different food groups
– Limit the number of snacks that you eat
– If you do snack, choose nutritious foods, such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt, or a piece of fruit

It’s also important to brush your teeth twice a day and to clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners.

And of course regular visits to your dentist will help prevent problems from occurring and catch those that do occur while they are easier to treat.

The difference between canker sores and cold sores

Although canker sores are often confused with cold sores, there is a difference.

Canker sores occur inside the mouth, and cold sores usually occur outside the mouth.

Canker sores are small ulcers with a white or gray base and a red border. There can be one or more sores in the mouth. They are very common and often recur.

They usually heal in a week or two and rinsing with antimicrobial mouthrinses may help reduce the irritation.

Cold sores – also called fever blisters – are composed of groups of painful, fluid-filled blisters that often erupt around the lips and sometimes under the nose or chin.

Cold sores are usually caused by herpes virus type I and are very contagious. They usually heal in about a week.

Over-the-counter topical anesthetics can provide temporary relief and prescription antiviral drugs may reduce these kinds of viral infections.

Why it’s not inevitable that you’ll lose your teeth as you get older

Advancements in dental techniques and the increased focus on preventive dentistry means older adults are keeping their natural teeth longer than ever before.

A survey by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research showed that the rate of toothlessness in the 55 to 64 age group has dropped 60 percent since 1960.

Whatever your age, it’s important to practice good oral hygiene at home and to visit your dentist regularly. A few simple steps can help you maintain good oral health throughout your life.

Plaque, the sticky, colorless layer of bacteria that causes tooth decay and gum disease, can build up quickly on the teeth of older adults, particularly when they neglect oral hygiene. This can increase the risk for tooth decay and periodontal disease.

So it’s important to brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners.

Regular dental checkups are also an important part of caring for your teeth.

This can help you save your teeth and gums and prevent other dental problems. It will save you time and money in the long-run as well.

Root canal treatment

Root canal therapy is an important treatment that can save a tooth with a diseased nerve and which in the past would probably have needed to be removed.

Inside each tooth is the ‘pulp’ which runs like a thread down through the root and provides nutrients and nerves to the tooth. It is the soft tissue that contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue.

If the pulp is diseased or injured, the pulp tissue dies.

The most common cause of pulp death is a cracked tooth or a deep cavity. Both of these problems can let bacteria enter the pulp.

So, if you don’t remove it, your tooth gets infected and you could lose it.

After the dentist – or endodontist (a dentist who specializes in problems of the pulp) – removes the pulp, the root canal is cleaned and sealed off to protect it. Then your dentist places a crown over the tooth to help make it stronger.

Most of the time, a root canal is a relatively simple procedure involving one to three visits with little or no discomfort.

Your restored tooth could last a lifetime, if you continue to care for your teeth and gums and enjoy regular checkups.