Preventive Dentistry for Mt. Holly Families
Regular Dental Checkups & Cleanings
Technically called a prophylaxis, it removes the stains and hard deposits (calculus) from the teeth that your toothbrush can’t get off. It is usually performed at an interval of 3 to 6 months, depending on the rate at which stain and calculus accumulate. The process begins as a result of the growth of bacteria, which are normal inhabitants of everyone’s mouth. They grow around the teeth and below the gum line to form a soft, sticky mass called plaque. Removal of the plaque is the goal of daily oral hygiene – brushing and flossing. Minerals from saliva will gradually be absorbed into the plaque and cause it to harden into calculus. At this point, a toothbrush and floss just won’t get the job done. As calculus accumulates, larger plaque deposits can form in areas in areas where the toothbrush can no longer reach. The problem can snowball into a real ‘coral reef’.
We often call it a check-up and cleaning, but it's really much more than that. Of course we do a thorough tooth cleaning, check for cavities, periodontal disease, and TMJ problems. But did you know that we also screen for diseases that involve the oral structures and general health. Your periodic maintenance visits are an integral part of your total wellness program.
Sealants are a thin, clear, plastic coating over teeth that protects the smile from cavities that may form in the pits and crevices of teeth. In most cases, we recommend dental sealants for the back teeth, molars. These larger teeth are used to chew and grind food, and the biting surfaces of these teeth have deep grooves. Sometimes these crevices in teeth cannot even be accessed by a single toothbrush bristle allowing bacteria to colonize these spaces leading to plaque and tartar buildup and tooth decay. For younger patients who are just learning to care for their teeth and adults who are at increased risk for decay, dental sealants fill in the pits and grooves in the surfaces of teeth sealing out bacteria and plaque and preventing decay. Applied to teeth quickly and painfully during any dental checkup, sealants are a fast, effective preventive dentistry tool. The only difficulty we run into when applying sealants is keeping the teeth dry. Some very young or uncooperative children are not good candidates for this treatment as they are unable to sit still long enough for us to safely and effectively place the dental sealant.
Periodontal Charting and Diagnostics
This is a routine part of every examination. We continually monitor your mouth for any signs of periodontal disease, and we do a complete periodontal exam and charting on an annual basis. This is crucial for the health of your teeth and gums. Considering the growing evidence of the link between periodontal disease and heart disease, periodontal health can be a real lifesaver.
Non-Surgical Periodontal Treatment
For those who have periodontal disease, after discussing the treatment options, our recommendation will always be the most conservative therapy that has the best chance of succeeding. If the problem is slight, the recommendation might be a simple as more frequent professional dental cleanings. If the problem is more established, we may recommend scaling, sometimes called deep cleaning. This involves a detailed removal of all hard deposits from the root surfaces of the teeth and disrupting and flushing away of the bacteria that grow under the gum line. There are many additional treatment options available, depending on the specifics of the individual situation.
If you unconsciously grind or clench your teeth due to stress, out of habit, or while sleeping, you are suffering from a common oral health condition known as bruxism. About 1 in 3 patients experience some level of bruxism, and it is more common among women. Many patients experience this unconscious teeth grinding and clenching from the time they are children. Bruxism is often linked to those people who are anxious, aggressive, or competitive. These patients may also have other biting habits like nail biting, lip biting, chewing on pencils or ice, and other objects. In most cases, we will recommend patients wear a custom crafted mouth guard during sleep. These guards allow the jaw to rest in its most comfortable position reducing the amount of unnecessary jaw movement, and protect teeth from the potential damage of grinding and clenching.
The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) connect the jawbone to the skull. These joints allow for comfortable, fluid jaw movement. Strain or damage to the TMJ, known as TMJ dysfunction or TMD, has many causes, but often unconscious teeth grinding leads to this disorder. For this reason, the first step in relieving the pain of TMD and restoring full jaw motion may be fitting for a custom nightguard. We may also recommend daily jaw stretches, behavioral changes, and other therapies to relieve TMJ pain. We may notice warning signs of TMD during dental checkups, but we encourage patients to contact us if they experience any of the common symptoms including:
- Inability to fully extend the jaw
- Pain or discomfort when chewing or speaking
- Clicking or grinding sound when opening and closing the mouth
Millions of people experience chronic bad breath, halitosis. In most cases, this is caused by poor oral hygiene that leaves food particles behind on teeth. As food and other debris breaks down in the mouth, it produces sulfur compounds that release a strong, foul odor. Think of the way food smells as it rots. Now imagine this in your mouth. It’s really not surprising that poor oral hygiene leads to bad breath.
In less frequent cases, halitosis may occur due to chronic or systemic illnesses including:
- Gum disease
- Kidney or liver failure
- Chronic snoring or sleep apnea
Additionally, dry mouth may lead to chronic bad breath. Saliva neutralizes the acidic bacteria and keeps the mouth free from decay. Dry mouth leads to increased decay and possibly halitosis. Other conditions that may increase bad breath include aging, hormonal fluctuations, changes in diet, aging, and stress. No matter what causes halitosis, there are a number of at-home and in-office dental treatments we may recommend to improve bad breath.
The first step to achieving better breath everyday should be improving daily oral hygiene routines. That means patients should brush their teeth and tongue for two minutes at a time at least two times each day and floss at least once daily. In some cases, investing in a tongue scraper to remove buildup on the surface of the tongue is effective in improving bad breath. Additionally, we encourage patients to visit our office at least two times each year for professional teeth cleanings. Our hygienists carefully remove plaque and tartar buildup from the hard to reach parts of teeth. Another important part of keeping breath fresh is thoroughly cleaning oral appliances between uses. This includes partial and full dentures, athletic mouthguards, nightguards for bruxism, and orthodontic retainers. If you’re unsure how to properly care for your teeth or oral appliances, don’t hesitate to ask our dentist or hygienist for an explanation or demonstration of proper at-home care, during your next appointment.
If you have already been practicing through oral hygiene and halitosis persists, we have a number of professional oral rinses and toothpastes that are designed to target the bacteria that lead to bad breath. Halitosis can also be an early warning sign of a number of chronic illnesses, and we may recommend following up with your physician.
When it comes to oral health, children deserve a special level of care and attention. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42 percent of children aged 2 to 11 have had cavities in baby teeth and 21 percent of those aged 6 to 11 have had cavities in permanent teeth. To combat these epidemic rates of tooth decay, it’s crucial that you know the right steps to protect their teeth, including their baby teeth.