While you may most associate professional dental cleanings with that “squeaky” clean feeling you have afterward, there is a much higher goal. What is also referred to as “non-surgical periodontal therapy,” these cleanings seek to remove bacterial plaque and tartar (hard deposits) not only from the visible portions of the tooth but also the root surfaces (scaling), so as to reduce the risk and occurrence of periodontal gum disease.
For generations, this was primarily achieved by dental hygienists using hand-held instruments specially designed to manually remove plaque from tooth surfaces. Since the 1950s, though, a new technology known as ultrasonic or power scaling has become more prevalent in use. Initially only used in the outer most portions of the gum tissue (the supra-gingival area) power scaling is increasingly employed to clean the sub-gingival area, much closer to the tooth roots. As this technology has developed, it’s been shown to be just as effective, if not superior in some cases, to manual scaling for removing plaque and tartar.
Ultrasonic or power scalers work by emitting high vibration energy that crushes and removes plaque and calculus (tartar). The resulting shockwaves also tend to disrupt bacterial cell function. The hygienist uses water to flush away the dislodged calculus. They have a number of advantages over manual scaling: they’re quite effective on deep gum pockets, especially when specially designed tips are used; they require less time than manual scaling; and when used correctly power scalers are gentler to tooth structures.
However, they do have a few drawbacks. Because they produce an aerosol effect, power scalers can project contaminants from the patient’s mouth into the atmosphere, requiring special protective equipment for the hygienist. They’re not recommended for patients with hypersensitive teeth, especially regarding temperature change, or for teeth with areas of de-mineralization (the loss of mineral content in the enamel). Care should be taken when they’re used with implants or porcelain or composite crowns — specially designed tips are necessary to avoid scratching the restoration. They may also have an effect on cardiac pacemakers.
In the end, the best approach is a combination of both power and manual scaling techniques. Depending on your individual needs, ultrasonic scaling can do an effective job in removing plaque and tartar and help you avoid gum disease.
If you would like more information on ultrasonic cleaning techniques, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Cleanings Using Ultrasonic Scalers.”
We all know that dentistry can do amazing things these days to give you the smile you've always dreamed of. With the latest cosmetic and restorative dental techniques, it is possible to achieve amazingly natural-looking results. But how do we map out the best route to a better smile? And how do we know that the results will hold up over time?
Every individual has a unique set of conditions in his or her mouth and it is our job to figure out how you have come to your present state, dentally speaking. We need to correct or at least manage any factors that could risk the success of your treatment. These risk factors fall into four basic categories:
Periodontal Risk — This involves the condition of the structures that support your teeth, including your gum and bone tissue. It's important to establish good periodontal health before we perform any restorative or cosmetic procedures.
Biomechanical Risk — This has to do with the structural integrity of your teeth. We will look at whether any tooth structure has been lost due to decay, and take steps to reduce your susceptibility to decay if necessary.
Functional Risk — This relates to your bite: how your teeth, muscles and jaw joints are functioning. For example, do you have excessive tooth wear or joint pain? If so, you are at a higher risk in this category and we need to figure out why.
Aesthetic Risk — This is the most subjective of the categories as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Still, if you display a lot of your teeth and gums when you smile, any issues you have (gum recession, for example) will be that much more visible and affect your smile more. We will have to take this into account when we plan your treatment.
Only when we have determined how best to minimize your risk in all four of these categories can we restore or enhance your smile in a way that will not only look great but also last as long as possible.
Have you been avoiding seeing a dentist because you are afraid that the visit might be unpleasant or painful? Are you unhappy with the appearance of your teeth and the health of your mouth, even envious of others who are able to visit their dentist without hesitation?
If you've answered yes to these questions, you are not alone. Many people experience some anxiety about visiting their dentist. Some fears are based on past negative experiences, indirectly influenced by family members or friends, or even by images seen in the movies. Regardless of the origin of your fear, we will work with you to turn negative perceptions or experiences into positive ones. The most important thing to remember is that allowing dental problems to remain untreated can have bad consequences, including toothache, infection, poor appearance and even general health complications.
We will listen to you and even encourage you to express your feelings. Tell us the details of your fear and anxiety. You won't be judged but, instead, we want to understand exactly what troubles you, so that together we help you overcome what is preventing you from getting the care you want and need.
You will be in control at all times and we will never rush you. First we'll spend the time necessary to get you comfortable, before we even do any dentistry. After all, attempting to rush through a procedure may only incite more anxiety, and that is the last thing we want to do! We want you to leave our office with the feeling that you can more comfortably see us again building on your last positive experience.
If you would like to talk to us about what's bothering you and begin working together towards a solution, please call us today to schedule a consultation. To learn more about how patients and dentists can work together to eradicate dental fear, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Overcoming Dental Fear & Anxiety.”
Although usually not considered a serious health condition, bad breath is nonetheless one of the most embarrassing conditions related to the mouth. Although some serious systemic diseases may result in mouth odor, most cases originate in the mouth or nose. Bacteria are usually the culprit — certain types of the organism can excrete volatile sulphur compounds, which emit a rotten egg or rotten fish smell.
The largest breeding ground for bacteria is the tongue, typically in the back where saliva and hygiene efforts aren’t as efficient in removing food remnants. A bacterial coating can develop on the surface of the tongue, much like the plaque that can adhere to teeth; the coating becomes a haven for bacteria that cause bad breath.
There seems to be a propensity in some people who exhibit chronic bad breath to develop this tongue coating. To rid the tongue of this coating, people with this susceptibility could benefit from the use of a tongue brush or scraper. These hygienic devices are specifically designed for the shape and texture of the tongue to effectively remove any bacterial coating. Toothbrushes, which are designed for the hard surface of the teeth, have been shown not to be as effective in removing the coating as a tongue scraper.
Before considering using a tongue scraper you should consult with your dentist first. If you suspect you have chronic bad breath, it’s important to determine the exact cause. Using a tongue scraper is unnecessary unless there’s an identifiable coating that is contributing to the bad odor. It’s also a good idea to obtain instruction from your dentist on the best techniques for using a tongue scraper to be as effective as possible and to avoid damaging soft tissues from over-aggressive use.
In addition, don’t neglect other hygiene habits like brushing, flossing and regular cleanings. Removing as much bacterial plaque as you can contributes not only to a healthier mouth but also pleasanter breath.
If you would like more information on the tongue and halitosis, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tongue Scraping.”
Youth sports can be a positive life experience for your child or teenager. But there's also a risk of injury in many sporting activities, including to the teeth and mouth. An injury to the mouth, especially for a child or young adolescent whose teeth are still developing, can have a significant negative impact on their oral health.
When it comes to teeth or mouth injuries, the best preventive measure is for your child to wear an athletic mouthguard, especially for contact sports like football, hockey or soccer. But be warned: not all mouthguards are alike — and neither is their level of protection.
Mouthguards can be classified into three types. The first is known as “stock,” which is the least expensive and offers the least level of protection. They usually are available only in limited sizes (small, medium, large, etc.) and cannot be custom-fitted for the individual. This significantly lowers their protective ability, and thus we do not recommend these to our patients.
The next type is referred to as “boil and bite.” These mouthguards are made of a material called thermoplastic, which becomes pliable when heated. When first purchased, the guard is placed in boiling water until soft; the individual can then place them in the mouth and bite down or press the guard into the teeth until it hardens and forms to their palates. Although this type offers a better fit and more protection than stock mouthguards, it isn't the highest level of protection available.
That distinction goes to the last type — a custom mouthguard made by a dentist. Although the most expensive of the three, it offers the best fit and the highest level of protection. A well-made custom mouthguard is tear-resistant, fits comfortably, is easy to clean and doesn't restrict speaking and breathing. We recommend this guard as your best alternative for protecting your child athlete from tooth and mouth damage.
If you would like more information on the use of athletic mouthguards for young athletes, contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Mouthguards.”
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