Making the most of your smile

Your smile is a major factor in the impression people get when they meet you.

And the good news is that you now don’t have to settle for a smile spoiled by stained, chipped, or misshapen teeth.

Advances in dental treatment mean there is a wide range of choices to help you get the smile that you want. Here are some of the options:
– Tooth whitening (bleaching) can help brighten teeth that have become discolored or stained. It can be done in the dental office or with a system the dentist can give you to use at home
– Bonding improves the appearance of teeth that have become chipped, broken, cracked or stained. This is done by bonding tooth-colored materials to the tooth surface
– Enamel shaping involves modifying teeth to improve their appearance by removing or contouring enamel
– Veneers are thin custom-made shells of tooth-colored materials designed to cover the front side of teeth. They are used to treat spaces between teeth and teeth that are chipped, stained or poorly shaped.
– Braces may be needed if teeth are crooked, crowded or do not meet properly – and not just for kids

Even small changes can have a big impact on your smile and so make a huge difference to how you look and how you feel about yourself.

If you’d like an even better smile, your dentist will be able to give you information about the options available.

Tips for people with difficulty handling a toothbrush

There are many people who find it difficult to look after their dental health properly because they have problems handling a toothbrush.

This can be due to a severe physical disability or simply basic dexterity problems.

There are a few simple steps you can take to make it easier for people who find it difficult to hold on to a toothbrush or dental floss.

Here are some simple ‘home remedies’:

– Use a wide elastic band to attach the brush to the hand

– Enlarge the brush handle with a sponge, rubber ball or bicycle handle grip

– Wind an elastic bandage or adhesive tape around the handle

– Lengthen the handle with a piece of wood or plastic such as a ruler, popsicle stick or tongue depressor

– Tie floss into a loop for easier handling

– Use an electric toothbrush or commercial floss holder

Your dentist will be able to provide specific guidance and further tips for people who need an easier way to handle a toothbrush and floss.

How removable partial dentures can help you

Removable partial dentures usually involve replacement teeth attached to plastic bases, connected by metal framework.

They attach to your natural teeth with metal clasps or precision attachments. Precision attachments generally look better than metal clasps and are nearly invisible.

Crowns may be required on your natural teeth to improve the fit of a removable partial denture.

When you first get a partial denture, it may feel awkward or bulky. But you will gradually get used to wearing it.

It will also take a bit of practice to get used to inserting and removing the denture. It should fit into place easily and you should never force it.

Your dentist may suggest that you wear your partial denture all the time at first. While it will be uncomfortable for a while, it will help you identify if any parts of the denture need adjustment.

After making adjustments, your dentist will probably recommend that you take the denture out of your mouth before going to bed and replace it in the morning.

With a denture, eating should become a more pleasant experience compared to having missing teeth.

But, initially, youll need to eat soft foods cut into small pieces. And avoid foods that are extremely sticky or hard.

Some people with missing teeth find it hard to speak clearly so wearing a partial denture may help. However, youll probably need to practice certain words at first to get completely comfortable.

While it can take a little geting used to initially, a partial denture can help you enjoy your food with less worries.

How a baby’s first teeth develop

A newly born baby usually has no teeth visible but most have begun to develop primary or baby teeth.

These generally begin to appear about six months after birth.

Over their first few years, they will develop all 20 primary teeth and will usually have them all in place by age three.

The teething process is uncomfortable for many babies and they can become sleepless and irritable. They also might lose their appetite or drool more than usual.

If your infant has a fever or diarrhea while teething or continues to be cranky and uncomfortable, call your physician.

Sometimes when a tooth erupts, an eruption cyst may develop. The tooth will eventually rupture this as it pushes through the gums and these cysts are usually harmless and should be left alone.

If a baby has sore or tender gums when they are teething, it can help to gently rub the gum with a clean finger, a small, cool spoon or a wet gauze pad.

When this happens, your dentist or pediatrician may suggest a pacifier, teething ring or a special numbing salve for the gums.

When the teeth begin to erupt, you should brush them with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a little water to prevent tooth decay.

Toothpaste is not recommended until a child reaches age two. When a child begins using toothpaste, you need to supervise the brushing to make sure they don’t swallow it.

Regular dental checks should begin after your child’s first tooth appears or by their first birthday.

Caring for people who have special needs

People at any age can have a condition that makes it difficult for them to look after their own dental health.

This could affect people who suffer from a wide range of conditons such as stroke, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, mental retardation, Down syndrome, genetic disorders, Alzheimers disease or arthritis.

However, people in all of these categories have the same dental needs as everyone else – they need daily brushing and flossing, regular dental visits and a balanced diet.

There are some steps caregivers can take to make it easier to look after people in those categories.

If the person is uncooperative or uncontrollable, try to explain what you are about to do and schedule the task for a time of day when they are rested.

Move in a calm, slow, reassuring manner to avoid startling them. Give praise and encourage them when they help themselves.

Support the persons head, and take special care to prevent choking or gagging when the head is tilted back.

If the person is unable or unwilling to keep their mouth open, your dentist will explain how you can make and use a mouth prop.

Ask your dentist for advice on how to care for people with special needs and check if they have facilities for caring for these needs in the dental office.

Things to look out for during pregnancy

Every woman wants to maintain their own health during pregnancy and to take whatever steps are necessary to give the baby the best possible start.

There are a few factors in your oral health to look out for during this time.

One consideration is that its common for pregnant women to have the urge to eat between meals. The risk is that frequent snacking on carbohydrate-containing foods can encourage tooth decay.

Bacteria in your mouth called plaque can convert the sugar and starch in your mouth into an acid that attacks tooth enamel. After repeated attacks, tooth decay can result.

So, when you need a snack, try to choose foods that are nutritious for you and your baby such as raw fruits and vegetables and dairy products.

During pregnancy, your bodys hormone levels rise considerably. Gum problems, such as gingivitis, are especially common during the second to eighth months of pregnancy. They may cause red, puffy or tender gums that bleed when you brush.

This is an exaggerated response to plaque caused by higher levels of progesterone in your system. Your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings at some stages to help you avoid problems.

Occasionally overgrowths of gum tissue, called pregnancy tumors, appear on the gums during the second trimester. These localized growths or swellings are usually found between the teeth and are thought to be related to excess plaque.

They bleed easily and are often surgically removed after the baby is born.

Studies indicate that pregnant women who have severe periodontal (gum) disease may be at increased risk for pre-term delivery, which in turn increases the risk of having a low-birth-weight baby.

So its particularly important to maintain good oral health during pregnancy. Make sure you clean your teeth carefully and visit your dentist regularly.

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.

Diabetes and your dental health: How your diet can affect your teeth

When diabetes is not controlled properly, high glucose levels in saliva may create problems that lead to an increased risk of tooth decay.

Your teeth are covered with plaque, a sticky film of bacteria. After you eat food that contains sugars or starches, the bacteria react with these sugars to release acids that attack tooth enamel. This can cause the enamel to break down and may eventually result in cavities.

Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and cleaning between your teeth with floss or an interdental cleaner helps remove decay-causing plaque.

Plaque that is not removed can eventually harden into calculus, or tartar. When tartar collects above the gumline, it becomes more difficult to clean thoroughly between teeth. This can lead to chronic inflammation and infection in the mouth.

Because diabetes reduces the bodys resistance to infection, the gums are among the tissues likely to be affected.
Periodontal diseases are infections of the gum and bone that hold your teeth in place. Patients with inadequate blood sugar control appear to develop periodontal disease more often and more severely, and they lose more teeth than those who have good control of their diabetes.

Because of the lower resistance and longer healing process, periodontal diseases often appear to be more frequent and more severe among persons with diabetes.

You can help reduce these risks through good maintenance of blood sugar levels, a well-balanced diet, good oral care at home and regular dental checkups.

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.

Why cavities arent just for kids

Tooth decay or cavities result from destruction of the tooth enamel and can lead to a range of problems from toothache to bad breath.

Cavities occur when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) such as milk, sugared drinks, cakes or candy are frequently left on the teeth.

Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on these foods, producing acids as a result. Over a period of time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay.

Many people associate cavities with children but the changes that occur with aging make cavities an adult problem, too.

Recession of the gums away from the teeth, combined with an increased incidence of gum disease, can expose tooth roots to plaque.

Tooth roots are covered with cementum, a softer tissue than enamel. They are susceptible to decay and are more sensitive to touch and to hot and cold. The majority of people over age 50 have tooth-root decay.

Decay around the edges of fillings is also common to older adults. As many of them did not benefit from fluoride and modern preventive dental care when they were younger, they often have a number of dental fillings.

Over the years, these fillings may weaken, fracture and leak around the edges.

Bacteria accumulate in these tiny crevices causing acid to build up which leads to decay.

You can help prevent tooth decay by following these tips:

– Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
– Clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaner
– Eat nutritious and balanced meals and limit snacking

Its also worth asking your dentist about supplemental fluoride, which strengthens your teeth, and about dental sealants, a plastic protective coating which is applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to protect them from decay.

In addition, its important to visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral examination.