Tips on choosing the best dentist for you

Choosing the right dentist for your needs is one way to give you the best chance of maximizing your oral health.

If you don’t already have a dentist – or want to find one better suited to your needs – here are a few points to consider.

– Get recommendations from family, friends, neighbors or co-workers

– Ask your physician or a local pharmacist

– If you are moving to a different area, ask your current dentist for recommendations in your new location

– Contact the local or state dental society

You can also use Yellow Pages or the American Dental Association directory at www.ADA.org.

Effective dental care depends on a great relationship between the dentist and the patient so you may want to visit more than one before making your decision.

To help decide if a dentist is right for you, consider:

Is the office easy to get to from your home or job?

Are the staff helpful and friendly?

Does the office appear to be clean, tidy and well organized?

Is the appointment schedule convenient for you?

What arrangements are made for handling emergencies outside of office hours?

Does it cater for any special needs you have?

As you’ll need to work closely with your dentist in caring for your oral health, it’s worth taking time to ask questions and take notes to make sure you choose the right one for your needs.

How mouth protectors can save your teeth

If you take part in sports that carry a significant risk of injury, you should wear a mouth protector.

Accidents can happen during any physical activity and, if you participate in sports such as football, hockey, basketball, baseball, gymnastics and volleyball, you might be grateful for the extra protection one day.

Something as simple as a misdirected elbow in a game, or a spill off a bicycle, can leave you with chipped or broken teeth, nerve damage to a tooth or even tooth loss.

Mouth protectors usually cover the upper teeth and they can cushion the effect of a blow to the face, reducing the risk of broken teeth and injuries to the soft tissues of the mouth.

In addition, if you wear dental appliances such as braces on your lower jaw, your dentist may suggest a mouth protector for these teeth as well.

A properly fitted mouth protector will stay in place while you are wearing it, making it easy for you to talk and breathe. The three main types of mouth protectors are:

Stock: These are inexpensive and come ready to wear. But they often dont fit very well and they can be bulky making breathing and talking difficult.

Boil and bite: These can also be bought at many sport stores and may fit better than stock mouth protectors. You first soften them in water, then insert them and allow them to adapt to the shape of your mouth.

Custom-fitted: Protectors that are specially made for you by your dentist are more expensive but are likely to fit better than one you buy off the shelf.

Choosing to wear the right mouth protector can help you avoid serious long-term damage to your teeth and mouth.

Common questions about dental insurance

Understanding what’s covered by your dental insurance is an important part of making sure you get the best oral care possible.

Here are some common questions that arise when people want to understand their cover better.

– If treatment my dentist recommends is not covered by my insurance, does that mean it’s not necessary?

Some plans make exclusions such as sealants, pre-existing conditions, adult orthodontics, and specialist referrals. This depends on your dental plan and you should not let the level of cover determine whether you need treatment.

– My dental benefit will only pay for a large filling but my dentist recommends I get a crown. Which should I choose?

Some plans will only cover the least expensive solution but it may not be the best option for your needs. You should decide based on your health needs and not on your insurance cover.

– My dental plan says it will pay 100 percent for checkups and cleanings but the insurance company says I owe for part of the dentist’s charge. How can this be?

Some plans provide cover based on a “customary fee” for each procedure. So, if your dentist’s fee is higher, your benefit will be based on a percentage of the customary fee instead of your dentist’s fee. Although these limits are called “customary,” they may not accurately reflect the fees that dentists charge in your area.

– Will my plan cover the care my family will need?
If your employer offers more than one plan, check the exclusions and limitations of the coverage as well as looking at the general benefits. It’s a good idea to discuss your family’s likely needs with your dentist before choosing a plan.

The plan document should specify who is eligible for coverage under the plan.

Plans offered by the same provider or employer can vary according to the contracts involved so your dentist will not be able to answer specific questions about your benefit or predict what the coverage for a particular procedure will be.

If you have specific questions about coverage, talk to your plan provider.

Daily dental tips to cut down on plaque

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums. If you let it build up on your teeth, it can lead to several problems.

The best way to remove plaque from the tooth surfaces is by brushing and cleaning between your teeth every day.

You should brush your teeth twice a day, with a soft-bristled brush. The brush should fit your mouth comfortably, allowing you to reach all areas easily.

When you use toothpaste that contains fluoride, this helps protect your teeth.

You can help even more by cleaning between the teeth once a day with floss or interdental cleaners. This removes plaque from between the teeth in areas the toothbrush can’t reach.

By taking a few steps each day to look after your teeth – and visiting your dentist regularly, you’ll be able to enjoy healthy teeth and a great smile all your life.

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.

Solving the problem of bad breath

Bad breath – which is also known as halitosis – is a worrying problem that can also be embarrassing.

But theres no need to put up with it. If you suffer from bad breath, your dentist will be able to suggest a range of solutions.

Your dentist will be able to spot problems such as gum disease, dry mouth or other disorders. Thats why its important to maintain good oral hygiene, schedule regular visits to the dentist and have professional cleaning.

Make sure you brush your teeth twice a day and clean between your teeth each day using floss or interdental cleaners. Don’t forget to brush your tongue, too!

If your dental check up shows that your mouth is healthy, your dentist may refer you to your family physician as sometimes bad breath can be a sign of other health problems.

If the odor is due to periodontal (gum) disease, sometimes professional periodontal cleaning is needed to remove the bacteria and plaque that accumulate. And your dentist may recommend a special antimicrobial mouth rinse.

Keeping your mouth healthy and stopping periodontal disease are essential to reducing bad breath.

So make sure you schedule regular dental visits for a professional cleaning and checkup.

Different types of dentist and how they help your oral care

While many people see dentists as the single group of people who look after the health of your teeth and mouth, there are various specialist categories that help you in different ways.

The categorization of a dentist will depend on their education, training and experience.

Here are some of the main specialist areas of dentistry:

Endodontics: Concerned with the dental pulp – the part in the center of a tooth made up of living soft tissue and cells and root canal therapy

Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology: This deals with the identification, and management of diseases affecting the oral and maxillofacial regions

Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology: Deals with the production and interpretation of images and data produced by radiant energy that are used for the diagnosis and management of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral and maxillofacial region

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery: Diagnosis and surgical treatment of diseases, injuries and defects of the tissues including extractions, facial surgery and implants

Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopaedics: Mainly deals with diagnosis, prevention and treatment of misaligned teeth and modification of midface and mandibular growth

Pediatric Dentistry: Provides preventive and therapeutic oral health care for infants and children through adolescence.

Periodontics: Prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth and the maintenance of the health, function and esthetics of these structures and tissues. Most periodonitist place implants

Prosthodontics: Diagnosis, treatment planning, rehabilitation and maintenance associated with missing or deficient teeth and/or oral and maxillofacial tissues. Includes dentures, bridges and the restoration of implants.

Plus, of course, general dentists provide everyday care and many specialist services to maintain your oral health.

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 its useful to know a bit more about it so that you can do whats 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.

Taking care of your dentures

Your dentures are designed to last a very long time so its important that you take care of them as you would take care of your own teeth.

They are very delicate and may break easily if dropped even a few inches. So its a good idea to stand over a folded towel or a basin of water when handling dentures.

When you are not wearing your dentures, store them away from children and pets.

Like natural teeth, dentures must be brushed daily to remove food deposits and plaque.

Brushing helps prevent dentures from becoming permanently stained and helps your mouth stay healthy.

There are special brushes designed for cleaning dentures but a toothbrush with soft bristles can also be used. Avoid using hard-bristled brushes as these can damage your dentures.

Some denture wearers also use hand soap or mild dishwashing liquid for cleaning and thats fine. But avoid using powdered household cleansers, which may be too abrasive. Also, avoid using bleach, as this may whiten the pink portion of the denture.

The first step in cleaning dentures is to rinse away loose food particles thoroughly. Moisten the brush and apply denture cleanser. Brush every surface, scrubbing gently to avoid damage.

Dentures may lose their shape if they are allowed to dry out. When they are not worn, dentures should be placed in a denture cleanser soaking solution or in water. Never place dentures in hot water, which could cause them to warp.

Ultrasonic cleaners are also used to care for dentures. However, using an ultrasonic cleaner does not replace a thorough daily brushing.

You can seriously damage your dentures by trying to adjust or repair them yourself. So see your dentist if your dentures break, crack, chip or if one of the teeth becomes loose.

Over time, dentures will need to be relined, rebased, or remade due to normal wear. They may also need to be replaced if they become loose and the teeth show signs of significant wear.

You need to make regular visits to your dentist to make sure the dentures are working as well as possible for you and to check for more serious problems in your mouth such as oral cancer.