Different types of fillings and restorations

Nowadays, thanks to advances in dental techniques and materials, patients have a much wider range of choices when they have to repair missing, worn, damaged or decayed teeth.

For example, materials such as ceramics and polymer compounds that look more like natural teeth help dentists create pleasing, natural-looking smiles.

The traditional materials such as gold, base metal alloys and dental amalgam are still widely used as they have many advantages.

The strength and durability of traditional dental materials continues to make them useful in many situations. For example, they are good when fillings are required in the back teeth because the pressure of chewing is high in that area.

The choice of the best option will depend on several factors such as the patient’s oral and general health, where and how the filling is placed and the number of visits needed to prepare and adjust the restored tooth.

The choice about which option is best depends on each individual’s needs so you should discuss the options with your dentist.

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.

Building a strong relationship with your dentist

You’ll give yourself the best chance of good oral health if you build a strong relationship with your dentist.

That can sometimes mean asking the right questions and helping them to assist you in the best way possible.

So you want to make sure you have a dentist who will first of all explain techniques that you should use to help prevent dental health problems. They should be willing to show you step-by-step what you need to do.

You should also choose a dentist who is willing to take time to answer your questions, especially when they are recommending a course of treatment.

If you don’t understand any part of what your dentist recommends, don’t be afraid to ask for more information.

You may want to ask if there are other options to the solution they recommend. For example:

– How do the options differ in cost?
– Which solution will last the longest?
– Do all the options solve the problem?

Ask the dentist which treatments are absolutely necessary, which are elective and Which are cosmetic.

Ask which procedures are urgently needed, and which ones are less urgent. Your dentist will help you prioritize between problems which need immediate attention and those that are less urgent.

Often, treatment can be planned over a period of time but make sure you understand any consequences of delaying treatment.

It’s naturally also important to make sure that you are given full information about fees and payment plans before treatment is scheduled.

What is plaque and how does it affect your teeth?

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that covers our teeth and, when we eat something, these bacteria release acids that attack the tooth enamel.

When these attacks are repeated over time, the enamel will break down and this will eventually lead to cavities.

When plaque is not removed through daily brushing and cleaning it hardens into calculus or tartar. When tartar collects above the gum line, brushing and cleaning between the teeth becomes more difficult.

The gum tissue can become swollen or may bleed. This is called gingivitis and it is the early stage of periodontal (gum) disease.

There are several steps you can take to protect yourself against this happening:

– Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
– Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner
– Eat a balanced diet and limit the number of snacks between meals
– Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams
– Ask your dentist about sealants – these are protective coatings that can be applied to the back teeth where decay often starts.

If you take steps to remove the plaque each day, you have a greater chance of avoiding tooth and gum problems.

The facts about oral cancer

Oral cancer is not as well known as other types of cancer but it can represent a life-threatening risk if not identified early.

– It strikes an estimated 35,000 Americans each year
– More than 7,500 people (5,200 men and 2,307 women) die of these cancers each year
– More than 25% of Americans who get oral cancer will die of the disease
– On average, only half of those diagnosed with the disease will survive more than five years
– African-Americans are especially vulnerable; the incidence rate is 1/3 higher than whites and the mortality rate is almost twice as high

Although the use of tobacco and alcohol are risk factors in developing oral cancer, approximately 25% of oral cancer patients have no known risk factors.

There has been a nearly five-fold increase in incidence in oral cancer patients under age 40, many with no known risk factors.

The incidence of oral cancer in women has increased significantly, largely due to an increase in women smoking. In 1950 the male to female ratio was 6:1; by 2002, it was 2:1.

The best way to prevent oral cancer is to avoid tobacco and alcohol use.

Unusual red or white spots can form in and around the mouth. These are often harmless but they can be cancerous or pre-cancerous.

Identifying and removing these early enough is a major factor in reducing the incidence of cancer.

So knowing the risk factors and seeing your dentist for regular examinations can help prevent this deadly disease.

Why cavities aren’t 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

It’s 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, it’s important to visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral examination.

Taking steps to stop oral cancer before it’s too late

Oral cancer hits more than 30,000 Americans every year but you can minimize the risk by taking steps to ensure it’s caught early enough.

The first indications of oral cancer may be a very small, but dangerous, oral spot or sore that you are not even aware of.

In a routine examination, your dentist will carefully examine the inside of your mouth and tongue.

If they notice a flat, painless, white or red spot or a small sore, this may be completely harmless. But harmful spots or sores often look the same as harmless ones.

To ensure that a spot or sore is not dangerous, your dentist may choose to perform a simple test, such as a brush test. This collects cells from the lesion which can them be analyzed.

Any positive results from a brush test must usually be confirmed by a biopsy before deciding the next step.

If precancerous cells are found, the lesion can be surgically removed if necessary during a separate procedure.

When caught early enough, the chances of preventing the cancer developing are high but only half of those diagnosed survive more than five years.

That’s why regular dental examinations are so important for your overall health and not just to have good teeth.

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.

Treating facial pain and jaw problems

Chronic facial pain is a problem faced by millions of Americans.

Common symptoms can include pain in or around the ear, tenderness of the jaw, clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth or even head and neck aches.

If you are suffering from this type of pain, your dentist can help identify its source with a thorough exam and appropriate x-rays.

Sometimes, the problem is a sinus or toothache or it could be an early stage of periodontal disease.

But for some pain, the cause is not so easily diagnosed.

There are two joints and several jaw muscles which make it possible to open and close the mouth. They work together when you chew, speak, and swallow.

These structures include muscles and ligaments, as well as the jaw bone, the mandible (lower jaw) with two joints, the TMJs.

Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working together properly may result in a painful TMJ disorder.

There are several ways the TMJ disorders may be treated.

Diagnosis is an important step before treatment.

Part of your clinical examination includes checking the joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty moving.

Your dentist may take x-rays and may make a cast of your teeth to see how your bite fits together.

To help you deal with this pain, your dentist will recommend what type of treatment you need and may refer you to a specialist.

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.