Smile for Life
Maintaining a healthy and beautiful smile for a lifetime is our goal for every patient. The practice of good oral hygiene includes daily home care of teeth and gums along with regular cleanings and check-ups. We make sure to give you a thorough exam and cleaning so that you get the most out of each visit. We take the time to educate and discuss how to optimally care for teeth to ensure they last a lifetime.
Regular Cleanings and Check-ups
During your cleaning and check-up you can expect:
A visual examination of teeth and gums to look for problems, including decay that may not be felt or seen by the patient.
An oral cancer screening of tongue, throat, lips, cheeks and gums.
A review of current and past X-rays to review the status of previous work and inspect any new areas of concern.
Education concerning nutrition, gum inflammation or disease, and proper oral hygiene techniques.
A thorough and gentle cleaning, rinse, and polish.
Regular check-ups provide an opportunity to be an active participant in your
oral and overall health. Not only does Dr. Reilly want to hear your input, but
he also appreciates your questions and concerns and feels it imperative that you leave the office with answers. No concern is too big or too small and will be addressed by our team to your satisfaction.
Sometimes making small changes in behavior and habits can have a big impact on health. Continue reading to learn more about how common dental issues could be affecting your health and what simple steps to take for improvement.
What is Periodontal Disease and Gingivitis?
Periodontal disease, or periodontitis, is the inflammation and destruction of the important structures and tissues that support the tooth: the gums (gingiva), the bone, and the ligaments that hold the tooth to the surrounding bone. Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums which gives them a red swollen appearance. Gingivitis can be reversed with proper home care and regular dental visits. Periodontitis on the other hand, is not reversible and can only be managed by dental professionals including specialists called Periodontists. This is most commonly a chronic disease that can be as destructive to the life of a tooth as cavities. Without the supporting bone, gums, and ligaments, a tooth cannot function properly in the mouth.
The biggest cause of periodontitis is calculus (tarter) build-up as a result of the accumulation of bacterial plaque. Plaque is the soft film that forms on teeth 12-24 hours after brushing/flossing. This film contains bacteria and when left, begins to harden into calculus or tarter. The areas that are most prone to accumulation are around the gum line and in-between teeth due to insufficient brushing and flossing. The calculus, now connected to the tooth, becomes an excellent place for bacteria to live and grow on your teeth. Calculus, unlike plaque, cannot be removed with simple brushing and flossing. It must be mechanically removed by a dental professional like a highly trained dental hygienist.
Although the body's defense systems attempt to fight this bacteria, until the build-up is removed, it is a losing battle. As months and sometimes years go by, even the body's own defense systems begin to breakdown the important and healthy tissues that support the teeth. Once these tissues are lost, they are typically gone forever. Some of the signs of this disease include longer looking teeth, sore, red, and bleeding gums. Some patients experience bad odors or tastes in their mouth and may even loose teeth in extreme cases.
What are dental caries or dental cavities?
Dental cavities are a bacterial infection that causes the demineralization (loss of calcium) and destruction of the hard tissues of tooth. There are four elements necessary for this destruction to occur:
Susceptible tooth surface
The human mouth has hundreds of varieties of bacteria which live in a kind of harmony that keep other micro-organisms, like certain kinds of fungus (like thrush), from taking over. One family of bacteria called Streptococcus Mutans consumes simple sugars for energy and in the process creates acid. This acid, when built up in the mouth, begins the process of demineralization (net loss of calcium) of tooth structure.
Any sugar can be consumed by bacteria and made into acid. Simple sugars and especially sticky sugars are especially good fuel for bacteria. Food that is already acidic and contains sugar can be a dangerous combination for teeth. Soda pop is a good example of this because it is acidic due to the carbonation and it also contains large amounts of sugar.
A susceptible tooth surface is one in which bacterial dental plaque is allowed to inhabit for long periods of time. Bacterial plaque is a biofilm (a thin, slimy film of bacteria that adheres to a surface) that forms on our teeth from the moment they are cleaned. Dental plaque is usually detected first thing in the morning as a film on the teeth. If allowed to sit for even short periods of time in the presence of sugar, demineralization will occur.
Time is an important factor for tooth health. The longer that an acidic environment is allowed prevail in the mouth, the more damage is done in the demineralization process. This is why sticky foods are worse than non-sticky foods. The longer that the sugar is allowed to sit in the crevices of teeth, the longer the bacteria have to consume it and produce acid. An example of the time element is sipping a soda as opposed to consuming it quickly with a meal. The mouth can buffer the acid over time, but if sugar is constantly being re-introduced, that neutralizing process is not effective.
Do cavities hurt?
Pain and sensitivity can be symptoms of a cavity or dental caries. Teeth with cavities can be sensitive to changes in temperature and to “sweets.” However, many times there are not symptoms in the early stages of demineralization process. One of the benefits of routine check-ups is the early detection of dental cavities through x-rays and clinical examination prior to mass demineralization or decay. In many cases, by the time a patient has detected a cavity through symptoms, the tooth will require extensive treatment.
What do cavities look like?
Dental cavities begin with a chalky white appearance and can transition to brown as demineralization turns to cavitation. Many cavities begin between teeth where visual detection is difficult making periodic x-ray examination very important. A normal cavity on a front tooth is illustrated below.