Herpangina: A common Childhood Disease

Though not much heard of, Herpangina is an illness caused by a virus. The group of viruses that cause Herpangina are known as enterovirus.

What is Herpangina?

The disease Herpangina is manifested in the form of small, blister-like ulcers on the roof of the mouth and in the back of the throat. Usually, it is a childhood disease and affects kids between the age group 1 to 4. However, this disease may also affect adults and it is commonly referred to as hand, foot and mouth disease. The lesions of Herpangina usually clear within a week and there are not much complications associated with it. Symptoms may also include a sudden fever, sore throat, headache, and neck pain.

Why are infants the more affected ones?

Some medical experts again opine that Herpangina and the HFM (Hand Foot and Mouth disease) are separate illnesses. However they are closely related as the virus responsible causing them is the same. Both conditions are caused by enteroviruses.

Enteroviruses are a group of viruses that typically affect your gastrointestinal tract. Usually, the body’s immune system produces antibodies (they are proteins that recognize and destroy viruses and bacteria) to fight off infection. Now, since infants and young children do not have or have not developed the appropriate antibodies, they are more susceptible to enteroviruses. The disease is contagious enough but the good news is that the symptoms fade away within a maximum of 10 days!

What lets you know that your child has herapangina?

In infants especially, symptoms are hard to read. Your dentist detects herpangina in your child (especially if he or she has not learnt to speak yet) if the any of the following symptoms show up:

    • Drooling
    • Loss of appetite and/or vomiting
    • Swollen lymph glands
    • Fever along with lesions that are light grey in color usually with a red border
    • Dehydration symptoms like dry mouth or dark urine

Things to know about the spread of Herpangina

The virus that causes Herpangina, are highly contagious and easily spreads from in schools and childcare centers. Mediums through which these viruses are transmitted typically are:

    • Contact with fecal matter
    • Contact with particles from an infected person’s sneeze or cough.
    • If the child touches his or her mouth after touching something that is contaminated

The enteroviruses are capable of living on surfaces and objects, such as counter tops and toys, for several days altogether! Therefore, there is hardly any way to prevent the spread of this disease. If children come in contact with the virus, they are highly prone to get affected! Only the immune system of a growing kid can keep chances of being infected at bay.

Your pediatric dentist normally prescribes medicines to ease the pain and the fever. Often certain anesthetics are used to provide relief from a sore throat. However, medications are not that important. A child’s dentist would also advice the intake of plenty of fluids and cold beverages. If the kid is a little matured, gargling with peroxyl is of great help too.

How does Fluoride Help in Dealing with Tooth Sensitivity?

Why does teeth turn sensitive at all?

Sugary and acidic foods are the prime responsible factors for damaging the tooth’s enamel. The outer covering or layering of our tooth is called the enamel. It is said that enamel is even stronger than bones that are made of calcium! While citrus fruits and other acidic foods attack the tooth’s enamel directly, sugary items like candies, soda, sweetened chewing gums, jams, berries, etc break down into acids inside the mouth. This is because, certain bacteria inside your mouth feasts on the carbohydrate supplies that are obtained from these foods. This turns them into acids which in turn attacks the tooth enamel.

Once the outer protective layer, that is the enamel is under attack and is worn out partly, the tooth becomes highly susceptible to cavities and decay.

So, what is the exact role of fluoride in the entire episode of dental health?

Our saliva contains calcium and phosphate which continuously bathes our teeth and keeps it healthy and protected. When fluoride steps in through various sources like toothpaste and drinking water, it combines with these salivary minerals to form the compound ‘fluoroapetite’. it forms the best defense against the cavity causing bacteria within your mouth!

Reliable Sources of Fluoride for Your Teeth

Fluoride can be obtained from several sources such as:

      • Foods with a fluoride content
      • Drinking water supplies (often the local municipality supply) is often fluoride infused and therefore healthy for your teeth
      • A tooth containing fluoride, especially one that comes with the ADA (American Dental Association) seal on it.
      • Fluoride treatments received in-office.

Foods that Contain Fluoride:

      • Tea as well as coffee
      • Water and the foods that are prepared in that water
      • Foods like potatoes, grapes and shrimps etc.
      • fish eaten along with their bones
      • infant formula

Besides taking this list into your knowledge, you must realize that, we are unable to determine whether our body is getting the adequate amount of fluoride. The easiest remedy to this is getting an ADA approved in-office fluoride treatment, where the right levels of fluoride are determined by your dentist before being applied on your teeth.

How is Fluoride Treatment Administered In-Office?

A professional fluoride treatment may be administered by your dentist in several forms, such as: gels, varnishes, foam or a highly concentrated rinse. To apply the treatment in-office, your dentist uses a tray, mouthwash, swab or a brush. The fluoride concentration in these products are much higher than that available in the OTC (over-the-counter) toothpastes.They take only a few minutes to apply and for the next 30 minutes, you are simply asked to avoid eating or drinking. That is enough for the fluoride to get fully absorbed.

Depending on the status of the oral health however, the frequency of fluoride treatment is determined. It may be recommended every three, six or twelve months. Additionally, preventive measures may also be suggested by the expert, if you are at a high risk of developing caries!

Teeth Discolorization : Common Causes & Remedies

 

Tooth staining is usually a common problem. Everybody’s teeth stain gradually over time. If dental enamel became more porous it attracts stains from all the food and drinks you consume. And those who regularly smoke and drink red wine or coffee for them the stain become deeper.

Other than eating and smoking habit there are some other factors which can cause and aggravate tooth staining, including age, starting color, translucency and thinness, drugs and chemicals, grinding, and trauma.

Co-relation Between Ageing & Teeth Staining: 

A direct correlation exists between tooth color and age. Usually, the older the teeth the more the teeth are stained due to accumulation and general wear and tear. Teenagers will likely experience immediate, drastic results from whitening because their teeth have not accumulated a large build up of stains. In the twenties when the teeth begin to show a yellow cast, teeth-whitening may require slightly more effort. Teeth in their forties begin to change hues from yellow to brown, indicating more maintenance in teeth-whitening efforts. By the fifties, the teeth have absorbed a host of stubborn stains which can prove difficult, but not impossible, to remove.

The starting color of teeth varies from person to person and ranges from yellow-brownish to greenish-grey and becomes more pronounced as we age. Yellow-brown is generally more responsive to bleaching efforts than green-gray.

The genetic traits of translucency and thinness become more apparent over time. While all teeth show some translucency, those that are opaque and thick have an advantage: they appear lighter in color, show more sparkle and are more responsive to bleaching. However, teeth that are thinner and more transparent (most apparent in the front teeth) may not be able to be bleached as the teeth lack the necessary pigment. According to cosmetic dentists, transparency is the only condition that cannot be corrected by any form of teeth whitening.

Some Causes of Teeth Discoloration:

  • Eating habits are a contributing factor in tooth staining. The habitual consumption of red wine, coffee, tea, cola, carrots, oranges, and other deeply-colored beverages and foods causes considerable staining over the years. Enamel erosion is caused, in part, by consuming citrus fruits, vinegar, and other acidic items. When combined, these two factors cause the surface of the tooth to become more transparent and more of the yellow colored dentin shows through.
  • Smoking habits can alter the color of teeth. Smoking has been proven to leave brownish deposits which slowly soak into the tooth structure and cause intrinsic discoloration.
  • Drugs and chemicals can have an adverse effect on tooth color. The antibiotic tetracycline when used during a child’s formative years, produces dark grey or brown ribbon stains which are extremely difficult to remove. Excessive consumption of fluoride causes a condition known as fluorosis which is associated with areas of mottling.
  • Grinding your teeth can affect tooth color. Most frequently caused by stress, teeth grinding can add to micro-cracking in the teeth and can cause the biting edges to darken.

Prevention & Treatment:

Coffee, tea, colas, smoke, acidic juices, certain medications, and highly pigmented foods play havoc on the pearly whites. Tooth staining can be prevented with proper oral hygiene. Treatment like Sealing or bonding may be used to protect teeth from wear and tear. But these procedures are permanent or semi-permanent.

There are certain natural ways for teeth whitening which can be followed at home. Not all tooth discolorations respond to whitening treatments, however.

There also remain many over-the-counter products can eliminate tooth discoloration. A person will usually see results after 1–2 weeks, though there is no guarantee.

Some of the over the counter product includes:

  • whitening mouthwashes and rinses containing hydrogen peroxide
  • whitening toothpastes containing sodium hypochlorite
  • whitening strips containing carbamide peroxide
  • tray whitening systems containing carbamide peroxide bleaching gel

There are several natural remedies and teeth whitening products available. However, the treatment provided by a dentist is much stronger compared to any natural home remedies. But to prevent your teeth from staining follow a consistent oral health routine which includes twice-daily tooth brushing and daily flossing, a twice-yearly visit to a dentist near you, restraining from smoking and limiting your consumption of teeth-staining beverages.

Teeth Whitening Essentials in 2019

 

Teeth whitening is one of the most sought after dental procedures to either regain one’s natural tooth shade or to make it more white beyond its natural shades. Apart from treatment, foods that might cause stains in tooth should be avoided to get pearly white teeth. Let us check out the to-dos that you can adhere to in order to get as well as maintain a whiter teeth:

  • Give up addiction to smoking and consumption of other tobacco products
  • Consumption of foods containing tannin such as tea, coffee etc. should be avoided
  • Using other staining foods like beets, tomato sauce, candies, dark chocolates etc. are strictly prohibited if you want to maintain the shine of your teeth.
  • Excess use of antibiotics might affect the dental health too.

However, there are times when you only wish that you had put yourself into a better oral care routine in your childhood days or teenage years. You immediately start off brushing and flossing regularly but without much result! It is now when you are bound to resort to teeth whitening techniques either at home or at your dentist’s office.

Which Teeth Whitening Process to go for?

Before getting into the techniques, you must be able to decide between an at-home whitening procedure and the one that is carried out by professionals in an office set up! Below are listed the basic differences between the two:

Usually an in-office treatment is far more recommended than the at-home procedure that uses the easily available, less effective OTC (over-the-counter) products. The reasons for this recommendation are as follows –

Same Day Results: In the in-office treatment, it is possible to achieve 5 to 8 shades whiter teeth on that very day of your treatment! At home kits on the other hand, need to be used again and again over a much longer period of time.

Sensitivity: The at-home whitening kits, especially if not used properly, may cause sensitivity issues. Moreover, these products cannot come in contact with your gums. If they do, they may cause redness as well as irritation. These details are difficult to be kept in mind, while you are
using the kit at home.

Longevity of Results: Whitening treatments that are performed in dental offices, use the rightly required proportion of hydrogen peroxide (the bleaching agent) under the supervision of professional dental experts. Therefore, they have proven to yield results that last much more
longer than the at-home kits!

How is the Teeth Whitening Process Pursued?

Dentists in their offices use chemicals that reacts in between the layers of teeth where stains generally occur.Hydrogen peroxide is the chemical usually used at dental offices to give you those dazzling white teeth. This is an active material which reacts and causes oxidation and helps breaking the stained compounds.

Dentists generally deject the use of teeth whitening toothpastes available over-the-counter (OTC) because it may destroy teeth sensitivity. Prolonged use of OTC products might make your teeth sensitive to too hot or too cold foods causing a tingling sensation every time you sip in a cup of coffee or a glass of cold drink!

Teeth whitening is somewhat controversial because, different countries have different rules regarding the permitted concentrations of hydrogen peroxide. A 35 per cent hydrogen peroxide concentration, can effectively permeate deep into the enamel structure. Weaker concentrations act only at the surface of the tooth enamel and not the inner layers!

While hydrogen peroxide is mostly the active ingredient in most whitening products, some teeth-whitening gels contain carbamide peroxide or sodium perborate too.Both of these agents break down to release hydrogen peroxide. Therefore hydrogen peroxide is the most popularly used teeth whitening agent across dental offices.

Facts to Know About A Whitening Process

  1.   1. Before you go for a whitening process, get your mouth health checked up to ensure that it’s healthy enough to go through the procedure.
  2. It’s common for teeth-whitening products to cause sensitivity. However this is temporary and therefore this should not hinder you from going for it.
  3. One limitation of any type of whitening treatment is the dental restorations. Tooth-coloured fillings, veneers and crowns (caps), dentures, etc. won’t change colour, as whitening only has effect on natural teeth. This can then result in a mismatch between the teeth. and
  4. Treatment by dentists typically costs more, but comes with more effective results for patients.

Since dentists are permitted to use stronger products than the OTC ones , they are more likely to understand what result is achievable with each type of whitening (office-based or home) and can therefore always deliver you with more satisfactory results as compared to what you could achieve for yourself at home!

 

 

 

 

Some health issues related to your Oral Hygiene

Since I am kind of an introvert, social gatherings don’t attract me much. Office parties are equally boring. It was only this year that I had some different experience as I got to meet someone from a different field of expertise. He was a friend of my boss. He happened to be an assistant in a dental office.

We were discussing work-life hassles casually. I was suffering from a bad headache since the past few months and was telling the same to him. It was then that I came to know about his profession. In lending me a piece of advice on dealing with my headache, Mr. Richard (the friend of my boss), went on to explain how a person’s dental health could trigger several other health issues!

Interestingly enough, I not only listened to whatever Mr. Richard related that day, but also came back home and researched a lot on the topic.

How does your oral health interfere in your overall well-being?

You can consider the mouth to be like a “window” to your inner body. Since the oral cavity is hugely responsible for whatever enters your body, a good oral care is crucially necessary for maintaining a healthy body. Lack of proper brushing and flossing can lead to building up of plaque inside your mouth. Remember, not only the number of times you brush is important, but also the duration for which you brush!

Oral Hygiene To-Dos for a better living 

  1. Brushing at bedtime is a must– It is essential to get rid of the germs and plaque that accumulates in between our teeth all through the day. So, brushing before going to your bed is a golden habit for your oral well-being
  2. Clean your tongue too– Gently brush your tongue each time you brush your teeth, because, plaque can build up in the tongue also, thereby causing a foul breadth.
  3. Use fluoride containing toothpaste– Fluoride has been clinically proven to be most effective in fighting germs and preventing tooth decay. Therefore, fluoride is an important factor to be considered, much more than the whitening powers or flavors of your toothpastes!
  4. Flossing once regularly – Flossing is not only needed to get rid of the tiny bits of food from between the teeth gaps, but it also stimulates your gums thus keeping them active. Even older people with arthritis who find it painful to floss should try to do it just for once in a day, even if for a lesser duration.
  5. A mouthwash– When flossing becomes too difficult or painful for any other dental issue, a mouthwash does the job. Make sure you make use of either of these for an enhanced oral care!
  6. Avoid sugary and acidic foods– Foods with a high sugar content turn acidic inside the mouth. Acid adversely affects the teeth enamel by eroding it partly. Therefore, too much of not only citrus foods, but also sugary juices harm your teeth! Even if you are consuming them, preferably get your teeth brushed and your mouth cleaned thoroughly after having them.

So what happens when you neglect your oral health?

When bacteria builds up to such a level, that it spreads and enters your body, you might be in serious trouble! Let us check out the various health issues that are related to your oral health, in this post:

  • Premature Birth:  Medical issues like premature birth or low birth weight are often related to oral illnesses like periodontitis (inflammation of the gums caused by bacterial infection.)
  • Endiocarditis:  Endocardium is the inner lining of your heart. An infection in this area is known as endocarditis. It occurs when germs from other parts of the body, such as the mouth, spread through the bloodstream and attach the damaged areas of the heart!
  • Heart diseases:  Research suggests that certain cardiovascular problems could be related to oral infections.
  • Dementia:   Bacteria from gingivitis may enter the brain through the nerve channels in the head or through the bloodstream. This might lead to the development of an Alzheimer’s disease.

Now, conversely, there are certain health conditions that affect your dental health condition. In fact, the number of illnesses than can adversely affect oral health are indeed many. To list a few among them are:

Diabetes:  Raised blood sugar levels puts the gums at greater risk. Therefore, people with diabetes are found to be more prone to periodontal diseases than others,

HIV/AIDS:  Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.

Osteoporosis:  Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become weak and brittle. Therefore, it is often responsible for loss of jawbone mass and tooth loss as a consequence.

Alzheimer’s disease:  People with Alzheimer’s disease face this. As the alzheimer’s disease progresses, a person oral health deteriorates too.

As mentioned above there are many other conditions that render oral problems. For instance, the Sjogren’s Syndrome is an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth syndrome in the victim. A good oral hygiene is therefore almost a dire necessity, if you wish to stay fresh and healthy for as long as you can.

 

 

The River Within

Have you ever stood beside a rushing river and watched the current carry wood and leaves quickly past? Your blood pulses through your body at a similar pace. Every twenty seconds, blood completes a round trip from head to toe. This closed system averages 100,000 miles of veins, arteries, and capillaries and delivers many vital components to sustain life.

Sometimes the system breaks open and dangerous invaders enter the bloodstream. While we often think of a cut or scrape on the skin as the entry point, the lining of the mouth offers an ideal backdoor. Over thirty square inches of tissue cover the mouth and provide a home to billions of bacteria. A unique collar of gum tissue surrounds each of the teeth, and a few potent strains of bacteria can take up residence in this hidden enclave. These microorganisms produce toxins, and the immune system reacts to them with a rush of inflammation. The delicate vessels of the gums deteriorate from the reaction, and bleeding begins.

It doesn’t take long for potent bacteria to enter the river of life. Within seconds, they’re reaching the fine vessels of the brain and slipping through the coronary arteries. They’re meandering into joints, organs, and fetuses of expectant mothers. In 2010, scientists at Case Western Reserve University were asked to investigate a stillborn case in a 35-year old mother who suffered from gum disease. Plaque samples from the woman’s teeth tested positive for the precise strain of oral bacteria discovered in the stomach and lungs of the fetus.

“Once the bacteria are in the blood, they can go almost anywhere,” Yiping Han, a Case Western Reserve professor of periodontics and pathology said. “The placenta is an immuno-suppressed organ, compared to other organs like the liver and the spleen. And that makes it easy for the bacteria to colonize the placenta.”

While this single case shouldn’t create anxiety for expectant mothers, it highlights the importance of dental health. Oral bacteria may aggravate the body in different ways, and damage may come in various forms. From a 30,000 foot view, chronic inflammation anywhere in the body can exacerbate other conditions. Diabetes is known to worsen gum disease, but the opposite is also true: Gum disease negatively influences control of blood sugar. On a microscopic level, oral bacteria have been identified in the lining of damaged coronary arteries.

Read More: Periodontitis is stated to be the sixth complication of diabetes. Prevalence of severe periodontitis in diabetics as compared to non-diabetics has been found to be 59.6%

Cancer, Too?

As the search for a cancer cure intensifies, a preventive focus still promises the best defense against the disease. While many people don’t correlate unhealthy gums with cancer, recent research does draw a link. In a study of 48,000 men, those with a history of gum disease carried a 36 percent increased risk of lung cancer, a 49 percent increased risk of kidney cancer, and a 54 percent higher risk of pancreatic cancer. We still don’t know all the reasons why, but saving your teeth could mean saving your life.

If bleeding gums could be patched together, they’d be equivalent to a 2×2 inch open wound on the skin. Saturated with bacteria, a gash of this size anywhere on the body needs attention. When gum disease remains uncontrolled in the mouth, the door stays open indefinitely as a large wound. As a result, a steady supply of bacteria ends up in areas of the body they don’t belong.

Here’s To Your Health

Every effort you make to keep your mouth healthy helps ensure you’ll keep your teeth for the rest of your life. The evidence continues to build that a preventive focus may add years to your life, too. Dental care that combines your efforts with our periodic oversight will keep you smiling and active for years to come!

Goodbye Cavities?

With winter upon us, the common cold shows us why it’s aptly named. Rhinoviruses, responsible for many episodes of congestion, coughs, and sore throats, transmit through the population during every season. But research suggests that this virus replicates better at a temperature a few degrees below the body’s core temperature. Plus, people tend to share closer spaces inside during colder weather. Cozy areas make virus transmission easier.

Many people are surprised to learn that tooth decay is the next most common disease afflicting the population. The bacteria that cause cavities thrive in the mouth, but babies aren’t born with them. They’re an infection that’s often passed from mothers or caregivers once teeth start to appear. Since 92% of adults report at least one cavity, dental fillings are familiar to just about everyone.

What If…

Exciting new research suggests that the way we repair teeth damaged from cavities could change in the years ahead. Consider this:

  • A British team discovered that aspirin enhances the function of stem cells found inside teeth. They found that low-dose aspirin significantly increased the expression of genes that help form dentin, the primary tooth structure usually damaged by decay. This influence helps the tooth create new structure to repair damaged portions.
  • Another research team found that a particular chemical could cause cells to heal small holes in mice teeth. Researchers placed a biodegradable sponge soaked in the drug inside the cavity. This step led to complete, natural repair of the damaged area!
  • Another study demonstrated that a small electrical current could be used to draw new minerals into teeth, producing a stronger outer layer that’s more resistant to bacterial acid.

A vaccine to prevent cavities has been explored for over 40 years. In 1972, a British team reported they were testing one on mice, but fundamental challenges remain today. In the meantime, a host of new materials that mimic natural tooth structure allow us to restore damaged teeth and create healthy smiles. Scientists continue to produce advanced porcelains and resins that can be securely bonded into place. Sometimes the most trained eye can’t discern where the tooth ends, and the filling begins!

Solutions For Every Scenario

When enough damage leads to tooth loss, dental implants offer the ultimate solution for optimal function and confident smiling. Precise 3D imaging and advanced implant components set the foundation for predictable results. Whether replacing single teeth or securing loose dentures, implants can be life-changing!

In our evolving world, dental research continues to enhance the lives of our patients. We follow and evaluate advancements in dentistry, then choose those that serve you best. We’re here to be a resource for you and your family, so feel free to our team with any questions we can help you explore!

Soda, Sports Drinks and Teeth

Every time you step into a mini-mart, you’re faced with a host of options to squelch your thirst. A rainbow of colors in plastic bottles compete for your attention, and creative marketing often transforms sugared water into a fountain of youth. When it comes to your teeth, does it matter what you choose? How does a bottle of cola or a sports drink affect your teeth and general health?

Everybody knows most of these drinks include a lot of sugar, but it’s easy to overlook how much they carry. A little quick math can help you visualize the carbohydrate burst that occurs with the first sip. The nutritional label reports the number of grams of sugar in a serving, and there are 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon. If a bottle shows 20 grams in a single serving, picture it as 5 teaspoons.

While a 12-ounce soda used to be the norm, 20-ounce bottles are now considered standard. But many of the labels show the grams of sugar for an 8-ounce serving, and they frequently report 2.5 servings in a bottle! Calculating the numbers on a typical label indicates you’ll consume over 19 teaspoons of sugar in this soft drink. Take a look at this one:

The bacteria that cause cavities use sugar for energy and produce acidic waste that erodes tooth enamel. Syrupy drinks provide an ideal power source to keep this population thriving while instigating an insulin spike in the bloodstream. The colossal sugar load also drives the liver to convert sugar into fat. Chronically elevated insulin creates insulin resistance, a condition that contributes to a range of diseases. From cavities to cancer, sugared drinks help fuel many of the health problems afflicting people today.

An Acid Problem

Sugar forms a vital part of the formula that produces tooth decay, but it’s the acid that ultimately causes enamel to dissolve. The normal pH of your mouth rests around 7, but tooth structure begins to erode when the acidity drops to 5.5. Soda can send the pH of the mouth into a nosedive, making the mouth 1000 times more acidic than needed to start damaging teeth. A review of many ingredient labels shows citric, phosphoric, and carbonic acids in the mix. It may take 15 minutes for the mouth’s pH to return to normal after the last sip, and that means a steady diet of sugary drinks can alter the mouth for hours each day.

Diet sodas often hover around a pH of 3.2, far into the range that damages teeth. It’s a good thing that sugar is missing, but a steady exposure to high acidity can still lead to a weakening of tooth enamel. Artificial sweeteners may have long-term general health effects that we’re yet to understand fully.

Limit The Damage

The best strategy for the sake of your teeth and overall health is to enjoy fresh water on a regular basis. If you’re going to drink soda, consider the following tips:

  • Drink soda or sports drinks through a straw to minimize your teeth’s exposure.
  • Rinse with water right after drinking one of these beverages.
  • Avoid brushing your teeth for 30 minutes after drinking the beverage. This practice allows your mouth to return to normal pH before the teeth undergo the light abrasion of brushing.
  • Avoid drinks that list acids on the ingredient label.

If you consume a sports drink during strenuous exercise or enjoy an occasional soda with a meal, there’s not a lot of reason to worry. Commit to keep sugar exposure to a minimum and drink more fresh water: Your teeth and your body will thank you!

Why do Some Dental Cleanings Cost More?

Not all dental cleanings are created equal. Find out why some hygiene appointments cost more than others and learn how you can save time and money in the dental chair.

A “regular” cleaning is clinically called prophylaxis or a prophy cleaning and is a preventative measure to prevent periodontal disease. It includes removing plaque and tartar from tooth surfaces and just below the gum line. Sometimes, especially if you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, the buildup of tartar and plaque is too much to remove with the hand instruments that our hygienists use and, in some cases, requires the use of anesthetic and more than one visit, resulting in a costlier dental appointment.

This is when a “simple cleaning” goes from being a preventative measure to a treatment and maintenance measure. When this happens, you might be told you need a periodontal cleaning, root planing, or a deep scaling. These cleanings remove the tartar that wedges itself below the gum line and irritates and inflames the gum, causing what’s called gingivitis.

Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums causing bleeding, red swollen gum tissue, and bad breath. A cleaning and more frequent professional hygiene appointments can treat and usually reverse this stage of gum disease so long as you follow a regular at-home maintenance routine and commit to a strict professional hygiene schedule.

Time to Deep Clean

If gingivitis is left untreated, it can turn into periodontitis. At this stage, tartar builds up between the gum and tooth root creating periodontal pockets that can no longer be cleaned with regular at-home care. A more frequent recare schedule, usually every three to four months, and specialized equipment including ultrasonic scalers can remove the buildup and help the pocket stay clean, so no further damage is done. Think of tartar as a wedge between the tooth and the gum. The more it builds up, the harder it is for you to clean yourself. And the more the tartar builds up, the more the gum is pushed from the tooth. It’s a cycle, and the only way to effectively clean below the gum line is having a qualified dental professional remove it with specialized equipment.

dentist-and-patient

Once periodontitis progresses to a point where the bone starts to recede, it is considered advanced periodontal disease which includes bone loss due to extensive pocketing. This causes loose teeth which can result in lost teeth and a shift in your bite if not properly taken care of. If too many teeth are lost, it can radically alter your bite and cause worse problems than a gap in your smile. At this stage, regular cleanings are no longer effective, and we may recommend one of many procedures to help manage the infection, like laser periodontal treatments, bone grafting, or time release antibiotics placed in the periodontal pocket itself. Each of these treatments requires dedication to an excellent home care routine, so the efforts of your hygienist and dentist don’t go to waste.

An Ounce of Prevention

The good news is, gum disease can be prevented with regular professional cleanings and a good home care routine that includes daily flossing and brushing for two minutes at least twice a day. A little extra time spent on proper home care and regular cleanings can help save a lot of time and money down the road.

Use ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Don’t Let Your Dental Benefits Go to Waste

For most patients, dental benefits renew each January, while others renew on an enrollment date or fiscal year. Studies have shown under 3% of PPO dental plan members use all of their allotted benefits each year. This could mean thousands of wasted hard-earned dollars per family.

Most traditional dental benefit plans have yearly maximums and specified coverage limits on procedures (100% coverage on cleanings, 80% on restorative treatment, etc.). Some plans have a deductible on larger treatments too.

Some employers offer a flexible spending account, or FSA, instead of or in addition to dental coverage to help offset deductibles and coverage limits. Each year, the employee specifies an amount of money to be put in the FSA account, which is usually accessible through a debit card. For example, if your dental insurance covers a root canal at 80%, the FSA account could be used to pay for the remaining 20% that would otherwise be an out of pocket expense.

But don’t wait until mid-December to schedule an appointment, because many dentists will be booked solid with patients trying to use up their plan benefits. If you haven’t been in recently, make an appointment or call the office and see if there’s any outstanding treatment in your record that could be done. Are you overdue for a cleaning? Do you have a filling that needs to be replaced? Now is a great time to start getting those appointments on the books.

Whether you have traditional dental coverage or an FSA account, here are some tips to maximize your dental benefits and reasons why you should use them before the new year.

Unused Benefits- Each year your yearly maximum renews and you forfeit any unspent money. Many plans range from $1,000 to $1,500 per year or more. If you have been delaying treatment or only going for cleanings, that’s money flying right out the window.

You’re Throwing Money Away- If you are paying for dental coverage but only going in for cleanings, you’re not recouping much of the money you spend on your annual premium. It makes much more sense to use every last dollar of available dental coverage to offset the cost of the benefits. For example, if your $400 annual premium buys $1,000 worth of coverage and you’re not using it, you’re effectively throwing away $600 of “free” money.

Plan Deductibles Reset- Some dental plans have a deductible on more extensive procedures like root canals or crowns. When the plan restarts, so does the deductible. If you’ve already paid the deductible and need another procedure, it might be worth getting it done in the same year and saving a little money.

You Might Be Able to Overlap Needed Treatment- Most dentists don’t recommend postponing treatment, especially if it’s a two-step procedure like a root canal followed by a crown. If you have a tooth that needs a lot of work you may be able to overlap the treatment between this year and next. This reduces your out of pocket cost and repairs your tooth in a timely fashion before there is any further damage.

Schedule Treatment Before Any Fee Increases- Occasionally your dentist raises his or her fees to offset the high overhead of running a dental practice. Dental offices have some of the highest overhead expenses in any industry and most of them happen behind the scenes. Liability insurance, the cost of state-of-the-art equipment to enhance the patient experience, training for that equipment, and single-use items like gloves and sterilization pouches continue to increase. Getting scheduled for any outstanding treatment now could save you a little money down the road.

Maybe you’ve been considering redoing an old crown that’s a shade too dark or want to replace those amalgam (silver) fillings with tooth-colored composite. Or perhaps you’ve been delaying a large treatment plan. Whatever the reason, you work hard for your money. Even if your dental coverage is paid by your employer, it’s still considered part of your salary. You wouldn’t throw part of your paycheck away, so why waste money by leaving needed treatment undone until it becomes a larger (and more expensive) problem? Use your benefits before the end of the year and make your mouth and pocketbook smile!