One of the biggest challenges of dentistry is educating the patient. A large number of adult patients have never been shown how to floss or brush their teeth correctly or been told why it's important. Dr. Citrin believes that he and all dentists have an obligation to teach patients about the benefits of good oral hygiene. The following patient education information covers some common oral health problems, dental treatment options and tips for good oral hygiene.
Tooth decay refers to a tooth's mineral content being dissolved away. This occurs when plaque, a sticky substance that accumulates on the teeth, mixes with sugars and starches from the foods we eat. This fusion results in the making of acids that attack the tooth enamel. As the tooth enamel is destroyed, a hole called a "cavity" occurs in the tooth's surface.
Tooth decay is the second most common disease in the United States. To avoid tooth decay and cavities, brush your teeth regularly, at least two times a day. Use toothpaste with fluoride. Floss each day to help remove food debris from between the teeth. Eat healthy foods, and avoid snacks, soft drinks and candy that contain high amounts of simple sugar.
Amalgam is the most commonly used dental material for treating tooth decay. Amalgam contains a mixture of metal alloys including silver, tin, copper, zinc and mercury. Amalgam has been used in dentistry for over 150 years. Yet, there has been ongoing concern about the health risks associated with amalgam fillings.
There are certain advantages to amalgam that make it an excellent material for filling cavities. For example, amalgam has a long life and is very predictable. It is far less expensive than alternative materials such as composite resin, gold alloy or porcelain. Amalgam is also a relatively easy material to work with. When compared to alternative filling materials, amalgam costs less, takes less time to prepare and place, and the patient's cost for amalgam fillings is largely covered by most dental insurance companies.
Numerous articles have been published linking the mercury in amalgam fillings to an array of diseases. There have been allegations that minute amounts of mercury vapor are released from amalgam, and that the mercury in amalgam can enter and harm the body. Most of these articles are not considered reliable, and the so-called "studies" cited in them are not scientific. Controversy over the mercury component in amalgam has caused worldwide concern, and controlled scientific studies have recently been conducted to determine the safety of amalgam.
Recent randomized clinical trials have found no evidence of neurological harm or deleterious health effects associated with amalgam dental fillings. The mercury in an amalgam filling is chemically bound to other metal alloys. This chemical bond stabilizes the mercury, ensuring that dangerous levels of free mercury do not enter or harm the human body. The American Dental Association, the National Institute of Health and the American Medical Association have all reviewed this issue and come to the conclusion that amalgam dental fillings do not pose a health risk.
The alternatives to amalgam fillings are gold alloy, composite resin or porcelain materials. Gold alloy is a very durable and long lasting filling material. Composite resin fillings are tooth colored and bond well to tooth structure. Porcelain material such as onlays or inlays can hardly be distinguished from natural teeth. Although these alternative filling materials have their advantages, especially esthetically, they are more costly than amalgam and take more time to prepare and place.
Most dental insurance companies will pay 80 percent of the total cost of amalgam fillings. However, most dental insurance considers a composite resin filling or a porcelain onlay to be cosmetic. Dental insurance companies will pay a portion for the non-amalgam filling but at the amalgam price. This means that, if you have a composite resin filling, gold alloy or porcelain onlay done, your out-of-pocket cost will be higher.
A root canal is a common and safe procedure to treat an infection in the pulp of the tooth. Most people would probably refer to a tooth's pulp tissue as its "nerve." While a tooth does contain nerve fibers, it is also composed of arteries, lymph vessels, and connective tissue. Years ago, severely damaged or infected teeth were simply removed. Today, with modern dental techniques, we can save and repair infected teeth through root canal therapy.
Periodontal disease is an infection of the teeth and gums as well as the bone that surrounds the teeth. It is caused by poor oral hygiene and certain unhealthy habits such as smoking. Periodontal disease causes bone loss and can eventually lead to losing teeth. There are three stages to periodontal disease:
1. Gingivitis: Plaque, a sticky film of food and bacteria, forms constantly on our teeth. If it isn't removed daily, it begins to harden and forms a substance called tartar. In this early stage, before bone loss has occurred, the gums become red and swollen. This is "gingivitis" and is the first stage of periodontal disease.
2. Periodontitis: As the plaque and tartar work their way down below the gum line, the gums begin to separate away from the teeth, forming pockets. Once a pocket has formed, the disease process accelerates, as new, even more destructive types of bacteria begin to populate the pocket. If the tartar isn't removed by a dental professional, your body's defensive reaction to the infection produces enzymes that cause the loss of supporting bone. This stage is known as "periodontitis."
3. Advanced Periodontitis: If left untreated, periodontal disease causes supporting bone to be lost from around the teeth. Eventually, so much bone is lost that teeth can become loose and fall out. This is "advanced periodontitis." Once it reaches advanced stages, periodontal disease cannot be reversed. It is the number one cause of missing teeth in the United States today.
Dental implants are today's best alternative for replacing missing teeth. They provide a permanent and secure solution for restoring one or more lost teeth. Made of biocompatible materials, dental implants are similar to orthopedic devices, and function as anchors that support crowns, bridges or dentures.
Our patients tell us that dental implants have changed not only their smiles and their overall appearance but even their lives! If you want to replace missing teeth, there are numerous benefits to choosing dental implants.
For healthy teeth and gums, oral hygiene is vital. Brushing and flossing teeth is essential for the health of your mouth and the appearance of your smile. Our goal is to help you understand and appreciate your role in maintaining your oral health.
Good oral hygiene is an essential part of good health and well-being throughout life. By taking care of your teeth and gums, eating a balanced diet and visiting your dentist regularly, you can have healthy teeth and an attractive smile your entire life. Follow these tips for good oral hygiene: