Posts for tag: oral health
When it comes to chronic pain, one of the most common problems you can face is Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD), which was formerly known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ). TMD is a condition that can be tricky to diagnose because it frequently mimics other conditions. This is why many healthcare professionals refer to it as “the great imposter.” However, regardless of what it is called, the pain it causes is real and can become quite severe — especially if left undiagnosed and untreated.
To grasp the condition fully, you must first understand the TMD pain cycle. It can start with any traumatic, psychological, metabolic, or mechanical stimulant that causes spasm in the muscles that move the jaw joints (opening, closing, chewing, and even smiling.) This is because of the constricted blood supply to the muscles resulting in less oxygen along with the accumulation of waste products. This is followed by chemical changes in the muscles and a buildup of lactic acid due to muscle fatigue. Abnormal or involuntary muscle contractions or spasms lead to pain signals to the brain that can stop muscle movement. Depending on the severity, this cycle can repeat itself resulting in acute pain that may be extremely severe at times. The pain may then seem to disappear only to resurface again later. The good news is that our office has highly trained professionals who cannot only diagnose but also treat your TMD.
If you suffer from chronic jaw pain and feel that you might have TMD, please let us know so that we can address your concerns and conduct a thorough history and examination. Or if you are in constant or severe pain, contact us immediately to schedule an appointment. You can learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for TMD by reading the article “TMD — Understanding The Great Imposter.”
In our constant battle against infectious disease, the “enemy” is often too close for comfort: hospitals and other medical facilities must be ever vigilant against opportunistic infections their patients may contract while in their care.
Dental offices are no exception. Because even the simplest procedure — a dental cleaning, for example — may result in exposure, providers and patients alike face a possible health risk. We must be especially concerned with blood-borne viral infections — spread by person to person contact through blood — the most serious being hepatitis B and C, and HIV/AIDS.
Hepatitis is a viral inflammatory disease that disrupts the critical functions of the liver, particularly as it cleanses and regulates the blood, and cause serious bodily impairment or death. The virus can be transmitted when the blood from an infected person makes its way into the bloodstream of another person, mainly through cuts or a needle injection. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can lead to the chronic condition AIDS that destroys the body’s immune system; it spreads mainly through sexual contact, as well as through person to person blood contact.
The best defense against the spread of these diseases in dental offices or other healthcare settings is to eliminate as much as possible any opportunity for blood-to-blood contact. To accomplish this, all healthcare providers, including dentists, are mandated by federal, state and local authorities to incorporate and follow routine safety precautions. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues regularly updated comprehensive guidelines for protocols and procedures to disinfect and sterilize equipment and facilities.
We dentists and our clinical staffs are also mandated by state licensing boards to refresh our knowledge of infection control procedures through continuing education. Such procedures cover every aspect of infection control, from barrier protection — by way of gloves, masks or gowns — to instrument disinfection.
Protecting patients as well as providers from the spread of infection is one of our profession’s highest standards. As a result, incidents of infection among the 170,000 practicing dentists in the United States are rare. You can be assured, then, that we’re taking every precaution to keep you and your family safe from disease when you visit our office.
If you would like more information on dental office procedures to prevent the spread of infection, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Infection Control in the Dental Office.”
We say that we are going to have our teeth cleaned — but a lot more than simple cleaning takes place during a visit to a dental hygienist.
- Health History
Your hygienist will ask you about your general health and your dental health and any recent changes in either. By doing so she will pinpoint any issues that require special precautions during your cleaning.
- Cancer Screening
Next, the hygienist carefully examines the skin in and around your mouth looking for lumps, bumps, sores, tenderness or swellings and refers areas of concern to the dentist for further evaluation. The hygienist is one of the few people who get to closely assess your whole mouth, so she is trained to spot cancer and other diseases.
- Evaluating Your Periodontal Health
Your hygienist will look closely at the state of your periodontal health (from peri meaning around and dont meaning tooth). This includes checking your gums and the other tissues surrounding your teeth for inflammation (gingivitis) or bleeding.
- Checking for Decay
The hygienist will examine your teeth for decay and will note the location and condition of stains or hard mineral deposits (calculus or tartar). These deposits result from a buildup of plaque (a film of bacteria) that has not been removed by daily brushing.
The hygienist uses hand tools or a sonic scaler to remove the calculus from your teeth.
A mechanical polisher and an abrasive polishing compound are used to polish the surface of your teeth so that they are smooth, making them more resistant to plaque, removing stains and leaving your teeth feeling squeaky clean.
The hygienist uses a tiny probe to measure the space between your teeth and gums. Periodontal disease begins by forming pockets between the teeth and gums, so this measuring is key to your periodontal health. Generally a space of 3mm or less indicates healthy gums, pockets of 4 to 5mm indicate periodontal disease that may be reversed with good oral care at home, and pockets that are 6mm deep or more require specialized treatment by a dentist or periodontist (a dentist who specializes in care of gums).
Based on the observed conditions of your gums and teeth, the hygienist will provide information aimed at improving your home oral cleansing routines and about your risk for tooth decay and gum disease.
- Making Your Next Appointment
The hygienist will make an appointment for your next cleaning — in three, four, or six months depending on the health of your gums and teeth. Keeping these appointments not only keeps your teeth looking their best, but it also assures good management of your dental health.
Florence Henderson is a multi-talented actress most recognized for her role as Carol Brady on The Brady Brunch, one of the longest-running situational comedies. In fact, this role earned her the title of America's Favorite TV Mom and her first TV Land Pop Culture Icon award, which is on permanent display in the National Museum of American History.
During an interview with Dear Doctor magazine, Henderson discussed her oral health as well as her role as spokesperson for Polident (denture cleanser) — even though she does not have dentures. Henderson attributes her beautiful, natural smile to prevention. “Flossing, brushing and regular dental checkups are vital if you want to keep your teeth,” she said, adding, “I always have mouthwash, dental floss, toothpaste and a toothbrush on the set.”
Similar to the great advice “Carol Brady” shared on television, Henderson's advice on oral hygiene is spot-on. We agree that an effective educational approach to oral hygiene and diet is essential to keeping teeth for a lifetime.
The first step is to ensure you have a proper brushing and flossing technique. We can go over these during your next office visit. Our goal is to ensure that you are applying the ideal amount of pressure and motion because gum tissues are soft and can easily be damaged. And you should never use a hard-bristled toothbrush or saw at your gums and teeth when brushing. The best technique is a modified, gentle scrub where you hold a well-designed, multi-tufted toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gum line to gently wiggle/scrub your teeth clean.
As for flossing, you should do it at least once daily to remove the plaque buildup that occurs in the protected areas between teeth where your toothbrush can't reach and where periodontal (gum) disease and dental caries (cavities) start and progress. Many people are shocked to learn that over 50% of the accumulation of plaque occurs in these areas.
To learn more about proper oral hygiene, you can continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Hygiene Behavior.” Or you can contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can conduct a thorough examination and discuss what treatment options will be best for you. And to read the entire interview with Florence Henderson, please see the article “Florence Henderson.”
As our profession advances, we dental professionals continue to find the biggest factor for successful outcomes is an informed patient. The more you know about your own teeth and gums, the greater your chance for a healthy outcome.
Regular dental care is fundamental to becoming informed. Your regular office visits and cleanings are an opportunity for us to “get real” — for you to learn the unvarnished truth about your dental issues and the reasons why you need to consider some options regarding your oral health. We also need to be just as realistic about what can or can’t be done to improve your situation and the cost involved.
The best way to approach this is to develop a plan based on managing risk. Risk is essentially weighing anything we may potentially lose against the solutions for not losing it. In dentistry, we look at risk in four basic areas: periodontal, the threats to structures like gums, ligaments and bone that support the teeth; biomechanical, the threats to the structural integrity of teeth such as decay, enamel erosion or fracture; functional, problems that can arise with how the teeth, muscles and jaw joints work together; and aesthetic, the impact of all these threats to the outward appearance of your smile.
Once we know the risks you’re facing, we then determine the best treatment approach for managing the risk based on costs and potential outcomes. For example, if you’re diagnosed with gum disease, you’re at risk for losing supporting bone and, ultimately, the affected teeth. Our primary goal is to prevent that loss from occurring through plaque and calculus removal that slow or stop the disease and allow affected tissues to heal. But if the disease has advanced and you’ve already experienced bone or even tooth loss, we may then need to modify our treatment goal by including gum surgery or tooth replacement options like dental implants.
Using a risk management approach helps us identify what needs to be treated and the most reasonable and achievable options for treating it. The foundation for this approach is prevention — stopping problems before they start or progress. Developing and maintaining this kind of action plan will help reduce your ultimate costs — emotional, social and financial.
If you would like more information on dental treatment planning, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Successful Dental Treatment.”