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Below you’ll find answers to some the most frequently asked questions regarding dental and oral health.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I HAVE BAD BREATH?
Bad breath (halitosis) can be embarrassing. What’s more, many of us may not realize that we have bad breath, but everyone does from time to time - especially in the morning.
There are a multitude of reasons one may have bad breath, but in healthy people, the main reason is bacterial deposits on the tongue, especially the back of the tongue. Some studies have shown that simply brushing the tongue reduced bad breath by as much as 70 percent. Our advice - don’t forget to brush your tongue!
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I HAVE BAD BREATH?
- Morning time – Saliva flow decreases during sleep and its reduced cleansing action allows bacteria to grow, causing bad breath.
- Certain foods – Garlic, onions, etc. Foods containing odor-causing compounds enter the blood stream; they are transferred to the lungs, where they are exhaled.
- Poor oral hygiene habits – Food particles remaining in the mouth promote bacterial growth.
- Periodontal (gum) disease – Colonies of bacteria live under inflamed gums, reforming every sixteen hours.
- Dental cavities and improperly fitted fillings and crowns – Contribute to bad breath.
- Dry mouth (Xerostomia) – May be caused by certain medications, salivary gland problems, or continuous mouth breathing.
- Tobacco products – Dry the mouth, causing bad breath.
- Dieting – Certain chemicals called ketones are released in the breath as the body burns fat.
- Dehydration, hunger, and missed meals – Drinking water and chewing food increases saliva flow and washes bacteria away.
- Certain medical conditions and illnesses – Diabetes, liver and kidney problems, chronic sinus infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia are several conditions that may contribute to bad breath.
Keeping a record of what you eat may help identify the cause of bad breath. Also, review your current medications, recent surgeries, or illnesses with your dentist.
Ways to Prevent Bad Breath
- Practice good oral hygiene: Brush at least twice a day with an ADA approved fluoride toothpaste and toothbrush. Floss daily to remove food debris and plaque from in between the teeth and under the gum line. Brush or use a tongue scraper to clean the tongue. Replace your toothbrush every 2 to 3 months. If you wear dentures or removable bridges, clean them thoroughly and place them back in your mouth in the morning.
- See your dentist regularly: Get a check-up and cleaning at least twice a year. If you have or have had periodontal disease, your dentist will recommend more frequent visits.
- Stop smoking/chewing tobacco: Ask your dentist what they recommend to help break the habit.
- Drink water frequently: Water will help keep your mouth moist and wash away bacteria.
- Use mouthwash/rinses: Some over-the-counter products only provide a temporary solution to mask unpleasant mouth odor. Ask your dentist about prescription rinses that not only alleviate bad breath, but also kill the germs that cause the problem.
In most cases, your dentist can treat the cause of bad breath. If it is determined that your mouth is healthy, but bad breath is persistent, your dentist may refer you to your physician to determine the cause of the odor and an appropriate treatment plan.
WHAT IS PLAQUE AND WHY DO I NEED TO HAVE IT REMOVED?
Plaque is a film of food debris, bacteria, and saliva that sticks to the teeth and gums. The bacteria in plaque convert certain food particles into acids that cause tooth decay. If plaque is not removed, it turns into calculus (tartar). If plaque and calculus are not removed, they begin to destroy the gums and bone, causing periodontal (gum) disease. Brushing and flossing are your best weapons against plaque.
Recommendations for reducing plaque.
Tooth brushing – Brush your teeth at least twice a day (especially before going to bed at night) with an ADA approved soft bristle brush and toothpaste.
- Brush at a 45-degree angle to the gums, gently using a small, circular motion, ensuring that you always feel the bristles on the gums.
- Brush the outer, inner, and biting surfaces of each tooth.
- Use the tip of the brush head to clean the inside surfaces of front teeth.
- Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.
- Electric toothbrushes are strongly recommended. They are easy to use and remove plaque the most efficiently. Simply place the bristles of the electric brush on your teeth and allow the brush to do its job, several teeth at a time.
Flossing – Daily flossing is the best way to clean between the teeth and under the gum line. Flossing not only helps clean these spaces, it disrupts plaque colonies from building up, preventing damage to the gums, teeth, and bone.
- Take 12-16 inches of dental floss and wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about 2 inches of floss between the hands.
- Using your thumbs and forefingers to guide the floss, gently insert the floss between teeth using an up and down motion.
- Curve the floss into a “C” shape around each tooth and below the gum line. Gently move the floss up and down, cleaning the side of each tooth.
Trouble using conventional floss? Talk to Dr. Froeber about the latest is super simple electronic flossing options.
Rinsing – It is important to rinse your mouth with water after brushing, and also after meals if you are unable to brush. If you are using an over-the-counter product for rinsing, it’s a good idea to consult with your dentist or dental hygienist on its appropriateness for you.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I HAVE A DENTAL EXAM AND CLEANING?
You should have your teeth checked and cleaned at least twice a year, though your dentist or dental hygienist may recommend more frequent visits. We go beyond the typical dental exam. Learn what makes our exams different here.
HOW CAN I TELL IF I HAVE GINGIVITIS OR PERIODONTITIS (GUM DISEASE)?
Four out of five people have periodontal disease and don’t know it.
Most people are not aware of it because the disease is usually painless in the early stages. Unlike tooth decay, which often causes discomfort, it is possible to have periodontal disease without noticeable symptoms. Having regular dental check-ups and periodontal examinations is very important and will help detect if periodontal problems exist.
Periodontal disease begins when plaque, a sticky, colorless, film of bacteria, food debris, and saliva, is left on the teeth and gums. The bacteria produce toxins (acids) that inflame the gums and slowly destroy the bone. Brushing and flossing regularly and properly will ensure that plaque is not left behind to do its damage.
Other than poor oral hygiene, there are several other factors that may increase the risk of developing periodontal disease:
- Smoking or chewing tobacco – Tobacco users are more likely than non-users to form plaque and tartar on their teeth.
- Certain tooth or appliance conditions – Crowns and bridges that no longer fit properly, crowded teeth, or defective fillings that may trap plaque and bacteria.
- Many medications – Antidepressants, blood pressure meds, oral contraceptives, steroids and cancer therapy drugs. Some medications have side affects that reduce saliva, making the mouth dry and plaque easier to adhere to the teeth and gums.
- Pregnancy, oral contraceptives, and puberty – Can cause changes in hormone levels, causing gum tissue to become more sensitive to bacteria toxins.
- Systemic diseases – Recent research shows that the inflammation caused by periodontal disease negatively impacts systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease (in the form of heart attacks and strokes), diabetes, kidney disease, blood cell disorders, heart disease, etc. Treating the inflammation not only helps reverse the periodontal disease; it also helps with the management of other chronic conditions.
- Genetics may play role – Some patients may be predisposed to a more aggressive type of periodontitis. Patients with a family history of tooth loss should pay particular attention to their gums.
Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
- Red and puffy gums – Gums should never be red or swollen.
- Bleeding gums – Gums should never bleed, even when you brush vigorously or use dental floss.
- Persistent bad breath – Caused by bacteria in the mouth.
- New spacing between teeth – Caused by bone loss.
- Loose teeth – Also caused by bone loss or weakened periodontal fibers (fibers that support the tooth to the bone).
- Pus around the teeth and gums – Sign that there is an infection present.
- Receding gums – Loss of gum around a tooth.
- Tenderness or Discomfort – Plaque, calculus, and bacteria irritate the gums and teeth.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO USE DENTAL FLOSS?
Contrary to recent claims regarding the value of flossing, we cannot stress enough that it is an integral part of a good oral hygiene routine. Brushing our teeth removes food particles, plaque, and bacteria from all tooth surfaces, except in between the teeth. Unfortunately, our toothbrush can’t reach these areas that are highly susceptible to decay and periodontal (gum) disease.
Daily flossing is the best way to clean between the teeth and under the gum line. Flossing not only helps clean these spaces, it disrupts plaque colonies from building up, preventing damage to the gums, teeth and bone.
Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. The bacteria produce toxins (acids) that cause cavities and irritate and inflame the gums.
When plaque is not removed above and below the gum line, it hardens and turns into calculus (tartar). This will further irritate and inflame the gums and also slowly destroy the bone. This is the beginning of periodontal disease.
DAILY FLOSSING = A HEALTHY SMILE
HOW CAN COSMETIC DENTISTRY HELP IMPROVE THE APPEARANCE OF MY SMILE?
If you’re feeling somewhat self-conscious about your teeth, or just want to improve your smile, cosmetic dental treatments may be the answer for you.
Cosmetic dentistry has become very popular in the last several years, not only due to the many advances in cosmetic dental procedures and materials available today, but also because patients are becoming more and more focused on improving their overall health. This includes dental prevention and having a healthier, whiter, more radiant smile.
There are many cosmetic dental procedures available to improve your teeth and enhance your smile. Depending on your particular needs, cosmetic dental treatments can change your smile dramatically, from restoring a single tooth to having a full mouth makeover. Ask your dentist how you can improve the health and beauty of your smile with cosmetic dentistry.
Some Common Cosmetic Procedures:
- Teeth Whitening: Bleaching lightens teeth that have been stained or discolored by age, food, drink and smoking. Teeth darkened as a result of injury or taking certain medications can also be bleached, but the effectiveness depends on the degree of staining present.
- Composite (tooth-colored) Fillings: Also known as “bonding”, composite fillings are now widely used instead of amalgam (silver) fillings to repair teeth with cavities, and also to replace old defective fillings. Tooth-colored fillings are also used to repair chipped, broken, or discolored teeth. This type of filling is also very useful to fill in gaps and to protect sensitive, exposed root surfaces caused by gum recession.
- Porcelain Crowns (caps): A crown is a tooth-colored, custom-made covering that encases the entire tooth surface restoring it to its original shape and size. Crowns protect and strengthen teeth that cannot be restored with fillings or other types of restorations. They are ideal for teeth that have large, fractured or broken fillings and also for those that are badly decayed.
- Dental Implants: Dental implants are titanium roots that are surgically placed into the jaw to replace one or more missing teeth. Crowns, bridges and dentures can be made specifically to fit and attach to implants, giving a patient a strong, stable, and long-lasting solution to missing teeth.
- Orthodontics: Less visible and more effective brackets and wires are making straightening teeth with orthodontics much more appealing to adult patients. Also, in many cases, teeth may be straightened with custom-made, clear, removable aligners (Invisalign).
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT STAINED OR DISCOLORED TEETH?
If you have asked yourself this very question, you’re not alone. Teeth whitening has become the number one aesthetic concern of many dental patients. As a result, there are many products and methods available to help you achieve a brighter smile.
Professional teeth whitening (or bleaching) is a simple, non-invasive dental treatment used to change the color of natural tooth enamel, and is an ideal way to enhance the beauty of your smile. Over-the-counter products are also available, but they are much less effective than professional treatments and may not be approved by the American Dental Association (ADA). Before proceeding with any teeth whitening efforts, consult with your dentist to determine if you are a good candidate bleaching.
As we age, the outer layer of tooth enamel wears away, eventually revealing a darker or yellow shade. The color of our teeth comes from the inside of the tooth, which becomes darker over time. Smoking, drinking coffee, tea and wine also contribute to tooth discoloration, making our teeth yellow and dull. Sometimes, teeth can become discolored from taking certain medications as a child, such as tetracycline.
Occasionally, tetracycline stains are difficult to bleach and your dentist may offer other options, such as veneers or crowns to cover up such stains. Since teeth whitening only works on natural tooth enamel, it is also important to evaluate replacement of any old fillings, crowns, etc. following bleaching. Once the bleaching is done, your dentist can match the new restorations to the shade of the newly whitened teeth.
Since teeth whitening is not permanent, a touch-up may be needed every several years to keep your smile looking bright.
The most widely used professional teeth whitening systems are Home Teeth Whitening Systems.
At-home products usually come in a gel form that is placed in a custom mouth guard (tray), created from a mold of your teeth. The trays are worn for an hour a day or overnight. It usually takes two weeks to achieve the desired results depending on the degree of staining and the desired level of whitening.