Amalgam and Composite/Resin Fillings

No one wants to hear those dreaded words from a dentist: “You have a cavity.” If you’ve been told recently that you need a filling, you might have a few questions about what’s going to happen. One of the main concerns you may have is, “What are you using to fill the cavity space?” This is a great question and the answer depends on your dentist. There are a couple of options available so knowing the differences in the two may help you understand the entire process better.

Amalgam Filling

The word amalgam literally means a mixture or blend so it makes sense that amalgam fillings would be a mix of silver, tin, mercury, and copper. This is the traditional “silver” filling and continues to be one of the strongest, most manipulatable way to fill cavities. Amalgam fillings are especially great for back teeth because of their durability and dentists love how easy it is to work with.

Composite-Resin Fillings

Resin fillings are created from plastic and ceramic and more closely resemble a natural tooth color, making it a great choice for front teeth. Although they traditionally haven’t held up to the test of durability by the back teeth, recent advancements have made composite resin fillings much stronger.

The decision is really up to your dentist and many choose the amalgam filling for back teeth to ensure grinding and chewing doesn’t wear down the filling. Composite-resin fillings are more commonly used in teeth that are visible when smiling or talking and are great if you may be self-conscious about the filling. If you’re curious, ask your dentist before starting which one she plans to use.

The Basics of X-Rays

We often don’t think about how critical the technology of the X-ray is to modern medicine.  Just a hundred years ago however, diagnoses were difficult or even impossible, making treatment just as complicated. However, now, X-rays are a vital part of many health care analyses. To better understand why this technology is so helpful to professionals, let’s look at the basics.

History

The X-ray was discovered in 1895 by a professor working with cathode-ray in his lab. He saw that the ray could pass through most substances (including human tissue) and cast shadows, making solid objects (like bone or metal) underneath much more visible. Within 6 months of the discovery, radiography was being used on the battlefield to locate bullets in soldiers. It wasn’t until 1912 however, when a higher voltage tube became available, that the X-ray machines became more popular in the medical field. The updated tubes made it easier to capture many images without breaking down easily (a problem they were running into often.) As the years advanced, so did the technology, allowing for more and more precise imaging and accurate diagnoses.

Use

Although X-rays are used by industries, like security or transport, their main use is in medicine. There are a variety of ways X-rays can be used to take a look into the body. With enough energy, the rays pass through all tissue and are only blocked by bones, giving you a clear picture of the hard matter. In dentistry, x-rays are used to visualize the entire mouth as well as:

  1. Monitor the development of or detect cavities
  2. Detect if there are missing or extra teeth
  3. As preparation for orthodontic treatment
  4. Detect problems that cannot be seen with a visual exam

There are four types of x-rays: Periapical, panoramic, bitewing, and occlusal. Your dentist will choose which x-rays to take based on many factors, including your dental history and time lapsed since your last exam. We usually recommend that bitewing x-rays are taken every 6 months and panoramic x-rays are taken every 3 to 5 years.

Future

As with any technology, the future looks bright. In development is a system of making x-rays in true color and much more detailed. This allows for a limit to only what is important to the image, eliminating any information that isn’t useful. With such an advancement also comes a requirement for less radiation emanation to the body itself, making it safer to take repeat images.

Take into consideration and appreciate the procedure and immense technological advancement that X-rays were and still are next time you see a radiograph!

Get Whiter Teeth This New Year

One of the few resolutions you hear about when the new year comes around is getting whiter teeth. Although living a healthier lifestyle and setting goals is a great way to start off 2017, don’t forget that there are ways to have healthier teeth and you can do plenty of things to make your smile as strong and white as possible. Here are a few ways we recommend you brighten your smile this new year.

First, you should know what is actually causing the staining and yellowing of your teeth. Drinking a large amount of coffee and tea, smoking cigarettes, eating acidic foods, ingesting fluoride, and aging are all factors in thinning your enamel and yellowing your teeth. Of course, you can’t exactly avoid aging or fluoride but you can definitely limit your intake of the other causes, which brings us to our first tip.

Avoid smoking cigarettes, cut down on the coffee and tea, and generally work on improving your oral health. Brush your teeth with a whitening paste after eating and keep your regularly scheduled dental cleaning appointments.

Another tip is to use lemon juice. Just as Jan used lemon in the Brady Bunch to lighten her freckles, the acidic fruit can do the same for your teeth.  Although acidic substances are on our list of items that cause yellowing, using a little without aggression or prolonged use will do little harm and can actually benefit your teeth’s brightness. Just be sure to rinse with water after use to avoid the acid clinging to your teeth and stripping the enamel.

There are also plenty of gels, pens, and trays available over-the-counter that advertise quick teeth whitening. While these are all great options, our favorite (and the most effect) way to whiten teeth is with in-office or at-home whitening procedures given by your dentist. After all, no one knows your teeth like your dentist.

At our office, we offer both options. The in-office procedure, the Philips Zoom Whitening, involves wearing a tray filled with peroxide gel for 3 fifteen-minute cycles, and is available as a take-home option as well. If you’re looking for something not quite as intense or have tooth sensitivity, another great choice is the Sheer White at-home whitening kit. This includes five days’ worth of flexible gel strips that mold to your teeth and whiten as you wear them. Whichever route you choose, it is recommended that you have a regular dental cleaning first to get your teeth ready for the whitening process.

If you’re having trouble deciding which choice is the best for you, give us a call and let us help you decide!

Custom Mouth Guards

If you play sports or grind your teeth at night, your dentist may have recommended a custom mouth guard. Especially in the athletic world, mouth guards are a common piece of protective equipment and are sold at any sports store. The same is true for teeth-grinding guards typically sold in medical aisles of a pharmacy. So, why should you get a custom mouth guard when more basic options are available?

Why wear one at all?

Your beautiful smile is a part of you, and oral health is just as important as other types of physical health. When playing sports such as football and basketball, it’s possible that jarring physical contact can occur. If the blow or hit is to the head or face, it can result in a dental injury. Wearing a mouth guard shields you from more serious harm to your teeth and mouth, just as elbow and knee pads shield your body.

Mouth guards aren’t just for athletes. If you’re prone to grinding your teeth while asleep, it can be safer and healthier to wear a guard at night. This can help you avoid jaw pain, headaches, worn down teeth, and more.

Benefits of a custom guard

A custom mouth guard molds to your mouth and your bite. Having a custom guard allows for the perfect fit and maximum comfort for athletic activity or teeth grinding. They’re designed to fit around your teeth, taking into consideration gaps, overlaps, and other unique dental characteristics. Many are even specially designed for the types of impact your sport (or health need) encompasses.

But, why custom? Mouth guards found in stores tend to be bulky and don’t fit your mouth well. Their goal is to merely cover the top teeth or the crowns, the teeth that will take most of the force from an impact. A guard that is designed to work for everyone usually causes difficulty with talking, breathing, and keeping it in, whether during physical activity or while sleeping.

With a custom guard fitted to your own mouth, you can rest assured that your teeth with be protected from possible trauma and still get a comfortable, secure fit. You’ll be able to actively participate in sports without having to worry about an injury or keeping a store-bought guard secure.

Schedule an appointment with us today to determine if a custom mouth guard is right for you.

 

Caring for Your Oral Piercings

Oral piercings commonly refer to piercings of the tongue, cheek or lips and are usually shown off with jewelry such as studs, barbells or rings. They are a form of self expression that has become especially popular in the last two decades. Unfortunately, when not performed or cared for properly, mouth piercings pose a much greater health risk than ear piercings. They also require constant upkeep and attention. Before you get an oral piercing, it is always best to speak with your dentist about your individual risks and personalized care.

What are the typical risks associated with oral piercings?

Our mouths contain millions of bacteria, which means the risk of infection and inflammation, as well as further complications, increases dramatically. For example, an infected tongue can swell so much that it closes off the airway and make it difficult to breathe. After a piercing, watch for typical signs of infection such as the presence of a fever, chills, and swelling or redness around the piercing site. If you notice any of these signs, call our office as soon as you can.

Other risks associated with mouth piercings include:

Caring for Oral Piercings

Piercings in the mouth will usually heal in four to six weeks. Taking piercing aftercare seriously reduces your risk of complications and keeps healing time to a minimum. Here are some tips to keep in mind during this time:

Don’t:

Do:

2-Minute Oral Cancer Screenings with OralID

Cancer is a scary disease. It often strikes without warning and can change your life in an instant. Fortunately, your doctor can monitor you for signs of most types of cancer. Because early detection can save your life, it’s important to have regular visits to screen for early signs.

One type of cancer that doesn’t get as much attention is oral cancer. Because patients don’t typically hear much about the signs or symptoms, oral cancers are often discovered at later stages, negatively impacting the survival rate.

While other types of cancers are declining as awareness for them increases, the rate of oral cancer is actually on the rise, especially in the younger population. Although tobacco use is an obvious risk factor for oral cancer, it isn’t the only one. Alcohol use, genetics, age (40 and over), and exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV) are all contributing factors to the development of this disease.

Most cases of oral cancer are discovered at a very late stage, after many opportunities for treatment have already passed. Fortunately, these statistics don’t need to stay so bleak. One way to combat the rise in cases of oral cancer is to have regular screenings. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends an annual oral cancer screening for women and men ages 17 and up.

While you’re already at the dentist every six months for your regular exam and cleaning, you have a perfect opportunity to have an oral cancer screening. Having your dentist perform a quick exam twice a year will ensure that any problems are caught early enough to be receptive to treatment.

At Dr. Roberts Family Dentistry, screenings for oral cancer can start as early as sixteen years old and are performed at no charge at every regular cleaning! We use cutting-edge technology called OralID to scan your mouth for signs of oral cancer, pre-cancer or other abnormal lesions that are otherwise invisible to the naked eye. If that sounds scary, don’t fear. The exam is quick and pain-free: Dr. Roberts will simply put on a pair of yellow glasses and shine a blue fluorescent light into your mouth. Since the screening only uses a light, there’s no prodding, unpleasant dyes, rinses or waiting involved. Those 2 minutes not only will give you a peace of mind but they may save your life.

Wisdom Teeth Basics

While it’s common to hear about wisdom teeth removal, a lot of people don’t really understand what wisdom teeth even are or why they have to be taken out in the first place.

Wisdom teeth are, simply, the last set of molars to grow. Some people get all 4, some fewer, and some don’t get them at all. If you have wisdom teeth , they’ll likely start growing in between the ages of 16 and 20. Unfortunately, since they’re the last teeth in your mouth, there might not be any room for them. This can cause a lot of pain, particularly if they put too much pressure on the rest of your teeth or get blocked by other teeth (impacted). Leaving your wisdom teeth in when they should be removed can cause pain, swelling, bleeding gums, and headache.

Your dentist will be able to tell if you need to have your wisdom teeth removed before they start causing problems by looking at your X-rays. If your wisdom teeth are improperly aligned or just don’t have enough room to grow, your dentist will recommend an extraction before they begin to grow more.

Wisdom tooth extraction is usually a simple procedure. Unless your teeth have become impacted, your dentist will be able to easily cut open your gums over the teeth, remove the tooth and some of the surrounding bone, and stitch the gums closed again. An impacted tooth may require more time to remove, but the procedure is the same.

Although it’s often a somewhat painful recovery, having your wisdom teeth removed before they become a bigger problem will actually save you time and pain down the road. If you’re concerned, call our office to schedule a consultation about about your wisdom teeth and we’ll be happy to answer any questions that you have.

Tooth Sensitivity 101

If drinking a cup of hot tea or eating ice cream causes you pain and discomfort, you might suffer from tooth sensitivity. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, approximately 40 million adults in America have at some point experienced tooth sensitivity. This condition results in sharp and sudden pain that radiates to the nerve endings of your tooth. It may come and go.

What is Tooth Sensitivity?

The crown portion of your tooth is covered in a hard, protective layer called enamel. Beneath the enamel is a soft layer called dentin, which contains tubules filled with nerve endings. These nerve endings extend to the root of your tooth where they are protected by a layer called cementum. When enamel or cementum wears down, dentin is exposed and your trigger foods (or even an element such as a burst of cold wind) will reach the nerve endings and result in pain.

Causes

Some root causes of tooth sensitivity include:

Treatment

If your tooth sensitivity is mild, you may be able to manage it at home. Over-the-counter desensitizing toothpastes such as Sensodyne can begin to offer you relief after about 2 weeks of daily use. You may also apply tiny dabs of the toothpaste to sensitive spots. Try using a soft-bristled toothbrush and make sure you floss daily.

However, if tooth sensitivity continues to bother you, give us a call. Dr. Roberts will work with you to identify the underlying cause of your tooth sensitivity and recommend the most appropriate treatment. Some in-office procedures that can help alleviate discomfort include the application of fluoride gel and dental sealants.

In-Office and At-Home Teeth Whitening

At Dr. Roberts Family Dentistry, we are pleased to offer two teeth whitening options! Call us at 706-494-2679 or schedule your appointment online.

White and bright smiles are confidence boosters but life can get in the way of keeping your teeth sparkling. Between jump-starting a day with a hot cup of coffee in the morning or relaxing with wine in the evening, it can be challenging to avoid foods and beverages that cause teeth stains. Some lifestyle habits such as smoking can also turn teeth yellow.

If you want a brighter smile, there is no shortage of options on the market, including OTC whitening toothpastes, rinses, strips and specially designed toothbrushes.

Each option does vary in price, effectiveness and ease of use. However, the most advanced and effective whitening systems are either done in the office or at home with dentist’s instructions. Results are immediate and dramatic, and because both are dentist-dispensed, you can be sure that the systems are safe and simple to use. At Dr. Roberts Family Dentistry, we offer two teeth whitening options.

Philips Zoom Whitening

Zoom is a bleaching and whitening system that contains a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide. As you relax and sit back in a chair, your dentist will apply a bleaching gel to the teeth in 3 15-minute cycles. Gums are protected during this process. Once the procedure is complete, you are ready to go! There is no downtime or recovery, though your teeth may feel sensitive at first. On average, most patients see their teeth whiten by about 8 shades.

Zoom is also offered as an at-home whitening product. In this case, we will create a custom tray for your teeth and give you the instructions on how to complete the process at home. This is also offered as a touch-up option after the in-office procedure.

Sheer White

Sheer White is a 5-day, at-home system that uses a 20% carbamide peroxide whitening solution. This is a great option for someone with extra teeth sensitivity who may not be able to handle a more powerful treatment. You will be given a kit that contains thin and flexible film strips that are covered with a layer of gel. The strips will easily mold to your teeth when applied and provide a tight seal, without leakage. You can wear the strips for up to 2 hours (30 minutes minimum) and even hold a conversation or have a drink. Some patients choose to have touch ups every 6 to 12 months.

If you are interested in whitening your teeth, keep in mind that you will want to first schedule a regular cleaning to get the teeth ready for the bleaching process.

 

 

Dental Sealants

Dental sealants are an excellent additional layer of protection against tooth decay.  Fluoride in toothpaste and drinking water protect the smooth surfaces of teeth, but they are less effective among the back teeth.  The chewing surfaces of the back teeth contain many small pits and grooves where food and germs can stay for a long time because toothbrush bristles cannot easily brush them away.  This leaves the back teeth potentially vulnerable to decay.  Sealants work by keeping food and germs out of the pits and grooves.

According to Jonathan Shenkin, a pediatric dentist and spokesman for the American Dental Association, “Decades of research demonstrate that coating the biting surface of 6-year molars with a resin-based sealant can reduce cavities by up to nearly 80% immediately, and up to 60% for four years or more.”

What Are Dental Sealants?

Sealants are thin, plastic coatings that are painted on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to prevent tooth decay.  The sealant quickly bonds into the depressions ad grooves of the teeth, forming a protective shield over the enamel of each tooth.

The procedure is a simple and painless process that only takes a few minutes per tooth.  First, the tooth is thoroughly cleaned and dried.  Next, a slightly acidic solution is applied to the chewing surface of the tooth designed to help the sealant bond to the tooth surface.  Each tooth is then painted with a very thin layer of the sealant coating.  Finally, the dentist will use a special curing light to help the sealant harden.

Who Should Get Dental Sealants?

Dental sealants are particularly beneficial for children in the cavity-prone years of ages 6 to 14.  At this age, it is difficult for children to brush and floss their teeth effectively enough to remove all food particles and bacteria from the pits and grooves of their back teeth.  For this reason, children are excellent candidates for this extra layer of protection against tooth decay and cavities.

If you think that you or your child may be a good candidate for dental sealants, or have any questions, please call Dr. Roberts’ office.

10 Tips for Dry Mouth Relief

Dry mouth is a condition that refers to lack of moisture in the mouth, usually as a result of an abnormal flow of saliva. Certain medications, diseases, cancer therapies and even lifestyle habits may cause dry mouth, also known as xerostomia.

If you suffer from dry mouth, you know it’s more than just an unpleasant feeling. Saliva plays a significant role in maintaining good oral health and helping us taste, chew and digest food. Dry mouth can lead to bad breath and increase your risk of tooth decay, gum disease (gingivitis) and oral infections.

Follow these tips to relieve the symptoms of dry mouth and prevent further problems:

  1. Chew sugar-free gum. This is the easiest way to stimulate saliva production. Sucking on sugar-free hard candy works too.
  2. Rinse with alcohol-free mouthwash. Most mouthwashes contain at least 10% alcohol, which has a drying effect.
  3. Don’t smoke or drink. Both tobacco and alcohol are one of the biggest reasons for dry mouth.
  4. Stay hydrated. Water and sugarless drinks will alleviate the symptoms of dry mouth and offer a myriad of other health benefits.
  5. Use a humidifier. Humidifiers add moisture to the air and are especially helpful during winter months when the air is cool and dry.
  6. Eat tart and sour foods. In small doses, citrus fruit, yogurt and pickles will stimulate saliva production.
  7. Try a saliva substitute. Artificial saliva rinses and sprays aren’t a perfect replacement for natural saliva, but they will help to alleviate the symptoms of dry mouth.
  8. Breathe through your nose. If you wake up with a dry mouth, you might be breathing through your mouth at night. If you notice the symptoms only upon waking, ask your doctor to check for sleep apnea as the potential culprit.
  9. Limit caffeine. Tea, coffee and caffeinated sodas all have a drying effect and should be avoided.
  10. Maintain dental hygiene. Be extra mindful of maintaining good oral health. Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and floss daily. Schedule a regular cleaning every 6 months.

Dental Implants

George Washington’s famously uncomfortable dentures robbed him of his smile and made it difficult for him to eat and speak normally. Thankfully we have better options to replace teeth lost through tooth decay, disease or injury.

What are dental implants?

Dental implants are replacement tooth roots in the shape of a posts that are surgically placed in the jawbone. The “root” is usually made of titanium, a metal that is well-suited to pairing with human bone. The post then provides a strong foundation for replacement teeth that are designed to blend in with your natural teeth, providing you with an excellent long-term option for restoring your smile.

What are the advantages of dental implants?

There are numerous advantages to dental implants. Most patients find dental implants to be more durable, stable, and comfortable that other tooth replacement options such as dentures and bridges. Additionally, dental implants prevent bone loss and support your other natural teeth, but perhaps the most important benefit is the restoration of your confidence and well-being found in knowing that you can eat, chew, smile, talk, and look completely natural.

What is involved in getting dental implants?

Once the dentist has made an evaluation of your mouth and teeth, there are three general phases to getting an implant:

Are you a candidate?

Most people who have lost a tooth are good candidates for implants. Ideal candidates for dental implants are non-smokers who have good oral health, including sufficient amount of bone in the jaw and healthy gums with no sign of gum disease.

Let the trained professionals at Dr. Roberts Family Dentistry help you determine if dental implants can help you rejuvenate both your smile and your oral health.