The odds are extremely low that you'll read or hear about an infection outbreak in a dental clinic anytime soon. That's no happy accident. The more than 170,000 dentists practicing in the U.S. work diligently to protect their patients and staff from infectious disease during dental care.
Spurred on by both high professional standards and governmental oversight, American dentists adhere to strict infection control measures. The primary purpose of these measures is to protect patients from bloodborne infections like Hepatitis B and C and HIV/AIDS.
The term bloodborne refers to the transmission of a virus from person to person via contact with blood. This can occur when blood from an infected person enters the body of another person through a wound or incision.
This is of special concern with any procedure that can cause disruptions to skin or other soft tissues. Oral surgery, of course, falls into this category. But it could also apply to procedures in general dentistry like tooth extraction or even teeth cleaning, both of which can cause tissue trauma.
Each individual dentist or clinic formulates a formal infection control plan designed to prevent person to person blood contact. These plans are a set of protocols based on guidelines developed by on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Barrier protection is an important part of such plans. Dentists and their staff routinely wear gloves, gowns, masks, or other coverings during procedures to block contact between them and their patients.
Additionally, staff members also disinfect work surfaces and sterilize reusable instruments after each treatment session. They isolate disposable items used during treatment from common trash and dispose of them separately. On a personal level, dental staff also thoroughly wash their hands before and after each patient visit.
Because of these practices and the importance placed on controlling potential infection spread, you have nothing to fear in regard to disease while visiting the dentist. If you have any questions or concerns, though, let your dentist know—your safety is just as important to them as your dental care.
If you would like more information on infection control in the dentist's office, 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.”
One of the toughest enemies your teeth face is dental plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles. Accumulated dental plaque can trigger both tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease, which is why removing it is the true raison d'etre for daily brushing and flossing.
But if you do indeed brush and floss every day, how well are you fulfilling this prime objective? The fact is, even if your teeth feel smooth and clean, there could still be missed plaque lurking around, ultimately hardening into tartar—and just as triggering for disease.
The best evaluation of your brushing and flossing efforts may come at your semi-annual dental cleanings. After thoroughly removing any residual plaque and tartar, your dentist or hygienist can give you a fairly accurate assessment of how effective you've been doing in the plaque removal business.
There's also another way you can evaluate your plaque removal ability between dental visits. By using a plaque disclosing agent, you can actually see the plaque you're missing—otherwise camouflaged against your natural tooth color.
These products, usually tablets, swabs or liquid solutions available over-the-counter, contain a dye that reacts to bacterial plaque. After brushing and flossing as usual, you apply the agent to your teeth and gums per the product's instructions. After spitting out any remaining solution, you examine your teeth in the mirror.
The dye will react to any residual plaque or tartar, coloring it a bright hue like pink or orange in contrast to your normal tooth color. You can see the plaque, and perhaps even patterns that can show how you've missed it. For example, if you see brightly colored scallop shapes around the gum line, that's telling you you're not adequately working your toothbrush into those areas.
The dye eventually fades from the teeth in a few hours, or you can brush it away (and fully remove the plaque it disclosed). Although it's safe, you should avoid ingesting it or getting it on your clothes.
Regularly using a disclosing agent can give you excellent feedback for improving your hygiene techniques. Getting better at brushing and flossing will further reduce your risk for dental disease.
If you would like more information on daily plaque removal, 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 “Plaque Disclosing Agents.”
Since his breakout role as Dr. Doug Ross in the 90's TV drama ER, George Clooney has enjoyed a blockbuster career as an award-winning actor, director and producer. He's still going strong, as seen in the recent film The Midnight Sky, which Clooney directed and starred in. This sci-fi drama set a record as the most-watched movie on Netflix for the first five days after its late December release. And although now well into middle age, Clooney still possesses a winsome charm epitomized by his devil-may-care smile.
But he didn't always have his enigmatic grin. Early on, his struggles pursuing his burgeoning acting career triggered a stressful habit of grinding his teeth. This took a toll, as his teeth began to look worn and yellowed, giving his smile—and him—a prematurely aged appearance.
Clooney's not alone. For many of us, our fast-paced lives have created undue stress that we struggle to manage. This pent-up stress has to go somewhere, and for a number of individuals it's expressed through involuntary grinding or gritting of the teeth. This may not only lead to serious dental problems, but it can also diminish an otherwise attractive smile.
There are ways to minimize teeth grinding, the most important of which is to address the underlying stress fueling the habit. It's possible to get a handle on stress through professional counseling, biofeedback therapy, meditation or other relaxation techniques. You can also reduce the habit's effects with a custom-made oral device that prevents the teeth from making solid contact during a grinding episode.
But what if teeth grinding has already taken a toll on your teeth making them look worn down? Do what Clooney did—put a new “face” on your teeth with dental veneers. These thin layers of porcelain are bonded to teeth to mask all sorts of blemishes, including chips, heavy staining and, yes, teeth that appear shortened due to accelerated wearing. And they're custom-designed and fashioned to blend seamlessly with other teeth to transform your smile. Although they're not indestructible, they're quite durable and can last for years.
Veneers can correct many mild to moderate dental defects, but if your teeth are in worse shape, porcelain crowns may be the answer. A crown, which bonds to a prepared tooth to completely cover it, allows you the advantage of keeping your natural tooth while still enhancing its appearance.
Although different in degree, both veneers and crowns require permanently altering the teeth, such that they will require a dental restoration from then on. But if you're looking for an effective way to transform your worn or otherwise distressed teeth into a beautiful smile, it's a sound investment.
Just like George Clooney, your smile is an important part of who you are. We can help you make it as appealing as possible with veneers or other dental enhancements. Call us today to get started on the path to a more attractive smile.
If you would like more information about dental veneers and other smile enhancements, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Porcelain Veneers.”
Dental implants are considered by both dentists and patients as the top choice for teeth replacement, with a fixed bridge a close second. Implants and bridges, however, can be financially challenging for many people. Fortunately, there's another effective and affordable choice: a removable partial denture or RPD.
Like full dentures, RPDs are oral appliances that are generally supported by the bony ridge of the gums. They differ, though, in that they replace one or more teeth among the existing natural teeth rather than all the teeth on a jaw. In general, RPDs are designed to hook on to the adjacent dental teeth so that they stay in place during function inside the mouth.
We should also make a distinction between two types of RPDs. One is a lighter version known commonly as a "flipper" because a wearer can easily "flip" it out of the mouth with their tongue. These are only intended for short-term use until a dentist can install a more permanent restoration like an implant or bridge. As an example, a teenager with lost teeth may wear a flipper until their jaw has matured enough for implants.
The other RPD is heavier and designed to be a permanent tooth replacement. These RPDs have a rigid frame made of a strong metal alloy called vitallium, to which a dentist attaches artificial teeth made of porcelain, resins or plastics. The frame may also have colored resins or plastics attached to mimic gum tissue. To hold the RPD in place in the mouth, they may have tiny vitallium clasps that grip onto the natural teeth.
RPDs are precisely engineered to match not only the position and placement of the artificial teeth, but the balance of the frame within the mouth. The latter is important because an unbalanced frame could rock during biting and chewing, which could reduce the longevity of the denture and cause wearing of the bone beneath the gum ridge.
A well-designed and maintained RPD can last for many years. They can, however, harbor bacteria, so they and the rest of the teeth and gums must be cleaned daily to prevent dental disease. They also can't stop or slow bone loss at the missing teeth sites, one of the benefits of dental implants.
But even with these drawbacks, an affordable RPD can still be a sound choice for replacing missing teeth and restoring an attractive smile.
If you would like more information on removable partial dentures, 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 “Removable Partial Dentures.”
When you smoke, you're setting yourself up for problems with your health. That includes your teeth and gums—tobacco has been linked to greater susceptibility to both tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease.
Smoking in particular can have a number of adverse effects on your mouth. Smoke can burn and form a thickened layer of the mouth's inner membranes called a keratosis. This in turn can damage the salivary glands enough to decrease saliva production, making for a drier mouth more hospitable to harmful bacteria.
Nicotine, the active chemical ingredient in tobacco, can cause the mouth's blood vessels to constrict. This causes less blood flow, thus a slower flow of nutrients and antigens to teeth and gums to ward off infection. Taken together, smokers are more likely than non-smokers to suffer from dental disease.
The impact doesn't end there. The conditions in the mouth created by smoking make it more difficult for the person to successfully obtain dental implants, one of the more popular tooth replacement methods.
Implants generally enjoy a high success rate due to their most unique feature, a titanium metal post that's imbedded into the jawbone. During the weeks after surgery, bone cells grow and accumulate on the implant's titanium surface to create a lasting hold.
But the previously mentioned effects of smoking can interfere with the integration between implant and bone. Because of restricted blood flow, the tissues around the implant are slower to heal. And the greater risk for dental disease, particularly gum infections, could cause an implant to eventually fail.
Of the rare number of implants that fail, twice as many occur in smokers. By removing smoking as a factor, you stand a much better chance for implant success. If you're considering implants and you smoke, you'll fare much better if you quit smoking altogether.
If you can't, at least stop smoking a week before implant surgery and for a couple of weeks after to increase your mouth's healing factor. Be sure you also keep up daily brushing and flossing and regular dental visits.
Smoking can increase the disease factor for your teeth and gums. Quitting the habit can make it easier to restore your oral health.
If you would like more information on the impact of smoking to oral health, 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 “Dental Implants & Smoking.”
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