Talking Teeth: 10 Dental Terms You Should Know

 

 

Have you ever heard your dentist use a word or phrase you didn’t really understand? If so, you’re not alone! It’s not uncommon for dentists to use words that might sound completely foreign to you — they use very specific dental terminology to describe what’s going on in your mouth. And although your dentist wants you to know what’s happening with your teeth so you can take better care of them, sometimes things get lost in translation.

 

Don’t be afraid to ask your dentist to explain any dental terms you aren’t familiar with. What’s important is that you understand any dental problems you might be having, your dental treatment options and your self-care strategies. The better informed you are, the easier it will be to take good care of your pearly whites. Here are some of the most popular dental terms you should know:

 

  1. Dentures: A denture is a removable replacement for missing teeth. Complete dentures are used when all the teeth are missing; partial dentures are used when some natural teeth remain. Dentures help you chew, eat and speak just like someone with a set of natural teeth.

 

  1. Implants: Dental implants are a permanent replacement for missing teeth. Implants are surgically placed into the jawbone where they anchor replacement teeth. Dental implants can replace a single tooth, several teeth or all of them. They can also be used to anchor a dental bridge or dentures into place.

 

  1. Invisalign¨: Invisalign is a brand of dental aligner. Dental aligners are clear, removable dental braces that rely on a series of progressive aligners to treat mild to moderate orthodontic problems. Each successive aligner is worn for about two weeks before moving on to the next.

 

  1. Laser Dentistry: A laser produces a very narrow, intense beam of light energy which can remove, vaporize or shape tissue. Dentists use lasers for the removal of tooth decay, gum disease treatment, root canal therapy, and teeth whitening procedures. Laser dentistry may reduce the need for drills and local anesthesia, plus control bleeding gums during dental surgery, and reduce healing times.

 

  1. Oral Surgery: This dental specialty is dedicated to correcting problems or damage to the teeth, mouth and jaw. An oral surgeon removes impacted wisdom teeth and prepares the mouth for dentures and/or dental implants. Problems with chewing, bruxism, TMD and even sleeping can be also fixed with oral surgery.

 

  1. Sedation: Sedation dentistry uses medication to help you relax during dental procedures. There are several types, including: inhaled sedation (known as nitrous oxide or “laughing gas”); oral sedation, which comes in pill form; IV sedation, which is delivered directly into the vein; and general anesthesia, which leaves you in a deep sleep during a dental procedure.

 

  1. Teeth Whitening: Teeth whitening is the process of temporarily lightening the natural tooth color, usually with a bleaching agent. There are over-the-counter whitening toothpastes, gels, strips and trays as well as professional in-office whitening procedures.

 

  1. TMJ: The temporomandibular joints (TMJs) connect your upper and lower jaws, allowing you to move your jaws up and down, side to side and forward and back. The term TMJ also refers to TMJ disorder, which can cause pain, headaches, toothaches, earaches and more.

 

  1. Veneers: Veneers (often called porcelain veneers) are wafer-thin shells that are attached to the front of a tooth to improve its color, shape, size or length. In addition to looking great, veneers are highly stain resistant and may even strengthen your natural teeth.

 

  1. Wisdom Teeth: These are the third set of molars and the final four teeth to make their appearance, usually some time between the ages of 17 and 25. Wisdom teeth can cause problems if there is not enough room for them to align themselves properly. Impacted wisdom teeth can be extremely painful and are usually removed.

 

Any other dental terms you’re not sure about? Just ask your dentist.

Your guide to caring for dentures

Proper care of your dentures may help you avoid unnecessary, and costly, denture repair. The health of your mouth also depends on how well you care for them. Use this guide to help ensure that your full or partial dentures are kept in tip-top shape.

Brush Your Dentures Daily

Good oral hygiene habits are just as important for your dentures as they are for real teeth. When you take your dentures out every night, be sure to brush them gently to remove food particles, dental plaque and stains. Use a soft-bristled denture brush and a denture cleanser that bears the ADA Seal of Acceptance, or mild hand soap.

Don’t Forget Your Gums, Tongue and Palate

Keeping your mouth clean also helps keep your dentures clean. Brush your gums, tongue and palate every evening and in the morning before reinserting your dentures. Brushing stimulates circulation in your mouth and gums, and helps remove plaque buildup.

Soak Your Dentures When Not Wearing Them

Dentures need to be kept moist; otherwise, they’ll dry out or lose their shape. Be sure to soak your dentures in water or a dentist-recommended cleansing solution whenever you take them out. Avoid soaking your dentures in hot water, which may cause them to distort.

Keep Follow-Up Appointments with Your Dentist

It’s common to feel minor discomfort and soreness in your cheeks, lips and tongue when you first start wearing dentures. That’s why it’s critical to keep your follow-up appointment — your dentist can make adjustments to help improve comfort and prevent more serious problems in the future.

Baby Steps: Your Infant Dental Care Checklist

Taking care of your infant’s baby teeth and gums sets the stage for a healthy smile. Here are five dental care musts that every parent should know:

– Clean your infant’s gums. Use gauze to clean your baby’s gums after feedings and at bedtime. Ideally, this should be done even before your child’s first tooth erupts.

– Take your infant to the dentist. Schedule your child’s first dental visit by the age of one, or after a first tooth erupts.

– Brush your infant’s baby teeth. Once your child’s baby teeth erupt, brush them with a small soft-bristled toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of toothpaste after feedings and at bedtime.

– Floss your infant’s baby teeth. When two baby teeth erupt side by side, gently floss them at least once a day (preferably before bedtime).

– Wean your infant from the bottle. Ask your pediatrician or pediatric dentist for their advice about the best time to stop breastfeeding. If your baby is bottle-fed, wean your child from the bottle by the age of one.

Possible Concerns

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay — The health of your infant’s baby teeth is important to the healthy growth of their permanent teeth. To keep your infant’s teeth healthy and help prevent baby bottle tooth decay, be sure to clean their teeth after feedings, and avoid putting your baby to bed with formula or fruit juice (these contain tooth decay-causing sugars). Use water instead.

Signs of Teething — Your baby’s first tooth can erupt, or “cut,” as early as three months and as late as a year. On average, babies experience their first tooth at about seven months old. The symptoms of teething can vary greatly from child to child, but if your baby becomes increasingly irritable or starts drooling, biting and coughing more than normal, he or she could be teething. Try giving your baby a teething ring or bottle of cold water for relief. If the symptoms don’t subside, ask your pediatrician about using Infants’ Tylenol? or Baby Orajel?.

Excessive Pacifier Use — Pacifiers are great for soothing your baby, helping your baby sleep, and providing them with a harmless distraction. But if your infant uses a pacifier for more than three years, he or she may develop dental problems such as slanted teeth or a misaligned bite later on. If you have a difficult time weaning your baby from pacifier use, ask your dentist about alternative ways to provide the comfort your child craves.

Baby Boomers Beware: Aging and Tooth Root Decay

The development of root decay is providing a new challenge for dentists — and for our aging population. Root decay is more difficult to treat than normal cavities — especially if the dental cavity travels under the gum line. Traditionally, dentists treat root decay the same way they treat regular dental cavities. The procedure is not only more demanding, but also less effective, given the fact that root fillings have a much higher failure rate. Tooth filling material isn’t designed to adhere to the tooth’s porous roots; this often results in a shorter life span for the restoration, and multiple visits to the dentist to fix the problem.
As more baby boomers are becoming seniors, and more vulnerable to the issue, the dental industry is finding new ways to battle root decay. Dentists are now practicing less invasive procedures to treat early signs of root decay. Professional, in-office fluoride treatments are often recommended. At-home fluoride use is also important in the fight against tooth decay, and your dentist can prescribe a toothpaste, mouth rinse or fluoride trays as part of your ongoing dental care.
A dental cavity on the root of the tooth has more chances of affecting the pulp, so it’s important to treat root decay before it has a chance to spread. For severe damage or decay found between teeth, your dentist may need to treat the area with a dental crown. Extreme cases may require a tooth extraction followed by a dental bridge or dental implants to replace the tooth. Root decay also increases your chances of needing a root canal.
Prevention Is the Best Medicine
If your gums have receded, you should take measures to prevent root decay. Diets high in sugar will feed the dental plaque-causing bacteria found on your roots, so stay away from sweets! Dry mouth also increases your chances of getting root decay — saliva is needed to wash away food debris and neutralize acid. Without it, exposed roots may be more prone to acid attacks and resulting decay. Drinking lots of water, sucking on sugar-free candy or chewing sugarless gum can help prevent dry mouth.
If you suffer from receding gums or have just reached “a certain age,” regular dental visits allow your dentist to check for tooth root decay. Preventive measures also include gum disease treatment for receding gums that involves using an ultrasonic dental cleaning to remove dental tartar from under the gum line and help to ward off the possibility of gum disease. If necessary, a gum graft can help restore gums to their natural state. At home, soft brushing with fluoride toothpaste will also help keep your gums intact and prevent decay.
With age comes the wisdom to make excellent health choices. And now you have the knowledge you need to take even better care of your teeth and gums to help prevent tooth root decay — at any age.

What Are My Options for Treating Gum Disease?

It may be alarming to learn that you have gum disease, but the truth is, there are a number of successful options to treat the problem. Maybe your issue began with an infection that included very little to no pain or irritation. Some people may not even realize they have this milder form of the disease, known as gingivitis. However, without proper treatment, even a mild case of gum disease can develop into the more severe form, periodontitis. But, again, fortunately there are a number of effective treatment options. — all with the goals of controlling infection, preventing tooth loss, and keeping the disease from damaging tissue.

4 Types of Important Treatments for Gum Health
If you notice you have any of the signs of gum disease, (including red, puffy or bleeding gums, receding gums or bad breath) talk to your dentist about the best gum disease treatment for you. Here are some of the ways dentists may treat the disease:
Non-Surgical — Treatment for bleeding receding gums starts with a deep cleaning. This type of gum treatment involves a process called scaling and root planing, where dental plaque and tartar deposits on tooth and root surfaces are removed. This gum disease treatment — along with the help of medication prescribed by your dentist — helps gum tissues to heal and gum pockets to shrink.
Periodontal Surgery — If the tissue surrounding your teeth is unhealthy and cannot be repaired with non-surgical treatment, then surgery is required, with the specific procedure depending on your case. Surgery allows dentists to access hard-to-reach areas under the gum and along the roots where plaque and tartar have accumulated.
Bone Surgery or Bone Grafts — When the disease has destroyed bone as well as gum tissue, your dentist may need to use bone grafting to reshape and rebuild any bone that’s been affected.
Gingival Grafting — If the diseased gums are beyond repair in one area, your dentist may take healthy tissue from another part of your mouth and graft it to the affected area.
What’s the Best Gum Treatment? Prevention.
Gum disease is usually preventable. And great gum health goes hand in hand with great dental health, beginning with proper oral hygiene. Brush regularly with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, floss every day, and visit your dentist regularly.

Dental Self Care for Moms (and Moms-to-Be)

Moms deserve to be celebrated every day. So, if you’re a mom, it’s time to give yourself a gift that lasts a lifetime — the gift of great dental health.

We get it, moms are busy people. But even if you don’t think you have the time to take care of your teeth, you’ll want to find it. By giving your teeth the attention they need — just like you do for your family — you can help preserve your smile for decades.
8 Easy Steps to Better Dental Health
1. Brush twice a day for two minutes – You need all of that time to thoroughly remove plaque!
2. Brush properly – Go easy. Brushing too hard could hurt your gums. For more teeth-brushing tips, check out our article on how to brush.
3. Floss every day – This is the best way to remove plaque and prevent cavities from forming between teeth.
4. Load up on fruits and veggies – Sweets promote tooth decay and gum disease. But fresh fruits and veggies are great not just for your teeth, but for your overall health as well!
5. Get moving – Diet and exercise may help prevent periodontal disease, according to the Journal of Periodontology. Who knew?
6. Take time to de-stress – Stress can lead to teeth grinding, cause TMJ, and trigger canker sore and cold sore outbreaks. Try yoga, meditation or other relaxation techniques to take the edge off.
7. Visit your dentist – You wouldn’t let your kids miss a dentist appointment, so why should you? If you’re pregnant, it’s important to continue with regular dental exams.
8. Be a model mom – Your kids look up to you. Dentists know that mothers who make dental health a priority in their own lives set a good example for their kids.

Toothpicks

Why Toothpicks Shouldn’t Be Your Pick for a Dental Tool

Toothpicks. You see them everywhere: minty-fresh and plastic wrapped next to the cash register at your neighborhood diner, spearing a bite-size cheese cube and sporting colorful plastic frills at a cocktail party, swimming in a martini and wearing nothing but an olive at the bar, or simply resting in a box of 100 at your local grocery store. In fact, toothpicks are so readily available, it may seem hard to believe that they could be bad for you in any way. The truth is, however, frequently using toothpicks can damage your teeth and gums, and lead to swallowing splinters and worse.

Toothpicks are old news
Toothpicks are primitive devices that are the oldest dental cleaning tool around. Fossils of 7,500-year-old teeth suggest that humans were using wooden sticks to clean their teeth a long time before toothbrushes were even thought about. But again, this is because these ancient people didn’t have any alternative. Here are a few reasons why jabbing a stick around in your mouth in hopes of dislodging food, today, may not be such a great idea:

  • Lacerating gums. If you use toothpicks frequently and roughly, you could risk damaging your gums, causing bleeding and tearing.
  • Damaging tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is the covering that makes up the outer layer of each tooth. Although it’s pretty tough stuff, it’s still vulnerable to the type of damage chewing on a toothpick can easily cause.
  • Damaging tooth roots. If your gums have pulled away from your tooth roots, they could be especially prone to damage by a toothpick. Not to mention the fact that touching exposed tooth roots with anything at all can also be very painful.
  • Chipping veneers or crowns. Vigorous toothpick use can cause both to become damaged or even fall out altogether.
  • Splinters. Toothpicks can fall apart and leave splinters in your gums, tongue and throat, which are not only painful and hard to remove, but could also result in a dangerous infection.
  • Swallowing. Toothpicks could kill you. In fact, on average, there are about 9000 choking incidents reported each year from someone either swallowing or inhaling a toothpick.

So what should I use?
Sure, toothpicks can remove food debris from between teeth, but dentists recommend other cleaning alternatives that are much less damaging to your teeth and gums, including:

  • Dental floss. Dental floss or tape can quickly and effectively remove food particles without damaging teeth or gums. Flossing also removes plaque, which can lead to cavities, and promotes healthy gums, protecting you from gingivitis and periodontitis.
  • Interdental brush. Interdental brushes have small bristled heads that are designed specifically to fit between your teeth. Like floss, they can dislodge bits of food and clean plaque from surfaces that can’t be reached just by brushing.

So should I ever use a toothpick?
The best answer to this question is simple: only when you’ve got no other choice. As discussed above, there are many things that make toothpicks bad for teeth. And perhaps the only thing they have going for them is that they are portable and convenient to carry. If you have a bit of food stuck in your teeth that is painful or irritating and a toothpick is your only option, then it’s better to remove it for your own comfort.

But even then, it’s important to ask yourself just how frequently you are having to use that toothpick. We’ve all experienced a niggling bit of food getting stuck between your teeth every now and then. No big deal, right? Well, if it happens on a regular basis and (most importantly) in the same place each time, then that is reason enough to visit the dentist. That’s because food can become stuck due to fillings that haven’t been properly finished, teeth that have shifted or teeth that have developed a hole due to decay. And if you’re just relying on toothpicks to try to remedy these problems, you’re probably going to be seeing much bigger problems down the line.

So, are toothpicks bad? No, toothpicks are great … glued together to create memorable fourth-grade art projects, stuck in a birthday cake to see if it is ready to take out of the oven, and for hundreds of other uses. But are toothpicks bad for you? Yes, especially if they’re used frequently or without sufficient care for your teeth and gums. And because there are other ways that are so much better at getting bits of food free from your teeth, there is really no reason to resort to some crude tool that was invented by primitive man.

Teeth Whitening Home or Dentist

The Best Place for Teeth Whitening — at Home or at the Dentist?

Who doesn’t want a more beautiful smile? The key to achieving this goal is sometimes as simple as whitening your teeth.

Whitening at home
Choosing to use an over-the-counter product (usually whitening strips) with the ADA seal of approval is certainly a viable option. However, it’s important to understand that while they are the most inexpensive method available, they may take longer to achieve maximum whitening. That’s because the at-home kits sold at your dentist’s office contain a much higher percentage of the active whitening ingredient than the over-the-counter solutions do. Of course, your actual results depend on your beginning shade: the darker it is, the longer it may take (in time and materials) to get to your optimum shade.

It’s a good idea to first take a closeup photo of your teeth to compare with an end-result photo. Otherwise, it’s hard to remember where you started and whether you had any change in color after the whitening procedure.

It’s also important to check the expiration date on the box. Make sure you use the product before that date, for maximum effectiveness in whitening.

Be aware that some of the treatments could cause some discomfort. If you find that these at-home whitening methods cause you sensitivity, you might want to consider whitening only every other day, rather than every day. And those who experience more than just a little discomfort, sometimes turn to over-the-counter ibuprofen to alleviate the pain.
It’s also important to keep in mind, that no whitening method will change the color of dentures, crowns, white fillings, bonding, or veneers. If you have any of these visible artificial teeth or components in your smile, it may be best to consult with your dentist to see what treatment they would advise.

Whitening at the dentist’s office
Do you have a special occasion coming up, such as a wedding or a reunion? This would be the perfect time to do an in-office whitening procedure, which can show a dramatic improvement in the brightness of your smile in as little as one-and-a-half hours.
There are a few advantages of the in-office whitening procedures:

  • The work is done for you, all in one sitting, instead of multiple applications over a few weeks at home.
  • The material is professional strength, which has a higher percentage of the active ingredient, so it whitens in less time than over-the-counter materials would.
  • Your teeth may be less sensitive to the formula than they would to other DIY whitening procedures
  • Although it may be a bit more expensive than a do-it-yourself procedures, it is still affordable, and the quality of the results makes it worthwhile.

If you have tried whitening in the past with marginal success, know that the materials and methods have improved over time, allowing your dentist to now successfully whiten even the most difficult cases.

So, while over-the-counter whitening products can make a difference, they are not without their limitations. That’s why for a truly lasting and noticeably whiter smile, the best plan is for you to consult with your dentist to see which whitening procedures can give you the smile you have always wanted!

Adult Braces

Brace Yourself. You’re Not Too Old to Straighten Your Teeth.
Think braces are just for angsty teens and awkward pre-pubescents? Think again.The number of adults undergoing treatment for crooked teeth using braces or other teeth straightening treatment has been rising steadily.
Sure, crooked teeth can be a cosmetic embarrassment, but more importantly, correcting them can benefit you more than just making you look better. For example, fixing a less-than-perfect bite will ensure that you chew your food properly.  And overlapping teeth can cause bacteria to get trapped, leading to difficulty with cleaning and, ultimately, tooth decay. Fortunately there are a number of ways to get teeth (of any age) on the straight and narrow.
Am I Doomed to Be a “Brace Face”?
The upside to waiting until adulthood to correct your teeth is you can avoid all those playground bullies and their hurtful name-calling. The other benefit is that trends are changing. After assessing your particular issues, your orthodontist can tell you more about all the options that are available to you today, including:
Visible braces. This type of brace is perhaps the closest to what you may envision when you think “braces.” But it’s pretty safe to say that even visible braces have improved over the years. Usually suggested to fix severe alignment problems, the brace is fixed directly onto the front of the tooth using either traditional stainless-steel brackets with metal wires, clear plastic brackets with metal wires, or ceramic brackets with metal wires. Braces must be kept clean, since food that gathers around the brackets or wires can lead to staining or decay.
Invisible braces. Invisible braces are called lingual braces and are placed on the back of the teeth. If you’re concerned about the aesthetics of having braces, these can be a great option. However, adjusting to this method can be a little tough. Often times lingual braces can cause you to speak with a lisp, and having the brackets sit between your teeth and the tongue can cause irritation.
Nearly invisible braces. This is actually a clear plastic tray that’s worn over the teeth. Every two weeks the trays are exchanged for new ones that are become closer and closer to the teeth’s ideal alignment. This method is popular because they are almost invisible to the naked eye, and can be easily removed for cleaning and eating. However, you have to be strict about wearing the trays, as anything less than 22 hours a day will result in a longer treatment time.
Retainers. Removable retainers are made from metal wires and acrylic formed to the shape of your mouth. They can be made for both the upper and lower arches of the mouth to brace and align teeth. Retainers like this are popular because they can be easily removed for special events or occasional relief, but they are prone to getting lost, so you have to make sure to keep track of them.
Porcelain veneers. Veneers are a cheaper and less time-consuming way to change the look of your teeth by simply covering up minor imperfections. As well as covering crooked teeth, they can mask chips, gaps and stains and — once they are applied —  don’t need to be replaced for five to ten years.
So, instead of just hoping that your teeth decide to straighten on their own (which they won’t), put on your grown-up pants, and talk to your dentist. Because today, there are more options than ever for giving you the healthy, attractive smile you’ve always wanted.

The Aging Mouth: What is Normal, What is Not

 

The natural process of aging takes its toll on your teeth and mouth just as it does your body. Here are some common oral health changes you can anticipate as you age:
Enamel Wear — Chewing, cleaning and the normal aging process means your teeth will eventually wear down over time.
Darker Tooth Color — Aging dentin (the tooth’s middle layer) holds stains easier than younger dentin, making your teeth appear slightly darker.
Gum Changes — Aging gums naturally recede over time.
Cavities — Cavities around the root of the tooth are more common as you age. Any fillings you have are also aging and can weaken or crack.
Other changes to your teeth and gums aren’t normal and shouldn’t be overlooked. These symptoms could signal something more serious and are reason to see your dentist right away:
Tooth Loss — Dental cavities and gum disease are the leading culprits of tooth loss in seniors, but neither is a normal part of aging. If your teeth and gums are healthy, there’s no reason why your teeth should fall out.
Dry Mouth – As you age, you may notice a reduced flow of saliva, sometimes as a side effect of medical conditions, medications or medical treatment. Saliva is important because it lubricates the mouth and neutralizes the acids produced by plaque.
Bleeding Gums — Bleeding gums are a sign of periodontal (gum) disease, a leading cause of tooth loss in seniors. But gum disease is not an inevitable result of aging; it’s caused by the build up of plaque. Left untreated, gum disease is linked to other health concerns like arthritis and heart disease.