FAQ


 

How Can Parents Help Prevent Tooth Decay?

Parents should take their children to the dentist regularly, beginning with the eruption of the first tooth. Then we can recommend a specific program of brushing, flossing, and other treatments for parents to supervise and teach to their children. These home treatments, when added to regular dental visits and a balanced diet, will help give your child a lifetime of healthy habits.

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What is Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth (xerostomia) is caused by a decrease in the amount of saliva in the mouth when the salivary glands do not work properly. The salivary glands help keep your mouth moist, which helps prevent tooth decay and other oral health problems.

Prescription and over-the-counter medications are the most common cause of dry mouth. In fact, more than 400 medications can contribute to mouth dryness. The most common troublemakers are antihypertensive, antidepressants, painkillers, tranquilizers, diuretics, and antihistamines.

Dry mouth may be a sign of a serious health condition or may occur when a person is upset or experiences stress. It also can be caused by radiation therapy and chemotherapy, hormonal alterations or diseases such as AIDS, diabetes, or Sjogren’s syndrome. Patients with Alzheimer's disease or those who suffer a stroke may experience dry mouth. Approximately 30 percent of persons over the age of 65 are affected by dry mouth.

Can dry mouth cause health problems?

Yes. You want to prevent dry mouth if possible, because it can cause difficulty in tasting, chewing, or swallowing. It also allows plaque to build up on your teeth faster, leading to a higher risk of cavities. In certain cases, a lack of moisture can make your tongue become very sensitive, causing a condition called burning mouth syndrome. Dry mouth can also lead to bad breath, ulceration or soreness of the mouth, gum disease, and difficulty in wearing dentures.

Why is saliva important?

Saliva helps wash away cavity-causing bacteria, provides enzymes to help digest food, protects teeth from decay by neutralizing harmful acids, and keeps oral tissues healthy. Without saliva you would lose your teeth much faster.

What is Sjogren’s syndrome?

Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease in which a person's white blood cells attack their own moisture-producing glands. Approximately 4 million Americans have this condition. The majority of sufferers are women who are in their late 40s at the time of diagnosis.

Sjogren’s syndrome is difficult to diagnose because symptoms vary greatly. Patients may experience dryness in the eyes and mouth, fatigue, or joint pain, and it also mimics the natural signs of aging.

How can my dentist help?

Your dentist will want to know if you have difficulty swallowing or speaking, oral soreness, or a dry throat. Help your dentist to diagnose the problem by paying close attention to the symptoms associated with dry mouth. If you have any questions about this condition, ask your dentist.

There are many treatments that can help ease the symptoms of dry mouth, including over-the-counter saliva substitutes. To ease discomfort, your dentist may also recommend the following:

  • Brush and floss twice a day
  • Chew sugar-free gum
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine
  • Avoid smoking
  • Avoid acidic juices (i.e., tomato, orange, grapefruit)
  • Avoid dry foods, such as toast or crackers
  • Avoid overly salty foods
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Regular dentist visits

Updated: December 2009
© 1996-2011 Academy of General Dentistry. All Rights Reserved.
www.knowyourteeth.com

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What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease, or periodontal disease is a chronic inflammation and infection of the gums and surrounding tissue. It is the major cause of about 70 percent of adult tooth loss, affecting three out of four persons at some point in their life. Periodontal diseases include gingivitis and periodontitis.

What causes gum disease?

Bacterial plaque - a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on the teeth - is recognized as the primary cause of gum disease. If plaque isn't removed each day by brushing and flossing, it hardens into a rough, porous substance called calculus (also known as tartar). Toxins produced and released by bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. These toxins cause the breakdown of the fibers that hold the gums tightly to the teeth, creating periodontal pockets that fill with even more toxins and bacteria. As the disease progresses, pockets extend deeper, and the bacteria moves down until the bone that holds the tooth in place is destroyed. The tooth eventually will fall out or require extraction.

Are there other factors?

Yes. Genetics is also a factor, as are lifestyle choices. A diet low in nutrients can diminish the body's ability to fight infection. Smokers and spit tobacco users have more irritation to gum tissues than non-tobacco users, while stress can also affect the ability to ward off disease. Diseases that interfere with the body's immune system, such as leukemia and AIDS, may worsen the condition of the gums. In patients with uncontrolled diabetes, where the body is more prone to infection, gum disease is more severe or harder to control. Pregnant women experience elevated levels of hormones that cause the gums to react differently to the bacteria found in plaque, and in many cases can cause a condition known as "pregnancy gingivitis."

What are the warning signs of gum disease?

Signs include red, swollen or tender gums, bleeding while brushing or flossing, gums that pull away from teeth, loose or separating teeth, pus between the gum and tooth, persistent bad breath, a change in the way teeth fit together when the patient bites and a change in the fit of dentures. While patients are advised to check for the warning signs, there might not be any discomfort until the disease has spread to a point where the tooth is unsalvageable. That's why patients are advised to get frequent dental exams.

What does periodontal treatment involve?

In the early stages of gum disease, most treatment involves a special cleaning called scaling and root planning, which removes plaque and tartar around the tooth and smoothing the root surfaces. Antibiotics or antimicrobials may be used to supplement the effects of scaling and root planing. In most cases of early gum disease, called gingivitis, scaling and root planing and proper daily cleaning achieve a satisfactory result. More advanced cases may require surgical treatment, which involves cutting the gums - sometimes with the assistance of a laser - and removing the hardened plaque build-up and recontouring the damaged bone. The procedure is also designed to smooth root surfaces and reposition the gum tissue so it will be easier to keep clean.

How do you prevent gum disease?

Removing plaque through daily brushing, flossing and professional cleaning is the best way to minimize your risk. Your dentist can design a personalized program of home oral care to meet your needs.

What is the role of the general dentist?

The general dentist usually detects gum disease and treats it in the early stages. Some general dentists have acquired additional expertise to treat more advanced conditions of the disease. If the general dentist believes that the gum disease requires treatment by a specialist, the patient will be referred to a periodontist. The dentist and periodontist will work together to formulate a treatment plan for the patient.

How can I maintain treatment at home?

Sticking to a regular oral hygiene regimen is crucial for patients who want to sustain the results of periodontal therapy. Patients should visit the dentist every three to four months (or more, depending on the patient) for spot scaling and root planing and an overall exam. In between visits, they should brush at least twice a day, floss daily and brush their tongue. Manual soft nylon bristle brushes are the most dependable and least expensive. Electric brushes are also a good option, but don't reach any further into the pocket than manual brushes. Proxy brushes (small, narrow brushes) and other interdental cleaners are the best way to clean between the recesses in the teeth and should be used once a day. Wooden toothpicks and rubber tips should only be used if recommended by your dentist.

Updated: September 2008
© 1996-2011 Academy of General Dentistry. All Rights Reserved.
www.knowyourteeth.com

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What is Oral Piercing?

Oral piercing can cause pain, swelling, infection, drooling, taste loss, scarring, chipped teeth, and tooth loss. Most dentists discourage oral piercing due to the many risks involved. If you do decide to get an oral piercing it is important to understand the regulations, associated problems and proper maintenance.

What should I know before getting an oral piercing?

Regulations on piercing vary from state to state, so it is important to be careful and find a professional who is prepared to answer any and all questions. They should use a fresh needle every time and sterilize all needles and instruments in an autoclave, which uses extreme heat to sanitize the instruments, to avoid serious infections such as HIV or Hepatitis. Also, make sure that they use the right kind of metal, such as surgical-grade stainless steel. Some people have allergic reactions to certain metals, which can lead to further complications.

What problems can the piercing cause?

Fractured teeth are a common problem for people with an oral piercing. People chip teeth on the piercing while eating, sleeping, talking or by chewing on the jewelry. It is possible for the fracture to go deep into your tooth, which may require a root canal or extraction.

Are there serious complications?

While it is not unusual for the tongue to swell after being punctured, in some cases the swelling indicates infection. When that happens, it is possible the swelling will cut off your breathing. In rare cases, doctors may pass a breathing tube through a patient's nose until such an infection passes. Also, rubbing of the barbell on the gums excessively can cause the gums to recede. Any infection can be serious and it is necessary to see a dentist at the first sign of a problem.

How do I maintain my piercing?

It takes three to four weeks for an oral piercing to heal. Unless complications occur, you will be able to remove the jewelry for short periods of time without the hole closing. Dentists suggest removing the jewelry to protect your teeth every time you eat or sleep. The piercer will place a larger, starter "barbell" in your tongue to give it enough room to heal when your tongue swells. If you decide to keep the piercing, after the swelling goes down, get a smaller barbell which will be less likely to get in the way of your teeth and more difficult for you to chew on.

Keep it clean

  • Use an antiseptic mouthwash after every meal and brush the jewelry the same as you would your teeth.
  • After your tongue has healed, take the piercing out every night and brush it to remove any unseen plaque.
  • Consider removing the piercing before eating, sleeping, or strenuous activity.

Updated: September 2008
© 1996-2011 Academy of General Dentistry. All Rights Reserved.
www.knowyourteeth.com

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Why Are My Teeth Sensitive?

Tooth sensitivity is caused by the movement of fluid within tiny tubes located in the dentin (the layer of tissue found beneath the hard enamel that contains the inner pulp), which results in nerve irritation. When the hard enamel is worn down or gums have receded, causing the tiny tube surfaces to be exposed, pain can be caused by eating or drinking foods or hot or cold beverages, touching your teeth, or exposing them to cold air.

Exposed areas of the tooth can cause pain and even affect or change your eating, drinking, and breathing habits. Taking a spoonful of ice cream, for example, can be a painful experience for people with sensitive teeth. The excessive consumption of acid-containing foods and beverages, such as citrus juices and fruits and soft drinks, can also put you at risk for tooth sensitivity. Bulimia and acid reflux can also result in erosion of the hard enamel and sensitivity due to acid in the mouth.

Is tooth sensitivity a common condition?

Tooth sensitivity is one of the most common complaints among dental patients. At least 40 million adults in the United States suffer at some time from sensitive teeth.

How can I avoid sensitivity?

Some toothpastes contain abrasive ingredients that may be too harsh for people who have sensitive teeth. Ingredients found in some whitening toothpastes that lighten and/or remove certain stains from enamel and sodium pyrophosphate, the key ingredient in tartar- control toothpaste, may increase tooth sensitivity.

What can I do about sensitive teeth?

Tooth sensitivity can be reduced by using a desensitizing toothpaste; having your dentist apply sealants and other desensitizing and filling materials, including fluoride; and decreasing the intake of acid-containing foods. Using tartar-control toothpaste will sometimes cause teeth to be sensitive as well as drinking soft drinks throughout the day, so these habits should be avoided.

Avoid using hard-bristled toothbrushes and brushing your teeth too hard, which can wear down the tooth's surface and expose sensitive spots. The way to find out if you're brushing your teeth too hard is to take a good look at your toothbrush. If the bristles are pointing in multiple directions, you're brushing too hard.

How do I know when it's time to see a dentist?

If a tooth is highly sensitive for more than three or four days and reacts to hot and cold temperatures, it's best to get a diagnostic evaluation from your dentist to determine the extent of the problem. Before taking the situation into your own hands, an accurate diagnosis of tooth sensitivity is essential for effective treatment to eliminate pain. Because pain symptoms can be similar, some people might think that a tooth is sensitive, when instead, they actually have a cavity or abscess that's not yet visible.

How do I describe my symptoms to my dentist?

Sensitivity may be defined as a short, sharp pain that is usually initiated by eating hot or cold foods or exposure to cold air. Aching often follows. Because sensitivity may mean different things to a patient and dental professional, be sure to clarify exactly what you feel when you discuss the condition with your dentist. Be sure to tell the dentist when the pain started and if there is anything, such as the application of a warm compress, that helps eliminate the pain.

Do some products help decrease sensitivity?

Toothpaste for sensitive teeth usually contains a desensitizing agent that protects the exposed dentin by blocking the tubes in the teeth that are connected to nerves. In most cases, these products must be used on a regular basis for at least a month before any therapeutic benefits may be noticed.

What can the dentist do for my sensitive teeth?

Dentists have a variety of regimens to manage tooth hypersensitivity, including both in-office treatments and patient-applied products for home use. If you are diagnosed with dentin hypersensitivity, your dentist may apply a desensitizing agent or a protective coating. You may be prescribed a stannous fluoride gel or an over-the-counter desensitizing toothpaste containing fluoride and either potassium nitrate or strontium chloride. These ingredients help block the transmission of sensation from the tooth to the nerve. It also might help to massage the special paste onto your gums with your finger after brushing.

What should I do after the dentist has applied a desensitizing agent?

Listen closely to your dentist's instructions. He or she may advise you not to eat or drink for a short period of time to eliminate all sources of irritation, such as acidic foods, medication, or flavored toothpastes. You may also be instructed to change oral hygiene habits that are likely to cause abrasion or use a daily fluoride application (a rinse or brush-on gel).

Updated: December 2009
© 1996-2011 Academy of General Dentistry. All Rights Reserved.
www.knowyourteeth.com

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How Safe are Dental X-Rays?

X-rays, also called radiography, provide an important tool that shows the condition of your teeth, roots, jaw, and overall facial bone composition. X-rays can reveal the advanced nature of periodontal disease, as well as tumors and abscesses.

There are three basic kinds of X-rays:

  • Bitewings are the most conventional kind of dental X-rays and are used to spot cavities and decay.
  • Periapical X-rays are broad pictures of an entire tooth structure and are used to spot deep tooth problems, such as impacted teeth, bone loss, and abscesses.
  • Panoramic X-rays are designed to capture an entire mouth, and have been used to spot tumors and cysts, as well as wisdom teeth.

Radiation Concerns

Patients have little reason to be concerned about the health effects of dental X-rays; chances are you receive more radiation from sunlight in one day than one sitting involving dental X-rays.

Exposure to radiation is extremely brief and minimal. Safety precautions such as high-speed film minimize exposure time, and lead aprons prevent exposure to surrounding areas of the body such as the head, neck and upper chest.

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Location
TLC Dental
40986 California Oaks
Murrieta, CA 92562
Phone: 951-304-3044
Fax: 951-304-3285
Office Hours

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951-304-3044