When you floss (you do floss, right?), you probably notice a sticky, yellowish substance called plaque stuck to the thread. This thin film of tiny food particles and bacteria is the reason you floss and brush in the first place: Because it's the main trigger for tooth decay and gum disease, removing it decreases your risk for disease.
But this isn't the only form of plaque you should be concerned about. That same sticky substance can also interact with your saliva and harden into what's commonly known as tartar. Dentists, however, have a different term: They refer to these calcified deposits as calculus. And it's just as much a source of disease as its softer counterpart.
You might have noticed that this form of plaque has the same name as an advanced type of mathematics. Although dental calculus has little in common with algebra's cousin, both terms trace their origins back to the same linguistic source. The word “calculus” in Latin means “small stone;” it became associated with math because stone pebbles were once used by merchants long ago to calculate sales and trades.
The term became associated with the substance on your teeth because the hardened plaque deposits resemble tiny stones or minerals—and they can be “as hard as a rock” to remove. In fact, because they adhere so firmly it's virtually impossible to remove calculus deposits with brushing or flossing alone. To effectively eliminate calculus from tooth surfaces (including under the gum line) requires the skills and special dental tools of dentists or dental hygienists.
That's why we recommend a minimum of two dental cleanings a year to remove any calculus buildup, as well as any pre-calcified plaque you might have missed with daily hygiene. Reducing both plaque and calculus on your teeth fully minimizes your risk of dental disease. What's more, removing the yellowish substance may also brighten your smile.
That's not to say daily brushing and flossing aren't important. By removing the bulk of plaque buildup, you reduce the amount that eventually becomes calculus. In other words, it takes both a daily oral hygiene practice and regular dental visits to keep your teeth healthy and beautiful.
Tara Lipinski loves to smile. And for good reason: The Olympic-gold medalist has enjoyed a spectacular career in ladies' figure skating. Besides also winning gold in the U.S. Nationals and the Grand Prix Final, in 1997 Lipinski became the youngest skater ever to win a World Figure Skating title. Now a sports commentator and television producer, Lipinski still loves to show her smile—and counts it as one of her most important assets. She also knows the importance of protecting her smile with daily hygiene habits and regular dental care.
Our teeth endure a lot over our lifetime. Tough as they are, though, they're still vulnerable to disease, trauma and the effects of aging. To protect them, it's essential that we brush and floss every day to remove bacterial plaque—that thin accumulating film on teeth most responsible for tooth decay and gum disease.
To keep her smile in top shape and reduce her chances of dental disease, Lipinski flosses and brushes daily, the latter at least twice a day. She also uses a tongue scraper, a small handheld device about the size of a toothbrush, to remove odor-causing bacteria and debris from the tongue.
Lipinski is also diligent about visiting the dentist for professional cleanings and checkups at least twice a year because even a dedicated brusher and flosser like her can still miss dental plaque that can then harden into tartar. Dental hygienists have the training and tools to clear away any lingering plaque and tartar that could increase your disease risk. It's also a good time for the dentist to check your teeth and gums for any developing problems.
The high pressure world of competitive figure skating and now her media career may also have contributed to another threat to Lipinski's smile: a teeth-grinding habit. Teeth grinding is the unconscious action—often while asleep—of clenching the jaws together and producing abnormally high biting forces. Often a result of chronic stress, teeth grinding can accelerate tooth wear and damage the gum ligaments attached to teeth. To help minimize these effects, Lipinski's dentist created a custom mouthguard to wear at night. The slick plastic surface of the guard prevents the teeth from generating any damaging biting forces when they clench together.
The importance of an attractive smile isn't unique to celebrities and media stars like Tara Lipinski. A great smile breeds confidence for anyone—and it can enhance your career, family and social relationships. Protect this invaluable asset with daily oral hygiene, regular dental visits and prompt treatment for disease or trauma.
Nothing beats the form and function of a real tooth—but dental implants come pretty close. That's why they're tops among both dentists and patients for replacing missing teeth.
Much of an implant's functionality and durability can be credited to its material construction, from the titanium metal post imbedded in the jawbone to the lifelike porcelain crown attached at its other end. But an implant's “nuts and bolts” isn't the only reason why this premier dental restoration is so popular: A good portion of their success comes from the adjunct support provided by digital technology.
Without this varied array of computer-based applications used in planning, designing and installing them, implants couldn't produce the level of satisfactory outcomes they currently do. Here then are a few of the high-tech tools dentists use to make sure your implants result in a winning smile.
CBCT scanning. Implant placement requires a high degree of precision often complicated by various anatomical structures like nerves, blood vessels and sinuses within the gums and jaws. Cone Beam Computer Tomography (CBCT) scanners rotate around a patient's head, taking hundreds of digital x-ray images that are then assembled into a 3-D model image. Dentists can view this model from various angles to identify obstacles and better pinpoint the best implant locations.
Digital impressions. Dentists can also create a 3-D digital impression model of the inside of a patient's mouth that can give them views of their current teeth and gums from any angle. This aids in determining the size and type of implant so that it blends seamlessly with remaining teeth. A digital impression can also provide both the dentist and patient a preview appearance of their future smile after treatment.
3-D printed surgical guides. To accurately drill the implant site during surgery, dentists often create a custom-made device called a surgical guide that fits into the patient's mouth during the procedure. Using results from scanning and digital impressions, highly accurate guides can be created with a 3-D printer. This further ensures that the implant will be in the exact best location for the most attractive and functional outcome.
Implantology is as much art as it is science in achieving a beautiful smile. These and other digital tools help make that desirable end a reality.
If you would like more information on dental implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.
"The Dog Days of summer" once referred to the rise of Sirius (the "Dog Star") with the morning sun during the month of August. Today, however, the term has more of a meteorological than astronomical meaning: It's the muggy point of summer best suited for sipping a cold beverage and doing as little as possible by the pool. A little lethargy can be forgiven during these humid days, but don't let it keep you from the daily necessities—like cleaning your teeth.
Brushing and flossing might seem an unwelcome interruption to your “dog day” pursuits (or lack thereof), but they're still necessary regardless of the season. Together, these twin tasks remove dental plaque, a bacterial buildup of food particles and the primary cause of tooth decay and gum disease.
Daily oral hygiene is one of the most important ways you can ensure your present and future dental health. It also reduces stain buildup to keep your teeth looking their shiny best and helps freshen your breath.
If that's not enough to overcome your summer doldrums, here are a few more reasons why performing these two vital teeth-cleaning tasks is less toilsome than you think.
Just 5 minutes a day. Brushing and flossing take only a fraction of your time each day. You can perform either task thoroughly in two to three minutes. Before you know it, you'll be back poolside.
No “elbow grease” required. Oral hygiene doesn't require a lot of physical exertion, especially brushing. In fact, aggressive brushing could damage your gums. All you really need is a gentle, circular motion, and the mild abrasives in your toothpaste will do the rest.
Flossing help is available. A lot of people find flossing difficult compared to brushing and may skip it altogether. But flossing is necessary to remove plaque between teeth that brushing can't reach. Usually, it's a matter of getting over the initial awkwardness of maneuvering the floss. The major mistake is that people tend to tighten their cheek muscles when trying to get their hands in their mouth. Relax your facial muscles and you can easily get the floss positioned in the mouth for proper technique. But if you don't have the manual dexterity to hold floss between your fingers, you can try pre-loaded floss threaders or a water flosser.
Relax—we have your back. Achieving the lofty goal of great dental health isn't all on your shoulders—we support your personal efforts through regular dental visits. Every six months, we remove hard-to-reach plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) and check for any emerging problems to keep your dental health on track.
A small investment of time and effort each day can help keep your mouth healthy and avoid costly dental treatment down the road. Don't worry: The pool will still be there waiting, so go brush and floss those teeth!
You expect a decayed tooth, a fracture or a gum infection to be the cause for that toothache causing you grief. Sometimes, though, the answer may be “none of the above”—there's nothing wrong going on in your mouth to cause the pain.
You pain is real—but its source is elsewhere in the body, a situation known as referred pain. It's important to find out the pain's true source to determine what kind of treatment you'll need to alleviate it.
Here are some of the likely candidates for a “toothache” that's not a toothache.
Facial nerves. Tooth pain may be associated with trigeminal neuralgia, a misfiring disorder of the trigeminal nerves that course through either side of the face. The nerve is divided into three branches, two of which are located in the upper face and one in the lower jaw. Because they're interconnected, a problem with one of the branches in other parts of the face could be felt in the branch around the jaw.
Jaw joints. Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD) can cause pain in the pair of joints that connect the lower jaw to the skull. The joints can become inflamed due to stress or trauma and the associated muscles begin spasming, causing severe pain. Because of their proximity to the teeth, the pain from the joints can radiate into the dental area and mimic a toothache.
Ear or sinus infections. Both the ears and the maxillary sinus are subject to infections that can cause severe pain and pressure. With the close proximity of both the ears and the sinus to the upper jaw, it's quite possible for pain originating in these structures to be felt within the mouth.
These are only a few of the possibilities that also include migraines, shingles, fibromyalgia and even vitamin deficiencies. As such, your dentist or physician may need to do a little detective work to locate the true cause. But the effort to locate where your mouth pain is actually coming from will help ensure you get the right treatment to give you lasting relief.
If you would like more information on referred tooth pain, 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 “Referred Pain: When a Toothache Is Not Really a Toothache.”
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