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About Services Testimonials Our Team What's New Resources
Preventive Services
Comprehensive Oral Exam
The road to a healthy mouth begins with a comprehensive evaluation of your oral health. Your first visit will begin with a review of your medical and dental histories, which will give us an understanding of your background and any special considerations that may affect your dental care. We’ll then take a look inside your mouth. People tend to think of dentists as "tooth doctors," but we actually specialize in the well-being of the entire oral cavity. This entails careful inspection of your mouth’s inner linings, gums, tongue, lips, and jaws. From there, we move onto the teeth. Documenting your existing dental work in addition to any new conditions requiring treatment will allow us to develop a comprehensive and organized plan for your care. To aid in the diagnostic process, we may take some x-rays, which give us a glimpse "under the hood" and allow us to see conditions in your teeth or jaws which might not be readily apparent to the naked eye. Finally, we will take a look at your bite. A healthy bite is the foundation for healthy teeth, and so we will check that your teeth come together favorably and that the forces of chewing are evenly distributed across many teeth. By the time your examination visit is complete, we’ll have an excellent understanding of your needs, and can make recommendations for your continued care.
But the most important part of your visit is to share your motivation for coming to see us. Whether you are in pain, have a cosmetic concern, or simply just want a check-up, we are committed to understanding your needs and involving you in the planning process.
Periodontal Cleanings
The periodontal cleaning is among the most important steps to preserving a healthy mouth. The periodontium refers to the supporting structures below your teeth- the gums and jaws. Without a healthy foundation, your teeth can lose their anchor, causing them to become unstable or even fall out. The biggest threat to a healthy periodontium is calculus, a combination of bacteria and minerals which becomes hardened on the tooth near or below the gum line. As these deposits grow over time, they may cause gingivitis (infection of the gums), which may progress to periodontitis (infection of the gums and jawbone). As a part of your periodontal exam, we’ll be looking for signs of these conditions. Although periodontitis cannot be cured, it can be managed with deep cleanings. In cases of severe periodontitis, we may also refer you to a specialist to help further control the condition.
A periodontal cleaning is not a substitute for good home care. Rather, it’s a supplement to your daily brushing and flossing routine. And though it’s important for everyone to receive regular dental cleanings, the frequency of cleanings is determined on a case-by-case basis. Those individuals at a higher risk of developing periodontal disease should be seen more often.
The benefits of diligent oral hygiene aren’t limited to the mouth. In fact, recent research suggests that controlling periodontal disease can help control other medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop summed it up best: "You can’t be healthy without good oral health."
Fluoride is one of the best defenders against tooth decay. When ingested in moderation by children with developing teeth, or applied to the surface of fully-formed teeth, fluoride actually becomes a part of the tooth structure. This makes the teeth hardier against bacteria and the acid they produce. The result: less decay and fewer cavities. The benefits of fluoride are so well-documented that it’s an ingredient in most toothpastes and mouthwashes. In many communities, fluoride is even added to the public water supply.
So why does fluoride get such a bad rap? If taken in high doses by children with developing teeth, it may cause fluorosis, a condition in which the outer surfaces of the teeth become discolored. For this reason, we carefully control the doses prescribed to our pediatric patients. Adults with fully-formed teeth are generally not susceptible to fluorosis, and so we highly recommend the use of fluoridated products both at home and in-office. When you come in for your cleaning, ask us about our topical fluoride treatments. It only takes five minutes, and it may very well spare you a filling down the road!
If you’ve ever done any gardening, you know that it can get messy, and that even after washing up, you can still be left with dirt stuck beneath your fingernails. Much the same way that your fingernails create hard-to-clean crevices that trap dirt, the grooves on your teeth can trap food and bacteria when you eat. Without diligent brushing, the bacteria linger in these trenches, feeding on the sugars you eat, and producing acid which decays your teeth.
A dental sealant is a thin coating which flows into these grooves and fills in the ruts that bacteria tend to colonize. By sealing these grooves, we prevent bacteria from moving in and decaying the underlying teeth. Sealants are generally applied to the biting surfaces of back teeth (the molars) where tooth grooves are most prominent, and decay is most common. Although they may get worn away over time, sealants can last up to ten years.
So why doesn't everybody get sealants? The recommendation to place sealants is based upon a caries risk assessment. During your exam, we evaluate your susceptibility to tooth decay. For high-risk patients, we may recommend sealants to reduce that risk going forward. Many people mistakenly believe that only children and adolescents qualify for dental sealants. Simply put, this is a myth. Patients of any age can benefit from sealants.
Oral Cancer Screening
You might not know much about oral cancer. And that's not surprising since it accounts for a mere 3% of new cancer cases in the United States. But the threat posed by oral cancer doesn’t stem from its prevalence, but rather its ability to go undetected. While many types of cancer are accompanied by clinical symptoms, it is not uncommon for a person with oral cancer to be unaware of the condition for many years. By the time it’s become symptomatic, an oral cancer may have reached an advanced stage or spread to other parts of the body.
Common areas for oral cancer to develop are the sides of the tongue, floor of the mouth, and tonsil area. Not surprisingly, these are all areas that the average person doesn’t regularly see, helping to explain why oral cancer can easily go undetected.
During your exam, we will be on the lookout for any signs of oral cancer. Some people are genetically predisposed to developing oral cancer. And, certain habits like smoking tobacco and consuming alcohol, can also increase a person’s risk. For those patients at an increased risk for oral cancer, we may incorporate the use of the ViziLite® Plus Oral Cancer Screening System. Using a fluorescent light, this system helps identify abnormal changes in the soft tissue linings of the mouth. This can facilitate early detection of cancer and dramatically improve its curability.
Nightguards and Athletic Mouth Guards
The contours of your teeth tell a story about your dental habits. Over time, regular clenching and grinding may cause the biting surfaces of your teeth to become worn and flattened. This is a hallmark sign of a bruxer- a person who habitually clenches or grinds their teeth. Left unchecked, bruxism can jeopardize the health and functionality of the teeth. Bruxing commonly occurs overnight (while sleeping), and so many patients are not even aware of their habit. Some bruxers may even experience morning pain stemming from the overuse of muscles controlling jaw movements. A nightguard is a plastic tray which fits over the upper teeth and provides a cushion between the upper and lower teeth while biting. The guard protects the teeth and muscles from the immense biting force, and thereby halts the adverse effects of bruxism. Nightguards are generally worn overnight when clenching habits cannot be consciously controlled.
Like nightguards, athletic mouth guards are designed to protect the upper teeth. But unlike nightguards, which protect teeth against excessive biting force, athletic guards are designed to protect the teeth from blows to the face. Athletic guards are highly recommended for anybody who engages in sports which involve falls or other unpredictable physical contact.
You may have seen ready-to-go nightguards or athletic guards available for purchase at your local convenience or sporting goods store. Unfortunately, these one-size-fits-all guards are often ill-fitting, uncomfortable, and ineffective. Some so-called "boil-and-bite" guards have an inner lining which softens when submerged in hot water, and then permanently hardens when the wearer first bites into the softened plastic. Though preferred over the one-size-fits-all guard, a "boil-and-bite" guard still pales in comparison to a custom-made guard. As its name suggests, a custom guard is designed to fit snugly in the wearer’s mouth, conferring the greatest possible protection.