Getting a Dental Impression? Here’s What to Expect

A dental impression serves as a mold of your mouth. Your dentist uses an impression when an exact replica of your mouth is needed to create dentures, crowns or dental appliances, such as Invisalign clear aligners (an alternative to traditional metal braces). It only takes a few minutes for your dentist to make an impression, but it is a very important step in your treatment plan.

Why Does My Dentist Need an Impression?

Impressions are used when you need:

  • Crowns
  • Dentures
  • Dental veneers
  • Braces and other types of orthodontia
  • Nightguards
  • Custom teeth-whitening trays
  • Mouthguards for sports

What Happens When I Get an Impression?

The first step of the impression process involves washing and drying the tooth or teeth. In some cases, such as if you are getting veneers on all your teeth, every single one of your teeth will be washed. If you are just getting a crown on one tooth, only that tooth will be washed; although the impression material will cover all your upper or lower teeth.

To create the material used to make an impression, your dentist will mix a special seaweed-based powder called alginate with water until it is the consistency of putty. He or she will place the putty in a u-shaped tray that follows the curve of your upper or lower teeth. If impressions of your upper and lower teeth are needed, an impression of your lower teeth is usually made first.

The tray is placed firmly against your teeth and gums, where it remains for two or three minutes. When the tray is removed, you will notice that the putty no longer looks liquid but is firm and rubbery.

Your dentist will pour plaster into the impression to create the mold that will be used to make an appliance, crown, dentures or veneers.

Worried About Gagging?

Some people worry about gagging when they get a dental impression, especially if they have a very active gag reflex. This is usually more of a problem when you receive an upper impression because it may feel as if the putty is running down your throat, even though it actually is not.

If you let your dentist know that you are concerned about gagging, he or she will help you feel more comfortable during the process. If you wish, a numbing spray can applied to the back of your throat to reduce your gag reflex. Nitrous oxide, commonly called laughing gas, can also be helpful if you have a particularly strong gag reflex. The gas inhibits your gag reflex and makes it much easier to tolerate the impression process.

These tips can help you avoid gagging during a dental impression:

  • Breathe slowly through your nose.
  • Resist the urge to swallow. If saliva builds up in your mouth, drool into a napkin but do not swallow. Swallowing at this point can trigger the gag reflex.
  • Sit forward. When you tilt your head forward, the impression material will not be able to slide back toward your throat.
  • Think about something pleasant. Whether you focus on your favorite vacation spot or relive the highlights of the movie you watched the night before, thinking about other things can make the process easier.
  • Ask your dentist to talk to you. Listening to someone else share a story or even explain the next step in your dental treatment is a good way to take the focus off of your temporary discomfort.

Before you know it, it will be time to remove the impression tray from your mouth. You may just be surprised at how easy the process was, despite your fears.

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Try One of These Alternative to Metal Braces 

Would you like to straighten your teeth but do not like the look or hassle of metal braces? Try one of these alternatives.


The Invisalign system involves the use of a series of clear, removable aligners to gently move teeth into position. No one will know you are wearing them, and you can remove them to eat and to clean them.

Clear Correct

The Clear Correct system is similar to Invisalign. Every few weeks, you will use a new set of aligners that will move your teeth into the proper alignment. Since you will remove the aligners to eat, you can eat popcorn and other foods that are off limits to people who wear metal braces.

Six Month Smiles

If you are not concerned about your bite and only want to straighten your teeth, Six Month Smiles is a good solution. As the name implies, straightening happens in just six months. The clear braces are attached to your teeth, and low pressure is used to move them into position.

If you are interested in learning more about the alternative treatment options to traditional metal braces, contact our office today. We can answer your questions and schedule an appointment for you to learn more.

What to Expect During Your Child’s First Dental Visit

Your child’s first trip to the dentist should fall sometime between the ages of one and two years old. Since many children need braces or other forms of dental care throughout their young life, establishing a good relationship with your dentist sets your family up for success from an early age.

Treating or preventing dental problems in children (and in adults) is also much easier if you catch issues when they first appear. Approximately 25 percent of children will have a cavity by the age of four, so a trip to the dentist is never too early, once teeth start to appear.

Your child’s first visit to the dentist is usually short and sweet, so rest easy.

Getting to Know You

During the first part of the exam, your dentist may spend time introducing himself or herself to your child and gauging their personality. Let your child interact naturally with the dentist. It’s important not to rush right into business, so your child has time to get acclimated to the new situation and environment.

Oral Habits

Next, your dentist will talk to you and your child about your oral hygiene habits and routine. He or she might ask questions about thumb sucking, diet, brushing and any concerns you have. The dentist will examine your child’s bite and existing teeth and likely use a dental model to show your child how to properly brush his or her teeth.

Getting to Know the Dentist’s Chair

Your dentist will use this opportunity to reduce any fear or anxiety over future visits by introducing your child to the dentist’s chair and to the tools and machinery around the office. Letting your child see the suction and cleaning devices will make cleanings and maintenance less stressful because he or she will already know what to expect.


If necessary, the dentist may use an electric tooth polisher or manual brush to clean your child’s teeth. If there are any visible stains or decay, the doctor will take care of those at this time. Depending on your child’s teeth and habits, the dentist may prescribe a fluoride treatment to strengthen your child’s enamel and protect against decay.

Additional Treatment

At the end of your visit, the dentist will schedule your child’s next visit (usually every six months for young patients). If additional treatment is necessary, he or she may schedule a follow-up visit sooner. Traditionally, children get their first dental X-rays between the ages of five and six, so you shouldn’t expect to do that on your first visit unless there is cause for concern.

Treat Time

After your child’s first dental appointment, you may want to reward your child for the visit. Seeing the dentist can seem scary, so ending your exam with some positive reinforcement makes the experience memorable in a good way. Whether you buy your child a new toothbrush that has his or her favorite cartoon character on it, take him or her out for a healthy treat or take your child to see a new movie, celebrating a successful visit makes the next trip much easier.

Our staff of dental professionals are dedicated to helping you achieve your dental wellness objectives. Thank you for subscribing to our dental wellness newsletter.

3 Ways to Make Oral Hygiene Fun for Kids

To help keep your kids’ teeth healthy, make oral hygiene fun, with the following tips.

1. Accessorize. Make brushing fun by letting your kids pick out their own toothbrush and toothpaste. A little sparkle or color goes a long way in making brushing feel like a special occasion.

2. All in the Family. Brush together! Your children learn good habits by watching you. Make brushing and flossing a family affair to keep your kids coming back for more.

3. Reward System. Motivate your kids to take care of their teeth and do other chores by establishing a reward system. You can use a star chart, stickers or other system to illustrate how many points your child has accumulated for each job well done. Once they have accumulated a certain number of points, the children get a reward. You might be surprised at how easy it will be to get your children to brush their teeth and floss regularly!

How Your Oral Health Affects Your Overall Health

Proper brushing, flossing and regular visits to your dentist are important to protect your teeth from general decay and staining over time. However, maintaining proper oral hygiene affects far more than your pearly whites — good oral hygiene can also help protect your gum health and even your overall health.

How Good Oral Hygiene Practices Protect Your Gums

Taking proper care of your teeth helps prevent bacteria from building up in your mouth. Bacteria buildup on your teeth can make your gums prone to serious infection. Such infection can lead to inflammation of the gums and, if not treated correctly, can cause severe periodontal (gum) disease.

More About Periodontal Disease

The root cause of periodontal disease is plaque buildup around the teeth that gradually spreads under the gum line. Periodontal disease ranges from early-stage gingivitis, which is characterized by gum inflammation, to advanced-stage periodontitis, which often occurs when gingivitis is left untreated.

Advanced periodontal disease, or periodontitis, causes the inner layer of the gum and bone to pull away from the teeth, creating small pockets. These pockets can become infected with collected debris and encourage plaque to settle in and grow beneath the gum line. As it progresses, periodontal disease damages the supporting tissue around the tooth, which can lead to loose teeth that eventually fall out. Furthermore, certain chemicals released by the body’s own immune system actually accelerate this process.

Why Does it Matter?

Periodontal disease doesn’t just affect your teeth. If left untreated, oral bacteria can enter the blood stream and cause serious harm to your general health. These bacteria, along with certain chemicals released by the immune system in an attempt to fight off infection, circulate through the blood stream and can cause conditions including heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

In fact, up to 91 percent of patients with heart disease have been shown to also have periodontitis. Gum inflammation can cause inflammation of the blood vessels as well. This restricts blood flowing through the heart and the rest of the body, which raises blood pressure and often causes heart disease.

Periodontitis and oral inflammation have also been shown to weaken the body’s natural ability to control blood sugar. For people with diabetes, this greatly complicates management of the condition.  Inflammation impairs the body’s ability to utilize insulin, the hormone that converts sugar into energy. Thankfully, managing one condition can help bring the other under control.

Want to Know More?

If you have any further questions regarding how to maintain proper oral hygiene, contact us to schedule an appointment today.

Our staff of dental professionals are dedicated to helping you achieve your dental wellness objectives. Thank you for subscribing to our dental wellness newsletter.

Protecting Your Pearly Whites 

Brushing your teeth correctly is an instrumental part of your oral health. Proper care can help prevent tooth decay, cavities, yellowing, gingivitis (early-stage gum disease) and more. Ensure you are brushing your teeth correctly and protecting your pearly whites by using the following steps.

  1. Gently brush theouter surfaces of your upper teeth with soft, short strokes. Repeat this action on your lower teeth.
  2. Gently brush theinner surfaces of you upper teeth with soft, short strokes. Repeat this action on your lower teeth.
  3. Pay special attention to your gum line, harder-to-reach back teeth and any areas where you’ve had tooth decay in the past.
  4. Gently brush your tongue to remove bacteria and prevent bad breath.

Most dentists recommend brushing your teeth for a total of two minutes each time you brush, and, as always, remember to floss! 

Save Your Smile From Soda

According to recent studies, nearly half the people in America consume soda on any given day. In fact, although soda is associated with numerous health problems, it is still one of the most widely consumed beverages on the planet. Diseases including kidney disease, heart disease, hypertension and an increased risk of type-two diabetes have long been associated with regular soda consumption, but your oral health is at risk too.

How Soda Consumption Affects Your Teeth

The high quantities of sugar and artificial sweeteners in most sodas weaken and dissolve tooth enamel and damage your teeth. However, sugar is only one part of the dynamic duo that makes soda so dangerous for your teeth. Most sodas are also highly acidic. Consuming highly acidic foods and drinks can also weaken tooth enamel and lead to cavities, tooth decay and, eventually, tooth loss.

Teeth are often covered by a layer of bacteria. These bacteria, commonly known as plaque, feed on the sugar you eat and drink. Bacteria metabolize the sugar and create acids as byproducts. This acid attacks your teeth and weakens the structure of your tooth. In fact, these acids continue to attack and weaken tooth enamel for nearly 20 minutes after the initial sip of soda. In addition, the bacteria can also irritate the gums, leading to gum disease. Over time, and especially when left untreated, gum disease weakens teeth and eventually causes them to fall out.

Many people believe that they can avoid the negative effects of consuming the sugar in regular soda by drinking diet soda, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Although diet soda does not contain the same types of sugars that can damage your teeth as regular soda does, most of them contain phosphoric and citric acid. This acid is still highly damaging to your teeth. The damage done to your teeth by regularly drinking diet soda is in fact very similar to the enamel erosion and decay caused by drinking regular soda.

Preventing Tooth Decay

The best way to protect your teeth from excessive decay is to avoid consuming sugary food and drinks. However, if you choose to indulge in an occasional glass of soda, there are some important things you should know about protecting your teeth.

  1. Use a straw so your teeth are less exposed to the sugar and acid in soda.
  2. Drink water after drinking or eating sugary substances to help dilute the sugars and rinse them out of your mouth.
  3. Avoid drinking sugary or acidic drinks right before you go to bed. Drinking soda before bed causes the liquid to pool in your mouth and coat your teeth with sugar and acid.
  4. Brush and floss your teeth regularly. Overall, this is the best strategy for protecting your pearly whites.

Want to Know More?

If you have any questions about proper oral health or protecting your teeth, schedule an appointment with us today.

Our staff of dental professionals are dedicated to helping you achieve your dental wellness objectives. Thank you for subscribing to our dental wellness newsletter.

Protecting Tooth Enamel

Enamel is the hard coating that covers the outer layer of your teeth. It protects your teeth from being damaged while you eat and drink and is thought to be the hardest mineral substance in the human body. Although it is incredibly strong, it can be worn down over time. Consuming foods that are acidic or contain high quantities of sugar can weaken and dissolve tooth enamel, leaving your teeth susceptible to cavities and decay.

To protect your enamel, you should brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss once a day. Fluoride toothpaste has also been shown to strengthen enamel and protect against daily acid attacks on your teeth.

Eat Your Way to a Brighter Smile

Do you ever feel like your smile is stained, yellow or dull? While many people feel this way, most are not aware that some of the foods they eat are what’s causing tooth discoloration. To combat general staining and yellowing over time, many people choose at-home or in-office whitening treatments. Both can help brighten your pearly whites, but avoiding certain foods can help protect your smile as well.

In addition, there are actually several foods that can be good for your smile. Certain foods are known to strengthen your enamel, stimulate your gums and even brighten your smile naturally. Try some of the following foods to help keep your smile brilliant.


Don’t let these brightly colored berries fool you! Strawberries are great for your teeth. They contain malic acid and vitamin C, both nutrients are essential for maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Malic acid helps naturally remove discoloration from your teeth. Vitamin C promotes healthy gums, helping to stave off gingivitis (early-stage gum disease).  You can include strawberries in your diet by adding them to salads or yogurt or by enjoying them as a snack by themselves. Your teeth will sparkle in no time.


In general, vegetables are great for your oral health. Broccoli just happens to offer extra oral health benefits.

Broccoli is packed with fiber and iron. Eating a lot of fiber can help reduce inflammation, both in your mouth and in your body in general. The iron in broccoli helps protect your teeth against enamel-wearing acid that can be caused by bacteria in your mouth. While you still need your actual toothbrush to do the heavy lifting, fresh broccoli has also been shown to help clean and polish your teeth.


While it’s true that onions are notorious for causing bad breath, it’s also true that they can be beneficial for your teeth. Also, onions contain antibacterial compounds found to help protect against certain oral health problems.  Eating onions reduces the bacteria in your mouth that can cause tooth decay, and their pale color means that they will not cause tooth stains. Raw onions are best for you and your oral health, but cooked onions will do the trick if raw ones are not your thing.


Studies show that cheese protects your teeth from acid erosion. While our saliva does its best to protect our teeth against this erosion by acting as neutralizing agent, research shows that eating even a 1/3-ounce serving of cheese can protect your teeth even more. Cheese also contains casein phosphate that strengthens your teeth. Try eating a small slice of cheese midway through your meal and again at the end to protect your mouth from stains and enamel erosion — especially if you are drinking red wine with your meal.


It’s no secret that dark sodas and bright fruit juices are bad for your teeth. Not only do they contain plenty of sugar that can wear on enamel and cause cavities, but their dark color stains teeth as well. Water does just the opposite. Water will never stain your teeth, and drinking water regularly throughout the day encourages saliva production, which helps clean and protect your teeth. Drinking water also helps rinse your mouth of any plaque or food remnants after a big meal.

If you need help brightening your smile, contact us for an appointment today!

Our staff of dental professionals are dedicated to helping you achieve your dental wellness objectives. Thank you for subscribing to our dental wellness newsletter.

Foods to Avoid

In addition to eating certain foods to boost oral health and keep tooth stains at bay, it is helpful to protect your teeth by limiting your intake of certain other foods and liquids.

Coffee and red wine are both major staining culprits. Your teeth are porous and absorb liquids into their surface easily. If you are not quite ready to give up your morning caffeine kick, you can dilute your coffee with milk to help minimize discoloration. 

Unlike their cousin the strawberry, most berries are not great for your smile. Their deep color pigment stains your teeth; although flushing your mouth with water after eating can be a big help.

Lastly, indulging in sugary drinks and candy can considerably wear down your enamel over time and cause tooth decay or cavities. Most dentists recommend that you avoid food and drinks like these, but, if you do eat them, it is best to brush your teeth as soon as possible after you eat them. Regular brushing and flossing, along with topical fluoride treatments, are imperative in protecting your teeth from sugar-related decay.

Caring for Sensitive Teeth

Sensitive teeth may be the sign of a nerve problem, but in most cases they are just a nuisance.  Tooth sensitivity can be caused by two factors: the erosion of enamel and receding gum lines.  The enamel on your teeth and the gums that surround your teeth act to shied dentin, which is the layer of your tooth beneath the enamel.  Tubules in the dentin lead to root nerves, which can erupt in pain when exposed to heat or cold.

Tooth sensitivity most commonly affects people between the ages of 25 and 30, but can appear at any age.  With time and the proper treatment, tooth sensitivity can most likely be cured.  Here are six easy ways to combat tooth sensitivity at home.  If you try these at-home cures for tooth sensitivity for one month and get no relief, it’s time to consult your dentist.

  1. Visit your dentist.  Your dentist has access to treatments that are more intensive than any home remedy.  In some cases, your dentist may recommend an “oxalate” root rub to coat the root and can stop or greatly reduce sensitivity.  A dentist can also use a bonding agent to seal and protect the roots of sensitive teeth.In some cases, tooth sensitivity may be the result of an old silver filling, which your dentist can replace with new, tooth-colored fillings for a more comfortable and aesthetic fix.  During your twice-annual dental cleaning, your dentist can also catch potential causes of sensitivity like the build-up of plaque.
  2. Brush away sugar, starch and acid.  Acid causes enamel erosion, so the sooner you remove acids from your teeth, the better.  Sugars and starches work to start the process of acid production in the mouth, so it’s a good idea to brush after eating foods high in sugar and starch, as well.  To prevent sugary drinks like soda from affecting your enamel, try using a straw.Many over-the-counter mouthwashes contain acids, as well.  If you have sensitive teeth, ask your dentist to recommend an acid-free mouthwash.
  3. Drink lots of water.  Water can help rinse away any sugars, starches, or acid that may contribute to your tooth sensitivity.  And this may be hard to believe, but tap water is actually better for your teeth than bottled water, since it contains fluoride.
  4. Chew sugarless gum.  This is an easy way to care for and cleanse your teeth when you aren’t able to brush.  Chewing gum triggers the production of saliva, which can replenish decay-preventing minerals on the teeth.  Also, gum may help remove food particles which can lead to plaque and gum disease, a common source of gum recession.
  5. Use a special toothbrush and toothpaste.  There are some toothpastes that are specially formulated for sensitive teeth.  Usually these toothpastes contain potassium nitrate or strontium chloride, which plug the tubules in dentin that lead to the nerves.  They can also trigger minerals in the saliva that can harden over the tubules, offering another level of protection.Use a soft-bristled toothbrush which won’t scratch enamel, and always brush gently.  To really give the pain-preventing chemicals a chance to interact, wait a bit before spitting and before rinsing.
  6. Use fluoride varnish or fluoride rinse.  Fluoride restores tooth enamel, repairing light damage to the teeth.  Using an over-the-counter fluoride rinse just once a day can help stop tooth pain and sensitivity.  You can also ask your dentist for a stronger formula, and he or she can coat your teeth with a fluoride varnish in just a few minutes.


Our staff of dental professionals are dedicated to helping you achieve your dental wellness objectives. Thank you for subscribing to our dental wellness newsletter.

With time and the proper treatment, tooth sensitivity can most likely be cured. 

Toothache? Here’s How to Get Some Relief

The pain of a toothache can be overwhelming.  Fortunately, modern dental care has made toothaches far less common, and when a toothache does come up we have a number of effective ways to treat the problem and relieve the ache.  Regardless of the cause of your toothache, it’s something you should talk to your dentist about: even if these remedies help alleviate the pain a toothache may be the sign of a problem.

There are a number of different types of tooth pain.  Some people experience pain as a result of teeth that are sensitive to heat or cold.  Other toothaches may be the result of sinus problems.  These toothaches are characterized by pain limited to the upper teeth and in most cases more than one tooth is affected at a time.  Tooth grinding (or bruxism) may be another cause of toothaches, as can problems with the temporamandibular joint (TMJ) or recent dental work.

There are a number of types of tooth pain that should trigger a call to the dentist.  For instance, sharp pain when biting down may be the sign of a cavity, cracked tooth, damaged tooth pulp, or a loose filling.  When tooth sensitivity lasts for more than 30 minutes after eating cold or hot foods, it may also be the sign of a greater problem.  If tooth pain is severe enough to wake you at night, or is accompanied by swelling or sensitivity, you need to visit the dentist as soon as possible.

Sometimes (like in the middle of the night), it’s not possible to get to the dentist.  In those cases, here are some temporary measures you can take to sooth the pain of a toothache.
Over-the-counter pain medication like aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen can help take the edge off a toothache.  Most dentists recommend ibuprofen, as it can also relieve inflammation that may come with a tooth infection.

If you are looking for a more natural approach to cope with tooth pain, you can try applying oil of cloves to numb the pain.  Be sure to apply this oil sparingly and only to the tooth itself, as it can cause a burning sensation on the gums.
If swelling accompanies your toothache, you can apply a cold compress to the outside of your cheek, or holding an ice cube or cold water in your mouth.  If this aggravates your pain, of course, stop immediately.

Rinsing with warm water may dislodge any food debris that could aggravate tooth pain.  For an added benefit, try stirring one teaspoon of salt into a glass of warm water, rinsing, and spitting.  Flossing is another good way to remove food debris.

Sometimes a sore tooth feels sensitive to air.  If this is the case, cover the tooth with a piece of gauze or a little dental wax.  Even a tiny bit of sugarless chewing gum may do the trick until you can get to a dentist.

Regardless of the method you try, it will only bring temporary relief.  If there is a problem with your tooth or gums, the best and only way to find permanent relief is to visit the dentist.

Our staff of dental professionals are dedicated to helping you achieve your dental wellness objectives. Thank you for subscribing to our dental wellness newsletter.

Sometimes it’s impossible to get to the dentist.  In those cases, here are some temporary measures to sooth the pain of a toothache.

All About Wisdom Teeth

As the final set of molars, a person’s wisdom teeth usually come in between the ages of 17 to 25. We often hear about wisdom tooth removal, and that’s no wonder: according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, nine in ten people have at least one wisdom tooth that is impacted and needs to be removed. It’s best to extract wisdom teeth in younger patients, as patients over the age of 35 are at a greater risk for complications because wisdom teeth actually fuse to the jaw bone as we age.

Even if your wisdom teeth appear to have fully erupted and are not causing you any pain, they still may need to be removed.  To determine whether your wisdom teeth need to be extracted, your dentist will conduct a thorough examination of the area and he or she will also take X-rays. If a wisdom tooth is impacted or misaligned, it could lead to sinus issues, infection, pain, or it could cause surrounding teeth to shift positions. Other conditions that may lead to wisdom tooth extraction include gum (periodontal) disease, cavities, cysts, tumors, and damage to surrounding teeth.

Wisdom tooth extraction varies from a simple procedure to full surgery under general anesthesia, depending on the position of the tooth. If a tooth is fully emerged, it can most likely be easily removed in the same manner in which your dentist would remove any other tooth.  If the tooth is impacted, it means it has not fully entered the mouth and it could be embedded in the jaw bone.

An impacted wisdom tooth is more difficult to remove, and may require the attention of an oral surgeon. Wisdom tooth extraction at this stage may require general anesthesia or intravenous sedation. During extraction of an impacted wisdom tooth, an incision is made in the gum to expose the tooth surface and any bone that covers the tooth will also need to be removed.  Wisdom teeth are often removed in small pieces in an effort to minimize damage to surrounding bone and tissue.

Following wisdom tooth extraction surgery, you may have some minor swelling and discomfort. Cold compresses can help reduce swelling, and your dentist or oral surgeon may also prescribe a pain medication to help keep you comfortable. To prevent infection of the socket left by the removed tooth, you may also be given dietary instructions. Many patients find that sticking to a diet of soft foods also decreases any discomfort that may be brought on by chewing.

Even if your wisdom teeth are healthy, they are in an area of the mouth that is particularly hard to clean and it’s important to visit your dentist regularly for a thorough cleaning and evaluation of the health of your wisdom molars and the rest of your teeth. Not sure if your wisdom teeth are causing a problem? Contact your dentist to schedule a consultation where they can be examined and you can learn more about wisdom tooth removal and whether it is right for you.

American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

Our staff of dental professionals are dedicated to helping you achieve your dental wellness objectives. Thank you for subscribing to our dental wellness newsletter.

According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, nine in ten people have at least one wisdom tooth that is impacted and needs to be removed.

Dental Concerns for Older Adults

Dental issues and needs change with every stage of life, and senior citizens have unique dental concerns that may require special attention.  In fact, many people aren’t aware that it’s common for individuals over the age of 60 to encounter a second stage of cavity prone years.

Dry Mouth

While dry mouth is not triggered by aging, many seniors encounter dry mouth as a side effect of medications for conditions such as asthma or allergies, high cholesterol, anxiety or depression, high blood pressure, or Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s diseases.  For this reason and because of other potential interactions, it’s important to keep your dentist apprised of all medications you take.  Patients with dry mouth are more likely to have bad breath and are also more likely to form cavities.  Here are some recommendations your dentist may make to help you cope with and alleviate dry mouth:

  • Try oral moisturizers, which usually come in the form of a spray or mouthwash and are available over-the-counter.
  • Talk to your doctor about changing any medications that may be contributing to dry mouth.
  • Hydrate.  Especially if you tend towards dry mouth, your mouth needs to be constantly lubricated.  Make an effort to drink more water, even if you aren’t feeling thirsty.
  • Stimulate saliva production with sugar-free lozenges or gum.
  • Try using a humidifier when you sleep to keep the air moist.
  • Certain foods can irritate dry mouths and make them even drier.  Avoid acidic fruit juices, alcohol, coffee, tea, or carbonated soft drinks.
  • Talk to your dentist about applying fluoride or a varnish to help protect your teeth from cavities.

Gum Disease

Bacteria in plaque can cause gum (periodontal) disease. Gum disease is especially prominent in older adults because the first stages of periodontal disease are painless, so gum disease may not be caught until it is fairly advanced, especially if the person does not visit the dentist regularly for check-ups.  If gum disease is not treated, the gums can pull away from the teeth, creating small pockets where food and plaque may collect.  At its most advanced stages, gum disease can lead to tooth loss as the gums, bones, and ligaments that support the dental framework are worn away by the disease.  Fortunately, if gum disease is caught early, it is easily treated.

Oral Cancer

The American Cancer Society reports that every year, roughly 35,000 cases of mouth, throat, and tongue cancer are diagnosed.  Amongst these cancers, the average age at which a patient is diagnosed is 62. While early stages of mouth cancer often don’t come with many symptoms, patients with more advanced cancers may experience open sores, patches of white or red in the mouth, or prolonged changes to the lips, tongue, and lining of the mouth.  Oral cancer can be deadly, and early detection is essential, so it’s very important for patients in the target age group to visit the dentist at least twice a year for an oral cancer examination.

American Dental Association

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Dental issues and needs change with every stage of life, and seniors have unique dental concerns that may require special attention.  Contact your dentist today to ensure good oral health.

What’s In a Tooth?

We all know that it’s important to brush and floss our teeth regularly, but how much do you really know about your teeth?  For example, did you know that the enamel on your teeth is the hardest surface in your body?  It turns out that most people know very little about their teeth.  Read on to learn about the anatomy of the tooth and the different types of teeth you have in your mouth.

The Anatomy of a Tooth

Crown: The crown is the only part of a tooth that we normally see.  The crowns of our teeth are shaped differently, according to the function of each tooth.  The teeth towards the front of our mouths are sharp because they are used for cutting, while our molars (back teeth) have flat surfaces that we use to grind food.

Gumline: Though the gum line is not an actual part of a tooth, it’s important to note because this area is where tartar and plaque can build up, leading to cavities and gum diseases like gingivitis.

Root:  The root is the portion of a tooth that is embedded in the jaw bone.  This portion makes up about two-thirds of a tooth, and is responsible for grounding the tooth and holding it securely in the proper position.

Enamel:  The enamel is the outer coating of a tooth.  Enamel can be damaged by decay, and once enamel is lost it does not grow back, so it’s very important to keep your teeth clean and tartar and plaque free.

Dentin:  The layer of the tooth that rests below the enamel is called the dentin.  The dentin is composed of millions of tiny tubes that lead to the tooth pulp.  If decay is able to progress through the enamel, it attacks the dentin next.

Pulp:  Though the surface of your teeth is the hardest surface in your body, the pulp, or innermost layer of a tooth, is soft.  This is where blood vessels and nerve tissues are, so people usually experience pain if dental decay reaches the pulp.

Types of Teeth

The average adult has roughly 32 teeth, and there are a number of different types of teeth distinguished by shape, size, position, and purpose.  Here is a quick run-down on the different types of teeth in your mouth:

Incisors:  The average adult has 8 incisors—4 on top and 4 on the bottom of the mouth.  These are the chisel-shaped, sharp front teeth that we use for cutting food.

Canines:  Most adults have 4 canines, split evenly between the top and bottom of the mouth.  Canines are also referred to as cuspids because they are cusp-shaped.  We use these teeth to tear food.

Premolars:  Next to the canine teeth, you will find the premolars.  Premolars, of which we have 8, are also called bicuspids because they feature two sharp cusps on their biting surface.  Premolars help us crush and tear food.

Molars:  These are the teeth furthest to the back of your mouth, and you most likely have 12 of them.  Molars have more than two cusps on the biting surface and are used for grinding food prior to swallowing.

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We all know that it’s important to brush and floss our teeth regularly, but how much do you really know about your teeth?