Dentistry is the profession and science of preventing, diagnosing, and treating oral diseases. It also includes restoring and replacing missing teeth and soft tissues of the oral cavity.
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Oral hygiene is a series of habits that prevent oral health problems like cavities, gum disease, and bad breath (halitosis). It includes brushing twice per day, flossing once daily, and visiting your dentist for dental X-rays, exams, and cleanings every six months.
Brushing and flossing remove bacteria from the teeth, and regular practice reduces the risk of plaque buildup, which leads to tooth decay. Other practices include limiting sugar intake, not smoking, and using an interdental cleaner (like a brush or a wooden or plastic pick) to clean between the teeth. In addition, fluoride treatments applied to the teeth at the dentist’s office or a gel or mouthwash for at-home use can help prevent tooth decay.
The benefits of good oral hygiene extend beyond preventing tooth decay and gum disease. Studies show a link between poor oral hygiene and other medical conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and even dementia.
Dental hygienists may work in private practice or with public health organizations to educate, assess, and treat oral health. In addition to educational qualifications, they need to have excellent interpersonal skills, talent, and communication. In some states, they can take a licensing exam to become a registered dental hygienist. In addition to this licensure, some hygienists may pursue advanced education, business management, and marketing training to increase career opportunities.
Tooth whitening can dramatically affect how people feel about their smiles. It’s an affordable, simple way to give a more youthful appearance. A brighter smile makes the teeth look healthier, too. Whitening can also boost confidence.
Most stains can be lightened through physical removal or chemical bleaching. Stains are composed of a dark compound called chromogen that is either accumulated in the tooth (intrinsic) or on its surface (extrinsic). Tooth whitening products typically use a chemical known as hydrogen peroxide to break down these compounds and lighten the color. Different whitening products are marketed to address particular types of stains. Some use increased cleansing agents, while others utilize bleaching.
Bleaching of the teeth is safe and effective when used under a professional’s supervision. A dental team will place a rubber shield or gel on the gums to protect them before applying the whitening product to the teeth. The whitening product is a white, gel-like substance that usually contains a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide.
The whitening product is applied to the teeth for 30 to 60 minutes each day for two to four weeks or longer, depending on the severity of the stain and how white you want your teeth to be. Follow directions carefully to avoid sore gums and other unwanted side effects. The results are usually long-lasting. However, stains can return over time so that a touch-up may be needed.
A dental cleaning is a non-invasive procedure where a dentist or hygienist removes plaque and tartar from the teeth and gum line. This prevents serious oral health issues such as tooth decay and gum disease from developing. It also helps patients achieve a brighter and more attractive smile. Many insurance plans cover the cost of routine cleanings, meaning that patients can visit the dentist regularly and avoid expensive procedures down the road.
The most common dental cleaning type is prevention, designed for patients with healthy teeth and gums. During this procedure, the hygienist will use either manual or ultrasonic tools to scrape off the hardened plaque that has formed on the teeth. This reduces the bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease and eliminates odor-causing bacteria that are the source of bad breath (halitosis).
Patients can typically expect their dental cleanings to take 30-60 minutes, depending on their unique oral health needs. After the hygienist has removed all of the buildup, the dentist will examine the teeth, existing restorations, and gums and review the hygienist’s findings.
Regular dental cleanings are essential for good oral health and overall physical well-being. A lack of dental hygiene can lead to serious health complications, such as heart disease and diabetes. In addition, dental cleanings remove stains that are often difficult to remove at home, making for a brighter smile.
Dental implants replace missing teeth and provide a permanent tooth replacement option that improves oral health, chewing ability, speech, and confidence. They also prevent bone deterioration in the jaw where teeth are missing, which may lead to other problems and additional expenses. Dental implant surgery is a complex procedure that requires careful evaluation and planning by a doctor who specializes in conditions of the mouth, jaw, and face (oral and maxillofacial surgeon) or by a dentist specializing in treating structures that support teeth, such as gums and bones (periodontist). Sometimes, consulting with a specialist in the ear, nose, and throat (ENT) area may be necessary.
During the initial phase of dental implant treatment, we will complete a comprehensive examination of your teeth and jaws, including dental X-rays and 3D imaging. We will then develop a personalized treatment plan detailing the sequence of procedures and cost estimates. You must maintain excellent oral hygiene and follow our post-op instructions to ensure optimal healing and success. We also recommend avoiding certain foods and beverages that can discolor or damage your artificial teeth. We will schedule regular appointments to remove sutures and check your recovery progress.
The most common type of dental implant is an Endosteal implant, which is surgically fixed into the jawbone to act as a tooth root. A second popular choice is a Subperiosteal implant, which rests on the jawbone under the gums. A third option is a Zygomatic implant placed in your cheekbone if your jaw does not have enough bone to support an Endosteal implant or a Subperiosteal implant.
Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting your teeth. It causes swollen, red, and bleeding gums and can lead to tooth loss if not treated. Periodontal treatment involves various procedures designed to control the spread of bacteria and repair damage to the gums and bone.
The first phase of treatment involves scaling and root planing. During this procedure, the dental hygienist will remove bacteria deep beneath the gum line along the roots of your teeth. They will also smooth your root surfaces to prevent future plaque and bacteria buildup. This is a very thorough cleaning that typically takes two or more visits and may include local anesthesia.
Antibiotics may be used as part of your treatment plan to reduce the bacteria that cause gum disease and help your gum tissue heal. The most common antibiotic is chlorhexidine (Peridex, PerioChip, and PerioGard), which can be rinsed or placed in a gelatin-filled chip that releases the medication over seven days. Your dentist will know which meds are right for you.
For patients with more advanced periodontitis, surgical treatments are available to help repair the damage caused by bacteria. Pocket reduction surgery (also known as flap surgery) helps reduce the size of the pockets by moving the gum tissue away from the teeth and removing bacteria, plaque, and tartar. Bone grafting can restore lost bone structure and encourage natural bone growth.
Oral cancer is highly treatable if detected at an early stage. However, most oral cancers are diagnosed at an advanced stage with poor cure rates (see the figure below). Screening programs can improve outcomes by detecting asymptomatic cancers. Early diagnosis can prevent the spread of cancer to other areas and reduce mortality.
Most national organizations, including the US Preventive Services Task Force, have not recommended population-based screening for oral cancer due to a lack of evidence that it leads to a reduction in death from oral cancer. However, most dentists do perform oral cancer screenings in their practices. There is some concern that opportunistic screenings in dental practices lead to the downstaging of oral cancer. Still, there are also concerns that patients with asymptomatic lesions may be overdiagnosed and treated unnecessarily.
A common way healthcare professionals can check the mouth for abnormal tissue is with an exfoliative cytology test. This involves applying a dye, such as toluidine blue, to the inside of the mouth. Then, a healthcare professional will use a brush-like tool to scrape away cells from the lesion and send them to a lab for examination under a microscope to determine if they are cancerous.
This procedure is relatively quick and painless and is usually performed as part of a dental exam. Some patients are apprehensive about undergoing a mouth examination, especially if they have been told that there is a possibility that the healthcare professional will find oral cancer. In these cases, the healthcare professional should explain that the test will help them detect precancerous and cancerous tissue so they can seek medical attention if needed.