Pain-Free Dentistry: Know Your Options

Are you nervous about going to the dentist? Many patients are, so don’t feel as though you’re alone. Most of the time, dental-related fears center around pain. If you have had a bad dental experience in the past, you might be worried that history will repeat itself. Or you might just flinch every time you hear the drill or the clinking of instruments because you’re anticipating pain or discomfort. The good news is that pain-free dentistry is considered the norm, and most dentists do all they can to ensure that their patients are comfortable in the chair. Read on to find out about the ways that pain can be managed and eliminated while you’re in the dentist’s office.

By: Steven Depolo

Relaxation techniques. If you are very anxious, you’re likely to spend your whole visit tensed up, waiting for pain to occur. Talk to your dentist if this is the case. He or she might recommend meditation, soothing music or even a medication to help you relax.
Anesthetic gel. Are you afraid of the pinch of the needle? Your dental assistant or dentist can apply an anesthetic gel to your gums for a few minutes before you receive an injection.

Local anesthetic. Commonly called novacaine, local anesthetic is injected into the gums and ligament space around the tooth. When you have a lower tooth worked on, you might receive a mandibular block, which makes your whole lower jaw on that side numb. For an upper tooth, you might feel numb into your eye or nose. This is completely normal and it will wear off a few hours after your treatment is complete.

Nitrous oxide. Also called “laughing gas,” this is what you breathe in through a rubber mask before and during your procedure. It takes the edge off of any discomfort and relaxes you so that you are less likely to feel pain. In many cases, nitrous oxide is used in conjunction with local anesthetic.

Sedation dentistry. If you are very afraid or you need extensive work done, sedation dentistry might be an option. You will be sedated and won’t feel or remember anything. While this isn’t recommended for most patients, those with a dental phobia can benefit from having their dental work completed without having to go through the trauma of being awake for it.

After your dental procedure, you will likely have no pain. In some cases, you might experience some sensitivity, discomfort to biting or other mild sensations. An over-the-counter pain reliever will help, if you can take one safely. If you ever have unanticipated pain following a dental procedure, be sure to call the office right away; you might require an antibiotic if you have an infection or to have a filling filed down if you are biting on it too hard.
You shouldn’t dread discomfort in the chair, because pain-free dentistry is typical and what should be expected. Talk to your dentist if you have any questions or concerns.

Dental Care Tips For Seniors

Thanks to improved oral hygiene, many seniors are keeping their natural teeth longer than people of previous generations. However, arthritis, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and other conditions that are related to aging can make it more difficult for a person to take care of his or her teeth. The good news is that there are several things that seniors can do to take care of their teeth.

By: The U.S. National Archives

Here are a few dental care tips for seniors:

Brush And Floss Your Teeth Daily
Brushing and flossing helps prevent plaque from building up on your teeth. They also help remove food and other particles that can get stuck in between your teeth. Make sure that you brush with fluorine-containing toothpaste. Fluoride will help strengthen your enamel.
If you have a disability, then you may want to consider using an electric toothbrush. You can also adapt your manual toothbrush so that it is easier for you to use. For example, you can insert the handle of the toothbrush into a rubber ball.
Additionally, if you wear dentures, then you will need to brush them with a soft toothbrush and denture powder. Brush your dentures and rinse them with cool water.

See Your Dentist Twice A Year
You will need to see your dentist twice a year for a checkup and cleaning. In addition to cleaning and examining your teeth, your dentist will most likely ask you a couple of questions. How long has it been since your last dental visit? Are any of your teeth sensitive or loose? Are you having any problems swallowing, chewing or tasting? Have you noticed any soreness or bleeding in your mouth? Those are some of the questions that your dentist may ask you. It is important to note that dental problems are a lot easier to treat if they are detected early. Your caregiver can help you schedule appointments and transport you to your appointments.

Watch Your Diet
Your diet can make you more susceptible to developing gum disease or tooth decay. That is why it is important for you to follow a well-balanced diet. You should also limit your intake of starches and sugar.

Dental X-Rays: What You Need to Know

By: jasonwoodhead23

In today’s health-conscious world, our patients are right in being concerned about the long-term effects of radiation. It is now known that medical radiation should be used sparingly and only when needed. For this reason, we are sometimes asked whether it’s safe and necessary to have dental x-rays done. This is something that should be discussed with your dentist on an individual basis; not everyone needs x-rays done at the same frequency as everyone else. Here is some information about dental x-rays to help you as you strive to be an informed patient.

Bitewing X-Rays
The x-rays that you might have during a cleaning as a matter of routine are bitewing x-rays, sometimes called bitewings. These show the crowns of your top and bottom teeth, and they allow your dentist to see whether there are any areas of decay between the teeth.

Periapical X-Rays
If you were to have a problem with a particular tooth and there was not an apparent cavity, then your dentist might take a periapical x-ray. This type of image shows the tooth from crown to root, and is also sometimes taken during root canal therapy. These are also taken as part of a full-mouth series.

Occlusal X-Rays
If there is some question about the development of a child’s adult teeth, an occlusal x-ray may be taken. These can also help when someone is undergoing orthodontic therapy, or having retainers or braces put in (or taken out).

Panoramic X-Rays
Sometimes a dentist might need an overall picture of your whole mouth and jaw. Usually this can be accomplished with a panoramic x-ray. These are often taken before orthodontic therapy and sometimes in order to see impacted teeth. Cephalometric projections are another type of x-ray that is commonly used by orthodontists.

Other Types of X-Rays
There are some extraoral (outside the mouth) dental x-rays that are taken less frequently than those described above. These include sialography to check for salivary stones and tomograms, which allow the dentist to see structures that are crowded very close to other structures.

How Much Radiation?
You will be relieved to know that dental x-rays transmit very little radiation. Radiation is measured in millisieverts, which is shortened to mSv. Over the course of one year, the average amount of radiation exposure is about 3.6 mSv. This includes exposure for healthcare purposes (including dental x-rays), traveling by airplane and soaking up the rays of the sun. Of that amount, an average of 0.6 mSv comes from manmade radiation, and the majority of that 0.6 mSv comes from health-related radiation, such as x-rays and MRIs. The American Dental Association estimates that dental radiation contributes about one percent of that amount. Even a full-mouth series of x-rays, which consists of approximately 18 x-rays, transmits very little radiation.

Reducing Your Risk
As with any medical procedure, dental x-rays should only be done if the benefit outweighs the potential risk. You should let your dentist know if you are currently receiving radiation therapy or if you have in the past. Also, let him or her know if there is any chance that you might be pregnant.
You may be covered with a lead apron, which might or might not include a thyroid (neck) shield, during dental x-rays. Feel free to ask for one if it is not offered by your dentist.
Digital dental x-rays require less radiation than their traditional counterparts. If your dentist uses this type of x-ray, there is the added benefit of having them immediately linked to your digital account, so that they can’t be misplaced or lost. Also, they can be emailed to various specialists as necessary, so you won’t have to worry about low-quality duplicate x-rays not being accepted.
If you have concerns about the safety or necessity of dental x-rays, be sure to talk to your dentist.

Do You Need More Frequent Dental Checkups?

You might have grown up knowing that you should see your dentist twice per year. While this is great advice for many, the fact is that dental care, like any other aspect of health care, must be individualized for each patient. For many people, twice-yearly checkups and cleanings allow the dentist or hygienist to evaluate your gum health and screen you for dental decay. For others, however, the dental health care professional might recommend more frequent dental checkups. Here are some of the reasons why your dentist might want to see you more often.
How Often Should You Get a Dental Exam?
Smoking
You already know that smoking is bad for your health, and this includes your dental health. Smokers are more at risk of dental infections, tooth decay and even oral cancer. If you haven’t been able to kick the habit yet, we understand: It’s a very difficult vice to give up! In the meantime, more frequent dental checkups can help us to detect and treat dental health problems that might be caused by smoking.
Periodontal Disease
Gingivitis, or the inflammation of the gums, is the first stage of periodontal disease. As the condition progresses, you are at risk of bone loss, gum infections and even loose teeth. If you have periodontal disease, your dentist or hygienist might ask you to come back for more frequent checkups. This allows him or her to evaluate the condition, treat you for any present infections and, if necessary, refer you to a periodontal specialist.
Tartar
Some people tend to accumulate more tartar (hardened mineral deposits) than others. While excellent oral hygiene can go a long way toward keeping tartar at bay, this predisposition can make cleanings more difficult if you see your hygienist only twice yearly. If you happen to produce more tartar than usual, you just might have the privilege of seeing your dentist more often!
Tooth Decay
Just like the tendency to accumulate tartar, some patients also have the tendency to suffer from more tooth decay than average. For many patients, biannual checkups are enough to catch decay before it becomes destructive; for others, however, tooth decay can rapidly progress into large cavities, which are not only painful, but also more expensive to treat. Give your mouth and your wallet a break by seeing your dentist more frequently if you are prone to quickly progressing tooth decay.
Your dentist and hygienist want to help you achieve and maintain excellent oral health. If you are asked to come back to the office more often than twice yearly, do your best to comply with this request. Your health may depend on it!