When X-rays pass through your mouth during a dental exam, more X-rays are absorbed by the denser parts (such as teeth and bone) than by soft tissues (such as cheeks and gums) before striking the film. This creates an image on the radiograph. Teeth appear lighter because fewer X-rays penetrate to reach the film. Cavities and gum disease appear darker because of more X-ray penetration. The interpretation of these X-rays allows the dentist to safely and accurately detect hidden abnormalities.
How often dental X-rays (radiographs) should be taken depends on the patient`s individual health needs. It is important to recognize that just as each patient is different from the next, so should the scheduling of X-ray exams be individualized for each patient. Your medical and dental history will be reviewed and your mouth examined before a decision is made to take X-rays of your teeth.
The schedule for needing radiographs at recall visits varies according to your age, risk for disease and signs and symptoms. Recent films may be needed to detect new cavities, or to determine the status of gum disease or for evaluation of growth and development. Children may need X-rays more often than adults. This is because their teeth and jaws are still developing and because their teeth are more likely to be affected by tooth decay than those of adults.
Sealants are liquid coatings that harden on the chewing surfaces of teeth and are showing a great deal of effectiveness in preventing cavities—even on teeth where decay has begun.
The pits and grooves of your teeth are prime areas for opportunistic decay. Even regular brushing sometimes misses these intricate structures on the chewing surfaces of your teeth.
The sealants are applied to the chewing surfaces and are designed to prevent the intrusion of bacteria and other debris into the deep crevices on the tops of teeth.
Sealants actually were developed about 50 years ago, but didn’t become commonly used until the 1970s. Today, sealants are becoming widely popular and effective; young children are great candidates for preventative measures like sealants (especially on molars) because in many cases, decay has not set in. Even on teeth where decay is present, sealants have been shown to fight additional damage.
Sealants are applied by first cleaning the tooth surface. The procedure is followed by “etching” the tooth with a chemical substance, which allows the sealant to better adhere. After the sealant is applied, a warm light source is directed to the site to promote faster drying. Sealants usually need re-application every five to 10 years.
The Food and Drug Administration classifies mouth rinses into two categories – therapeutic and cosmetic.
In general, therapeutic rinses with fluoride have been shown to actually fight cavities, plaque and gingivitis.
On the other hand, cosmetic rinses merely treat breath odor, reduce bacteria and/or remove food particles in the mouth. They do nothing to treat or prevent gingivitis.
People who have difficulty brushing (because of physical difficulties such as arthritis) can benefit from a good therapeutic mouth rinse.
Caution: Even rinses that are indicated to treat plaque or cavities are only moderately effective. In fact, regular rinsing with water and use of good quality fluoride toothpaste are just as or more effective.
For decades, fluoride has been held in high regard by the dental community as an important mineral that is absorbed into and strengthens tooth enamel, thereby helping to prevent decay of tooth structures.
In nearly every U.S. community, public drinking supplies are supplemented with sodium fluoride because the practice is acknowledged as safe and effective in fighting cavities.
Some private wells may contain naturally fluoridated water.
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a compound of the element fluorine, which can found throughout nature in water, soil, air and food. By adding fluoride into our drinking water, it can be absorbed easily into tooth enamel, especially in children’s growing teeth, which helps to reduce tooth decay.
Why Is Fluoride Important To Teeth?
Fluoride is absorbed into structures, such as bones and teeth, making them stronger and more resistant to fractures and decay. A process in your body called “remineralization” uses fluoride to repair damage caused by decay.
How Do I Get Fluoride?
Just drinking public water will provide a certain measure of fluoride protection. But for years, health professionals have endorsed the practice of supplementing our intake with certain dietary products, and topical fluorides in many toothpastes and some kinds of rinses. Certain beverages such as tea and soda may also contain fluoride. Certain kinds of dental varnishes and gels may also be applied directly to teeth to boost fluoride intake.
It is generally NOT safe to swallow toothpastes, rinses, or other products containing topical fluoride. In rare cases, some people may be overexposed to high concentrations of fluoride, resulting in a relatively harmless condition called fluorosis, which leaves dark enamel stains on teeth.
What is flossing?
Flossing is a method for removing bacteria and other debris that cannot be reached by a toothbrush. It generally entails a very thin piece of synthetic cord you insert and move up and down between the sides of two adjoining teeth.
Why is flossing important?
Many dentists believe that flossing is the single most important weapon against plaque. In any event, daily flossing is an excellent and proven method for complementing your brushing routine and helping to prevent cavities, periodontal disease, and other dental problems later in life. It also increases blood circulation in your gums. Floss removes plaque and debris that stick to your teeth and gums.
How often to floss
Floss at least once every day. Like brushing, flossing should take about three minutes and can easily be done while doing another activity, such as watching television. Do not attempt to floss your teeth while operating a motor vehicle or other machinery.
There are two common methods for flossing, the “spool method” and the “loop method”.
The spool method is the most popular for those who do not have problems with stiff joints or fingers. The spool method works like this: Break off about 18 inches of floss and wind most of it around your middle finger. Wind the rest of the floss similarly around the middle finger of your other hand. This finger takes up the floss as it becomes soiled or frayed. Move the floss between your teeth with your index fingers and thumbs. Maneuver the floss up and down several times forming a “C” shape around the tooth. While doing this, make sure you go below the gum line, where bacteria are known to collect heavily.
The loop method is often effective for children or adults with dexterity problems like arthritis. The loop method works like this: Break off about 18 inches of floss and form it into a circle. Tie it securely with two or three knots. Place all of your fingers, except the thumb, within the loop. Use your index fingers to guide the floss through your lower teeth, and use your thumbs to guide the floss through the upper teeth, going below the gum line and forming a “C” on the side of the tooth.
With either method of flossing, never “snap” the floss because this can cut your gums. Make sure that you gently scrape the side of each tooth with the floss.
Your gums may be tender or even bleed for the first few days after flossing – a condition that generally heals within a few days.
Brushing is the most effective method for removing harmful plaque from your teeth and gums. Getting the debris off your teeth and gums in a timely manner prevents bacteria in the food you eat from turning into harmful, cavity causing acids.
Most dentists agree that brushing three times a day is the minimum; if you use a fluoride toothpaste in the morning and before bed at night, you can get away without using toothpaste during the middle of the day. A simple brushing with plain water or rinsing your mouth with water for 30 seconds after lunch will generally do the job.
Since everyone’s teeth are different, see me first before choosing a brushing technique. Here are some popular techniques that work:
- Use a circular motion to brush only two or three teeth at a time, gradually covering the entire mouth.
- Place your toothbrush next to your teeth at a 45-degree angle and gently brush in a circular motion, not up and down. This kind of motion wears down your tooth structure and can lead to receding gums, or expose the root of your tooth. You should brush all surfaces of your teeth – front, back, top, and between other teeth, rocking the brush back and forth gently to remove any plaque growing under the gum.
- Don’t forget the other surfaces of your mouth that are covered in bacteria – including the gums, the roof and floor of your mouth, and most importantly, your tongue. Brushing your tongue not only removes trapped bacteria and other disease-causing germs, but it also freshens your breath.
- Remember to replace your brush when the bristles begin to spread because a worn toothbrush will not properly clean your teeth.
- Effective brushing usually takes about three minutes. Believe it or not, studies have shown that most people rush during tooth brushing.