Monthly Archives: August 2012

How to Clean Your Teeth Without a Toothbrush

How to Clean Your Teeth Without a Toothbrush

Have you ever gone on a trip and realized you forgot your toothbrush? Maybe you’re camping with your family and discover you’re lacking your favorite dental tool. In that horrible moment, you see your dental health crashing before your eyes as visions of heavy plaque and cavities invade your mind. Then you probably thought: “there’s got to be a way around that.” Good news, there is a way to take care of your teeth amid such awful situations. Just collect your toothpaste, yourself and a paper towel—or napkin if paper towels are scarce.

Brushing Without a Toothbrush

Wet the paper towel a little bit and squeeze a dab of toothpaste onto it.

Wrap the paper towel around your finger and brush like it was a toothbrush. Be as thorough as you can to ensure your scraping off most of the plaque.

To “brush” your tongue, you’ll just have to enact the classic scraping-with-your-teeth trick.

Rinse thoroughly. Swish back and forth and sideways and whatever else you’ve got up your sleeve to ensure your teeth will be as clean as can be.

If you have mouthwash or floss, go ahead and use them the best you can. Floss and swish to your heart’s desire to further the cleanliness of your pearly whites.

Brushing Without any Dental Supplies

Sometimes, it isn’t just your toothbrush that’s missing. Every now and then, the whole arsenal of dental supplies will be where you aren’t and you’re in a situation where a toothbrush won’t come easy. Luckily, there’s a way to clean your teeth until you can get a hold of something better.

Wash your hands thoroughly, but don’t dry them.

Use your wet finger to rub across your teeth and gums on one side.

Rinse your finger and repeat the second step on the other side of your teeth.

Wrap a wet paper towel around your fingers and rub it over your teeth. Cover as many areas as you can with the paper towel and be as thorough as possible.

Rinse your mouth especially well with forceful swishing in all areas.

Helpful Tips for Where You Are

If you’re at a hotel when you discover the absence of your dental supplies, go ahead and call the front desk. Most hotels can provide a toothbrush and toothpaste for you if you’ve forgotten yours.

If you’re out camping with the family without a toothbrush, you can scout out a green twig. Clean it as well as you can and chew on the end until the fibers fray. You’ll have yourself a homemade toothbrush to glide across your teeth.

DO NOT go very long without brushing your teeth with an actual toothbrush. These tactics certainly help when you’re in a pickle, but don’t compare to the effective brushing of a toothbrush.

What is a Tooth Abscess?

What is a Tooth Abscess?

Perhaps the only thing you’ve ever known about tooth abscesses is that you don’t want one. But why is it so bad? What exactly is it? Frankly, it’s something you definitely want to avoid. A tooth abscess is a collection of pus at the tip of a single tooth; a pocket of fluid within the tissue surrounding the tooth’s apex. It’s often a result of an infection in the pulp of a tooth. This pulp infection can be caused by a serious gum disease, tooth decay or maybe something as simple as a chipped tooth. It sounds bad enough as it is, but does it hurt?

The actual infection of the pulp may not cause any pain, but once an abscess has formed, there is usually an ongoing, extreme pain in the tooth and the gums surrounding it. Using that tooth to chew or putting any sort of heat to it will only cause more pain and the abscess may also cause swelling in the gums or cheek. Luckily, the swelling can be managed by pressing the usual ice pack to the affected tissue. Yet, with an acute abscess, the swelling may occur but the pain may not. In any case, if there are any symptoms of a dental problem, a dentist should be consulted immediately.

In some serious cases, the abscess could get through the bone and drain into nearby facial tissues. This can cause a more serious case of swelling and puff up more than just some gums and a little bit of your cheek. The abscess may also affect the lymph glands in the neck, which may become tender and a little swollen. If the abscess is bad enough, it may even cause pain similar to a migraine. But, generally, pain in the gums surrounding the infected tooth is common and the tooth itself is extremely tender to the touch.

Abscess Treatment

Obviously, it sounds like a lot of painful possibilities rolled up into one. It’s definitely something you want to get rid of immediately. Truly, the only way to get on the path to recovery is to visit your dentist. They can help identify whether or not that pesky pain is caused by a tooth abscess and, if it is, they can help you get rid of it and return to happy dental health. Unfortunately, the treatment of a tooth abscess isn’t always a skip in the park. What is done to solve the problem may depend on how bad the infection is and can go something like this:

If there is, in fact, a tooth abscess, the dentist will do their best in reducing the infection in the tooth. This can be done by either antibiotics or drainage, but whether or not the tooth will stay nested in your gums or not depends on the state of the tooth itself.
If the tooth looks like it can be saved, a root canal procedure will be performed to remove as much of the infection as possible.
If the tooth is too far gone, then it will be extracted completely and some of the surrounding tissue will be removed in order to reduce the infection as much as possible.
It sounds like a lot of scary bits and pieces, but it will be worth it. If the tooth is still hanging on and was treated with a root canal procedure, the tooth will be checked at a year mark and also at a two year mark to make sure that everything is properly healed and the problem is not reoccurring.

Now that you know about tooth abscesses, be sure to visit the dentist if you suspect you have one. Even if isn’t an abscess, it’s better to be safe than sorry and may prevent worse issues that can result if you wait.

What is a Tooth Abscess?

What is a Tooth Abscess?

Perhaps the only thing you’ve ever known about tooth abscesses is that you don’t want one. But why is it so bad? What exactly is it? Frankly, it’s something you definitely want to avoid. A tooth abscess is a collection of pus at the tip of a single tooth; a pocket of fluid within the tissue surrounding the tooth’s apex. It’s often a result of an infection in the pulp of a tooth. This pulp infection can be caused by a serious gum disease, tooth decay or maybe something as simple as a chipped tooth. It sounds bad enough as it is, but does it hurt?

The actual infection of the pulp may not cause any pain, but once an abscess has formed, there is usually an ongoing, extreme pain in the tooth and the gums surrounding it. Using that tooth to chew or putting any sort of heat to it will only cause more pain and the abscess may also cause swelling in the gums or cheek. Luckily, the swelling can be managed by pressing the usual ice pack to the affected tissue. Yet, with an acute abscess, the swelling may occur but the pain may not. In any case, if there are any symptoms of a dental problem, a dentist should be consulted immediately.

In some serious cases, the abscess could get through the bone and drain into nearby facial tissues. This can cause a more serious case of swelling and puff up more than just some gums and a little bit of your cheek. The abscess may also affect the lymph glands in the neck, which may become tender and a little swollen. If the abscess is bad enough, it may even cause pain similar to a migraine. But, generally, pain in the gums surrounding the infected tooth is common and the tooth itself is extremely tender to the touch.

Abscess Treatment

Obviously, it sounds like a lot of painful possibilities rolled up into one. It’s definitely something you want to get rid of immediately. Truly, the only way to get on the path to recovery is to visit your dentist. They can help identify whether or not that pesky pain is caused by a tooth abscess and, if it is, they can help you get rid of it and return to happy dental health. Unfortunately, the treatment of a tooth abscess isn’t always a skip in the park. What is done to solve the problem may depend on how bad the infection is and can go something like this:

If there is, in fact, a tooth abscess, the dentist will do their best in reducing the infection in the tooth. This can be done by either antibiotics or drainage, but whether or not the tooth will stay nested in your gums or not depends on the state of the tooth itself.
If the tooth looks like it can be saved, a root canal procedure will be performed to remove as much of the infection as possible.
If the tooth is too far gone, then it will be extracted completely and some of the surrounding tissue will be removed in order to reduce the infection as much as possible.
It sounds like a lot of scary bits and pieces, but it will be worth it. If the tooth is still hanging on and was treated with a root canal procedure, the tooth will be checked at a year mark and also at a two year mark to make sure that everything is properly healed and the problem is not reoccurring.

Now that you know about tooth abscesses, be sure to visit the dentist if you suspect you have one. Even if isn’t an abscess, it’s better to be safe than sorry and may prevent worse issues that can result if you wait.

How to Prevent Dental Stains?

How to Prevent Dental Stains

With all the foods and beverages readily available to us night and day, there is almost nothing to stop us from eating what we want, whenever we want, however often we want. But, maybe you’ve noticed your teeth looking a little less sparkly than they used to and you’re wondering how you can keep your teeth pearly white. The only way to truly prevent dental stains is to avoid what’s staining them in the first place, which is basically hidden in whatever you consume daily.

You’ve probably heard of a few foods that are sure to stain your teeth over time, but the list is a little longer than most realize. The main groups of foods and beverages to avoid are acidic, sugary and deeply pigmented foods.

Acidic Foods

That coffee in the morning may have a reputation for staining teeth, but it’s merely taking the brunt of the attack. Coffee is acidic, which will demineralize your teeth, weakening the enamel and causing the teeth to become translucent. This makes the yellow-brown dentin show through from beneath the enamel and give your teeth a yellowish hue. Not only do acidic foods erode the enamel of your teeth, they also soften it, causing your teeth to be more prone to erosion than they were before. Yes, coffee may be one of the top stain-inducing beverages you know of, but there’s actually more than you think. Teas, sports drinks, energy drinks, sodas and wines are all acidic and wear away that precious enamel. So, protect your enamel and keep your teeth strong by avoiding as many acidic foods as you can.

Sugary Foods

Eating sugary foods only encourage the buildup of bacteria in your mouth, which will also wear away and soften the enamel on your teeth. Of course, we’ve all been told that sugar isn’t good for your pearly whites. We may even have been threatened with more cavities when we excitedly unwrap that lollipop, but those warnings exist for a reason. Sugary foods really do encourage more damage to your teeth than most other foods.

Deeply Pigmented Foods

Deeply pigmented means exactly what it sounds like: foods that have a lot of color packed into them. It makes sense for heavy color to make its mark on your teeth and this doesn’t only mean foods that are artificially colored. Some berries are major offenders in the ways of dental staining, especially when they have been crushed or blended. Maybe you like to eat a little dark chocolate for health, but it also has staining potential. Red wine, teas, sodas and energy drinks are some good products to avoid as well as colored sauces, like tomato sauce or soy sauce. If it looks full of color and ready to stain, then it’s probably best to avoid it as much as possible.

So, maybe you looked through all this and realized that you just can’t give up those favorite foods. Is there still some way to prevent that awful staining? If you just can’t give up your favorite daily soda, then there are still some things you can do.

After eating any sort of staining or damaging foods, rinse your mouth out real quick so get as much of it out as you can.
For your favorite beverages that pack some unfortunate staining, drink out of a straw. It may be unacceptable to use a straw for some drinks, but for what you can, go ahead and slip one in.
After a meal, eating a piece of cheese or drinking some milk will counteract the effect of the acid in some foods while also strengthening your teeth.

So, even if you can’t break away from your dietary routine, you can do a few other things to minimize the staining your teeth, especially if you just whitened your teeth and want that nice white surface to linger. But, don’t whiten your teeth too often, as your teeth may take on a grayish color, which is probably not what you’re going for. If you’re unsure of what foods you can eat or what you can do to prevent dental staining, just ask your dentist for advice. It’s always better to ask a dental professional about what’s good and bad for your teeth and ensure that you’re keeping great dental health.

What Does Fluoride Do to Your Teeth?

What Does Fluoride Do to Your Teeth?

You’ve probably heard that fluoride is good for you teeth and, yet, what it does has somehow remained a mystery. It’s actually rather simple: fluoride protects and strengthens your teeth. With all the different foods we eat and beverages we drink, sometimes the enamel of our teeth get a little worn away. Fluoride’s purpose is to both prevent damage to teeth as well as strengthening the enamel that may have already been damaged. It’s actually quite effective. But if you already have a cavity, then the damage is beyond fluoride’s repair in that area. So maybe fluoride has become your teeth’s new best friend, you just need to find it. It’s actually more common than you think.

While some foods can be acidic and dangerous to your pearly whites, others can be helpful. Fluoride is naturally found in some foods like meat,  fish and eggs, which will be absorbed into the bloodstream and eventually get into your teeth. Tea leaves also naturally contain fluoride. Some places do fluoridation, which is putting fluoride in the community’s water supply to ensure that everyone in the area is getting a proper amount of fluoride.  If all that doesn’t make fluoride available enough, then there are several dental products with fluoride included.

Fluoride Treatments

By using dental products containing fluoride, the fluoride can be directly applied to the teeth. Fluoride can be found in mouthwashes, toothpastes, fluoride gels and fluoride supplements.  If home treatment doesn’t seem to be enough, then there are also topical fluoride treatments done by dental professionals. These treatments also apply fluoride directly to the teeth, but are much more effective and ensure a better coverage of the teeth.

Everybody needs some fluoride in their lives to ensure they have healthy teeth, but there are some people who may need fluoride more than others. Individuals who are prone to cavities because of their diet, their access to a dentist or for genetic reasons need to be especially diligent in their exposure of fluoride. Also, those who are undergoing some sort of orthodontic treatment, like braces, will benefit greatly from some sort of fluoride treatment. Some orthodontics encourage the use of fluoride since bacteria can collect around the brackets and cause damage to the enamel and leave white marks on your teeth. Using fluoride while wearing braces will protect your teeth from this sort of damage and ensure that your teeth will be straight and beautiful after the brackets are removed.

Fluoride is perfectly safe when used in proper amounts and applied correctly. Of course, too much exposure can be harmful. For example, we try not to swallow toothpaste because we know that consuming it can be bad for us. Little bits here and there are okay, but gulping up a whole tube of toothpaste will make you sick. It’s the same with fluoride: don’t swallow it if you can help it. If you’re not certain how often to apply fluoride or what would the best treatment, go ahead and ask your dentist at your next checkup. They’ll gladly discuss it with you to help you feel comfortable about applying fluoride.

What is a Root Canal?

What is a Root Canal?

Whenever you hear the phrase “root canal” amid a conversation about dentists, you cringe a little. It does sound painful, especially since it targets the core of your rather sensitive teeth. But a root canal is actually a canal full of pulp and nerve that runs down the length of each tooth. How many root canals a tooth may have depends on the type of tooth, but it still varies between teeth. Molars may have two to four, premolars and cuspids may have one or two and incisors usually have one.

What you probably think of the most when “root” and “canal” are squished together is the procedure that involves some serious dental drilling. When those precious root canals become infected or start to decay, something must be done to save the tooth and maintain great oral health. This is where the root canal procedure comes in and goes something like this:

  •  An x-ray is done to determine the state of the tooth and where the infection is.
  • Once the infected area is determined, it will be numbed and a rubber sheet—better known as a rubber dam—will be wrapped around the tooth to keep the tooth dry during the procedure.
  • A hole is then drilled down into the tooth to get access to the pulp chamber.
  • They will then remove the infected pulp and nerve using various sizes of files to ensure that all the infected material is scraped from the canal.
  • After a thorough cleaning, the hole will then be sealed to prevent any bacteria or debris from getting inside. The sealing usually happens on the same day but, in some cases, the dental professional may think it’s necessary to put medication in the tooth to clear up all the bacteria. In those situations, a temporary sealing will be in place until a permanent sealing about a week later or so. When permanently sealing, the canal will be stuffed with sealer paste and a rubber compound called gutta percha and then sealed in by a permanent filling.
  • Sometimes, the tooth will require some other restorative technique besides a sealing, such as a crown.
  • Of course, the latter of all this depends on the state of tooth and how much it may have decayed.A diagram of a root canal procedure

A diagram of a root canal procedure

It may sound painful, despite the promise of numbing. Honestly, the numbing is just a precaution and to help you feel better. If a root canal procedure is necessary, then the nerve in the canal is most likely dead, making it very difficult to feel anything at all. So, have no fear because the procedure is painless. Afterwards, the area may be understandably tender and sensitive, but nothing that can’t be solved with a simple painkiller.

Maybe you’re wondering if it’s okay to remove the nerve and pulp in your tooth. It has to be there for a reason, right? Once the tooth has popped through your gums and made a permanent home, the nerves in your teeth are unnecessary. So, losing that nerve won’t affect your daily life in any way.

But if you have an infection in your root canal, you may not have symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you’ll probably experience a little pain when you chew or when you consume hot or cold foods.  Sometimes the infected tooth will have some discoloration or the gums surrounding the tooth will become tender and swollen.

Such an infection can be caused by a few things, like serious decay, a crack or a chip in the tooth or trauma to the face. It can also be caused by having repeated dental procedures on the same tooth or a large filling. If the infection gets serious enough, a tooth abscess may form, which is a pocket of pus at the tip of the tooth and is very painful.

Hopefully, you have healthy, strong teeth. But if you suspect any sort of issue with your teeth, you should consult your dentist immediately to make sure. The infection will be demolished effectively and you can go back chewing your steak with a smile.

What are Dental Sealants?

What are Dental Sealants?

If you’re looking for a great way to protect your teeth, dental sealants is definitely a way to go. The most common place to get cavities is in your back molars, where there are plenty of grooves and depressions for plaque to hide in. While brushing can certainly help, it can be difficult to scrape the plaque out of those tiny, hidden grooves.

A dental sealant is a thin layer of plastic coating over the chewing surface of a tooth. It fills in those small grooves and decreases the chance of getting a cavity in those hard to brush areas. While it sounds odd to have a plastic sealant over your tooth, it’s hardly noticeable and very helpful. Because it’s so thin, it doesn’t affect how you eat or chew at all. It’s merely there to protect, not to bother.

What are Dental Sealants?

Sealants are applied in a dental office, not at home. But the process is quick and painless, as it only affects the surface of a tooth. The process of getting a sealant will go something like this:

A dental professional will first clean and dry the tooth to prepare it for treatment.
Then, a slightly acidic solution will be used to create a somewhat rough surface on the chewing area of the tooth. The rough surface will help the sealant stick to the tooth so it will last longer and continue to protect your teeth.
A thin layer of liquid plastic material will then be applied to the chewing surface, filling in the grooves and fissures of the tooth.
Most often, blue spectrum natural light will be shone on the plastic in order to cure it. Some sealant material requires curing by a chemical process, but it’s not as common.
After it has been cured, the sealant is hardened and ready to be chewed, chomped and crunched on.

A sealant will last for about five years or more, sometimes reaching up to ten years. It’s also not visible, usually being too thin to notice. So, when you talk, you won’t have any odd colors or materials on your teeth.

Dental Sealants are an easy way to protect your teeth from decay and cavities. The use of fluoride is still encouraged to help strengthen your enamel, but the sealant will keep those grooves and fissures protected from plaque buildup.

What Causes White Spots on Teeth?

What Causes White Spots on Teeth?

White spots on teeth are mostly caused by some sort of acid. It could either be from acidic foods or from plaque buildup in certain are as. Of course, whether or not you get white spots can also depend on genetics and specific situations.

Braces and Plaque: 

White spots on teeth are mostly caused by some sort of acid. It could either be from acidic foods or from plaque buildup in certain areas. Of course, whether or not you get white spots can also depend on genetics and specific situations.

Acidic Foods:

If you get white spots on the tips of your teeth, this is mostly likely caused from eating acidic foods. It can be a product of acid reflex disease as well, but if you don’t have any problems with acid reflex, your diet is probably causing the white spots on the tips of your teeth. If you eat sour candies, citric fruits or vinegary items, the enamel at the tips of your teeth will slowly wear away and create white spots.

Decalcification:

Spots can also be caused by decalcification, which is the loss of calcium salts in the teeth and bones. If your diet lacks calcium, or you have a genetic issue with absorbing calcium, you could be dealing with decalcification.

All in all, white spots on your teeth come down to three main causes: plaque buildup, acidic foods and lack of calcium. Whether it’s genetics, braces or acids, white spots are not always something to worry about. If you’re looking to get rid of these spots, sometimes whitening them will help, but it’s best to talk with your dentist about what option is best and safest for your teeth.

How to Keep Braces Clean

How to Keep Braces Clean?

Braces can be a hassle when it comes to brushing and flossing. But, you still want to make sure you cleaning them correctly, or it could have unfavorable results. Plaque buildup can damage teeth and braces provide several areas for plaque collection. When you get those braces off, you want to see straight, beautiful teeth. But, cleaning improperly with braces can cause white spots or other damage to your teeth.

Brushing: 

Brushing seems simple enough, but the idea of brushing thoroughly changes as soon as you get those brackets on your teeth. Braces bring a whole new world of brushing angles and toothbrushes. You may even want to ask your orthodontist or dentist what they recommend for brushing with braces.

First, put your usual toothpaste on your toothbrush. If you have whitening toothpaste and are worried about its effects with braces, don’t fret. Whitening toothpaste isn’t actually as effective as you might think. If there ends up being a little whitening anyway, you can easily even out the color of your teeth with some kind of whitening treatment.
When brushing your teeth with braces, first brush like you normally would with circular motions and brush the back of your teeth.
Next, angle your toothbrush to brush over the brackets to make sure you’re scraping the plaque from those sneaky little spots. Angle your toothbrush to brush under the brackets as well to get every little bit.
Check your teeth. If it looks or feels like you missed a spot, you probably have. Brush whatever areas you might have missed and rinse your mouth out.

Orthodontists will often provide proxy brushes, which look like a tiny section of pipe cleaner that’s shaped like a Christmas tree. These are handy for getting in between your brackets and behind the wires of your braces. Use these when you can to be sure you’re getting every spot.

Flossing:

Flossing can sometimes be a hassle with braces. But, to be certain you’re caring for your teeth properly, it has to be done. The only real problem is threading the floss behind the wires, but there are a couple different products that help make the process easier.

If your orthodontist has provided you with stiffer floss, usually waxed floss, merely thread the floss between brackets and behind the wire. Floss like you would normally and continue to do so with each tooth.
Sometimes, orthodontists will provide you with floss threaders, which look like flexible, plastic sewing needles. Slip some floss in the loop of the threader, thread the floss behind the wire and floss your teeth like usual. Continue to do so with each tooth.

If you’d like, you can finish off your flossing and brushing with a swish of mouthwash, but it’s up to you. Just be sure you’re flossing every tooth and not just the front teeth.

Tips:

If you braces are poking or damaging the inside of your mouth, there could be something wrong. The inside of your mouth, especially the back, should not be getting damaged, so visit your orthodontist if you’re feeling anything poking or tearing in your mouth.
Should you be feeling some sort of scraping from your brackets, orthodontists provide wax to apply to the brackets to keep them smooth. This kind of discomfort is normal for people that have just gotten braces, as your mouth may not be used to the presence of brackets on your teeth.
After getting your braces tightened, you will probably feel some pain for about a week or two. You could take a simple pain killer to alleviate pain, or drink hot liquids to relieve any swelling.

What are Wisdom Teeth For?

What are Wisdom Teeth For?

You’ve probably heard several tales of people getting their wisdom teeth removed and probably wondered, “what are wisdom teeth for  anyway?” They seem rather useless if their only purpose is to get removed. Perhaps the better question isn’t what they are used for, but rather what they were used for. Honestly, in this day and age, we no longer need wisdom teeth like our ancestors did centuries and centuries ago.

Wisdom teeth had more of a purpose when the human diet consisted of rough, tougher foods, like leaves, nuts and meat. Humans of long ago didn’t have the utensils and soft foods we do now, so wisdom teeth gave them the chewing power they needed to consume those hefty and raw foods. These days we have different cooking techniques, forks and knives to assist us in our eating habits. We don’t need the tough teeth anymore.

Why do They Cause so Many Problems Now? 

As the human lifestyle changes over the centuries, so do our bodies. Our jaws are a bit smaller than people from long ago and, in result, our wisdom teeth don’t have as much room to come in properly. They may be blocked by other teeth, or become impacted, by coming in at an odd angle. It is possible for wisdom teeth to come in without any complication and be functional teeth. But, wisdom teeth will usually need to come out for one reason or another, as they can also affect the position of other teeth and cause headaches.

Fun Fact:

Wisdom teeth usually come in between seventeen and twenty-five years of age. This is about the age people are thought to become wise, thus giving wisdom teeth their name.