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On the Cusp

HOW COOL IS THAT?

You see ads promoting chewing and dipping smokeless tobacco. You even see some of your friends using it. They try to make it look good, but what you see isn't the whole picture. Smokeless tobacco doesn't command the same attention as cigarettes, but it should. It's tobacco just the same and is habit-forming. The nicotine in it lifts you up first, then lets you down. The high-low effect on your nervous system sets you up for continued need. But that's not all. Habitual use of chewing tobacco and snuff means you face other health hazards:

  • Leukoplakia (leathery, white patches inside the mouth that are a result of direct contact with, and continued irritation by, tobacco juice).
  • Less sense of taste and the ability to smell. The result: more need to salt and sugar food, both of which are unhealthy.
  • Dental problems, such as receding gums, greater wear and tear on tooth enamel, and more tooth decay. And, like most tobacco users, more bad breath and discolored teeth.

TIP OF THE DAY: Approximately one in 50 of diagnosed cases develop into oral cancer. That's a big deal if you are the one.

ONE-TWO PUNCH

One of the most destructive habits we see in our dental practice is the excessive consumption of soft drinks and various sweets. There have been several new studies indicating that soft drinks, diet sodas included, are a major cause of tooth erosion. Dental erosion weakens enamel and can cause thinning or chipping of tooth edges. Researchers found that drinking only one soft drink daily significantly increases a child's chances of suffering dental erosion. Unlike tooth decay, which results from higher sugar levels, tooth erosion is caused by acidic substances in soft drinks. We routinely see patients of all ages developing rampant decay due to holding refined sugar in their mouths for extended periods. Some of the worst culprits are breath mints, such as peppermints, chewing gum, and even sugared cough drops. Read labels. Make sure these products are sugar-free.

TIP OF THE DAY: Almost all dental disease is prevented with healthy diet and good dental hygiene.

DON'T WAIT 'TIL IT HURTS

Your teeth are intended to last a lifetime – and they can, with proper care. This means thorough daily brushing, cleaning between the teeth, and professional cleanings to avoid periodontal (gum) disease. Advanced periodontal diseases are a major cause of tooth loss in adults, but they can be prevented. Regular dental visits for professional cleaning are essential to prevent periodontal disease. Your dentist and dental hygienist will also show you proper techniques for brushing and cleaning between your teeth, answer your questions, and recommend an appropriate schedule for check-ups.

If you notice any of the following signs, see your dentist immediately:

  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Red, swollen or tender gums
  • Gums that have pulled away from teeth
  • Puss between teeth and gums when gums are pressed
  • Persistent bad breath or taste
  • Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
  • Changes in the way your teeth fit together

IMPLANT-RETAINED DENTURES

Patients who have been edentulous (toothless) for many years often have difficulty in wearing their lower dentures successfully. The jawbone is unable to maintain its shape and begins to shrink. As a result, even well-fitting dentures will shift and bounce. This can lead to sore spots, difficulty in eating and embarrassment. This problem can be addressed with an implant-retained denture, which makes use of two or more titanium implants to anchor the denture in place. The implants replace the roots of missing teeth, integrate with the jaw, and virtually become part of the jawbone. Implants help maintain jawbone mass and shape. Dentures or bridges can be secured to the implants, allowing the wearer to eat comfortably and with confidence.

TIP OF THE DAY: Dental implants can also be used to restore individual missing teeth.

COMPOSITE RESIN RESONATES WITH PATIENTS

While most of us are very familiar with traditional amalgam (metal alloy) fillings, there is an alternative material for filling cavities that offers several advantages. Composite resin dental fillings, formulated of plastic dental resin, can be made to match the color of your teeth. This alleviates the unsightly darkened appearance that is so common with amalgam fillings. Beyond that, the resin is applied in thin layers, each of which is cured and hardened with a special light. The result is a strong, tooth-colored filling that enhances the tooth's natural structure by bonding with the surrounding surfaces. Composite resin dental fillings may cost slightly more than amalgam fillings, but they are often preferred for their superior performance and attractiveness.

TIP OF THE DAY: Composite resin (tooth-colored) fillings are often more conservative than amalgam (silver) fillings as less tooth structure needs to be removed in preparation for the restoration.

DENTAL IMPLANTS MAY BE THE ANSWER

Dental implants are the most natural-looking, feeling and functioning option for replacing missing teeth because they most closely mimic the structure of natural teeth. Implants are titanium anchors that are set into the jawbone to hold secure replacement teeth in position, much like the root of a natural tooth holds a tooth crown in place. Through the process, known as "osteointegration," the jawbone attaches itself to the implant over time to provide great stability. As a result, implants are able to absorb nearly the same amount of biting pressure that healthy natural teeth can absorb. Dentures' ability to withstand biting pressure diminishes significantly to one-tenth that of natural teeth. In addition, implants do not slip. With proper hygiene and care, dental implants can last many years with few complications.

TIP OF THE DAY: Family Dental Center of Laurel and Waynesboro offers most general dental services. These services include conservative (non-surgical) gum therapy, tooth cleaning, implants, cosmetic dentistry and root canal therapy.

TALE OF THE TOOTH

Decay or trauma that enables bacteria to enter a tooth's dentin and pulp can lead to infection of the tooth root. A toothache usually ensues causing most people to seek a dentist to alleviate their pain. Many of these teeth can be saved with root canal therapy and crown restoration. This procedure involves removing the tooth pulp, cleaning and enlarging the root canal and filling the canal space with a rubber-like material to seal out bacteria. After root canal therapy, the tooth is usually restored with a crown.

If a tooth is lost, it doesn't have to be a total loss. Lost teeth can and should be replaced. Two of the most common ways are fixed bridges and implant crown restorations. These type restorations are fixed in place in the mouth and are not generally removed.

NOT WHAT THEY APPEAR?

Many people accept the appearance of their smiles simply because they have become accustomed to them or they are unaware of what can be done to improve their smiles. There are a number of procedures the dentist can do to improve smiles. For instance, porcelain veneers or composite bonding can be utilized to correct discolored or poorly shaped teeth. Chips and spaces can also be eliminated. Veneers are composed of thin shells of porcelain that are fabricated to cover the fronts of teeth. This can be done in many cases with little or no tooth reduction. The results can be absolutely stunning.

Because your smile plays such an important role in your life, it is our goal to make sure it enhances rather than detracts from your self-confidence. Let us help you create a great-looking smile.

TIP OF THE DAY: Sometimes all a smile needs is to be brighter or have minor imperfections corrected. This can be accomplished with bleaching, reshaping or bonding.

RECESSION-PROOF YOUR MOUTH

Many people are looking for ways to cut their budgets during these difficult economic times. Neglecting your teeth should not be one of them. It is very tempting to avoid or postpone dental visits, especially when one does not perceive a problem. Most dental problems do not go away without first being treated by a dental care provider. Waiting until pain occurs increases the chances of tooth loss or spending more than would have been necessary if the problems had been treated earlier. The best plan is to continue with routine dental cleanings and check-ups. A personalized treatment plan can be developed by the dentist that may allow for some treatment to be accomplished over time without compromising results. This will allow for spacing out financial obligations over time. Better times will surely return, lost teeth will not.

Family Dental Center

  • Laurel Office - 1532 W. 15th St., Laurel, MS 39440 Phone: 601-428-0082 Fax: 601-428-1983
  • Waynesboro Office - 500 Court St., Waynesboro, MS 39367 Phone: 601-735-5462 Fax: 601-735-0901

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