Dental Arts of Wyomissing Blog
Posts for: August, 2014
Keeping up your dental hygiene with daily brushing and flossing is essential to preventing disease and maintaining good oral health. But that doesn’t mean it’s all on your shoulders — the fact is, you have a strong partner in your dental hygienist. This valuable member of our staff provides a number of different functions that add a boost to your hygiene habits.
Perhaps the most important of those functions is semi-annual teeth cleanings. While daily brushing and flossing removes most of the bacterial plaque that causes dental disease and decay, harder deposits (tartar) will still form over time, especially in places your brush or floss can’t reach. To remove it requires advanced skills and specially designed hand instruments or ultrasonic equipment. In the case of advancing gum disease, your hygienist may also assist with a procedure known as root planing to reach plaque and tartar adhering to tooth root surfaces below the gum line.
Dental hygienists are also on the lookout for abnormalities that may be a sign of disease. During teeth-cleaning sessions, your hygienist looks for gum inflammation or bleeding that may indicate the presence of periodontal gum disease, a progressive condition that, left untreated, could lead to tooth loss. We will be able to assess the extent of the disease by gently probing and measuring any detachment of the gum tissue that has formed voids known as pockets. They also look for signs of oral cancer — bumps, sores or areas of swelling or tenderness.
There’s one other function your hygienist provides to enhance your oral health — educating and training you on dental care. They can provide you helpful information on risk factors for tooth decay or other dental diseases, along with helpful ways to reduce that risk. They can also help you improve your brushing and flossing techniques by demonstrating proper form.
Cleaning, monitoring and educating — these different “hats” your hygienist wears form a beneficial part of your overall dental care. Working together, you’ll be able to keep your teeth and gums in good form and function.
If you would like more information on the benefits of a dental hygienist, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Hygiene Visit.”
Periodontal (gum) disease is an infectious disease that progressively weakens the attachment of supporting tissues to the teeth, including gums, ligaments and bone. If not stopped, the loss of attachment will eventually lead to bone and tooth loss.
A thin layer of plaque that builds up on teeth (mainly due to poor oral hygiene habits) is the main breeding ground for the bacteria that cause gum disease. Our main treatment goal is to remove as much of this plaque as possible from tooth and gum surfaces. Much of the plaque can be removed using special hand or ultrasonic instruments that deep clean dental surfaces, including the roots. But while effective, these manual techniques may not address the full extent of infection, especially if the disease is well advanced.
If severe bone loss has already occurred, deep pockets of infection may have developed. As bone loss progresses, teeth with multiple roots may also develop an anatomical problem known as furcation invasions where the roots of the tooth branch off. If there continues to be signs of disease, like gum inflammation, bleeding or pus formation, it’s these hard to reach areas that may still be a problem even after extensive treatment. If so, we may need to take a different approach with antimicrobial or antibiotic products.
The most effective antimicrobial substance for reducing bacteria in biofilm is a chlorhexidine mouthrinse. The typical 0.12% solution is only available by prescription — if taken for a prolonged time it can result in tooth staining, affected taste or mouth irritation. To assure the solution reaches below the gum line, it will need to be applied by us in the office, followed up flushing irrigation of the affected area.
Another alternative is topically applied antibiotics that can stop or even reverse the progression of gum disease. There’s evidence that topical applications can penetrate into these deeper areas of infection. A common antibiotic used in this way is tetracycline, which has been shown to stop inflammation and infection.
These treatments don’t eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning, and the prolonged use of antibacterial products can have a detrimental effect on “good” bacteria (needed, for example, to complete the digestive process). It will depend on the extent of the gum disease to determine how successful conservative treatment may be. It’s also important that you contribute to your own dental health with a renewed daily oral hygiene habit.
If you would like more information on treatments for gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Treating Difficult Areas of Periodontal Disease.”