Jul 14, 2011

Dental 101: What you should know about your teeth

It only seems fitting that as soon as I was about to write this Dental 101 post, my very own dental office would contact me about how I owe them $185.80. Huh? $185.80? After paying thousands of dollars for work and maxing out my dental insurance twice, they so kindly notified me that $185.80 was the balance that my insurance company would not pay since it was over my yearly amount. *Blank Stare* One of my biggest pet peeves with dental offices is their methods of billing. My current dental office here in South Carolina has actually been pretty good (aside from overbilling me that one time lol) but this is definitely an annoyance. I had the 2nd phase of my work completed in April so getting a bill 3, almost 4 months later was not ideal. They explained that they were ending their fiscal year and had issues with their computers and billing system... blah blah blah... Another freaking dental bill to pay! I have one final phase of work to get done - - preventative work - - and will be SO happy once everything is done. I think I may throw a party... seriously!

Anyways, my hope is to pass along some great advice for others out there that find themselves suffering from their own dental woes or just wanting more information. I spoke with my friend, dental hygienist, and owner of one of the best smiles I know Jessica ---->

 I asked some of the questions I was most curious about and hope it can help you too!

Q. Preventative care seems to be key in avoiding expensive dental bills down the road. What are the top things everyone should be doing at home to care for their teeth?

A. You are absolutely correct. Preventative care is very key in maintaining a healthy mouth. A lot of people don’t understand though that although attending your 6month appointments is important, it is just as important if not more to maintain proper home care. Brushing 2-3 times daily along with flossing, (at least once every other day if you are not able to every day), can keep plaque from building around and underneath the gum line leading to irritation and infection of the gums. It takes only a mere 48 hours for plaque to harden on most people’s teeth. Once that plaque has become hard, a dental professional will need to remove it. Hardened plaque beneath the gum line, properly termed calculus or tartar, is the catalyst that causes your body to go into fight mode. Once your body starts trying to “attack” the calculus, one may develop gingivitis or even worse, periodontal disease.

Q. Why is it that some people never floss and can walk around cavity free, while others (like myself) brush, floss, and use mouth wash and seem to have cavities and root canals everywhere? Does my mouth hate me or are some people more prone to dental problems?

A. Dental decay and or periodontal problems can actually be hereditary. Some people naturally carry in their mouths the bacteria that cause decay or periodontal disease. I have seen patients who have a mouth that is pristine, free of plaque, and they still have so many issues. They try so hard at home care and cannot seem to get ahead. It is just important for these people to be sure and get in to the dentist regularly in order to address these problems when they are small.

Q. You've mentioned to me before that a fluoride rinse should be used daily. What exactly is a fluoride rinse and how does it differ from regular mouthwash like Scope or Listerine?

A. Fluoride is a compound element derived from a mineral that is used to strengthen the enamel on the teeth. I actually recommend it for everyone, problems or no problems only because it can help with everything from dental sensitivity to prevention of decay. It differs from scope and Listerine because fluoride re-mineralizes/ re-hardens enamel and rinses like Listerine kill bacteria in the mouth/ attempt to freshen the breath. A lot of people are apprehensive about fluoride because of beliefs that it can be harmful to the body. Please be advised that research should be done about the risks and benefits of it’s use before discounting it from your regimen.

Q. I've heard dentists recommend certain procedures so the gums don't "blow up". What exactly does it mean for your gums to blow up? 

A. I have never heard the term “gums blowing up”. My best guess is...well actually I don’t have a guess on that one LOL.

Q. When it comes to root canals are they necessary? And do you recommend getting put under the procedure?

Although I am a dental hygienist and I know most things about dentistry, my specialty is solely the gum and bone health. I would rather not go into depth on this question because this is not what I am licensed to do.

Q. How many times a year should we be visiting the dentist? 

A. If no periodontal disease is present, visit every six months. If you have gum problems or issues you should come as recommended by your dentist or dental hygienist.

Q. How often should you change your tooth brush? 

A. Every 2-3 months. As the bristles wear down, they are no longer cleaning your teeth as they should. 8. What are the most important things to look for in a toothpaste? Most tooth pastes have the same basic ingredients. I would make sure it has fluoride first and foremost. After that, it is up to what your needs are. Some people want to keep the stain at bay so they purchase a paste with whitening agent in it (i.e. peroxide).

Q. Can whitening toothpastes and/or strips harm your teeth? 

A. For the most part the only adverse effect of over the counter whitening products is temporary tooth sensitivity. If you notice a tooth with open decay I would recommend not using whitening strips in that area because it could potentially damage the nerve of the tooth.

Q. It seems like it can be extremely difficult to find a dentist that you trust. What are the top things you suggest looking for in a dentist to make sure they're a good fit?

My mom is my dentist so I have never actually had the experience of looking for one, however, I think there are a few things I would look for if I had to. First thing would be someone’s willingness to recommend that Dr. Patients who are indifferent or displeased with the experience and work done more than likely will not think to recommend that Dr. I would want the best so I would definitely go with someone that a person close to me trusts. I would also have to view their work before I had any major work done by them. Just because they are a Dr and say they can do something doesn’t mean you should trust them without checking into things. Lastly, I would shop around and get consultations at several places. This might be costly but in the long run may be worth it to avoid a traumatic experience.

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