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What Happens During A Teeth Cleaning

Regular visits to your dentist are one of the best ways to prevent major dental health issues. However, only making time for an annual visit to your dentist may not be enough. While brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing is a huge part of healthy oral care, you cannot replace the quality of a professional teeth cleaning and examination. If you have ever wondered what the difference is between brushing your teeth at home and having your teeth cleaned by a trained dental hygienist, consider the following.

Examination

Unless you have a trained eye with experience in catching early signs of gum disease, you really can’t replace the first step of a teeth cleaning on your own. Using various tools and mirrors, your dentist will be able to examine the state of your teeth and gums and catch any problem areas that you might have. Periodic exams may include x-rays of your mouth and jaw region, which can also help view potential issues that you wouldn’t be able to see yourself. Catching the early signs of gingivitis or other problems could end up saving you a lot of pain and money for treatment down the road.

Removing Calculus

When you brush your teeth at home, the main goal is to clean off any plaque that has gathered on your teeth. The same goes for flossing. However, plaque that gets left behind begins to harden and creates dental calculus. Calculus can’t be removed by brushing at home, so a hygienist will use special tools to remove any evidence of it off of your teeth, even in those hard to reach places like below the gumline! This not only helps your teeth appear whiter, but it also allows brushing at home to more effectively clean your teeth.

Thorough Cleaning

After removing any calculus, your dental hygienist will then use a high powered electric brush to thoroughly clean each individual tooth and remove any leftover calculus residue. The toothpaste that is often used has a slightly gritty consistency, which allows for a gentle scrub and polish of your teeth.

Professional Flossing

While daily flossing is an important step in your at-home oral care and plaque buildup prevention, many Americans don’t do so consistently, making it even more important to have a dental hygienist clean your teeth. Even if you do floss regularly, having it done by a professional takes your oral health to the next level.

Fluoride Treatment

The use of fluoride in toothpaste and community water has reduced cavities and gum disease drastically over the last 60 years. Working like a set of armor, fluoride bonds to your enamel, protecting your teeth from bacteria. Fluoride treatment by a dental hygienist helps give your oral health that extra defense and plays a big part in preventing decay.

While doing your part to take care of your teeth and gums is important, you can’t replace a quality, professional cleaning. If you haven’t had your teeth cleaned lately, make an appointment! You can sit back, relax, and let a professional dental hygienist do the heavy lifting in making sure your teeth and gums get the best care possible. Call Carothers Family Dental, a San Marcos dental office, at 512-396-4288 to learn more today.

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Periodontal Disease: What It Is & How to Prevent It

Periodontal disease affects millions of Americans, many of whom are not even aware of its presence. Becoming aware of it early is the best way to prevent as much damage as possible to your teeth and gums. Periodontal disease means “disease around the teeth,” and this is exactly what it is, plain and simple. This condition usually starts as inflammation of the gums called gingivitis. With proper care, gingivitis can be reversed. Without proper care, periodontal disease will develop, which can spread to other ligaments and areas that keep your teeth in place. If ignored, periodontal disease can lead to the permanent loss of your teeth due to loss of the supporting structures of your teeth: bone and tissue attachment.

Causes

One common cause of periodontal disease is plaque. Plaque is caused by bacteria, mainly from leftover food. You can feel this developing as a sticky substance that appears over your teeth. In an effort to rid your mouth of the germs, your body attacks the gums, causing them to become inflamed. As your mouth produces more and more substance to fight it, if left unchecked, your teeth end up with layers of plaque hardening into calculus, which works its way up to your gum line, infecting the whole structure.

Plaque is not difficult to deal with in the beginning stages of the buildup. If you cannot get everything by properly brushing and flossing your teeth, your dental hygienist will be able to remove these hardened bacteria from your teeth for you in a regular teeth cleaning. However, as more and more layers build up on your teeth, the plaque hardens into a substance called calculus, which is very hard and is much more difficult to treat. Avoid this problem by having your teeth regularly cleaned by a dental hygienist in conjunction with your semi-annual dental checkup.

Other Factors

While plaque buildup is the main cause of periodontal disease, there are other causes to this gum infection aside from poor dental care over time, such as those listed below:

  • Some people are more genetically inclined to develop periodontal disease, though consistent oral care can still prevent this from happening.
  • High stress is a huge factor in periodontal disease because stress weakens your body’s immune system, limiting its ability to fight off the infection in your gums (as well as other forms of illnesses).
  • Some medications, such as antidepressants and blood pressure medication, cause dry mouth, which can also lead to periodontal disease. Your mouth’s natural saliva production helps constantly wash away food products throughout the day, so without it, you have little defense against infection. This is one reason why it is common for those who struggle with high blood pressure and heart conditions to also have dental issues as well.
  • One of the most common external factors that causes periodontal disease is smoking and the use of other tobacco products. Smokers tend to develop heavier layers of plaque on their teeth, causing their periodontal disease to be much harder to treat. The best treatment for this is to stop using tobacco products altogether.

The best way to avoid periodontal disease, whether you are genetically predisposed or not, is to maintain a proper oral care routine, such as brushing and flossing twice a day. Ask your dentist for the best brushing and flossing techniques to ensure you are effective in your home oral care. Having consistently scheduled appointments with your dentist is your best bet to avoid the development of an issue that will be more extensive and costly to treat. If you haven’t made it in for a cleaning recently (in over 6 months) make an appointment so that you can rest assured that you are doing everything to maintain a healthy set of teeth and gums!

Do you have concerns about the health of your teeth or gums? Contact Carothers Family Dental, a San Marcos dental office, for more information at 512-396-4288.

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Oral Cancer Screenings From Your Dentist

Your oral health is about more than just your teeth. Your dental professional takes care of your teeth, the bones of your jaw, your gums, and other oral tissues. One important issue that dentists look for during your checkups is signs of oral cancer. Oral cancer screening should be completed regularly to ensure that any symptoms are noticed immediately.

What is Oral Cancer?

There are many types of oral cancers that can affect various areas of your mouth. Some develop on the tissue inside your mouth, others may develop on the lips, and some appear on salivary glands. These types of oral cancer can range from benign tumors to various carcinomas. Some types of these oral afflictions can be removed with surgery, while others will need some form of chemical or drug therapy to treat. Regardless of the type of cancer, it’s best if the symptoms are caught as early as possible so that treatment can be provided early on.

How Does My Dentist Perform an Oral Cancer Screening?

Many dentists perform a basic oral cancer screening at dental checkups, so you’ve probably had one before even if you didn’t realize it at the time. To perform an oral cancer screening, a dental professional will thoroughly examine your lips, tongue, gums, the roof of your mouth, and other tissue inside your mouth visually and sometimes by gently probing the areas.

There are different levels of screening for oral cancer. At a regular dental checkup your dentist will likely perform a basic exam such as that described above by visually inspected the areas of your mouth and throat. If anything seems unusual to your dentist, he or she may perform additional examinations. This might include simply rinsing your mouth with a dye that will make it easier to notice unusual cells, or in some cases your dentist may suggest a biopsy.

What are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer can be preceded by some symptoms that are noticeable to you but which you may not think to mention to your dentist. These can include jaw pain or difficulty moving your jaw, pain in your tongue or difficulty moving it, white or red patches on the tissue inside your mouth or on your tongue, difficulty or pain swallowing, a lump in your mouth, or other discomfort in or around your mouth. If you notice any of these symptoms or something that doesn’t seem right, it’s important to point them out to your dentist during your checkup or to a doctor.

What Can I Do to Prevent Oral Cancer?

While oral cancer can occur in anyone, there are some steps people can take to reduce their risk of developing it. Many of these are habits already promoted for healthy lifestyles, such as avoiding the use of tobacco products, protecting the skin on your lips from getting too much sun exposure by wearing lip products with sun protection, and limiting your alcohol intake. Additionally, if you’ve ever developed oral cancer and had it removed or treated, you should schedule regular checkups to ensure it doesn’t return.

Oral cancer can affect anyone, and the best way to avoid it is prevention and regular checkups with your local dentist. For information about oral cancer, or to schedule an appointment, contact the San Marcos dental office of Carothers Family Dental.

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green graphic image dental laser

The Use of Lasers in Dental Treatments

As technology advances, the tools and equipment used in dental procedures do as well. Many patients are familiar with examinations including x-rays and other dental tools. However, one piece of technology now used in dentistry isn’t nearly as well known: dental lasers. The use of lasers in dentistry is increasing for many reasons, including operational accuracy, protection from infection, quicker healing times, and more.

What are Dental Lasers?

“Laser” is actually an acronym meaning “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.” There are many different types of lasers available, and those used in dentistry are chosen carefully to ensure they are most effective for the procedures they’ll be used in. Additionally, dentists always chose the safest lasers for dental procedures.

How Safe are Dental Lasers?

Having dental lasers used in an oral procedure may be new for some patients and may cause concern. However, the type of lasers used in dental work are not only safe when handled by a trained dental professional, but can also be safer than traditional dental tools in some ways. To name only one example, the light beam created by a laser can sterilize the affected area and reduce the presence of bacteria, minimizing the risk of infection.

What are the Benefits of Dental Laser Treatments?

Treatments that utilize dental lasers have a variety of benefits. As mentioned above, using lasers in dental procedures can reduce bacteria at the surgical site. In addition to this, dental lasers can often minimize discomfort for patients during and after the procedure as well. Lasers cause minimal tissue damage compared to some other methods. This can lead to faster healing time and even decreased need for anesthesia and sutures.

What are Some Uses of Dental Lasers?

Lasers can be used in many types of dental procedures, from whitening treatments to oral surgeries. They can also be used for in treatments like these:

In Gum Treatments

Dental lasers can be used in a variety of gum treatments, such as reshaping gum tissue during certain procedures. In the case of some oral infections, dental lasers may also be used by your dentist to remove inflamed gum tissue.

On Teeth

Lasers are used less often directly on teeth, but can still be helpful in that area. Dentists can use lasers to remove tiny amounts of enamel from teeth when necessary. Some whitening treatments can also be accelerated when using lasers.

Preparation for Other Oral Procedures

In addition to those mentioned above, there are several oral procedures for which dental lasers can help prepare teeth and tissue. For crown lengthening, lasers can be used to reshape gum tissue and even bone if necessary. They can also be used in preparation for composite bonding by preparing the tooth enamel. Dental lasers can even be used to help repair some worn down fillings.

The Importance of Prevention

While dental laser technology is an exciting advancement in oral treatments, the best way to keep your teeth and mouth healthy is prevention. Take good care of your teeth daily by brushing and flossing regularly. Remember to visit your dentist for regular dental checkups and whenever you experience pain or another dental problem.

Curious about the use of dental lasers in today’s oral treatments? Contact Carothers Family Dental, a San Marcos dental office, for more information or to schedule an appointment.

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