Do You Need a Root Canal? Here’s How to Tell

Tooth pain can vary from slightly uncomfortable to excruciating. Whatever your level of pain, it is critical to work with your dentist to diagnose the issue(s) quickly and address it. No matter how you feel about dental checkups, it is critical to make your dental health and comfort a priority.

In some cases, a root canal may be exactly what you need to address the pain. Here’s what you need to know about root canals, when you might need one, preventative tips and what a root canal procedure is like. 

What Is a Root Canal?

A root canal is a procedure that works to save a tooth that is infected or decayed beyond repair.  The pulp, or inside of the tooth where the nerves and tissue reside, usually gets to this point due to trauma or decay.

Your dentist will remove the pulp and then seal the tooth to prevent any further deterioration. This also minimizes risk for potential infection, although you may be placed on antibiotics as a precaution. It’s also a more cost effective and cosmetically appealing option than removing the tooth altogether. 

How to Know if You Need a Root Canal

Many tooth issues don’t get addressed until it’s too late and by the time you know something is wrong, you’re looking at a procedure to fix it. Regular check-ups are critical, but here are a few signs it’s time to call your dentist:

  • You have a cracked or chipped tooth.
  • You’re extra sensitive to hot and cold.
  • You experience abnormal pain while eating.
  • Your gums are tender, swollen, or appear darker than usual.
  • Your tooth is darkened beyond normal yellowing.

Tips for Preventing a Root Canal

There are ways to keep your teeth healthy in an effort to prevent the need for a root canal. While these don’t guarantee that you’ll never need a root canal, they are the first step in prevention. 

  • Brush at least twice daily.
  • Floss so you aren’t leaving potential decay in the perfect hiding place to cause trouble.
  • Use toothpaste or mouth rinse with fluoride to help strengthen teeth.
  • Wear a mouth guard at night if you’re a teeth grinder or during the day if you play sports.
  • Visit your dentist regularly to catch problems before they start.
  • Keep your diet healthy and limit sugary food and drinks and hard candies. 

What to Expect During a Root Canal

Root canals are not as scary as they sound. The most painful part is the time leading up to your procedure when the decay is still present. You can generally expect two office visits to complete the process. Here’s how the procedure will go and what to expect:

  • Your dentist will take x-rays to get a better look at the decaying tooth.
  • Then the area around your tooth will be numbed.
  • Protective latex will be put on your tooth to keep it protected during the procedure.
  • An opening at the top of your tooth will be created to remove the pulp inside. 
  • The inside of the tooth and root area will be cleaned thoroughly and filled with sealant. 
  • A temporary filling will be placed on the tooth until a permanent one can be made.
  • You may be sensitive in the area for a few days, and you may be placed on antibiotics as a precaution to clear up any residual infection.

While getting a root canal doesn’t sound like a fun way to spend your day, it’s important to take control of your oral health by being informed. Knowing what to look for and how to tell if you need one helps prevent further damage. If you have questions about your dental health, tooth pain or root canals, contact us today.

Here’s What You Should Do If Your Tooth Gets Knocked Out

It might make you cringe thinking about having a tooth knocked out, but your response to something like this could be the difference between salvaging the tooth and requiring significant dental work. The good news is that a tooth that has been knocked out of the socket can often be successfully replaced if you take the right action as soon as possible.

A tooth can be knocked out of the socket in many ways, typically from some sort of trauma or blow to the mouth. We see this most often with people who play contact sports. Preventing these kinds of incidents is key, which is why we recommend athletes wear mouthguards.

If you find yourself or a loved one in this situation where a tooth has been knocked out, it is important to remain calm in order to address the issue effectively. In addition to immediately scheduling an emergency appoint with your dentist, here are some questions to ask yourself and how to respond:

Is the socket bleeding?

If so, it’s important to stop the bleeding by folding up a clean cloth of some kind, holding it over the socket and biting down. Maintain this pressure by keeping jaws firmly clenched.

Where is the tooth?

It is important to locate the tooth itself. In some cases the tooth may be swallowed and if you can’t locate the tooth you’ll need an x-ray to determine if it was swallowed. If you have the tooth you can hold it by the crown and firmly press it back into the socket. Bite down on a cloth of some kind to keep the tooth in place.

What if the tooth doesn’t go back in?

If the tooth isn’t staying in when you put it back into the socket, keep the tooth in your mouth to prevent the root from drying out. Keep it there until you are able to meet with a dentist who can put the tooth back into place.

Is it a baby tooth?

If it is, it is typically recommended that baby teeth not be put back into the socket. The reason for this is to prevent and/or pinpoint an infection of the adult tooth as a result of the baby tooth being knocked out. You’ll need to schedule an appointment ASAP in order to make sure no tooth fragments are still in the gums.

These are just a few tips, but you will most definitely need to schedule an emergency visit with your dentist to make sure there was no serious damage to your mouth as a result of the tooth being knocked out. While these tips give you ways to assess the situation, you will most definitely need a professional opinion as soon as possible.

If you’ve had a tooth knocked out and weren’t able to replace it, contact us today to explore options for replacing the tooth.

Study: Dental Sealants Reduce Risk of Cavities by 80% on Molars

You may already have dental sealants on your teeth or perhaps are considering getting them as a result of tooth decay and cavities. Clinical studies show that sealants are extremely effective at preventing cavities, especially for kids who are still developing and/or those who are exposed to more risk factors for cavities.

According to the American Dental Association, sealants are extremely safe and reduce the risk of cavities on permanent molars by about 80%. These are pretty staggering numbers, and the ADA goes on to explain that sealants are safe for those that get them.

But what exactly are sealants and how can you tell if you need them?

Sealants are made of a very thin plastic solution that is painted on to the teeth and is usually applied to the molars and premolars. They are extremely effective at preventing cavities and tooth decay by acting as a barrier that protects your tooth enamel from plaque and acids.

In many cases a sealant application can last for many years before another application is required. We often recommend cavity-prone children between the ages of 6 and 14 receive sealant applications, but adults with decaying teeth or those with fillings can also benefit from the protection offered by dental sealants.

The process of applying dental sealants is a relatively straightforward, simple procedure. Here’s how it’s done:

  • The teeth are thoroughly cleaned to prepare for application
  • The teeth are then dried in order to improve the bond of the sealant solution with the teeth.
  • A solution is applied to the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
  • The sealant solution is painted onto the teeth.
  • The solution bonds directly to the teeth and quickly hardens.

Of course, dental sealants do not substitute regular preventative maintenance of our teeth like brushing, flossing and regular dental visits. The solution simply adds another layer of defense against plaque causing foods and drinks that can lead to tooth decay.

As mentioned earlier, children are prime candidates for dental sealants and many insurance providers cover this procedure for those under 18. But some adults with fillings or decaying teeth may also be candidates for dental sealants and should discuss the procedure with a dentist.

If you have any questions are want to make an appointment to discuss dental sealants for you or your children, contact us today.

7 Risk Factors that Increase Your Chances of Getting Cavities

Cavity Risk Factors - Kids brushing teeth

Cavities are small openings that develop from permanently damaged areas on the hard surface of your teeth. Also called caries, cavities are the result of decaying teeth and are one of the most common dental health issues in the world. If untreated, they can lead to infection, pain and even the loss of teeth.

The truth is anyone with teeth has the potential for getting cavities. Regular brushing, flossing and preventative dental checkups can help prevent cavities, but it’s important to understand the other factors that can cause them. Here are seven factors that can increase the likelihood of getting cavities.

Location of Teeth

Molars and premolars (your back teeth) are the most susceptible to getting cavities. This is because they have many grooves where plaque can collect and are more difficult to clean than front teeth.

Diet

Certain foods and drinks are harder to remove from your teeth because they cling to the surface for a longer period of time. Sugary drinks and hard candies are a few examples but even milk and ice cream can be difficult to remove from your teeth.

Snacking

Frequent snacking or drinking of sugary drinks simply acts as more fuel for the buildup of plaque which is the primary cause of cavities.

Before Bed Eating

If you eat or drink before bed and don’t brush, the food particles will remain on your teeth for the duration of the night and accelerate the plaque buildup, especially in children.

Poor Brushing Technique

The reason it is recommend you brush twice a day is because the tooth decay process can begin right when plaque forms. It is imperative to brush your teeth soon after eating and drinking.

Limited Fluoride

Fluoride and fluoride treatments are one of the best ways to fight against tooth decay. Often added to public water supplies and found in most toothpastes, fluoride helps protect teeth.

Dry Mouth

If you suffer from dry mouth, your chances for cavities are much greater. That’s because saliva can help to counteract acids that come from bacteria. Some medications can increase dry mouth symptoms and result in accelerated tooth decay that lead to cavities.

While other risk factors exist, these are some of the primary ones that precede cavities. In addition to brushing, flossing and dental checkups, you can counter these factors in a variety of ways. From dental sealants, to increasing the amount of water you drink, talk to your dentist to learn all the ways you can prevent cavities from forming.

If you have untreated cavities or haven’t been to the dentist recently, make an appointment today.

5 Tips for Getting Your Kids to Brush Their Teeth Twice a Day

When it comes to the health of our children, part of the role of being a parent is encouraging a healthy lifestyle. From the foods we eat to the amount of exercise we get, the habits that are formed at a young age can stick with children throughout their entire life.

Children’s dentistry is extremely important to the overall health of your child. Beyond regular dental checkups with a dentist, many other activities can impact your child’s dental health. Along with monitoring their diet by limiting sugary foods and drinks that result in cavities, daily brushing and regular flossing must also be part of the strategy.

But it isn’t always easy to get kids on board. Here are some tips for getting your kids to brush every day.

1. Soft bristle toothbrushes make a great teething toy for babies.

While it isn’t recommended to begin brushing your child’s teeth with toothpaste until around two years old, a soft bristle toothbrush can offer your little one some relief when teeth come through while also cleaning existing teeth. Like anything that goes into your child’s mouth, always monitor your baby when the toothbrush is being chewed on.

2. Show them that you do it.

Kids learn by example, so make sure that you’re practicing what you preach. The best way to teach your children how to brush and when to brush is to be there to show them what you do every day. If you’re not a twice daily brusher, having children is a great reason to become one! Now not only are you teaching your kids how to brush, but you’re making your own dental care a priority as well.

3. Make brushing part of the morning and bedtime routines.

When getting the child ready for the day and when it’s time for bed, make brushing their teeth a regular part of the process. The trick is to be consistent on when this happens each day and always be present to help them brush when they are just getting started.

4. Let them pick their own toothbrush.

There are a number of toothbrush brands that have superheroes printed on them, or have interesting shapes and even some that play music. The more your child likes the toothbrush, the more they will want to “play” with it. This will help make the process feel less like a choir and more like playtime.

5. Make it fun.

Every parent knows that it takes some creativity and persuasion to get kids to do what’s best for their health. Try to make brushing teeth a fun and playful event in the day. Make them laugh by letting the foam from the toothpaste spill all over your mouth and encourage them to do the same. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but whatever you can do to make brushing fun will help solidify it into their daily lives.

Those are just a few ideas but whatever creative ways you can think of to get your child to brush is great. The only thing we recommend is that they brush twice a day, for at least two minutes each time using a gentle circular motion an all areas of the teeth.

For any questions about children’s dentistry or to make an appointment for your child, contact us today.

The Benefits of Straight & Aligned Teeth Aren’t Just Cosmetic

Depending on your teeth and overall dental health, there are some aspects of your smile that are merely aesthetic with little impact on your overall health. For example, stained teeth don’t necessarily present a health risk. However, there are some seemingly visual aspects of your smile that actually can impact your dental health.

The alignment of your teeth is an example of that. You might have come to live with minor misalignment and crowding of your teeth because it doesn’t seem to be causing any issues overall. You might prefer to have perfectly straight teeth, but the dental work required doesn’t seem worth it to you.

The reality is that even minor misalignment can cause dental health issues down the road. When crowding or overlapping occurs in the teeth, these areas aren’t getting brushed properly, sometimes resulting in gum disease or tooth decay. Additionally, uneven distribution of your bite can result in jaw pain and trauma.

Thee medical term used to described misaligned teeth, crowded teeth, crossbites, overbites, underbites, etc., is malocclusion of the teeth. This simply means misalignment, but the potential health issues this can cause are serious. While most people with mild malocclusion won’t need any formal treatment, here’s how more server cases are handled:

  • Braces to help improve the teeth alignment/position
  • Extractions that address overcrowding
  • Bonding and reshaping teeth as necessary
  • Jaw surgery or wires/plates to improve jaw alignment

Not only does addressing alignment issues improve the aesthetic appeal of your smile (and your confidence), it also improves your ability to maintain the health of your teeth. One added benefit is that it improves the care your dentist is able to provide. Crowding and plaque deposits make it harder to see decay or cavities without the help of x-rays. Well-aligned teeth help your dentist spot potential issues quickly without the need for any testing.

Addressing misalignment early in life makes for better dental health and care in the future. This is why having a plan to address any misalignment should happen as soon as your dentist thinks it is right. For children, braces help to guide the growing mouth and teeth for a straight smile that prevents misalignment and crowding. However, every child is different and therefore the approach should be as well.

If you or your child have misaligned teeth or you would like to discuss it, make an appointment today.

Dry Mouth (Xerostomia) Isn’t Just Uncomfortable – It Causes Tooth Decay

dry mouth image

One of the biggest contributors to tooth decay is dry mouth. Combine dry mouth with sugary drinks like juices, sodas, teas or sweetened coffees and the likelihood for tooth decay or cavities increases dramatically. While you may just see dry mouth as an annoyance, it’s much more than that, and if left untreated, it can cause further oral health concerns.

The technical term for those experiencing chronic dry mouth is xerostomia (zero-stow-me-uh) and is a condition impacting the production of saliva in the salivary glands. There are a number of symptoms for dry mouth, some of which include:

  • Dry, sticky sensation in the mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Changes in your sense of taste
  • Saliva that feels more thick or stringy
  • Difficulty swallowing, speaking or chewing

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), 30% of patients 65 and older are affected by dry mouth. The figure increases the older a patient gets, but this isn’t merely because of age but because of other circumstances associated with aging like increased likelihood of being prescribed one or more medications.

As is often the case with health issues, dry mouth can be caused by a combination of factors. Some of those factors include: tobacco and alcohol use, aging, medications, nerve damage, cancer treatments and more.

The impact on your teeth and mouth can be uncomfortable if dry mouth is left untreated. Some of the complications include mouth sores, an increase in plaque, tooth decay, gum disease, cracked lips and more.

Addressing xerostomia requires a holistic, three-pronged approach:

  1. Dental Hygiene: Regular brushing, flossing and rinsing of your can help protect your teeth from plaque buildups and ultimately cavities. However, avoid mouthwashes that have alcohol in them.
  2. Diet & Food Choices: Drink plenty of water, limit caffeince intake, stop using tobacco products and limit the consumption of high sugar drinks.
  3. Professional Maintenance: See a professional dentist regularly to monitor and maintain your overall oral health, but also to get professional advice on how to best treat dry mouth.

If you think you might have xerostomia, contact us today to make an appointment and we’ll discuss potential treatments and strategies for addressing it.

The Importance of Preventative Dentistry for Long-Term Dental Health

Importance of Preventative Dentistry

From eating to smiling to talking, our teeth and mouth play a big role in our day-to-day life. So why not protect them for any potential issues or disease that could arise? This is the overall objective of preventative dentistry.

According to the American Dental Association, 42% of Americans said they don’t see a dentist as often as they would like. That’s almost half of the population who are likely not seeing the dentist every 6-months as recommended. These checkups have the potential to pinpoint issues before they become major problems.

Of course, things happen, and unforeseen problems might arise when it comes to our teeth. For example, injuries or chipped teeth must be addressed when/if they happen. However, when it comes to the more slowly developing problems like tooth decay or gum disease, you can minimize the odds of acquiring these kinds of issues by following a pretty simple preventative dental plan which includes:

  • Regular dental checkups and cleanings – every 6 months
  • Annual digital dental X-rays
  • Fluoride treatments for preventing tooth decay
  • Use of sealants as needed
  • Brushing twice a day and flossing regularly

This is a very simple and manageable dental approach and research shows that it pays off in the long run. According to a study from Cigna, every dollar spent on preventative dental care could save $8-$50 in restorative and emergency dental treatments. In other words, regular dental care and good dental hygiene practices minimize the chance of undergoing some expensive treatment or procedure.

Children have the most to benefit from this kind of preventative dental care. According the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 20% of children aged 5 to 11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth. The longer these cavities go untreated, the greater the likelihood for pain and other complications.

While we can’t guarantee the prevention of dental issues, we can at the very least decrease the odds of many of the most common ones. And when we catch issues in the early stages, we have a much better chance of treating them effectively.

If you don’t already have a plan for your long-term dental health, it’s time to make one. Make an appointment today and we’ll help you identify a dental strategy that works for you.

When Was the Last Time You Had a Digital Dental X-Ray?

Digital Dental X-ray

Radiographs, or X-rays were first discovered in 1895 and immediately the medical community was seeing the potential uses for understanding the inner workings of the human body. Since the discovery, roughly 5 billion medical imaging examinations have been conducted worldwide thanks to the use of X-ray technology.

For dentists, X-rays are extremely important for seeing the teeth in a way that human eyes simply cannot. Some of the most common issues dental X-rays can reveal include:

  • Cavities between the teeth
  • Cavities hidden by fillings
  • Infections in the bone
  • Periodontal disease
  • Abscesses, cysts and sometimes tumors

The X-ray is a critical component of preventative dentistry, and it’s important you see your dentist regularly to make sure nothing has significantly changed as it relates to the structural aspects of your teeth and mouth. The process itself is safe, simple and painless. View the video below for a general sense of what you can expect during a dental X-ray.

At our dental office in Monroe, MI we offer what’s called digital dental X-rays. These are slightly different in that we don’t utilize any film, but instead the images are viewed on a computer via an imaging program. This advanced technology allows us to see your teeth and surrounding structures with tremendous accuracy, enabling a better diagnosis and more precise treatment.

Typically, we’ll capture digital X-rays prior to any treatments but may also capture digital X-rays during and after treatments in order to track progress. Overall, digital X-rays require much less radiation than traditional film X-rays. Digital X-rays are safe, effective, fast and informative.

To schedule an appointment for a digital dental x-ray, contact us today.

Common Causes of Bad Breath & What You Can Do About It

common causes of bad breath image

Nobody likes having it or smelling it on someone else, but pinpointing the cause of your bad breath (halitosis), can sometimes be a challenge because there are some many factors that can contribute to it. In some cases, brushing and mouthwash simply isn’t enough.

Before you start cutting foods out of your diet or carrying a toothbrush with you everywhere you go, you must first get a sense of what could possibly be causing your bad breath. Especially if you seem to have bad breath on a consistent basis, you’ll need to consider the following commons causes:

  • Food: Some foods have more odor than others, especially when you start to break them down by chewing. Garlic, onions and others will make almost anyone’s breath smell and it won’t go away until the food is completely digested.
  • Not Brushing/Flossing: While brushing and flossing won’t necessarily remove the smell of the garlic you just ate, in the long term it will help minimize your bad breath. Food particles can get stuck between your teeth, gums and on your tongue and if you don’t brush, these particles will start to smell.
  • Tobacco Products: Smoking and chewing tobacco not only can stain your teeth and damage your gums/mouth, they are also often a cause of bad breath.
  • Gum (Periodontal) Disease: When plaque buildups on your teeth and goes untreated, gum disease may follow. Persistent bad breath could be a sign.
  • Dry Mouth (Xerostomia): Without an adequate supply of saliva, bad breath can follow. Saliva helps to neutralize acids that are produced by plaque and washes away accumulations of dead cells that will eventually decompose. Dry mouth can be caused by medications, salivary gland problems,
  • Other Causes: Poorly fitting dental appliances, cavities, mouth infections, and a number of other diseases and illnesses can cause bad breath.

Whether you’ve identified the cause of your bad breath or not, there are some things you can do to address it:

  • Brush twice a day and don’t forget to brush your tongue too.
  • Replace your toothbrush regularly. Try to every 2-3 months.
  • Floss regularly to remove those food particles from your mouth.
  • See your dentist regularly for dental cleanings and check-ups
  • Drink lots of water to help keep your mouth moist

If you’re having issues with bad breath, come in for a check-up and we’ll evaluate other options. Contact us today.