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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.

Teeth Whitening Not Enough? How to Know if Dental Veneers Are Right For You

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When we feel comfortable with our smile, it shows. We have more confidence and we find more reasons to smile, which makes for a more enjoyable day. The opposite is true as well. If we don’t like our smile or don’t like the way our teeth look, we end up hiding our teeth.

For some, teeth naturally discolor and get worn out, even if we don’t regularly eat or drink foods that cause this. Sometimes it can be genetic as well. Regardless, modern dental technology and procedures allow us to revitalize a smile with minimal pain and inconvenience to the patient.

Porcelain dental veneers is one of those techniques that has revolutionized how we approach cosmetic dentistry. Like bonding, dental veneers go over top of the teeth, only dental veneers can last much longer, sometimes 10-20 years. Here’s why most utilize veneers:

  • Re-shape teeth that are misaligned
  • Eliminate stains that won’t come out with teeth whitening procedures
  • Fix gaps between teeth
  • Long-term fix for teeth that are chipped, fractured, crooked or broken

Ultimately, people elect to get porcelain veneers because they are unhappy with the way their smile looks and feels. Your dentist should take a personalized approach to this procedure in order to deliver veneers that fit your natural smile. The procedure is fairly simple:

  1. Veneer preparation involves the removal of a small amount of tooth structure.
  2. An impression is taken in order to fabricate custom veneers.
  3. During this time, temporary veneers may be placed on your teeth. (Note: Temporary veneers are very fragile and need to be treated gently during eating and cleaning.)
  4. Once your permanent veneers arrive, they are bonded to your teeth.

See below for an explanation of dental veneers from the American Dental Association (ADA).

If you would like to learn more about dental veneers, please make an appointment for a consultation.

Why Water & Fluoride Treatments Are Vital to Your Dental Health

Fluoride Treatment Water

Fluoride treatments and fluoride intake are the most common ways dentists and patients can prevent tooth decay. From professional fluoride treatments to over-the-counter toothpastes and rinses with high fluoride levels, fluoride is one of the best treatments for a variety of common dental issues.

Fluoride is a naturally occurring in soil, water and many foods, but often not at levels to protect or improve the health of your teeth. However, most public water sources add additional fluoride in order to bring the levels up to what the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends.

Studies have found that in counties where fluoridation of the water supply was rare, the rate of fillings, root canals and extractions were much higher compared to counties where fluoridation was common. In other words, the absence of fluoride in water or fluoride treatments can have a major impact on your overall dental health.

Generally speaking, adults can benefit from fluoride when it comes to fighting tooth decay and strengthening teeth. Additionally, people with the following oral health conditions are more susceptible to decay and may especially benefit from fluoride treatment:

  • Dry mouth
  • Gum disease
  • History of frequent cavities
  • Presence of crowns and/or bridges
  • Undergoing orthodontic treatment

When it comes to the fluoride treatment itself, there are many ways to go about it. Fluoride can be applied to the teeth as a gel, foam or varnish.

We offer an in-office fluoride treatment, and you can also apply fluoride to your teeth at home via fluoridated toothpastes and mouth rinses. While there are some over-the-counter mouth rinses containing fluoride, they are usually at lower strengths. When appropriate, our dental office in Monroe, MI can provide prescriptions for higher strength fluoride treatments.

The American Dental Association (ADA) also recommends fluoride intake for infants and children between the ages of 6 months and 16 years. During this time, primary and permanent teeth are developing and fluoride becomes incorporated into the development of permanent teeth. This makes it difficult for acids to demineralize the teeth. Consult your dentist before incorporating any fluoride treatments for your children.

Make an appointment today to see if a fluoride treatment could benefit your overall dental health.

Study: 35% of Americans Haven’t Visited the Dentist in the Past Year

Given all that we know about the importance of good dental health and regular visits to your dentist, a surprisingly large amount of people don’t regularly see a dentist for check-ups and cleanings. According a 2016 study from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 35.6% of US adults ages 18 to 64 haven’t been to the dentist in the past year.

There are a number of reasons for this, but the primary reasons people avoid the dentist include the following:

  • Cost: Many don’t visit the dentist every six months because they don’t have dental insurance and/or they think a visit to the dentist is too expensive. The reality is that dental care doesn’t have to be extremely costly, especially if you are already taking good care of your mouth and teeth. This spans everything from eating healthy, to avoiding high-sugar drinks and smoking, to flossing and brushing regularly. A healthy lifestyle will minimize your chances for any major dental procedures down the line.
  • Anxiety & Fear: Whether it’s from portrayals of dentists in Hollywood, or the simple fact that you are letting another person put their hands and instruments in your mouth, some people get anxious when needing to go to the dentist. Regardless of what created these fears, most day-to-day dental procedures are painless. More importantly, patients should find a dentist and dental office that is comfortable, welcoming and offers a calming atmosphere. The right dentist and staff can go a long way in overcoming these dental anxieties.
  • No Time: The world moves very fast these days and people often find themselves with no time to spare. Between work, kids and a host of other responsibilities, the dentist is a distant thought for some. However, some dental offices are dedicated to driving down wait times for their patients. Ultimately, visiting the dentist is only a commitment of 30 minutes to one hour every six months.

While other reasons for not going to the dentist exist, the consequences of not seeing a dentist regularly can be great. Often when it comes to our dental health, complications and problems build slowly over time. That slightly uncomfortable tooth will turn into a nagging pain which can end up being a dental emergency. Preventative dentistry is the best protection from these issues.

Additionally, studies have found that poor oral health may be linked to heart disease and stroke as a result of oral bacteria making its way to the bloodstream. Dental check-ups every six months will help you prevent these issues before they become major pains both physically and financially.

If you haven’t been to the dentist in over six months, click here to make an appointment today.

What Is an Occlusal (Bite) Adjustment & How You Can Tell If You Need One

Occlusal Adjustment - Bite Adjustment

It definitely sounds more significant than it is, however, the potential symptoms that commonly precede an occlusal adjustment or bite adjustment procedure can be uncomfortable. From popping and clicking noises when opening and closing the jaw, to uneven wear on the enamel, more likely than not, you’ll be able to recognize when your bite isn’t aligned.

If left untreated, the misalignment may result in you unconsciously clenching, grinding or gnashing your teeth while awake and during sleep. This is known as bruxism and can lead to headaches, neck aches, jaw pain and even cracked or worn teeth.

To prevent these uncomfortable symptoms, it is important to see your dentist at the earliest signs that something isn’t quite right with your bite. At each visit we check for any misalignments that might require adjusting. When Dr. Balog asks you to bite down and smile, among other things, he is looking to make sure the bottom and top teeth rest comfortably and evenly on each other.

Simply put, a bite adjustment corrects the alignment of your bite and evenly distributes it to eliminate irregular pressure on one side of the mouth. Sometimes tooth sensitivity may be corrected through an occlusal adjustment as the treatment reduces pressures on sensitive teeth.

The process for an occlusal adjustment is easy and convenient. We utilize articulating paper to mark the teeth where the points of contact are during biting and grinding. This allows us to notice the slightest irregularity and make only the adjustments that are necessary.

Once we have identified the irregularities, we eliminate the interference by smoothing the tooth or teeth until the bite is realigned, often resulting in improved patient comfort. However, to prevent any future wear on the teeth, we may recommend a bit guard for sleep.

If you’re noticing any irregularities when you bite down or general discomfort, please make an appointment today.

From Toothbrushes to Flossing Recommendations – Here’s How Dental Standards Are Born

At our office we are committed to staying on top of the latest data and research coming from the American Dental Association (ADA) as it relates to dental best practices, industry standards and product recommendations. Just recently we switched the toothpaste brand we give to our patients based on recent findings and research.

But to most, it probably seems like these changes are somewhat random. The truth is, our recommendations and shifts in procedure practices, don’t come quickly. There’s a very extensive amount of research and discussion that goes into these decisions.

According to the ADA:

Through comprehensive analysis, the ADA establishes baseline standards and technical recommendations for almost every tool of modern dentistry, from radiographic systems to sealants to manual toothbrushes. Our mission is to ensure the highest level of patient safety and professional satisfaction through the publication of clear industry standards for both dental products and dental informatics.

The ADA is constantly evaluating and revaluating products and procedures with the patient’s best interest in mind. The process by which this is accomplished is visualized in the graphic below:

More simply put, dental standards seek to do the following things:

  • Define or provide specific technical requirements for a material, product, process, procedure, service, policy, etc.
  • Provide definitions, dimensions, terminology, symbols, test methods, performance or safety requirements, etc.
  • Are clear, concise, unambiguous and easily understood by those not involved in its development.
  • Facilitate the improvement and quality of oral health and the safety of dental care.

Our office is committed to offering the most modern and industry accepted practices for our patients. Contact us today to make an appointment