All posts by Area Dental Clinic

How long do dental sealants last?

little kid at dentist getting dental sealantsThe grooves in teeth can leave kids and adults vulnerable to tooth decay. Though regular brushing and flossing can help prevent cavities, some people are more likely to develop tooth decay (including children with baby teeth).

Why do dentists recommend dental sealants?

If you are one of those people, your dentist may suggest dental sealants. Dental sealants are applied by a dentist easily and painlessly (contact a dentist to find how long it takes to apply sealants). After application, sealants play a key part in preventing the build-up of plaque and food particles in deep grooves, pits and tooth indentations. Your dentist is particularly concerned by teeth with deep grooves in the back of the mouth, where it is hard to reach when brushing and flossing.

If dental sealants are not applied, these areas can be vulnerable to cavities. The build-up of food and bacteria can form plaque. Plaque is acidic, which can lead to tooth decay. A hole formed by tooth decay is called a cavity. Cavities need to be filled by a dentist to stem the progression of tooth decay and protect the structure of teeth.

How long do sealants last?

In the long term, dental sealants usually last around 10 years. Dental sealants should be regularly checked by a dentist at scheduled appointments to ensure that the sealants are not wearing off. When combined with regular brushing and flossing (use these tips to establish good brushing habits), these daily oral habits can help prevent the formation of cavities.

Because of their preventive nature, dental sealants are usually covered by insurance—but not always. Always contact a dental insurance company to find out if dental sealants are covered before scheduling a dentist appointment.

How do you get a toothache to go away?

woman suffering from toothacheToothaches always seem to strike at the worst times: over the holidays, on the weekends, before a vacation, when there is a big event coming up. When your tooth starts to throb, the first thought usually is, “How can I get rid of this toothache? What do I have to do to make this go away?” Toothaches can be caused by an infection, tooth fracture, cavity, gum disease, or another dental problem. The good news is you don’t have to diagnose the exact cause of the toothache to ease the pain.

You should do a full evaluation of the extent of the pain though. If the pain radiates through the jaw, it may be time to visit a doctor. The pain may be sharp, throbbing, or only occur when there is pressure applied to the tooth (make note of the nature and location of the pain to tell the dentist). For any other tooth pain, use these steps to make the pain of a toothache go away:

  • Avoid drinks and food that make the pain worse, such as hot or cold foods.
  • Place a cold pack to the cheek on the side of the mouth where the pain hurts. (Do not use heat which can cause swelling and exacerbate an infection.)
  • Try to keep the mouth steady. Stay away from vibrations that can make the pain worse.
  • Avoid laying on the side of the mouth that hurts; it can make it hurt worse.
  • Use over-the-counter toothache medications to ease the pain. (Always follow the directions on the label.)

If the pain subsides, you can probably wait to call a dentist. For other situations, contact a dentist as soon as possible to make an appointment:

  • The toothache does not go away and the pain does not ease from over-the-counter medications.
  • Your permanent tooth has been knocked out.
  • The pain occurs when swallowing or breathing.
  • Your dentist recently pulled a tooth (within 24-72 hours).
  • There is discharge associated with the toothache.
  • You are experiencing excessive swelling.
  • You have a fever. (This can be a symptom of an infection or abscess and should be treated with antibiotics.)

If experiencing any of these symptoms, contact a dentist immediately. If the pain happens outside of office hours, contact the dentist using the emergency phone number.

Yellow Teeth? 8 Culprits that Stain Your Pearly Whites

smiling young woman with white teeth and smiling babyTeeth whitening is a singular goal, but there are many ways to keep your teeth as “pearly white” as the name implies. You can eliminate tobacco use (one of the chief ways to whiten teeth), brush teeth after eating, and choose a safe teeth-whitening product. For the latter method, make sure you contact a dentist. Your dentist can examine your teeth to make sure they are healthy and ready for a recommended (and safe) teeth whitening product.

Another way to keep teeth white and avoid ugly teeth stains is to avoid foods and drinks that are known for teeth staining. Use this list of foods and drinks that stain teeth, drinking water and good brushing habits after an occasional indulgence, and regular dentist appointments to keep teeth bright and white.

Coffee

That daily cup of joe can be a key source of teeth staining. The dark color of the drink stains the outer layer of teeth. While the effects of the coffee can’t be completely erased, drinking a lighter colored cup of java can lessen the staining.

Berries

Berries (think blueberries, cherries, etc.) are one of the top offenders of teeth staining. Desserts and dishes with berries as an ingredient are also on the list, such as pies and cobblers.

Wine

Sorry, wine lovers, this popular drink can stain teeth. Unfortunately, white wine is also a cause of teeth staining; wine can soften enamel and leave teeth vulnerable to staining.

Beets

A stain from beets can be incredibly hard to get out of a tablecloth; the same is true for the teeth. Beets can discolor teeth; drink water and brush soon after to avoid ugly teeth stains.

Tea

Dark teas are the worst offenders, but all teas are offenders in teeth staining and yellowing. The darkest teas top the list; porous teeth can absorb the dark color.

Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauces and soups are delicious, but their dark color and acidity can contribute to yellow and stained teeth.

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce adds flavor and stains to teeth. Because of the dark coloring, soy sauce—and any dark-colored sauce—can stain teeth (and clothing, be careful!)

Soda

Indulging in a soda may seem innocent, but sweetened drinks (including sports drinks) can damage teeth in two different ways. Sweetened drinks are one of the main contributing factors to tooth decay. Dark-colored sodas, such as colas, can also stain and yellow teeth.

Balsamic Vinegar

This tasty dressing is a delicious addition to salads and dishes. The dark color sticks to teeth, making it a notable culprit of stained teeth. To minimize the stains, chew on crunchy lettuce and brush as soon as possible afterward.

Quick Tips that Get Whiter Teeth for the Holidays

people having fun at holiday partyIf whiter teeth are on your holiday wish list, these tips are for you. These quick whitening tips make your teeth white and bright in time for holiday festivities—without a lot of time spent on teeth whitening and the negative side effects of unsafe tooth whiteners (which can definitely dampen the holiday spirit).

Stay away from foods and drinks that stain.

Many of the foods and drinks at our holiday festivities, such as hot cocoa, tea, berry pies, and soda, can yellow teeth. Even a daily coffee can yellow and stain teeth. During the holiday season, steer clear of the dishes and beverages that sabotage teeth whitening. When you do indulge, drink water right after and brush your teeth as soon as possible.

Take tobacco out of your holiday routine.

Smoking chewing tobacco are both at the top of the list when it comes to teeth staining. When tobacco comes in contact with oxygen, it ceases to be colorless and yellows teeth. The tar in tobacco can also leave dark stains that can be difficult to remove. For whiter teeth, try to minimize tobacco use or give yourself the gift of quitting (use these tips to quit tobacco use). There are also other benefits of quitting tobacco use (besides whiter teeth) such as lessening the risk for certain cancers and decreased amounts of coughing and shortening of breath.

(Carefully) select a teeth whitening product.

There are quite a few teeth whiteners on the open market, and many of them come with a note of caution. Some teeth whitening products can injure, damage teeth, or cause tooth sensitivity; even natural teeth whiteners with acidic ingredients can wear down tooth enamel. Be aware, also, that tooth whiteners may not completely whiten injured teeth or dental work like fillings, crowns, and caps.

Instead, talk to your dentist about safe tooth whitening products. Your dentist can make sure you use a properly-fitted, safe, and effective teeth whitener. To ensure that the teeth are healthy before whitening, make an appointment to get teeth examined and cleaned. At the dentist appointment, the dentist can diagnose and treat cavities and tooth decay which should be addressed before whitening.

Make oral hygiene a top priority.

Regular brushing and flossing keep teeth healthy and white. Brush at least twice a day and floss before or after brushing teeth. Select a whitening toothpaste with an American Dental Association seal of approval; this ensures that product is effective and reputable.

9 Reasons for Your Sensitive Teeth

patient talking to dentist about teeth grindingWisconsin winters are a time for hot drinks and cold air, unless you suffer from sensitive teeth. Sensitive teeth can make it hard to enjoy even a short time outside or a good cup of coffee. Tooth sensitivity can be extremely painful, leaving you wondering how to treat those sore sensitive teeth and what is the cause behind the massive toothache.

Sensitive teeth are caused when dentin, a layer under the enamel, is exposed near the gum line. People with sensitive teeth experience pain (like a toothache) in one or several teeth because of acidic foods, sweet foods, hot or cold foods. There are several conditions that can cause sensitive teeth (schedule an appointment so the dentist can diagnose the specific condition and recommend treatment).

Teeth Whitening

Some teeth whitening products, especially over-the-counter brands and home remedies, can wear down teeth. This causes tooth sensitivity, damages teeth, and unevenly whitens teeth. If cavities are not treated, tooth whitening products can exacerbate cavities and tooth decay. To prevent tooth damage, only use products that have an American Dental Association seal or visit the dentist for an approved teeth whitening product.

Acidic Foods and Beverages

Acidic foods and beverages can wear down enamel, eventually causing sensitive teeth. Avoid foods and beverages that can cause acid and wear down enamel, such as soda, coffee, and candy. Worn enamel can result in exposed dentin and painful sensitive teeth. Instead, eat foods that can strengthen enamel, such as milk, yogurt, almonds, kale, and sardines. Flouridated products can also play a role in lessening the effect of acidic foods.

Cavity

A cavity is caused by the perfect storm of bacteria, saliva, and food. The combination results in an acid that wears down enamel and can decay teeth. As the cavity continues to progress, the symptoms of a cavity may start to become evident (though it is possible to have a cavity without symptoms). There may be pain or tooth sensitivity—especially when eating hot or cold foods. Patients should make an appointment with the dentist to treat cavities before they progress and cause further problems.

Hard Tooth Brushing

Brushing teeth is an important part of preventing dental issues, such as a cavity. However, if a patient brushes too hard, especially at the gum line, the tooth brushing can wear down the enamel. Instead, use a soft-bristled tooth brush and brush in easy, circular strokes.

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding, also called bruxism, can cause a host of problems, such as cracked teeth and tooth sensitivity. This condition wears down teeth and may expose the dentist. Patients can experience teeth grinding without being aware of it because the grinding can happen at night. Those with bruxism can find out if they have the condition after visiting their dentist, from a consistently sore jaw and dull headache, or from another person who hears the grinding one night. (Find out how to lessen teeth grinding in this post.)

Cracked Tooth

Cracked teeth can be caused by an accident, teeth grinding, or from other issues. Not every patient realizes when they have a cracked tooth; in some cases, they only realize the tooth is cracked when experiencing tooth sensitivity, pain, or bleeding.

Filling

A dental filling fills in a space in a tooth, such as from a cavity, cracked tooth, or worn tooth. When the filling is loose, or leaks, the exposed dentin can cause tooth sensitivity. (If the filling falls out, use these instructions for a lost filling.)

Dental Procedure

A dental procedure is not a common cause of tooth sensitivity, though patients can experience sensitive teeth after a dental visit. Even a dental cleaning can cause sensitive teeth. If this happens, patients should let their dentist know about the occurrence so treatment can be advised.

Recessed Gums

When gums start to recede, the exposure around the gum line can lead to sensitive teeth. Recessed gums can occur because of gum disease or with age (usually past 40). If recessed gums is the cause, schedule an appointment with the dentist to halt the progression and get a recommendation for sensitive teeth treatments.

When experiencing sensitive teeth, take these steps to treat the pain:

How long do fillings last?

mouth with tooth filling at dentist officeIf you’ve had a cavity, you’re not alone. A recent study found that nearly every American has tooth decay, and a majority of them have tooth fillings to treat and prevent more decay. With all those dental fillings comes a host of questions; here are our answers that address patients’ frequently asked questions about cavities and dental fillings.

Why do people need fillings?

Most commonly, a dental filling is used to treat cavities (otherwise known as caries or tooth decay); fillings can also be used to treat cracked, broken, or worn teeth. A cavity is the product of a perfect storm of bacteria, food, and saliva. The combination forms plaque, which includes acid. The acid wears down tooth enamel and forms holes in the teeth, called a cavity.

Cavities can affect patients of any age; even children with cavities in baby teeth should consider treatment so the tooth decay does not reoccur in developing adult teeth. If left untreated, tooth decay can progress and cavities can get larger.

Cavities can form with no obvious signs or symptoms. The most common symptoms are pain and tooth sensitivity. Eventually, an untreated cavity can compromise the structure of the tooth and lead to more invasive procedures. A dentist can diagnose a cavity with a simple exam and recommend treatment. The most common treatment for a cavity is a dental filling.

During a filling treatment, the dentist removes the decay and replaces it with a filling. There are several different kinds of tooth fillings that are commonly used.

What are dental fillings made of?

Dental fillings are commonly made of gold, silver amalgam, or composite. There are advantages and disadvantages of each dental filling; a dentist can discuss the best options and decide what kind of filling is best for the patient, both for their health and budget.

Gold fillings tend to be the most expensive option, but many patients comment that they appreciate the aesthetics of a gold filling. Gold fillings are also long-lasting and very durable.

Silver amalgam fillings are made of a variety of metals, and a very appealing dental filling because of the durability and price. Like gold, silver amalgam fillings are long-lasting. The cons of this filling include the possibility of a slight discoloration and the aesthetics, which many patients do not appreciate.

Composite dental fillings are the same color as the tooth, make them an attractive option because they match the color of the tooth. However, on average, composite dental fillings are not as long-lasting as gold and silver amalgam fillings.

How long do dental fillings last?

The actual length of time for a dental filling depends on the patient. On average, gold and silver amalgam fillings last 10-15 years. Composite dental fillings last approximately 5 years.

If a filling falls out, do not try to reattach the filling. Instead, take the filling out and keep it safe until you can make an emergency appointment with your dentist. (Make sure you call, don’t e-mail Watertown Area Dental for an emergency dentist appointment.)

Cracked Tooth? Use these Step-by Step Instructions

close up of mouth with dentist mirror looking for cracked toothCracked tooth injuries always come with a story, such as running into a teammate or enjoying a delicious (and hard) snack. Even extreme temperatures, teeth grinding, and age can cause a cracked tooth. No matter what the cause, the pain from a chipped tooth is real—and so are the questions that come with this common mouth injury. What should I do after my tooth has been injured? What should I do about the filling that fell out? Do I need to contact a dentist? What should I do with a lost crown? We’ve assisted numerous patients with a cracked or broken tooth, and have put together a step-by-step guide on what to do after a tooth is cracked.

Don’t panic.

This is an important step. Stay calm. In most cases, a cracked tooth or lost crown or filling can be repaired and the pain alleviated. With proper treatment, the damage is often not visible to others.

Determine the extent of the damage.

Immediately after the injury, evaluate the level of pain and amount of bleeding.

  • If there is a significant amount of pain, there may be damage to the nerve. Contact a dentist for an emergency appointment right away.
  • If there is bleeding, apply gauze to stop the bleeding. Do not apply topical pain reliever products to the area.
  • If the pain is intermittent, such as only during biting down or when exposed to hot or cold temperatures, bite down on a moist piece of gauze. Avoid chewing on the side of the mouth with the pain. Contact a dentist for an appointment.

Save the filling or crown.

If the cracked tooth involves a lost filling or crown, save the filling or crown.

Visit the dentist for treatment.

The specific treatment for a cracked tooth depends on the location, size of the crack, amount of damage, and the appropriate repair. The dentist may use terms like craze lines, fractured cusp, and vertical root fracture. Possible treatments include: bonding, root canal, filling, or tooth extraction. If the cracks are small, the dentist may decide no treatment is needed. Most treatments and repairs are long-term. Contact a dentist to find out what is the right treatment and get answers to any questions about the cracked tooth.

How can I protect my child’s mouth from sports injuries?

soccer ball being kicked by athlete with mouthguardCracked teeth, broken braces, and mouth cuts shouldn’t be a part of kids’ sports—but, sadly, they can be (and are). According to the American Dental Assistants Association, athletes have a 1 in 10 chance of getting injured in their mouth, face, or teeth.

How can we prevent sports injuries to the mouth and teeth?

While we can’t control what happens during contact sports like football, hockey, and basketball (though mouth injuries can occur during any kind of sport), there is equipment available that can help prevent painful mouth injuries.

  • Helmets. Helmets play a vital role in minimizing head and dental injuries. Depending on the construction of the helmet, these protective devices can shield athletes from hard blows (from another player, ball, etc.)
  • Masks. Depending on the sport, masks are standard equipment for all players or an option for certain positions, such as for a baseball pitcher. Masks protect players from contacts, such as a fast ball or a hard contact from another player.
  • Mouth guards. Mouth guards are one of the best ways to protect an athlete from dental injuries. These devices go around the top teeth and can help minimize injuries to the lower teeth, gums, nerves, and tissue. Athletes with braces can and should wear mouth guards because the mouth guards can prevent broken braces (and injuries stemming from broken hardware). If an athlete has another kind of dental appliance, contact the dentist to discuss the best options for a mouth guard that works with the appliance.

What kind of mouth guards are available?

There are several different kinds of mouth guards that can be purchased to protect an athlete from cracked or lost teeth, nerve damage, or mouth cuts.

  • Stock mouth guards. These off-the-shelf mouth guards can be bought at stores and are extremely affordable. Because of their standard construction, however, these mouth guards can feel extremely bulky and make it hard to breathe and talk.
  • Boil mouth guards. These protective devices are more customized than stock mouth guards, giving the athlete a more comfortable fit. Made of an extremely malleable material, these mouth guards are placed in hot water and then in an athlete’s mouth where they conform to the teeth and gums.
  • Custom mouth guards. Prior to the production of this mouth guard, a dentist takes an impression of the teeth (for that reason, contact a dentist about a custom mouth guard). The mouth guard is then manufactured for the mouth with customized specifications and with a flexible material. Because of the process, these mouth guards are very comfortable, making it easy to breathe and talk.

“I’m afraid to go to the dentist!”

Pretty girl sitting at the dentist's and having dentist appointmentA fear of the dentist is very real to those with dental fear and anxiety. Dentaphobia is also very common; some estimates put the amount of Americans with dental anxiety at approximately 30-40 million. A fear of the dentist can have some very unfortunate consequences; an unwillingness to go to the dentist can result in more dental issues and expense. Dental cleanings and exams can prevent tooth decay and problems that can progress into serious (and painful conditions). The good news is that there is hope for those dealing with dental fear and anxiety; use these tips to schedule and keep those dental appointments.

Choose a good dentist.

A good experience in the dentist office starts and ends with the staff and dentist. Select a dentist with the expertise and demeanor that puts every patient at ease. When sifting through customer reviews, look for dentists with reviews that refer to a dental fear and a good experience. If the dental fear is related to calling the dentist, add making online appointments to the criteria list for a good dentist.

Know the source of your anxiety.

There are numerous reasons behind a dental fear: a difficult past experience, fear of the cost, anxiety about the tools or the possibility of pain. Every patient has a different reason behind their fear. Identify the source of the dental fear and anxiety; this vital first step can help with forming a plan to help deal with any fears or anxieties. Don’t be afraid to be honest with the dentist and dental staff about the anxiety. Many dentist offices can take steps to assist patients with a dental fear. If sitting in a waiting room is a trigger for anxiety, arrive at the time of the appointment and notify the dental office of the fact and reason behind it.

Have a coping strategy.

Don’t wait to deal with dental fear; this can lead to putting off vital dentist appointments and care. Instead, take steps before and on the day of the appointment so the experience is positive and leaves a lasting good impression that carries over to the next experience.

Utilize relaxation techniques.

Relaxation is the key to a pleasant experience; learn relaxation techniques before the day of the appointment. Don’t hesitate to use deep breathing or use another relaxation technique at and before the appointment. Think positive thoughts and reminders before and in the dentist office. If the fear is related to anxiety about pain, discuss options for pain treatment and sedation with the dental staff before and at the appointment.

Distract, distract, distract.

Distractions are a powerful tool when dealing with a dental fear and anxiety. Bring along music and earphones, a book on tape, or a stress ball that can take the mind off the procedure. A friend or family member in the office can also be helpful with reminders to be calm.

Get a quote.

One of the most common dental fears revolves around the cost of the appointment. This fear can also be appeased with advanced preparation. If dental insurance is available, call the insurance company to verify that the dentist is within network (if applicable) and that the procedure is covered. In either case, contact the dentist before the appointment to get a quote that can be used for approval by insurance or for the purpose of putting funds away for payment. A dental savings plan can assist with the savings process. Look for a savings plan with minimal waiting periods and priori authorizations. Be cautious about plans with a yearly maximum allowance or a large amount of paperwork.

Contact a counselor.

Don’t let a dental fear delay vital oral health treatment. If needed, search for an expert that can assist with developing a strategy for coping with a dental fear and anxiety.

10 Tooth-Healthy School Lunch ‘Musts’

Four schoolkids looking at camera while having lunch during breakThe first day of school is fast approaching, and so is the daily question that every parent faces: what do I pack for lunch today? What can I pack that’s healthy and filling? Most mornings, you need to make the decision quickly (and sometimes in the middle of a chaotic mad house!). We’ve put together a list of school lunch options that can help make the process easier—and the decision less painless—so your kids can get through the school day (and year) healthier and full.

Cheese

Cheese is an excellent source of calcium which can strengthen tooth enamel and bones. Look for a low-skim cheese that your kids can enjoy and benefits their health. This dairy product is also typically a kid favorite, making it a win-win for everyone.

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is full of protein (and also a great option for picky eaters!). It is also very filling and a great way to get your kids to eat fruits and vegetables; many kids won’t eat apples or celery on their own, but dig in when they are dipped in peanut butter. Shop for a natural peanut for a low-sugar option that is healthier for their teeth.

Water

Most kids can’t (or won’t) take a toothbrush to school. Water is a great alternative because it can wash away the sugar and bacteria that can cause tooth decay. Avoid waters that are sweetened with sugar; sugar from these drinks can cause cavities (though many sweetened waters are healthier than soda).

Carrots

Carrots are crunchy and packed with vitamins, making them another weapon in the fight against tooth decay. Crunchy foods can stimulate the production of saliva that washes away the sugar and bacteria that combine and decay teeth.

Apples

These kid-favorite fruits are sweet and high in fiber and other vitamins and nutrients (plus they are crunchy which activates saliva!). Be cautious about packing squeezable apple sauces too often; these products can flood teeth with sugar. For the same reason, avoid fruit snacks and leathers which can stick to teeth and hasten tooth decay.

Milk

Dairy milk is rich in calcium, which is an important mineral for strengthening tooth enamel and washing away bacteria that can cause tooth decay. For best results, pack white milk instead of chocolate or flavored milk which tends to contain more sugars.

Whole-wheat bread (or wrap)

The sugars in carbohydrates can play a significant role in the perfect storm that causes tooth decay. For that reason, keep the amount of carbohydrates (i.e. pretzels, crackers, etc.) to a minimum. However, breads and wraps are a popular main course for students; choose a whole-wheat bread or wrap which is a healthier option than white breads and wraps.

Yogurt

As another calcium-rich food, yogurt can play a key role in strengthening tooth enamel and bones. Yogurt also comes in many different kid-favorite flavors; some yogurts also contain fruit which is a vital part of a healthy diet. When grocery shopping, seek out low-sugar yogurts that are better for teeth health.

Celery

Celery is the vegetable-equivalent of a dental scraper because it is so crunchy. To make it more appealing, add (low sugar) peanut butter and a few raisins for a yummy treat (commonly called ants on a log).

Boiled Eggs

Protein is another major player in strengthening tooth enamel. This nutrient also develops and repairs tissue, an important part of a growing child’s development. When boiling eggs, make sure the eggs are completely cooked and refrigerated properly. Then, sit back and watch your kids grow health and strong—with annual doctor check-ups and regular dental cleanings and exams, that is.