Tooth-Colored Fillings vs. Silver Fillings: Which Should I Choose? Ask an Apex Dentist

, by

So you have a tooth that has a cavity and needs a filling. Now what?

Most people know that the two most common options are tooth colored fillings (called composite fillings) and silver fillings (called amalgam fillings).  And most people would agree that the composite fillings are much more aesthetically pleasing than the amalgam fillings.  Some patients prefer not to have amalgam fillings because they contain mercery.  However, it is important to note that ongoing scientific studies conducted over the past 100 years continue to show that amalgam fillings are not harmful.  Sometimes the aesthetic outcome is reason enough to choose a tooth colored filling, especially when the tooth is one that is visible when the patient smiles.

But there are other important reasons that most Apex Dentists these days are choosing to use tooth colored composite fillings rather than amalgam.  And these reasons have to do with the major difference in the way they are placed in the mouth.

Composite fillings are resin-based and are chemically bonded to the tooth.  Amalgams are not.  They are held in place due to a physical retention.  This means that after the dentist removes the decay, he also has to remove additional healthy tooth structure in order to create the proper undercuts and retention grooves to hold the amalgam in place.  This process leaves less remaining tooth structure.

The good thing is that amalgams usually lasts for a really long time.  The bad news is that when they do wear out, they tend to cause larger problems because there is less tooth structure remaining to work with. That is why it is common for a very large amalgam to be replaced with a crown.

If a tooth has a composite filling, the dentist is able to be very conservative in how much tooth structure

he/she removes other than the decay.  This could mean that years later when the composite filling eventually wears out, hopefully another larger composite filling can be placed, rather than a crown.

Another common issue is that teeth with old amalgams tend to develop more cracks.  Because the amalgam filling is not bonded to the tooth, the enamel surrounding the filling is unsupported.  Over time, that unsupported tooth structure microscopically flexes when stress is placed on the tooth.  Years of this flexing can cause cracks to form. These cracks can lead to more extensive (and expensive) treatment, such as a crown,  a root canal, or even loss of the tooth depending on the severity of the fracture.

Whether you have composite or amalgam fillings it is important to maintain your regular cleaning and check-up appointments with your Apex dentist. He/she can keep you informed about the condition of your fillings. That way when one does wear out (and they will, because unfortunately no dental work lasts forever), you can be pro-active, which typically leads to a less expensive and more conservative outcome.

What’s the Difference Between Plaque and Tartar? Ask a Dentist in Apex

, by

WE OFTEN GET THIS QUESTION from our patients, “What’s the difference between plaque and tartar?” Many patients think they are the same thing. However, there is an important difference between the two.  Understanding how they are different can help explain why a daily oral hygiene routine is so crucial, as well as twice-yearly visits to your dentist.

plaque
What Is Plaque?

Dental plaque is the soft, sticky film that builds up on your teeth and under your gums. It starts forming soon after you finish brushing. In other words, plaque is constantly accumulating on your teeth. And guess what? It contains millions of bacteria! When you eat—especially carbohydrates or sugar—you’re not the only one getting a meal…so are the bacteria on your teeth. After these bacteria dine on sugar, they produce acids that erode your tooth enamel and cause cavities.

That’s why good daily oral hygiene is essential to preventing tooth decay and protecting your smile from the bacteria in plaque. To prevent plaque buildup, remember to brush at least twice a day and floss once a day. Drinking water and chewing sugar-free gum after meals and snacks can also help!

What Is Tartar?

So if that’s plaque, what’s tartar? Tartar is what accumulates on your teeth when plaque is not removed. If plaque is left on your teeth for too long, it will harden into tartar and is much more difficult to remove. In fact, tartar can only be removed by a dental professional–you can’t get rid of it with regular brushing and flossing. Tartar removal is one of the reasons that visiting your dentist every six months is so important!

Plaque buildup that hardens into tartar can cause more than just cavities. It can cause tooth discoloration and sensitivity as well as gum recession and periodontal disease. To reduce plaque buildup and tartar from forming, make sure you are brushing and flossing daily.

Come And See Us Every Six Months

No matter how great your oral hygiene is, plaque and tartar formation are inevitable. So come in to see us every six months! Our job is to help you maintain a beautiful, healthy smile that’s plaque- and tarter-free!

Tips for a Healthy Back to School Smile from a Family Dentist in Apex

, by

It’s that time of year!  Back to school!!!  The time of year that Moms and Dads are found scratching their heads at Target trying to figure out whether the 3 prong, plastic, 2 pocket folders comes in 5 different colors so they can check it off the school supply list (There is always one item that makes buying the whole list in one trip impossible).  We have been there!

Along with school supply shopping, it is also time to start thinking about what to pack in your child’s lunch.  Among the seemingly endless options there are prepackaged lunches and individual serving sizes of chips and cookies. These foods are usually high in sugar, sodium, and fat and, while easy to grab at the last minute before you miss the bus, do not make the best choices for school lunches.  Sticky foods, such as fruit roll ups and fruit snacks, get stuck in the grooves of your child’s teeth and will likely stay there until they brush later that evening…giving bacteria an abundant supply of sugar.

The good news is that there are other choices that are convenient and far healthier for your child’s teeth and body.

Here are a few ideas the are both convenient and healthy (and please feel free to share your ideas in the comment section below…we believe in the “it takes a village” philosophy).

Cheese- Cheese is actually one of the best foods for your teeth because it neutralizes acids caused by bacteria and contains calcium, which can help the teeth remineralize. Cheese sticks are convenient because they offer single portion servings.

Hard boiled eggs-another healthy and convenient option that provides protein which is helpful for tissue development.

Nuts-especially raw nuts, the rough texture can help clean acid off the teeth and the provide protein.

Vegetable cups- vegetables are much lower in sugar than fruits and also tend to provide more fiber.  Carrots and cucumbers are popular, but try sugar snap peas or sweet bell peppers to keep kids from getting bored as this often makes them crave quick and often unhealthy alternatives.

Water-Opt out of sending juice boxes and sport drinks to school and just send water, which neutralizes the acids in the mouth and cleanses your teeth.

Another important part of helping keep your child’s smile healthy is by keeping them up to date with their dental exams, cleanings, and fluoride treatments. In 2015, the CDC reported that almost 20% of school age children have untreated dental decay.  Taking your child to visit their Apex Dentist helps keep their teeth healthy and helps them have positive dental experiences from a young age.

If your child is old enough to play sports requiring mouthguards, ask your Apex Dentist if they can provide you with a custom mouthguard.  It is important for your child to protect their teeth by wearing a mouthguard. One thing we know is that a better fitting mouthguard is one your child is more likely to actually wear.

Good luck to all our beautiful kids on their first day back at school, whether its the first day of kindergarten or their senior year of high school.  They grow up so fast, so remember to cherish every moment and every (healthy) smile!

Everything You Need to Know About Dental Sealants from a Family Dentist in Apex

, by

What is a sealant?  

A sealant is a tooth-colored resin material that is placed on chewing surfaces of teeth to help them stay cavity-free.

crack

Why do teeth need sealants?

Molar and premolar teeth often have very deep pits and fissures.  While bacteria can easily enters these groves, toothbrush bristles are often too large and therefore ineffective.  As a result, these areas become the perfect breeding ground for bacteria to multiply which can lead to dental decay. A sealant does just what its name suggests…it seals off the grooves so that bacteria can’t enter.  After a sealant is placed these areas can no longer harbor bacteria and your tooth brushing once again becomes effective.

tooth-groove

What teeth need sealants? 

Any teeth that have deep groves or pits can benefit from sealants.  These are most often found on molar and premolar (teeth right in front of the molars) permanent teeth, but varies from one individual to another.  One person might benefit from sealants on all molars and premolars (16 teeth), while another may only need their molars (8 teeth) sealed.

Once a tooth has a dental filling in it, it no longer benefits from a sealant.

People often think that only children benefit from sealants.  That is because sealants are typically placed on a child’s molars when they first erupt.  The reality is that any teeth with deep pits and fissures (that do not already have fillings) can benefit from sealants because they  will help prevent future cavities.

How is a sealant applied?

No tooth structure is removed in order to place a sealant.  Instead it is kind of like painting your fingernails: resin material is only added, nothing is taken away.  The tooth is thoroughly cleaned with a pumice and etch.  The tooth is then washed thoroughly. Finally, the sealant material is applied and then cured with a light in order to harden it.

before-after-sealantHow long do sealants lasts?

Sealants typically last two to five years.  Although, it is not uncommon to see sealants in adults that were placed in childhood and are still intact.

Avoiding sticky, chewy, and hard foods can potentially prolong the life of a sealant.

If a sealant is no longer fully intact then it is no longer effective and should be replaced by your dentist.  If it has been less than two years since the sealant was placed, ask if your Apex family dentist offers a warranty for sealants.

Our Apex NC Dentist Explains the Importance of Annual Dental Checkups

, by

Top Rated Apex NC Dentist

Getting an annual dental checkup is as important as finding a top rated dentist in Apex NC. Herein lies the biggest misconception. Just because a person is looking for a top rated dentist in Apex NC, doesn’t mean that dentist will provide the best care. Finding the right dentist and dental care is not just about finding the best Apex NC family dentist. Finding the best dental care consists of knowing a few things first.

What Makes Our Apex Family Dentist Stand Out?

1) A good family dentist will offer annual dental exams. Having annual dental exams are important. It’s not enough to brush and floss twice day. That part is important, but not all important. The rest lies in the care that the family dentist provides. Dental exams can give all parties involved an overview of what is going on.

2) Another reason for having checkups is a person avoids having future problems with their teeth.. When a person goes in to have a checkup, the dentist can see if there are any issues. If there are, he or she will know how to tackle them the best.

3)If a person waits too long, it could prove detrimental to their mouth and pocket book. This is especially true with the really big treatments.

4) It shows the person knows how to take care of themselves. Those who take proper care of their teeth and gums, will always look attractive and appealing to others. The person will also feel more confident about who they are inside. A persons’ smile can tell a lot about who they are. By skipping this step, a person winds up not feeling to good about themselves.

5) Having regular checkups reduce the chance of gum disease. It’s not just about making sure the teeth are pretty and attractive. One must also look at their gum tissue. Are the gums starting to bleed a little bit? This could be a sign that the person is not taking proper care of their mouth. That is why having annual checkups are so important.

Our Dentist in Apex Shares FAQs Regarding Dental Sealants

, by

What are Dental Sealants?

Dental sealants are thin coatings that are made out of plastic. They are placed over the teeth in order to prevent them from decaying. They help keep the food particles and germs out of the grooves of the teeth. Sealants are considered preventative dentistry.

Are Sealants 100 Percent Effective?

Some studies have shown that sealants can be 100 percent effective. The tooth will be protected as long as the sealant remains in place.

Can you see Sealants?

Sealants are clear and white. That is why they can only be seen up close.

How Long do the Sealants Last?

The sealants can potentially last for several years. In some cases, sealants can last over 10 years.

Are Sealants Expensive?

Sealants are affordable. Because they can prevent tooth decay, they can also help you save money on dental care. Your general dentist will discuss the cost of sealants.

Will my Teeth Look Different?

One may feel the sealants on their teeth. However, because the sealants are thin, they do not cause discomfort.

Who Needs Sealants?

The best candidates for sealants are children because their permanent teeth have just come in. However, older patients may also benefit from getting sealants. If your general dentist believes that you are at a higher risk for getting tooth decay, then you may need to get sealants.

Will I Still Need Fluoride Treatments?

Fluoride treatments are still needed. It helps strengthen your enamel and provides additional protection from tooth decay.

Why do I Need Sealants?

Decay can cause permanent damage to your teeth. Sealants help you save time and money by protecting your teeth. It is also important to remember that a filling is not an easy fix for a cavity. A tooth gets weaker every time that it is drilled.

If you are interested in getting sealants, then you will need to contact our dentist office.

Our Apex Dentists Teach You How to Brush Your Teeth the Proper Way

, by

Our Apex dentists are eager to show you the proper tooth brushing tips in order to prevent gum disease. Most people report some confusion when it comes to tooth brushing tips. Some dentists will recommend one way, while other dentists say something else. There doesn’t seem to be one uniform recommendation for oral health. But as long as you following the tips of our Apex dentists, you will experience a healthier oral hygiene routine in no time.

Split Mouth into Four Groups

Draw an imaginary line down the middle of your two front teeth on the top and bottom of your mouth. You should now have four distinct sections of your mouth: the top left, the bottom left, the top right, and the bottom right. Brush each section thoroughly for 30 seconds. This is how you can be sure that you’re spending enough time with your brushing habits. Many people just don’t brush long enough.

Use Gentle, but Firm Strokes

Don’t grip your toothbrush with a tight fist. Use the same grip you would use for a pencil. All you need is short, gentle strokes to get rid of plaque and prevent gum disease. Applying too much pressure to the brush will irritate your teeth and gums. As long as you brush for two full minutes twice per day, you shouldn’t have to apply a lot of pressure when you brush.

45 Degree Angle

You want to hold the brush at a 45 degree angle when you use it. This is the most effective angle to remove plaque and keep it from building up in your mouth. Use short, horizontal strokes in a circular motion. This can be difficult on the sides and in the back of your mouth. But you should be able to fit the brush into those areas of your mouth enough to get the job done.

Twice Per Day

It can’t be stated enough that you must brush twice per day. It’s easy to get into the routine once you make an effort. You won’t even need to make an effort after a while since it will be automatic. You could set reminders on your phone each morning to tell you to brush your teeth. You need to brush twice per day so that the plaque doesn’t build up too much. Your breath will taste and smell better with regular brushing, and your oral health will improve.

Our Apex Dentist Explains 3 Common Sources for Jaw Pain

, by

Many people experience jaw problems that cause them pain or annoyance and sometimes they may only be temporary, but other times, they may last for weeks, months or even years.

When this happens, patients aren’t always aware of what’s causing their jaw pain, which may be a problem with their TMJ (temper mandibular joint). This joint holds the jaw to the rest of the skull, and when it causes pain and other troubling symptoms, it’s usually a sign of a TMJ disorder.

Naturally, you use your jaw for many aspects of normal day-to-day life, so a TMJ disorder can significantly interfere with it. In order to relieve jaw pain, it’s necessary to first understand the causes, and how a dentist in Apex, like Dr. Rylan Hansen, can help. Here are three common sources for jaw pain.

Malocclusion

A malocclusion is more simply known as an improper bite, and occurs when the teeth do not fit together correctly. This not only causes pain but also inefficient chewing, poor nutrient absorption and an increased risk of tooth breakage. Malocclusions can be caused by a number of factors such as genetics, wisdom teeth impaction, botched dental or orthodontic procedures, thumb-sucking and missing teeth that allow the surrounding ones to shift out of place. To address this issue, you should start by visiting your general dentist. They may place a crown or bridge to help correct small malocclusions. For more significant cases, tooth extraction, braces, or surgery in rare cases may be recommended. Because malocclusions can result from past botched procedures, your dentist may also be able to repair these if they’re the cause.

Tooth Grinding

Grinding your teeth, also known as bruxism, can cause them to become flattened on top. Bruxism most often occurs without the patient’s knowledge while they’re asleep. Otherwise unexplained jaw pain is the most reliable symptom especially if it occurs in the morning, but you may also experience frequent headaches. If you visit your general dentist, they can usually provide you with a special mouth guard to wear at night, thereby protecting your teeth against grinding.

Injury

Any time you sustain an injury to your head, neck or shoulders, there’s a potential for it to cause jaw pain. Injuries like these can damage the jaw joint, tear the muscle tissue, pop the jaw out of alignment or cause chronic inflammation of the area. As a result, patients can experience pain and cracking during eating or talking. Pain from these injuries can often be through one or more methods, including re-alignment, special dental devices, and in some cases, surgery.

Living with chronic jaw pain can make your life miserable. Furthermore, when we are unable to speak or eat without impediment, it complicates effective communication and your ability to keep yourself healthy. If you’ve been struggling to relieve jaw pain, contact our dentist in Apex today to find out what options you have.

Tips for Relieving Dry Mouth, from Our Apex Family Dentist

, by

Occasionally, a patient will visit our office expecting to have no dental cavities, and is very surprised to learn that they have one. Often, this patient is middle-aged or older, brushes and flosses every day, and has no prior history of tooth decay. When this happens, dentists immediately begin to suspect dry mouth caused by new medications or an undiagnosed condition. Dry mouth causes a decrease in saliva production, which is crucial for regulating oral bacteria and keeping the teeth healthy. Below is more information about the causes of dry mouth, and some treatments that can help.

Common Causes of Dry Mouth

Many medications can cause dry mouth as a side effect. Common dry-mouth inducing medications include muscle relaxants; pain medications; antidepressants; blood pressure and heart rhythm medications; Parkinson’s and Alzheimers disease medications; antihistamines; and decongestants. Recreational drug use, chemotherapy, nerve damage due to injury or surgery, and poor nutrition can also cause dry mouth. Note that this list is far from comprehensive; to learn whether a medication, behavior or condition may be causing your dry mouth, consult with your doctor or pharmacist.

Treatments for Dry Mouth

Regardless of the cause of your dry mouth, it’s important to do something about it, as lack of saliva can lead to cavities, gingivitis (gum disease), and halitosis (bad breath). Below are some tips on managing dry mouth from our Apex dentist.

Stay Hydrated

Hydration is important for many aspects of your health in general, but for those suffering from dry mouth, it is even more important. Strive to drink at least 8-12 eight ounce glasses of water a day, unless your doctor advises against it. Taking small sips throughout the day will benefit you more than consuming a large amount in one sitting, as it helps to “wash” your teeth all day long.

Chew Sugarless Gum

Chewing sugarless gum can help to stimulate saliva production, providing your salivary glands are still operational, and not permanently damaged by injury or chemotherapy. The best sugar substitute, from a dentist’s perspective, is xylitol, a plant-derived sweetener that actively kills harmful tooth bacteria. Sucking on sugar-free lollipops can also help boost saliva production.

Avoid Drugs, Alcohol & Citrus 

Alcohol, caffeine, and citric acid can all dry out the mouth and inhibit saliva production. If you use an alcoholic mouthwash, you might want to try switching to a saltwater rinse instead. On the subject of indulgences, tobacco and marijuana can also worsen dry mouth, so if you use these, try to decrease or eliminate your use. Note that the nicotine in electronic cigarettes also contributes to dry mouth.

Add Moisture to Your Environment

Moistening dry foods with broth, sauces, milk or melted butter can make it easier to chew and swallow; you could also simply try adding more non-citric fruit and vegetables to your diet. You can also use a humidifier to add moisture to the ambient air around you, especially while you sleep.

Suffering from Dry Mouth? Talk to an Apex Dentist Today  

As oral healthcare specialists, dentists are able to assess potential causes of dry mouth, and prescribe or recommend products that can treat it. Many moisturizing gels, lozenges, and mouthwashes designed specifically to treat dry mouth are available over the counter; if these prove to be ineffective, your dentist can prescribe medications that stimulate the saliva glands. To reach a dentist in Apex NC, please click here.

What Forensic Investigators Can Learn From Teeth! | Apex Dentist

, by

If you watch a lot of crime shows like CSI: Miami, you may already know that teeth are often the only body parts that can survive severe types of destruction, like burning. Because of this, forensic scientists often have only teeth to work with when it comes to identifying a victim of a crime or natural/manmade disaster. In today’s post, our Apex dentist explains some of the things forensics investigators (and anthropologists!) can determine by examining dental fragments.

Age at the Time of Death

Teeth can help indicate how old an unknown victim was when he or she died. This is especially easy to do when the victim is a child or adolescent, since baby teeth erupt on a generally universal schedule. The first baby teeth start to emerge during the first two years of life; the first two permanent incisors and the first permanent molar emerge between 6 and 8 years of age; and the majority of the remaining permanent teeth erupt between the ages of 10 and 12 years of age. Wisdom teeth tend to erupt around 18 years of age.

Using dentition to age adult victims is a bit more challenging. Once the wisdom teeth have erupted, age can only be estimated by only morphological changes within the teeth. These changes include tooth root translucency, which increases with age; dental wear on the teeth; and the ratio of amino acids in the teeth (D-aspartic acids convert to L-aspartic acids with age).

Racial Determination

There are very slight differences in the skull structure of different races, which can help assist forensic investigators in identifying victims. People of Asian or Native American descent often have incisors which are shovel-shaped, with ridges on the rear surface of the tooth. People of Caucasian descent tend to have pointier incisors, and smaller teeth overall, often with significant crowding and impacted third molars. Those of African descent rarely have crowding, and the upper teeth often project outwards due to the angled shape of the maxilla. However, these differences are becoming less prevalent, and therefore less useful in identification, as our species becomes less geographically isolated.

Lifestyle & Diet

Teeth hold many clues about an individual’s health issues, even issues that did not originate in the mouth. Tooth loss and erosion of the tooth enamel can be a sign of an eating disorder, or a chronic condition like osteoporosis. Heart disease, skin conditions, blood conditions, and kidney disease can all be identified by examining the teeth. The wear on teeth can also show evidence of what the individual ate and chewed, a detail that is more useful to historic and prehistoric anthropologists.

Individual Dental Characteristics

Forensic dentists can often match victims with specific dental characteristics, like cavity fillings, crown or implant restorations, and orthodontic treatments. If the teeth are damaged by fire, the enamel is often burned off, but post-mortem root canals can still provide clues.

Providing Understanding and Closure

In mass casualty disasters, such as floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, or plane crashes, forensic dentists are enlisted to view the most badly damaged or decomposed remains. Dentists are often be the only ones able to identify the dead, giving them back their names and allowing their families much-needed closure. That’s why, even though it’s unfortunate that these types of situations occur, we should be very grateful for this incredible specialization of dentistry.

Hansen Dentistry is a dentist office in Apex, NC, serving residents of Apex, Cary, and Morrisville. To schedule an appointment with our office, please click here.