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Archive for May 2017

overcoming dental anxiety

Enjoy Better Oral Health by Overcoming Your Dental Anxiety

Experiencing significant anxiety and nervousness concerning going to the dentist office prevents many people in the United States from seeking the preventative oral care that they need. This dental anxiety can result in more than just losing teeth or experiencing dental pain. If a person’s oral health reaches a certain state of decline, they can develop gum disease, a condition that infects not only the mouth but also other parts of the body.

A recent study conducted at King’s College London shows that dental anxiety has a substantial effect on a person’s social, emotional psychological and physiological states. Individuals with the condition tend to have missing teeth and active cavities. They will be hesitant to smile and display their teeth and will feel embarrassed about the condition of their mouth. They can also experience fatigue, sadness, and discouragement.

Most of these issues stem from the fact that people with dental anxiety will actively avoid receiving regularly scheduled dental services. If they do manage to visit the dentist, their dental anxiety may compel them to opt for short-term dental solutions instead of long-term dental care that may be more effective in addressing their particular oral health problems.

Why Do People Have Dental Anxiety?

Understanding why you have dental anxiety is the first step in overcoming the debilitating condition. Experiencing dental anxiety can be the result of:

  • Having a previous unpleasant experience as a dental patient
  • Suffering from a condition that can be easily aggravated by a dentist visit, such as substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorders or other anxiety or mood disorders
  • Extreme discomfort of not being in full control during a dental visit

How to Overcome Dental Anxiety

There are some actions you can take to become more comfortable with receiving the dental care you need:

  • Bring someone with you when you go to the dentist. It should be someone you trust, such as a close relative or friend, who will be willing to sit with you while you receive treatment.
  • Occupy yourself with a distraction while you are in the dentist’s chair. You can listen to your favorite music with your headphones or focus on a distraction in the room, such as a television.
  • Consider sedation dentistry. If you are a qualified candidate, your dentist may administer the appropriate type of sedative that will keep you relaxed during your treatment. This can include nitrous oxide, oral sedatives, intravenous sedations or a local anesthetic.
  • Learn some effective relaxation techniques that will lower your heart rate and make your muscles relax. Meditation may be an effective tool. You may also want to try to engage in controlled breathing by taking a very deep breath, holding it for a short count and the letting it out very slowly. Another way to relax is by participating in progressive muscle relaxation, which entails tensing and then relaxing different groups of muscles.

Don’t let your dental anxiety be the reason that you do not receive the dental services you need to have optimal oral health. Speak with a dentist about what he or she can do to make your visit more comfortable.

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deep gum cleaning

Deep Gum Cleaning: When Do You Need It?

Regular brushing and flossing are essential to having good oral health, as are regular visits to the dentist. The professional cleanings you undergo during these visits can help stave off plaque, cavities, and many other dental issues. However, if you have not visited the dentist as often as you should, you may be due to have a deep gum cleaning.

What is Deep Gum Cleaning?

Deep gum cleaning is not the same as a regular cleaning. It is a dental procedure that is used to treat gum and periodontal diseases, and a dental hygienist typically conducts that. It is used to remove the bacteria that can settle below the gums and can cause the bone loss that contributes to the loosening of teeth and worsening existing medical conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes.

The bacteria that are caught under the gumline cannot be removed with flossing, brushing or a regular cleaning. If it is left untreated, it can cause an immune response in the body, which can result in inflammation. The inflammation can progress deeper under the gumline and result in the loss bone, which can compromise your oral health.

The Deep Gum Cleaning Process

Deep gum cleaning, also referred to as scaling and root planning, involves using specialized dental tools to clean your mouth. During the scaling portion of the process, the bacteria, tartar, and plaque are removed from the surface of the teeth and from inside the pocket areas between the gums and teeth. Root planing involves removing any part of the tooth structure that is infected and smoothing the root surfaces.

The process typically requires at least two visits to the dentist to complete as well as a follow-up appointment to ensure that the state of your teeth and gums has improved and to determine whether the gum pockets around your teeth have deepened. Once you have undergone a deep gum cleaning and the bacteria that were hidden and multiplied in the pockets areas around the teeth have been removed, you should begin to see a noticeable improvement in the health of your gums within the next few weeks. This is as long as you adhere to a daily oral health routine that includes proper brushing and flossing.

When Do You Need Deep Gum Cleaning

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, adults should undergo a periodontal assessment every year to see if they require a deep gum cleaning. Individuals who haven’t had a professional cleaning at regular dental visits, usually every six months, will typically have to undergo this procedure. The dental hygienist will use a dental probe to measure the areas around your teeth to identify any pocketing. Normal pockets are no more than three millimeters deep. If the depth of the gum tissues between the gums and teeth is at least five millimeters, your dentist will likely recommend the procedure.

If you are overdue for a dental visit, you may be a good candidate for a deep gum cleaning. Don’t hesitate to speak with your dentist about having a comprehensive evaluation to determine the state of your oral health.

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what is a dental emergency

When a Problem Becomes a Dental Emergency

Even with regular dental cleanings, it’s normal to experience occasional problems with your teeth or gums. Problems such as increased sensitivity or soreness due to grinding are not emergencies; these issues can be addressed and treated during regular business hours. However, some problems may appear harmless at first and then escalate into real dental emergencies. If you experience any of the following problems, take caution as they can grow into dental emergencies.

Your tooth is loose

While it’s perfectly acceptable and even celebrated for a young child to discover a loose tooth, an adult tooth should never wiggle. Even if you do not experience any pain, a loose adult tooth can be a serious indication of an infection or injury. If the loose tooth is present with bleeding gums, advanced gum disease may be the culprit. In either the case of the infection or gum disease, it is important to see your dentist immediately as untreated gum disease can negatively affect heart health.

Your jaw is swollen

Swelling of the body can happen for many reasons. From eating too much salt or sitting for prolonged periods of time, swelling is normal and not necessarily an emergency. During cold and flu season, your lymph nodes may swell a bit as your body fights off the germs. However, if you ever experience a swollen jaw and intense pain, you’re no longer just dealing with a problem; it’s now a dental emergency. This may be the sign of a growing infection that needs medical attention.

Your toothache is suddenly numb

Between commuting, working, and traveling, it’s not always convenient to get to the dentist’s office. Many people try to “wait out” small problems or treat them at home with alternative methods. However, if your seemingly harmless toothache has suddenly turned numb, you need to head to the dentist ASAP. If an abscess grows too close to a nerve, it is possible that the area loses all sensation. While you may feel better because the pain is gone, the problem has grown bigger.

Your wound isn’t healing

Who hasn’t poked the roof of their mouth with a fork or a pointy tortilla chip? While it may hurt, the mouth does heal rather quickly. However, if your oral wound doesn’t heal, it can quickly escalate from a mere annoyance to an emergency if an infection sets in. If you develop a fever or the wound becomes discolored, seek dental treatment immediately.

You have an abscess

If you see a small dot on your gums, note that it may be the start of an abscess, an infection around the root or on the gum. As the abscess grows, you’re likely to experience more pain and swelling. See your dentist immediately as abscesses are serious infections that can quickly spread to other parts of the body. While waiting to see the dentist, rinse with a salt water rinse to minimize any pain.

If you suspect that a dental problem is quickly turning into an emergency, call our office at 202-296-7714.

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closeup on perfect teeth

How to Reverse Gingivitis, Fast

Gingivitis is the first form of gum disease, and it’s true that it’s not quite as serious as periodontitis. However, gum disease is a progressive condition, so you absolutely should treat gingivitis as seriously as any other dental health problem. When you first notice early signs like a little blood when you brush your teeth and redness around the teeth, act immediately to reverse the problem while it’s still gingivitis.

Act Without Delay

Talk to your dentist as soon as you notice the first signs of gingivitis. By ignoring it, you’re allowing bacteria to become colonized in the space between your gums and your teeth. These bacteria are very destructive and will make large pockets around your teeth, down to the roots, as they spread and multiply. Loosening the gum tissue away from the tooth damages the root and eventually kills the tooth. Acting quickly stops this cycle before any damage is done to the gums or teeth.

Commit to a Daily Routine

No matter what your dentist wants to do in the office to clean under the gums and kill the bacteria, it’s all for nothing if you don’t keep up your end of the daily oral hygiene routine. Gingivitis comes from tartar forming at the edges of the teeth and hardening into plaque, which acts as a bridge to the space below the gum line. Brushing twice a daily and flossing once a day is essential for both preventing and reversing gingivitis. No amount of treatment from your dentist can compare to the power of improving your daily routine. Aside from what you’re doing daily, make a promise to yourself to visit for dental cleanings every six months no matter how much you’d rather skip the chore. Cleanings remove any tartar that is turning to plaque and gives the dentist a chance to catch early warning signs of hundreds of serious health problems, dental and otherwise.

Get Help from the Dentist

Follow the recommendations of the dentist even if they’re unpleasant. For example, a deep cleaning under the gum line causes a little residual soreness, but it also removes bacteria colonies and plaque in a way no amount of brushing and using medicated mouthwashes can accomplish. There are a handful of well-tested and proven techniques for managing gum disease, so it doesn’t progress and threaten the teeth, so take all treatments seriously and don’t skip them due to anxiety. Talk to your dentist about sedation options instead.

Change Your Diet

Finally, avoiding candy, sticky foods, and other sources of dental tartar can make a big difference in how fast you recover from gum disease. Reducing the amount of sugar in your mouth helps starve out the bacteria trying to colonize your gums. If you must enjoy your sweetened coffee or have a slice of cake after dinner, either brush or rinse your mouth out immediately to remove both lingering food particles and sugars. Don’t brush more than three times a day to avoid damage to the teeth and irritation of the gums which slows down your gingivitis recovery.

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