My Blog

Posts for: May, 2012

By Dr. Patrick H. Collins
May 24, 2012
Category: Oral Health
DoYouReallyKnowHowtoBrushYourTeeth

Gum disease (gingivitis) and tooth decay are primarily caused by dental plaque. Dental plaque is a whitish, sticky film that accumulates daily along the gumline and on the surfaces of your teeth. Composed of bacteria, it is controllable through good oral hygiene habits — most importantly, effective brushing.

Controlling plaque and preventing gingivitis and tooth decay will make it more likely that you keep your teeth through your lifetime and will also improve your general health. Scientific studies have linked gum disease and diseases of the heart and circulatory system.

“I know how to brush my teeth. I've been doing it since I was a toddler,” you may be saying. But you may not be performing this daily ritual in the most effective way.

Let's take another look at tooth brushing. First, your grip: Hold the brush in your fingertips with a light pressure. Position the brush so the bristles are at a 45 degree angle to your gumline, and then brush with a gentle scrubbing motion. Don’t scrub too hard, or you may damage your sensitive gum tissue.

Some electric brushes can remove plaque more quickly than a regular hand-held brush, but if you brush well any kind of brush works. A brush will last several months. Get a new one when the bristles become worn or splayed out.

Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride. When used consistently, fluoride toothpastes make your teeth more resistant to decay. Spit out the toothpaste after brushing, but don't rinse or you will wash the fluoride away.

After brushing, complete your cleaning job by using floss to clean between your teeth where the brush does not reach. Wrap it in a “C” shape around each tooth and move it vertically up and down, removing plaque from the tooth surfaces where your teeth meet. You can also use an antibacterial mouth rinse.

Thoroughly clean your teeth at least once a day, brushing and flossing. A plaque film takes 12 to 24 hours to form itself again.

To be certain you are brushing correctly, ask our office or one of our hygienists to demonstrate brushing techniques for you in your own mouth. You can also assess the quality of your brushing technique by checking with your tongue after brushing to make sure your tooth surfaces feel smooth and slick. Your gums should not bleed after brushing. Bleeding is a sign of infection. If you have a habit of consistent brushing but your gums continue to bleed, it's time for a visit to our office.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about oral hygiene. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Hygiene Behavior.”


By Dr. Patrick H. Collins
May 16, 2012
Category: Dental Procedures
6FAQsAboutOrthodontics

Maybe you had braces as a child, or you are thinking of having your own (it's never too late) or your child's teeth straightened through orthodontia. But how much do you really know about this branch of dentistry? Here are six questions people often ask about orthodontia.

Q. How did the word “orthodontia” originate?
A. From Latin roots meaning “straight” and “teeth”

Q. Teeth are anchored in bone. How is it possible to move them?
A. Living bone is not unchanging. The bone, ligament, and the outer layer of a tooth's root (called cementum) react to the stresses of biting and chewing. Due to this stimulation the bone is constantly being resorbed (broken down) and rebuilt as it is pushed from one side of a tooth and pulled from the other. Under normal conditions, there is a balance resulting in a steady state. Orthodontia takes advantage of this process to slowly change the teeth's position in the desired way.

Q. My dentist talks about the periodontal ligament. What does this mean?
A. The ligament is a fibrous tissue that connects the teeth to their bone and takes part in the dynamic process of resorption and rebuilding of the bone.

Q. What kinds of conditions can orthodontia correct?
A. Treatment can improve the teeth's position and relations to each other (being too crowded or badly spaced) and the way the upper and lower jaws relate. It can enhance the appearance of a person's teeth and face, and can also improve the teeth's function in biting and chewing.

Q. What is the best first step to orthodontic treatment?
A. Talk to your general dentist about your concerns. If you are referred to an orthodontist, the next step is to assess your situation using molds of your teeth that show the way the upper and lower teeth meet (your bite). Special x-rays will be taken to show the locations of your teeth and relation of your upper and lower jaw. Your dental team may also use photographs of your smile and computer imaging to get a clear view of how your teeth are now and how they may be moved.

Q. What are some of the methods of treatment?
A. In the traditional method, small metal brackets are attached to the crowns of the teeth. Thin wires, called arch wires, are strung through attachments on the brackets. These wires are used to apply controlled force to direct the teeth in the desired direction. Another method is to use removable clear plastic aligners. A series of aligners is designed by a computer, to be changed from one to the next as the positions of the teeth slowly change.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about braces and orthodontia. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Moving Teeth with Orthodontics” and “The Magic of Orthodontics.”


By Dr. Patrick H. Collins
May 08, 2012
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay  
HelpYourChildPreventToothDecay

Did you know that the bacteria that cause tooth decay are usually transmitted to children from their parents, through sharing the same spoon or kissing? Once inside the child's mouth, the bacteria live on the teeth in what is called a biofilm. When the child consumes sugary foods or drinks, the bacteria act upon the sugar to produce acids that eat away at the child's teeth, producing tooth decay.

These bacteria thrive on carbohydrates such as bread, sweets, and sodas. Even fruit juices, which offer more vitamins than soda, are filled with sugars that lead to decay. The child's saliva works hard to neutralize the acidity produced from these foods, but if the child often snacks between meals this neutralization process doesn’t have a chance to occur.

The first sign of decay may be white spots on the teeth, an indication that minerals in the surface enamel have been dissolved in certain locations. Before it goes any farther, this process can be reversed by reducing the exposure to acids and using fluorides to strengthen the tooth surface.

Make sure your child sees a dentist by his first birthday, to provide preventive care and treat any beginning decay.

You can also help your child develop the habit of brushing his teeth with fluoridated toothpaste. It is important to use only a smear of toothpaste on the brush for very young children, and a pea-sized amount on the brush for children over the age of 2. Sometimes small children swallow their toothpaste, and excessive amounts of fluoride can cause staining on the teeth. When your children are very young, you must brush their teeth. As they get older, they can do it themselves, with your supervision. We can also apply fluoride varnish to strengthen the tooth surface and make it resistant to acids.

Brushing twice a day is a good start. But it can't prevent tooth decay when a child is eating carbohydrates all day. One way to reduce the use of sugar is to use xylitol, a naturally occurring sweetener that looks and tastes like table sugar and improves oral health. Studies have shown that use of this sweetener reduces tooth decay in children.

Another good idea is to wean children from bottles and training cups as early as possible. Sometimes children are given bottles filled with milk or sugary beverages at bedtime to help them relax. A better idea for their teeth is to teach them to drink from a regular cup filled with milk — or preferably, with water.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about tooth decay in children. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Managing Tooth Decay In Children With Chronic Diseases.” While this article focuses on children with health challenges, it contains excellent advice to help all children prevent tooth decay.