What Are The Stages Of Gum Disease?

Tacoma Gum Disease

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease is an inflammation of the gums that can progress to affect the bone that surrounds and supports your teeth. It is caused by the bacteria in plaque, a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth. If not removed through daily brushing and flossing, plaque can build up and the bacteria infect not only your gums and teeth, but eventually the gum tissue and bone that support the teeth. This can cause them to become loose, fall out or have to be removed by a dentist.

There are three stages of gum disease:

  • Gingivitis: this is the earliest stage of gum disease, an inflammation of the gums caused by plaque buildup at the gumline. If daily brushing and flossing do not remove the plaque, it produces toxins (poisons) that can irritate the gum tissue, causing gingivitis. You may notice some bleeding during brushing and flossing. At this early stage in gum disease, damage can be improved, since the bone and connective tissue that hold the teeth in place are not yet affected.
  • Periodontitis: at this stage, the supporting bone and fibers that hold your teeth in place are irreversibly damaged. Your gums may begin to form a pocket below the gumline, which traps food and plaque. Proper dental treatment and improved home care can usually help prevent further damage.
  • Advanced Periodontitis: in this final stage of gum disease, the fibers and bone supporting your teeth are destroyed, which can cause your teeth to shift or loosen. This can affect your bite and, if aggressive treatment can't save them, teeth may need to be removed.





How do I Know if I Have Gum Disease?

Gum disease can occur at any age, but it is most common among adults. If detected in its early stages, gum disease can be improved so see your dentist if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Gums that are red, puffy or swollen, or tender
  • Gums that bleed during brushing or flossing
  • Teeth that look longer because your gums have receded
  • Gums that have separated, or pulled away, from your teeth, creating a pocket
  • Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • Pus coming from between your teeth and gums
  • Constant bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth

How is Gum Disease Treated?

  • The early stages of gum disease can often improve with proper brushing and flossing. Good oral health will help keep plaque from building up.
  • A professional cleaning by your dentist or hygienist is the only way to remove plaque that has built up and hardened into tartar. Your dentist or hygienist will clean or "scale" your teeth to remove the tartar above and below the gumline. If your condition is more severe, a root planing procedure may be performed. Root planing helps to smooth irregularities on the roots of the teeth making it more difficult for plaque to deposit there.
By scheduling regular checkups, early stage gum disease can be treated before it leads to a much more serious condition. If your condition is more advanced, treatment in Tacoma dentist office will be required.

What Are Cavities?

What Are Cavities?

What are Cavities?

"Cavities" is another way of saying tooth decay. Tooth decay is heavily influenced by lifestyle, what we eat, how well we take care of our teeth, the presence of fluoride in our water and toothpaste. Heredity also plays a role in how susceptible your teeth may be to decay.

While cavities are generally more common among children, adults are also at risk. The types of cavities include:

  • Coronal cavities — the most common type occurring in both children and adults, coronal cavities usually are located on chewing surfaces or between the teeth
  • Root cavities — as we age, our gums recede, leaving parts of the tooth root exposed. Since there is no enamel covering tooth roots, these exposed areas easily decay
  • Recurrent decay — decay can form around existing fillings and crowns. This is because these areas may have a tendency to accumulate plaque, which can ultimately lead to decay


Adults are especially at risk for cavities if they suffer from dry mouth, a condition due to a lack of saliva. Dry mouth may be caused by illness, medications, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, and may be either temporary (days to months) or permanent, depending on its cause.

Cavities are very serious. Left untreated, a cavity can destroy your tooth and kill the delicate nerves at its center, which may result in an abscess, an area of infection at the root tip. Once an abscess forms, it can only be treated with a root canal, surgery or by extracting the tooth.


How Do I Know if I Have a Cavity?

Only your dentist can tell for sure whether you have a cavity. That's because cavities develop below the tooth's surface, where you can't see them. When you eat foods that contain carbohydrates (sugars and starches), these carbohydrates are eaten by the bacteria in plaque, producing acids that eat into the tooth. Over time, the tooth enamel begins to break down beneath the surface while the surface remains intact. When enough of the sub-surface enamel is eaten away, the surface collapses, forming a cavity.

Cavities are most likely to develop in pits on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, in between teeth, and near the gumline. But regardless of where they occur, the best way to spot them and treat them before they become serious is by visiting your dentist regularly for checkups.


How Can I Help Prevent Cavities?

  • Brush at least twice a day and floss daily to remove plaque from between teeth and below the gumline
  • Have regular dental checkups. Preventive care can help stop problems from occurring and keep minor problems from becoming major ones
  • Eat a well-balanced diet that limits starchy or sugary foods. When you do eat these foods, try to eat them with your meal instead of as a snack to minimize the number of times that your teeth are exposed to acid
  • Use dental products that contain fluoride, including toothpaste
  • Make sure that your children's drinking water is fluoridated. If your water supply does not contain fluoride, your dentist or pediatrician may prescribe daily fluoride supplements


Please contact Light Dental Studios of Tacoma Mall Boulevard if you have any questions regarding dental cavities.

Caring For Your Dental Implants

Dental Implants

Dental implants have been used successfully for many years. Your implant should last for a very long time if you take the following points to heart.


Smoking

This is one of the greatest risks for implant-related complications. You should therefore try to quit smoking.


Oral Hygiene

Thoroughly cleaning and caring for the implant during all steps of the treatment is extremely important. Careful attention to your oral hygiene every day is important for the survival of your implant.




Maintenance

Visiting your dental practice for regular checkups (recalls) is just as important. You and your dental team have to decide how often these visits should take place, but they are usually at intervals of 3 to 6 months. At these visits, your implants, teeth, and gums are checked and professionally cleaned, including the areas you cannot reach at home. Professional cleaning of implants is more complex than cleaning teeth, which means that it takes longer and may require special instruments.

Mucositis and peri-implantitis can develop without any obvious symptoms. This is another reason why regular checkups with your dentist are so important. Mucositis and peri-implantitis do not usually cause pain, so patients often fail to notice the development of these diseases.

Should you have your wisdom teeth removed?

Wisdom Teeth Extractions

Jennifer Flach was a college junior when her wisdom teeth started making themselves known.

"My other teeth started moving around," she remembers. "The wisdom teeth were pushing out and undoing some of the orthodontic work I had done in high school."

At the same time, her brother — who's two years younger and was also in college — had no symptoms. But the family dentist suggested his wisdom teeth should come out too.

Jen and her brother had back-to-back wisdom tooth extractions and recovered together at home during spring break. "It was quite a week at my parents' house," she says.

Patrick Grother was 26 when his dentist mentioned that his wisdom teeth might need to be removed. His bottom left wisdom tooth had partially erupted into his mouth and a flap of gum still covered it. "The dentist said food would get trapped there and it could get infected," he says. Patrick then visited a periodontist, who said that the gum flap could be cut away but it would grow back.

"I put it off for awhile," Patrick said, but he eventually had the wisdom teeth on the left side of his mouth extracted.



A few people are born without wisdom teeth or have room in their mouths for them, but like Jen and her brother, many of us get our wisdom teeth taken out during our college years. And like Patrick, many of us are first alerted to the problem when our wisdom teeth don't emerge (erupt) into the mouth properly because there is not enough toom for them to fit.

"A part of the tooth may remain covered by a flap of gum, where food particles and bacteria can get trapped, causing a mild irritation, a low-grade infection called pericoronitis and swelling," says Dr. Donald Sadowsky, professor emeritus of clinical dentistry College of Dental Medicine and the Mailman School of Public Health. This usually happens with the lower wisdom teeth. Pericoronitis and the pain it causes is the most common reason people need their wisdom teeth taken out.

Pericoronitis is just one of the reasons that you may need to have a wisdom tooth or more than one removed.

In many people, the wisdom teeth never even partially enter the mouth. Often the teeth are tilted under the gum and blocked from coming in by bone or other teeth. Dentists call these impacted teeth; they may cause pain, but you may feel nothing at all for years. You may not even be aware that you have wisdom teeth until your dentist sees them on an X-ray.

Regular dental visits are important during your teens and early twenties because this is the time when teeth are most likely to decay. Regular visits allow your dentist to follow the progress of your wisdom teeth with X-rays.

Even if your wisdom teeth aren't causing any pain or other problems, they may cause problems at some point. The most common problems are decay, infection, and crowding or damage to other teeth. But more serious complications can occur, including the development of a cyst that can cause permanent damage to bone, teeth and nerves.

However, not all wisdom teeth need to be removed.

If removing wisdom teeth is necessary, it's easier in younger people because the tooth roots are not fully developed and the bone in which the teeth sit is less dense. Extracting your wisdom teeth before any complications develop also allows for shorter recovery time and less discomfort after the surgery.

Taking Care Of Your Teeth

Taking Care Of your Teeth

Teeth for a Lifetime

Thanks to better at-home care and in-office dental treatments, more people than ever before are keeping their teeth throughout their lives. Although some diseases and conditions can make dental disease and tooth loss more likely, most of us have a good deal of control over whether we keep our teeth into old age.

The most important thing you can do to maintain good oral health is to brush and floss your teeth regularly.

Most mouth woes are caused by plaque, that sticky layer of microorganisms, food particles and other organic matter that forms on your teeth. Bacteria in plaque produce acids that cause cavities. Plaque also leads to periodontal (gum) disease, a potentially serious infection that can erode bone and destroy the tissues surrounding teeth.

The best defense is to remove plaque daily before it has a chance to build up and cause problems. Brushing removes plaque from the large surfaces of the teeth and, if done correctly, from just under the gums. Flossing removes plaque between teeth.


Brushing

Most of us learned to brush our teeth when we were children and have kept the same technique throughout our lives. Unfortunately, many of us learned the wrong way. Even if we learned the correct method, it's easy to become sloppy over the years. Brushing correctly isn't instinctive. Getting the bristles to remove plaque without damaging your gums is a little trickier than you might think.

There are different ways to brush teeth, and your dentist or dental hygienist can show you the method that he or she feels would be best for you. The modified Bass technique is among the most popular for adults and is very effective in removing plaque above and just below the gum line. Children, however, may find it difficult to move the toothbrush this way. A dentist or dental hygienist can explain to your child the best way to brush. Parents should supervise their children's oral hygiene until age 9 or 10.

Here are a few general pointers about brushing:

  • Brush at least twice a day: Many oral health professionals recommend brushing just before going to bed. When you sleep, saliva decreases, leaving the teeth more vulnerable to bacterial acids. Teeth should also be brushed in the morning, either before or after breakfast, depending on your schedule. After breakfast is ideal so food particles are removed. But if you eat in your car, at work or skip breakfast entirely, make sure you brush in the morning to get rid of the plaque that built up overnight.
  • Brush no more than three times a day: Brushing after lunch will give you a good mid-day cleaning. Remember, though, that brushing too often can cause gums to recede over time. Brush lightly —Brushing too hard can cause gums to recede. Plaque attaches to teeth like jam sticks to a wooden spoon. It can't be totally removed by rinsing, but just a light brushing will do the trick. Once plaque has hardened into calculus (tartar), brushing can't remove it, so brushing harder won't help. Try holding your toothbrush the same way you hold a pen. This encourages a lighter stroke.
  • Brush for at least two minutes: Set a timer if you have to, but don't skimp on brushing time. Longer is fine, but two minutes is the minimum time needed to adequately clean all your teeth. Many people brush for the length of a song on the radio. That acts as a good reminder to brush each tooth thoroughly.
  • Have a standard routine for brushing: Try to brush your teeth in the same order every day. Some oral health professionals feel that this helps patients remember to brush all areas of their mouths. If you do this routinely, it eventually will become second nature. For example, brush the outer sides of your teeth from left to right across the top then move to the inside and brush rights to left. Repeat the pattern for your lower teeth.
  • Always use a toothbrush with "soft" or "extra soft" bristles: The harder the brush, the greater the risk of harming gum tissue.
  • Change your toothbrush regularly: As soon as the bristles begin to splay, the toothbrush loses its ability to clean properly. Throw away your old toothbrush after three months or when the bristles flare, whichever comes first. If you find your bristles flaring much sooner than three months, you may be brushing too hard. Try easing up.
  • Electric is fine, but not always necessary: Electric or power-assisted toothbrushes are a fine alternative to manual brushes. They are especially useful for people who are less than diligent about proper brushing technique or for people with physical limitations that make brushing difficult. As with manual brushes, choose soft bristles, brush for at least two minutes and don't press too hard or you'll damage your gums.
  • Choose the right toothpaste for you: It can be overwhelming to face the huge number of toothpaste choices in the average supermarket. Remember, the best toothpaste for you may not be the best toothpaste for someone else.


Toothpastes don't merely clean teeth anymore. Different types have special ingredients for preventing decay, plaque control, tartar control, whitening, gum care or desensitizing teeth.

Most toothpastes on the market today contain fluoride, which has been proven to prevent, stop or even reverse the decay process. Tartar-control toothpastes are useful for people who tend to build up tartar quickly, while someone who gets tooth stains may want a whitening toothpaste. Whitening toothpastes will remove only surface stains, such as those caused by smoking, tea or coffee. To whiten teeth that are stained at a deeper level, talk with your dentist.

Your needs will likely change as you get older, so don't be surprised if your hygienist recommends a type of toothpaste you haven't used before. Look for the ADA seal of approval, which assures that the toothpaste has met the standards set by the American Dental Association. Once these conditions are met, choose the toothpaste that tastes and feels best. Gel or paste, wintergreen or spearmint — these work alike, so let personal preference guide your decision.

Some people find that some toothpaste ingredients irritate their teeth, cheeks or lips. If your teeth have become more sensitive or your mouth is irritated after brushing, try changing toothpastes. If the problem continues, see your dentist.


Flossing

Many people never learned to floss as children. But flossing is critical to healthy gums and it's never too late to start. A common rule of thumb says that any difficult new habit becomes second nature after only three weeks. If you have difficulty figuring out what to do, ask your dentist or dental hygienist to give you a personal lesson.

Here are a few general pointers about flossing:

  • Floss once a day: Although there is no research to recommend an optimum number of times to floss, most dentists recommend a thorough flossing at least once a day. If you tend to get food trapped between teeth, flossing more often can help remove it.
  • Take your time: Flossing requires a certain amount of dexterity and thought. Don't rush.
  • Choose your own time: Although most people find that just before bed is an ideal time, many oral health professionals recommend flossing any time that is most convenient to ensure that you will continue to floss regularly. Choose a time during the day when you can floss without haste.
  • Don't skimp on the floss: Use as much as you need to clean both sides of every tooth with a fresh section of floss. In fact, you may need to floss one tooth several times (using fresh sections of floss) to remove all the food debris. Although there has been no research, some professionals think reusing sections of floss may redistribute bacteria pulled off one tooth onto another tooth.
  • Choose the type that works best for you: There are many different types of floss: waxed and unwaxed, flavored and unflavored, ribbon and thread. Try different varieties before settling on one. People with teeth that are closely spaced will find that waxed floss slides more easily into the tight space. There are tougher shred-resistant varieties that work well for people with rough edges that tend to catch and rip floss.


If you have any further questions regarding keeping your teeth healthy, please contact our Tacoma dentist today!

Severe Tooth Pain? Here's What You Can Do.

Severe Tooth Pain

Any injury to the gums or teeth can be very painful. In some cases, however, the cause of severe dental pain is not obvious. For example, pain that comes on suddenly may be caused by particles of food that got lodged in a cavity and have started to irritate the nerve inside the tooth. If you lose a filling or a crown, the nerve inside the tooth may be exposed, and you may feel severe pain when air or hot or cold substances touch the uncovered part of the tooth.

Pain that becomes more severe over a period of time is commonly caused by debris lodged under the gum. Popcorn is a common offender. Because the hard cellulose fibers of the popcorn kernel don't break down, it can remain stuck between your gum and your tooth. The longer a food particle stays trapped between the gum and tooth, the greater the chance the gum will become irritated and infected and the pain will get worse. If you develop an infection, called an abscess, it can become a serious health problem if left untreated.

Pain when you bite or chew, especially if it is accompanied by a foul odor and a bad taste, can be a sign of an abscess that needs immediate treatment.


What You Can Do

First, call your dentist and make an appointment.

In the meantime, here are a few steps you can take at home to try to relieve some of the pain:

  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). However, be aware that you need to see your dentist. If you mask the pain with a painkiller and ignore it, the infection can spread and could become life threatening.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm water every hour or as needed to ease the pain.
  • If the pain is caused by debris lodged in a cavity, washing the area may relieve the problem.
  • Floss your teeth, then run a toothpick around the gum line. This may remove debris that's lodged under the gum.
  • If you've lost a filling or crown, dip a cotton swab in clove oil and apply it to the exposed part of the tooth. Clove oil, available in pharmacies and supermarkets, works well to relieve tooth pain. You also can use a topical anesthetic, such as Anbesol, also available in pharmacies and supermarkets.
  • Putting an ice pack on your face over the area that hurts also may relieve the pain. Apply the ice for 10 to 20 minutes of every hour, as necessary.
  • If you will be traveling in an airplane, the change in pressure when the plane takes off or lands may make you feel more uncomfortable. You should get dental treatment before traveling by air.

What Our Tacoma Dentist Will Do

Even when dental problems cause a lot of pain, the problems — and the treatments — often are relatively simple if you seek help right away.

If you have a cavity, your dentist will clean out any debris, remove the decayed part of the tooth, and place a filling. Once the inner part of the tooth is protected, the pain will usually disappear immediately.

If your problem is related to debris under your gums, our dentist in Tacoma will use special instruments to remove the debris. If you have an infection, you may be given a prescription for antibiotics and pain medicine. If an antibiotic is prescribed, it is important that you take it as directed until you have finished all the medication.

An abscess in the tooth or gum may require more extensive treatment, such as drainage of the abscess, root canal treatment or tooth extraction.

To learn more about severe tooth pain, please call our Tacoma dentist office today!

Keys to Controlling Bad Breath

Keys to controlling bad breath

If you’re serious about learning what’s causing your bad breath, consider scheduling an appointment with your dental professional. Given your full medical and dental history along with an oral examination, your dentist should be able to identify the culprit. The causes of bad breath are numerous and include certain foods, alcohol or cigarettes, poor oral hygiene, periodontal disease, diabetes, dry mouth, sinus or throat infections, lung infections or abscesses, kidney/liver failure, gastrointestinal issues and severe dieting.


Treatment of Bad Breath

It is important to conduct thorough oral hygiene at home twice daily utilizing tooth brushing with a fluoride antibacterial toothpaste and flossing to remove food debris and plaque on teeth, bridgework and implants, and brushing the tongue to remove odor-causing bacteria. A published study reported that tongue and tooth brushing in combination with dental flossing significantly decreased bleeding of the gum tissue over a two week period of time as well as reduced bad breath. Another clinical study conducted by the University of Buffalo dental researchers confirmed that brushing twice a day with an antibacterial toothpaste and using a tooth brush with a tongue cleaner can eliminate bad breath.


Tongue Cleaning is the Key to Fresher, Cleaner Breath

Cleaning your tongue is very important. You can purchase a Colgate 360 toothbrush with the tongue cleaner on the back of the toothbrush for cleaning both your teeth and tongue. After tooth brushing your upper and lower teeth with an antibacterial toothpaste, flip the toothbrush over to the tongue cleaner and place the tongue cleaner in the posterior region of the tongue and move it forward to the anterior section of the tongue. After you have scraped that portion of the tongue, rinse the tongue brush off with warm water to remove any odor causing bacteria. Then replace the tongue brush in the next posterior section again and repeat as described above again.

Consult your dentist or dental hygienist when choosing oral hygiene aids to help you eliminate plaque and odor causing bacteria and review the techniques that should be utilized at home. Also, ask your dental professional what oral hygiene care products they would consider you use to help eliminate bad breath (antibacterial toothpaste, antiseptic mouth rinse, tongue brushes or scrapers and interproximal cleaning devices). The key to a clean, fresh mouth is optimal oral hygiene conducted at home on a regular basis and professional recommendations discussed with you by your dentist.