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By Edward C. Smith, DMD, MPH, LLC
May 23, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: anxiety  
4ThingsYouCanDotoKeepAnxietyFromRobbingYouofNeededDentalCare

For most people, dental visits are as routine as a trip to the supermarket, but this is not the case for everyone. Some can become so overwhelmed, anxious, or nervous about seeing the dentist that they might put off their visit, even for a serious dental condition.

This kind of anxiety, often rooted in early childhood, shouldn't be dismissed or ignored. If it prevents you or someone you love from receiving needed dental care, it could disrupt your oral health—not to mention your overall well-being for years to come.

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, here are 4 things you can do to prevent dental anxiety from robbing you of the dental care you or a loved one needs.

The right dentist. The partnership between dentist and patient may be the most important element in addressing dental anxiety. It's important to find a provider that accepts and understands your anxiety, and who won't dismiss it with trite aphorisms like, "Your fear is all in your head." Finding a dentist who listens and who will work with you in allaying your concerns is often the first step toward overcoming dental anxiety.

Facing anxiety. It's common for people to try to ignore their inner turmoil and focus instead on "getting their teeth fixed." But as sensible as that sounds, it's not really effective. It's better instead to acknowledge and be forthright about your feelings of nervousness and apprehension. With it out in the open, you and your dentist can then include managing your anxiety as a part of your overall treatment plan.

Sedation therapy. It often takes time to overcome deep-seated phobias like dental anxiety. In the meantime, though, your teeth and gums may still need care. Your dentist can help relieve your anxiety, albeit temporarily, using one or more sedation therapy techniques to help you relax during your visit. These therapies may include an oral sedative taken just before your appointment or gas or IV sedation that helps you relax completely during a treatment session.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Psychotherapists have long used CBT to help patients overcome mental and emotional problems like depression, eating disorders, or phobias. CBT helps people change deep-seated patterns of thinking or behavior regarding a troublesome issue by confronting it and seeking to understand the "why" behind the patterns. Recently, a review of dental patients who underwent CBT for dental anxiety showed a number of positive results.

Overcoming dental anxiety can be a long journey requiring patience, courage, and understanding, but it can be done! With the techniques and methods dentists now have to address it, anxiety over dental treatment no longer need interfere with a person's ability to receive the dental care they need.

If you would like more information about dental anxiety and what to do about it, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Overcoming Dental Fear & Anxiety.”

By Edward C. Smith, DMD, MPH, LLC
May 13, 2022
Category: Dental Procedures
TakeaTipFromKirstenDunsttoGettheSmileYouWant

Up and coming performers are often pressured by their handlers to change their appearance, and many have over-the-top stories to prove it. But they'd be hard pressed to outdo Kirsten Dunst's experience just before filming 2002's Spider-Man: Producers actually drove her to a dentist for her to get what they considered a more attractive "Hollywood" smile.

Dunst didn't get out of the car: Although a 19 year-old newbie in the business, Dunst had enough fortitude to hold fast about her appearance. And perhaps she had a bit of intuition about what she calls her "snaggle fangs": Her quirky smile is one of her appearance trademarks.

The lesson here is not to avoid any cosmetic dental changes, but rather to choose the smile you want. If you count your slight front tooth gap or the faint crookedness of your teeth as unique to your personality, then rock on.

On the other hand, if you're uncomfortable with your dental flaws, then there are numerous ways to upgrade your smile, from a simple whitening procedure to a comprehensive "smile makeover." You simply have to decide what you want to keep and what you want to change about your smile.

To help guide you along this potentially life-changing journey, here are few key tips to follow.

Find your "right" dentist. If you're going to change your smile, you need a partner—a dentist who is not only skilled in cosmetic techniques, but with whom you feel comfortable. One of the best ways to do this is to make note of smile changes your friends and family have undergone that you find attractive, and ask who did their dental work.

Dream a little. Finding the right dentist is important for the next step: Exploring the possibilities for a new and improved smile. After assessing your current smile, your skilled dentist can give you a range of options to improve it. And, to actually help you "see" how those options might turn out, "virtual smile" technology can show you the proposed changes applied to an actual photo of you on a computer monitor.

Match it to reality. Once you're aware of all the possibilities, it's time to narrow them down to what you really desire. At this point, you'll want to decide what "quirks" you want to keep, and what you want to improve. You'll also have to consider your overall dental health and financial wherewithal to see what's truly practical and doable.

With that in mind, you and your dentist can then formulate a treatment plan. And just like Kristen Dunst, the end result should be the smile that makes you happy and confident to show.

If you would like more information about to get the best smile for you, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cosmetic Dentistry: Fix Your Smile With Veneers, Whitening and More.”

By Edward C. Smith, DMD, MPH, LLC
May 03, 2022
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implant  
WhatsInvolvedinGettingaDentalImplant

Although the term "surgery" is broad enough to drive a proverbial truck through, we can roughly categorize procedures as either major or minor. Installing an implant is decidedly in the minor column.

Akin to having a tooth extraction, implant surgery can be done painlessly in a dentist's office with very little discomfort afterward. If you're considering a dental implant, going through this surgical procedure shouldn't worry you.

Still, it's hard not to feel a little nervous about any type of surgery, even one as minor as getting an implant. That's where shining a little more light in the way of information can help dissolve any lingering anxiety. Here, then, is an overview of dental implant surgery from start to finish.

First, a little planning. Preparation beforehand helps eliminate any potential snags during surgery. During earlier visits, your dentist will completely map out the procedure with x-rays or CT scanning of your jaws to locate any obstacles, followed by the preparation of a surgical guide placed in the mouth to direct drilling.

Numbing the pain. The dentist begins the surgery by completely deadening the area with local anesthesia. This is usually done with an anesthetic swab of the surface gums to numb the needle prick, which is then used to deliver the remaining anesthetic to the deeper tissues and bone.

Creating the channel. After ensuring the area is fully anesthetized, the dentist will expose the bone by making small incisions in the gums. Then, using the surgical guide, they'll drill a small hole, incrementally enlarging it until it matches the size of the implant post.

Installing the implant. After drilling, the dentist removes the implant from its sterile packaging and directly places it into the prepared channel. The dentist then ensures the implant positioning is correct, often checking with additional x-rays. They'll then suture the gums back into place to protect the implant.

You may initially have a few days of mild discomfort, usually manageable with over-the-counter pain relievers. Over the next few weeks new bone cells will form and adhere to the implant to create a durable bond. You'll then be ready for the attachment of a life-like crown.

Surgery is one step in a long process. But it's an important step—and with the resulting smile outcome, well worth it.

If you would like more information on dental implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implant Surgery.”

By Edward C. Smith, DMD, MPH, LLC
April 23, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
NoClueWhyYourMouthFeelsScaldedItCouldBeThisOralCondition

It's common for people to sip freshly brewed coffee or take a bite of a just-from-the-oven casserole and immediately regret it—the searing heat can leave the tongue and mouth scalded and tingling with pain.

Imagine, though, having the same scalding sensation, but for no apparent reason. It's not necessarily your mind playing tricks with you, but an actual medical condition called burning mouth syndrome (BMS). Besides scalding, you might also feel mouth sensations like extreme dryness, tingling or numbness.

If encountering something hot isn't the cause of BMS, what is then? That's often hard to nail down, although the condition has been linked to diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, acid reflux or even psychological issues. Because it's most common in women around menopause, changes in hormones may also play a role.

If you're experiencing symptoms related to BMS, it might require a process of elimination to identify a probable cause. To help with this, see your dentist for a full examination, who may then be able to help you narrow down the possibilities. They may also refer you to an oral pathologist, a dentist who specializes in mouth diseases, to delve further into your case.

In the meantime, there are things you can do to help ease your discomfort.

Avoid items that cause dry mouth. These include smoking, drinking alcohol or coffee, or eating spicy foods. It might also be helpful to keep a food diary to help you determine the effect of certain foods.

Drink more water. Keeping your mouth moist can also help ease dryness. You might also try using a product that stimulates saliva production.

Switch toothpastes. Many toothpastes contain a foaming agent called sodium lauryl sulfate that can irritate the skin inside the mouth. Changing to a toothpaste without this ingredient might offer relief.

Reduce stress. Chronic stress can irritate many conditions including BMS. Seek avenues and support that promote relaxation and ease stress levels.

Solving the mystery of BMS could be a long road. But between your dentist and physician, as well as making a few lifestyle changes, you may be able to find significant relief from this uncomfortable condition.

If you would like more information on burning mouth syndrome, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Burning Mouth Syndrome: A Painful Puzzle.”

By Edward C. Smith, DMD, MPH, LLC
April 13, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
StopDentalDiseaseFromCausingDentalWorkFailure

Today, when you undergo treatment to repair or replace problem teeth, you have the advantage of the most advanced dental materials ever developed. These materials help make current dental restorations not only more lifelike, but also more durable than they've ever been.

“Durable,” however, doesn't mean “indestructible”: The same microscopic enemies that damaged your natural teeth could also undermine your dental work. True, the actual materials that compose your dental work are impervious to bacterial infection. But your restoration is supported by natural teeth, the gums or underlying bone—all of which are susceptible to disease.

If these supporting structures weaken due to disease, it could cause your filling, veneer, bridge or other restoration to fail. But here's how you can minimize this risk and help extend the life of your dental work.

Practice daily hygiene. The main cause for tooth decay or gum disease is a thin film of bacteria and food particles on your teeth called dental plaque. Brushing and flossing each day removes plaque and helps ensure your teeth and gums, and by extension your dental work, stay healthy and sound.

Eat less sugar. Disease-causing bacteria feed primarily on carbohydrates, especially added sugar. By reducing your intake of sugary snacks, foods and beverages, you can help deter the growth of these harmful bacteria and reduce your risk of dental disease.

Reduce teeth grinding. The involuntary habit of grinding teeth could shorten the longevity of your dental work. Your dentist can help by developing a custom-fitted guard that prevents your teeth from making solid contact with each other. You may also benefit from relaxation techniques to reduce stress, a major factor in teeth grinding.

See your dentist regularly. A dental cleaning with your dentist removes any plaque you may have missed, as well as a hardened form called tartar, which further reduces your disease risk. Your dentist may also detect and treat early forms of dental disease and limit any damage to your dental work.

Taking steps to keep your mouth free of disease will optimize your dental health. It will also help protect your current restorations from damage and loss.

If you would like more information on caring for dental work, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Extending the Life of Your Dental Work.”





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