Cosmetic Gum Line Fillings

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Cosmetic Gum Line Fillings

thousandoaksfamilydentistry.com

Another great cosmetic filling from Thousand Oaks Family Dentistry! Today's patient came to us with abfraction lesions on their upper premolars. These cavities are usually caused by the forces of biting, chewing and clenching causing stress on the enamel around the necks of the teeth. After an indentation develops in this area, it becomes a perfect trap for food and plaque. This often leads to decay, thus advancing the process of wear on the tooth. 

We repaired these teeth by removing any compromised enamel and smoothing out the cavity edges. They were then filled with a flexible and esthetic material that both seals out decay and restores the natural beauty of the teeth. While the upper premolars are not directly visible in the smile line, their profiles often contribute to smile "width." For this reason, a cosmetic filling is desirable in maintaining a natural appearance. If you would like to know more about tooth decay, fillings or other cosmetic dental procedures, please give our office a call!

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Dental Questions: What can a dentist do for tooth pain

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Dental Questions: What can a dentist do for tooth pain

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At some time in their lives, everyone has experienced unexpected dental pain. It probably didn't show up at a convenient time (it never does) and you were probably willing to do anything to stop the pain. Fortunately, dentists are highly skilled in diagnosing and treating tooth pain. Read on to learn what we can do for patients in distress. 

As a disclaimer, this article will focus mainly on pain originating from the tooth nerve. An entire spectrum of problems can present as tooth pain (sinus infections, muscle spasms, gum disease, etc.), and a thorough exam with x-rays is the only way to confirm the source of your discomfort. 

The nerve in your tooth may become irritated for a number of reasons, ranging from exposure to extreme temperatures to decay and even fractures. Usually, this irritation is reversible meaning the nerve will calm down on its own. However, in certain cases the tooth can cross a threshold and become irreversibly inflamed, meaning the pain will persist until the tooth nerve dies. At this point, the nerve has to be taken out of the mouth- either via root canal or by extracting the tooth. 

At an emergency visit, a dentist will evaluate what is causing the pain, the health of the tooth nerve and if the tooth is overall "fixable." If the pain is coming from a tooth with a cavity or fracture that extends down the root and beneath the gums, it may be best to extract it and consider replacement options in the future. However, if the offending problem is well isolated and treatable, you will probably want to opt for a root canal. At most emergency appointments, a dentist will not complete a full root canal. Rather, they perform a procedure called a pulpectomy, where the nerve is removed and the roots are sterilized and filled with a temporary material. This procedure ends the pain and provides short term protection against bacterial invasion of the tooth. A full root canal will be required to reliably seal the nerve space and minimize risk of re-infection. 

If you can't get to a dental office right away and need relief from pain, over the counter NSAID medications like ibuprofen are excellent at treating dental discomfort. You may be tempted to request a prescription pain reliever, but these will not treat the inflammatory component of your pain like an NSAID. Before taking any medication for the first time, please consult with your dentist. If you have further questions on tooth pain, gum pain or emergency appointments, please give our office a call!

 

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Cosmetic Incisal Bonding

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Cosmetic Incisal Bonding

ThousandOaksFamilyDentistry.com

Today's patient came to us with a chipped maxillary central incisor that did not extend to the tooth's nerve. They had no symptoms of pain and simply wanted the tooth fixed. This is a very typical dental injury- particularly with young children and patients who play contact sports. The maxillary incisors are the most commonly chipped teeth due to their vulnerable position in the mouth and thin enamel edge. 

After discussing treatment options, we decided to solve the cosmetic concern with composite bonding. Here, filling material is added to the tooth using a special adhesive and bonding technique. Once the restoration was cured to the tooth, Dr. Kari Ann Hong reshaped it to match the contours and length of the neighboring incisor. Since this material closely matches the optical properties of natural teeth, the effect is a natural and unnoticeable restoration!

It is important to note that not every type of chipped tooth can be fixed with composite bonding. Chips extending to the tooth nerve will need a root canal and crown to treat any residual pain and remove the inflamed tissue. Larger chips will also require veneers to reliably replicate large amounts of tooth structure. Finally, certain types of occlusion (the way the teeth come together when you bite) will limit the amount of repair that can actually be done to the teeth. It is impossible to decide what treatment option is best without a complete examination. For more information on dental bonding, crowns, veneers and other cosmetic treatment, please give our office a call!

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Dental Questions: Are dentures a good alternative to natural teeth?

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Dental Questions: Are dentures a good alternative to natural teeth?

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For patients with lifetimes of dental problems, having all your teeth extracted and dentures made may seem like a reasonable choice. After all, the acrylic teeth and gums will be straight, white and won't be subject to cavities or gum disease. However, dentists have a saying: dentures aren't a replacement for teeth- they're a replacement for NO teeth. 

A complete denture is essentially a piece of hard acrylic that is contoured to fit against the upper and lower jaw bones on a patient with no teeth. On the upper arch, the denture creates a sort of "suction cup" against the hard palate. On the mandible, the denture simply rests on the residual ridge of bone. Hence, bottom (mandibular) dentures are unstable and initially difficult to use for eating and talking. Over time, denture wearers usually develop more control of these appliances with their tongue and lip muscles. 

The process of transitioning from natural teeth to dentures can be frustrating and disappointing. Eating with dentures is an entirely new learned skill. You can only generate about a fourth of the biting force you could make with natural teeth. Additionally, food has to be chewed in a specific way to keep the appliances from sliding out of place. For all these reasons, many patients are now opting to have implants placed to work in conjunction with the denture to develop more stability and usability. 

With all this being said, dentures can be a great solution for patients with advanced dental diseases. When faced with the prospect of having no teeth or severely compromised teeth, complete dentures are a lifesaver. For many, a positive attitude makes all the difference in the outcome of denture treatment. If you would like to know more about dentures, implants and other multiple tooth replacement options, please give our office a call!

 

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Dental Questions: Does Charcoal Toothpaste Work?

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Dental Questions: Does Charcoal Toothpaste Work?

ThousandOaksFamilyDentistry.com

Within the past year, ads for charcoal toothpastes and powders have taken over the internet. They promise everything from whiter teeth to stronger enamel and healthier gums. You may be curious if this paste can add extra power to your home dental care. Read on to see our professional evaluation of this new dental craze!

The most common versions of charcoal dental products are "tooth powders" sold for whitening purposes. According to the manufacturer, brushing your teeth with these powders daily for two weeks can produce a significantly white smile. Unfortunately, the best these products can probably achieve is removal of surface staining through their abrasive properties. Activated charcoal is great at filtering organic compounds out of fluids. However, intrinsic dental staining (the deep stains that are unsightly and hard to remove) reside mostly in the dentin layer beneath the tooth's enamel shell. As you may imagine, it would be impossible for charcoal to have any benefit in this area. 

Charcoal dental products also advertise their ability to heal gums and strengthen dental enamel. Currently, there is no scientific evidence to back these claims. Most studies show no significant reduction in tooth decay or improved gum health between charcoal paste users and the general population. On the contrary, patients who opt for charcoal products will likely see a decline in their oral health versus someone who exclusively uses fluoride toothpaste twice a day. Fluoride toothpaste is internationally recognized as the gold standard for remineralizing dental enamel and preventing tooth decay. Why try to improve on what we know works?

In short, charcoal dental products should be used at a patient's own risk. They are (generally) sold as supplements and do not disclose active ingredients in the same way a fluoride toothpaste would. If you notice any changes or deterioration in your oral health, discontinue their use immediately. Additionally, keep using your fluoride toothpaste, floss and any rinses on a daily basis along side the charcoal products. As with any dental health topic, give us a call if you have any questions or concerns. 

 

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Gold Crowns and Fillings

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Gold Crowns and Fillings

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Before the age of modern dental materials, metal played an important role in almost all types of restorations. Many dentists opted to use gold for fillings and crowns for it's durability and ease of use. If you have gold dental work, you may be concerned if it's utility has been surpassed by modern technology. On the contrary, gold still stands as one of the best materials available for dentistry today. Read on to learn how and why gold was (and continues to be) a popular dental material. 

Gold is a very malleable metal with a relatively low melting point and high polishability. These properties make it an ideal material for replacing lost tooth structure. Molten gold readily flows into complicated molds, allowing it to be cast into a variety of shapes- including tooth crowns. Once a crown is cast, it easily polishes to a high shine surface that deflects plaque and has great adaptation to tooth structure. Gold is also highly inert, meaning it will not rust or corrode over time. In dentistry, pure gold is mixed with a variety of other metals to better control the durability, color and resilience of the final product. 

Today, gold is used much less frequently than previous decades. However, it still has its place in restorative dental treatment. Gold can be an ideal material for creating a crown on a tooth when only a minimal amount of tooth structure needs to be removed. However, many modern tooth colored materials have met or surpassed the qualities of gold while providing better esthetics. 

In short, there is absolutely nothing wrong with gold as a dental material. Still, there are many newer materials available that mimic the benefits of gold, but with better cosmetic results. If you would like to know more about gold crowns, porcelain crowns or dental materials, please give our office a call!

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Laser Dentisty

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Laser Dentisty

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While it may sound like something out of a sci-fi film, lasers have found a permanent place in many healthcare fields. Dentistry is no exception, with many offices taking advantage of the special properties of laser therapy. Read on to learn how we use this technology at Thousand Oaks Family Dentistry.

Lasers are focused beams of light in a uniform wavelength. They exist in the infrared spectrum and thus produce no harmful radiation. Most of the lasers used in medicine and dentistry are not visible to the naked eye, but interact with certain tissues in specific ways. For example, many lasers will cut soft tissues like skin or gums, but cannot affect hard substances like teeth or bones. As you may imagine, this tissue specific targeting is extremely useful. 

Dentists usually use lasers for soft tissue therapy. While hard tissue lasers that cut teeth are beginning to enter the market, the technology is still in its infancy. Lasers safely remove frenums, trim gums and cauterize tissues after surgery with exceptional healing properties. At our office, we use lasers as a way to shape gum tissues for dental implants. Before this technology, taking an impression of an implant took two appointments: one to adjust the soft tissue and a recall visit to capture the impression after it healed. With lasers, the gums stop bleeding almost instantaneously, allowing us to combine these two appointments into one. 

At Thousand Oaks Family Dentistry, we pride ourselves in staying current with the latest in treatment technology. However, we always make sure that new technologies are thoroughly developed before offering them to our patients. If you would like to know more about dental lasers and what they can do for you, please give our office a call. 

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Gum Line Fillings

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Gum Line Fillings

thousandoaksfamilydentistry.com

Have you noticed notching or pitting on your teeth near the gum line? You are not alone! Decay in this area (called the "cervical" portion of the tooth) is extremely common, particularly in patients over the age of 25. While they come from a few different causes, fixing them is typically straightforward and yields great results. 

Defects in these areas are most commonly caused by a phenomenon called abfraction. Here, chronic tooth clenching and grinding causes the dental enamel to flex. As it stresses and strains, the enamel around the gum line becomes weakened and erodes away. This is not unlike how a toothpick weakens in the middle if you repeatedly bend it back and forth. The second most common cause is erosion from aggressive brushing or consumption of acidic foods and beverages. Tooth decay also often plays a role, usually secondary to abfraction or erosion after a food/bacteria trap is created. 

Repairing these defects is usually very straightforward. Often times, the tooth will only need minimal modification before a filling can be placed. We usually use more flexible materials to better prevent the filling from falling out. The result is a cosmetic restoration that blends in with your natural dental enamel. 

As with any dental procedure, there are certain circumstances that make these fillings difficult to place. Decay close to the gum line may be impossible to treat due to access and moisture problems. Additionally, deep decay always presents a risk for irritating the nerve of the tooth, thus requiring a root canal. If you think you might need a filling near your gum line, the first step is to stop by our office for a complete dental exam. If you have any more questions about fillings, materials or what causes tooth decay, please give us a call!

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Deep Cleanings

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Deep Cleanings

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If you're one of the millions of Americans with Periodontal Disease, there is a good chance you have either been offered or received a deep cleaning. You may also still be unclear on what this procedure can accomplish and why we do it. In this article, we hope to remove the mystery from this very beneficial treatment. 

For starters, periodontal disease refers to a state of gum health where the moucosal tissues and/or bone have shrunken away from the teeth. In most cases, this is due to accumulation of hard tartar around the necks of the teeth and down the roots. Patients are left with deep gum pockets that serve as protective space for more tartar to form. 

Healthy gum pockets range between 1-4 millimeters. With a toothbrush and floss, you can reliably clean to about three millimeters of depth. Beyond this, it takes a special set of skills and tools to get the teeth completely clean. If you have healthy gums or inflammation of the moucosal tissues only (gingivitis), a typical "prophy" dental cleaning will serve you well. However, generalized pockets of five millimeters or more will require a deep cleaning, also known as scaling and root planing. 

A quick infographic explaining the transition from healthy gums to disease. An important note- healthy gums can naturally have a pocket of 1-4mm. 

A quick infographic explaining the transition from healthy gums to disease. An important note- healthy gums can naturally have a pocket of 1-4mm. 

Scaling and root planing is a procedure that is administered to one quadrant of the mouth at a time, as opposed to the "whole mouth" approach of a normal cleaning. You may only have one or two quadrants of teeth that actually require a deep cleaning. To effectively provide this service, we need to numb your gums with some type of anesthesia. This may be in the form of a topical jelly or a traditional injection. We then use a combination of ultrasonic scalers and hand instruments to clean the teeth to the depths of their pockets, removing hard deposits and smoothing the tooth root surface. The ultimate goal of this treatment is to leave behind a healthy, bacteria-free root for new tissue to attach, thus creating a shallower pocket. 

Deep cleanings are ideally only administered once and followed with a tight recall cleaning schedule. However, this depends largely on you body's ability to heal and your own home hygiene practices. It is also important to understand the limitations of a deep cleaning. While you may have a decrease in pocket depth, new bone is impossible to reform without surgery. Additionally, no amount of cleaning will save teeth with severe periodontal damage. To fully appreciate what a deep cleaning can do for your mouth, a complete dental exam with x-rays is absolutely necessary. To schedule an appointment or find out more about the different types of dental cleanings, please give our office a call!

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Oral Hygiene for Kids

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Oral Hygiene for Kids

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We know that getting your young ones to keep their teeth clean can be a challenge. However, the effort is definitely worth it: healthy baby teeth assist in the proper positioning and development of the adult dentition. Not to mention starting your children off young sets them up for a lifetime of great oral health, often saving thousands of dollars in dental expenses. Read on to discover how to maximize the protective factors for your child's teeth!

The first baby teeth typically erupt into the mouth between 6 and 18 months. Prior to this, we suggest keeping your child's mouth clean with a wet cloth. Once the teeth erupt, you should start brushing twice a day with a rice-grain sized smear of fluoride toothpaste. After two teeth grow in next to each other, you can begin flossing in this area. At about three years, you can start brushing with a pea-sized portion of paste.  Remember, children typically lack the dexterity to brush and floss their own teeth until they can tie their own shoes. Be careful to monitor how much toothpaste that they are using and make sure they are not swallowing excessive paste. 

The bacteria responsible for tooth decay colonize children at a young age (usually under the age of three). New research suggests that sharing utensils or cleaning dropped pacifiers and bottles with spit during this period can prematurely introduce these bacteria to a child's mouth. While there is a near 100% chance that these bacteria will eventually colonize everyone, delaying them as long as possible may prevent the number and extent of cavities. Once your child is old enough to rinse and spit without swallowing, you can add a fluoride rinse like ACT brand to double down on cavity prevention. 

We recommend bringing your child in for their first dental visit at 12 months of age or when all four central incisors are erupted (whichever is first). This is a short appointment for a general exam and to introduce your child to the dental office setting. If you would like to know more about cavity prevention, children's oral health or dental development, please give our office a call!

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