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Fluoride - Friend or Foe?

August 23rd, 2018

You've undoubtedly heard people speculate about whether or not fluoride is actually necessary in our drinking water. Some even go so far as to buy a filtration system heavy-duty enough to filter out the fluoride! So what's the deal? Do we really need fluoride in our water? This article from the ADA breaks it down!

5 Reasons Why Fluoride in Water is Good for Communities

  1. Prevents tooth decay. Fluoride in water is the most efficient way to prevent one of the most common childhood diseases – tooth decay. An estimated 51 million school hours and 164 million work hours are lost each year due to dental-related illness. Community water fluoridation is so effective at preventing tooth decay that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named it one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
  2. Protects all ages against cavities. Studies show that fluoride in community water systems prevents at least 25 percent of tooth decay in children and adults, even in an era with widespread availability of fluoride from other sources, such as fluoride toothpaste.
  3. Safe and effective. For 70 years, the best available scientific evidence consistently indicates that community water fluoridation is safe and effective. It has been endorsed by numerous U.S. Surgeons General, and more than 100 health organizationsrecognize the health benefits of water fluoridation for preventing dental decay, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, the American Dental Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  4. Saves money. The average lifetime cost per person to fluoridate a water supply is less than the cost of one dental filling. For most cities, every $1 invested in water fluoridation saves $38 in dental treatment costs.
  5. It’s natural. Fluoride is naturally present in groundwater and the oceans. Water fluoridation is the adjustment of fluoride to a recommended level for preventing tooth decay. It’s similar to fortifying other foods and beverages, like fortifying salt with iodine, milk with vitamin D, orange juice with calcium and bread with folic acid.

Get more facts about fluoride in water.

From White Spots to Root Canal

April 5th, 2018

All dental abscesses begin the same way - with a tiny white spot of an early cavity. That is why it is important to understand the process of how an abscess forms! By catching enamel damage early you can save yourself the pain and hassle of an infected tooth and the treatment that comes along with it. This image illustrates the progression of cavity (dental caries) to abscess.

Image result for what is a root canal

You can see how the infection slowly eats its way through the enamel, into the tooth pulp, then through the root into the tissue below! Fortunately there are warning signs that alert you to tooth damage long before it gets too serious. It's your job to listen to what your teeth are telling you and seek treatment at the first sign of discomfort!

The following article from PatientConnect365 gives a great overview of the stages of tooth decay, and includes the stage just before the enamel is damaged - characterized by reversible white spots!

Did you know there are five distinct stages of tooth decay? And, that in the first stage of decay, you can actually take steps to reverse the progression of the disease? Indeed, it’s true. In the first stage of decay, whether you’re a child or an adult, the application of fluoride via fluoride treatments, your toothpaste and even the local water supply can stop a cavity from penetrating through the enamel and reaching its second stage. Even the saliva in your mouth and the foods you eat help to re-mineralize a tooth in jeopardy. But that’s just the first stage! What about the rest?

Understanding how a cavity progresses can assist you in preventing each successive stage from occurring in your children. There’s always a lot going on in that little mouth!

  1. Stage One: White Spots
    In stage one, the tooth begins to show signs of strain from the attack of sugars and acids, and white spots will begin to materialize just below the surface of the enamel. These white spots are representative of the demineralization of the tooth and can be easy to miss because they’re likely to occur on your child’s molars. A dental exam, of course, is designed to catch such cavities! Can you see why regular visits to the dentist are recommended?  As mentioned previously, at this stage, the cavity can be repaired without the need to excavate the tooth.
  2. Stage Two: Enamel Decay
    Stage two marks the beginning of the end for the surface enamel that is being attacked. Initially, the tooth erodes from the underside outward, so the outer enamel will still be intact for the first half of this second stage. Once the cavity breaks through the surface of the enamel, there is no turning back, and your child will need to have the cavity corrected with a filling.
  3. Stage Three: Dentin Decay
    If a cavity in your child’s mouth were to progress beyond stage two without you knowing, you’d tend become aware of it when it started to hit stage three because it would probably start to cause some pain. At this level, the cavity begins to eat away at the second level of tooth material that lies beneath the enamel: the dentin. A filling can still be used to stop the onslaught of bacteria assaulting the tooth in order to prevent the cavity from reaching the tooth’s most critical component: the pulp.
  4. Stage Four: Involvement of The Pulp
    Once the cavity reaches the pulp, it’s going to hurt. A lot. So if you’ve unfortunately missed all the signs to this point, a screaming child or moaning teenager will certainly let you know there is a big problem. Stage four is serious, and a root canal is the only option of treatment at this stage, save for a complete extraction.
  5. Stage Five: Abscess Formation
    In the fifth and final stage of a cavity, the infection has reached the tip of the root and exited the tip of the tooth’s structure. This in turn infects the surrounding tissues and possibly the bone structure. Swelling would be commonplace and pain severe. In children (as well as adults) an abscess can be fatal if not dealt with immediately. Root canal or extraction would be the order of the day should decay reach this stage.

As you can see, cavities don’t happen overnight. In the early stages, regular visits can stall and reverse the progression of these dastardly little devils, so it really does pay to visit the dentist at pre-selected intervals. You can keep your kids far from stage five their whole lives, and if a little bit of prodding to get them to the dentist accomplishes that, you can rest easy despite the griping.

All About Abscesses

November 16th, 2017

An abscess can become serious very quickly; it's important to recognize the signs if you have one! Great article from Colgate.

What Is It?

An abscess is a limited area of pus formed as a result of a bacterial infection. The body's immune system reacts to the infection, and sends white blood cells to the area to try to get rid of the bacteria. Pus is a mixture of live and dead white blood cells, enzymes and parts of destroyed cells and tissues. When there is no way for pus to drain, it forms an abscess.

Abscesses can form in almost every part of the body. In the mouth, abscesses form in gum tissue or in the roots of teeth and in the surrounding areas of the tooth. They can be caused by trauma (food or debris embedded deep in the gum), by bacteria that enters through a cavity and gets into the dental pulp, or from a deep periodontal pocket. People with a lowered resistance to infection are at increased risk of developing an abscess. At first, the abscess may cause a toothache, which can be severe. The tooth's nerve can become infected and the infection can burrow through to the gum, forming a visible boil that can rupture in the mouth. Once the abscess ruptures, the pain often decreases significantly, but dental treatment is still necessary. If the abscess does not drain, the infection can spread to other areas of the head and neck and can become life threatening.

Symptoms

The main symptom is persistent, throbbing pain. At first, the tooth will be sensitive to heat and pressure while chewing. Later, you may develop a fever. Swollen lymph nodes under the jaw or in the neck can be tender and you may feel pain in the sinus area. If the abscess ruptures, a sudden rush of foul-smelling and foul-tasting fluid will spill into the mouth.

Diagnosis

Usually, your dentist can diagnose a tooth abscess by examining your mouth. He or she may push on the swollen area of the gum and do a pulp test on the affected tooth to see if it is still alive. A pulp test can involve:

  • Gentle tapping (percussion) on the tooth
  • Temperature testing
  • Using an electric tester on the tooth

Your dentist also may take an X-ray to look for bone erosion around the tip of the tooth's root.

Expected Duration

Once the abscess is drained, most symptoms go away immediately or within a few days, but the abscess will not be cured unless the cause is eliminated.

Prevention

Good oral hygiene can help prevent abscesses by keeping teeth and gums free of food and debris. Regular dental checkups are also important. If you have a weakened immune system because of medication or another condition, let your dentist know before every appointment. You may receive antibiotics before the appointment to reduce the risk of infection.

Treatment

Saving an abscessed tooth begins with draining the infection, which usually relieves pain and removes much of the infection. Root canal treatment may be necessary and should be started as soon as possible to remove diseased tissue.

If the abscess involves gum tissue, your dentist may suggest that you rinse with warm salt water (1/8 of a teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water) a few times a day for several days. You may be prescribed antibiotics to help make sure the infection has been eliminated. Have dental X-rays performed six months later to confirm if healthy bone and tissue are filling the area of the abscess. If the bone does not fill in after the treatment, you may need to visit a periodontist who can surgically reshape the gum so that it is easier to keep clean, or an endodontist who can surgically remove a persistent abscess.

When To Call A Professional

If you have a toothache or notice evidence of an abscess on your gum, visit your dentist. Even if the abscess drains and the pain decreases, a visit to the dentist for complete treatment is crucial.

Prognosis

The outlook is excellent if detected promptly and treated appropriately.

 

©2002-2005 Aetna, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reviewed by the faculty of Columbia University College of Dental Medicine

What are dental sealants and how do they work?

July 15th, 2015

A dental sealant is a liquid that is applied to the teeth. The sealant hardens and provides a protective coating that is designed to reduce cavities and create a smoother tooth surface. Dental sealants are clear or white; they do not take away from the appearance of teeth. You can think about this treatment as being similar to varnish that protects a wood floor.

Sealants are not the same as fluoride treatments. The application is similar, but sealants are a semi-permanent protective coating. Dr. Mark Smith and Dr. Kristin Schroeder and our staff recommend that sealant applications for children begin soon after molars erupt, first molars around the age of six, and second molars around the age of 12.

Simple Application

Having sealants applied is not uncomfortable at all. First, your child's teeth will be cleaned and dried. A gel is applied, which helps the sealant adhere to the tooth, and then is rinsed away. Your child's teeth are dried again and the sealant is applied. A few seconds of exposure to a light source may be used to cure the sealant and make it semi-permanent. Sealants should last for a long time, normally between five and ten years.

Sealant Benefits

The coating on the surface of your child's teeth reduces the amount of acid contact. Normal acids in foods that are consumed can eat away at the surface of teeth. Bacteria also react to plaque formation and create more acid in the mouth. These small pits or weakened areas are prone to caries or cavity formation. Preventing cavities is a much better choice than drilling and filling damaged teeth.

A sealant also helps to smooth the chewing surfaces of your childn't teeth. The smoother surface is not as likely to retain small particles of food and bacteria. Your child's mouth stays cleaner and food is not left behind to form acids. The protective application can also be used on other teeth that have a rough surface, to protect the grooves or pits from decay.

After the sealant is applied, your child still needs to take proper care of his or her teeth. Regular brushing and flossing is required. Dr. Mark Smith and Dr. Kristin Schroeder may recommend fluoride treatments to strengthen and protect your child's teeth further.

If you have any concerns about sealants, please discuss them with during your child's next appointment at Got Smile Dental Group. We want your little one's teeth to stay healthy for life.

June is National Smile Month: Show off your smile!

June 3rd, 2015

The community health awareness group Oral Health America has reported that 82 percent of adults are unaware of the role that infectious bacteria can play in tooth decay or cavities, and almost three out of five children aged 12 to 19 have tooth decay. Since June is National Smile Month, Dr. Mark Smith and Dr. Kristin Schroeder and our team at Got Smile Dental Group thought we’d remind our patients about the importance of good oral hygiene visits between office visits.

To keep your family’s smiles healthy and beautiful for years to come, be sure to:

  • Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss every day to clean between your teeth
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
  • Reduce your intake of sugary foods and drinks
  • Visit Dr. Mark Smith for scheduled appointments

If you want to know more about healthy home care habits, feel free to ask our team at your next appointment, or ask us on Facebook!

How to Care for Your Invisalign® Aligners

May 13th, 2015

Is it possible to straighten the teeth without braces? Yes, it is. Welcome to the world of Invisalign aligners. Invisalign aligners are made from a clear, thermoplastic material that is custom made to fit your teeth. Unlike conventional braces, Invisalign aligners are removable. More importantly, the clear thermoplastic material makes the aligners invisible, which is ideal if the thought of metal braces and elastics make you self-conscious. For the best results, proper handling and care of your Invisalign aligners is important. Follow these steps to take care of your aligners:

1. Do not eat or drink hot beverages while wearing aligners. It's a good idea to get in the practice of removing the aligners before eating and drinking. Because the aligners are made of plastic resin, heat can distort and damage them. Also, eating while wearing the aligners will cause sugar and other food particles to stay on your teeth, which contributes to plaque and tooth decay.

2. Clean the aligner trays regularly. Invisalign aligners are exposed to the same bacteria and plaque that your mouth is, so you need to clean them as regularly as you clean your teeth. However, avoid cleaning the aligners with harsh chemicals. We recommend using a cleaning kit or some other type of specific solution. When it comes to cleaning Invisalign aligners, carefully follow the instructions given by Dr. Mark Smith.

3. Store aligners in a cool, dry, safe place. When you’re not wearing the aligners, store them in the case provided by our office. If you don’t use the case, they can easily be lost. Keeping them out of reach of small children and pets is also a good idea. The last thing you want is for Fido to think your Invisalign aligners are chew toys.

4. Don’t chew gum while wearing aligners. There’s one thing that conventional braces and Invisalign aligners have in common: chewing gum damages both of them.

5. Don’t soak aligners in mouthwash. Many popular mouthwashes contain a color pigment. It’s possible that soaking Invisalign aligners in mouthwash will tint or stain them.

For more tips and tricks for a successful Invisalign experience, contact our Omaha, NE office!

What’s in toothpaste and how does it work?

January 21st, 2015

Dr. Mark Smith and our team recommend that you brush your teeth two to three times a day, for at least two minutes each time. But have you ever wondered what’s in toothpaste and how it actually works? The mouth is home to more than 500 types of microorganisms that feed on leftover food that gets stuck on and around your teeth. Toothpaste is the best line of defense against all those pesky microorganisms (especially when you brush two to three times a day). Here’s how it works.

Abrasives

Toothpaste contains mild abrasive additives that combat microorganisms and fight plaque. When you brush, the abrasives in toothpaste dislodge food particles and microorganisms more effectively than if you simply brush your teeth with water. The abrasives also work to remove food stains and polish the surface of the tooth. Some toothpastes include ingredients like triclosan and Xylitol. These chemicals prevent the growth of bacteria that produce plaque. Plaque not only causes cavities, but it can also lead to more dangerous issues like periodontal disease.

Fluoride

Fluoride is key ingredient in toothpaste. As the microorganisms in your mouth feed off the leftover food particles, they leave behind acid and sulfur byproducts that wear away the enamel of the teeth. This is the fancy, technical way of saying that the acid on your teeth causes cavities. As for the sulfur byproduct –well, that’s just a fancy, scientific name for bad breath. Fluoride works to fight the acid and help protect the teeth. By brushing, the fluoride is incorporated into the tooth enamel, which in turn makes the tooth more resistant to acid and plaque.

Flavoring and Sweetening Agents

Not all toothpaste tastes the same, right? The type of flavoring or sweetening agents added to the toothpaste doesn't have anything to do with fighting microorganisms and plaque, but taste is one of the most important selling points in finding a toothpaste brand you like. Flavoring agents mask the taste of some of the other ingredients in toothpaste, and without those agents chances are nobody would be brushing their teeth two to three time a day.

Caring for Your Smile While Wearing Invisalign®

January 7th, 2015

Getting your braces off is exciting. You’ve been working on your new smile for months or years, and it’s time for the trips to our Omaha, NE office to pay off. Can you imagine how bad it would be to discover that your teeth are straight, but that there’s decay?

Caring for your smile while wearing Invisalign goes beyond just waiting for your teeth to get straighter. It involves cleaning your teeth regularly and thoroughly to prevent tooth decay. That way, your smile will be more beautiful than ever when you’re done with your Invisalign treatment.

Take Your Trays Out

The first difference you may notice between Invisalign and traditional metal braces is that Invisalign aligners are invisible, but there’s another important distinction as well. Invisalign braces are removable. You can take the trays out, and you should. Remove the trays while you’re eating so you don’t get food stuck in them. Also, remove them while you’re cleaning your teeth so that you can have full access to all the nooks and crannies in your mouth.

Brush Normally

The guidelines for brushing your teeth with Invisalign don’t change compared to braces. Brush your teeth at least twice a day using a soft toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste, being sure to get all surfaces of your teeth. If possible, brush after each meal.

If you can’t, be sure to drink some water and swish it around in your mouth when you’re done eating to get rid of the extra food on your teeth. Leaving carbohydrates, such as sugar and starch, on your teeth opens the door to tooth decay.

Floss and Wash

Flossing your teeth gets out the bits and pieces stuck between them. It’s a time-consuming task when you need to navigate the wires of traditional metal braces, but thanks to Invisalign’s removable design, flossing is no problem. Rinsing your mouth with a fluoride antibacterial mouthwash also helps clean your teeth because it gets into all of the spaces. Floss and rinse one or two times daily.

Cleaning Your Trays

Cleaning your Invisalign trays keeps them from getting riddled with bacteria, and it helps keep your teeth free from excess food. You can use the Invisalign cleaning system, which involves placing the trays in a tub with cleaning crystals. The plastic trays are clean after 15 minutes. You can also ask Dr. Mark Smith and Dr. Kristin Schroeder for other ways to clean your trays.

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