Graef Dental

New Year’s Resolutions for Better Oral Health

colbert.Laying out goals for the New Year is a great way to inspire yourself to make positive changes that can improve your health. For example, many habits—both good and bad—affect the health of your teeth and gums. Here’s a list of risky habits to kick, and mouth-healthy habits to adopt:

Habits That Risk Oral Health

Smoking. As if oral cancer weren’t enough to worry about, smoking also promotes gum disease and tooth loss. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, smokers have double the risk of gum disease compared to nonsmokers. And according to the Academy of General Dentistry, Smokers are about twice as likely to lose their teeth as nonsmokers. For help quitting, visit smokefree.gov.

Snacking. Nibbling all day can create the perfect conditions for tooth decay—especially if your snacks contain sugar and other carbohydrates. Sticky snacks like cookies, crackers, chips and candy bars that cling to teeth tend to remain in the mouth and attract decay-causing oral bacteria. The acid these bacteria produce can penetrate the enamel of your teeth, causing cavities.

Soft Drinks. Speaking of tooth-eroding acid, soft drinks have plenty of it. And this includes both regular and diet varieties of soda, sweetened iced tea, sports drinks and so-called energy drinks. The healthiest drink for your teeth is water!

Mouth-Healthy Habits

Brushing. You probably brush your teeth every day already, but are you doing it correctly? To get the most benefit from this healthy habit, brush twice each day for a full two minutes each time. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush with toothpaste that contains fluoride, and don’t scrub too harshly!

Flossing. Yes, it’s worth the effort! If you don’t floss, you’ll miss cleaning about 40% of your tooth surfaces. A toothbrush just can’t reach in between teeth, where decay-causing dental plaque can hide. If you find dental floss difficult to work with, try using disposable floss holders.

Regular Dental Checkups. Keep up a regular schedule of professional teeth cleanings and exams! This allows us to remove any hardened dental plaque (tartar) that has built up on your teeth, screen you for oral cancer, and treat minor dental problems before they become major ones. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to review your at-home oral hygiene.

If you have any questions about how to improve your oral health, please contact our office or schedule a consultation.

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Give Yourself the Gift of a New Smile

smile.The holidays are a season for giving. At this time of year, lots of us spend hours rushing around, looking for the perfect gifts for people we care about. But sometimes, amidst all the hustle and bustle, it doesn’t hurt to step back and think about yourself a little. If a better-looking smile has been on your list but you haven’t taken the first steps, the holiday season might be the right time to give yourself a gift.

Many smile problems, like discolored, chipped or uneven teeth, can be resolved with veneers—wafer-thin porcelain shells that cover the front surfaces of teeth. Veneers are custom-made just for you: They can have a pearly luster to match your existing teeth, or be Hollywood-white for a dazzling red-carpet smile. In just a few visits to the dental office, you can have the smile you’ve always wanted—and a whole new look for the New Year.

If damaged or missing teeth are what’s bothering you, you’ll be happy to know that there are lots of good options for replacing them. If the tooth’s roots are still in good shape, a crown or cap could be the answer. This is a sturdy replacement for the entire visible part of the tooth that not only looks great, but also functions well in your bite—and can last for years to come.

If teeth are missing or can’t be saved, we offer several options for replacement, including fixed (non-removable) bridgework and dental implants. A tried-and-true method for replacing one or more missing teeth, bridges are firmly supported by healthy teeth next to the gap in your smile. These teeth must be prepared to receive the bridge by having some of the tooth’s surface removed.

Dental implants are today’s premier option for tooth replacement. In this high-tech system, a root-like titanium insert, placed directly into the bone beneath the gum, forms a solid anchorage for the visible part of the replacement tooth. Implants look and feel completely natural, and can last for many years. Plus, they don’t require any work to be done on nearby teeth.

What kind of smile makeover is right for you? Just ask us! We will be happy to take a look at your smile and recommend a treatment plan. And in this season of generosity, there’s no better gift you can give yourself than a bright new smile.

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Stephen Colbert Shares Throwback Braces Photo for a Good Cause

colbert.When we look at those glamorous faces on TV, it’s easy to forget that celebrities—like the rest of us—often went through an awkward stage in adolescence.  But once in a while, something comes along to remind us that flawless Hollywood smiles didn’t always start out that way. Right now, that something is the hashtag #PuberMe: an invitation from late-night TV host Stephen Colbert for fellow celebs to post awkward photos from their youth.

In exchange for posting the embarrassing images, Colbert’s charity is donating to the hurricane relief effort for Puerto Rico; so far about $1 million has been raised. Also raised: many eyebrows, by the adorably dorky pictures—such as the one of Colbert himself, with a smile full of metal braces!

Like many kids, Colbert had teeth that didn’t align properly in his bite. The picture shows that several of his top teeth are in less-than-perfect positions, with noticeable gaps in between. Yet to look at that same smile today, you’d never suspect there had been a problem. That’s the magic of orthodontics.

Time-tested and effective, metal braces like the ones in Colbert’s picture remain among the most widely used appliances today. But orthodontics has come a long way since the late 1970’s, and now there are several other methods for correcting misaligned teeth, including ceramic braces, clear plastic aligners, and invisible lingual braces. The main advantage of the newer methods is that are they are harder to notice (and maybe a bit less awkward).

Ceramic braces, for example, have brackets that match the color of the teeth; with only the thin archwire visible, they’re much more unobtrusive. Clear aligners are transparent plastic trays that completely cover the teeth. Almost impossible to spot, they are worn 22 hours per day, but may be removed for eating or important events. Lingual braces are literally invisible, since they are placed on the tongue side of teeth rather than the lip side. In many situations, they are at least as effective as traditional braces.

Which appliance is best for you? It depends on each person’s individual situation—but many orthodontic patients now have choices that weren’t available in the past. And that goes for both kids and adults, who often appreciate a more “grown-up” image while improving their smiles with orthodontic treatment.

If you have questions about orthodontic treatment, please contact our office or schedule a consultation.

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Boost Your Overall Health by Reducing Gum Inflammation

gum health.The human body’s immune system has amazing defensive capabilities. Without it a common cold or small wound could turn deadly.

One of the more important processes of the immune system is inflammation, the body’s ability to isolate diseased or injured tissue from unaffected tissue. Ironically, though, this vital component of the healing process could actually cause harm if it becomes chronic.

This often happens with periodontal (gum) disease, an infection of the gums caused by bacterial plaque built up on teeth due to inadequate hygiene, which in turn triggers inflammation. The infection is often fueled by plaque, however, and can become difficult for the body to overcome on its own. A kind of trench warfare sets in between the body and the infection, resulting in continuing inflammation that can damage gum tissues. Untreated, the damage may eventually lead to tooth and bone loss.

In treating gum disease, our main goal is to stop the infection (and hence the inflammation) by aggressively removing plaque and calculus (tartar). Without plaque the infection diminishes, the inflammation subsides and the gums can begin to heal. This reduces the danger to teeth and bone and hopefully averts their loss.

But there’s another benefit of this treatment that could impact other inflammatory conditions in the body. Because all the body’s organic systems are interrelated, what occurs in one part affects another especially if it involves inflammation.

It’s now theorized that reducing gum inflammation could lessen inflammation in other parts of the body. Likewise, treating other conditions like high blood pressure and other risk factors for inflammatory diseases could lower your risk of gum disease and boost the effectiveness of treatment.

The real key is to improve and maintain your overall health, including your teeth and gums. Practice daily brushing and flossing to remove plaque, and visit your dentist regularly for more thorough cleanings. And see your dentist at the first sign of possible gum problems like bleeding, redness or swelling. You’ll not only be helping your mouth you could also be helping the rest of your body enjoy better health.

If you would like more information on the relationship between gum disease and other systemic conditions, please contact our office or schedule a consultation.

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Help Your Kids Have a Healthier Halloween

halloween.

Halloween means loads of fun for kids everywhere: a chance to put on fanciful costumes and have some safe, spooky enjoyment. But the reward for all that trick-or-treating — bags full of sugary candy — can create monstrous problems for young smiles, in the form of tooth decay. Short of taking all those treats away, are there any ways to lessen the impact on your children’s teeth?

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the answer is: Yes!

As long as kids are brushing twice and flossing once a day, it’s okay for them to enjoy a few sweet treats on Halloween. But starting that same night, or the next day, you can help protect them from cavities. Here’s how:

Sort It Out:
Some treats are potentially more damaging to teeth than others. For example, candy that’s sticky and clings to teeth — like gummy bears and taffy — takes longer to get cleared away by saliva. Lengthier contact with the teeth increases the risk of tooth decay. The same is true for sweets that stay in the mouth for a long time, like hard candy. Sour candy is often acidic, and that acid can weaken the hard enamel coating of teeth, making them more prone to decay. But there’s some good news: Chocolate, a favorite treat, washes off the teeth relatively quickly — and dark chocolate has less sugar than milk chocolate.

Give It Away:
You can always give away some or all of your candy stash to people who will appreciate it: first responders or troops serving overseas, for example. Some organizations sponsor donation (or even buyback) programs. Try searching the web for programs like “Operation Gratitude,” among others.

Timing Is Everything:
If you do allow candy, limit it to mealtimes. That’s when saliva production is at its peak — and saliva helps neutralize acids and wash away food residue that can cause cavities. Whatever you do, don’t let kids snack on sweet treats from the candy dish throughout the day: This never gives your mouth a chance to bounce back from the sugary saturation.

Get Healthy Hydration:
For quenching thirst, water is the best choice. It helps your body stay properly hydrated and is needed for healthful saliva production. Sugary or acidic beverages like sodas (regular or diet), so-called “sports” or “energy” drinks, and even fruit juices can harm teeth. Fluoridated water (like most municipal tap water) has been shown to help prevent tooth decay. If you drink bottled water, look for a fluoridated variety.

Following these tips — and making sure your kids maintain good oral health with brushing, flossing, and routine dental office visits — will help keep them safe from cavities, not only at Halloween but all year long. If you have questions about cavity prevention or oral hygiene, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Decay — How to Assess Your Risk” and “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”

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New Season, New Toothbrush

toothbrush.October brings fall leaves, pumpkins — and National Dental Hygiene Month. As you change your summer clothes for a fall wardrobe, it may also be time to change your toothbrush for a new one. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends replacing your toothbrush every three to four months. If that sounds like a lot, just think: This small but very important tool gets a lot of use!

If you brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time as recommended by the ADA, that’s two hours of brushing action in one month. Three to four months of twice-daily brushing makes for six to eight hours of brushing time, or a couple hundred uses. This is all an average toothbrush can take before it stops doing its job effectively.

Toothbrush bristles are manufactured to have the right amount of give, tapering, and end-rounding for optimal cleaning. When new, a toothbrush can work its way around corners and between teeth to remove dental plaque. Old bristles, however, lose the flexibility needed to reach into nooks and crannies for a thorough cleaning. Worn bristles may curl, fray or break — and can scratch your gums or tooth enamel. A toothbrush with stiff, curled bristles does not leave your mouth feeling as clean. This may lead to brushing too often or too hard, which is bad for your gums.

A good rule of thumb is to replace your toothbrush every season — unless you see signs that you need a new one sooner. For example, if you wear braces, you may have to replace your toothbrush more frequently since brushing around braces puts more wear and tear on the brush.

For healthy teeth and gums, make sure your primary oral hygiene tool is in tip-top shape. Taking care of the little things now can avoid inconvenient and expensive dental problems later. Don’t forget to schedule regular professional dental cleanings, and be sure to ask if you have any questions about your dental hygiene routine at home. To learn more about the importance of good oral hygiene, read “Daily Oral Hygiene: Easy Habits for Maintaining Oral Health” and “Dental Hygiene Visit: A True Value in Dental Healthcare” in Dear Doctor magazine.

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Risk Factors for Gum Disease

gum disease.September is National Gum Care Month. Did you know that advanced periodontal disease is the number one cause of tooth loss among adults? Periodontal disease refers to any disease that affects the structures that hold the teeth in place, including gums, ligaments and bone. In its earliest stage, called gingivitis, the gums become inflamed. When it progresses to periodontitis, both soft and hard tissues that hold the teeth in place are affected, threatening the integrity of the teeth. Some people are more susceptible to periodontal disease than others. Here are some common risk factors:

Poor oral hygiene. Plaque buildup is the primary cause of gum disease. When life gets busy, we may be less diligent about our oral care. This allows bacteria in the mouth to form a biofilm (plaque), which causes inflammation of the gums.

Heredity: Some people are genetically more predisposed to gum disease. Look at your family history. Have any of your relatives had gum disease or lost their teeth?

Pregnancy. Gums are sensitive to hormone fluctuations, and it is not uncommon for pregnant women to experience an inflammation of the gums known as “pregnancy gingivitis.” Gingivitis — characterized by red, swollen gums that bleed easily — is the beginning stage of gum disease.

Age: The chance of developing gum disease increases with age. Over 70% of Americans 65 and older have periodontitis, an advanced form of gum disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This may be influenced by other diseases, medications that cause dry mouth, or other causes of plaque buildup.

Diet: Eating too many simple carbohydrates (those found in sugar, white bread, white rice and mashed potatoes, for example) is linked to chronic inflammation in the body, which increases the risk of gum disease.

Smoking: Smoking is a significant risk factor for the development and progression of gum disease. Since nicotine constricts blood vessels, smokers may not see the typical symptoms such as red, puffy, bleeding gums, so the disease may cause damage before smokers realize there is a problem with their gums.

Diabetes: Uncontrolled diabetes puts you at higher risk of periodontal disease. Not only can diabetes make gum disease worse, gum disease can make diabetes symptoms worse.

Our aim is not to scare you but to help you become aware of factors that can increase your risk of gum disease. Many of these factors are not under your control. However, you can do your part to prevent gum disease by staying on top of the things you can control. Let us know about any new medications you are taking, eat a balanced diet rich in complex carbohydrates and other nutrients and, if relevant, manage your diabetes and explore programs that will help you quit smoking.

Fortunately, good oral hygiene and regular professional cleanings can turn early gum disease around, so if you have any of the risk factors that contribute to periodontal disease, be extra diligent about your oral hygiene routine. And make sure you come in for regular dental checkups and cleanings. If you show signs of gum disease, we may recommend that you come in for more frequent cleanings.

To learn more about risk factors for gum disease, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Assessing Risk for Gum Disease” and “Pregnancy and Oral Health.”

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Charlize Theron Back in Action After Dental Surgery

implant.When they’re introducing a new movie, actors often take a moment to pay tribute to the people who helped make it happen — like, you know, their dentists. At least that’s what Charlize Theron did at the premiere of her new spy thriller, Atomic Blonde.

"I just want to take a quick moment to thank my dentists," she told a Los Angeles audience as they waited for the film to roll. "I don’t even know if they’re here, but I just want to say thank you."

Why did the starring actress/producer give a shout-out to her dental team? It seems she trained and fought so hard in the action sequences that she actually cracked two teeth!

“I had severe tooth pain, which I never had in my entire life,” Theron told an interviewer from Variety. At first, she thought it was a cavity — but later, she found out it was more serious: One tooth needed a root canal, and the other had to be extracted and replaced with a dental implant — but first, a bone grafting procedure was needed. “I had to put a donor bone in [the jaw] to heal,” she noted, “and then I had another surgery to put a metal screw in there.”

Although it might sound like the kind of treatment only an action hero would need, bone grafting is now a routine part of many dental implant procedures. The reason is that without a sufficient volume of good-quality bone, implant placement is difficult or impossible. That’s because the screw-like implant must be firmly joined with the jawbone, so it can support the replacement tooth.

Fortunately, dentists have a way to help your body build new bone: A relatively small amount of bone material can be placed in the missing tooth’s socket in a procedure called bone grafting. This may come from your own body or, more likely, it may be processed bone material from a laboratory. The donor material can be from a human, animal or synthetic source, but because of stringent processing techniques, the material is safe for human use. Once it is put in place your body takes over, using the grafted material as a scaffold on which to build new bone cells. If jawbone volume is insufficient for implants, it can often be restored to a viable point in a few months.

Better yet, when grafting material is placed in the tooth socket immediately after extraction, it can keep most of the bone loss from occurring in the first place, enabling an implant to be placed as soon as possible — even before the end of a movie’s shooting schedule.

Will Atomic Blonde prove to be an action-movie classic? Only time will tell. But one thing’s for sure: When Charlize Theron walks down the red carpet, she won’t have to worry about a gap in her smile.

If you have questions about bone grafting or dental implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dental Implant Surgery and “Immediate Dental Implant.”

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Professional Whitening Offers an Effective Way to Restore Your Smile’s Luster

whitening.

Your teeth were meant to shine! Tooth enamel’s polished translucence, framed by the dentin layer beneath it, has a way of vibrantly catching the light when you smile. But tooth wear and structural changes as you age can dim that shine. Add to that staining caused by foods and beverages or disease and your smile could further lose its luster.

On your supermarket or pharmacy oral hygiene aisle you’ll find dozens of products promising to restore that lost luster, including toothpastes, whitening kits or even chewing gum. While such products work to some degree, our dental office may have the right solution for you: a safe and effective treatment for whitening teeth.

Why see us for teeth whitening? For one, professional whitening solutions contain a higher concentration of bleaching agent (usually 35-45% hydrogen peroxide) than home kits. We usually apply it in a gel form directly to the teeth while using barrier devices like dams to protect the lips and other soft tissue from irritation. We may then apply heat or light to the applied gel to enhance the release of peroxide into your enamel.

This professional procedure can often give you a brighter smile in fewer sessions than a home whitening kit — and it may last longer. What’s more, we can control the level of brightness to produce only a subtle change or a dazzling “Hollywood” smile — whatever your preference.

Like a home kit, this procedure bleaches staining on the outer surface of enamel, known as extrinsic staining. But you can also have discoloration deep within a tooth, known as intrinsic staining, caused by a variety of reasons like tetracycline use early in life or complications from a root canal treatment. Home kits or even the professional treatment described above can’t whiten intrinsic staining.

For intrinsic staining you’ll need a special procedure that places a bleaching agent inside the tooth. Depending on the extent of staining the procedure could require more than one session.

To find out what kind of discoloration you have, visit us for a full examination. We’ll then be able to give you your options for putting the shine back in your smile.

If you would like more information on teeth whitening, 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 “Teeth Whitening.”

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You’ll Experience Little to No Discomfort During and After Implant Surgery

implant.You’ve decided to obtain dental implants for your missing teeth. It’s a good choice — they provide the closest restoration to the function and appearance of natural teeth. You will, however, need to undergo a surgical procedure to imbed the implants’ threaded titanium posts into supporting bone.

It’s understandable if you’re a little apprehensive about undergoing surgery. We’re here, though, to set your mind at ease: implantation is a relatively minor procedure carefully planned in advance. Most patients experience no discomfort during the procedure and very little afterward.

We begin by completely numbing the surgical site with a local anesthetic. If you have a high level of anxiety, we can also administer a sedative or similar medication to help you relax. We then access the underlying bone through a series of incisions that create a flap in the gum tissue that we’ll later suture closed.

It’s quite common to have prepared a surgical guide or template beforehand. The template placed in the mouth marks the exact site for a small channel (or hole) we create in the bone. We then incrementally increase the size of the hole by drilling until it matches precisely the implant’s size and shape. This takes time to avoid overheating and damaging the bone.

We then remove the implant from its sterile packaging and insert it into the opening. We’ll also take x-rays to ensure correct positioning, which is critical for achieving an attractive result. We then suture the gum flap in place using stitches that will eventually dissolve. The implant will then integrate with the bone for a few weeks to create a strong, durable hold before we continue with the restoration.

Most patients can manage any post-surgical discomfort with mild anti-inflammatory pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen, although we can prescribe something stronger if you need it. We may also prescribe a mouthrinse with an anti-bacterial agent like chlorhexidine for you to use while the gums are healing to reduce the risk of infection.

Implant surgery is part of a long process that will eventually result in regaining the function of your lost teeth. What’s more, undergoing this minor procedure will also help you regain something just as important — a beautiful smile.

If you would like more information on dental implant restoration, 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.”

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