On a usual weekday morning, you’re brushing your teeth with your eyes still half closed as part of your morning routine…until you spit out and see red mixed in with the toothpaste foam. Do you shrug it off thinking you may have just hurt yourself with the bristles…or something?? Don’t shrug it off!! Bleeding from brushing or flossing is a red flag, a loud siren, your body’s warning sign!!!
Seventy-five percent of Americans harbor bacteria under their gum-lines, causing the gums to bleed, and to become puffy, red and tender. Where does the bacteria come from? We all have natural bacteria in our mouths, but we don’t always clean it out properly (or have it cleaned out regularly by getting a professional cleaning). Bacteria gather at the gum line, especially in between teeth, where it is darker, moister, and less likely to be bothered (i.e flossed :)). They build a white filmy paste that helps them cling to the tooth–also known as plaque. Over time the plaque calcifies as it comes in contact with natural calcium and phosphates in our saliva. Bacteria/plaque/tartar release acids when they digest left-over foods that pass through the mouth.’the body responds by sending its defense forces (blood) to kill the bacteria. This is the beginning of the dreaded thing we dentists like to call gum disease.
Gum disease is a silent problem–there is no pain involved and sometimes none of the other symptoms are detectable until a health professional does a thorough exam. Studies have linked it to overall health issues such as heart problems and low birth weight in pregnant women as well.
Here is a picture of healthy gums vs. infected gums:
Every tooth is held in place by bone, which is covered by a collar of gum. Only about 1-3mm of that collar of gum is “free” or not attached to the tooth and bone. After that 3 mm marking, the gum should be “attached”–literally stuck very firmly to the tooth and bone. When a dentist or hygienist measures your gums, he or she is checking this level of attachment. If the probe drops down more than 3 mm, attachment loss due to bacteria has occurred. These measurements will be recorded as a baseline for the records.
Okay, so that was probably TMI, but here’s the deal: you can do something about gum disease. A scaling and root planing (otherwise known as “deep cleaning” will get rid of all that bacteria and allow for re-attachment of the gums. Most patients notice a huge difference in the appearance of their gums and elimination of bleeding 24 hours after treatment. The health of your mouth and even your general well being will be much improved. Moreover, you’ll probably be motivated to floss more to prevent bacterial build up again.
The most dreaded words during a dental appointment: “Mr./Ms. So-n-so, you have a cavity”. You cringe, your heart drops, and you think to yourself, “How is that possible? My tooth doesn’t even hurt!”
The truth is, dental cavities may not hurt until the decay (infected tooth material) reaches all the way to the pulp (nerve) of the tooth. At that point, a regular filling is usually no longer an option, which means more invasive treatment, more time in the chair, and greater financial commitment.
Here’s a cartoon that illustrates why cavities sometimes do not cause pain in the early to middle stages:
The tooth on the right has medium sized cavities that have “eaten” through the enamel (the 1-2mm super hard outer shell) and part of the dentin (the less hard inner bulk of the tooth). The enamel and dentin do not have any nerve endings and therefore there is no pain associated with a bacterial invasion (cavities) into these materials. The tooth on the left shows what happens when fillings are not done to stop the bacteria (cavity) from growing–it eventually travels all the way to the middle of the tooth (the pulp/nerve) and that’s when you get that horrible toothache :(.
As you can see, decay (cavity) has around 4mm of hard material to get through before it reaches the pulp/nerve of your tooth. Sometimes this process takes months to happen, and other times it happens very rapidly. It all depends on your individual tooth make-up (genetics), what type of bacteria is present, and your diet (see blog post on enamel for more details on this).
To sum up, you only have about 4mm of tooth to work with before you start feeling pain from cavities!! Please don’t wait till it’s too late. Ask us to show you what the decay looks like on your x-rays, or in your mouth. Sometimes a visual will help you see the importance of getting a cavity filled before its too late! Cavities most likely will NOT hurt until you’ve waited too long and your pulp is infected–more on pulpal infections (pulpitis) in a subsequent blog 🙂
Note: Tooth decay, cavity, caries, bacterial infection of tooth, bacterial invasion of tooth are all synonymous
Hey there!! Here at Brooklyn Oak Dental Care, weve been treating many of you to a beautiful, bright new smile with our in-office whitening system. When you come in for your free consultation, we will take a detailed look at your mouth. We will examine your soft tissues (gums, tongue, etc.) and your hard tissues (teeth, bones, etc.) and determine if you are a good candidate for an in-office whitening. The current shade (color) of your teeth will be determined, and we will discuss how effective the whitening procedure will be for you in particular. Depending on the type of staining your teeth have, your teeth may become up to eight shades lighter!!
Now, of course almost everybody wants to know—is whitening damaging to my teeth? Teeth whitening products temporarily “dehydrate” the outer layer of teeth, allowing the whitening factors to penetrate deep into the dentin layer for effectiveness. This “dehydration” reverses itself naturally via the normal components of saliva in your mouth, all within a few hours. Rest assured, you will be given detailed instructions on what not to do during those few hours to prevent any problems.
Now, a piece about that pretty little outer layer of your teeth—also known as enamel. Enamel is amazing—it’s the hardest material found in the human body (harder than bone!). While there is a lot out there in the media about enamel erosion these days, as dental professionals we know that enamel is actually constantly going through changes due to several factors that occur in all mouths. It’s made up of a matrix of minerals, and a thin layer of those minerals is actually always breaking away from the rest. The beauty part is this—those same minerals are found naturally in your saliva and are RE-ATTACHING themselves to enamel simultaneously. It’s pretty cool—almost like a constant rejuvenation of the outer layer of enamel. Here is a simple drawing to help visualize this process:
Problems with enamel erosion only occur when this delicate balance is overthrown by too much bacteria (plaque or tartar) in the mouth, not keeping that sweet tooth in check, overdoing it with acidic foods (and I mean like sucking on a lemon all day every day), and going berserk-o with that new electric toothbrush you just got. All laughs aside, even an in-office tooth whitening can’t damage this super-material, as long as you allow the natural balance to restore itself.
You can always email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments. We can’t wait to make your smile look its best!!
We’re honored and excited to welcome the families of Park Slope to Brooklyn Oak Dental Care, our beautiful new practice located at the corner of 6th and 3rd. We’re also proud to unveil our brand-new website and blog, where we’ll be posting about oral health topics that we hope you’ll find as interesting as we do. We love staying in touch with our patients and can’t wait to see where our blog will take us!
First up: When was your last dental visit? If it’s been a while, it might be time to open wide again!
Brushing and flossing alone won’t get your teeth completely clean. Even the most thorough home care routine can’t prevent bacteria from building up on your teeth and turning into tartar. Untreated tartar can inflame your gums and make them more susceptible to gum disease, and it can only be removed with a professional cleaning.
Even if you’re nervous about dental treatment or have been putting off your next checkup because you’ve been too busy, we’d love to see you in our office. We offer convenient hours, stress-free visits, and a friendly and compassionate team that will always treat you like family.
Call our office today to schedule an appointment, and be sure to check back here regularly to see what’s going on in our new practice. We look forward to meeting you!
Dr. Siama Muhammad & the Brooklyn Oak Dental Care Team