Posts for: February, 2021
In the midst of the current global pandemic, we're all focused on staying healthy and avoiding infection. For many, their first thought before resuming any regular activity is, “Will I or my family be safe?”
If you've asked that about visiting the dentist, rest assured, it is. In fact, dentists have been at the forefront in protecting patients from viral and bacterial infections for decades. Here's why you're in safe hands at the dentist's office.
Barrier control. Although we're focused at the moment on Covid-19, there are other pathogens (microorganism that cause disease) for which there has been an ongoing concern among healthcare providers. Many of these like the viruses that cause hepatitis or HIV/AIDS spread through blood-to-blood contact. That's why we routinely use gloves, face shields and other barrier devices, even during routine visits, to prevent bloodborne transmission between patients and staff, or other patients.
Disinfection. Viruses and other pathogens may continue to live on surfaces in treatment areas for various durations. To prevent their transmission to humans, we follow strict procedures for disinfecting all treatment-related surfaces after each patient visit. One-use treatment items are disposed separately from regular waste. Permanent instruments and equipment are cleaned and thoroughly sanitized to the highest standard.
Protocols. There are approximately 170,000 dentists across the U.S., yet each generally follows the same high standards for infection control. Regulating bodies at state levels have made infection control a crucial part of licensing requirements and continuing education, and every dental practice must have an infection control plan they meticulously follow. Because of these strict standards, an infection occurring in a dental office setting is extremely rare.
In addition to these regular procedures, dentists have also added extra safety measures to better address the current crisis, and will continue these until the crisis has abated. Staying knowledgeable and flexible to new challenges is also a feature of dental providers' infection control mission.
If you do have concerns, please feel free to contact us to learn more about the specific measures we have in place to keep patients safe. Protecting you and your family during dental care will always be our top priority.
If you would like more information on patient safety at the dentist's office, 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 “Infection Control in the Dental Office.”
We all benefit from regular dental care, regardless of our state of oral health. But if you've experienced periodontal (gum) disease, those regular dental visits are even more important in making sure your healed gums stay that way.
Gum disease is a bacterial infection caused by dental plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles accumulating on tooth surfaces. The infection triggers inflammation in the gums that quickly becomes chronic. That's why people with gum disease have reddened and swollen gums that bleed easily.
The infection can aggressively spread deeper below the gum line, eventually affecting the bone. The combination of weakened gum detachment from the teeth and bone loss may ultimately cause tooth loss. But we can stop the infection by thoroughly removing all plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) from the teeth and gums. As the plaque is removed, the gums respond and begin to heal.
It's possible then even with advanced gum disease to restore health to your teeth and gums. But although the infection has been arrested, it can occur again. In fact, once you've had gum disease, your susceptibility for another infection is much greater. To stay on top of this, you may need to visit the dentist more frequently.
These upgraded visits known as periodontal maintenance (PM) are actually a continuation of your treatment. Depending on the extensiveness of your gum disease, we may need to see you more than the standard twice-a-year visits: Some periodontal patients, for example, may need a visit every two to three months. Again, the state of your gum health will determine how often.
In addition to standard dental cleanings and checkups, PM visits will also include more thorough examination of the teeth and gums, particularly the health of the tooth roots. We'll also check how well you're doing with daily plaque removal and if there are any signs of gum infection. We may also prescribe medication, rinses or topical antibiotics to help control your mouth's levels of bacteria.
A patient's periodontal “maintenance schedule” will depend on their individual condition and needs. The key, though, is to closely monitor gum health for any indications that another infection has set in. By staying alert through dedicated PM, we can stop a new infection before it harms your dental health.
If you would like more information on gum disease, 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 “Periodontal Cleanings.”
If we were playing word association with the term “oral hygiene,” you'd probably answer “brushing.” And you would be right—brushing cleans tooth surfaces of accumulated bacterial plaque, a thin biofilm most responsible for dental disease.
But brushing is only half of the oral hygiene equation: You also need to remove dental plaque between teeth where brushing can't reach. And, that requires that other practice—flossing.
Unfortunately, brushing is more popular than its hygienic sibling because many people find traditional thread flossing more difficult and messier than brushing. That can make it tempting to skip flossing—but then you're only getting half the benefit of oral hygiene for reducing the risk of tooth decay or gum disease.
There is, however, a way to floss that doesn't involve a roll of thread: oral irrigation. This form of flossing uses a countertop device that directs a pressurized spray of water between teeth through a handheld wand. The directed spray loosens and then flushes away accumulated plaque.
Oral irrigators (also known as water flossers) have been an important tool for decades in dental offices, and have been available for home use since the 1960s. In the last few years, though, the devices have become more compact and easier to use. More importantly, studies have shown they're as effective in removing between-teeth plaque as regular flossing.
These irrigation devices are especially useful for people wearing braces. The attached brackets and wires make it extremely difficult to maneuver flossing thread between teeth. Because of this (as well as similar difficulties in brushing), patients are more susceptible to dental disease while undergoing orthodontic treatment.
But a 2008 study showed that oral irrigators are quite effective for braces wearers in removing between-teeth plaque. It found those who used an irrigator after brushing removed five times the amount of plaque than those that only brushed.
Even if you're not wearing braces, you may still find an oral irrigator to be a useful flossing alternative. Speak with your dentist for recommendations on what to look for in an oral irrigator and tips on how to use it. It could make a positive difference in your dental health.
If you would like more information on how best to keep your teeth and gums clean, 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 “Cleaning Between Your Teeth.”