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Advances in Dental Care: What’s New at the Dentist

Are you behind on your dental visits, and now you’re being driven in by a toothache, other dental problems, or guilt?

If so, be prepared -- not for a lecture from your dentist -- but for discovering that there is a host of new options to keep teeth healthy and beautiful.

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Here are some of the newer dental care procedures and techniques that leading dentists are bringing into their practices.

Improving Dental Health: How High-Tech X-Rays Can Help

In some dental offices, digitized X-rays (think digital camera) are replacing traditional radiographs. Although digital X-rays have been on the market for several years, they have recently become more popular with dentists.

Digital X-rays are faster and more efficient than traditional radiographs. First, an electronic sensor or phosphor plate (instead of film) is placed in the patient’s mouth to capture the image. The digital image is then relayed or scanned to a computer, where it is available for viewing. The procedure is much faster than processing conventional film.

Your dentist can also store digital images on the computer and compare them with previous or future images to see how your dental health is being maintained.

And because the sensor and phosphor plates are more sensitive to X-rays than film is, the radiation dose is significantly reduced.

Digital X-rays have many uses besides finding cavities. They also help look at the bone below the teeth to determine if the bone level of support is good. Dentists can use the X-rays to check the placement of an implant -- a titanium screw-like device that is inserted into the jawbone so that an artificial tooth can be attached.

Digital X-rays also help endodontists -- dentists who specialize in root canals -- to see if they have thoroughly cleaned the canal during the procedure.

Lasers for Tooth Cavity Detection

Traditionally, dentists use an instrument they call the "explorer" to find cavities. That's the instrument they poke around with in your mouth during a checkup. When it "sticks" in a tooth, they look closer to see if they find decay.

Many dentists are now switching to the diode laser, a higher-tech option for detecting and removing cavities. The laser can be used to determine if there is decay in the tooth. The dentist can then choose to watch the tooth, comparing the levels at the next visit, or advise that the cavity be removed and the tooth filled.

When healthy teeth are exposed to the wavelength of the diode laser, they don't glow or fluoresce, so the reading on the digital display is low. But decayed teeth glow in proportion to the amount of decay, resulting in higher readings on the display.

The diode laser doesn’t always work with teeth that already have fillings, but for other teeth, it could mean earlier detection of cavities. Note also that the diode laser does not replace X-rays; it detects decay in grooves on the chewing surface, while bitewing X-rays can find decay between and inside teeth. 

WebMD Medical Reference

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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