Some things you hear at the dentist don't surprise you: You have more plaque buildup or (yuck!) you have a new cavity. On a more positive note, you might hear your teeth look fine. But what you might not expect to hear is that your dentist—your longtime dentist—is retiring.
Then again, it might be you telling your dentist you're moving to another city—or you just feel like it's time for a change. Whatever the reason, there could come a time when you must find a new dental care provider. And when you do, it's very important that your dental records go with you.
And, yes, your dentist does have such records on you. Just like medical physicians, they're obligated legally and professionally to maintain a formal record of all your visits and treatments (including all your x-ray films). They may also include notations on your other health conditions and medications that could impact your dental care.
Without those records, your new dentist essentially starts from scratch, depending on what you tell them and what they may ascertain from examining your mouth. It means new x-rays and new treatment plans that can take time to form. But with your old records in hand, dental care with your new dentist hardly misses a beat.
Technically, those records belong to your dentist. You are, however, legally entitled to view them and to obtain a copy, although you may have to reimburse the dentist for printing and mailing costs. Usually, though, you can simply request they be transmitted to your new dentist, which can often be done electronically.
But what if, for whatever reason, you're not comfortable asking for your records from your former dentist? In that case, you can ask your new dentist to request them. Even if you still have an outstanding balance with your former dentist's office, they can't refuse a transfer request.
HIPAA regulations require dental offices to retain adult patient records for at least six years. But don't wait that long! The sooner your dental records are in the hands of your new dentist, the less likely your dental care hits any speed bumps.
If you would like more information on the importance of your dental records, 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 “Why Your Dental Records Should Follow You.”
We're all interested in how our toothpaste tastes, how it freshens breath or how it brightens teeth. But those are secondary to its most important function, which is how well our toothpaste helps us remove dental plaque, that thin bacterial film on teeth most responsible for both tooth decay and gum disease.
Daily brushing and flossing clear away dental plaque, resulting in a much lower risk for dental disease. But while the mechanical action of brushing loosens plaque, toothpaste helps complete its removal. It can do this because of two basic ingredients found in nearly every brand of toothpaste.
The first is an abrasive (or polishing agent), a gritty substance that boosts the effectiveness of the brushing action (which, by the way, alleviates the need for harmful aggressive brushing). These substances, usually hydrated silica, hydrated alumina or calcium carbonate, are abrasive enough to loosen plaque, but not enough to damage tooth enamel.
The other ingredient, a detergent, works much the same way as the product you use to wash greasy dishes—it breaks down the parts of plaque that water can't dissolve. The most common, sodium lauryl sulfate, a safe detergent found in other hygiene products, loosens and dissolves plaque so that it can be easily rinsed away.
You'll also find other ingredients to some degree in toothpaste: flavorings, of course, that go a long way toward making the brushing experience more pleasant; humectants to help toothpaste retain moisture; and binders to hold bind all the ingredients together. And many toothpastes also contain fluoride, a naturally-occurring chemical that strengthens tooth enamel.
You may also find additional ingredients in toothpastes that specialize in certain functions like reducing tartar buildup (hardened plaque), easing tooth or gum sensitivity or controlling bacterial growth. Many toothpastes also include whiteners to promote a brighter smile. Your dentist can advise you on what to look for in a toothpaste to meet a specific need.
But your first priority should always be how well your toothpaste helps you keep your teeth and gums healthy. Knowing what's in it can help you choose your toothpaste more wisely.
If you would like more information on oral hygiene products and aids, 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 “Toothpaste: What's in It?”
Most childhood sicknesses are highly treatable and quickly fade from memory afterward. But there's one viral infection that can reappear years later, albeit in a different form and this time it might not be as forgettable. It could even impact your dental care.
Varicella, more commonly known as chicken pox, is a viral infection that mainly affects children. Fortunately, the itchy blisters and other symptoms associated with it usually clear up on their own. But the virus itself, varicella zoster virus (VZV), can remain behind and become dormant.
Fast-forward a few decades, and the child once with chicken pox is now an adult, usually over 50. In 20-30% of former chicken pox patients, the virus reactivates as a new infection known commonly as shingles.
Shingles often begins with an itching, burning or numbing sensation on the skin that develops into a severe rash. Because of its effect on surface nerves, the rash often takes on a striped or belt-like pattern on the skin. A shingles outbreak can also cause fever, fatigue and pain, the latter of which in rare cases can be quite severe.
Shingles in its early stages is also highly contagious, transmitted easily through either physical contact with the skin lesions or through airborne secretions. This is especially troubling for certain groups: pregnant women, patients undergoing cancer or other serious disease treatment, or those with compromised immune systems. For them, shingles can pose a significant risk for complications.
Because of its easy transmission, and the danger it can pose to certain groups, dentists typically postpone treatment—even routine dental cleanings—for patients experiencing a shingles outbreak, especially a facial rash. Once their outbreak subsides, those procedures can be rescheduled.
If you develop what you think is shingles, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Certain prescribed antiviral medications can ease the symptoms and hasten recovery, but they're most effective if started within three days of the onset of the disease. There's also an effective vaccination for shingles recommended for people over 60 to help avoid the disease altogether.
One other thing! If you do develop shingles and have an upcoming dental appointment, let your dentist know. Better to reschedule your visit after you've recuperated than to put others' health at risk.
If you would like more information on shingles and dental care, 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 “Shingles, Herpes Zoster.”
A year ago, former Australian footballer Jake Edwards got married. On television. To a woman he'd just met. No, not in a Vegas wedding chapel—it was all part of a reality TV series called Married At First Sight. Unfortunately, the marriage didn't last, which led to Edwards reevaluating his life. And one area in particular that came under his inward scrutiny was his smile.
Although otherwise possessing movie star looks, Edwards' teeth were anything but handsome: Besides a few that were chipped and cracked, his teeth overall looked small. His less-than-perfect smile was no secret, and he had plenty of offers from dentists to transform his smile.
He finally decided to do so, but with a twist: In addition to his own, he offered a full smile makeover to two other people for free (each valued at $30,000). The impetus for his makeover contest undoubtedly stems from his own lifelong experience: After years of being teased and bullied about his teeth, he knew firsthand how an unattractive smile can affect your personal and social confidence.
You too might feel the same confidence drain every time you look in the mirror. The problem, though, is that a full-scale makeover may seem out of reach financially and there aren't many Jake Edwards-style contests around to enter. But not to worry! There are a few ways to change your smile for the better without taking out a second mortgage on your house.
Teeth whitening. Even a smile with straight and perfectly formed teeth can be unattractive if those teeth are stained and dull. A professional teeth-whitening procedure can change that: Using a bleaching solution, we can turn drab and dingy teeth into a bright and dazzling smile in one sitting. With a little care and occasional touchups, your whiter smile could last for quite a while.
Bonding. We can repair mild to moderate chips and other tooth deformities simply and affordably with dental bonding. We gradually apply a resin dental material color-matched to your tooth, building it up and sculpting it to look natural. In just one sitting, a chipped tooth that once stood out like a sore thumb can regain its attractiveness.
Veneers. Many people like Edwards suffer from teeth that appear overly small or have slightly widened gaps. Problems like these and other deformities can be overcome with dental veneers, thin layers of porcelain bonded to the surfaces of teeth. Veneers can mask all manner of dental defects and truly transform a smile.
These and other affordable cosmetic procedures can truly change your smile, and many only take one visit. To learn more about your personal options, see us for a complete dental exam and consultation.
If you would like more information about other cosmetic dental procedures, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Repairing Chipped Teeth.”
Losing teeth can make it more difficult to eat, not to mention the effect it can have on your smile. But that could be just the beginning of your problems. Missing teeth can contribute to extensive bone loss within your jaws and face. Here's why.
Bone is like any other living tissue—cells develop, function and eventually die, and new cells take their place. Forces generated during chewing stimulate this new growth, helping the jawbone maintain its normal volume and density.
But you lose this stimulus when you lose teeth. This can cause a slowdown in bone cell regrowth that can eventually diminish bone volume. And it can happen relatively quickly: you could lose a quarter or more of jawbone width around a missing tooth within a year.
As this loss continues, especially in cases of multiple missing teeth, the bone can eventually erode to its base level. This loss of dental function can make chewing more difficult, place more pressure on the remaining teeth and adversely affect facial appearance. It could also prevent an implant restoration to replace missing teeth.
Dentures and other forms of dental restoration can replace missing teeth, but not the chewing stimulus. Dentures in particular will accelerate bone loss, because they can irritate the bony gum ridges they rest upon.
Dental implants, on the other hand, can slow or even stop bone loss. Implants consist of a metal post, typically made of titanium, imbedded into the jawbone at the site of the missing tooth with a life-like crown attached. Titanium also has a strong affinity with bone so that bone cells naturally grow and adhere to the implant's surface. This can produce enough growth to slow, stop or even reverse bone loss.
This effect may also work when implants are combined with other restorations, including dentures. These enhanced dentures no longer rest on the gums, but connect to implants. This adds support and takes the pressure off of the bony ridge, as well as contributes to better bone health.
If you've lost a tooth, it's important to either replace it promptly or have a bone graft installed to help forestall any bone loss in the interim. And when it's time to replace those missing teeth, dental implants could provide you not only a life-like solution, but a way to protect your bone health.
If you would like more information on dental implants, 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 “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”
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