Hill Family Dental

Technology: What a wonderful thing

Oral care has come a long way.  Hundreds of years ago, people used a “chewing stick” which was no more than a stick or twig with a pointed or frayed tip. Today we use lasers. That is quite a jump! While dental technology may not be the most interesting topic, there is an entire industry focused around improving your dental experience and using technology to do so. In this week’s post we’ll cover what’s new in dentistry. So when you see it for the first time in the office, it’s not a big surprise!

Everyone has had the following experience: you go into the dentist for your biannual cleaning and the hygienist makes a remark about how good your teeth look. You end up feeling good because the anxiety of having a cavity dwindles. When the dentist arrives, the small talk begins while they’re poking around your teeth. The dentist then looks at an x-ray, whispers something to the hygienist, and then looks down at you and says “I hate to tell you, but you have a cavity.” How in the world can a dentist tell that you have a cavity just by poking your teeth? When the dentist pokes you with the “explorer” they are looking for a sticky result. Sticky is bad. When the tooth sticks, it is generally an indication of decay. It is a reactive experiment.


Lasers can help.  Some lasers allow the dentist to detect tooth decay in its earliest stages. The primary benefit is that something may look like tooth decay today but not warrant a further procedure. When you return to the dentist in six months, the dentist can then compar


e the previous outputs to the present condition and see if things have remained the same or gotten worse. The laser allows the dentist to make a more informed decision about how to treat a condition. The laser lets the dentist see what can’t be felt by the “explorer.”  The laser is painless, powerful, and efficient.


Another technological advancement for patients and dentists is the advent of CAD/CAM technology in the dental office.  CAD/CAM (computer-aided design/computer aided manufacturing) touches so many industries; it was only a matter of time before it made its mark on dentistry. By using sophisticated software, dentists are able to do everything from see a three dimensional model of your mouth on a computer screen to creating dental products right in their office that used to be sent out to a laboratory.  The patient benefits are immense. When a dentist can see your mouth with incredible detail, he is able to identify potential problems that could have taken months or years to develop. Your dentist can help you get in front of any pending oral health issues before they even have a chance to develop.

CAD/CAM technology is usually combined with other technologies to shorten time in the dentist chair and reduce the number of visits. For example, dentists use to make a mold of a tooth and send it to a lab. The lab would then “mill” or carve a crown, send it back to the dentist, and you would need to return for another appointment. CAD/CAM technology reduces those steps and allows the dentist to carve a crown while you wait. What used to take 1-2 weeks can now be done in less than two hours.

These two technologies are changing the world of dentistry but they are not alone. Subsequent posts will look at emerging technologies for everything from dental implants to financing.  It’s hard to say with a straight face that the world of dental technology is exciting, but take comfort in the fact that very smart people are working hard to help dentists make your dental experience better.  The next time you are in our office, look around and ask us to show you some of the new technologies we’re using and don’t be afraid to ask us a question about something you’ve seen, read about, or would like to see in our office.

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You think you know Brushing

Not another dental blog about brushing!  Everybody thinks they know everything about brushing.  What else can anyone say about this topic that hasn’t been said before? Use toothpaste, brush regularly, and don’t forget to floss.  In a nut-shell, that’s Oral Care 101.  It’s not rocket science.  That said, every day we see patients who use improper brushing techniques. This week’s post focuses on the fundamentals of brushing your teeth because its worth repeating: frequency matters and don’t forget to brush your gums!

One of the most common questions we hear is “do I need to brush twice every day?”  Some people have very strong teeth and don’t eat a lot of sugar. These people don’t drink pop or coffee and when they brush well, they also floss. They have genetics and lifestyle on their side. But look at it this way: if you believe in a higher power do you still lock your car door? That’s the message we try to convey to every patient. If you follow proper brushing techniques, a second brushing session only helps your oral hygiene. The thing is, today you may have good oral health but you might have a predisposition to tooth decay or gingivitis. By getting in the habit of brushing twice a day, even when you don’t have a problem, your best offense (brushing) can also be your defense.

It is not uncommon to see people with healthy teeth but gums that are in terrible condition. This happens for two main reasons: neglect in brushing the gums and/or improper gum brushing technique.  The importance of healthy gums can’t be understated.  One major mistake we see is that people use a hard toothbrush. All you really need for a healthy mouth is a soft bristle brush, a proper 45° angle and two full minutes. Oh, and don’t forget the floss.

If 10% of our patients took this approach to brushing teeth, the dental hygienist would spend less time cleaning and the dentist would fill fewer cavities. A healthy mouth saves you time and money. If you have very healthy teeth and only brush once a day, take the extra 2 to 4 minutes for that second round of brushing – the benefits can’t be understated. Pay close attention to your gums. You can tell if you’re using proper technique when brushing your gums is pain-free. Go slow, be gentle, and be thorough. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to talk to your dentist, dental assistant and hygienist. They are there to help you keep that mouth healthy and happy.

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Wisdom Teeth: Keep or Remove

Wisdom teeth are some of the most contentious teeth we have. Read one set of articles and you will get 10 reasons for keeping your wisdom teeth.  Read another set of articles and you will have will have every reason to remove them. The goal for this week’s post is to give you as much information as possible, so together, we can make the best decision for your oral health.

According to the Canadian Dental Association, most people get between one and four wisdom teeth.  What drives the number of wisdom teeth? Nobody knows but the best assumption is genetics.  You can’t control the number of wisdom teeth that grow but most people have the choice to keep them or have them removed. As a rule of thumb:  the more wisdom teeth, the more potential for crowding which causes pain and discomfort. For some people, wisdom teeth are a non-issue.  For others, especially those with smaller jaws, the presence of wisdom teeth can be painful.

As dentists, scientists, and practitioners we are always looking for the reason “why?” good dental care revolves around the principal that each patient brings a unique circumstance to the office. While it’s true that most people in America have their wisdom teeth removed, that doesn’t mean that everyone should. A lot is at play including genetics, age, and level of health. Beyond that there is the fundamental question: where do wisdom teeth lie on a spectrum from benefit-to-problem? As a general rule, if a tooth is causing pain, discomfort, or unnecessary stress, extraction is the best option. If it’s not causing any problems, then it can stay. 

As was stated earlier, there are different schools of thought on keeping or extracting this set of molars.  While medicine is a science it is also a practice. This means there are few hard-and-fast rules. As the patient, your goal is to understand what is most probable and with your dentist, make the best decision with the information at-hand. Today, your wisdom teeth may not be an issue. But if you are young and your jaw has not stopped developing, it is quite possible that in the future your wisdom teeth may be problematic. Depending on your lifestyle, it might be best to remove wisdom teeth sooner rather than later and vise-versa.

Our practice is based upon open, honest, and experience-based conversations. Communicate with your dentist about what you’re feeling and combine that with what the x-rays show, your genetics, and the dentist’s experience.  If you follow that process you have a very good chance at making the right decision for your oral health and that is the only thing that matters.

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What your teeth say about your Health

Humans are one of the few mammals that show their teeth when they are happy.  And the health of your teeth can say a lot about the health of the rest of your body.  Take an extreme situation:  tooth decay. Look in someone’s mouth and if you see unhealthy teeth, you can bet they have other health issues.  A perfect example is someone who’s addicted to methamphetamines.  Over time “meth mouth” happens. Look at the body of someone addicted to meth; you’ll see the damage the chemicals have done to the entire body.

Dentists and hygienists can tell a lot about your stress just by looking at your teeth.  There’s a strong correlation between flat teeth and stress.  People who are under a lot of stress often grind their teeth or clench their jaw.  It’s why dentists ask if you suffer from headaches – the two go hand-in-hand!

Teeth that crack can point to acid-reflux.  Constant open sores in the mouth may point to oral cancer.  Inflamed gums might indicate heart disease and diabetes.  A recent study by the Journal of Sexual Medicine discovered that men in their 30s who had periodontal disease were three times likelier to suffer from erectile dysfunction.

Dry mouth is very common.  Many people think that it’s just something that’s isolated to their mouth. The reality can be much worse.  Chronic dry mouth can point to an autoimmune disease and that’s something nobody should mess around with.

Your teeth can tell you a lot about what’s happening with the rest of your body.  They’re not a perfect diagnostic tool so don’t try to self-diagnose.  But they can give your dentist insight that could save your life.  We often take our teeth and tongue for granted.  Dentists use their senses (looking, listening, smelling) to determine the health of your mouth.  These basic activities can save you an immense amount of pain and suffering.  Talk to your dentist about your major health that exist outside your mouth.  Why?   Dentists generally see you more than any other medical professional.  Regular visits can help your dentist catch something minor before it turns major.  Dentists take great notes, do great “charting” and are in a position to see if something is an abnormality that should resolve on its own or is a pattern that needs immediate attention.  Oral care isn’t just about clean teeth, it’s about a healthy body.

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What is the ADA?

If you pay attention to oral care commercials, you’ll often see that the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends this or that.  But who is the ADA?  What’s their purpose?  And how can you, as a consumer, benefit from them?

The ADA – A brief history

The ADA (www.ada.org) is the largest dental association in the world.  But it didn’t start that way.  It started with just a few dentists in Niagara Falls, NY in 1859.  The ADA started as a resource for dentists to promote standards and scientific research.  It grew (other than a hiatus during the Civil War) and in 1899 expanded its bylaws to attract more members.

In the early 20th Century the ADA started it’s philanthropic work by centralizing resources to respond to disasters.  It also began to engage consumers about the role of oral health.  By the time of the Great Depression, the ADA had more than 36,000 members, representing about half of U.S. dentists.  ADA membership grew after World War II and the ADA became the standard resource for everything dental-related.   The ADA offers objective, peer-reviewed research. The ADA also highlights best practices to help consumers make the most informed decisions possible.

What does the ADA do for you?

Do you ever wonder if a dentist has a bias?  Do you like to do your own research?  Are you ever curious what another person’s opinion is or where a dentist may have gotten an idea?  The ADA is your one-stop resource.  The ADA advocates legislatures for dentists and patients.  The ADA played a role in the Affordable Care Act. The ADA also defends dentists and patients.  Everybody in the dental chain needs a voice and the ADA is that voice for you, your dentist, and their team.

The ADA also runs a series of publications available to the public about oral care.  The ADA takes great pride in publishing the best research so everyone has access to scientific data, new theories, and practices. 

Finally, the ADA is  involved in numerous public programs.  Are you curious about the current situation with fluorine in the water?  Go to www.ada.org.  Have you ever wondered what’s available to people who can’t afford standard dental care?  The ADA is responsible for Community Dental Health Coordinators who help under-served communities.  If you’ve ever wondered who’s responsible for oral care becoming a habit among adults?  The ADAs efforts with children can’t be overstated.

If you have an oral health concern, talk with your dentist but use this resource.  The information is sound science.  The contributors and members care about your health and the health of the dental industry.  In an age where it seems like everyone’s got an opinion, the ADA is a place to get the facts.

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Teeth Whitening

It’s hard to find a person who doesn’t want their pearly whites to be pearly white.  From television, to magazines, to that guy or gal down the hall who has the whitest teeth on the planet, there’s pressure to make your smile shine. But two unavoidable things work against us that cause teeth to stain:  food and sadly time.  We can’t escape these things but we can take steps to limit their effects.

Why do teeth turn yellow?                                      

Teeth yellow because tooth enamel is white.  Over time, enamel breaks-down and exposes the dentin.  Dentin is not white but has a yellow tint.  Unless you put your mouth in a sterile environment, there’s no escaping this fact of life.

Food also stains our teeth.  Especially delicious food!  Red wine, colored sauces, sodas, teas, coffees, and bright fruit like mangoes can all exacerbate the problem.  We’re not saying “don’t eat these foods!” but be smart about how much and when you eat them.  First, don’t eat a lot.  Sugar eats away at our teeth and causes a multitude of problems.  Second, wait about an hour to brush your teeth after you’ve eaten these foods.  It’s believed that these foods soften your enamel, so brushing your teeth after enjoying one of these treats, may do more harm than good.

What to do?                                                             

First, make brushing a regular habit.  The American Dental Association recommends you brush two times a day for two minutes.  Pretty basic but it surprising how many people we see who only brush once a day… or less! 

Second, leverage your body’s natural defenses increasing the amount of saliva in your mouth.  Hold some in and swish it around.  Removing particles and colors from your teeth is just one of the many great benefits of saliva. 

Third, have a nice glass of water after you eat or drink one of these foods.  The water will help wash away the acids that stain your teeth.  Water will also encourage longer saliva production.  Two birds, one stone!

Fourth, think about the more aggressive, bleaching or office procedures.  Every month someone comes out with a new self-administered bleaching kit.  Over the last decade, many have gotten pretty good.  Our only recommendation is that you avoid kits with hydrogen peroxide.  Why?  Hydrogen peroxide removes enamel and less enamel is bad for your teeth AND pulls the yellowish color of dentin to the forefront.  You don’t solve anything!

Our office, like most offices, offers clinical treatments.  They range in price and duration.  Talk with your dentist about what route is best for you.  Remember, most of the things that cause yellowing come from what you eat and what you do right after you eat.  Take a picture of your teeth today, follow the advice above, and then take a picture in four weeks.  I bet your teeth will be whiter!  And you didn’t spend a dime!

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