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Posts for: December, 2013

By David E. Habecker DDS
December 23, 2013
Category: Oral Health
WhatYouShouldDoWhenYourChildhasaToothache

It can be daunting for parents to know just what to do when their child complains of an ache or pain. What if your child tells you their tooth hurts — is that cause for alarm? That's actually not so easy to determine, but there are some things you should do when your child has a toothache.

First, try to determine from your child exactly where the pain is coming from and how long it's been hurting. Look for an apparent cause for the pain: the most common is tooth decay, considered a type of infection caused by bacteria, and normally indicated by brown spots or tiny holes (cavities) on the biting surfaces or between teeth. Look for swelling or tenderness in the gum tissues, a sign of a possible abscess. Debris caught between teeth may also cause pain.

The pain might stem from an injury. Though the lips and outer tissues may appear fine, a blow to the face or other traumatic incident may have damaged the teeth. Without treatment, pulp tissue within a traumatized tooth may die and lead to an infection and potential tooth loss.

If you see any of these signs or symptoms, or the pain keeps your child up at night or continues into the next day, you should contact our office as soon as possible so that we can do a full evaluation of the tooth. In the meantime, there are some things you can do to help lessen the pain. First, clean the teeth to remove any debris. Administer ibuprofen or acetaminophen (in the proper dosage for a child) for pain relief. An ice pack against the jaw may also help, but alternate on and off in five-minute intervals to prevent burning the skin with the ice.

If these steps stop the pain within an hour, you can wait until the next day to make an appointment. If not, this may be indicative of an abscess forming and you should not delay contacting our office. The quicker we can properly diagnose and begin treatment, the less chance your child will suffer from any long-term damage to their teeth.

If you would like more information on caring for a child's toothache, 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 “A Child's Toothache.”


By David E. Habecker DDS
December 20, 2013
Category: Dental Procedures
TeethWhiteningTipsforTeens

Once an exclusive procedure reserved for movie stars and millionaires, teeth whitening has become increasingly popular among all sectors of the population — including teens. While long-standing research has proven the process to be safe and effective, there are a few things everyone should know in order to make the experience as pleasant and successful as possible.

Teens, perhaps even more than others, can benefit from the confidence that comes with a healthy smile. And, because sensitivity of the gums is rarely a problem in younger people, their whitening treatments are less likely to cause discomfort. However, it's important for teens (and everyone else) to get treatments under the watchful eye of a dentist. Why?

For one thing, immature adult teeth are relatively vulnerable to the whitening process. And for young and old alike, a discolored tooth may be a symptom of an underlying dental problem, like an abscess or a root canal infection. These problems must be treated before the whitening process is begun. Also, teeth can't always be lightened to the same degree, and existing or planned dental work may have an impact on the whitening procedure. So it's best to come in and see us before you begin any tooth whitening treatment.

There are generally three methods used in tooth-whitening: in-office treatments with concentrated bleach application, at-home treatments with custom-made trays and appropriate dentist-supplied bleach, and over-the-counter (OTC) products. All use a type of peroxide to lighten the teeth, and all are safe when used as directed, under a dentist's supervision.

So what's the difference? Time! One study showed as few as three in-office visits were needed to lighten tooth color by six shades — a change that required 16 days with OTC products. Many opt for the cost-effective middle ground of custom-tray bleaching, which can achieve the same whitening in one week.

But what's especially important for a teen is that a dentist becomes involved in his or her treatment. In some cases, over-enthusiastic young people have used OTC bleach excessively, causing severe damage to the enamel layer of their teeth.

If you would like more information about teeth whitening for teens, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about these issues by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Whitening Safety Tips” and “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”


By David E. Habecker DDS
December 12, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: dental implants   tooth loss  
ItCouldbeMoreThanaToothYoureLosing

There’s more to tooth loss than you might think. Because teeth are part of a larger system that facilitates speaking, eating and digestion, a lost tooth could eventually affect your overall health.

Tooth loss is actually about bone loss. As living tissue, bone continually reforms in response to stimuli it receives from the body. The alveolar bone (which surrounds and supports the teeth) receives such stimuli as the teeth chew and bite, as well as when they contact each other. All these stresses — hundreds a day — transmit through the periodontal ligament to the bone, stimulating it to grow and remodel.

A lost tooth reduces this stimulation and causes the alveolar bone to resorb (dissolve) — as much as 25% of its width the first year alone. Unless the process is stopped, the underlying basal bone and the periodontal (gum) tissue will begin to resorb too. Without this structural support the facial height shrinks and the front teeth begin to push forward, making chewing and speaking more difficult. These teeth begin performing functions outside their normal range, leading to damage and possible loss.

The primary goal of oral hygiene and dental care is to prevent tooth loss. When tooth loss does occur, however, it’s then important to restore the lost tooth with an artificial replacement if at all possible — not only to regain form and function, but to also stop further bone loss.

While the fixed partial denture (FPD), also known as a fixed bridge, has been the restoration of choice for many decades, dental implants may be the better long-term option. Although more expensive initially, implants can achieve a life-like restoration without involving or altering adjacent teeth as with FPDs. Plaque retention and tartar accumulations are much less likely with an implant, and the bone-loving quality of titanium, the metal used for implants, actually encourages bone growth. As a result, implants have a much higher longevity rate than FPDs.

Taking care of your teeth through effective hygiene practices and regular checkups may help you avoid tooth loss altogether. But if it can’t be avoided, restoring lost teeth is the single most important thing you can do to prevent even greater problems down the road.

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.”


By David E. Habecker DDS
December 04, 2013
Category: Oral Health
PreventingEarlyChildhoodCavities

When do you think is the earliest age that tooth decay can start? Would you be surprised to learn that the answer is… just two months!

In spite of our best efforts, throughout the world tooth decay remains the most common chronic disease of childhood. And the unfortunate truth is, it’s largely preventable. Tooth decay is caused by harmful bacteria living in the mouth. These bacteria produce acids as a byproduct of feeding on the sugar we consume. The acids attack the hard enamel surfaces of the teeth, eventually making the small holes we know as cavities.

For thousands of years, these bacteria have been thriving in the carbohydrate-rich environment of our mouths. Kids aren’t born with these germs — often, however, they are passed directly from caregiver to child. But there are things you can do to keep from passing the bacteria to your children. For example, don’t share toothbrushes; don’t put items in baby’s mouth after you have licked them or put them in yours; and, if you have untreated dental disease, try to avoid kissing the baby’s lips. (And for goodness sake, don’t pre-chew a baby’s food, no matter what any celebrity may suggest.)

One effective way to control tooth decay is by reducing the amount of sugar in the diet. Sodas and candy aren’t the only culprits — fruit juices are also high in sugar. And remember, it’s not just what your child eats or drinks that matters, but when they consume it. Given time, saliva will neutralize and wash away the acids that bacteria produce. But if kids are constantly taking in sugar, the saliva can’t keep up. So give those little teeth a break — limit sugar to mealtimes, and avoid sweet treats at other times of day.

What other steps can you take to stop tooth decay before it starts? It helps to identify kids who may be more susceptible to dental disease. Given the same diet with the same oral hygiene practices, some children are much more likely than others to develop tooth decay. If these high-risk kids receive preventive treatments — such as fluoride varnishes, help with diet modification, and other measures — early tooth decay can be successfully prevented, and even reversed in some cases.

If you’re concerned that dental treatment may be too scary for little ones, you should know that we put a great deal of effort into making office visits as stress-free as possible. We have plenty of tricks to keep youngsters happy — and distracted — while we take care of business. You can help too… by maintaining a positive outlook and setting a good example.

If you would like more information about cavity prevention for children, please contact us or schedule an appointment. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Taking the Stress Out of Dentistry for Kids.”