X-ray imaging is a routine part of a child's dental care — and it undeniably makes a difference in preventing and treating dental disease. It's so routine, we can easily forget they're being exposed to an invisible form of electromagnetic radiation.Â And just like other sources of radiation, too much x-ray exposure could increase the risk of cancer.
But while it's possible for your child to be over-exposed to x-rays, it's highly unlikely. That's because healthcare professionals like dentists adhere to a standard known as ALARA when considering and administering x-rays. ALARA is an acronym for “as low as reasonably achievable.” In other words, we only want to expose a patient to the lowest and safest levels of x-ray dosage and frequency that will achieve the most benefit.
To achieve that standard, professional dental organizations advocate the use of x-rays only after a clinical examination of the patient, as well as a thorough review of their medical history for any usage of x-rays for other conditions. If x-rays are warranted, we then take further precautions to protect the patient and staff, and only use the type of x-ray application that's absolutely necessary. For most children that will be a set of two or four bitewing radiographs, which are quite effective for detecting decay in back teeth.
This dosage of radiation in a session of bitewing radiographs is roughly a fifth of the background radiation in the environment a child may be exposed to every day. By spacing these sessions at least six months apart, we're able to achieve a high level of decay detection at a safe and reasonable amount of x-ray exposure.
On top of that, the digital advances in x-ray imaging have reduced the amount of radiation energy needed to achieve the same results as we once did with film. These lower exposure levels and the ALARA standard helps ensure your child's exposure to x-rays will be well within safe limits.
If you would like more information on the use of x-rays with children, 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 “X-Ray Safety for Children.”
While lasers still seem like science fiction, they’ve been used commercially (and medically) for decades. But there’s still room for growth in practical applications with this developing technology. One promising area is in the treatment of periodontal (gum) disease.
Gum disease is a bacterial infection triggered by plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles caused by inadequate oral hygiene. The disease is highly destructive and can eventually lead to both tooth and bone loss. Treatment procedures vary widely, but they all have the same goal: remove the offending plaque and calculus (tartar) from tooth and gum surfaces. Without plaque the infection subsides and the gums can heal.
For decades now, dentists have removed plaque and calculus manually with special hand instruments or ultrasonic equipment. If the disease has advanced below the gum line or formed deep voids filled with infection called periodontal pockets, the dentist may also employ surgical techniques to access the infected areas.
While all these techniques have a long track record for effectiveness, they can cause the inadvertent destruction of healthy tissue, as well as create discomfort for some patients afterward. This is where a new protocol called Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure (LANAP®) may be able to make a difference in the future.
With the LANAP® protocol, surgeons direct a laser beam of light through a fiber optic the width of three human hairs onto diseased tissue. The particular color of light interacts with the tissue, which contains the darkly-pigmented bacteria causing the disease, and “vaporizes” it. The beam, however, passes harmlessly through lighter-pigmented healthy tissue; as a result diseased tissue is eradicated with little to no harm to adjacent healthy tissue.
With these capabilities, trained dentists using LANAP® for gum disease treatment might be able to achieve conventional results with less tissue removal and bleeding, less discomfort for patients, and less tissue shrinkage than traditional procedures — and without scalpels or sutures. And some post-surgical studies have indicated LANAP® might also encourage gum tissue regeneration in the months following.
LANAP®, however, is still developing and requires further research. Thus far, though, the results have been encouraging. As laser technology advances, it’s quite possible tomorrow’s patient may experience less discomfort and more effective healing with their gum disease treatment.
If you would like more information on gum disease treatment, 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 “Treating Gum Disease with Lasers.”
It’s National Gum Care Month. Let’s a moment to talk about why it’s so important to take care of your gums.
Gum disease affects almost half of adults over age 30 and approximately 70 percent of adults over age 65. The first stage of gum disease is called gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums. With gingivitis, gums can be red and puffy, and bleed easily when brushing or flossing. If gingivitis is not treated, it can progress to periodontitis, where the structures supporting the teeth, including the bone, begin to break down and be lost. Advanced stages of gum disease can lead to tooth loss and general health problems.
The good news is that gum disease is treatable — and early gum disease is even reversible. So what can you do to take care of your gums?
- Be diligent about your oral hygiene routine at home: Your first line of defense is your oral hygiene routine at home. Brush your teeth gently morning and night, using a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Brushing too vigorously can harm your gums and cause them to recede. It is also important to floss every day to dislodge plaque that can build up between the teeth and around the gum line.
- Come in for professional dental cleanings and exams: Schedule regular professional cleanings to remove the plaque that is hard to reach. If plaque is not removed, it can harden to form tartar (or “calculus”). Only professional cleanings with special dental tools can remove tartar. When plaque and tartar form below the gum line, your bone that supports the teeth may be at risk. We can examine your mouth above and below the gum line to detect and monitor any signs of gum disease and recommend appropriate treatments.
We are always happy to talk with you about how to maintain the health of your gums. Remember that early gum disease is very treatable, so take care of your gums, and they’ll take care of you!
You can learn more about gum health in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Daily Oral Hygiene.”
What's the most fun thing about back-to-school time? For many of us, it's the shopping! Those cool backpacks and colorful sneakers put smiles on a lot of young faces.Â While you're out buying new school supplies and freshening up your kids' wardrobes, why not freshen up their oral health supplies as well?
For example, it might be time for a new toothbrush. The American Dental Association recommends replacing toothbrushes every three to four months, or more frequently if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush won't do as good a job cleaning teeth. And with all of the cartoon characters and superheroes available on toothbrushes, picking one out can be just as fun as choosing a new lunchbox or notebook!
While you're at it, check your kids' supply of dental floss as well. If they've run out, they might not have told you. As important as flossing is, it's not every kids' idea of fun. If you're having trouble getting your kids to use a spool of floss, why not try a disposable little tool made just for flossing? Flossers are super-easy to use, and these, too, come in all kinds of fun shapes and colors.
Here's an important item for the school athletes in your house: a mouthguard. Sports-related dental injuries account for more than six hundred thousand emergency room visits each year. If your child wears braces, a mouthguard may be particularly important. So please contact us about a custom-made mouthguard for your child — or if you have any other questions about oral health and hygiene. And have a safe and healthy return to school!
Treating advanced periodontal (gum) disease takes time. If you have this destructive disease, it wouldn’t be uncommon for you to undergo several cleaning sessions to remove plaque from tooth and gum surfaces. This built-up film of bacteria and food particles is primarily responsible for triggering and fueling gum disease.
These cleaning sessions, which might also involve surgery and other advanced techniques to access deep pockets of infection, are necessary not only to heal your gums but to preserve the teeth they support. With these intense efforts, however, we can help rescue your teeth and return your reddened and swollen gums to a healthy, pink hue.
But what then — is your gum disease a thing of the past?
The hard reality is that once you’ve experienced gum disease your risk of another occurrence remains. From now on, you must remain vigilant and disciplined with your oral hygiene regimen to minimize the chances of another infection. You can’t afford to slack in this area.
Besides daily brushing and flossing as often as your dentist directs, you should also visit your dentist for periodontal maintenance (PM) on a regular basis. For people who’ve experienced gum disease, PM visits are more than a routine teeth cleaning. For one, your dentist may recommend more than the typical two visits a year: depending on the severity of your disease or your genetic vulnerability, you may need to increase the frequency of maintenance appointments by visiting the dentist every two to three months.
Besides plaque and calculus (tartar) removal, these visits could include applications of topical antibiotics or other anti-bacterial substances to curb the growth of disease-causing bacteria in your mouth. You may also need to undergo surgical procedures to make particular areas prone to plaque buildup easier to clean.
The main point, though, is that although you’ve won your battle with gum disease, the war isn’t over. But with your own daily hygiene maintenance coupled with your dentist’s professional attention, you’ll have a much better chance of avoiding a future infection.
If you would like more information on preventing and treating 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.”
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