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Can Gum Disease Be Prevented?
Today, more than ever, people are giving their teeth the care they need to maintain them for their entire lifetime. Healthy periodontal (gum) tissues can help to achieve this goal. Steps can be taken to keep the gums in good health.

Adequate home care is a key ingredient to prevention and control of periodontal disease. The thorough daily removal of plaque from around and between the teeth by brushing and flossing will increase the health of the gums.

Regular professional care is also necessary. Even teeth that are well brushed can develop deposits of tartar or calculus. This is a rough, scaly material that builds up near and below the gum line, and eventually can cause inflammation and recession. This can be removed by dental prophylaxis or cleaning. Those people most free of gum disease have their teeth cleaned regularly.

Another important factor for healthy gums is good nutrition. If essential nutrients are missing for an extended period, weakness of the tissues will occur. An awareness and attention to good nutrition will increase the strength of the gums and bone that support the teeth.

So, for a lifetime of natural smiles; decide to keep your teeth and give their supporting tissues the care that they need.

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Pregnancy and Your Teeth
Many people believe pregnancy will harm your teeth. This is not true.

The body undergoes hormonal changes during pregnancy and these changes may make gums temporarily puffy and occasionally even cause them to bleed. Bleeding gums can often be improved or prevented by good oral hygiene or having them checked by your dentist in case the bleeding signals not hormonal changes, but the beginning of periodontal disease.

Another myth we hear at our office: The growing fetus or baby uses up the motherís tooth calcium. Again, this is not true. The composition of adult teeth does not change during pregnancy.

If the mother-to-be satisfies her increased appetite with non-nutritious foods and sweets, and if this is accompanied by poor oral hygiene, decay can develop rapidly during pregnancy. This, of course, can also be prevented with your dentistís help, and by attention to good nutrition and home care.

So, for a healthy and happy smile during and after pregnancy, brush and floss regularly, eat nutritious food, and have professional care on a regular basis.

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Headache Pain From Dental Bite
A faulty dental bite, even if there are only minor discrepancies, can be the cause of headaches. This pain can be located in the front, top, back or side of the head, even in the neck or shoulders.

Other symptoms may be present. A clicking or popping noise in the jaw joints upon opening or closing the mouth may indicate a bite disorder. There may also be a tendency to grit or brux the teeth together, or a tightness or tired feeling in the jaw muscles, especially upon awakening in the morning. Ringing in the ears, or tenderness about the ears, or jaw joints can also be present.

Many patients find complete relief from their pain or symptoms when the bite is corrected. For some, only minor adjustments to the teeth will bring relief. For others, more complete procedures may be necessary such as the wearing of a splint or bite plane.

If headaches or other jaw problems are present, a thorough bite examination can be done by a dentist or dental specialist. Usually, special study casts will be made and appropriate treatment will be advised.

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Is it Necessary to Replace Missing Teeth?
Today, more than ever, people are giving their teeth the care they need to maintain them for their entire lifetime. A full complement of teeth can help attain this goal.

When all of the teeth are present, there is an increase in strength to the dental arches as it maintains proper forms. Being able to chew comfortably on both sides of the mouth promotes better stimulation to the supporting tissues and to the jaw joints as well. Having missing teeth replaced can restore this strength and chewing comfort.

In most cases a fixed or cemented bridge is the best way to replace missing teeth. As there are no hooks or clasps, it feels just like the natural teeth. However, in some instances, especially if suitable anchor teeth are not present, a removable appliance will be the best choice, or perhaps, an implant.

So for a lifetime of natural smiles and chewing comfort, ask your dentist about replacing those missing teeth.

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What can an adult do about crooked or unsightly teeth?
Many adults did not have the advantage of orthodontic treatment as children and their teeth are crooked. For others the teeth may be unsightly due to excessive wear or discoloration from old fillings or a smoking habit. Recent advances in dental materials and techniques now give the dentist and patient various choices of treatment to make beautiful improvements.

In some cases a significant change can be made by simply recontouring the edges of the teeth. In other instances the teeth can be reshaped and the color changed by covering the outer surface of the tooth with an acrylic or porcelain veneer or covering the entire tooth with a crown. For many others the best choice is orthodontic treatment.

Newer materials in orthodontics include tooth colored braces and mini-sized braces. These braces are much less noticeable. And techniques that place removable appliances on the inside of the mouth first can shorten the time necessary to wear braces, or in some cases be worn instead of braces.

Studies have shown that the vast majority of adults that have had orthodontic care feel it was well worth the investment in time and expense. For those people that have crooked, weakened, and unsightly teeth, treatment will often increase the strength and health of their mouth. And an improvement in the appearance will make their smile so much more enjoyable.

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X-Rays: How Safe?
Radiation exposure can be frightening to some people. However, several points should be kept in mind when considering the risk associated with any radiation exposure.

First of all, we are all continuously exposed to radiation of many kinds, including "ionizing radiation," the type of radiation found in X-ray studies and nuclear medicine exams. Other types of radiation include "infrared" (felt as heat), "ultraviolet" (gives us a tan and hastens the aging process of the skin), and even visible light (allows us to see our environment).

The ionizing radiation we are exposed to comes from the sun, from natural elements in the earth, from the materials used to build our homes, and even from natural radioactive elements in our bodies. Depending upon the region of the world in which we live, we are exposed each year to varying amounts of radiation. In the Boston area, the annual radiation dose is approximately 300 milliards. If you lived in Denver, Colorado, the annual dose would be approximately 600 milliards (mr). Some places in the world have annual doses of over 1,000 mr. Interestingly enough, the places in the world with the higher radiation doses also have lower cancer rates than those with lower annual doses. This suggests that the cancer rate is not noticeably affected by low-dose radiation exposure, and the difference in cancer rate noted is probably related to other variables in the environment, such as exposure to cigarette smoke, automobile exhaust, and carcinogenic chemicals in the environment.

In tests that do use ionizing radiation, the dose is usually very small, and is often similar to what you would get from natural background radiation in everyday life. As an example, a dose for a typical X-ray procedure might be 30 - 1,000 mr. Other radiologic tests use higher radiation doses, as much as 5,000 milliards or more. Despite extensive study of the effects of radiation, direct evidence does not show that these doses are harmful to humans. Some experts believe that doses of radiation this small pose absolutely no risk.

Examples of Radiation Exposures
(numbers are approximate)

Source of Exposure Amount in Milliards
Natural background exposures (from earth, cosmic rays etc..) Boston, Massachusetts
Denver, Colorado
Kerala, India
300 mr. per year
600 mr. per year
1500 mr. per year
Flying across the country 6 mr. per year
Living next to a typical nuclear power plant 1-2 mr per year
Watching color TV 2-3 mr per year

Any potential risk of radiation exposure should be balanced against the benefits derived from the exposure. Just as we might accept the risk of riding a bicycle to obtain the benefits of exercise, we should consider that the small risk that may be associated with radiation exposure can be well worth the benefits obtained. For example, a mammogram can detect breast cancer long before it can be felt during a physical exam. This early detection of the tumor can save lives.

Some patients ask, "If the radiation risk is so small, why does the technologist step behind a shield to prevent exposure to themselves?" The radiation dose for each exam is relatively small, but over time, the dose can add up. There are many state and federal regulations limiting the total radiation dose that may be received by people working with radiation. To comply with those regulations, the technologist must follow strict precautions to keep their cumulative exposure to a minimum.

Although no adverse health effects have been directly linked to low-dose radiation exposure, the medical community is playing it safe with regards to radiation. Most physicians are very careful about ordering radiologic tests. They should not order a study unless it will improve patient care. If you have a question about the importance or the necessity of a radiologic test that has been ordered for you, be sure to ask your physician.

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