Dental Health

Adults

In recent years, bacterial inflammation involved in gum disease has been linked to chronic health problems like stroke, coronary artery disease and premature, low birth-weight babies. Our doctors and hygienists take great care to identify and treat gum disease early to keep you and your mouth healthy.

Tooth Decay
Caries, or tooth decay, is a preventable disease. While caries might not endanger your life, they may negatively impact your quality of life.

When your teeth and gums are consistently exposed to large amounts of starches and sugars, acids may form that begin to eat away at tooth enamel. Carbohydrate-rich foods such as candy, cookies, soft drinks and even fruit juices leave deposits on your teeth. Those deposits bond with the bacteria that normally survive in your mouth and form plaque. The combination of deposits and plaque forms acids that can damage the mineral structure of teeth, with tooth decay resulting.

Sensitive Teeth
Your teeth expand and contract in reaction to changes in temperature. Hot and cold food and beverages can cause pain or irritation to people with sensitive teeth. Over time, tooth enamel can be worn down, gums may recede or teeth may develop microscopic cracks, exposing the interior of the tooth and irritating nerve endings. Just breathing cold air can be painful for those with extremely sensitive teeth.

Gum Disease
Gum, or periodontal, disease can cause inflammation, tooth loss and bone damage. Gum disease begins with a sticky film of bacteria called plaque. Gums in the early stage of disease, or gingivitis, can bleed easily and become red and swollen. As the disease progresses to periodontitis, teeth may fall out or need to be removed by a dentist. Gum disease is highly preventable and can usually be avoided by daily brushing and flossing. One indicator of gum disease is consistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth.

Periodontics
Periodontal simply means “the tissue around the teeth.” Periodontists specialize in the treatment and surgery of this area, which is often characterized by gum disease. Plaque is the most common element causing gum disease.

Unfortunately, periodontal-related problems are often discovered after they have persisted for an extended period of time. Proper oral hygiene, daily dental care and regular dental checkups will minimize the risk of gum disease. Gum disease ranges from mild (gingivitis) to moderate (periodontitis) to the severe (periodontitis). Treatments are available for every case of gum disease.

Common problems associated with gum disease:

  • “Long” teeth (receding gum lines expose the root portions of your teeth)
  • Discolored or deteriorating tooth structure
  • Gum depressions (holes in between the teeth in the gum tissue)
  • Infected gum line (discoloration or inflammation of the gum tissue)
  • Tooth loss or tooth movement

The effects of gum disease can be damaging to your dental health. However, through proper preventive care and oral hygiene, you can avoid problems associated with gum disease.

Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Daily brushing and flossing helps to prevent the build-up of food particles, plaque and bacteria in your mouth. Food particles left in the mouth deteriorate and cause bad breath. While certain foods, such as garlic or anchovies, may create temporary bad breath, consistent bad breath may be a sign of gum disease or another dental problem.

Canker Sores
Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) are small sores inside the mouth that often recur. Generally lasting one or two weeks, the duration of canker sores can be reduced by the use of antimicrobial mouthwashes or topical agents. The canker sore has a white or gray base surrounded by a red border.

Orthodontic Problems
A bite that does not meet properly (a malocclusion) can be inherited, or some types may be acquired. Some causes of malocclusion include missing or extra teeth, crowded teeth or misaligned jaws. Accidents or developmental issues, such as finger or thumb sucking over an extended period of time, may cause malocclusions.

Children

Innumerable studies and research have concluded on the importance of starting children early in their lives with good dental hygiene and oral care. According to research, the most common chronic childhood disease in America is tooth decay, affecting 50 percent of first-graders and 80 percent of 17-year-olds. Early treatment prevents problems affecting a child’s health, well-being, self-image and overall achievement.

The National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research estimates that children will miss 52 million hours of school each year due to oral health problems and about 12.5 million days of restricted activity every year from dental symptoms. Because there is such a significant loss in their academic performance, the Surgeon General has made children’s oral health a priority.

Parents are responsible for ensuring their children practice good dental hygiene. Parents must introduce proper oral care early in a child's life – as early as infancy. The American Dental Hygiene Association states that a good oral hygiene routine for children includes:

  • Thoroughly cleaning your infant’s gums after each feeding with a water-soaked infant cloth. This stimulates the gum tissue and removes food.
  • Gently brushing your baby’s erupted teeth with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and using a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Teaching your child at age 2 or 3 about proper brushing techniques and later teaching them brushing and gentle flossing until 7 or 8 years old.
  • Regular visits with their dentist to check for cavities in the primary teeth and for possible developmental problems.
  • Encouraging your child to discuss any fears they may have about oral health visits, but not mentioning words like “pain” or “hurt,” since this may instill the possibility of pain in the child’s thought process.
  • Determining if the water supply that serves your home is fluoridated; if not, discussing supplement options with your dentist or hygienist.
  • Asking your hygienist or dentist about sealant applications to protect your child’s teeth-chewing surfaces and about bottle tooth decay, which occurs when teeth are frequently exposed to sugared liquids.

Dental Care for Your Special Child

Do special children have special dental needs?
Most do. Dr. Barbee has found that some special children are very susceptible to tooth decay, gum disease or oral trauma. Others require medication or diets detrimental to dental health. Still other children have physical difficulty with effective dental habits at home. The good news is, dental disease is preventable! If dental care is started early and followed conscientiously, every child can enjoy a healthy smile.

How can I prevent dental problems for my special child?
A first dental visit by the first birthday will start your child on a lifetime of good dental health. Dr. Barbee will take a full medical history, gently examine your child’s teeth and gums, and then plan preventive care designed for your child’s needs.

Will preventive dentistry benefit my child?
Yes! Your child will benefit from the preventive approach recommended for all children - effective brushing and flossing, moderate snacking and adequate fluoride. Home care takes just minutes a day and prevents needless dental problems. Regular professional cleanings and fluoride treatments by Dr. Barbee are also very beneficial. Sealants can prevent tooth decay on the chewing surfaces of molars where four out of five cavities in children occur.

Is Dr. Barbee prepared to care for special children?
Absolutely! Dr. Barbee has had 3 years of advanced training beyond dental school. His education as a specialist focuses on care for children with special needs. In addition, Dr. Barbee’s office is designed to be physically accessible for special patients. Pediatric dentists, because of their expertise, are often the clinicians of choice for the dental care of adults with special needs as well.

Will my child need special care during dental treatment?
Some children need more support than a gentle, caring manner to feel comfortable during dental treatment. Restraint or mild sedation may benefit your special child. If a child needs extensive treatment, Dr. Barbee may suggest providing care at a local hospital. Dr. Barbee has comprehensive education in behavior management, sedation and anesthesia techniques. He will select a technique based on the specific health needs of your child, then discuss the benefits, limits and risks of that technique with you.