Are electric toothbrushes worth the money? Are the foods I’m eating bad for my teeth? How do I know if my gums are healthy? What can I do to make sure my child has good dental health, too?
Chances are, you have plenty of questions about how to take better care of your teeth and gums and how to help your family do the same. So, we turned to Dr. Paul Koch of Koch Aesthetic Dentistry for answers. He has been a practicing dentist since 1989 and currently has a private practice in Birmingham, where he specializes in aesthetic and implant dentistry.
Welcome, Dr. Koch!
What is a good dental care regimen? Are brushing, flossing and seeing your dentist enough?
Those are very important steps, but we also recommend fluoride treatments at home and in the office, as well as remineralization strategies to replace the lost calcium and minerals in the enamel. In addition, part of the maintenance visit is a thorough oral cancer screening, often utilizing technology that can identify suspicious lesions early. Finally, we regularly employ laser cavity detection to screen the teeth for cavities, along with dental X-rays.
Is there a right way to brush your teeth?
The right way includes a circular motion, following the gum line of the teeth to ensure that this area is thoroughly cleaned to remove bacteria there, as well as on the chewing surfaces. The other important factor is using the right amount of pressure so as to not damage the tooth surface and cause gum recession. The wrong way is back and forth with a lot of pressure. Also, since most toothpaste includes an abrasive, only a small amount is necessary to clean the enamel without damaging it. It’s critical to clean every surface of all of the teeth each time, and it takes about two minutes to do a good job.
Are electric toothbrushes worth the expense?
With electric toothbrushes, very often you get what you pay for. The higher-end ones tend to be designed to be more effective. The right electric toothbrush is a very good investment, as you can more effectively clean your teeth and prevent damage to the enamel and root surfaces while reaching areas that are hard to reach with a standard toothbrush.
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What’s the worst food or beverage for a person’s teeth?
Sugar is an obvious danger, but acid is a hidden danger. When my kids were in elementary school, they had choices as far as what drinks they could have at lunch. The healthy choices were milk and water, and the unhealthy choices were sugary juices. But what was also perceived as a healthy choice was Gatorade. What a lot of people, including most parents, didn’t know was Gatorade is very acidic. I see a lot of kids, especially athletic kids, and their teeth are literally eroding away, and their parents have no idea where it came from.
What can parents do early in their child’s life to ensure good dental health?
I like starting children brushing and flossing as early as they can. It is much easier to start when they are really young than it is to try to get them to do it when they’re teenagers. In addition, regular dental visits should start at age 2 or 3.
Occasionally, I’ll see well-meaning parents who are using bottled water for their kids, and their kids are not getting any fluoride. Too much fluoride can stain the permanent teeth, but not enough can make them more susceptible to cavities. Some types of bottled water have just the right amount fluoride for babies and small children.
Are yellowing teeth more than just an aesthetic concern?
Yes! When enamel dissolves away and the inside layer of the tooth is exposed, it is yellow or even brown. Also, when the gums recede, the roots of the teeth are exposed. Sometimes cracks in the teeth and cavities look like staining as well.
How does the health of your teeth and gums affect overall health? Are there any signs that we should look for that could indicate problems? What’s the best way to take care of your gums?
Gum disease – we call it periodontal disease – has been called the most common infectious disease in the world, affecting around 75 percent of people. It is contagious and can cause a total loss of the teeth. In addition, it has been shown to be involved in preterm labor and delivery, low birth weight babies, cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes, dementia, and colon and prostate cancer. As far as signs and symptoms of this, the most common and easiest to see is bleeding gums during eating, brushing or flossing. Look for “pink in the sink.”
The best way to take care of your gums is to floss daily and brush your teeth very thoroughly, between two to three times a day, and see your dentist two to four times a year.
What is the best way to cure halitosis?
Get orally healthy through all of the things that we’ve talked about already, especially daily flossing. Also, use a tongue scraper and alcohol-free mouthwash formulated to kill volatile sulfur compound-producing bacteria.
What’s the difference between crowns, implants and veneers?
Crowns and veneers are dental procedures that we do to repair, enhance or change the shape, position, color, and size of individual teeth, the smile, or the whole mouth. The difference between the two is how much of each tooth is being covered. You can imagine that difference by comparing an acrylic nail, which would be like a veneer, to a thimble, which would be like a crown.
An implant is a service that we use to replace a missing tooth or teeth. When a tooth is lost, we need to place a man-made “root” into the gum and bone, and we can attach a tooth on top of that to match the natural teeth.
What’s the most popular cosmetic dentistry service that you offer?
The two most asked for services are tooth whitening and smile design. We offer several different approaches to whitening, but the most common is an overnight tray delivery system. It causes the least sensitivity and is the most effective. We have seen up to 24 shades of improvement with this technique.
Smile design is the process of aiding a patient in developing and delivering a custom smile enhancement to help them become the best version of themselves. We consider the teeth, the gums, and the lips and utilize all of our expertise to improve them in line with each patient’s wishes. This can be as simple as tooth whitening or as complex as full mouth renovation.
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What’s been the most impressive dental advancement in the last 10 years, and what role does technology have in the future of dental care?
I am really excited about digital dentistry right now. For example, we are able to use a CT scan and a digital optical scanner to perform a virtual surgery – for dental implants, for instance. This shortens the surgical time, improves the outcomes and drastically decreases the downtime afterward.
Technology is becoming more and more important, and it is improving the workflow and stretching possibilities and communication between patients, doctors and ceramists. We are also seeing more natural veneers and crowns, and there is an increasing demand for more biocompatible materials.
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