Many people have questions about their dental health in Greenwood Village, Colorado. We have provided this patient education page to help you learn more. If you have any further questions or if you want to set up a consultation with our experienced dentists, Dr. Charles Fischer and Dr. Lissa Alconcel, please contact Greenwood Village Dentistry at 303-740-9353.
Throughout your life, you will have two sets of teeth: primary (baby) teeth and secondary (permanent) teeth. At age 6 to 8 months, the primary teeth appear; all 20 are in place by age 3.
Permanent teeth will begin to grow in around age 6. Except for wisdom teeth, all teeth are present between ages 12 and 14. The next teeth to grow in are the 12-year molars and finally the wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth typically begin breaking through from age 17 and on. The total number of permanent teeth is 32, though few people have room for all 32 teeth. This is why wisdom teeth are usually removed.
Your front teeth are called incisors. The sharp “fang-like” teeth are cuspids. The next side teeth are referred to as pre-molars or bicuspids, and the back teeth are molars. Your permanent teeth are the ones you keep for life, so it is vital that they are brushed and flossed regularly and that periodic checkups by a dentist are followed.
Caries, or tooth decay, are 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.
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, 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.
Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Daily brushing and flossing helps to prevent the buildup 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, cavities, poor oral hygiene, oral cancer or bacteria on the tongue. If bad breath is the cause of a dental condition, mouth wash will only mask the odor and not cure it. Regular dental checkups and cleanings, flossing daily, and brushing your teeth and tongue twice a day can greatly reduce, and possibly eliminate, bad breath.
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 mouth washes or topical agents. A canker sore has a white or gray base surrounded by a red border.
At our office, we believe that investing in your teeth is an investment in your health, and our dental team is committed to keeping your entire well-being in good health.
Infections Go Body-Wide
More than 400 species of bacteria live in the human mouth, and some can infect the gums and underlying bone that support the teeth. Gingivitis, an infection that sometimes renders the gums tender and susceptible to bleeding when they are irritated, is generally the first stage of periodontitis, a disease that afflicts millions of Americans. Gradually, as infected gums pull away from the teeth, ever-deepening pockets form, which allow the infection to spread and eat away at the bone, causing teeth to loosen in their sockets. But recent studies show that teeth are not the only organs endangered by this oral disease. Infections in the tissues of the mouth are easily spread into the bloodstream. Even brushing, flossing and chewing can prompt a body-wide invasion when periodontal disease is advanced. Recent research is yielding some frightening links to such problems as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pneumonia, premature births and low birth-weight babies.
All other things being equal, people with periodontal disease are 1 ½ to two times as likely to suffer a fatal heart attack and nearly three times as likely to suffer a stroke as those without this oral disease. The association with heart disease is especially strong in people under 50 years of age. Studies have indicated that chronic oral infections can foster the development of clogged arteries and blood clots. Substances produced by oral bacteria that enter the bloodstream can precipitate a chain of reactions that result in a buildup of arterial deposits, and several common oral bacteria can initiate the formation of blood clots and disrupt cardiac function.
It has long been known that diabetes predisposes people to bacterial infections, including infections of oral tissues. But recent studies strongly indicated that periodontitis can make diabetes worse. Diabetic patients with severe periodontitis have greater difficulty maintaining normal blood sugar levels, and treatment of periodontitis often results in a reduced need for insulin. Experts now urge that periodontal inflammation be treated and eliminated in all people with diabetes, especially since such treatment may reduce the risk of injury to the retina and arteries; that is a common consequence of diabetes.
Bacterial pneumonia results when bacteria that live in the mouth and throat are inhaled into the lungs where immune defenses fail to wipe them out. Several agents that cause pneumonia can thrive in infected oral tissues of people with periodontal disease. And other respiratory disease, like chronic bronchitis and emphysema, may be worsened by oral infections when the invading bacteria are inhaled.
One study found that mothers of prematurely born small babies were seven times more likely to have advanced periodontal disease as mothers whose babies were normal weight at birth, even though all mothers in the study were not otherwise at risk of having premature babies. Oral infections can also induce premature labor.
Common Problems & Prevention
Our office is committed to making sure that our patients stay happy and healthy. Through expert dental care, our skilled team can help prevent common oral health problems.
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 to severe (periodontitis). Treatments are available for every case of gum disease. The prevention of gum disease is an important step in maintaining overall health as well as the function and beautiful appearance of a healthy smile. Prevention means establishing a routine of daily brushing and flossing and professional periodontal cleaning every three to six months.
Tooth Decay Prevention
Tooth decay is a progressive disease resulting in the interaction of bacteria that naturally occur on the teeth and sugars in the everyday diet. Sugar causes a reaction in the bacteria, causing it to produce acids that break down the mineral in teeth, forming a cavity. Dentists remove the decay and fill the tooth using a variety of fillings, restoring the tooth to a healthy state. Nerve damage can result from severe decay and may require a crown (a crown is like a large filling that can cap a tooth, making it stronger or covering it). Avoiding unnecessary decay simply requires strict adherence to a dental hygiene regimen: brushing and flossing twice a day, regular dental checkups, diet control, and fluoride treatment. Practicing good hygiene avoids unhealthy teeth and costly treatment.
Fluoride is a substance that helps teeth become stronger and resistant to decay. Regularly drinking water treated with fluoride and brushing and flossing regularly ensures significantly fewer cavities. Dentists can evaluate the level of fluoride in a primary drinking water source and recommend fluoride supplements (usually in tablets or drops) if necessary.
Oral Cancer Screening
Each year, over 30,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with oral cancer. The disease kills more than 8,000 Americans annually. As with many other types of cancer, oral lesions that are detected early offer a better chance for successful treatment, making oral cancer detection one more reason to visit our dentists regularly. We take the time to carefully evaluate the oral conditions present in your mouth and throat, as well as your neck, to screen for any abnormalities. We are able to take biopsies if necessary or refer you to the appropriate specialist when needed.