Every October, the American Dental Hygienists’ Association and Colgate sponsor a month-long celebration for dental hygienists around the country. Dental hygienists are crucial members of your healthcare team and are responsible for keeping patients’ mouths (and bodies) healthy. This year, the theme for National Dental Hygiene Month is Faces of Courage, and rightfully so. Join your dentist in St. Louis as we celebrate our dental hygienists by sharing just what they do and promote how you can become one yourself.
Your dental hygienist plays a key role in helping your mouth stay healthy and cavity and disease-free. They’re also often the first line of defense as well as the first person you’ll meet with when you visit your dentist in St. Louis. Even though the main responsibility of a dental hygienist is to clean teeth, they also do a lot more including:
1) Cleaning Teeth – Let’s talk about the most obvious responsibility of a dental hygienist — cleaning teeth. Now, even though you may brush and floss every day, the cleaning you get from your hygienist is different than the one you get at home. Hygienists are trained to gently remove plaque and tartar buildup that a regular brushing won’t touch, which gives you a super-clean feel and super-protected mouth.
2) Learning About Your Health – But as we’ve mentioned before, your dental hygienist does so much more than clean your teeth. One of those additional duties is learning and getting to know each and every patient on a personal level. This means your hygienist will often talk with you about your oral health and overall health history, discuss concerns you may have, and review medications or ailments. Doing so allows them to both know you better and treat you better every time you visit your dentist in St. Louis.
3) Educating Patients – Our dental hygienists are passionate about teeth and are committed to doing everything they can to help patients stay healthy. They’re always quick to offer up tips on the best way to brush your teeth, how to floss, and can even tell you what products to use so you can maintain excellent oral health.
4) Focusing on Prevention – There’s a good reason we recommend a dental cleaning every six months — to prevent problems from happening in the first place. To do this, your hygienist will often apply fluoride or sealants to protect teeth from the damaging effects of acids and bacteria.
Keep in mind, different states and different regions have different rules, so some of these responsibilities can change from area to area and office to office.
Depending on the program and degree level, it takes anywhere between 2-4 years to become a dental hygienist. Dental hygienists must complete at least two years of schooling at a community college, technical school, or university. Usually a hygienist will earn an associate’s degree, but higher-level degrees are also available. After earning a diploma, hygienists are then required to take a state, local, or regional licensing test before they can practice in a dental office.
Now that you know a little bit more about all of the things dental hygienists do to keep you healthy, make sure you thank them the next time you visit your dentist in St. Louis.
Oral cancer may not be in the news as often as other cancers, but at Healthy Smiles of Saint Louis, it’s on our minds daily. Nearly 7,000 people will die in 2013 as a result of oral cancer, with approximately 36,000 new cases diagnosed. (Source: American Cancer Society) ORAL CANCER SYMPTOMS It’s important to have an oral cancer screening at every dental checkup. Oral cancer isn’t difficult to diagnose, but the danger is that it’s often caught in late stages when it’s spread to other parts of the body. If you notice any of the following symptoms in between checkups, please call us right away: * A sore that doesn’t heal * A lump or thickening of the lining of the mouth * Difficult or painful chewing or swallowing WHO GETS ORAL CANCER More than 80% of oral cancers in men (65% in women) occur in tobacco and alcohol users, and combined heavy tobacco and alcohol use increases the risk 300 times than that of non-users. (Source: National Institutes of Health, 2006) Notice we don’t say “smokers.” There is NO safe tobacco product, despite what you might hear. Even smokeless tobacco, pipes, and clove cigarettes increase your risk nearly 100 times more than non-tobacco users. HPV AND ORAL CANCER The human papillomavirus virus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted virus that causes approximately 25% of head and neck cancers, including oral cancer. At our dental practice in St. Louis, we use a tool called a VELscope® for oral cancer screening. It’s a blue-spectrum light that highlights any unusual cells in the tissues in your mouth. (It’s well tested, safe, and approved by the World Health Organization.) If we see anything unusual, we’ll take a sample with a Brush Test® and send it to a specialized laboratory for examination. If you’ve been avoiding checkups, why not call our dental office at now? Information and prevention is key to your dental health, as well as your overall health!
Lucy Beaman Hobbs, the first woman to receive a Doctor of Dentistry degree, was quite the trailblazer. Her difficult journey of success inspired more women to get their degree. When Hobbs first applied to the Eclectic Medical School in Cincinnati she was rejected, and the college suggested she apply to dental school instead. She was rejected from Ohio’s program as well, but this time she remained determined to achieve her goal. She was offered the opportunity to train alongside other professional dentists–including Ohio College of Dental Surgery’s dean of students, Jonathan Taft. Eventually, she did what many people chose to do at the time and opened up her own practice where she performed dental work even without a license or official degree (not something we’d recommend to anyone nowadays, but not an uncommon practice at the time). Her practice in Iowa was very profitable and highly regarded. So much so in fact, that the Iowa State Dental Society admitted her as a member. A decision that soon later inspired Ohio College to change their minds. They admitted Hobbs, and in recognition of the work she had already shown herself well capable of doing, they expedited her coursework. She graduated with her Doctorate of Dental surgery after only one year. Hobbs later married, taught her husband dentistry, and they opened their own practice in Kansas. Hobbs worked as a dentist, and a women’s rights advocate until she died in 1910. Uncompromising, intelligent, and fearless Hobbs remains one of the most inspiring dentists in history!
You’ll always hear your dentist in St. Louis talk about how important it is for everyone to come in for preventive dental checkups every six months. But there’s a special section of our population that tends to avoid these bi-annual visits and instead prefers to wait until they have a problem. We’re talking about the men in our lives. Unfortunately, the truth is that, on average, men don’t see the dentist regularly. According to the Centers for Disease Control, barely 60% of American men between the ages of 18 and 64 went to the dentist in the past year. That’s concerning. So to help celebrate Men’s Health Month, we’re here to share the main reasons men should see the dentist regularly. MORE COMPLICATED, MORE ADVANCED DENTAL TREATMENT Since men tend to skip out on visits to their dentist in St. Louis every six months, they’re at increased risk for needing more complicated and more advanced dental treatments. You see, when small problems aren’t caught early when treatment is typically quick and easy, they can become big problems that require more in-depth care. For example, a small area of decay can be caught at preventive dental appointments and treated easily with a filling. But if that area of decay continues to expand and affect more of the tooth’s structure it can start to cause pain. At this point, more advanced dental treatment is probably needed, such as a root canal and a dental crown. Additionally, if the decay progresses even farther, tooth extraction and replacement via a dental implant or dental bridge may be necessary. Long story short — many dental problems can be avoided by seeing the dentist regularly. INCREASED RISK OF GUM DISEASE We know that regular dental visits can help protect teeth through preventive care and quick intervention of any problems, but these appointments do more than that. Professional dental cleanings, exams, and x-rays help your dentist in St. Louis keep an eye on overall oral health, including the gums. One thing that’s incredibly common and can lead to both oral and overall health problems is gum disease. Gum disease is an infection of the gum tissues that affects both men and women, but men are more likely to develop the disease. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, 56% of men have gum disease as compared to only 38% of women. Untreated gum disease can lead to tooth loss as well as contribute to a host of other problems throughout the body such as an increased risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and prostate health in men. In fact, numerous studies show a possible correlation between gum health and prostate health due to something called prostate-specific antigen (PSA). When gums are inflamed because of periodontal disease or the prostate is unhealthy, PSA levels increase. However, PSA levels are substantially higher in those with both a prostate condition as well as gum disease, suggesting a connection between the two. Gum disease can be treated successfully if diagnosed and treated early. MEN ARE MORE LIKELY TO GET ORAL CANCER Oral cancer is another scary disease that tends to affect men more than women, and one that can also often be treated successfully if caught early. However, if oral cancer is caught in the later stages, it can lead to death. In fact, over 53,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year, and nearly 10,000 will die from it. Oral cancer can be found in any of the soft tissues in the mouth, including the tongue, lips, cheeks, or the far back area of the throat (oropharyngeal cancer). Oral cancer is twice as common in men than women, and oropharyngeal cancer is four times more likely to develop in men than women. Your dentist in St. Louis is here to protect your oral health and, in turn, your overall health. To do this, we recommend that every member of your family — man, woman, or child — has a preventive dental appointment at least every six months. Call to schedule an appointment today.
Noticing a piece of food stuck in your teeth can be embarrassing, but it can also be uncomfortable. Even though it’s normal for food to get wedged between teeth on occasion, it’s a whole other story when this happens time and time again in the same spot. These areas are known as food traps, and they can collect food each and every time you chew. It’s important to see your dentist in St. Louis if you recognize this happening as it could be a sign of a bigger problem. HOW ARE FOOD TRAPS FORMED? Food traps can develop due to any number of issues, but a lot of food traps are caused by some other type of dental problem. The most common causes of food traps are: Gaps Between Teeth There should be small gaps, also called loose contact, between teeth. This allows them to sit and function properly. However, when gaps become too large, they create the ideal space for food to get lodged. Gaps can occur naturally and even people with once super-straight teeth can start to notice gaps over time. Additionally, dental fillings can change the natural contact between teeth and may cause a food trap. Chipped Tooth Our teeth naturally have crevices where food and bacteria can get stuck, but if there’s a broken or chipped tooth, you may notice food getting stuck in the same spot over and over again. You may also experience this if you lose a dental filling or older dental restoration. Gum Disease One of the more serious causes of food traps is gum disease. Gum disease will cause pockets to form in the gum tissue and provide a great hiding spot for food particles. But what’s worse is that untreated gum disease can lead to a bunch of other health concerns such as tooth loss and an increased risk of heart disease. Treatment can be successful when gum disease is caught in the early stages, but later forms of the disease are irreversible. This is one reason why you should get seen by your dentist in St. Louis if you have a food trap. PROBLEMS CAUSE BY FOOD TRAPS Food traps that aren’t fixed can continue to cause long-term problems such as: * Cavities * Bad Breath * Gum Disease While food traps can certainly be annoying, they can also be dangerous. It’s important to tell your dentist in St. Louis if you’re experiencing repeated problems of food getting stuck in your teeth so they can take a closer look at what may be going on and recommend the best treatment for you. Additionally, it’s always important to brush and floss your teeth every day to remove any food particles that may have built up in the teeth throughout the day.
Does your smile appear dull, dingy, and discolored? You’re not alone. In fact, Americans spend over a billion dollars on smile whitening products every year because they’re unhappy with the color of their teeth. But what if we could better understand what’s causing the discoloration in the first place and, perhaps, prevent it? You’re in luck. Your dentist in St. Louis is here to share the top four things that often cause tooth discoloration and what you can do about them. TOBACCO One of the best ways to almost guarantee tooth discoloration is by using tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco. Tobacco products contain ingredients such as tar and nicotine that are known to cause staining, so when tobacco is constantly introduced to the mouth, it’s incredibly common to notice yellowing of the teeth. It’s also common for tobacco users to notice brown spots thanks to the natural brown color of the tobacco itself. The best way to prevent tooth discoloration from tobacco is to avoid it altogether, but your dentist in St. Louis can also help reverse discoloration through a variety of smile whitening or cosmetic dentistry treatments. FOODS & DRINKS Another common explanation behind tooth discoloration is found in our diets and in the foods and drinks we consume. Beverages such as a daily morning cup of coffee or tea, a nightcap of red wine, and soda can all cause teeth to appear brown or discolored. When it comes to foods that can cause tooth discoloration, think of foods that would stain a white shirt — berries, pasta sauce, and beets are all good examples. Additionally, foods and drinks that are highly acidic are known to attack tooth enamel and can cause teeth to appear dull, gray, or yellow. Alternatively, consuming too many sugary treats tends to cause tooth decay which can present itself as dark or brown patches. To decrease your chances of tooth discoloration from foods and drinks, enjoy tooth-staining treats in moderation. TOOTH TRAUMA A car accident, a fall, or a sporting accident can all result in tooth trauma. You’ll probably find it easier to identify this as a cause of tooth discoloration as you’ll be able to link the discoloration to a mouth injury, whereas the other causes occur over time, often without you even realizing it. Tooth trauma usually causes teeth to appear darkened or gray, and this can occur in one or even multiple teeth. The darkening is due to an injury inside the tooth and will require intervention from your dentist in St. Louis. POOR ORAL HYGIENE Another incredibly common explanation for tooth discoloration is poor oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing your teeth every day helps remove plaque and bacteria buildup and also helps protect teeth against decay. If you don’t remove this buildup regularly and effectively with a proper oral hygiene routine, you may start to notice your teeth take on a yellowish or gray appearance – or you may even start to see orange or green spots on your teeth. To protect your smile, make sure you’re brushing twice a day for at least two minutes each time and flossing once a day. Of course, it’s also important to see your dentist in St. Louis every six months for a professional dental cleaning. At these appointments, your dental hygienist will remove even more buildup from your teeth that your at-home brushings can’t remove. This further helps keep your pearly whites white and fight off decay.