Naturally Nutritious Foods for Healthy Teeth and Gums

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Most adults in the US will experience some type of oral health issue in their life, ranging from minor plaque build-up to potentially life threatening periodontal disease.  The importance of regular brushing and flossing after every meal, along with annual dental check-ups used as preventive measures cannot be overstated. If you can add certain nutrient-packed foods to this regimen, you will give your teeth and gums a tasty, healthy boost on a daily basis.

 

The following is a list of super-foods that contain many of the vitamins and minerals known to promote good oral health.

 

* Green Tea: This simple, but highly effective drink tops the list of natural ways to prevent periodontal disease. Green tea contains compounds called catechins, which have strong anti-inflammatory properties. It's also a rich source of fluoride, an element known to prevent tooth decay. However, care does need to be taken that you don't consume too much, as this can have a negative effect on your teeth and bones. If you plan on drinking green tea daily, it's best to consume fluoride-free drinking water and toothpaste/mouthwash.

 

* Nuts and Seeds: One of nature's perfect snacks, nuts and seeds have high percentages of practically every mineral needed for healthy teeth and gums, including magnesium, potassium, and calcium. In fact, nuts rank as the second most bio-available form of calcium after dairy products, resulting in a much better job of tooth remineralization than any supplement can achieve. The best nut sources for a wide variety of minerals are cashews, brazil nuts, and almonds. While not as high in calcium as their nut counterparts, sunflower and sesame seeds are both great sources of iron and magnesium.

 

* Onions/Garlic: These two have large concentrations of the antibacterial compound allicin, which is very effective in preventing gingivitis. Both do the most good if eaten raw, and not to worry, the resulting malodorous breath can be neutralized by drinking whole or 2% milk or you can freshen your breath with some natural mouthwashes.

 

* Leafy Greens: Vegetables like spinach, kale, and broccoli, are all packed with vitamin C, which reduces inflammation. The extra chewing needed to process these foods is perfect for scouring teeth of plaque and creating saliva to protect the gums. Because of their cleansing attributes, leafy vegetables work best when eaten last and separate of the main course.

 

* Crunchy Fruits and Veggies: Apples, celery, carrots, etc. all do a good job of removing food particles stuck to your teeth. The extra chewing and fibrous make-up of these foods and in particular celery, act as a natural form of dental floss, although this shouldn’t replace your daily oral care routine.

 

* Dairy Products: Milk, yogurt, and cheese are the best natural sources of bio-available calcium, which is crucial for teeth and bone strength. They also contain a protein called casein; a highly effective neutralizer of the acids that can damage your tooth enamel and gum tissue.

 

* Vitamin C Superfoods: The wonderful anti-inflammatory vitamin C can be obtained from many different sources. However, items such as radishes, kiwi fruit, peppers, and strawberries are considered low-acid, and are less likely to damage your tooth enamel than similar, but higher acid fruits like lemons, limes, and grapefruit.

 

* Fish: All cold water, high fat fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel have high concentrations of vitamin D, a micro-nutrient that must be present in order for your body to properly absorb calcium. These type of fish also contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids, which has been found to prevent gum disease.

 

In addition to these teeth and gum-friendly foods, good water intake throughout the day is essential to wash away any lingering food particles leftover from your brushing and flossing. Being properly hydrated has the added benefit of helping boost saliva production; the natural way your body deals with the agents of tooth and gum decay.

 

One of the best ways to keep your teeth clean if you can't brush or floss after a meal is to chew gum containing xylitol. This natural sweetener is unique in that it can't be digested by the acid-causing bacteria in your mouth, so any growth is inhibited. Before purchasing this gum, be sure xylitol is listed as the only sweetener, and not combined with something like sorbitol.

 

Any food that is high in processed sugars and acids are terrible for your teeth and gums. Tooth decaying plaque absolutely thrives in the presence of either. The worst foods for teeth are anything that is very sticky, like candy, or starchy, like crackers. Eating either one will result in very hard to clean teeth.

 

Given the expense and inconvenience of most dental office procedures, it is nice to know something as simple as eating the right foods can help prevent tooth and gum problems. Like the old saying goes, be true to your teeth or they'll be false to you!

By Aurora Chelo, of Pearly Whites 

Guest Editorial Spot!

The Great Debate Over the Use of Amalgam/Mercury Fillings & Why Some Countries Have Not Joined the Ban

Mercury is one of the most toxic elements out there in nature. In its natural form, and as organic compounds, this heavy metal can cause severe and long-lasting damage to living things, including humans. And yet, for the last 150 years, dentists have been using mercury in dental amalgams, used to fill cavities in patients' mouths.

Understandably, there has been a raging debate regarding the safety of dental amalgams, especially in recent years. The anti-mercury campaigners gained a victory of sorts in 2017 when the European parliament enacted a partial ban on the use of dental amalgams. But this ban is only effective in cases involving pregnant women, and young children under the age of 15.

And it is only effective in the European Union, which accounts for nearly half the mercury consumption for dentist use. In the rest of the world, amalgams are still widely preferred for dealing with cavities. In fact, major professional bodies and institutions in the US, like the FDA and ADA firmly support the use of dental amalgams.

This begs the question: if mercury is so toxic, why are dental amalgams still so popular in this day and age? We have largely phased out mercury thermometers and bulbs.

What Are Amalgams And Why Are They Still Used In Dentistry

In chemistry, any alloy of metals containing mercury is called an amalgam. Mercury has always fascinated humanity due to its strange properties. It is one of the few metals that exist as liquids in their pure states. It readily combines with many other metals to form alloys or amalgams.

In dentistry, tooth extraction is generally considered as the last resort in most cases. If you have small cavities, the easiest option is to fill it up with dental fillings. And dental amalgams are the cheapest and one of the most effective options out there. Each dental filling contains 50% mercury. So, if you really want to avoid having mercury in your mouth, floss often! You can check out an effective flosser here.

Dental amalgams are usually an alloy of mercury with powdered metals like silver, tin, and copper. These components are packaged separately in capsules. When a dentist mixes them at the clinic, the liquid mercury combines with the metal powder to form a soft and pliable putty. This putty is easy to work with, but soon hardens into a durable solid substance.

Alternatives to amalgams are available in modern dentistry. These include composite resins and glass ionomer fillings. These modern materials do not contain mercury and have a white color that blends well with surrounding teeth. But they are much more expensive, harder to install, and less durable as well.

What Are The Dangers Associated With Mercury

Mercury is highly toxic to human health. It is very dangerous in its elemental form and as organic compounds. Radioactive substances like plutonium are probably more dangerous than mercury, but your chance of exposure to them is far less. Mercury, on the other hand, is generally recognized as a global pollutant. Common industrial activities like coal burning and cement manufacture release tons of mercury vapors into the atmosphere.

The main toxic effects of mercury occur as a result of inhalation of vapors and fumes. Its main impact is on the nervous system, leading to severe effects on the brain, muscles, movement, and cognition. Even in tiny doses, it can severely affect the human fetus in the womb and cause serious birth defects and mental retardation. Long-term exposure leads to a condition called Minamata Disease.

Methylmercury is the most dangerous form of this element in nature. It is an organic compound formed by bacteria. Mercury released by pollution into nature is converted to this compound and finds its way into the ocean and water bodies, where it accumulates. Mercury poisoning is often caused by eating of contaminated fish and shellfish.

How Is This Connected To Dental Amalgams

Since mercury is such a dangerous and toxic substance, its use in dentistry always has raised criticism and concerns. And the fact that amalgams usually release mercury in the form of vapors also complicates the issue. Critics argue that these trace vapors enter your body through the respiratory system, causing damage in the long term.

But current scientific research does not back this claim. The main reason is the relatively tiny amount of mercury used in a filling. Current studies suggest that these dental amalgams do not release enough toxic vapor to cause any significant damage to human health (but only in adults, young children are susceptible to mercury).

And mercury-based fillings have been in use for over 150 years now. If there was any significant health hazard, it should have become evident by now. This is one of the main reasons why the FDA and other dentist organizations still support the use of dental amalgams.

But Why The Bans Then?

Dental amalgams may be safe, but they still contain mercury. Manufacture, handling, and disposal of amalgams do release mercury into the ecosystem. Waste from dental clinics contains higher levels of mercury. Cremation of bodies with dental fillings releases mercury into the atmosphere. So indirectly, dental amalgams still cause damage to the environment and human health.

We have already largely phased out mercury-based thermometers and light bulbs. Many governments are actively trying to reduce mercury emissions. And some estimates suggest that nearly 10% of global mercury productiongoes into amalgams. This is why there are active steps to prevent or at least discourage the use of dental amalgams.


 

Interview with Paul Tasman – Operations Manager, Bridge2Aid

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Most of us have suffered from toothache (oral pain) at some point in our lives. It can be debilitating, constant, and excruciating. It is something we would immediately look to address by reaching for pain relief or booking an urgent visit to the dentist. But for many people, this is not possible; over 70% of the world’s population does not have access to a dentist.

And it is in the rural areas of developing countries across Africa and elsewhere that dentists are most sorely needed. As traditional diets increasingly incorporate sugar-filled western foodstuffs we are seeing dental decay rise dramatically, leading to debilitating and painful tooth infections. Experiencing pain, problems with communicating, eating and smiling due to dental decay leave people ostracised from communities, unable to work or attend school. It is estimated that toothache is the reason for millions of school and work hours lost each year throughout the world. Lacking access to basic dental care is a serious problem, and if not treated appropriately, can lead to infection and even death.

Bridge2Aid has developed a model that provides training for local health workers. The training is carried out by volunteer dentists, nurses, hygienists and therapists from the UK and other parts of the world. For over a decade Bridge2Aid has demonstrated success in both Tanzania and Rwanda, making access to life-changing treatment available to more than 4 million people.

In this interview, Paul Tasman the Project Manager at Bridge2aid shares more on the ongoing initiatives and plans for the future.

What motivated the launch of Bridge2Aid?

Bridge2Aid was formed because we became aware of the terrible problems of oral health in rural Tanzania.   Away from the cities, there are often no dentists or dental provision so people can suffer for months and years, and their health can suffer terribly.

Why are you particularly passionate about dental health?

We use our mouth to talk, eat, kiss and smile.  Oral health and general health are strongly linked – oral health is a vital part of primary healthcare.  Caries (tooth decay that can lead to pain and infection) is the most prevalent non-communicable disease in the world, and untreated oral pain and infections mean that it becomes difficult to sleep, work or attend classes. 

You target developing countries were a significant number of people lack access to basic health. How many of these countries are African?

At the minute we work only in Tanzania. We are working with the Ministry of Health there to help strengthen the healthcare infrastructure by giving new skills to existing rural health workers (clinical officers).

Do you have plans to expand your services to other African countries?

We would very much like to extend the work that we do.  But would seek to work in tandem with government and ensure that our work is needed and fits with the healthcare policies and strategy of any new country.

You train rural-based health workers in developing countries, providing them with the skills, equipment, and resources that they will need to provide emergency dental care. How many health workers have you trained in Africa till date?

We have trained over 500 clinical officers in Tanzania.  Bridge2Aid has been running training programmes there since 2004.

What has been the impact of these training not only in terms of health improvement but also in terms of economic enhancement for trained health workers with who are now skilled and can offer their professional service in the future?

To put it into perspective across the developing world more working days are lost to tooth pain than to malaria.  By giving new skills to professionals who are already in post we are ensuring that millions of people have access to affordable emergency dental treatment near to where they live.  By ensuring that rural communities are able to get treatment very early on they are being saved from years of pain and disruption to their work and family lives.

Our vision is a world free from dental pain. How much of this vision has so far been achieved? What are the numbers of improved livelihoods?

Each of the clinical officers that we have trained will on average be responsible for a community of 10,000 people.  This means that potentially 5 million or more rural Tanzanians now have a way out of pain and infection that they can access and afford.

The Root Causes of Bad Breath and The Importance of Proper Oral Care

Bad breath has the potential to cause some of the most humiliating and embarrassing experiences in social situations. Unfortunately, it is a prevalent condition. Even healthy, hygienic individuals can have their share of bads days with this disease.

All of us wake up with some form of “morning breath.” Humans have been fighting this scourge for thousands of years. Egyptians invented the concept of the breath mint, made from boiled spices like cinnamon mixed with honey. The Chinese invented the toothbrush in the 15th century.

In the case of ordinary morning breath, those methods mentioned above can certainly help. As well as daily oral care maintenance such as brushing and flossing with string floss or an oral irrigator.

But morning breath is just the mildest, universal form of bad breath. There are other types as well, caused by different factors. Halitosis is the medical name for bad breath. Let's analyze some of the most common causes of halitosis, and the underlying science as we know it so far.

The Basics - What causes the stink?

Be it harmless morning breath, or a symptom of some other serious medical condition, all types of bad breath have one common factor: bacteria. They are the main causative agent behind the stink in our mouth.

They thrive on remnants of chewed food in between our teeth and gums. Once they multiply on these particles, they cause chemical reactions that break down the compounds in the food, creating Volatile Sulfur Compounds.

These are very foul smelling stuff like hydrogen sulfide and ethyl mercaptan, created when amino acids are broken down by bacterial action. These are the same compounds that cause the rotten egg smell. And they are the same ones that raise the almighty stink in our mouths.

Why is Bad Breath the Worst in Mornings?

The number factor here is saliva, or rather, the lack of it. During the daytime, when we are awake, the body is continuously producing saliva. This flushes away most of the food particles sticking around in the mouth. This inhibits bacterial growth and reduces the risk of bad breath.

But at night, when we are asleep, less saliva is secreted. Any food particles left behind after dinner has a higher chance of persisting in the oral cavity. And the bacteria gets to have a feast at night, leading to morning breath.

Many of us also tend to sleep with our mouths open. This causes increased dryness, encouraging further bacterial growth. Always remember this: the drier your mouth, the smellier it becomes.

Poor Oral Hygiene - A Major Cause

There are several ways in which lack of oral hygiene can contribute to bad breath. For starters, not brushing or flossing at night leaves behind food particles in your mouth. If you clean your mouth before going to bed, the chance for bad breath can be significantly reduced.

And in the long term, poor oral health leads to increased cavities and plaque. All these can house even more food particles and bacterium. Often, saliva alone cannot flush away the particles stuck in cavities, leading to severe and persistent halitosis even in daytime. Tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral conditions can also cause smelly breath.

The Throat and Sinus Area Causes

Tonsils in the throat are often a site of bacterial infections. They are responsible for blocking pollutants and particles that enter your body through the mouth. Often, bacterial debris and other particles accumulate on tonsils, causing a condition called tonsil stones.

Chronic sinus infections and sinusitis often result in an accumulation of bacteria in the nasal region. They work on the excess mucus, releasing volatile smelly compounds. These are just some of the common causes of bad breath emanating from your throat and nose.

The Lung Factor

No matter how hard or how often your brush or floss, bad breath is often just a bite away! Certain foodstuffs carry a higher risk of bad breath. Garlic and onions are common offenders. Alcohol is another major factor. When you consume these, the smelly compounds get absorbed into the blood and travel to the lungs.

From there, they can create foul odors in the mouth, which leads to extra stinky breath after a night of boozing. Smoking is another lung-related cause of bad breath as well. That one is pretty self-explanatory. Good quality breath mints can offer marginal assistance in these cases.  

Infections in the lungs, as well as other parts of the body, can also lead to some form of halitosis. In these situations, the bad breath is often a sign of a severe health problem, which could even be a form of cancer. Diabetes often results in a sickly sweet sort of bad breath which is well recognized.

This is why you need to consult your doctor if bad breath persists even after extensive brushing and flossing.

Stomach Related Causes

Your diet and stomach can also have an impact on the breath. Dieting or starvation can lead to the production of excess stomach gases which can come out through the mouth. Research indicates that low carb diets like Atkins can lead to increased bad breath. Conditions like lactose intolerance, and GERD can also point to instances of halitosis.

Conclusion

Bad breath can be a condition on its own, but more often it is a sign of some underlying cause. These can be relatively benign, like minor infections or cavities, or something far more life-threatening like liver disease or cancer. So it is imperative to get persistent instances of bad breath checked out by your dentist or GP right away.

 

Pharmacy teams given dental advice to treat patients in the community

Pharmacists can help some patients with dental conditions and reduce the numbers attending accident and emergency departments.

Dental and pharmacy teams have produced factsheets for pharmacies across Health Education England’s London and south east England area (HEE LaSe) as part of attempts to reduce out of hours and weekend calls to NHS 111 and accident and emergency department use.

Dental conditions are one of the most common symptom groups for callers to NHS 111, particularly at weekends, but it is thought community pharmacies could be managing many of the patients calling the service or visiting A&E with these symptoms.

The factsheets are intended to support and refresh knowledge and can be used by all patient-facing staff in pharmacy when dealing with common dental presentations. When dental and oral symptoms are urgent they also help signpost to other services where indicated.

The 12 factsheets feature conditions including bleeding and swollen gums, bleeding after tooth extraction, chipped or fractured teeth, oral ulcers, teething and toothache.

HEE LaSe is also seeking to hear from pharmacies about how they have used the factsheets and if they have found them helpful.

The factsheets can be found here.

South Africa moves one step closer to a sugar tax - and a healthier lifestyle

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South Africa has joined only a handful of countries in the world close to imposing a sugary drinks tax. A new bill that imposes a tax on sugary drinks has cleared the first of three hurdles in South Africa’s law-making process. 

One of two houses of parliament has approved what is being called a health promotion levy. 

The bill is expected to be passed by the other, The National Council of Provinces, and then signed in by the President. Implementation is expected in April 2018, but industry interference may still have an impact. 

The Conversation Africa’s Health and Medicine Editor Candice Bailey spoke to Karen Hofman and Aviva Tugendhaft about the tax.

How important is the sugary drinks tax and why?

The decision by South Africa’s Parliament is a very far sighted decision. It shows that the country’s parliamentarians fully understand the health implications of a product that is excessively high in sugar and has no nutritional value.

The sugary drinks tax – or health promotion levy – is expected to prevent a wide-range of obesity related non-communicable diseases. These include diabetes, cancer, stroke and heart disease. This is important because South Africa’s public health sector is severely overburdened. Public hospitals are seeing on average of 25 000 new hypertensive cases a month as well as 10 000 new diabetic patients each month. These are estimated to be only half of the real numbers because both are silent conditions.

The effect of the reduction in the prevalence of non-communicable diseases will be twofold: it will help the country to implement National Health Insurance (NHI) as an overwhelmed health system will be a barrier to NHI. And it will reduce the negative effect that chronic non-communicable diseases have on economic growth because of the impact on the workforce due to increased absenteeism and decreased productivity.

Already, there are signs that obesity related diseases are affecting the country’s economic growth rate.

The sugary drinks tax will also help people make healthier choices. In Mexico, after a sugary drinks tax was implemented soda consumption decreased by between 7% and 10% and water consumption increased.

Lastly, tackling chronic noncommunicable diseases will ensure that South Africa doesn’t lose the gains it has made in life expectancy after the introduction of antiretrovirals to treat HIV infections. Life expectancy has improved to 62.5 years of age after falling as low as 52.1 at the height of the AIDS pandemic in 2003. Without further policies to promote health, the country’s life expectancy is likely to reverse. This has been seen in countries like Brazil.

The initial lobby was for a 20% sugar tax. But in the end it was only 11%. Is it good enough?

It’s a start. The sugar tax is similar to the one introduced in Mexico which contributed to a 17% reduction in the consumption of sugary beverages among poor people.

Once the tax is implemented in South Africa it will be monitored and an evaluation will be done to establish if it has helped.

What will this levy mean for consumers?

The industry is clearly against the tax. This was illustrated by the fact that the chairperson of the finance committee in parliament, Yunus Carrim, spoke out about industry interference in the process.

The beverage industry sees South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa as their growth market This means that they will continue to find a way to increase profits. We’re expecting to see the industry change their products in an effort to ensure their bottom line is not affected. The tax will be levied on sugar content, which will hopefully encourage industry to lower the sugar content in its drinks and create healthier alternatives.

The sugar tax has been criticised because it deals with only one factor among a myriad that lead to obesity. What’s your response?

This is true. But that criticism only stands if you view it as a single event. The levy is the first step in a very long journey of a range of different interventions that will need to happen.

This was also the case with tobacco. The first step was a tobacco tax. This halved smoking rates over two decades. It was followed by the banning of advertisements and very clear labelling about the dangers of tobacco.

The health promotion levy – which research shows is by far the most effective mechanism – will need to be followed by clear and transparent labelling. We need to move away from just having sugar levels listed in grams on the back of cans. There should be labels in large letters on the front of cans informing consumers about the number of teaspoons of sugar they’re drinking.

The second intervention should be marketing and advertising regulations of these drinks, particularly to children.

Karen Hofman, Program Director, PRICELESS SA ( Priority Cost Effective Lessons in Systems Stregthening South Africa), University of the Witwatersrand and Aviva Tugendhaft, Deputy Director, PRICELESS, Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

5 health conditions you didn't realise your dentist could spot Who knew?!

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When was the last time you went to the dentist? Despite NHS guidelines recommending we visit the dentist's chair at least once a year, research shows one in 10 people in the UK haven't been in more than five years.

Having regular check-ups is incredibly important – and not just to take care of those pearly whites. There's a whole host of health conditions your dentist can spot – and some of them might surprise you.

From heart conditions to diabetes, Eddie Coyle, Clinical Director at Bupa Dental Care, has provided his round-up of the key conditions dentists can identify signs of.

So if that doesn't convince you to book your next appointment, we don't know what will!

1. Heart conditions

"Tell-tale signs of gum disease such as inflamed gums and loose or missing teeth can also be a warning sign of heart disease. Bacteria in the mouth that forms as a result of gum disease such as periodontitis can, in rare cases, travel to the heart and lead to coronary artery disease.

"In addition, increased levels of bacteria in the mouth can also lead to the formation of clots or plaque build-up in your arteries. This in turn can impact the blood flow to the heart – ultimately resulting in heart problems."

2. Diabetes

"Diabetes is the fastest growing health threat in the UK and it is estimated that more than 5 million people are living with the condition today. Associated with an unhealthy lifestyle and a poor diet that is high in sugar and fat, the condition has life-long implications and requires daily management.

"Patients suffering from gum disease, bleeding gums, loose teeth and severe enamel erosion could be displaying key symptoms of diabetes. Excessive consumption of sweet, sugary and acidic food and drink has a detrimental impact on a person's teeth – as well as their wider body. So when we see a patient suffering from some or all of these conditions, alarm bells start to ring.

"Of course, these issues can develop without being linked to diabetes at all, but as dentists it is important for us to raise this with our patients and recommend they consult their GP for further testing."

3. Stress and anxiety

"A lot of patients that come through my doors have a condition known as bruxism – otherwise known as teeth grinding. This is where a patient, consciously or unconsciously, grinds their teeth and excessively clenches their jaw. In most cases, it's something they are totally unaware of and it tends to happen during sleep.

"Bruxism is often an unwanted by-product of stress and anxiety and if it happens continually over a prolonged period of time, it can cause the enamel to wear down on teeth leading to increased sensitivity, infection and sometimes even tooth loss. Some studies have also shown that in rare cases stress can lead to gum disease too."

4. Eating disorders

"Eating disorders, and specifically bulimia, are issues that patients often desperately try to hide from others – yet dentists can be some of the first people to spot the signs. Erosion on the inside of the teeth can be a sign of forced vomiting in a person with bulimia. This is because stomach acid brought up when being sick wears away enamel and makes teeth weaker and more sensitive.

"Plus, poor nutrition and a lack of key vitamins and minerals – found in the majority of people suffering from an eating disorder – can mean that gums start to bleed and patients also develop dry mouth."

5. Anaemia

"Anaemia is a condition where the body doesn't produce enough red blood cells to circulate round the body, leading to excessive tiredness, a weakened immune system and a shortness of breath. If the lining of a patient's mouth is very pale or a light shade of pink – as opposed to a darker fleshier colour - it could be a warning sign of anaemia.

"Other signs, such as a smooth-looking tongue, rather than a normal slightly bumpy texture can also be a key indicator."

Dental technology takes bite out of time dentists need to get to root of the problem

 Northern Hills Dental

Northern Hills Dental

Significant technological advances in the field of dentistry have taken quite a bite out of patient time spent waiting in the chair for a diagnosis, all the while allowing dentists to zoom right in to the root of the problem in a more efficient manner.

Dr. Reid Stone, DDS at Northern Hills Dental, recently shared his opinion on the top five technologies and their benefits over former methods.

“Digital X-Rays, digital cameras, ‘laser pens,’ 3-D imaging, and digital impressions,” Stone said. “Digital x-rays provide up to a 90 percent reduction in radiation exposure over traditional film-based x-rays of the past and dentists can see the image faster . A digital camera or, what is known as an ‘intraoral camera,” is like a wand that allows the dentist to take a photo of a few teeth, a patient's smile or of the condition of teeth and allows the dentist and patient to view images together in consult. A diagnodent: Is a ‘laser pen’ that shoots a light beam into a tooth to detect decay and replaces that sharp hooked instrument that dentists used to press into teeth to find a cavity, allowing the dentist to catch decay in its earliest stages and increasing accuracy of diagnosis. Traditional x-rays are in 2D, and this puts the x-ray into a 3D image, which is very helpful in aspects of dentistry when diagnosing abnormalities in the mouth such as cancer and its early detection, as well as increasing surgical accuracy. Finally, digital impressions deliver a very accurate model of one's teeth that can then be sent to a dental laboratory via email rather than in the mail.”

Translation? All are time-saving, accuracy-increasing measures, which are better for the dentist and the patient, alike. And these days, some, if not all of the above, should be in use at your dentist office of choice.

“Look for a dentist that is progressive in incorporating these technologies into their practice,” Stone said. “A lot of dentists get in a rut of just doing what they learned in school and don't continue advance their education. Technology costs a lot of money and time for a dentist to incorporate it into their practice. This often means time away from the office and travels for training. But, the end result is you are getting treatment that is more conservative and often at a lower cost than traditional methods of the past.”

Sometimes technology of this type goes beyond quick and efficient, to life-saving.

“I have had a couple of patients that have gone in for a dental implant to be placed and the surgeon took a 3D image of their jaws and found life-threatening conditions that had they not found it with this x-ray, they might not be here today,” Stone said.

But, first and foremost, Stone said technology just plain makes his job easier and dentist visits more pleasant for patients.

With questions, please contact Dr. Reid Stone, DDS at Northern Hills Dental, 584-2983.