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What Are Dental Sealants?

May 18th, 2022

You’re constantly playing defense. Your child spends two minutes in the morning and two minutes at night carefully brushing and flossing with a fluoride toothpaste. You make sure sugary and acidic foods are not a major part of your diets. Your child visits our South Hamilton, MA office for regular exams and cleanings. Really, how can a cavity get past all that?

But even with the best defensive practices, you don’t have a level playing field—literally. The tops of our molars and premolars don’t have the smooth, easy-to-clean surfaces that our other teeth have. If you look at the chewing surfaces, you will notice deep grooves which toothbrush bristles have a much harder time reaching.  

Plaque and food particles can become trapped in these grooves (known as pits and fissures), providing perfect conditions for a cavity to develop. That is why cavities are so common in newly erupted molars. Dental sealants protect these teeth from cavities by providing a barrier which smooths out the surface of the tooth and prevents food and bacteria from reaching the molar’s crevices.

Most sealants are invisible plastic resin coatings which we apply in our South Hamilton, MA office. Usually the procedure is so quick and easy that no dental anesthetic is required. Each tooth will be examined first. If we find any signs of early decay, we will gently treat that area before beginning.

When the tooth is ready, it will be cleaned and dried. An etching solution will be brushed on to the dry surface to roughen the area a bit so that the sealant will hold to the tooth more effectively. A thin coat of the sealant is then painted on and hardened under a curing light. And that’s it!

Once teeth are sealed, they should be cleaned and flossed just as carefully as before. Regular exams and cleanings are still very important, and we can monitor the condition of the sealant and the sealed teeth. Properly applied, sealants can last from three to five years, or even longer.

Who should consider sealants? Sealants are typically recommended when the permanent molars first erupt. Children’s enamel takes a while to become its strongest, and so these just-erupted teeth are more at risk for cavities. Sometimes Dr. Lisa Murray will recommend sealants for primary (baby) teeth if needed. But even adults can benefit—talk to us if you are interested and we will let you know if sealants might be right for you.

Sealants are a simple, safe, and minimally invasive way to prevent cavities. Studies of sealed molars and premolars show a dramatic reduction in cavities compared to untreated teeth. Sealants are one of the most effective ways to defend your teeth or your children’s teeth from tooth decay. And as we’ve all heard—defense wins championships!

Adults Can Get Cavities, Too

May 11th, 2022

There are some things we just don’t miss about being a kid. Getting grounded? A thing of the past. Curfew? Not happening. Confiscating our cell phones? As if. Cavities? While we’d like to think those are also a part of childhood we can happily leave behind, unfortunately, the potential for cavities is one thing we never outgrow.

If you are keeping up a healthy dental routine, you know that two minutes careful brushing and flossing twice a day, a sensible diet, and regular checkups and cleanings are the best way to keep cavities from ever developing. But adults face other challenges that children might not. What else should we look out for?

  • Over-Enthusiastic Brushing

Brushing too vigorously, or using a brush with hard or even medium bristles, can actually damage our teeth over the years. Enamel, as hard as it is, can erode, leading to the potential for decay, and gums can be pushed away from the lower part of our teeth, which are not covered by enamel. Talk to us about the gentle way to clean bacteria and plaque from your teeth while protecting your enamel and gums.

  • Receding Gums

Whether due to gum disease, improper brushing, genetic factors, or other causes, we often see gum recession as we age. This is not just an aesthetic problem—gum recession leaves the root area of our tooth exposed to plaque and bacteria. Because this part of our tooth is not protected by enamel, there is a greater risk for decay in this newly exposed area. Also, pockets between the teeth and gums can be home to infections which lead to more serious problems. We will examine the condition of your gums at every checkup, and are happy to suggest the best solutions for keeping your gums their healthiest.

  • Our Fillings Age, Too

Over time, fillings can become loose or damaged, allowing the bacteria that cause cavities to enter spaces within the tooth you cannot brush or floss. This is a problem we can catch at a regular checkup, but if you notice a damaged filling, lose a filling, feel sensitivity around a filled tooth, or have any other concerns, call us. Prompt replacement will stop decay before it leads to a more serious problem.

  • Life Is Unpredictable

A busy schedule can lead to unhealthy diet choices. Not just sugars, but acidic foods (like sodas, coffee, and wine) and carbs (which break down into sugars) can leave teeth more vulnerable to decay. Physical changes (working out, new medications and medical conditions) can lead to dry mouth, which creates a bacteria-friendly environment that can lead to tooth decay. Stress can have consequences such as weakened immune systems, tooth grinding, and unhealthy eating habits, all of which can lead to a higher risk of cavities.

Call our South Hamilton, MA office if you have any dental concerns. And talk to Dr. Lisa Murray about the changes in your life that might leave you more vulnerable to cavities or impact your overall dental health. We have suggestions and solutions for this phase of your life to protect and preserve that wonderful smile you had as a child. And that’s a great result at any age!

Wiggle Room

May 4th, 2022

When you’re pregnant, you expect physical changes. That’s part of the excitement of the journey! What isn’t expected—and not nearly as exciting—is when your familiar smile seems to be changing as well.

If you’ve noticed that your teeth feel loose, or that your regular tooth alignment has shifted, you might be experiencing one of the unexpected, but quite common, side effects of pregnancy—tooth mobility.

How is this “wiggle room” possible? After all, you’re making sure that you’re eating a diet rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals, including calcium, vitamin D, and all the other nutrients which keep teeth and gums healthy. You’re brushing and flossing regularly to prevent cavities and gum disease. You haven’t changed your healthy dental habits, so why are you seeing different results?

The answer lies in the hormonal changes which occur with pregnancy. Your body has significantly increased production of hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and relaxin. One of the benefits of these higher hormonal levels is their relaxing effect on your ligaments and joints. Relaxed ligaments and joints help make pregnancy and childbirth easier.

But you can’t target hormones just where they’ll be most useful. An increase in hormones affects the ligaments and joints throughout your body. And while this explanation might seem unrelated to loose teeth, it is, in fact, the “root” of the matter.

A complex support system holds our teeth securely in their sockets. Instead of being rigidly fused to the jaw, each tooth root is surrounded by a periodontal ligament within the socket. This ligament is largely made of flexible connective tissue, and attaches to both the root of the tooth and the bone tissue of the jaw, holding the tooth in place. Its flexibility helps cushion your tooth from pressure and impact, and allows the tooth movement which makes orthodontic work possible.

The hormones which relax ligaments and joints throughout the body have that same relaxing effect on the flexible ligaments and joints in the mouth. So it’s not uncommon to find that your teeth feel a bit looser, or that your customary tooth alignment has shifted, or that you’re experiencing discomfort in your jaw joint, especially if you grind or clench your teeth.

Fortunately, while loose teeth are alarming, it’s most often only a temporary condition. Your teeth and ligaments should return to their normal, stable status after your baby is born. But because dental health can impact on your pregnancy, see us if you notice any changes in your smile. We want to rule out any other causes of tooth mobility, including gum disease, tooth abscesses, or other serious conditions.

Other proactive prenatal tips to keep your smile its healthiest?

  • Call us when you learn about your pregnancy. We can offer suggestions for caring for yourself and your dental health during this exciting time.
  • Keep up with your dental hygiene. Brushing and flossing are more important than ever to keep your gums healthy.
  • And, because your gums might be more prone to gingivitis now, extra cleanings as needed can keep plaque buildup from forming.
  • Don’t forget your regular appointments at our South Hamilton, MA dental office for exams and cleanings. We want to help prevent any small problems from becoming larger ones.

Pregnancy is a time of many physical changes. Dr. Lisa Murray will work with you to ensure that one thing which remains constant is your beautiful, healthy smile!

Dental Filling Options

April 27th, 2022

You’ve made an appointment at our South Hamilton, MA office to treat your cavity, the decayed area has been removed, and the site has been cleaned and prepared for a filling. Now it’s decision time. What kind of filling should you choose? Well, that depends. There are durability, aesthetic, and price considerations involved in any of your choices, so let’s look at some options before you decide.

Gold

This is a classic choice for a reason. Gold is very durable and can last longer than fillings made from other materials. Because they are crafted from precious metal, gold fillings are more expensive than other alternatives. They are also most often indirect fillings—that is, they are not immediately placed in a tooth, but are formed based on a mold of your tooth taken on your first visit and set in position on a second visit. A gold filling is also noticeable, which can be a matter of concern or a style statement!

Metal Amalgam

An amalgam is a mixture, and an amalgam filling is usually composed of several metallic elements, including silver, tin, copper, and mercury. This filling is also very durable and is one of the most cost-effective choices. Its silver color does not blend into the tooth, so visibility is a factor. Amalgam fillings are considered a safe option, but, if you wonder about potential metal allergies or the amount and kind of mercury involved, we will be happy to discuss your concerns. One possible drawback to amalgam fillings is that sometimes more tooth structure needs to be removed to accommodate them, so this is also a subject we can discuss.

Composite Resins

These fillings are often selected because they are both durable and almost invisible when the color is matched to your tooth. Made of acrylic resin and powdered glass, a composite filling is what is called a “direct filling”—one that can be completed and bonded to the tooth in one visit. These are often more expensive than amalgam fillings, but might be preferable for cosmetic reasons, especially when a front tooth is involved. They also need less tooth structure removed to accommodate them and can be better bonded to small excavations than some other options. They can be prone to staining over time.

Ceramic

Ceramic fillings have the virtue of being virtually undetectable. They can be color-matched to your teeth for a seamless look, and are more stain-resistant than composite fillings. They are also a more expensive option, and, like gold fillings, can involve a two-phase process with a filling molded to fit the excavation site placed in your tooth on a second visit.

Dr. Lisa Murray and our team are happy to discuss all of your options before it is time to treat your cavity, since there are a number of factors which might impact your decision. A molar will require a more durable filling than a front tooth, while being less visible when you smile or speak. Insurance plans might pay for only a portion of a filling’s cost if it is more expensive than an amalgam, or will pay for a composite filling only if it is in a visible location. We can help you decide which filling best fits all your needs, providing you with the healthy and beautiful smile you deserve!

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