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Dental Sealants for Baby Teeth?

April 29th, 2020

Perhaps you’ve heard your friends talking about dental sealants, and how well they prevent cavities. And as soon as your child’s permanent molars come in, you absolutely plan to make an appointment at our South Hamilton, MA office for this treatment. But should you also be concerned with your child’s baby teeth? Could they benefit from sealants too?

Even though those beautiful baby teeth are going to be replaced with permanent teeth, they should still be protected. Primary teeth help with speech development, enable your child to develop proper chewing and eating habits, and serve as place holders so that permanent teeth can erupt in the correct place. That’s why you’ve been so careful to help your child brush and floss twice daily, and make regular visits to our office for exams and cleanings.

But some teeth are just harder to keep clean with regular brushing than others. Primary molars, just like permanent ones, have depressions and grooves on the chewing surfaces. These grooves collect bacteria and food particles that are hard for bristles to reach, providing a perfect opportunity for cavities to develop in those little molars.

Cavities are not the only problem which can affect primary teeth. Because baby teeth have thinner layers of protective enamel, a cavity can actually reach the pulp (the center of the tooth) more quickly, leading to pain and potential infection.

While baby teeth can be treated, with fillings, restorations, and even stainless steel crowns, preventing tooth decay is always our first, best choice. And dental sealants are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association as one of the most effective ways to prevent cavities in both baby teeth and adult teeth.

Dental sealants are safe and effective.  Sealants are thin coatings (usually a plastic resin or other dental material) that cover a molar’s grooves and depressions, making it impossible for bacteria and food particles to collect there. Applying them is a simple, pain-free process.

Each tooth will be examined first. If we find any signs of decay starting, we will gently treat that area before applying the sealant. After the tooth is cleaned and dried, an etching solution will be brushed on to the surface area being sealed. This etching roughens the surface 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.

That’s all there is to it! Sealants typically last from three to five years, and some last even longer. Keep up your regular careful brushing and flossing, and we will monitor the condition of the sealants at each exam.

Talk to Dr. Lisa Murray about dental sealants. We’ll let you know if your child can benefit from the procedure even before those baby teeth give way to permanent ones. It’s never too early to prevent tooth decay!

Suffer from tooth discoloration? Don’t panic!

April 22nd, 2020

Like many other parts of the human body, teeth age. You may look at old photos and realize your smile was significantly brighter in the past than it is now. Many adults experience tooth discoloration and find it embarrassing.

The good news is there are treatment options! The first step to recovering your bright smile and finding appropriate treatment is to determine what’s causing the discoloration.

There are multiple reasons for tooth discoloration. Some are under your control, but unfortunately, others may not be. Glance at the list below and see if you can pinpoint the cause of your tooth discoloration.

  • Poor Dental Hygiene: This one is obvious. There’s a reason your parents (and dentist) always told you to brush and floss three times a day.
  • Genetics: A big part of your dental health is determined by genetics; in other words, what runs in your family. Sometimes people inherit naturally discolored teeth.
  • Diet: Do you eat sugary foods often? Drink lots of soda? Gulp more than two cups of coffee a day? Are you an energy drink fan? We’re not pointing any fingers ... but you should do the math.
  • Tobacco: Because cigarettes contain nicotine, they can readily stain your teeth. So hardcore smokers often develop prominent brown stains.
  • Medications: Medicines such as doxycycline, tetracycline, antihistamines, blood-pressure medications, and antipsychotic drugs can all create tooth discoloration as a side effect. (If you suspect this could be the case for you, don’t ever discontinue your medication without consulting your doctor first!)

Did you find the culprit? Perhaps the easiest way to avoid tooth discoloration in your case might be to make some simple adjustments to your diet and other habits.

Also, when you consume drinks or foods that are high in acid or sugar content, take a moment to rinse your mouth with water afterward. If you’re an avid tobacco user, you may want to reconsider that; especially because it can have deadly effects that go way beyond your smile.

Dr. Lisa Murray can also suggest other treatment options. While over-the-counter agents do help, in-office whitening treatments tend to be more effective. If whitening agents don’t alleviate the problem, you may want to consider bondings or veneers.

If you’re worried about discoloration of your teeth, or have any questions about how to treat it, please feel free to reach out to our South Hamilton, MA office! We can help you identify what may be causing the problem and work with you to give you a smile you’ll be proud of.

What to do about Dry Mouth

April 15th, 2020

Xerostomia, commonly known as dry mouth, is a condition in which the salivary glands in the mouth don’t produce enough saliva. Saliva keeps the mouth moist and cleanses it of bacteria. A lack of it makes for an uncomfortably dry mouth that is also more susceptible to infection and disease.

Symptoms of dry mouth include:

  • Dryness or a sticky feeling
  • Frequent thirst
  • Burning sensations or redness in the throat or on the tongue
  • A sore throat or hoarseness
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or tasting food

Dry mouth usually comes about as a side effect of certain medications or medical conditions, but can also be caused by damage to the salivary glands because of injury or surgery.

If you're experiencing any of the symptoms of dry mouth, here are a few tips for what to do:

Double-check medications: If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications, speak with Dr. Lisa Murray to see if any of these could be causing the dry mouth as a side effect.

There may be ways to alleviate the symptoms.

  • Stay hydrated: Whether you have dry mouth or not, it’s essential to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fresh and pure water throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is to drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day.
  • Suck or chew on a natural, sugar-free candy or gum: Sucking on candy or chewing gum will keep your salivary glands producing saliva. Healthier versions of sugar-free candy and gum are available these days. Some are made with xylitol, a sugar alcohol that actually helps prevent tooth decay.
  • Add moisture to your living spaces: Try adding a vaporizer to your bedroom or the rooms where you spend the most time. It’s best for your home to have a humidity level of between 40 to 50%. Anything less than 30% is too low. You can measure humidity with a hygrometer, which is easy to find at your local department store or online.

These are just a few general tips, but if you’re experiencing the symptoms of dry mouth often and it’s interfering with your life, pay a visit to our South Hamilton, MA office. That way you’re more likely to get to the root of the problem.

HPV and Oral Cancer

April 8th, 2020

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country. There are over 100 strains of HPV, and, while most of these infections leave our systems on their own with no long-term ill effects, some cancers have been linked to certain “high risk” strains of the virus. One of these strains, HPV16, increases the risk of oral cancer.

HPV-related oral cancer most often appears in the oropharynx. This area of the mouth includes:

  • The base, or back, of the tongue
  • The soft palate
  • The tonsils
  • The back and sides of the throat

While HPV-related oral cancers can appear in other parts of the oral cavity, they most typically occur at the back of the throat and tongue and near the folds of the tonsils. Because of this location, oropharyngeal cancer can be difficult to detect. This is one more important reason to maintain a regular schedule of dental exams. Our examination doesn’t focus only on your teeth and gums. We are trained to look for cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions in the mouth, head, and neck to make sure you have the earliest treatment options should they be needed.

If you discover any potential symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer, call us for a check-up. These symptoms can include:

  • Trouble moving the tongue
  • Trouble swallowing, speaking, or chewing
  • Trouble opening the mouth completely
  • A red or white patch on the tongue or the lining of the mouth
  • A lump in the throat, neck, or tongue
  • A persistent sore throat
  • Ear pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Coughing up blood

Not every symptom is caused by cancer, but it is always best to be proactive. HPV-related oral cancer is rare, but it is on the increase. While HPV-positive oral cancers generally have a better prognosis than HPV-negative oral cancers, early diagnosis and treatment are still essential for the best possible outcome.

Finally, if you are a young adult or have an adolescent child, talk to Dr. Lisa Murray and to your doctor about the HPV vaccine, which is effective before exposure to the virus occurs. Most HPV vaccines, while not designed specifically to prevent oral cancer, prevent the HPV16 strain from infecting the body—the very same strain that causes the majority of HPV-related oral cancers.  Although no studies have shown definitive proof yet, there is strong feeling in the scientific community that these immunizations might protect against HPV-positive oral cancer as well as cervical, vaginal, and other cancers. It’s a discussion worth having at your next visit to our South Hamilton, MA office.

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