6 Tips for Finding a Good Dentist

Although there are a lot of good dentists out there, finding just the right one for your family can be tough. Many simply do not click with you. Some don’t use the latest techniques, some have a hurried approach, and some specialize only in particular patient groups. Here are some tips for finding a good dentist for your family.

Finding a good dentist

1. Ask About the Dentist’s Education and Training

Think of searching for a dentist like conducting job interviews. Some of your most basic questions should be about the dentist’s education and training, particularly as it applies to your family’s needs. Where and when was the dentist trained? Does he or she take frequent continuing education classes? Does the dentist have certifications in dental implants, oral surgery, or other specializations? What about specific populations, such as geriatrics or special needs patients?

No dentist is an expert in all fields. However, the dentist you choose should be up to date on the things that your family is most likely to need. If you have a small child, experience with pediatrics may be among the most important factors. Likewise, if one of you is facing extensive dental work, a certification in oral surgery might be a primary consideration.

2. Consider the Overall Approach to Dentistry

It is important that you and your dentist see eye to eye on your overall approach to dental health. Do you prefer an old-school dentist with a paternalistic bedside manner? Are you looking for cutting-edge treatments? Do you want to be a collaborator in your own dental care, or would you rather have your dentist make all of the major decisions? None of these are right or wrong, but the dentist you select should reflect your own personal style.

3. Think of the Practicalities

Your dentist’s office should be reasonably convenient to your home or workplace, and the office hours should fit with your schedule. You should choose a dentist who accepts your insurance plan, and offers some type of financing for extensive procedures. Take a look at the missed appointment policy as well, especially if your schedule is tight and ever-changing.

Also consider how the office policies align with your family’s needs and concerns. Is the dentist skilled at handling nervous patients? Is sedation available if needed? Does the dentist handle complex cases, or serve as a treatment coordinator with a network of specialists? Is it acceptable to bring a relative or friend into the treatment room? Again, there is no right or wrong, but some policies do not mesh well with some individual needs or desires.

4. Consider the Costs

Dentist fees are complicated, so there is typically no way to get a firm price without an exam. Still, it is worth calling around to compare ballpark fees either on specific work, or on such common procedures as X-rays and simple fillings. Don’t choose your dentist based solely on price, but make sure that the one you choose is reasonably competitive in your local area.

5. Take a Look Around

Stop by the offices of your top few dentists to get a feel for how they operate. Is the waiting room clean and inviting? Do you receive a warm welcome? Are treatment rooms clean, and do staff practice universal precautions? Also take the time to ask a few questions and note the responses. Do you feel like there is an open and honest rapport, or does the staff seem bothered and rushed?

6. Personal Connection

Finally, make an appointment with the dentist you like best. Ultimately, this is the only way to tell whether you truly click. Think of this as a final interview rather than a firm commitment. Get to know the dentist and staff, and think through whether these are people with whom you feel comfortable. If you are unsure, feel free to move on.

Finding a good dentist is relatively simple, but finding a good dentist that is right for you can be trickier. Put in the time and effort to find someone with whom you can truly build a professional relationship based on trust and rapport. Do not entrust your family’s dental health to a dentist who, for whatever reason, you just don’t feel comfortable with.

Married dentists Chad and Alexandra Schnabel welcome you to Savannah Dental Solutions. From caring children’s dentistry to high-tech cosmetic procedures and even full-mouth reconstruction, we blend the latest technology with traditional customer-oriented values. To start your journey to better oral health, call us today at (912) 354-1366.

How to Get a More Photogenic Smile

Selfies and casual photos with friends have become a daily fact of life, thanks to the ubiquitous nature of smart phones. Yet many people hate the way they look in photos, and quite a few of those focus on their own smiles. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a Hollywood bombshell to flash a beautiful smile every time. You just need to follow a few simple tips.

Get a photogenetic smile

Smile Naturally

One of the biggest mistakes that non-professional smilers make is forcing a smile. A big, wide-open grin can look more like a grimace through the camera lens. At the opposite end, avoid the quick, face-crinkling smile that shows up when you run into an old friend, which can make your face look awkwardly scrunched in the photo.

Instead, choose a gentle, relaxed, natural smile. Let your lower lip follow the natural curve of your bottom teeth, and your mouth open just slightly. This is the slightly dreamy smile brought on by thoughts of a loved one or memories of a favorite event.

Choose the Right Lipstick

The lipstick shade you choose can actually affect the color of your teeth in photographs. If your teeth are slightly yellowed or stained, select a color with pink or blue undertones. Look for darker shades such as berry, wine, or plum. If you prefer pinks, try a rose rather than a true pink. Any color that is extremely bright or intense, such as a true red, can reproduce strangely in photos.

Take Practice Photos

Everyone has their own best angles, most natural smile, and other individual features. If you have a big event coming up where you know you will be photographed, take the time to play with your look. Start by scrutinizing your reflection in a mirror as you toss your hair and try out different poses. When you find a few you like, snap a handful of selfies. What you see in the mirror may be different than what you see in the camera lens, so test out your favorite looks in photographs.

Consider a Smile Makeover

If your teeth have seen better days, consider a smile makeover. This is the process of correcting imperfections and giving you the best possible smile. If you have any current dental health issues, they must be addressed first.

After that, the sky is the limit. Your dentist will take photos and X-rays, check out photos of any smiles you really like, and work hand in hand with you to design your ideal smile. Be careful with the concept of the “perfect smile,” though, as a perfect smile rarely looks natural. Instead, work with your dentist to design a natural-looking smile that complements your features.

Depending on the cosmetic issues you have, your smile makeover might include one or many different treatments. For example, you might use Invisalign to straighten your teeth and then whiten them or add veneers. Your dentist will work hard to “balance” your smile as well, ensuring that the color and shape of each tooth blends into a harmonious whole.

Fortunately, digital design equipment lets you see exactly what your new smile will look like before you commit. Your dentist will photograph your existing smile, and then use technology to morph it into the new smile you are considering. When you are happy with the digital results, your dentist will create a wax mockup that lets you try out the results. This gives you the opportunity to see how your new smile looks and feels, while allowing the dentist to make any needed adjustments to ensure that your new smile is just as functional as it is beautiful.

Looking great in photographs comes naturally to models, actresses, and other professional smilers, but it can be tough for the average person. Depending on the current condition of your teeth, you might simply need a new lipstick color and a bit of practice, or you might benefit from a full smile makeover. Either way, it is relatively simple to achieve the photogenic smile of your dreams.

Married dentists Chad and Alexandra Schnabel welcome you to Savannah Dental Solutions. From caring children’s dentistry to high-tech cosmetic procedures and even full-mouth reconstruction, we blend the latest technology with traditional customer-oriented values. To start your journey to better oral health, call us today at (912) 354-1366.

Coping With Dental Phobia

Dentophobia, or the fear of dentists, is surprisingly common. It can be mild or severe, in some cases causing sufferers to avoid even crucial dental work. When untreated, dentophobia can have devastating consequences to your oral and overall physical health.

coping with dental phobia

Specific Fears

 
Dentophobia can be broken down into several specific fears. Some people have just one fear, but most sufferers have at least two. Severe dentophobia often involves most or all of these fears simultaneously. 

  • “The Dentist”: Like “The IRS” and “The DMV,” “The Dentist” is often seen as cold and uncaring, or even sadistic. Those who have had previous negative dental experiences are at the greatest risk for this specific fear.
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  • Pain: At one time, painless dentistry was impossible to achieve. Modern techniques have rendered most procedures virtually pain-free, but a slight amount of discomfort is common. If you are extremely sensitive to oral pain, you might be afraid that the pain will be unbearable.
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  • Mouth Numbness: It is true that having your mouth numbed feels odd, and people with this specific fear worry that they will be unable to swallow or even breathe. You are more likely to develop this fear if you have previously experienced choking or trouble breathing, whether in or out of the dentist’s chair.
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  • Sights, Sounds, and Smells: If you have had a previous bad experience with the dentist, your fear might be triggered by the general atmosphere of the dentist’s office. Many people name the sound of the drill as their number one fear.
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  • Needles: Trypanophobia, or the fear of needles, is also incredibly common. If you suffer from this fear, you are likely afraid of the injections used to numb your mouth.

 

Complications of Dentophobia

 
Dental health is highly individual, so the results of dentophobia vary dramatically from person to person. Some people can make it for years without seeing a dentist, while others are at risk from just one missed appointment.

Either way, there is no question that dental disease progresses over time. What starts as a tiny cavity could eventually lead to a rotten and broken tooth. This means more invasive dental procedures, if the tooth can be saved at all, and facing these procedures could make you even less inclined to see the dentist.

There are also social consequences to neglecting your teeth. If yours are broken and rotted, you might have trouble getting certain jobs, finding dates, and feeling confident around your friends. This can lead to isolation, depression, and increasing social anxiety.

In addition, worsening dental issues lead to infection. Infected teeth and gums hurt, and the infection can eventually spread to the rest of your body. This can lead to overall unwellness and even raise your risk for heart disease and other serious medical conditions.

Coping with Dentophobia

 
Fortunately, modern dentistry offers several solutions for managing the fear of the dentist. If your fear is relatively minor, consider bringing a portable music system or DVD player. Simply relaxing into good music or your favorite movie can help you relax.

Schedule an initial consultation with the dentist, without planning for any work to be done. Discuss your fear, and ask the dentist for suggestions. You might be able to set up a hand signal to show the dentist that you need a break, and a different signal to ask for more local anesthesia. You can even discuss the tilt of the chair and the order of the work to be performed. Just knowing that you retain some control can make a big difference in how you’re feeling.

Sedation dentistry is another wonderful option. From nitrous oxide to take the edge off, through deep IV sedation that will render you largely asleep for the procedure, sedation dentistry can help you remain calm and relaxed throughout your experience.

If you have a severe and paralyzing fear, you might consider consulting with a mental health professional. Hypnosis and cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques can help you kick the fear for good, rather than simply trying to manage its effects.

Married dentists Chad and Alexandra Schnabel welcome you to Savannah Dental Solutions. From caring children’s dentistry to high-tech cosmetic procedures and even full-mouth reconstruction, we blend the latest technology with traditional customer-oriented values. To start your journey to better oral health, call us today at (912) 354-1366.

What to Expect From a Dental Implant Procedure

In modern dentistry, a dental implant is considered the gold standard to replace a missing or failing tooth. Individual dental implants can be used to replace any number of teeth from one to an entire arch. Implant-supported overdentures and fixed bridges are more cost-effective solutions for spans of missing teeth. Regardless of which procedure you choose, however, the general process is very similar.

What to Expect From a Dental Implant Procedure

Evaluation and Planning

The first step is to determine whether you are a good candidate for implants, and what steps need to occur before you are ready for the implant placement. Your dentist will take detailed X-rays and scans to learn the current condition of your mouth. You will then work together to develop a plan of action. At this stage, it is very important to ask questions and express your concerns to ensure that you end up with the best possible plan for your unique needs.

Extraction and Repair

The success rate for dental implants is extremely high, but they need to be given the best possible chances for success. To guard against infection and possible failure, they must be placed in a healthy mouth. Therefore, if you need other dental work such as fillings or root canals, your dentist will take care of those projects first.

Since dental implants replace teeth, your failing teeth must be extracted. In most cases, this is a simple matter that needs only local anesthesia. However, if your extractions are complicated or you are nervous, you can opt for sedation. Discuss this with your dentist during your planning appointment to learn exactly what your choices are and whether you will need someone to drive you home.

Possible Bone Grafting

Most people do not need bone grafting, which replaces jawbone that was lost due to severe decay or trauma. If you need it, though, you must have it done, as the implant must be able to fuse into bone. This procedure is relatively simple, but it requires several months of healing time.

Implant Placement

Dental implants are usually placed under local anesthesia. After thoroughly numbing your mouth, your dentist will cut a precise flap in your gum tissue, and then use a series of drills to gently open a hole in your jawbone. The implant is then screwed in and secured, and the gum tissue is stitched back together.

The implant may be topped with either a cover screw or a healing cap. A cover screw is a flat piece that protects the implant during healing. A healing cap is similar, but is shaped like an abutment, which is the piece that eventually connects the implant to the crown. This allows your gums to heal in just the right position for your final restoration.

Depending on how many teeth were extracted, and where they are positioned in your mouth, you might receive a temporary partial or full denture to wear during healing. This ensures that you are never without teeth.

Abutment and Crown

After your mouth heals for a few months, you will be ready for an abutment and crown. This is a relatively minor procedure in which the dentist will reopen the gum tissue and replace the healing cap or cover screw with an abutment. The final crown is then fitted on top.

For those who are having multiple teeth replaced, the dentist will have placed two or more implants at strategic spots in your mouth. You will receive abutments for all of the implants, along with a dental bridge or overdenture, at this time.

All-on-4

All-on-4 is an excellent alternative to the traditional implant process for those who need an entire arch of teeth replaced. After your teeth are extracted, your dentist can immediately place four implants at key points along your upper or lower arch. These immediate-load implants are capable of taking the pressure of regular eating and chewing with no waiting period.

You will receive a fixed set of acrylic teeth immediately, so you can begin eating normally as soon as you feel ready, which is typically within a day or two. You have the option of having the acrylic teeth replaced with porcelain teeth in a few weeks or months for an even more natural look and feel.

Dental implants are considered the gold standard in modern tooth replacement. Many people are afraid or unsure of the process, but we are confident that you will find it quite simple and easy. We encourage you to ask as many questions as you like to ensure that dental implants are the right choice for you.

Married dentists Chad and Alexandra Schnabel welcome you to Savannah Dental Solutions. From caring children’s dentistry to high-tech cosmetic procedures and even full-mouth reconstruction, we blend the latest technology with traditional customer-oriented values. To start your journey to better oral health, call us today at (912) 354-1366.

7 Tips for Cavity Prevention

Cavities are an unfortunately common dental problem, affecting both children and adults of all ages. Untreated cavities can lead to further tooth decay, abscesses, gum disease, and, eventually, even tooth loss. Some people are simply more prone to cavities than others, but everyone is at risk. Following these 7 tips can help minimize the chances of developing cavities.
Tips for cavity prevention

  • • 1. See the Dentist
    Professional cleaning removes plaque and tartar that home treatment misses. In addition, regular dental appointments allow your dentist to check for signs of emerging problems and treat them before they become severe. Plan to visit every 6 months or as directed by your dentist.
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  • • 2. Ask About Fluoride Treatments
    Most people get enough fluoride from tap water and fluoridated toothpaste, but some need a little extra help. If you are committed to bottled water, use a well, or live in an area with unacceptable tap water, you might benefit from fluoride treatments. Your dentist will advise you as to what kind of treatment you need and on what schedule.

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  • • 3. Brush Regularly
    Food particles and bacteria collect on teeth after every meal or snack, and the longer you leave them there, the harder they are to remove. If possible, brush your teeth after every meal. If you can’t, then brush them at least twice per day. Floss at least once every day to remove particles and debris from between your teeth and along your gum line.

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  • • 4. Rinse Your Mouth

    If you don’t have the opportunity to brush after eating, rinse your mouth with clear, fresh water to remove food debris. Be especially scrupulous about rinsing after consuming sugary or sticky foods or drinks, which make it easier for bacteria to grow. In addition, consider using a medicated mouthwash once or twice a day, rather than one that merely freshens your breath. Over the counter formulations are available, but be sure to read the label to ensure that your mouthwash of choice contains a cavity-fighting active ingredient.

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  • • 5. Watch Your Diet
    Fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as unsweetened gum and hard candy, can actually help flush your mouth by stimulating saliva production. Unsweetened coffee and tea also do a decent job of rinsing away food debris. Limit foods that stick to or between the teeth, such as chips and cookies. When you do eat them, brush your teeth as soon as possible.

    Many people have made the switch to bottled water, but it lacks the fluoride of tap water. Switch back if possible to get the full benefits of fluoridated city water. If your water is safe, but you don’t like the taste, use a home water filter or add a packet of unsweetened flavoring to each glass of water.

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  • • 6. Try a Dental Sealant
    If your teeth are prone to cavities, ask your dentist if a dental sealant is right for you. This is a protective plastic coating that is applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, sealing off the grooves where bacteria and food particles can hide. Dental sealants are recommended for all young children, but can also be of benefit to teens and adults. A dental sealant normally lasts for about 10 years, but it should be checked periodically for signs of cracking and replaced if needed.
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  • • 7. Use Antibacterial Protection
    If you are at particular risk for cavities and tooth decay, your dentist might recommend an antibacterial treatment such as a prescription mouth rinse. These treatments are not right for everyone, but can help to protect teeth that are unusually cavity-prone.

 

Cavities are the first step in tooth decay. Untreated, they can lead to further decay, infection, painful abscesses, gum disease, and even tooth loss. With early detection and proper treatment, they can be halted, but not reversed. The best solution is to prevent cavities from developing in the first place. Following the 7 tips above will not necessarily prevent all cavities, but will go a long way towards keeping your mouth cavity-free.

Married dentists Chad and Alexandra Schnabel welcome you to Savannah Dental Solutions. From caring children’s dentistry to high-tech cosmetic procedures and even full-mouth reconstruction, we blend the latest technology with traditional customer-oriented values. To start your journey to better oral health, call us today at (912) 354-1366.

Dental Crowns: What You Should Know

Dental crowns, or caps that cover all of the visible structure of a tooth, are an extremely common part of modern dentistry. From severe decay to cosmetic concerns, dental crowns can address a vast range of tooth problems. Yet with so many different types of available crowns, it can be difficult to decide which one to choose. Here is what you should know about dental crowns.

Dental Crowns

Reasons for a Dental Crown

There are many reasons to place a dental crown. These are just a few of the most common:

  • • To provide protection for at-risk baby teeth
  • • To finish a dental implant restoration
  • • To protect a very large filling
  • • To fasten a dental bridge
  • • To protect a tooth that is cracked or badly worn down

 

Types of Dental Crowns

Dental crowns are available in many types. Although some specific restorations require a particular type of crown, in the majority of cases, it is up to you. Your dentist will provide more information and help you select the type of crown that is right for you.

  • • Resin Crowns: A composite material that is typically the least expensive, resin crowns can be color-matched to the other teeth. They are a good choice for people who are allergic to metals, as they contain no metal at all. However, resin does not age as well as other crown materials. Over time, it is likely that a resin crown will fail and need to be replaced. In addition, resin can cause gum inflammation, and a large amount of tooth structure must be removed for a resin crown to properly fit.
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  • • Stainless Steel: In adults, stainless steel is generally used only as a temporary protective measure while waiting for a permanent crown to come back from the lab. In children with tooth decay, however, stainless steel crowns are often the treatment of choice. The reason is that the baby tooth will fall out anyway, and will be replaced by a healthy adult tooth. Therefore, there is little reason to put the child and parents through the trauma and expense of switching from a temporary crown to a permanent one.
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  • • Gold and Other Metals: Gold, palladium, and base metal alloys are an interesting choice for dental crowns. They do not require as much tooth structure to be removed as other types of crowns, and they are not likely to damage the neighboring teeth. Metal crowns are durable, and are at low risk for breaking or chipping even under high bite forces. However, the distinctive metallic color makes them unappealing to many patients.
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  • • Porcelain-Fused-to-Metal: These crowns combine the natural look of porcelain with the functionality of metal. The under-structure provides enhanced strength and durability, while the porcelain overlay can be color-matched to the other teeth. However, the porcelain is at risk for chipping or cracking, and these crowns are more likely than all-metal crowns to damage the surrounding teeth. In addition, the aesthetics are not perfect, as the metal can show through as a dark line along the gums.
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  • • All-Porcelain Crowns: All-porcelain crowns are metal-free, making them an excellent choice for those with metal allergies. They are also the best for those who are particularly concerned with aesthetics, as they provide the best color-matching and most natural look. However, these crowns are more prone to damage than metal-based types, so care must be taken not to bite down too hard or to grind the teeth.

 

Like any treatment, dental crowns are not the right solution for every situation. Crowns preserve a great deal of healthy tooth structure, but not as much as more targeted solutions, such as fillings or veneers. A crowned tooth retains its nerve structure, which could be problematic if your tooth is sensitive to pressure, heat, or cold. In addition, a crowned tooth will never be as strong as a healthy tooth. The tooth will always be at greater risk for bacterial invasion and decay, although scrupulous oral hygiene can help to minimize this risk.

Only your dentist can help you decide whether a crown is right for you and, if so, which type is the best choice. Always discuss your treatment plan and any other options with your dentist, and decide together how to proceed.

Married dentists Chad and Alexandra Schnabel welcome you to Savannah Dental Solutions. From caring children’s dentistry to high-tech cosmetic procedures and even full-mouth reconstruction, we blend the latest technology with traditional customer-oriented values. To start your journey to better oral health, call us today at (912) 354-1366.

Root Canals: Understanding This Feared Dental Procedure

A root canal is a common but frequently misunderstood dental procedure. Although modern dentistry has rendered root canals virtually pain-free, they are arguably the most feared of all dental treatments. Knowledge is power, and understanding the process can help ease your mind if you are facing a root canal.

Root Canals and their treatment explained

What Is a Root Canal?

In a root canal, the dentist first numbs the tooth completely. He or she then creates a small opening from the tooth’s crown to its root chamber, exposing the canals. The canals are thoroughly cleaned of infected pulp and tissue, smoothed and reshaped as necessary, and then filled and sealed with a material that is biocompatible. Posts can be placed in one or more canals to help support the tooth. Finally, a temporary filling is placed to protect the tooth while a crown is created.

Why Are Root Canals Performed?

Root canals are performed whenever a tooth’s nerve becomes inflamed and the pulp tissue becomes infected. Trauma and bad decay are the most common causes for root canals. A root canal can often save a tooth that would otherwise have to be pulled.

Although teeth that need root canals occasionally show no symptoms, this is not often the case. Most of the time, you will experience such symptoms as severe pain when chewing, sensitivity to heat and cold, tooth discoloration, or swelling in the gums around the infected tooth.

If the tooth is not treated or removed, it is likely to cause an abscess. Hallmarks of abscesses include severe pain, weeping bumps on the gum, and moderate to severe swelling. If left untreated, an abscess can cause further tissue damage, grow around the bone, and even cause systemic infections.

Are Root Canals Painful?

With modern techniques, root canals are no more painful than any other dental procedure. In fact, since most teeth that require root canals cause pain, many people report feeling better immediately after the procedure. If you experience pain or discomfort at any time during any dental procedure, let your dentist know right away so that more numbing medication can be applied.

How Long Will Healing Take?

After the numbness wears off, you may experience some mild discomfort that is roughly equivalent to what you would expect after a filling or other common procedure. A mild, over the counter pain reliever should be enough to alleviate any lingering discomfort. You might find that the tooth is sensitive to pressure and temperature extremes for a few days, so try to avoid chewing directly on that tooth. Of course, if you experience any unusual pain, it is important to call the office right away. Most people feel completely back to normal in just a couple of days.

What Are the Risks of a Root Canal?

Root canals are considered very safe, but like any major medical or dental procedure, very slight risks always exist. The most likely, though still rare, complication is a re-infection. This is normally caused by the breakdown of the sealing material over time, although it could happen more quickly if your dentist misses one of many infected canals. If you experience any pain or signs of infection, call your dentist immediately.

What Is the Long Term Prognosis for Root Canal Treatment?

Root canals have an effectiveness of roughly 95%, and many teeth that receive this treatment last for a lifetime. While you are waiting for your permanent crown, try to avoid biting or chewing directly on the affected tooth. Once your restoration is complete, however, your tooth will look and act identically to any other tooth. Make sure you practice excellent oral hygiene, including regular brushing, flossing, and dentist visits, and you are unlikely to experience any problems with the tooth.

What Are the Alternatives to a Root Canal?

Unfortunately, there is no alternative to a root canal besides pulling the tooth. At that point, the tooth can be replaced with a dental implant, a partial denture, or a bridge. These procedures are excellent alternatives for teeth that cannot be saved, but ultimately nothing is as strong and useful as your own natural teeth. Therefore, if you have a badly infected tooth, it is important to perform a root canal as soon as possible.

Married dentists Chad and Alexandra Schnabel welcome you to Savannah Dental Solutions. From caring children’s dentistry to high-tech cosmetic procedures and even full-mouth reconstruction, we blend the latest technology with traditional customer-oriented values. To start your journey to better oral health, call us today at (912) 354-1366.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Gum Disease?

Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease affects approximately 80% of adults in the United States. Many are unaware that they have it, as the symptoms can be subtle until the disease is advanced. Yet it is important to recognize the early warning signs, as gum disease is significantly easier to treat in its earliest stages.

Gum.

What Is Gum Disease?

Gum disease starts with plaque, a sticky blend of food debris and bacteria that coats the teeth. If it is not promptly and thoroughly removed, plaque hardens into tartar, which irritates the gums and makes it easy for bacteria to invade. This leads to the chronic infection known as gum disease.

The earliest form of gum disease, or gingivitis, is inflammation. Over time, the bacteria begin to attack the soft tissues and bones that support the teeth. At this stage, known as periodontitis, you are at risk for severe decay and even tooth loss. Gum disease can also impact your overall physical health.

Below are the top signs and symptoms of gum disease. If you notice any of these warning signals, see your dentist right away.

Bad Breath

Although halitosis, or bad breath, can be caused by many different things, chronic halitosis can be an early sign of gum disease, especially if your mouth tastes strange. The invading bacteria create distinct odors and tastes that do not go away with brushing or mouthwash.

Always call your dentist to report bad breath, even if you are certain that you do not have gum disease. Most causes are relatively minor and simple to treat, but can worsen if left untreated.

Visible or Painful Gum Changes

Healthy gums appear pink or coral, and are even across your teeth. They feel firm to the touch, and are not painful or sore.

Gingivitis causes mild irritation to the gums. If yours are swollen, red, or tender, especially during brushing or flossing, you might be suffering from early gum disease.

As gum disease advances, the gums actually start to recede from the teeth. Your teeth will start to look longer, and your gums might appear uneven throughout your mouth. These are signs of worsening periodontitis, so it is crucial to see the dentist right away.

Bleeding Gums or Pus Pockets

As gum disease causes irritation, it only makes sense that bleeding gums are a very common sign. If your gums bleed while brushing or flossing, or eating crunchy foods, tell your dentist as soon as possible.

Progressing gum disease leads to small pockets of pus between the teeth and the gums. These small spots feel swollen to the touch, and can be either hard or soft. You might pop one of these pockets while eating, and notice a sudden, very bad taste in your mouth. As gum disease continues to worsen, the small pockets tend to give way to large, tremendously painful abscesses.

Changes in the Way Your Teeth Fit Together

Untreated gum disease eventually causes the gums to loosen from the teeth. As bacteria work their way into the gaps, and down into the bones and tissues that support the teeth, they cause changes to the bite. If your teeth seem to close oddly, or you have a partial denture that sits differently in your mouth, your gum disease is likely worsening.

Loose or Shifting Teeth

In late-stage gum disease, the teeth actually begin to loosen and shift within the mouth. This is a serious sign that you are at risk for imminent tooth loss. You must see your dentist right away to save your teeth.

Gum disease affects the vast majority of adults, and it is highly reversible in its earliest stages. Over time, however, gum disease that is left untreated will continue to progress, affecting your overall health and putting you at serious risk for losing your teeth. Even in later stages, however, there are measures your dentist can take to halt and possibly reverse the damage. No matter what signs and symptoms you are currently experiencing, now is the right time to contact your dentist.

Married dentists Chad and Alexandra Schnabel welcome you to Savannah Dental Solutions. From caring children’s dentistry to high-tech cosmetic procedures and even full-mouth reconstruction, we blend the latest technology with traditional customer-oriented values. To start your journey to better oral health, call us today at (912) 354-1366.

Understanding TMJ: What You Need to Know

If you are experiencing sensitive or unusually worn teeth, a popping or clicking jaw, or unexplained pain such as headaches and earaches, you might be suffering from TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disease. This is a serious and often progressive disease which, over time, can cause permanent damage to your jaw joint and the supporting structures. Fortunately, with proper diagnosis and treatment, TMJ can be halted or even reversed.

understanding-tmj

What Causes TMJ?

The complex temporomandibular joint normally operates like a sliding hinge between the skull and the jawbone. Cartilage and discs cushion and protect the joint, allowing smooth and pain-free movement. In TMJ, however, this joint becomes misaligned.

TMJ sometimes appears after an impact to the jaw. Hormonal fluctuations may be responsible for some cases, as it is most frequently diagnosed in women between 20 and 40 years of age. For most of the 35 million sufferers in the United States, however, the root cause of TMJ remains a mystery.

Stress is often implicated as a cause, likely because those with anxiety are more likely to grind the teeth or clench the jaw. However, in most cases of TMJ, an actual structural misalignment of the teeth is found. If the teeth do not come together properly, chewing will pull the jaw out of alignment to create a more balanced bite. This puts intense pressure on the joint capsule and surrounding muscles, leading to the characteristic pops, clicks, and pain that are hallmarks of TMJ.

Symptoms of TMJ

Every case of TMJ is unique, and everyone’s subjective experience is different. Still, most people with TMJ experience at least a few of these common symptoms:

  • – Jaw pain or tenderness
  • – Earaches
  • – Headaches
  • – Facial pain
  • – Painful or difficult chewing
  • – Clicking, popping, or grating sounds when moving the jaw
  • – Joint lockup, making it difficult to fully open or close the mouth

 

TMJ Treatment Options

The goal for TMJ treatment is to relax the jaw by ensuring that the bite is in harmony with both itself and the joint. This allows you to use your mouth normally, eliminates pain, and stops the progression of the disease.

Because everyone is different, there is no single right way to accomplish this goal. Depending on your individual needs, your dentist might select one or more of the following treatments:

  • – Medication
  • – Bite splint or orthotic
  • – Physical therapy
  • – Equilibration and functional reconstruction

 

Other specialized treatments are also available. Your dentist will perform a thorough examination and go over the results with you in detail. The treatment process often takes several appointments to complete, and is individualized based on your symptoms, their severity, and the complexity of the underlying issues.

Home Remedies

In most cases, a TMJ treatment plan will include both in-office and home treatment procedures. In mild cases, home remedies may be all that is required. Your dentist will give you a specific home care plan based on the results of your examination, but here are a few common suggestions:

  • – Soft foods: While the goal of treatment is to return your jaw to full use, eating certain foods can worsen the pain during the healing process. Choose soft, easy to chew foods such as fish, scrambled eggs, yogurt, and well-cooked vegetables. Cut other foods into small bites, and skip hard or sticky foods for a while.
  • – Ice packs: Ice can help to ease pain. Ask your dentist to explain exactly when and for how long you apply each ice treatment.
  • – Intentional relaxation: Stress can lead to clenching and jaw tension, so build relaxation breaks into your day. Consciously hold your teeth slightly apart, placing your tongue between them if needed. Minimize large mouth movements such as yelling or singing.
  • – Avoid chewing gum or ice: The process of chewing can cause TMJ pain, so eliminate all unnecessary forms of chewing while you heal.
  • – Over the counter pain medications: Check with your dentist to make sure you do not have contraindications based on your current medications or health status. For most people, however, over the counter medications can bring temporary pain relief. If these do not work for you, ask your dentist to prescribe something a bit stronger.

 

TMJ is a complex and highly personalized disorder that generally gets worse over time. With proper diagnosis and treatment, however, it is possible to stop and even reverse the disease. Your dentist will draw up an individualized treatment plan based on your symptoms and the severity of your condition.

Married dentists Chad and Alexandra Schnabel welcome you to Savannah Dental Solutions. From caring children’s dentistry to high-tech cosmetic procedures and even full-mouth reconstruction, we blend the latest technology with traditional customer-oriented values. To start your journey to better oral health, call us today at (912) 354-1366.

Snoring and Sleep Apnea: What You Should Know

Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is a chronic medical condition that affects an estimated 18 to 30 million adults in the United States. It causes sufferers to stop breathing for short periods during the night, increases the risks for many health conditions, and can even lead to sudden death.

One of the most common symptoms is snoring, yet snoring can also be caused by anything from allergies or a cold to the shape of your sinuses. How can you tell if you have sleep apnea, and what can you do about it if you do? Here is what you should know.

sleep apnea

Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Besides snoring, sleep apnea has many signs. Each person is different, so you might experience all, some, or none of the following symptoms:

  • – Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • – Noticeable pauses in breathing during sleep
  • – Nighttime teeth grinding

 

In mild cases, these symptoms may be nearly undetectable, or easily chalked up to other things such as a poor night’s rest. In particularly bad cases, on the other hand, some people report that they wake during the night feeling unable to catch their breath, or like they are drowning. Some feel physically unable to stay awake during the day, even when they seem to have gotten plenty of sleep.

TMJ Indicators

TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disease, is not always related to sleep apnea. However, if you have symptoms of TMJ, it may be worth investigating whether sleep apnea is the cause, particularly if you also have other signs of the condition. Here are some common symptoms of TMJ:

  • – Teeth grinding or clenching
  • – Worn or chipped teeth
  • – Worn away tooth enamel
  • – Increased dental sensitivity
  • – Muscle tightness in the jaw, neck, and shoulders
  • – Earaches
  • – Headaches
  • – Facial pain

 

Sleep Study

The only way to know for sure if you have sleep apnea is to undergo a sleep study. Traditionally, these have been held in medical facilities known as sleep labs. You will be asked to arrive in the evening, typically between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. You should bring your medications, comfortable sleeping attire, and your morning hygiene supplies.

After checking in and filling out forms, you will change clothes and be hooked up to a variety of wires. Electrodes are used to monitor your sleep stages throughout the night, as well as your facial and body movements. You will also wear an EKG monitor to track your heart rate and rhythm, an oxygen sensor on your finger, and a nasal monitor to track your breathing. Finally, you might have elastic bands placed around your chest and stomach to monitor breathing effort and a microphone at your throat to check for snoring.

You will sleep in a provided hospital bed until early morning, typically around 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. Then you will be awakened by a tech, who will disconnect the monitoring devices, ask you to sign a few more forms, and escort you to the lab’s facilities for showering and morning hygiene. Your results will be sent to your doctor or dentist, who will discuss them with you at a follow-up appointment.

Home Sleep Tests

Although most sleep labs go out of their way to make patients as comfortable as possible, sleep studies are not much fun. In some cases, you might be able to conduct a home sleep test instead. This allows you to conduct your nighttime monitoring in the comfort of your own home and bed.

If you qualify for a home sleep test, you will receive a small monitoring system about the size of a telephone handset. Just connect the various monitoring devices as instructed before you go to sleep, and leave them on throughout the night. Home sleep tests do not include the electrodes used in lab-based sleep studies.

You will be instructed to use the monitoring equipment for one to three nights, depending on your individual circumstances. Then you will simply return the device to the coordinating office, receive your results, and share them with your dentist for follow-up.

Sleep Apnea Treatments

Sleep apnea is traditionally treated with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, which keeps your airway from collapsing during the night. Although these machines typically provide excellent results, many people struggle with breathing normally while using one. Others dislike the bulky equipment and elaborate setup, which can be especially difficult for frequent travelers.

There are other variations on the CPAP, but many people prefer a sleek and simple anti-snoring mouthpiece, also known as a sleep apnea mouth guard. Instead of a bulky machine, these mouthpieces are small and easy to carry. They look something like a football player’s mouth guard, and are designed to hold the mouth and jaw in alignment to prevent nighttime collapse.

Snoring and sleep apnea are complicated disorders, and should only be diagnosed and treated by a professional. If you show any signs or symptoms, please bring your condition to the dentist’s attention right away. With proper diagnosis and treatment, there is no reason to suffer any longer.

Married dentists Chad and Alexandra Schnabel welcome you to Savannah Dental Solutions. From caring children’s dentistry to high-tech cosmetic procedures and even full-mouth reconstruction, we blend the latest technology with traditional customer-oriented values. To start your journey to better oral health, call us today at (912) 354-1366.