October, 2013

Cavities Are Not Just For Kids

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

When most people think about preventing cavities – they think about kids. After all, dental decay in children is the most common childhood disease. However, there is another age group that needs to be aware of tooth decay and prevention as well – seniors.

Modern dental care today means that more and more people are keeping their natural teeth as they age. Full dentures or partial dentures used to be a normal part of aging but today I see many older patients with most of their own teeth. That is great news because natural teeth are always preferable to replacements.

These natural teeth can still suffer from tooth decay if good oral hygiene practices are not followed.

Reasons for decay in seniors

Saliva is important for the health of our teeth. It rinses away food debris and it’s chemical makeup helps re-mineralize teeth, making them stronger. Unfortunately, many medications taken by older Americans have side effects that cause dry mouth. A dry mouth makes it easier for bacteria to breed and without the saliva rinsing the teeth they are more vulnerable to attack.

Mobility issues can make it harder for some seniors to properly brush and floss. An electric toothbrush and/or a water flosser (Waterpik type device) can be very helpful. Regular checkups and dental cleanings can help keep that smile beautiful for many years to come.

Please contact Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-886-9439 to schedule your next visit. We look forward to seeing you!

Happy National Brush Day! Brush Up on Your Dental Health

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

If you treated yourself to plenty of candy this Halloween, you can make up for it on the 1st of November. That’s National Brush Day, and a great time to make sure that you’ve been cleaning your teeth properly.

Your dental hygiene routine should consist of brushing your teeth for at least two minutes, twice a day. Don’t forget to thoroughly brush your tongue, as well as your gumline and behind the two front teeth, which is an area that is often overlooked and neglected when brushing.

Keep track of how long you’ve had your toothbrush, and make sure to replace your brush every three to four months, or when it begins to look or feel worn out. Check with your dentist about whether you should use a medium or soft bristle brush, since hard-bristle toothbrushes may be too harsh for your teeth — especially if you’re worried about enamel erosion or a receding gumline.

In addition, you should be flossing daily to remove what your toothbrush alone isn’t able to clear out, such as stubborn food particles that become lodged between the base of the teeth and the gums. Flossing also prevents plaque and tartar buildup, which brushing and antibacterial mouthwashes aren’t able to adequately remove.

If you have children, teach them good dental habits and make sure that they follow them. For example, supervise your children as they brush their teeth every morning and before bedtime to make sure that they brush for the entire recommended two minutes.

Many toothbrush brands now offer kids’ brushes that play a song and vibrate for two minutes, so it’s easy for children to tell when they’ve brushed for the right amount of time. Show your kids how to properly floss and get them fluoride mouthwash in their favorite flavor, so they’ll be more likely to use it every day.

Finally, stay on top of your family’s biannual tooth cleanings so that they don’t skip any of their appointments, and get a yearly checkup in order to spot and treat cavities and any other dental issues early on.

Dental Care in Toccoa

If you’d like to learn more about dental health or are due for a checkup, contact us today to schedule an appointment. Wilbanks Smile Center is located in Toccoa, GA, and we can be reached at 706-886-9439. We look forward to hearing from you.


What is Burning Mouth Syndrome?

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) frustrates patients and doctors, but the pain felt by patients is very real.

The patient feels oral pain that includes burning sensations or the feeling like they have scalded their mouth. The medical practitioner looks at the mouth and sees gums and oral tissues that look perfectly normal. This means that diagnosis is difficult and some patients end up visiting several doctors before they receive a final diagnosis.

Burning mouth syndrome can last for months and the exact cause is unknown. Scientists suspect that the nerves beneath the lining of the mouth deteriorate and cause the sensation. Because the syndrome is predominantly seen in women between ages 50 and 70 who are either, just entering menopause or a few years after menopause, hormones may be involved. The hormonal link has not been proven.

The signs of burning mouth syndrome include:

  • Persistent oral pain or burning sensation with no obvious dental cause.
  • Abnormal taste or dry mouth.
  • The burning sensation may move around the mouth.
  • Pain may abate when eating.

At the first sign of any oral pain you should contact your dentist for a thorough examination of the entire mouth. The pain from BMS can affect nutrition, work and social withdrawal. While there is no “cure” for burning mouth syndrome there are ways to manage the symptoms including special mouthwashes, topical medications and pain management.

Wilbanks Smile Center is pleased to provide a full range of dental services in our Toccoa, GA office. Please contact us at 706-886-9439 to schedule your next visit.

How to Handle Tooth Trauma

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Whether it’s from a sports injury or a fall, dental damage such as a chipped or knocked-out tooth is quite common. How the trauma is diagnosed and treated is up to your dentist, but there are several things you can do to help ensure that your teeth are repaired as quickly and efficiently as possible.

First, determine the condition of the tooth immediately following the injury. For example, if your preteen had one of their teeth partially knocked out, make sure to identify whether the tooth is a primary, or “baby” tooth, or a permanent tooth. Pushing a baby tooth back into place may damage the underneath permanent tooth’s development, as it is forming directly behind it.

So, if a baby tooth is damaged, do not attempt to push it back into place. Instead, keep the tooth in place as it is and head directly to your dentist’s office for an emergency appointment. The dentist will determine the best course of action, whether it’s completely removing the baby tooth or letting it remain and fall out naturally.

If a permanent tooth has been knocked out and is still in one piece, only handle the tooth by its crown, or the top portion of the tooth that is visible when you smile. Holding it by the root, or bottom portion, increases the chances of bacteria passing from your hands to the tooth, which in turn increases the risk of infection once the tooth is implanted back into the gums.

Finally, if the tooth has fallen on the ground, gently rinse off any visible dirt and debris, but make sure not to scrub any remaining skin cells off of the root. The tooth must be kept moist in order for it to stay alive until your dentist can properly reinsert it. In the meantime, placing it in room temperature water or milk will help prevent it from drying out.

However, a Save-A-Tooth kit would be ideal for handling the tooth while on the way to the dentist’s office, as it contains a fluid that is specially designed to  keep the tooth’s root alive.  This tooth preservation kit is available at most drug stores and should be added to your first aid kit in case of a dental emergency.

Tooth Trauma Treatment in Toccoa

If you want to learn more about the various treatment options we offer for tooth and facial trauma, contact us today to schedule an appointment. Wilbanks Smile Center is located in Toccoa, GA, and we can be reached at 706-886-9439. We look forward to hearing from you.

Scary Time of the Year - But Don't Be Scared of the Dentist

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

It is almost Halloween, the scary time of the year. For some people, the thought of visiting the dentist, or even picking up the phone to make an appointment, is scary. You don’t have to live with being scared of the dentist anymore because of sedation dentistry.

Sedation dentistry offers patients who suffer from dental anxiety or even full-blown dental phobias to get the care that they need while remaining totally relaxed.

Is This How You Feel About Your Dental Visits?

Wilbanks Smile Center offers different levels of sedation, depending upon each patient’s needs. Some patients who feel only mild anxiety may be just fine with nitrous oxide. They can receive their treatment and drive themselves home a little later.

For patients who have higher levels of anxiety a type of oral sedation using medication may be in order. Patients with severe dental fears should know that deeper levels of sedation are available.

Fearful patients are not the only ones that can take advantage of sedation dentistry. Sedation dentistry can help those who have very sensitive teeth, have a strong gag reflex or who have a hard time sitting still in the dental chair. If you need a large amount of dental work completed, sedation dentistry can make you comfortable while your treatment is done.

Find out more about sedation dentistry and how it can help you maintain your healthy smile without fear or anxiety. Contact Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-886-9439 to discuss your options.


What is TMJ?

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

We’ve all heard of “TMJ,” and that it can severely impact the health of our mouth. But what exactly is TMJ?

TMJ is actually an abbreviation, which stands for “Temporomandibular Joint.” The TMJ is a small joint located where your skull and lower jaw meet. This joint moves whenever you chew, talk, or swallow, and is one of the most commonly used and complex joints in the body.

TMJ disorders are defined by pain in the jaw and muscles around the jaw. Some common symptoms include popping sounds in the jaw when eating, migraines, neck pain, and difficulty swallowing food. TMJ disorders can be caused by a variety of factors, including joint damage and genetics, and are divided into three categories:

  1. Internal Derangement of the Joint.  Internal Derangement of the Joint is usually caused by  a dislocated jaw or injury to the jaw. In addition, it is also sometimes caused by torn ligaments that hold the jaw in place.  Although the jaw will continue to function even when it is damaged, this condition is usually treated by reducing strain on the jaw, eating a diet of soft foods, or using a splint or bite guard to correct the condition. Your dentist may also describe anti-inflammatory drugs.
  2. Degenerative Joint Disease. This commonly occurs in adults, as a result of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Over time, even normal use of the joint can cause degeneration can occur to the TMJ, limiting its function. Most patients are treated for this condition by simply wearing plastic bite plates, which fit over the upper and lower teeth, reducing tension that comes from clenching and grinding teeth.
  3. Myofascial Pain Disorder. Myofascial Pain Disorders are degenerative conditions, which occur when there is discomfort in the muscles that surround the jaw. Like other forms of TMJ, this type of pain is usually treated non-surgically, with pain medication, and bite plate therapy. If a patient experiences joint damage with any of these disorders, surgery may be required.

TMJ Treatment Care in Toccoa

If you want to learn more about the dental care services we offer, contact us today at 706-886-9439 to schedule an appointment or ask a question. Wilbanks Smile Center is located in Toccoa, GA.


Oral Cancer Rates Rising

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Oral cancer rates are rising in the United States, and throughout the world. In 1981, 10,000 people died from oral cancers in the US. In 2011, over 37,000 people developed oral cancers and about 8,000 died. These statistics suggest that the death rates from oral cancer are higher than those from melanoma, thyroid cancer and Hodgkins lymphoma.

Usually oral cancer stays under the radar unless a celebrity is diagnosed. One reason the death rate for oral cancers is so high is that most patients are not diagnosed until the cancer has spread. Oral cancers are usually painless and people are not able to scan themselves as they do for skin cancers or even self-checks for breast cancer.

Risk factors for oral cancers include a history of smoking, drinking alcohol and increasingly, infection with the HPV virus. There may also be a genetic predisposition for oral cancers. Diet can also play a role in moderating risk – research has shown that a diet high in fruits and vegetables can help protect against oral cancers.

Regular screening for oral cancers is extremely important. Cure rates are much higher when the disease is discovered early. Regular routine dental examinations will provide you  peace of mind – when the dentist palpates the soft tissues of your mouth they are actually looking for signs of oral cancers, this goes along with a visual check for signs of disease. Cone beam CT scans can be used to diagnose tumors in the bone that cannot be seen on regular x-rays. Your dentist may suggest additional screening using special technology that can illuminate suspect lesions.

Schedule your appointment today by contacting Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-886-9439.

Dental Care for Senior Citizens

Friday, October 18th, 2013

Dental health is often thought of as something only parents of young children need to worry about. However, senior citizens also face serious dental issues as they age.

Let’s take a look at some dental issues common among seniors:

  1. Dry mouth. Dry mouth is when your mouth fails to produce a healthy flow of saliva on its own. Lack of saliva in the mouth can lead to tooth decay. Dry mouth is caused by a variety of factors, and is often a side-effect of medication. It  can be treated by avoiding sugary drinks or foods, limiting your intake of caffeine, chewing sugar-free gum, and sipping water. It is important to use a mouth rinse that contains no alcohol, since alcohol causes further dryness.
  2. Gum disease. Gum disease can occur at any age, and is caused by progressive plaque and bacteria buildup. This can be worse in people who smoke, or have a condition such as diabetes. Gingivitis, which causes gums to bleed, is a form of gum disease. Gum disease can be avoided by regularly brushing your teeth, and flossing. Professional cleanings with your dentist are also important to the prevention and treatment of gum disease.
  3. Oral cancer. With age, risks for oral cancer increase. Oral cancer most commonly occurs in smokers, and usually appears as red sores of abrasions on the tongue. Patients may also have  trouble chewing or swallowing food. Your dentist will evaluate your teeth and mouth for any changes or signs of oral cancer. First, a biposy will determine the severity of the cancer. If necessary, surgery will remove any cancerous tissue.
  4. Loose-fitting dentures. With age, your gums and the bones which support them change shape. If you wear dentures, changes in gums can make them feel uncomfortable or loose. Dentures are made to fit your mouth perfectly, and if you feel any looseness or discomfort, they probably need to be adjusted. Never try to make adjust the fit of your dentures on your own, since you could damage them. Visit your dentist for adjustments so your dentures fit perfectly once again.

Dental Care for Seniors in Toccoa

If you want to learn more about the dental care services we offer, contact us today to schedule an appointment. Wilbanks Smile Center is located in Toccoa, GA, and we can be reached at 706-886-9439. We look forward to hearing from you.

DNA and Dentistry?

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

The Human Genome Project, which mapped the entire human genetic code, was completed 10 years ago. A direct benefit of this project has been the advent of personalized medicine or using a persons DNA to pinpoint treatment. Could your DNA also help direct your dental treatment?

It turns out that the use of DNA in the dental office may not be too far in the future – particularly when it comes to the prevention and treatment of periodontal disease.

Researchers at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry found a correlation between certain patient risk factors – genetic and acquired – and the benefit that they got from dental cleanings every six months. Patients who had diabetes, who smoked or who had a certain genetic marker were deemed at high risk of periodontal disease. Those who did not have these risk factors were at low risk.

They discovered that patients who were in the high risk group lost more teeth when they only had one yearly dental cleaning, two cleanings per year improved the risk but for these risky patients, more frequent dental cleanings were required to avoid tooth loss.

Losing teeth is not the only worry when it comes to gum disease. Periodontal disease causes inflammation throughout the body and, certain people have a type of genetic marker that makes them more susceptible to this inflammatory response. This inflammation seems to be the basis for the link between oral disease (periodontal disease) and systemic disease (disease of the body such as heart disease). It could be that in the future everyone will be tested to see just how sensitive they are to this inflammatory response and that can direct their dentist to tailor a more precise treatment for a specific patient.

Until that day arrives we all need to brush, floss and visit the dental hygienist every six months (more often if you are diabetic or a smoker). Find out more information about periodontal disease prevention by contacting Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-886-9439.

Toothpicks Used By Ancient Humans

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Toothpicks are really old – 1.8 million years ago they were being used!

An international research team studied the mandibles (jaws) of early Pleistocene hominids from an archaeological site in the Republic of Georgia – the one next to Russia. The researchers found evidence that these ancients had caused periodontal disease by using a toothpick. The scientists found that the individuals who used a toothpick had damaged the area between the tooth and the gum. When researchers inserted a toothpick in the area, it went through the space!

This is not the first time that archaeologists had found signs of toothpick use on ancient teeth but this is the first clear evidence for toothpick-induced gum disease.

So is it safe for for you to use toothpicks? There are actually a lot better ways of removing food from between your teeth, like dental floss. There are also small interdental brushes that can remove food from between teeth. Using a toothpick might remove the bits of food but it is also likely to damage your gums.

If food sticking between certain teeth after every meal is a problem then you may have an old dental filling that wasn’t shaped correctly or teeth may have shifted. If food gets jammed in a certain area all of the time it can lead to tooth decay in that area.

Schedule a visit to Wilbanks Smile Center today by contacting us at 706-886-9439. Make sure to let us know about any areas where food collects and we can help solve the problem – no more toothpicks needed!

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