Dental X-Rays: What Are They & How Often Do You Need Them?

Dental X-Rays: What Are They & How Often Do You Need Them?

If you feel like your dentist is asking you to do X-rays almost every time you go in for a cleaning, you’re probably right. That’s because getting regular dental X-rays is just as important for your oral health as getting regular teeth cleanings. But why?

Here’s some more information about what dental X-rays are, what they’re used for, and how frequently you should get them.

What Are Dental X-Rays?

Dental X-rays (also called radiographs) use low levels of radiation to capture images of the teeth, jaw, and surrounding tissues in your mouth. They reveal dental problems that can’t be seen during a normal dental exam. 

Dental X-rays can be intraoral with X-ray film put inside the mouth, or extraoral with X-ray film kept outside of the mouth. There are many types of X-rays that serve unique purposes. Some of the most common types of X-rays include:

  • Bitewing – This method requires you to bite down on special X-ray paper. It’s used to help your dentist see how well the crowns of your teeth match up, and to check for cavities between your teeth.
  • Occlusal – This method is done while your jaw is closed. It captures your entire tooth arch in one image and helps your dentist see how your upper and lower teeth line up.
  • Panoramic – This method is done via an X-ray machine that rotates around your head. It helps your dentist check for impacted wisdom teeth and jaw problems. 
  • Periapical – This method captures an image focused on just one or two full teeth, from root to crown. It helps your dentist detect any unusual changes in your root and surrounding bone structures. 

Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

The levels of radiation used for dental X-rays are very low, which means dental X-rays are safe for adults and children. The only exception is pregnant women, who should avoid getting dental X-rays until they are no longer pregnant.

To add another level of protection, your dentist will place a lead bib over your chest, abdomen, and pelvis. This helps protect your vital organs from any radiation exposure. 

What Are Dental X-Rays Used For?

Dental X-rays are used to detect any problems that your dentist may not be able to find during a regular dental exam. Dentists also use them to figure out the best plan of action for any dental or orthodontic treatments. Here’s a list of the five most common uses of dental X-rays:

  • Detecting tooth decay – Some cavities are hidden in between teeth, which makes them difficult to spot during a regular exam. X-rays make them visible and show your dentist how deep they are, helping them determine whether a filling or root canal is needed.
  • Detecting wisdom teeth – Many wisdom teeth are impacted, and are therefore not seen during a regular exam. In fact, they’re usually spotted first on a dental X-ray. This gives you the opportunity to get them removed before you start feeling any symptoms or pain. 
  • Detecting bone loss – Gum disease, or gingivitis, can cause your jaw bone to deteriorate. If any bone loss is detected on a dental X-ray, it’s a red flag for your dentist to do further testing.
  • Detecting irregular masses – Whether they’re malignant or benign, oral tumors and cysts can cause discomfort and further complications. Dental X-rays help spot them early on so they can be taken care of promptly. 
  • Planning orthodontic treatments – Only a third of your tooth is actually visible, so dental X-rays are important before undergoing any orthodontic treatments. They help your dentist evaluate the position of the root, which determines which orthodontic plan would have the best outcome for your smile.

How Often Should I Get Dental X-Rays?

Most dentists agree that you should get dental X-rays once every 1-2 years. However, this number can change based on your individual dental needs. For example, your dentist may recommend getting X-rays every six months if they need to track the progression of a dental problem or treatment. Some other factors that influence the frequency of dental X-rays include:

  • Your age
  • Your current oral health
  • Your history of gum disease
  • Your history of cavities
  • Your dental insurance plan

If it’s time to schedule your dental X-rays, give Weber, Mountford, and Ruszkowski a call! We’re here to help patients maintain their healthy, happy smiles.

I Have A Chipped Tooth. How Do I Fix It?

I Have A Chipped Tooth. How Do I Fix It?

Your teeth are the hardest substance in your body — even more so than your bones! However, they can still be chipped and broken. Teeth can chip from biting down on hard foods like ice or candies, face-first falls, contact sports, grinding teeth, and more. 

A chipped tooth can surely affect the look of your previously perfect smile, but it’s also important to understand there are other dental conditions that can arise from them if they’re not taken care of properly. Here’s a look at what happens when you chip a tooth, how to triage the injury at home, and what your dental treatment options are. 

What Happens When You Chip A Tooth?

When you chip a tooth, your tooth enamel breaks off and exposes the inner parts of your tooth. If your chip is small, it likely won’t affect much of the inner tooth pulp, so you won’t feel much pain or sensitivity. However, the chipped tooth may be sharp. The sharp edges could cut your tongue, cheeks, and gums. Small chips could also lead to bigger chips and breaks further on if they are left untreated. 

If your chip is big, the inner pulp will be exposed, and the nerves may be exposed or damaged as well. This may cause some pain and sensitivity to hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods and drinks. Big chips could also result in bacterial infections and abscesses without proper treatment.

How to Triage Your Chipped Tooth At Home

All chipped teeth require a dental appointment. However, you may have to wait a few days before you can get an appointment scheduled. In the meantime, here are some things you can do to minimize the pain and damage:

  • Minimize bleeding. Apply sterile gauze to the area for 10 minutes, or until the bleeding stops.
  • Rinse with saltwater. Mix ½ teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water, then swish each sip around in your mouth for a few seconds before spitting it out.
  • Cover your chipped tooth. In order to prevent it from cutting your tongue, cheeks, or gums, cover the tooth with dental wax or sugar-free gum.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medications, like aspirin. These can reduce swelling and inflammation around your tooth. 
  • Ice the area. Wrap a bag of ice in a towel and apply for 20 minutes, repeating every few hours.
  • Take caution while eating. Stick to soft foods, and avoid hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods that your tooth may be extra sensitive to. 

5 Ways Your Dentist Can Fix Your Chipped Tooth

Treatment for a chipped tooth depends on the severity of the injury. Here are a few procedures dentists may recommend to repair the damage:

Cosmetic Contouring

If your chip is minor and there is no interior damage to the tooth, your dentist may just do some cosmetic contouring. Cosmetic contouring involves using a grinding tool to smooth the chip and reshape your tooth. 

Filling or Bonding

If your chip is minor and you’ve only damaged a small piece of enamel, your dentist may apply a filling similar to what is used to fill a cavity. If the chip is in a noticeable part of your smile, your dentist may apply a tooth-colored composite resin to it, which is called bonding. After applying the filling or resin, your dentist will grind it down and shape it to your tooth. Your tooth will look as good as new in just one visit!

Dental Veneer

Dental veneers are thin, tooth-colored shells that look just like natural teeth. They cover just the front of your tooth, and are made of either porcelain or resin composite material. They are bonded to the surface of your tooth to cover the chip. These veneers are custom-made to match the shape, color, and size of your natural tooth. The application process is usually done in two to three visits. 

Dental Crown

A dental crown is a tooth-shaped cap that covers your chipped tooth. Similar to veneers, dentists use crowns to fix bigger chips that can’t be fixed with a small filling. They are also made from either porcelain or resin composite material. However, crowns cover your entire tooth. Usually, your dentist will decide which type of crown is best for you depending on the amount of damage and the location of the tooth. The procedure is usually done in one or two visits.

Dental Implants

If your tooth is a bit beyond repair, your dentist may recommend extracting the tooth and replacing it with an implant. During this procedure, a metal post that replaces the root portion of the missing tooth and an artificial tooth is placed at the end of it. This process is more extensive than the others and usually requires a number of visits, but the implanted tooth should last your lifetime.

See A Dentist ASAP

If you have a chipped tooth, schedule an appointment with West Michigan Dentistry right away. We’ll repair the damage fast and see which cosmetic fix looks and feels the most natural for your smile.

Dental Crowns: What Are They, and When Do You Need Them?

Dental Crowns: What Are They, and When Do You Need Them?

If you’ve chipped a tooth or undergone a root canal procedure, your dentist may have discussed using dental crowns to repair or protect your teeth. What are dental crowns exactly? Let’s break down what they are, why they’re used, and what the procedure looks like.

What are Dental Crowns?

Also known as caps, dental crowns are artificial tooth material placed on top of the affected tooth to repair it or blend it to match other teeth. Dental crowns can be made of resin, porcelain, zirconia, metal, or a combination of a few materials. DIfferent materials may offer certain advantages in cost, durability, and appearance.

The best type of crown for you will depend on where it will be located, the amount of chewing force that will be applied, and how much remaining tooth will be supporting the crown. Once applied, dental crowns are color matched to closely match your natural color, so they can blend seamlessly with your smile.

What are Dental Crowns Used For?

Dental crowns are recommended by dentists for a variety of cosmetic, protective, restorative reasons.

  • Dental crowns can be used to cover discolored, broken, or misshapen teeth.
  • Dental crowns can be used after a root canal to protect the exposed tooth.
  • Dental crowns can be used to strengthen weak teeth and provide a restored chewing surface.

If you have a cavity that is too big to fill, or have struggled for a way to disguise a discolored tooth, a crown could be an effective solution. It’s always best to talk through the options with your dentist to see if they agree that dental crowns can give you the best results.

Dental Crown Procedure

Traditional dental crowns take 2 dental procedures. In the first visit, your dentist will prepare the tooth receiving the crown by removing some of the tooth material so the prosthetic can fit closely. Then, they will take an impression of the area which will be used to construct the crown. The measurements will be sent to a laboratory where the crown will be fabricated to your exact specifications. You may receive a temporary crown while the permanent one is being prepared for you. 

At the second visit, the dental crown will be placed by your dentist who will check that it is a perfect fit before cementing it in. Dental crowns can last many years, depending on the type and placement of the crown. They are a fantastic solution for patients looking for a more confident smile and a reliable way to repair damaged teeth.

Think you might need a crown? Talk to Weber, Mountford, & Ruszkowski. We’re happy to get you on our schedule, take a look, and let you know how we can help.

Dental Bridges vs. Implants: What’s the Difference?

Dental Bridges vs. Implants: What’s the Difference?

Both dental bridges and implants are methods used for replacing teeth, but they each have specific qualities that could make one or the other a better fit for you. Do you think you need one of these procedures? Let’s look at the differences between dental bridges vs. implants, the pros and cons of each, and how to decide which is a better choice for you.

Dental Bridges vs. Implants

Dental bridges cover a few teeth where implants are used to replace a single tooth. Your dentist might recommend one or the other depending on your specific concerns, how much repair is needed, and your overall dental health. Dental bridges and implants are very different procedures and offer specific advantages over the other. Here’s what you can expect from dental bridges vs. implant procedures.

Dental Bridges

Dental bridges use existing teeth to bridge the gap of a missing one. Crowns are placed on either side on top of prepped and shaped teeth, and connected to a structure that holds a false tooth between them. The bridge is then cemented in as a whole unit, with the bridged section supported by each side. 

Dental bridges are permanent prosthetics. You don’t have to take it out to clean it, but you do have to clean around and under it to keep the area free of bacteria.

Pros and Cons of Dental Bridges

Dental bridges are easy to attach. The simple procedure can generally be completed in one visit. Because it is less invasive, dental bridge procedures are usually more affordable than dental implants, and are covered by most dental insurance plans.

Typically, dental bridges won’t last as long as dental implants. This is because they aren’t as strong and lack the same foundational support. Due to natural wear, bridges put more stress on surrounding teeth. Bridges are also not as natural-looking as an implant, and require more maintenance to keep them clean.

Dental Implants

Implants are a more involved procedure, but offer a longer lasting solution than dental bridges. A dental implant is basically a metal post that anchors to the jaw itself. A crown is attached to the top of the post. 

The procedure itself has three parts, which must all take place separately and allow for proper healing to occur between each stage. (1) The implant is connected to the jaw where it will fuse with the bone, a process called osseointegration; (2) the post is connected to the implant which protrudes above the gum line; and (3) a dental crown is attached and cemented to the post.

Pros and Cons of Dental Implants

Because they are fused directly to the bone, dental implants are very strong and stable. With their own built-in support system, they don’t put stress on surrounding teeth like dental bridges and can last a lifetime. An implant will also look and feel like a real tooth — and since they require such little maintenance beyond your normal dental hygiene routine, you might forget it’s not a natural part of your mouth.

The biggest drawbacks of dental implants are the time and cost. The multi-step procedure can take from 5 to 9 months to complete, depending on each patient’s rate of healing between stages. Because it does involve surgery, each patient must consider associated risks such as infection and nerve or other damage. Implant procedures are generally more expensive than bridges, and not always covered by insurance.

Dental Bridges vs. Implants: Which is Better For You?

Now that we understand the differences between dental bridges vs. implants, how do you know which is the better solution for you? Your choice will depend on —  in addition to your dentist’s recommendations — several personal factors, including your dental insurance, available time you’re willing to commit, and what you’re looking for out of your dental procedure. 

  • Insurance: Are both procedures covered by your dental insurance? Often, bridges are covered under most plans, but not all plans cover implant procedures because they are more involved. Before you commit to a more expensive procedure, you’ll want to be informed about out-of-pocket costs.
  • Time commitment: Implant procedures are more involved. They take more time, more appointments, and more recovery because they require surgery. Bridges are a more simple procedure that can usually be done in a single visit, depending on the amount of work you need done.
  • Cost and Durability: Implants last longer than bridges in most cases; about 15 years or more as opposed to around 7 for bridges. Based on the severity of work needed and your dental health, the costs might be comparable, so you’ll need to decide whether durability will play a role in your decision.

You should talk over all of these factors with your dentist, and they can help you decide whether dental bridges vs. implants will give you the results you’re looking for, and match your situation. 

Are you concerned that you might need either a bridge or an implant? Schedule an appointment with Creason, Weber & Mountford today! We’re happy to take a look, offer a consultation, and even get that procedure scheduled for you. 

Permanent vs Plastic Retainers: What to Know

Permanent vs Plastic Retainers: What to Know

If you’ve spent months or even years working to align your teeth through orthodonture, you know how important it is to maintain your straightened smile. It’s likely your dentist has recommended the use of a permanent or plastic retainer to help keep your teeth in their proper place. Which should you choose? Let’s talk about the advantages of both, as well as some of their drawbacks.

 

Permanent Retainers

Permanent retainers are bonded to the back of your teeth and are a great idea if you don’t want to have to think about your retainer again. If you are one of those people who have a hard time remembering to do certain daily tasks like take vitamins or find your keys, remembering to put your retainer in every day might prove a challenge. 

Advantages of Permanent Retainers

The biggest advantage of permanent retainers is that you’ll never forget to put it in your mouth because it’s already there. Permanent retainers give better long term results for this reason. It’s always working behind the scenes to keep your teeth from roaming around. You might even forget it’s there. 

 

Drawbacks of Permanent Retainers

The main drawback with a permanent retainer from a dentist’s perspective is that they are more difficult for the patient to clean around when brushing at home. This can lead to plaque buildup and long term consequences if you aren’t diligent about flossing and attending regularly scheduled dental cleanings. 

If you have a permanent retainer, your dentist might recommend flossing “threads” that help you get the floss to those easily neglected areas, or that you start using a Waterpik — a machine that shoots a small, lightly pressurized stream of water around teeth to reach areas flossing can’t. 

If you decide a permanent retainer is the right choice for you, discuss with your dentist some cleaning options that will help you keep your teeth healthy as well as straight.

 

Plastic Retainers

If you’re not ready to commit to a permanent retainer, it’s possible that a plastic and removable retainer would be a better option. Plastic retainers are shaped to fit over your teeth or against the roof of your mouth with wires that hold the retainer and your teeth in place. It might be uncomfortable at first, but with regular use you can build the habit of wearing it. 

 

Advantages of Plastic Retainers

Plastic retainers usually don’t have to be worn all the time. Some just have to be worn overnight or during the day except when eating or exercising. Retainers that are clear are very subtle and practically unnoticeable when worn. Eventually, the plastic will wear out and can age and discolor, so plastic retainers need to be replaced every so often. 

 

Drawbacks of Plastic Retainers

The biggest problem with removable retainers is that patients will forget to use them frequently, or misplace them altogether. If you don’t establish a regular habit of putting in your retainer, your teeth may start to move. If they move enough your retainer may no longer fit comfortably and you will have to be fitted for a new one by your dentist. 

Fortunately, if lost or ill-fitting, they can be replaced. Unlike permanent retainers, plastic ones don’t prohibit brushing and flossing so it’s easier to keep teeth clean. Retainers can also be freshened with a thorough soak and scrub. 

 

Permanent vs. Plastic Retainers

The choice between permanent or plastic depends on you. Will you remember to wear your retainer on a regular basis? Or would it be easier to have it attached and not worry about it? Are you committed to keeping your teeth clean and flossing around a wire or would you rather be able to remove a retainer to brush your teeth? 

Some dentists may recommend a combination of a plastic and a permanent retainer. Permanent retainers are often attached behind the bottom front teeth because they are the most likely to move. At the same time, an upper removable retainer might be used overnight, to help make sure teeth stay in alignment.

Whichever option you and your dentist choose, you will likely need to change some habits to keep your smile clean and healthy. After you worked so hard to achieve a beautiful smile, you need to protect it. 

If you have concerns that your retainer isn’t working for you, stop into Creason, Weber & Mountford to make sure your teeth get the proper care you need, and to ask the dentists if it’s time to update or replace your retainer. Request an appointment or call 616-842-0822 today.

Are Dental X-Rays Safe for Children?

Are Dental X-Rays Safe for Children?

Nowadays we are much more aware of the effects of chemicals and radiation on our bodies, we can have some warranted skepticism about the way we expose ourselves to these things, and the hazards to which we expose our kids. X-rays are one of these things that may cause concern. Are dental x-rays safe for children? Here’s what you should know:

Radiation

X-rays are a form of radiation that is passed through the body in order to create an image of the bones. When x-ray technology was first discovered, the level of radiation used was high, and in some cases toxic.

That is not the case today. The level of radiation in dental x-rays is low enough to be considered very safe, and is, in fact, comparable to the level of environmental radiation that we are exposed to on an everyday basis. Even though dental x-rays occur near the brain, they don’t put your children at increased danger.

Dental issues

The risk of x-rays is not only mitigated by the fact that they’re no more significant than the radiation in our environment, it’s overwhelmingly overruled but the risk incurred by not getting dental x-rays. Teeth are the only exposed bone surfaces in the human body, and as such, they are very susceptible to damage and very important to protect.

Adults suffer tooth decay and cavities, and children are even more susceptible to these issues since they are less skilled in taking care of their dental hygiene and often actively avoid brushing and flossing their teeth. They also might not notice when something is wrong with their teeth. For these reasons, it’s absolutely crucial children get dental x-rays on a regular schedule, along with dental cleanings.

Is it time your kids got their x-rays or six-month checkup? Set up an appointment today with Weber, Mountford & Ruszkowski Family Dentistry!