Improving Oral Health with Preventive Dentistry in Corpus Christi
Keeping patients’ natural smiles whole and healthy for life is our number one priority. That’s why our dental practice is focused on preventive dental care. From regular checkups and cleanings to educating patients on the best practices for at-home hygiene, our team is dedicated to helping you achieve and maintain their optimal level of oral health. Contact your Corpus Christi Dentist, Dr. Sarah Pitarra to find out more about preventive dental care, or schedule your first appointment with our knowledgeable team.
Dental Check-Ups & Cleanings
Most of our patients have been brushing and flossing their teeth every day since they were small children, and they know this daily oral hygiene routine prevents oral health issues like tooth decay. What many patients don’t realize is the profound effect healthy smiles have on their overall health. Without daily hygiene, the bacteria in the mouth flourish and can contribute to a number of oral and overall health concerns, including diabetes, heart disease, and strokes as they enter the blood stream.
That’s why our dentist and team are dedicated to helping patients achieve and maintain their healthiest smiles. We know the importance of keeping smiles healthy and beautiful, and that’s the goal of preventive dental care. Twice each year, patients should visit our team for a preventive checkup and professional teeth cleaning. These visits give our team the opportunity to assess smiles for signs of common oral health concerns, including tooth decay, gum disease, bruxism (teeth grinding and clenching), temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, and oral cancer. Our hygienists carefully remove bacteria, plaque, and tartar from even the hard to reach areas.
We also offer education on the best techniques for at-home hygiene and recommendations for the best oral hygiene products. The most important part of every checkup is the face to face consultation with Dr. Pitarra. During the consultation, we’re happy to answer questions, make treatment recommendations, and work with patients to create a personalized oral health care plan to guarantee a lifetime of healthy, natural smiles.
CariVu Cavity Detection
CariVU is a unique early cavity detection system. It allows our team to more accurately diagnose caries (cavities) in earlier stages. The process is simple. The CariVu hand tool hugs the tooth and bathes it in near-infrared light. A number of images are captured then transferred to our chairside computer monitor. When you look at these images with the dentist, they will appear much like an x-ray. The healthy enamel allows light to pass through, showing up white on the images, but any areas of decay will absorb light looking dark on the images. CariVu gives us 99% accuracy when diagnosing cavities even the most difficult to access interproximal (between teeth) caries. Coupled with digital x-rays and regular examinations, CariVu can significantly improve preventive and restorative treatment planning.
Dental sealants may be the simplest, most effective method for protecting smiles from tooth decay. Typically recommended for young children who are still developing their oral hygiene skills, dental sealants are applied to the surfaces of teeth in liquid form and set into place, forming a thin, invisible layer of protective coating over teeth. As the name suggests, bacteria are sealed out, protecting teeth for up to ten years. One, quick application that can be completed during any dental checkup.
Bruxism is the grinding and clenching of teeth that typically occurs during sleep. While this may sound like a harmless habit, bruxism can actually lead to a number of adverse effects, including worn, chipped, cracked, or broken teeth, TMJ dysfunction, chronic headaches, and more. TMJ are frequently an effect of the excess strain on the jaw caused by unconscious grinding and clenching, but even if it has a different cause, a mouthguard worn during sleep may provide relief. Nightguards are custom crafted to comfortably create a barrier between teeth to prevent damage related to bruxism, as well as position the jaw to relieve stress and diminish pain related to TMJ dysfunction.
Oral Cancer Screenings
Many patients believe that oral cancer screenings are unnecessary unless they smoke or chew tobacco, but 25% or more of oral cancer patients participate in none of the high risk behaviors that often lead to this condition. According to researchers at the Oral Cancer Foundation, the only way to decrease the number of annual deaths due to oral cancer is to diagnose and treat the disease in earlier stages. That’s why oral cancer screenings are an important part of every six month checkup.
In recent years, electric toothbrushes have become increasingly popular. Like traditional toothbrushes, electric brushes have bristles that work to remove bacteria and plaque from teeth, but they also utilize vibration to remove damaging plaque and tartar buildup from areas that traditional brushes don’t reach. The Phillips Sonicare brand of toothbrushes vibrate tens of thousands more strokes each second than similar electric toothbrushes, making it the ideal oral hygiene product for any patient. If you have questions about oral hygiene tips or products to maximize oral hygiene at home, don’t hesitate to contact our team. We’re happy to help you find the right materials to keep your smile healthy for life.
Gum Disease Treatment
Prevention and treatment of periodontal (gum) disease is one of the chief concerns in dentistry today. Dr. Pitarra is dedicated to helping patients prevent gum disease with regular at-home hygiene and professional cleanings. Caring for patients’ gums is essential since nearly 80% of US adults over the age of 35 suffer from mild gum disease (also known as gingivitis) or the more advanced periodontitis. While gum disease is detrimental to oral health, even more disconcerting is the connection between periodontal disease and a number of overall health concerns, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and early or low-weight births. That’s why our team is dedicated to examining gum tissue during every checkup. We complete a process known as periodontal charting in order to track the depth of pockets between teeth and gums that may be early indicators of gum disease. Warning signs of gum disease patients should be aware of include:
- Bleeding gums
- Swollen, irritated, or discolored gum tissue
- Infected sores in the gums
- Foul breath that does not improve with cleaning
- Teeth that feel loose
- A bite that does not fit together properly
Without prompt treatment, gum disease may lead to tooth loss and other oral and overall health risks, especially for patients with immune-compromising illnesses like diabetes and pregnant women who are at a higher risk for health concerns. In order to preserve oral and overall health, we typically take the following course of action:
- In more advanced stages, we’ll likely recommend scaling, the careful removal of bacteria, plaque, and tartar from affected areas, and root planing, the smoothing of root structures, to prevent further buildup.
- In some cases, topical antibiotics may be recommended to keep bacteria from the gum tissue.
- In the most severe cases, surgical removal of infected tissue may be necessary, but we’ll work hard to preserve natural gum tissues and overall oral health before this stage.
Once the effects of gum disease are diminished and damage is reversed following treatment, patients will likely need to visit our office more frequently (three to four times each year) for thorough professional cleanings in order to prevent the regression of periodontal disease.