Straighter teeth perform chewing, biting and speaking functions more effectively than crooked teeth.  In addition, a straight smile boosts confidence, is aesthetically pleasing to look at, and can help stave off a wide variety of dental ailments.

There are several types of malocclusion including overbite, underbite, crossbite, and overcrowding.  Each of these alignment problems negatively impacts the functionality and cosmetic appearance of the teeth.

Here is a brief overview of some of the main disorders associated with crooked teeth:

Periodontitis – Periodontitis or gum disease begins with a bacterial infection.  The bacterial infection is caused by inadequate oral hygiene.  Crooked teeth are hard to clean effectively, which means that debris, plaque and bacteria can build up in hard-to-reach areas.  Straight teeth are much easier to clean and are at less risk of contracting gum disease.

Temporomandibular Disorder (TMJ) – Crooked teeth can lead to improper jaw alignment, which in turn causes a painful condition known as TMJ.  Severe headaches, jaw pain, lockjaw and the grinding of teeth characterize this debilitating disorder.

Tooth injury – Straight teeth creates a strong wall, which means injuries are less likely to occur.  Crooked teeth are weaker and often protrude, making them far more vulnerable to external injury.

Uneven wear – Crooked teeth cause some of the teeth to work harder than others when biting and chewing.  Straight teeth share the workload evenly, meaning less risk of injury and better aesthetics.

Teeth can be straightened using either orthodontic braces or customized aligning trays.  Orthodontic braces are usually affixed to the teeth for a set duration.  The brackets and archwires are tightened regularly by the orthodontist and removed when treatment is complete.  Fixed braces can be placed on the front side or back side of the teeth and are effective for most types of malocclusion.

Aligning trays are fully removable and are used where the malocclusion is less severe, and the teeth need to move a shorter distance.  These trays are replaced every few weeks for the duration of the treatment, and have proven to be equally effective for straightening teeth.

One of the most commonly asked questions about dental braces is whether placing them causes any pain or discomfort.  The honest answer is that braces do not hurt at all when they are applied to the teeth, so there is no reason to be anxious.  In most cases, there is mild soreness or discomfort after the orthodontic wire is engaged into the brackets, which may last for a few days.

There are two common types of fixed dental braces used to realign the teeth: ceramic fixed braces and metal fixed braces.  Both types of fixed appliances include brackets which are affixed to each individual tooth and an archwire the orthodontist fits into the bracket slot to gently move the teeth into proper alignment.  Elastic or wire ties will be applied to hold the wire in place.  Some orthodontists may use self-ligating brackets which do not require a rubber or wire tie to secure the wire.

Fixed dental braces are used to treat a wide variety of malocclusions, including overbite, underbite, crossbite, and overcrowding.  If the orthodontist has determined that the malocclusion has been caused by overcrowding, it is possible that teeth may need to be extracted to increase the amount of available space to properly align the teeth.

What to expect when getting braces

Here is an overview of what you can expect when getting braces:

Comprehensive Family Dental Care in Pasco, WA

General dentistry encompasses a broad range of diseases and disorders of the oral and maxillofacial region. Everyone should see a general dentist for routine oral health examinations, twice-yearly cleanings, and treatment of routine oral health complications, such as minor tooth decay. General dentistry is as much about prevention as it is about treatment. Patients who visit our Pasco, WA dental office can expect professional oral health care, education, and recommendations about proper home care between office visits.

Did you know…

that the American Dental Association recommends that every American visit a dentist a minimum of one time every six months? Doing so can aid in the detection of decay, oral disease and other dental health problems before the progress and become severe. If you are at risk for certain complications or have a history or periodontal disease and advanced decay, you may need to visit your general dentist on a more frequent basis. Patients who visit their dentist regularly and as recommended are more likely to retain their natural teeth and enjoy a lifetime of good oral health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to visit a general dentist?

Yes. Even if you are not currently experiencing any symptoms of tooth decay or gum disease, it is important to visit your dentist for a thorough examination and cleaning. Waiting till you experience pain or discomfort can be too late. Despite daily brushing and flossing, your teeth can still accumulate tartar that can harbor bacteria. These bacteria can lead to gum disease and tooth decay if not professionally removed at your dentist’s office.

What should I expect during my dentist visit?

Your visit will begin with a general inspection of the condition of your teeth. If you have not been to the dentist in a while, your dentist may order x-rays. An oral hygienist will then use special metal instruments to gently scrape away tartar along your gum line. Later, your dentist will review your x-rays and discuss any symptoms you may have been experiencing. He or she will then make a recommendation for treatment (if applicable) and answer any questions you may have.

Are there any special instructions I need to follow after seeing my dentist?

Based on the results of your dental check-up, your general dentist may recommend that you return for treatment or follow a special at-home oral care plan. You may also be referred to a dental specialist for treatment of advanced oral health conditions.

There are a number of reasons that your dentist might recommend a tooth extraction. Some dental patients suffer from tooth decay; others need to remove teeth hindering orthodontic treatment, whereas various patients simply need wisdom teeth removal. While a tooth extraction can be a serious dental procedure, aftercare is just as critical as the procedure itself. As the dental patient, it is important to understand that pain and the risk of infection can be lessened with proper care.

Care immediately following surgery:

After your tooth has been extracted, healing will take some time. Within 3 to 14 days, your sutures should fall out or dissolve. For sutures that are non-resorbable, your doctor will schedule a follow-up appointment to remove the stitches for you. Your tooth’s empty socket will gradually fill in with bone over time and smooth over with adjacent tissues.

Possible complications after a tooth extraction

Bleeding – Bleeding after a tooth extraction is entirely normal. A pinkish tinted saliva and subtle oozing is fairly common during the first 36 hours. If bleeding gets excessive, control it by using dampened gauze pads and biting down to keep pressure on the area. As an alternative to gauze pads, a moistened tea bag can be used, as the tannic acid helps blood vessels contract. Apply pressure to the gauze or tea bag by gently biting down for 30 minutes. Please remember that raised tempers, sitting upright, and exercise can all increase blood flow to the head, which can cause excess bleeding. Try to avoid these as much as possible. If your bleeding does not reduce after 48 hours, please call the practice.

Bone sequestra (dead tooth fragments) – Some patients have small sharp tooth fragments that were unable to be completely removed during surgery. During the recovery period, these dead bone fragments, or bone sequestra, slowly work themselves through the gums as a natural healing process. This can be a little painful until the sequestra are removed so please call our practice immediately if you notice any sharp fragments poking through the surgery site.

Dry socket – In the days that follow your tooth extraction, pain should gradually subside. Rarely, patients report that pain increases to a throbbing unbearable pain that shoots up towards the ear. Often this is a case of dry socket. Dry socket occurs when the blood clot becomes irritated and ousted before healing is complete. Food and debris can then get into the socket causing irritation. Tobacco users and women taking oral contraceptives are at a higher risk of getting dry socket. Dry socket is not an infection but does require a visit to our office. If you think you may be suffering from dry socket, please contact the practice immediately.

Lightheadedness – Because you may have been fasting prior to surgery, your blood sugar levels may be lower than normal. Until your body has had the chance to catch up and process some sugars, you should remember to stand up slowly when getting up from a relaxed position. For somewhat immediate relief, try eating something soft and sugary, stay in a relaxed position, and reduce the elevation of your head.

Numbness – Many patients report still feeling numb hours after their tooth extraction procedure. An extended lack of feeling around the mouth is normal and can last 10-12 hours after surgery.

Swelling – Swelling should subside almost entirely within 10 days after surgery. Immediately following your tooth extraction, apply an ice pack to the facial areas near the extraction. Continue using the ice in 15 minute intervals for the first 36 hours. After 36 hours, ice will no longer be beneficial in reducing swelling and moist heat should be used instead. To decrease swelling, apply a warm damp cloth to the sides of your face.

Trismus (difficulty opening and closing mouth) – If you experience a sore jaw and difficulty chewing or swallowing, do not be alarmed. Occasionally patients’ chewing muscles and jaw joints remain sore 3-5 days after surgery. This soreness can also make it difficult to open and close your mouth. Soreness should eventually subside.

Following dental implant surgery, patients must take detailed care of the area surrounding their new implant.  For the first month the dental implant is still integrating with the bone and tissues so the patient’s care routine will be slightly more involved during this initial period.  Above all, do not disturb the wound in the initial days that follow surgery.  Avoid rinsing, spitting, and touching the mouth for 24 hours after surgery to avoid contaminating or irritating the surgical site.  After dental implant surgery it’s important to follow these care instructions:

What does recovery involve?

While each patient’s case is different, recovery after dental implant surgery happens in a series of phases. With your new dental implants, maintaining proper oral hygiene should be your primary focus. In order for the implant to properly fuse with the jawbone, it must remain clean. Also keep in mind that when properly cared for, a dental implant can serve its owner for life.

When maintaining proper hygiene, oral discomfort should gradually lessen. Swelling, bruising, and minor bleeding may still occur. If any pain does continue, feel free to continue using the pain medications.

Healing time differs depending on whether a patient receives immediate crown placement, or waits for the implant to fuse with the jawbone. Your recovery timeframe will depend on your individual case and treatment plan; follow-up appointments will be scheduled accordingly.

Prior to your dental surgery you will have the opportunity to address any concerns you might have during your pre-op appointment. We encourage you to ask questions and make us aware of any fears you might have. Our main goal is to create a secure, comfortable environment for our patients on the day of surgery so the more you communicate with us, the easier we can accommodate your needs. The following guidelines are meant to serve as reminders in helping you prepare for your dental surgery. If you have any questions, feel free to contact our practice.

Leading Up to the Day of Surgery

            – Cardiac medications
            – Pulmonary medications
            – Steroids
            – Anti-seizure medications
            – Anti-Parkinson’s medications

Day of Surgery

If you have any change in health the morning of you appointment, please contact the practice immediately. A cold or fever with chest and sinus congestion may dangerously affect surgery so it is imperative that our practice is made aware of the situation. If it is necessary to reschedule your appointment, we will notify you.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are specialists with advanced training and expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of various head and neck conditions and injuries.  After four years of dental school, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon completes four to six years of additional formal training in treating the craniomaxillofacial complex.  This specialty is one of 9 dental specialties recognized internationally and by the American Dental Association (ADA).

An oral and maxillofacial surgeon can diagnose and treat a wide variety conditions.  The following are just some of the many conditions, treatments and procedures oral and maxillofacial surgeon deal with on a daily basis:

Whether your dentist refers you to our office, you have pain or symptoms causing you concern, or you simply have questions you would like answered, please contact our office today to schedule an appointment. We are here to answer your questions and provide the treatment you deserve!

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Third molars, commonly referred to as wisdom teeth, are usually the last four of 32 teeth to erupt (surface) in the mouth, generally making their appearance between the ages of 17 to 25. They are located at the back of the mouth (top and bottom), near the entrance to the throat. The term “wisdom” stems from the idea that the molars surface at a time typically associated with increased maturity or “wisdom”.

In most cases, inadequate space in the mouth does not allow the wisdom teeth to erupt properly and become fully functional. When this happens, the tooth can become impacted (stuck) in an undesirable or potentially harmful position. If left untreated, impacted wisdom teeth can contribute to infection, damage to other teeth, and possibly cysts or tumors.

There are several types, or degrees, of impaction based on the actual depth of the teeth within the jaw:

Soft Tissue Impaction: The upper portion of the tooth (the crown) has penetrated through the bone, but the gingiva (gum) is covering part or all of the tooth’s crown and has not positioned properly around the tooth. Because it is difficult to keep the area clean, food can become trapped below the gum and cause an infection and/or tooth decay, resulting in pain and swelling.

Partial Bony Impaction: The tooth has partially erupted, but a portion of the crown remains submerged below the gum and surrounding jawbone. Again, because it is difficult to keep the area clean, infection will commonly occur.

Complete Bony Impaction: The tooth is completely encased by jawbone. This will require more complex removal techniques.

Reasons to remove wisdom teeth

While not all wisdom teeth require removal, wisdom teeth extractions are most often performed because of an active problem such as pain, swelling, decay or infection, or as a preventative measure to avoid serious problems in the future. If impaction of one or more wisdom teeth is present, and left untreated, a number of potentially harmful outcomes can occur, including:

Wisdom teeth examination

As with any dental procedure, your dentist will want to initially conduct a thorough examination of the wisdom and surrounding teeth. Panoramic or digital X-rays will be taken in order for your dentist to evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and determine if a current problem exists, or the likelihood of any potential future problems.  The X-rays can also expose additional risk factors, such as deterioration or decay of nearby teeth. Early evaluation and treatment (typically in the mid-teen years) is recommended in order to identify potential problems and to improve the results for patients requiring wisdom teeth extractions. Only after a thorough examination can your dentist provide you with the best options for your particular case.

What does the removal of wisdom teeth involve?

Wisdom teeth removal is a common procedure, generally performed under local anesthesia, intravenous (IV) sedation, or general anesthesia by a specially trained dentist in an office surgery suite. The surgery does not require an overnight stay, and you will be released with post-operative instructions and medication (if necessary), to help manage any swelling or discomfort.

An oral exam is routinely performed by the dentist during the course of an initial comprehensive exam and regular check-ups. An oral cancer exam refers to the identification and management of diseases pertaining to the maxillofacial and oral regions.

The soft tissue of the mouth is normally lined with mucosa, which is special type of skin that should appear smooth in texture and pink in color. Any alteration of the color or texture of the mucosa may signal the beginning of a pathologic process. These changes may occur on the face, neck, and areas of the mouth (e.g., gums, tongue, lips, etc.). The most serious of these pathologic changes (which may or may not be painful) is oral cancer, but there are also many other common pathologic problems.

Geographic Tongue – Also known as Benign Migratory Glossitis or Erythema Migrans, is a condition where the tongue is missing papillae (small bumps) in different areas, and a map-like appearance can develop. This condition is usually seen as red well defined areas on or around the sides of the tongue. The red patches (which can look like an unsightly rash) may come and go from hours to months at a time and cause increased sensitivity to certain substances.

Median Palatal Cyst – This cyst is of developmental origin and is essentially a fluid filled skin sac. It usually appears in the middle of the palate and may cause substantial discomfort.

Hairy Tongue – An overgrowth of bacteria or a yeast infection in the mouth which can cause the tongue to appear hairy and black. This condition is usually a result of poor oral hygiene, chronic or extensive use of antibiotics, or radiation treatments to the head or neck. It is often also seen in HIV positive patients and those who are intravenous drug users. Hairy Tongue may or may not require treatment.

Treatment of Pathological Diseases

In the majority of cases, the pathological changes experienced in the oral region are uncomfortable and disfiguring, but not life threatening. However, oral cancer is on the rise (especially among men) and the chances of survival are around 80% if an immediate diagnosis is made.

Oral cancer is a general term used when referring to any type of cancer affecting the tongue, jaw, and lower cheek area. Since it is impossible for the dentist to decisively diagnose a pathological disease without taking a biopsy sample of the affected area, seeking immediate treatment when changes are first noticed might be a life and death decision. For less serious problems, there are several options available, such as:

Oral Examinations

During the course of a regular check up, the dentist will thoroughly inspect the soft tissue of the mouth and take serious note of any changes. If there are cell changes present, the dentist will take a biopsy of the affected area and send it away to be analyzed by laboratory specialists. When definitive results are obtained, the dentist can decide on the best course of treatment.

Oral Cancer Screenings

An oral cancer screening is usually performed during a comprehensive or recall (check-up) exam. Screening is painless and only takes a few minutes. The dentist or hygienist will use a laser light to assess the soft tissue for cell changes that might be indicative of oral cancer. If such cell changes are present, a small biopsy will be taken and sent to a laboratory for review. If the biopsy indicates that oral cancer is present, an excision (removal) will generally be performed.

Humans have two upper (maxillary) canines and two lower (mandibular) canines. Canine teeth are sometimes referred to as cuspids, fangs, or “eye teeth” because of their direct positioning beneath the eyes. Canine teeth have thicker and more conical roots than incisors and thus have an especially firm connection to the jaw. Canine teeth often have the longest root of all teeth in the human mouth and are the last to fully erupt and fall into place, often around age 13.

An impacted tooth essentially means that it is blocked, stuck, or unable to fully erupt and function properly. Third molars (wisdom teeth) most commonly fall victim to impaction, but the upper canine is the second most common tooth to become impacted. Wisdom teeth serve no important function in the mouth and are frequently removed; however, impacted canines are a critical condition and require treatment for the following reasons:

What causes canine teeth to become impacted?

There are several main causes for impacted canine teeth:

Extra Teeth – If extra teeth are present, the natural eruption of the canine teeth may be inhibited. The eruption progress of the canine may be directly blocked by an extra tooth or the subsequent overcrowding might leave no room on the dental arch for the canine.

Overcrowding – In some cases, poor alignment of the front teeth can lead to overcrowding. The existing teeth compete for space which means that the canines do not have sufficient room to become functional.

Unusual Growths – On rare occasions, unusual growths on the soft tissue of the gums can restrict the progress of canine teeth, which leads to later impaction.

Early and thorough examination of the teeth can pre-empt problems with impacted canines. It is important for the dentist to document the number teeth present when the patient is around 7 years of age in order to record the presence or absence of canine teeth. The older the patient becomes, the less likely it is that an impacted canine tooth will erupt naturally. If canine teeth are missing or very slow in fully erupting, the dentist can make recommendations for proper treatment.

Oral Examination

The dentist initially conducts a thorough visual examination of the teeth, accompanied by a panorex x-ray and/or individual x-rays. Once the cause of the impaction has been determined, there will be several treatment options available depending upon the age of the patient. The objective is to aid the eruption of the impacted canines, and this can be skillfully done by the dentist, an oral surgeon, or an orthodontist.

What does the treatment of impacted canines involve?

If your mouth is overcrowded for any reason, the dentist may recommend extraction of teeth. The extraction will generally be performed under local anesthetic by an oral surgeon. The un-erupted canine will then be exposed by lifting the gum, and guided into place using a special bracket.

In the case of younger patients, an orthodontic brace may be fitted to create a space on the dental arch for the impacted canine. Surgery for impacted canines usually does not require an overnight stay. Pain medication will be prescribed as necessary, and you’ll be given post treatment advice for your recovery.