What is a Cavity?

Cavities generally develop in the "hard-to-see" places in your mouth. These are normally the places where you need to floss. When bacteria combine with food particles, they form plaque that adheres to your teeth.

As long as plaque remains on the tooth, acid produced by bacteria will eat away the tooth structure. Once through the enamel, the acid attacks the dentin, which is that part of the tooth containing sensitive nerve fibers.

If the tooth decay reaches the dentin, a filling is needed to halt the degenerative process. Otherwise, it continues at an accelerated rate becoming larger and larger.

If not detected and repaired with a filling, the decay can reach the tooth nerve and cause the need for a root canal. With the decay removed and a filling in place the tooth is restored to its original contour.

How do I use dental floss?
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Floss is cheap, so don't be stingy! Tear off about a forearm's length to start. Wrap one end around the middle finger of one hand to "anchor" it and pick up the other end about 4-6 inches away with the middle finger of the other hand. This allows you to manipulate the floss with your thumb and fore finger. As you soil a section of floss, "reel" in another 4-6 inches of clean floss with the anchor finger as you release the floss with the other finger.

Once you get the floss past the tooth contact, move the floss up and down, perpendicular to the tooth. Never shoe-shine the teeth in a back-and-forth motion! You will either notch your teeth or cut your gums, or both!

How often should I get dental checkups?
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For people without any periodontal disease, a check up and cleaning every six months is standard protocol. People who have active periodontal disease or who have been treated, should have a check up and cleaning every three months.

How often should I get x-rays?
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For most people, a complete radiographic survey should be done every 3 years and a "check up" or "recall" set every 6 to 12 months. A complete set of x-rays is estimated to expose you to the same amount of radiation you get on a flight from San Francisco to Seattle.

Doctors use x-rays as an aid in diagnosing problems. Without x-rays, "seeing" the problem will be difficult if not impossible.

Tongue Scraper
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In general, the tongue, with its rough surface, is the most common source of bad breath. "Tongue scrapers" are very effective in keeping the tongue clean.

What causes tooth decay?
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Tooth decay happens when plaque or bacteria come in contact with the tooth and is allowed to sit. The bacteria, once fed with sugars, will begin eroding the enamel.

Causes for tooth decay include:
- Poor oral hygiene (brushing / flossing)
- Poor diet
- Stress
- Smoking
- Genetics

Adults tend to get cavities around old fillings, which may be cracked, rough around the edges or loose in the tooth. Another common form of tooth decay in adults is root cavities. These are likely to occur in adults who have receding gums due to age or periodontal disease. As the gum line recedes, the tooth root becomes exposed. Since root tissue is softer than enamel, it decays more easily.

What is the Best Kind of Toothbrush?
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There are many factors that can go into selecting the perfect toothbrush for you and we have provided a few characteristics that you can use when making a selection.

Power vs. Manual
As long as you are brushing on a regular basis and keeping up with your oral hygiene, your teeth and gums will be kept in a good and healthy condition. Powered toothbrushes are more expensive than a manual/disposable toothbrush but they are generally more effective because of the constant rotating or rapid back-and-forth movement of the bristle heads. Manual toothbrushes do cost less and require better technique to ensure proper plaque and tartar removal from your teeth and to ensure proper gum cleaning.

You should select a toothbrush (powered or manual) that has a bristle head small enough to properly maneuver around all surfaces of your teeth and gums. Make sure it can brush behind the back molars and get in back of your upper and lower front teeth.

Bristle Types
Most toothbrushes today come in soft, medium and hard bristle types. For most people, a soft bristle toothbrush is the best bet to start off with. Depending on how hard and vigorously you brush can affect which bristle type to go with. The harder the bristles, the better they are at removing plaque and tartar but harder bristles can also damage your gums and expose tooth root surfaces if not used properly.

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Dr. Malkemus would love to meet you and your family and provide you with the dental care you deserve!