Our passion is helping you have a healthy mouth

Antonia Kemp, dental hygienist at Mike Allen’s Dental Practice explains

It is not uncommon to find that many people don’t really fully understand the importance of seeing a dental hygienist on a regular basis. Whilst they do understand why they should see a dentist, this additional appointment can seem like an extra drain on both their time and finances.

This is unfortunate as your hygienist visits can, and should, be seen as an investment which will help to prevent a lot of problems further down the line, some of which will probably need dental surgery to restore your teeth once they have become damaged.

In order to help you to understand why you should have your teeth professionally cleaned by the hygienist, we have compiled a quick list of some of the best reasons.

Removal of tartar

Tartar is a collection of bacteria and minerals that build up on your teeth and the gum line. However well we clean our teeth, this build up is almost inevitable, especially in those hard to reach places. The rough surfaces provided by tartar allows even more bacteria to collect and increases the risk of gingivitis and periodontitis with all the issues that can entail including sore and bleeding gums, bad breath and potentially a loss of teeth as well.

Painless and beneficial

The procedure used to remove tartar is called a ‘scale and polish’ and is entirely non-invasive and usually done in a short visit. If you haven’t seen a hygienist before or for a long time, we may suggest that you book a longer appointment initially so that we can thoroughly clean your teeth and gums and get your mouth into a healthier condition.

The treatment typically takes part in 3 stages:

  • The ‘scraping’ away of excess tartar
  • The ‘shattering’ of the rest of the tartar using a sonic cleaning implement
  • A final clean using a professional high speed brush

A combination of these three stages should help to leave you with healthy clean teeth.

A whiter smile!

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Modern orthodontic treatment for older Burton patients

Some of our more ‘mature’ patients may think that dental braces are only worn by children and teenagers and that, if you have crooked teeth later on in life, you have missed out and will just have to put up with it. Although it is true that many teenagers do need to have braces fitted, this doesn’t exclude the rest of us from having our teeth straightened too.

Uneven teeth can cause quite a few problems. The most obvious of these being the fact that it affects your appearance, especially where unevenness is significant. This isn’t the only issue though as uneven teeth can cause wear and may even cause breakages due to the pressure being exerted where it shouldn’t be.  It is worth remembering too that even just a few crooked teeth can cause other teeth to ‘drift’ into any spaces, potentially causing an accumulation of crooked and uneven teeth.

Correcting an uneven smile

At Mike Allen’s Dental Practice in Burton upon Trent, we believe that everyone should be entitled to consider having a nicer smile and that includes our older patients too. Although we may envisage braces being worn by the younger generation, there are now a wide range of adult orthodontic treatments available which enable many of us to have a great looking, even smile. There are a number of different systems that are available to use, the choice of which will be most effective will be decided following your initial examination. A number of factors will be taken into account including the severity and position of any crooked teeth.

There are three main categories of orthodontics which can be used if you want to have your teeth straightened.

Traditional braces

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Dentist Mike Allen looks at issues that can be caused by unevenly spaced teeth, along with possible solutions

If we have looked after our teeth well, with regular brushing, flossing and dental appointments, there is a good chance that they will be fairly healthy. This is the most important thing of course, but our teeth also play an important role in our appearance, especially when we smile. Healthy teeth are great, but if they are discoloured or are uneven, they can really detract from an otherwise nice smile.

We discussed tooth discolouration in our previous Burton dental blog and today we are going to take a look at the problems which can result from gaps between the teeth.

There are different types of gaps. There are the larger ones that are caused by tooth loss but also smaller gaps where our teeth have grown unevenly. Some of these, such as a diastema, are argued by some to be an attractive facial feature.

What’s wrong with a gap?

The most obvious issue with a gap in the teeth is that it can look unsightly. Even where some  argue that this isn’t the case, such as with a diastema (a gap between the top two front teeth) the fact is that having uneven teeth can lead to problems further down the line. If there are gaps between some of our teeth, it almost certainly means that others are closely crowded together, or even overlapping. This closeness means that it is much more difficult to keep them clean, with bacteria becoming trapped in places that a toothbrush, and sometimes even dental floss, is unable to reach. Leaving these areas insufficiently clean may well lead to tooth decay and gum disease after a while.

Obviously, it is easier to clean in a larger gap between the teeth but this space means that there is also room for other teeth to gradually move into. This happens quite slowly, but over time, you may find that more and more of your teeth become crooked and uneven. For both of these reasons, the team at Mike Allen’s Dental Practice believe that gaps in the teeth should be closed in most cases.

How do we close gaps in the teeth?

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Restoring teeth that are stained and discoloured

In the last few blogs, we have focussed on immediate oral health concerns following the easing of the lockdown in the UK. For most people with dental problems, it has been a priority to receive treatment to resolve these often painful issues. As we work through these cases, we hope that it won’t be long before our dentists can start to treat less urgent cases, and indeed, those where aesthetic improvements are required.

At Mike Allen’s Dental Practice in Burton, one of our most popular cosmetic dental treatments is the teeth whitening procedure. In today’s blog, we will take a look at why people’s teeth may have suffered aesthetically in the last few months, and at the treatments that can be used to help reverse this.

The lockdown period

We have written much about looking after your teeth to avoid decay and gum disease, and of course these are problems that definitely should be avoided as much as is practically possible. Increasingly though, more and more people are concerned not only about the health of teeth, but their appearance too.

One of the things that lockdown may have contributed to is discoloured and stained teeth. This may have occurred in two ways:

Lifestyle – Our diets and lifestyle may have changed in order to help us through this tricky period. Some of us will have drunk more, eaten less tooth friendly food, and some of us may have even started smoking again. All of these factors alone or together, may have led to surface staining of your teeth.

Pausing treatments – Although a lot of people have the teeth whitening procedure carried out as a ‘one off’, such as before a holiday or wedding, there are a number of our Burton patients who have this done on a recurring basis; in effect ‘topping up’ the whiteness to keep it as consistent as possible over time. Inevitably, as practices closed, these treatments will not have been carried out and those of you who have been forced to miss appointments may find that your teeth now appear duller than usual.

Restoring the whiteness

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A reminder to our Burton patients following the easing of the lockdown period.

As dental practices slowly open their doors again following the lockdown period, there will be a concerted initial effort to treat those patients most in need of prompt dental care, especially those in significant pain or discomfort. As soon as this backlog is cleared, we will do our best to see other patients as soon as we can.

Whilst we ask patients of Mike Allen’s Dental Practice in Burton to bear with us whilst we see the most urgent cases, we also ask you to remember the importance of seeing us for a routine check up once this is possible.

However well you have looked after your teeth and even if you are one of the relatively few people who hasn’t resorted to the off bit of comfort eating at various points of lockdown, you still need to see a dentist to be sure that your oral health is still on track after the enforced break.

Tooth decay

One of the most common problems that may have arisen during lockdown is the onset or advance of tooth decay. As we have mentioned in previous blogs, it is very likely that some of you may have eaten less healthily than normal, possibly out of sheer boredom but also possibly worsened by stress. Tooth decay always starts off small and is often unnoticeable for a while. Eventually though, it will become worse and start to form cavities which will need repair.

The sooner decay is detected, the sooner our Burton dental team can treat it. We will always do our best to save as much of the natural tooth as possible and detecting it early plays an important part in this. Delaying treatment for too long will almost certainly lead to a larger filling or potentially the need for a tooth crown if the damage is too far advanced.

Our filling options include tooth coloured fillings that are made to match the colour of your natural teeth, making them much more discrete than amalgam versions.

Gum disease

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A brief look at some of the changes that patients might notice when we open our practice again

Many of you will have seen that dental practices in the UK are able to open their doors again from 8th June. This will not be a case of things returning to the previous ‘normal’ though, and patients of Mike Allen’s Dental Practice are likely to notice a number of changes. We can’t say how long these changes will be in place as much will depend on the status of the Covid-19 virus and perhaps even on the arrival of an effective vaccine for it.

More details will emerge as we evaluate the guidance that has been provided and we work out how we can best serve our patients again in a safe manner. The following though are some of the things that our returning patients might notice as we get business moving again.

Re-opening

Although we can open from the 8th June, this does not mean that we will necessarily do so. We will do our best to open as quickly as possible, but, before we do so, it is essential that we ensure that the practice and systems are in place to protect both our patients and our team as much as we possibly can. Once we have a date to re-open, we will let you know as soon as we can. Please also keep an eye on our website for updates on this.

PPE

PPE (personal protective equipment ) has been in the news a lot over the past few months and, sadly, often for the wrong reasons. As you can imagine, there has been huge demand for this and we are doing our best to source sufficient PPE for our staff.  Until we are happy that sufficient equipment is in place, we will remain closed other than for telephone advice.

Training and systems

Many things that have previously been routine in our practice will need to change. Not only the way that treatments are carried out but the process of attending the clinic. We are working on systems and training to ensure that as few people as possible are in our waiting room at any given time and that any communication with staff members, including our reception team, is done as safely as possible. You will also notice a number of hand sanitiser stations; please use these.

Appointments

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Burton dentist, Dr Mike Allen discusses common causes of ‘wobbly’ teeth

For some of us, it may be further back in our memories than we care to remember, but most of us will probably be able to recall when we were children and had a tooth that became wobbly, and may have even been just hanging on by a thread of skin from our gums. Wobbly teeth can occur both in young children and adults but whilst it is natural in children, adults who have loose or wobbly teeth should be concerned and arrange to see one of our Burton dentists to examine them.

Wobbly teeth in young children

At Mike Allen’s Dental Practice, we offer dental care to both young and old. As you can imagine then, we see a lot of wobbly teeth in children as they develop through the years.

As parents, we are always happy to see our young children’s first teeth erupt, although not always the discomfort to the child that can come with this. These teeth will help to wean children away from liquid and soft foods and onto a more varied and solid diet. The ‘baby teeth’ are temporary of course and will only last a few years but even so, it is important to look after them and keep them healthy so that the children don’t suffer from toothache and are able to eat comfortably. Premature loss of these teeth can also cause issues with speech development.

Eventually, the ‘baby’ teeth start to become loose as the adult teeth develop underneath them. Contrary to what some people might think, it is not the adult teeth beneath them that are pushing them through which causes them to become loose and wobbly, but the reabsorption by the body of the roots of the first teeth. As the roots vanish, the teeth become loose and will eventually fall out, leaving a space for the adult teeth to erupt.

Whilst most first teeth will come out reasonably easily, we do encourage our patients not to twist, pull or even worse, try some of the silly DIY removal techniques you see on the Internet. These dramatic actions may remove the tooth but can also cause damage to the gum. Most first teeth will eventually come out quite naturally but if you find that your child has a particularly problematic one, please contact our Burton dentist surgery for advice.

Wobbly adult teeth

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How to care for your children’s teeth, now and when they eventually return to school

It hasn’t yet been confirmed, but if reports are accurate, it seems that a return to school for year 6 pupils may happen on June 1st. As with coming out of lockdown generally, this is likely to be phased, and, depending on the results, it is likely that other years will follow shortly afterwards.

With this potential start date just under a month away, the team at Mike Allen’s Dental Practice feel that this would be a good time to assess or reassess how you are helping your children to take good care of their teeth and gums during these difficult times.

The current situation

Children are just as much individuals as we adults are. Some children will have been quite disciplined and done their (home) schoolwork, whereas others will have found this more difficult during lockdown. It is understandable that this might be the case, with some children having higher anxiety levels at this time. Parents often respond to this by giving their children more leeway in certain areas, such as what and when they eat. There is no need to feel guilty about this. We all want our children to feel as relaxed and safe as possible and if sweets help with that (within reason), then that is fine.

The reality though is that too many sweets will be harmful to their teeth, whatever our intentions. So, as things appear to be slowly heading towards at least some form of normality, now might be a good time to rein things in a little.

The same applies to their tooth care regime. The chances are that the times when they have brushed their teeth have been a bit more haphazard than normal. As they will have a more rigid routine as they return to school, it may be a good idea to work towards reintroducing regular times for brushing their teeth. This will help them to remember to do it and will ‘roll over’ when they start school again, rather than becoming yet another thing that changes.

On returning to school

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Opportunities for a ‘smile refresh’ as Burton starts to return to “normal”

The Coronavirus seems all consuming now, even covered by our own dental blogs. This isn’t surprising of course, as it dominates the news and also our own daily lives. Conversations by ‘phone probably revolve around it too, as the opportunities to communicate face-to-face are now essentially impossible.

We don’t know how long this lockdown will last, and even when it ends, it may do so gradually. From a dental practice perspective, we don’t know when we will be able to re-open, but we will do so as soon as we are advised by the relevant bodies that it is safe. Hopefully, we will be seeing both old and new patients at Mike Allen’s Dental Practice once again in the not too far off future.

So … where do we go from here?

Self care

Currently, all we can do to help our patients is to encourage you to take good care of your teeth whilst you are staying indoors most of the time. The usual things apply here. Make sure you brush your teeth well twice a day, both morning and night. If your morning routine has changed because you aren’t working or are working from home, make sure you find a new regular time to brush them. Try to add flossing to your regime too if you can. This is a good time to learn how to do it (there are many videos available) and doing so will be of benefit to your oral health.

Try not to eat too many sugary foods either. It is understandable that some of us will turn to ‘comfort foods’ to get us through this time, but try not to overdo it and it also helps to eat these at a time when you will be brushing your teeth soon afterwards.

The next step

Once we get the go ahead, we will be opening our practice again. What is unknown at this time is whether we will be able to go ‘full steam ahead’ and offer all treatments or, perhaps more likely, only be able to offer selected treatments. Hopefully, those that we are allowed to perform will enable us to restore any of our patient’s teeth that have become damaged or are decayed i.e. the more immediate problems.

There will be a number of patients who need treatment but can’t be classed as emergency cases and who we are not allowed to treat now. Even so, problems such as a minor toothache can be quite uncomfortable and, if caused by decay, will only get worse. So even if you have been able to control any pain with painkillers, please come to see us for treatment as soon as we are open. If the pain has become problematic, please call us and we may be able to refer you to an urgent treatment centre locally.

Looking ahead

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A possible link to “lock down” anxiety.

It is understandable that there is a rise in the number of mental health issues at the moment. If the worry about our own health and those around us wasn’t enough, the fact that we are largely having to stay indoors with no option to socialise with our friends does not help. Despite this, it is important that government guidelines are followed for the duration of this virus. We should expect that, at times, restrictions may be relaxed whilst at others they may be increased. Without these controls though, the problem is likely to be more severe.

In today’s Mike Allen Dental blog, we are going to take a look at the potential negative effects your mental health can have on your teeth as well as offering some advice for our Burton patients that we hope will help navigate these difficult times.

How does your mental health affect your teeth?

Anyone who has suffered from even relatively mild depression will tell you that one of the first things to go is their own self care. They may wash less often or wear the same clothes for several days. Equally, routine cleaning habits such as brushing our teeth and flossing may either go out of the window altogether or at least be reduced. Over a period of time, this less effective brushing may result in tooth decay and a need for treatment.

Regarding mental health issues, it is, unsurprisingly, anxiety that appears to be most on the rise. Anxiety can lead to us seeking ways to ‘comfort’ ourselves with one of the most common being comfort eating. In virtually all cases, this is likely to involve foods that are bad for us and often full of fat and sugars. These may taste good and make us feel a little better, but overindulging in these will lead our oral health to worsen. Instead of comfort eating, try to find a relaxation technique that works for you. Examples may include yoga or meditation and you can seek guidance from your GP or help groups which are prominent on the web.

Anxiety can also lead to teeth grinding (bruxism) which often happens when we are asleep and can be difficult to control. It can lead to the wearing down of tooth enamel and even cause teeth to fracture in some instances. Again, relaxation techniques may be helpful in preventing this.

Tips for positive mental health

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