Our passion is helping you have a healthy mouth

What Causes Plaque And Tartar To Build Up On Our Teeth?

Burton dental hygienist, Alison Lowe, looks at the fundamentals of good oral care.

As patients, most people probably focus on the condition of their teeth when it comes to their oral health care. This is more likely to be the case if they have experienced a bad toothache or two in the past. There is no doubt that no one wants to have tooth pain, which can be very severe indeed, and obviously, no one wants to lose their teeth.

This is all well and good, and anything that encourages people to brush their teeth properly is only to be encouraged. There is another good reason why people should pay special attention when brushing though, and that is to control the buildup of plaque and tartar, not only on the teeth, but on the gum line too.

What is plaque?

Plaque is a sticky film that collects on the teeth and gums. It is made up of millions of bacteria. Not all of these are necessarily harmful, but some certainly are. If not controlled, over time these will not only cause enamel erosion, and potentially tooth decay, but potentially also gingivitis and even periodontitis, both forms of gum disease.

Plaque should not be confused with tartar. Plaque can largely be controlled with diligent brushing and flossing. Over time however, a hardened form of plaque called tartar builds up which causes a rough surface which attracts further bacterial and mineral build-up. This can only be removed by a hygienist cleaning known as a ‘scale and polish’ here at Mike Allen’s Dental Practice in Burton.

What causes plaque build up?

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Mouth Cancer In The UK – A Report

Burton dentist, Mike Allen, looks at the conclusions of a new report.

The Oral Health Foundation has very recently put out a new report entitled ‘State Of Mouth Cancer UK Report 2018/19. You can download the PDF version here if you wish to do so. Mouth cancer is a very serious issue and one that that this report indicates to be growing.

We have touched on this topic in previous blogs on the Mike Allen’s Dental Practice website, but, with this new report, we feel that it is worth looking at some of the key recent conclusions and then addressing how our practice can help patients minimise their own personal risk of oral cancer.

What does the report say?

The report states that there has been an increase in the number of new cases of mouth cancer each year in the UK of 49% within the last decade, and 135% when compared with 20 years ago. The number of new cases now being reported per year is 8,302.

Over half (56%) of mouth cancers occur either on the tongue or the tonsils.

Last year, there were 2,722 deaths of UK citizens linked to oral cancer.

Depending on the location of the cancer and how early it is detected and treated, the ten year survival rate is currently between 19% and 58%.

88% of adults in the UK are now aware of oral cancer. This is positive news, although only 8% were confident in their knowledge of this serious oral health issue. More bad news is that three quarters of this group did not know what the major symptoms and signs of it were. Generally, overall awareness of this issue remains far too low.

Key challenges to improving oral health

Although there is now more information available about oral cancer, it appears that much more work needs to be done to ensure that people have the information that they need, and that they know how to act upon it. This needs to be propagated at national level, perhaps with increased use of social media, and also in dental practices like our own. Discussions need to take place about lifestyle choices, and especially our drinking and smoking habits.

Education and preventative measures around HPV are also important, with vaccinations playing a potentially major role in reducing the risks caused by this virus.

What can our Burton practice do to help?

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Options For Restoring Or Replacing Damaged Rear Teeth

Our molar teeth take a lot of strain and can be prone to problems.

Every day, when we eat, all of our teeth are set to work, biting off chunks of food, breaking it down into smaller pieces, then chewing it before we finally swallow. This, quite naturally, puts  strain on all of our teeth, but perhaps none more so than the rear molars. Especially if we eat something that requires a lot of chewing, our molars, or rear teeth, can be put under quite a lot of pressure.

In addition to this, our rear teeth can be more difficult to keep clean due to their location in the mouth. A very common place for decay to start for example, is at the very rear of our very back teeth. Reaching behind these teeth with a toothbrush can be quite tricky, even for the most dedicated brusher. As only around one in five of us also use dental floss, this problem is often exacerbated.

Treating rear teeth

Given the above, perhaps it is not surprising that the rear teeth are some of the most commonly treated at Mike Allen’s Dental Practice. As with all teeth, treatment can be minimised through regular examinations and early treatment where applicable. Problems can range from decay, to broken teeth, and in order to treat them effectively, there are a number of treatment options available to us.


The dental filling is perhaps the best known treatment of all. Our Burton dentists often use white coloured fillings for many cavities as these offer the most natural look, and also require less of the natural tooth to be removed. Although much stronger than they used to be, this type of filling may still not offer sufficient strength for rear tooth restorations, especially for larger cavities. Other options, where a filling is needed are amalgam fillings, or, alternatively, a ceramic inlay or onlay, which offers both strength and a natural appearance.

Broken teeth

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Please Spare A Thought For Your Dentist!

Dentists are here to help you have healthy teeth and gums. Here are some ways that you can help us 🙂

At Mike Allen’s Dental Practice, we pride ourselves on doing all that we can to help our Burton patients have healthy teeth and gums. Advances in dental care have led to a wider range of treatments being available for problems such as missing teeth as well as many others. Although there is some ongoing discussion on professionals forums, about whether robots will eventually perform some of theses tasks, for now, you will have to put up with us mere mortals!

You may think “why should I spare a thought, you’re not the one who has to undergo a treatment”. This is true and we don’t mean ‘poor old dentist’ when we say this. The reality though is that we need to be on top of our game to be able to offer the best treatment possible.

Helping our practice

We rarely get chance to choose the straightforward check ups first thing in the morning and may well find that our first patient needs emergency treatment. Obviously, much responsibility for being ready from the first to the last patient falls upon the dentist, and so we need to be alert and ready. So to help us perform as well as we can, here are some important things we kindly ask for your help with:

Keep your appointments

Any dental practice will tell you that one of the most frustrating things is when patients don’t turn up for their appointment, especially when no notice is given. We do understand that there are circumstances where appointments have to be cancelled, but do try to give us at least 48 hours notice where you possibly can. In the event of a genuine emergency, where an appointment has to be cancelled at very short notice, please still let us know. Even a late cancellation may enable us to use your appointment slot to treat someone who is in severe pain. It could be you one day.

We also recommend that if you do cancel, you rearrange your appointment at the same time. It can be easy to put off doing this otherwise, and you may end up not seeing a dentist for a long time, with the subsequent tooth and/or gum problems that are likely to arise.

Please be factual

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Help Your Heart Stay Healthy Through Better Gum Care

Periodontal diseases are increasingly being linked to a number of serious illnesses.

Why do people visit the dentists? It seems an obvious answer, doesn’t it? to make sure that their teeth are healthy and they don’t get decay or toothache. This approach has been the basic standard for many years, but, with advanced knowledge, and a wider range of treatments now available, people actually go to see their dentist for a number of reasons.

The one that we have covered most often in our blogs, as an addition to general oral health care, is to see what Mike Allen’s Dental Practice can do to help them to have a more attractive smile. Procedures such as dental implants, veneers and teeth whitening mean that an attractive smile is now achievable for more and more patients.

Health comes first

Although the cosmetic dental procedures noted above can make significant improvements to someone’s appearance, and quite often to their confidence too, it is the health aspect of oral care which takes priority. Whiter teeth are, quite frankly, pointless if you have serious gum disease that may cause them to become loose or even fall out in the not so distant future.

Healthy teeth and strong enamel are very important to help our Burton patients keep their smile in good condition well into their later years. Few though, may be aware of how significant their gum health is, not only so that they can keep their teeth, but also the negative effect that poor gum health can have upon the heart.

Increasingly, a number of studies are indicating that there is a link between periodontal diseases and the health of your heart. Cardiovascular diseases and strokes may well be the consequence if you don’t take enough care to keep your gums healthy.

Signs and symptoms of gum disease

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Dental Implants – Is The Procedure Painful?

Mike Allen looks at why some patients are deterred from having implants, and why they shouldn’t be.

We have covered in earlier blogs, how beneficial dental implants can be, especially in the longer term. No more fiddling about having to clean dentures, or worries about teeth moving around when you eat or speak.

Despite this though, there are some people who simply can’t entertain the idea of having dental implants placed, ‘because of the pain’. Here at Mike Allen’s Dental Practice, we thought that it was about time that we put that right and helped people overcome this unnecessary fear.

How painful are dental implants really?

The most obvious thing to say is that, once the whole treatment process is complete and your implants are settled in, you should feel no discomfort at all. In fact, there is no reason why you shouldn’t just think of them exactly as you do your natural teeth. Almost all of our Burton implant patients say they mostly forget they have implants after a while.

You will, of course, need to look after them, and there are a number of things that can cause problems, including periodontitis and peri-implantitis. With good home care and a six monthly clean by our hygienist (which you should do anyway, implants or not), there is no reason why you should not have strong and healthy dental implants.

What about the procedure?

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Five Things You Shouldn’t Do At Your Dental Appointment

Detrimental habits we may have when appointment time is due!

Whether you are a nervous patient or not, the likelihood is that you aren’t particularly looking forward to your dental appointment. Even those with generally healthy teeth and a good cleaning regimen may, at the back of their mind, wonder if the dentist is going to find something wrong. The reality is though, that your regular mouth checks at our Burton practice are important, as are any appointments that you may have to treat a problem.

Having been established in Burton Upon Trent for over thirty years, we have seen thousands of patients in that time and, from our experiences with them, we thought it would be useful not to look at what you SHOULD do when you see your dentist, but what you SHOULDN’T do.

1 – Get yourself worked up about your appointment

This will affect some people more than others. Those who are especially nervous about seeing the dentist may find that their GP will be able to provide them with something which will help to keep them calm during the appointment, so that they can receive essential dental care. It might be easier said than done, but making yourself worry about seeing the dentist will not make it go away, and it does need to be done. Try not to think too much about it and perhaps go out to see a film or something that will take your mind off it, at least until the appointment is nearly due.

2 – Spend ages brushing your teeth the morning of the appointment

Whilst it is good not to have pieces of food stuck between your teeth when we examine your mouth, and also, fresher breath is always nice, the truth is that one good brushing session before you see us will make no difference. Most dental problems happen over a longish period of time and if you haven’t been brushing your teeth well for some time we will know whether you have brushed your teeth before you see us or not. If you don’t want to feel embarrassed about the poor health of your mouth, although of course we won’t judge you, then please make sure that you brush twice daily as advised by all dentists.

3 – Don’t tell the truth

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Getting Rid Of Plaque

Burton dental hygienist, Antonia Kemp, discusses effective treatments.

Many of you will have seen various advertisements for toothpastes that claim to get rid of plaque, as well as generally cleaning your teeth. This is slightly misleading though as plaque, or rather the bacteria that form plaque, are an ever present in our mouth and can’t really be eliminated entirely. What we can do, on a daily basis, is to keep these bacteria under control, and that is the aim when we brush and floss our teeth.

What is plaque?

Plaque is a light film of bacteria that collects on the surface of the teeth, and the gum-line. It is made up of millions of bacteria of different types. It is colourless but can feel a little ‘slimy’, especially if you have not cleaned your teeth or perhaps have gone to sleep dehydrated and woken up with a gooey white substance in your mouth which is simply a larger collection of plaque.

Plaque has a habit of finding its way into small crevices of your teeth and is one of the main contributors to tooth decay. Without regular brushing, the bacteria and acids present in plaque will eat away at the tooth enamel until the more vulnerable inner part of the tooth becomes exposed. At this stage, decay is likely to advance more quickly, with toothache likely to follow soon after.

By and large, plaque control is relatively straightforward, and a good regime of regular brushing will help to keep it under control. You should also consider adding flossing to your regime too, if you don’t already do so. This is a great way of removing plaque that has become trapped between the teeth and on the gum line.

Why do I need to see the hygienist?

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Can Minor Dental Issues Ever Be ‘Acceptable’?

Dr Mike Allen discusses this question, and the possible consequences of taking this approach.

Most patients of Mike Allen’s Dental Practice come to see us every six months or so for their regular check ups. If a significant problem occurs between these appointments, such as a badly broken tooth, most will make an emergency appointment to see us as soon as possible to have the tooth restored. Sometimes, this is clear cut, and a badly broken and sharp tooth, or a painful tooth, is an obvious indicator that the problem shouldn’t, and usually can’t, be ignored.

Dental problems are not always ‘black and white’ though, and there are many problems that can occur somewhere in between. These are often issues that might be considered to be mildly uncomfortable or inconvenient. In situations like this, some patients will simply leave the problem until it is time for their next check up, often making a mental note to let us know about it.

Is this the right approach?

The answer to this is almost certainly no. As our Burton dental team will tell you, ignored dental problems, even relatively minor ones, will not improve, and, in almost all circumstances, will worsen, sometimes resulting in the need for more extensive treatment. Even if your appointment is only a few weeks away, we recommend that you have any issues checked out when they occur. After all, if your memory fails you during your check up, you may even go several more months before your dentist is aware of any problems. At this stage, you may be in significant discomfort.

What can happen?

Let us take a look at some examples of ‘minor’ problems that tend to be ignored by some patients, and look at what the result may be if they are not treated reasonably promptly.

Sore Gums

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Are You Afraid Of Seeing A Dentist?

Dental phobia is a significant problem that can have a profound impact on your teeth and gums.

Any phobia is unpleasant. They can often produce unwanted symptoms such as profuse sweating, a racing heartbeat, or even full blown floods of tears. Whilst there are some relatively rare phobias, there are also some well known common ones, with a fear of the dentist ranking almost alongside a fear of flying. The good thing about phobias though, is that they are largely irrational and can often be overcome with help and persistence.

Like many phobias, the longer you put off facing them, the worse the fear becomes when you reach a time when you can avoid it no longer. In the case of dental fear, if you have not seen a dentist for a long time because of it, you are likely to be extremely scared when you finally have to go because you are in so much pain with a very bad toothache. At this point, there is no real option but to face the fear and have the tooth seen too. There is a more gentle approach to dental fear though, and we are happy to help you try to overcome it.

Regular dental care

Let’s be honest; however nice a dentist is, virtually no one actually enjoys a dental visit. There is always that lurking concern that, however healthy your teeth seem, your dentist may find a problem that needs dealing with. The best way to reduce this risk is to look after your teeth well and see your dentist on a regular basis. That way any serious issues are more likely to be avoided, and any treatment that is needed, to be less invasive.

The best time to overcome your phobia is now. The longer you put it off, the harder it will become. If you have looked after your teeth well, it is possible that you may not even need treatment at this point. The longer you leave it, the more likely it is that you will. Once you have started seeing a dentist regularly, the less stressful future visits will become.

Why Mike Allen’s Practice?

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