Our passion is helping you have a healthy mouth

Dentist Mike Allen looks at possible implications for dentists

At the time of writing, Burton upon Trent has a relatively low number of new cases of Covid-19. Like many other places though, this could quite easily rise and there will, inevitably, be changes that we have to make to the way that we live in order to keep the numbers down and to make sure that the hospitals are not overwhelmed. It isn’t an easy time for any of us and we hope that our patients are taking care to look after themselves and others by abiding by any new guidelines that are introduced.

There has been some concern amongst dentists (and patients) including those at Mike Allen’s Dental Practice that we could see another enforced closure of practices like we did in the initial lockdown period. In order to assess the risk of this, we look at some of the issues below.

Medium tier

First, let’s look at where we are now and hope that with care and a sensible approach we can stay in this tier or even improve on it. Currently, there is no talk of practices closing at this level. The restrictions on our life at this level are not too severe and we can continue to work and to socialise to some degree. Although not ideal, it does at least mean that we can live a ‘normal’ life up to a point.

What happens if we end up on a higher tier?

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Why dentists are seeing more cases of cracked and damaged teeth due to stress

A report in the Independent has recently suggested that dentists in the USA are seeing a greatly increased number of patients coming to them with cracked or chipped teeth. Much of this is thought to be due to stress related to the Covid-19 situation. The same can probably be said of the UK, and if, as it seems, the number of cases are starting to get significantly higher again, this is probably only likely to get worse before it gets better.

In today’s Mike Allen dental blog, we will take a look at the damage that stress can do to your teeth (and your gums) but also look at ways you might be able to reduce it and methods of restoring your teeth when damage has occurred.

Stress – a growing problem

Stress can occur for many reasons, some of them personal and, to a large degree, out of our control. Some cases, such as when caused by a bad relationship, can improve when it ends. Others may continue for longer and may be related to work or our health. Today, of course, there are undoubtedly a lot of people that have seen a rise in anxiety due to the current global pandemic. With cases now dramatically rising, many of us will already have noticed that we are becoming more stressed again, especially those who may be under additional restrictions to help stop the spread of the virus.

Whilst we all wish that the virus would just go away so that we can get on with our lives, it is likely to be around for some time yet and planning ways to reduce our stress levels, especially over the colder winter months, will benefit our mental well being as well as physical. It will also help to prevent at least some harm to our teeth too.

Damage caused by stress

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Widely advertised on social media, we take a look at this relatively new ‘innovation’

If you are on social media and have ever looked into any dental issues online, there is a very good chance that you will recently have noticed a lot of advertisements promoting either snap on veneers or snap on dentures as they are also sometimes known. A quick glance at the adverts can make them look appealing; after all, who wouldn’t want a convenient and attractive new smile. But is it really this simple and should patients of Mike Allen’s Dental Practice be tempted?

Because we can see the attraction of these for patients looking for a ‘quick and easy fix’, we thought that we would dig a little deeper and look at any benefits that these might offer, but also potential pitfalls which are unlikely to be mentioned in the adverts.

What are they?

It appears that there are two types; one which provides a kit so that you can take impressions and send them to a laboratory for your snap on teeth to be produced. The other type also does this but then, we understand, even produces the teeth at home as well. Looking around at reviews, and perhaps not surprisingly, those made professionally do tend to get the better reviews but are the more expensive option.

It should be pointed out that these are not intended to be worn all of the time but are for occasional cosmetic purposes only. In no way do they offer an effective long term alternative to professionally produced porcelain veneers or, in the case of missing teeth, dental implants.

Benefits

The benefits of this type of cosmetic improvement is just that. They can provide a reasonably attractive smile at a reasonable cost. That said, and it probably does depend from brand to brand, but quite a few people who had them said that they had to file some of the false teeth down as they made them look much too long and unnatural. It isn’t hard to imagine how tricky this would be for many people and may well result in irreparable damage.

Ultimately, the cosmetic factor is about the only real benefit unfortunately. They are probably fine if you want to wear them once or twice for the occasional night out (though less so if you are eating .. more of that later). For longer term cosmetic improvements though, you should seek the advice of one of our experienced Burton cosmetic dentists.

The negatives

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This popular technique can be used in a number of restorative and cosmetic treatments

If you are into middle age, you will no doubt have seen a lot of changes occurring over the years at our Burton dental practice. From basic restorative care when we first opened over 30 years ago, through to the sophisticated treatments that we now have available such as dental implants and dental braces that are almost invisible when worn.

While these advances have offered many patients of Mike Allen’s Dental Practice a way to have strong, great looking teeth, there are also some treatments that have been around for a long time and sometimes get forgotten amongst the ‘headline’ treatments that are now available. One of these long-standing treatments is bonding, sometimes also referred to as ‘cosmetic bonding’.

What is bonding?

Bonding is done using a composite resin that can be used in a number of procedures. These are usually relatively minor ones, often used for cosmetic, rather than restorative purposes. As its name suggests, this resin can be applied to the tooth by bonding, or sticking to it. In many cases, bonding will offer a quick and immediate solution to a problem, particularly as it often requires minimal preparation of the affected tooth.

What situations might it be used in?

Although fillings and dental crowns are more widely used where significant damage has occurred to a tooth, bonding can help where there are no significant structural implications and the restoration needed may be more cosmetic. A good example of this is where a tooth has been chipped but has not compromised the tooth structure. This can have the effect of spoiling the look of the tooth but can also leave a sharp edge on which you could cut your tongue. Bonding is excellent in this situation and can be shaped and smoothed to provide a natural looking, and smooth edged tooth.

In some cases it can be used to close a gap between the top front teeth, also known as a diastema. Although, in many cases, this may require a more extensive treatment such as porcelain dental veneers or orthodontic treatment, bonding is an option that we would certainly explore due to the minimally invasive nature of the procedure.

Bonding composites can also be used for fillings and may also be used to protect the lower part of the tooth if the patient’s gums have receded, revealing the root part of the tooth that is unprotected by enamel.

Pros and cons

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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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