Your West Des Moines Dentist Has Great News for Gums

In the fight against tooth decay, the importance of healthy gums is often overlooked. Gum disease affects millions of people around the world, and, if left untreated, can lead to tooth loss. Just as you wouldn’t ignore an issue with your teeth, you should also pay close attention to the state of your gums.

You Might Be Suffering from Gum Disease

A receding gumline is often a telltale sign of gum disease. Gum recession is characterized by a loss of gum tissue. This recession can lead to tooth loss.

Generally prior to the presence of gum recession, gums will appear red and inflamed. Even minor irritation along the gumline is cause to schedule an appointment with your dentist immediately. You may be suffering from gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease, or your symptoms could be a sign of something more serious. This is why it is so important to maintain regular visits with your dentist.

How Your Gums Can Be Saved

Even if you are suffering from an advanced form of gum disease, your may still be able to achieve good oral health, through an aggressive treatment plan. (more…)

Post-Treatment Dental Care in West Des Moines

Quality professional dental care and quality at-home dental hygiene are the cornerstones of dental health. Of course, it’s no secret that a good part of your dedication to the health of your teeth and gums and the appearance of your smile takes place at home, so Des Moines dentist Dr. James Hawks wants to explain one more way you can take care of your smile: by following specific post-operative dental care instructions following your dental procedures at our west Des Moines dentist office. Today, we’d like to focus on the post-treatment instructions for silver amalgam restorations (traditional dental fillings) and endodontic treatment (root canal therapy).

Post-Dental Filling Instructions from Your West Des Moines Dentist

Although having an amalgam dental filling placed is a very routine procedure, it’s normal to experience some sensitivity following your restoration appointment. To keep your new restoration safe for years to come, follow these tips. (more…)

Is Teeth Whitening Right For You?

According to a study conducted by the Max Planck Institute, a non-profit research society based in Berlin, smiling makes a person appear younger and more attractive.  It stands to reason, then, that an unsmiling face can look older and less attractive. Unfortunately, many people feel unwilling or self-conscious about their smiles because of dull, stained, or discolored teeth. Of course, over-the-counter whitening products, from mouthwashes to chewing gums, have saturated the market in recent years but the most effective treatments are only available through a general or cosmetic dentist. Dr. James M. Hawks, a West Des Moines cosmetic dentist, wants to educate you on the facts about teeth whitening systems so you can decide whether they might be right for you.

An Anatomy of Stains and Discolorations

Teeth stains fall into two general categories: intrinsic stains occur within the structure of the teeth while extrinsic stains discolor the outer layer of the affected teeth. The causes of intrinsic stains include exposure to high levels of fluoride, the cause of white and brown spots on a tooth, the antibiotic tertracyclin, responsible for unsightly greyish-brown discolorations, and endodontic procedures like root canal therapy. Intrinsic stains, because the discolor the inner structure of the tooth, are very difficult to remove and do not respond well to either over-the-counter whiteners or most whitening systems available through your dentist. In general, people with intrinsically stained teeth make great candidates for bonding or porcelain veneers. (more…)

The Importance of Your Six-Month Dental Checkup

Do you brush your teeth twice a day, floss at least once, refrain from sugar as much as you can, and yet still develop cavities? If the only time you visit your dentist is when tooth decay or some other dental issue causes your teeth discomfort, then therein may lay your answer. When you religiously take care of your teeth, you may consider it an unnecessary inconvenience to visit your dentist twice a year “just in case.” Or, perhaps your schedule is just too tightly packed to fit that visit in, until it becomes a necessity. The truth is, however, regular dental visits are among the most important aspects of your oral hygiene routine, and in some cases, are necessary to treating and preventing oral health issues before they advance. As a dentist in West Des Moines, Dr. Hawks understands and explains the importance of attending your dental checkup and cleaning every six months.

Accomplishing What Your Toothbrush Can’t

Brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day is a vital part of good oral hygiene. By themselves, however, brushing and flossing are only minimally effective at preventing dental issues. While your toothbrush and dental floss have no equal in regards to removing dental plaque and food debris, plaque forms constantly, and small sections are sometimes missed or neglected. After about 48 hours, this plaque formation will harden (calcify) into a stubborn substance called tartar. Insoluble (does not dissolve in water), tartar cannot be removed with daily brushing and flossing. During your checkup and deep cleaning, tartar removal is only one of our main focuses concerning your continued good oral health. (more…)

What Makes Baking Soda So Great, Anyway?

For over a century, baking soda has been a staple in households everywhere. It’s effective at cleaning nearly every surface found in a home, as well as eliminating some of the most offensive odors. Officially known as sodium bicarbonate, baking soda has also been tried and tested as an excellent dental cleaning agent. West Des Moines dentist Dr. James Hawk explores what makes baking soda so important to oral health.

Strength in Neutrality

What makes baking soda unique at the chemical level is that it can react with both acids and bases. The pH scale, which measures a substance’s acidity/alkalinity, ranges from zero to 14, with zero being acidic, 14 being alkaline, and seven being neutral. Whether baking soda interacts with an acid or a base (alkali), it works to neutralize the substance. When you eat, oral bacteria process the sugars and carbs in your meal and produce acid. The acid weakens your tooth enamel, your tooth’s protective outer layer, and siphons minerals from your teeth. When enamel is weakened, it can no longer protect your tooth from damaging bacteria. This attack on your enamel is called demineralization, and is the first step in tooth decay. Baking soda neutralizes the acid in your mouth, deterring the attack on your oral health and increasing cavity protection. (more…)

Is Your Breath Un-Fresh? Tell Your West Des Moines Dentist

Bad breath is embarrassing. Thankfully, there is no need to allow bad breath, or halitosis, to ruin your social or professional life. Treating or curing the condition depends on what’s causing it. In some cases, halitosis can be an indication of a health issue. Addressing the issue usually eliminates the resulting bad breath. West Des Moines dentist Dr. James Hawk discusses more common causes of chronic halitosis.

What Bad Breath Can Mean

Barring any underlying medical condition, bad breath is commonly caused by poor oral hygiene habits. Food particles feed the bacteria that collect in your mouth and the reactions can release a toxic gas called hydrogen sulfide (H2S). This bad-breath gas, which has the characteristic smell of rotten eggs, is also produced by bacteria in the intestinal tract. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day will help you control the bacterial population in your mouth. Brushing also rids your mouth of food particles to deprive the bacteria of fuel. A lot of the microbes in your mouth are anaerobic, meaning they do not need oxygen to survive. These organisms are fond of situating themselves in the tight spaces between your teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach. Floss your teeth at least once a day to clean these areas.

Bad Diet and Habits

Certain foods can taint your breath without the aid of gas-producing bacteria. Garlic, onions, and other “strong” foods  can leave a lasting impression in your mouth for a while, no matter how much you brush your teeth or rinse with mouthwash. Only time can resolve bad breath from strong foods, but sugarless gum or minted mouthwash can help mask the offensive odor temporarily. (more…)

West Des Moines Dentist Explains the Anatomy of a Tooth

The better you understand something, the more prepared you are to care for it. Take your teeth for example. Dentists advise you to brush your teeth at least twice a day, and floss at least once, and you can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Yet, when you understand how gum disease and tooth decay develop and the damage that they can cause, you may be more inclined to care for your teeth. Similarly, when you learn the anatomy of your tooth, you can better understand the purpose of oral health care techniques. West Des Moines dentist Dr. Hawk explains what a tooth is made of, and what happens when its defenses are compromised.

The Bare Bones of Teeth

A human tooth is divided into two major parts. The top part, or crown, of the tooth extends above the gum line. Only the crown is visible in a healthy mouth. Underneath the gum line, the root of the tooth extends and anchors itself into your jawbone. Although there are four different kinds of human teeth (incisors, canines, premolars, and molars), each tooth is comprised of four different tissues.

Tooth enamel covers and protects the crown of the tooth. Enamel is the strongest substance that your body produces. Underneath the enamel is a layer of dentin, which is less dense than enamel and contains tiny holes through which sensory input travels to the center of the tooth, or pulp. The tooth’s nerves and blood vessels are all housed within the dental pulp, and the tooth receives its nutrients through the root canals that connect to your jaw. The roots are protected by a layer of cementum, which is less dense than enamel and dentin, and assists in supporting the tooth. (more…)

West Des Moines Dentist Compares Metal and Composite Fillings

Amalgam has been used by dentists for over 150 years to fill the holes left in teeth after the removal of decayed tooth tissue. A mixture of metals that includes silver, tin, copper, mercury, and sometimes zinc, amalgam is popular for its affordability and durability. It is also controversial, however, because certain levels of mercury exposure have been linked to adverse health effects. The FDA has shown that the minimal amounts of mercury vapor that dental fillings might release due to pressure from chewing or grinding teeth are well below levels associated with illness. For those who prefer to move on from tradition, however, West Des Moines dentist Dr. James Hawk discusses the advantages of composite resin fillings over traditional metal amalgam ones.

If Not for Safety, for Discretion

Whether or not you consider amalgam safe, there is no denying the visibility of traditional metal amalgam fillings. The shiny distraction that interrupts your smile causes some people to smile less often, or not at all. Over time, the metal used as filling material can become discolored, appearing black instead of shiny silver. Our composite resin is custom tinted to match the color of your teeth, so only you and Dr. Hawks know that you’ve had a filling placed, even when you smile wide. (more…)

West Des Moines Dentist Warns: Summer Drinks Destroy Teeth

July is one of the hottest months of the summer, and hardly a minute passes outside before you long to quench your thirst. In the spirit of summer, your first choice for refreshment is most likely a tall, ice cold glass of sweet tea or lemonade, or perhaps a slushy from the gas station just down the street. As the thought of the cold condensation dripping down the sides of the cup reaches you, you may not worry about what’s in those beverages and how they may affect your oral health. If you’re reading this, your thirst must be manageable for the moment, so take a minute and learn what summer drinks to your oral health, and what Dr. James Hawks recommends for tooth friendly refreshment this summer.

Such Sweet Sorrow

Iced tea and lemonade are staples of an American summer vacation. They cannot be that bad for you, can they? Well, 90% of American adults have had at least one cavity in their adult set of teeth, and over half of all children have had cavities in their primary teeth. Contrary to popular belief, sugar is not the culprit behind tooth decay. Not directly, at least. Bacteria constantly group together and form biofilms of plaque that coat the inside of your mouth. When bacterial plaque, mainly Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans), digests the sugars and carbohydrates in the foods that you eat, the bacteria metabolize and excrete lactic acid over the surface of your teeth. This acid eats away at your enamel until tiny holes form, where the bacteria can rest safe from your toothbrush and continue to erode your enamel. Lemonade has the added danger of excessive amounts of acid, which bypass the metabolization process and proceed straight into attack. Water and milk are excellent refreshment sources for their lack of sugar and because they provide additional protection to your teeth by supplying minerals and neutralizing acids. (more…)

The Basics of Oral Health Care with West Des Moines Dentist

How well do you take care of your mouth? You probably can recite by heart the admonition to brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss at least once, and visit your dentist at least every six months. Besides the common sense of maintaining a healthy mouth, do you know the importance of each of these steps in your oral hygiene routine? To keep your oral health fresh in your mind, Dr. James Hawks revisits the basics of dental hygiene.

Brushing Your Teeth

Bacteria and bacterial plaque do not stop accumulating in your mouth when you brush your teeth, or ever for that matter. Rather than making brushing your teeth pointless, the microbes’ constant presence actually makes brushing more important. If plaque is allowed to remain for more than 48 hours, it calcifies (hardens) into tartar, an insoluble substance that requires professional dental cleaning to remove. By brushing your teeth twice a day, you increase your chances of clearing the plaque from your mouth before it hardens. Flossing can reach the plaque in the crevices between your teeth that your toothbrush can’t reach. (more…)