Sealants? Why not?!

smiling patientIf someone told you if you painted sealer on your home deck you could increase the deck life by 80%, would you do it? That’s basically the same mentality with dental sealants. Dental Sealants have been around for many years and quite honestly provide a service that is paramount to the longevity and avoidance of cavities.

What is a dental sealant?

First maybe we should explain the anatomy of the tooth. As you may have noticed when looking at your teeth in a mirror, you can see grooves throughout your tooth. These fissures or grooves allow for us to break down food more efficiently. Because these grooves and fissures are so profound, it is easy to get microscopic portions of food trapped in these grooves, and if not brushed out on a daily basis, the acid produced from carbohydrates sits in these grooves and eventually eats away at the enamel thus causing decay.

So, why a sealant?

sealantsHere’s why and what a sealant is and does: A sealant is a liquid clear plastic filling material similar to a composite (tooth colored filling). When cured with a high intensity UV light, the material hardens in the grooves. There are a couple basic steps that are involved when placing a sealant. The tooth must be cleaned with a pumice material, then washed off, and then an acid etch is placed for 20 seconds to assist with drying and cleaning the tooth even further and prepares for the bonding stage of the procedure. Bonding material is lightly placed on the tooth and then light cured. After curing, the sealant material is placed in the grooves and also light cured until hard. This thin layer of composite will help your teeth from getting decay. However, this doesn’t mean you will not brush your teeth anymore, because brushing is still preventive measure that needs be taken so sugars do not sit on the areas of your teeth the sealants do not cover. Keep in mind as well, sealants do not last forever! We’ve seen some sealants last up to 5 years but the real number is between 1-5 years given there is no preparation to the tooth to mechanically retain a sealant, other than the bonding process.

Honestly, everyone can benefit from sealants; they are not limited to children but adults also have sealants placed. If you have teeth that have never had any fillings, even as an adult it could be beneficial to have sealants. Any extra protection helps! Even though Sealants can last up to 5 years there is no guarantee with wear and tear over time how long sealants can effectively last, but even if they lasted just a couple of years, that is two years of effective protection and cavity fighting power!


Oral Cancer, The Silent Threat

“The American Cancer Society’s current estimates for oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers in the United States for 2013 are”:

  • About 36,000 people will get oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer.
  • An estimated 6,850 people will die of these cancers.

During your bi-annual cleanings, our hygienists perform a preliminary oral cancer screening and Dr. Yarbrough performs a full oral cancer screening during his exams on all our patients. This may appear as a redundant practice, but it is our job to manage, capture and understand your oral health and part of that is by being aware of the potential of oral cancer threats. During an oral cancer screening we can gather precise information to assist us in discovering early onset of oral lesions on the roof of the mouth, tongue, throat and gum tissues.

By performing these thorough checks during your cleanings we are able discover minor growths that are simply detachable in their early stages, in most cases. However, when regular examination are prolonged and not performed two times per year it is quite possible that if a growth begins forming it without being diagnosed, it could potentially progress into a silent threat to the oral cavity as a whole. Typically in the early stages of these growths they are challenging to be seen by the unaided eye, hence the importance of performing a thorough oral cancer screening by a dental professional. By using instruments and telescopic loops, we are capable of seeing tissues up close and can find abnormalities very quickly, usually.

In addition to our traditional methods and regular instruments for monitoring oral cancer, we also use a Velscope to assist us in the early detection of Oral Cancer. This astounding technology allows us to detect abnormal tissue structures by using a “distinctive blue-spectrum light which causes the soft tissues of the mouth to naturally fluoresce”. Healthy tissues “fluoresce in distinctive patterns — patterns that are visibly disrupted by trauma or disease”. The Velscope allows us to see irregular tissue patterns that we would have otherwise not have seen with the unassisted eye. The Velscope is non-invasive, safe, quick, and precise tool. This light is a potentially lifesaving instrument that can help us detect the early onset of Oral Cancer.

Oral Cancer is a silent threat because it usually does not become painful and extremely apparent to the naked until it is too late. Undetected it can cause extenuating damage to the oral cavity and potentially throughout the body. Once diagnosed, Oral Cancer has the potential to spread to the larynx, esophagus and lungs. If detected early on, there are several methods of treatment, removal and other procedures to help procure the longevity of the overall health of the oral cavity and body. Preventative medicine is always your best bet, by seeing your dental professional twice a year with a periodic examination, Oral Cancer can most of the time be identified during a treatable stage!

Here is a YouTube video explaining how the Velscope works:

Thought You Knew Everything About Brushing Your Teeth? Think Again!

Recently, we received a question from a patient, they asked:

“Does it promote cavities (or wear enamel) to eat acidic food like tomatoes and then brush your teeth shortly after?”


tooth-imageEXPLANATION: This is an interesting question that I feel like will benefit the vast majority of readers that come across it. If you ask most people when the best time to brush their teeth was, the answer you would hear over and over would be “after meals and right before bed.” WRONG. Another common answer would be “after breakfast and before bed”. Again I would argue, you guessed it, WRONG. I know this is hard to believe, because it flies in the face of what the majority of people have either been taught or assumed their entire lives. So when is the RIGHT time to brush your teeth? BEFORE MEALS!! I know this seems backwards, but that is because people either have no understanding or don’t fully grasp two main concepts: A) What causes cavities and even more surprising B) why do we brush in the first place? By answering these two questions first, we’ll be able to better wrap our heads around the logic.

Cavities are essentially caused by ACID destruction of tooth structure. Two primary factors contribute to this.
1) Acidic foods and beverages can weaken enamel and dentin. Things like soda and sweet tea are a double whammy since they are both acidic and also feed the bacteria to produce more acid.
2) Certain bacteria, specifically Strep mutans, digest sucrose (sugar) and other fermentable carbohydrates producing acid as a byproduct.

Common sense tells us that we should brush to get the food off of our teeth, right? Wrong. We brush our teeth specifically to remove plaque and bacteria from our teeth. Food and debris removal is just an added bonus so we don’t get made fun of for having that little piece of green leafy something stuck on our front tooth…you know what I’m talking about.

SO…….If we brush AFTER meals, our teeth have plaque/bacteria on them when we eat or drink. This means that our teeth are being attacked not only by the natural acidity of what we’re ingesting, but also from the acid produced by the bacteria. It only takes 5 minutes for these bacteria to start creating acid. In contrast, it takes 30 minutes for your body to regulate the acidity caused by these processes back to a neutral environment. By the time you brush your teeth, it’s too late. In addition, if you brush your teeth following this acid exposure (especially with abrasive toothpaste and/or a hard toothbrush), the tooth structure is going to be more susceptible to mechanical abrasion or erosion. If we brush BEFORE meals, the plaque and bacteria are decreased, limiting the amount of acid that can potentially harm our teeth.

SUMMARY: It’s best to brush first thing in the morning BEFORE breakfast and again after work, but BEFORE dinner. It’s still good to brush before bed, but just make sure it has been at least 30 minutes since you last ate or had your favorite carbonated beverage!

Read More At: under the FAQ tab!

Why It Is Wise To Remove Your Wisdom Teeth…

Wisdom TeethYou’ve heard it all before, wisdom teeth, those lovely extra teeth that 65% of us have been anatomically cursed with. Have you ever asked yourself, dentist, or dental professional why it is necessary to have your wisdom teeth removed?  To start with, there is a bit of irony involved with the coined phrase “wisdom teeth“, because having them doesn’t necessarily make you any wiser and it certainly doesn’t always give you superhuman chewing power either.

Wisdom teeth are dental phenomenons which are characteristically unusable because of how the body has allowed them to erupt or not erupt for that matter.  Wisdom teeth usually “grow in” sideways which makes them invisible to the human eye that is until they decide to shove on your existing teeth or partially erupt through the gums occasionally resulting in complications large or small. So let’s discuss the different scenarios for wisdom teeth andwhy these necessitate removal.

Impacted/Partially Impacted

Impacted Wisdom Teeth are exactly just that, (ie. wedged, compressed, crammed).  Which means when these teeth are growing in the jawbone they are literally growing under the gums and are hooked into the mandible/jawbone, and most times are invisible to the human eye.  It isn’t until the wisdom teeth begin to push on your existing teeth creating pockets where bacteria begins to live and breed.  What does this mean exactly? Well, because of the peculiar station of the impacted teeth, a pocket can form behind the normal tooth and in front of the impacted wisdom tooth. As a result, bacteria nests in this small pocket and eventually creates decay and issues with the normal tooth, which we call the innocent bystander,  this tooth is unrelated to the wisdom tooth. Destroying existing healthy teeth is never an option and there is nothing that can stop this from occurring other than removing the source of insult, which is the wisdom tooth itself. There is no home-care that will keep this area free and clear of bacteria as this seeps into the sub gingiva region, below the gums and wreaks havoc.  In some rare cases, where the wisdom teeth are so vastly impacted, and there is no threat of a bacteria pocket forming, removing them can actually create more harm than good, and because of that severe impaction, the pocket is incapable of forming.  7 times out of 10, the best option is to remove these impacted wisdom teeth before they begin to do harm to the existing erupted “innocent bystanding” teeth.


Erupted wisdom teeth are wisdom teeth that have fully grown out of the jaw bone and through the gums like normal teeth, which makes these this situation a double edged sword. These particular teeth in general can be fully functional or dysfunctional, depending on the state. What makes these teeth dysfunctional? Erupted wisdom teeth have a higher likelihood of getting decay and caries due to their position and because they are so far back in the mouth they become more difficult to treat and access with a toothbrush and/or floss.  The functional aspect is this, if you have erupted wisdom teeth and are able to brush and floss 2-3 x’s daily then you are highly more capable of a successful situation in keeping your wisdom, which means, more chewing power! However, these occurrences are rare. In addition to this, the older we are the harder our bone becomes which can also create issues for us down the road for removal. We always suggest to have these removed when patients are young given that the jawbone hasn’t fully grown which makes the removal easier at this time and easier on the patient.

The bottom line with wisdom teeth is this, if you have them and can use them then clean them, more than you normally would! Always consult with your dentist with advice about what is the best possible solution and situation for the removal of your wisdom teeth.  As I mentioned, sometimes you can keep your wisdom teeth without ever having to remove them, but it takes a special condition for this to happen.  Sometimes, removing your wisdom teeth is the best long term solution overall, due to the inability to keep these teeth clean and free of bacteria in addition to the difficulty of treating these teeth with fillings, crowns and/or root canals because of their location. It is never advised in any situation, to never wait until it hurts, because this will only prolong the inevitability of the removal and removal of wisdom teeth without infection are far easier in the long run than with infection.

The Importance of Dental X-Rays

Westgate Family Dental

x-rayHave you ever wondered why we take dental x-rays once a year? Sometimes the response from patients is they think that it isn’t pertinent or do not want to get exposed to radiation. At Westgate Family Dental we want to set up our patients with success and manageable oral health that doesn’t turn into expensive dentistry. This all starts with frequency. And with frequency we mean, cleanings every 6 months, exam 2 x’s a year and x-rays 1 x year. This sometimes seems like a lot, but look at as an investment into your oral health. And here’s why…

For starters we use digital sensor x-ray technology which is proven to be the safest and smallest form of radiation. Meaning, there is a 70% decrease in exposure to radiation than tradition x-ray films. On top of that, you receive more exposure to radiation from the being in the sun for…

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Don’t Just Brush, Brush Well!

Tooth and ToothbrushEveryone understands the importance of brushing their teeth twice a day, but I find that many people underestimate the emphasis of brushing their gums as well. Although you cannot get cavities in your gums, they can harbor and accumulate plaque, thus creating bacteria that cause bad breath and gingivitis.

The most vital part of your gums that need to be brushed is around your teeth. The reason for this specifically is because this is where bacteria have direct access to your bloodstream. When brushing your teeth, point the bristles at a 45° angle towards the gum-line and use small circular motions, while focusing on feeling the bristles on the teeth AND the gums. This will sweep the bristles up underneath the gum-line to effectively remove more plaque. Your gums are living tissues that hold your teeth in place, so don’t forget to brush them well!