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Where can I get discounted dental treatment? And is it worth it?

Do you know where I can get discounted dental care? I don’t have dental insurance and I’m wondering if there are any dental schools that need patients to practice on. I’ve heard I can get affordable dental treatment if I visit a dental school, but I don’t know how to apply. I’m also a little worried about the quality of the care I’ll get. What if something goes wrong?

—Sam from Washington

Hello Sam,

You’re not alone. Many people who feel that they can’t afford professional dental treatment seek out discounted care at dental schools. Rest assured, you can indeed get high-quality treatment at an accredited dental program. The only caveat is that your treatment will take much more time than if it were provided in a private dental practice. This is because the students need to take their time while they learn and work, and then more time is needed for their instructors to check the work. But the fact that all treatment is supervised by experienced instructors means that you won’t have to worry that something will go wrong.

On that account, getting discounted dental care at a local dental school is preferable to seeking cheap treatment from a “discount” dentist.

If you don’t mind spending up to an hour and a half in a dental chair to get a single filling done, then it might be worth the reduced cost for you to get your treatment at a dental school.

All you have to do to get started is Google accredited dental programs in cities near you, contact the ones listed, and ask how you can join their patient base.

You can visit a dental program for treatment like orthodontics, as that is an accredited branch of specialty dental care. But if you’re interested in making cosmetic enhancements to your smile, then you’re better off saving up to visit a cosmetic dentist for the real deal, since dental school programs place more emphasis on function than esthetics.

This post has been published on behalf of Dr. Heng Lim, an Owasso dentist with advanced training in orthodontic treatment alternatives.

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Is it necessary to rinse before a hygiene appointment?

I recently had a dental cleaning, and it was my first one since the COVID pandemic started. I know I’m long overdue, but I was surprised at how many things had changed since I last stepped foot in a dental office.

For example, the hygienist had me rinse with a little hydrogen peroxide at the start of the appointment. I don’t remember ever doing that before.

When I asked the hygienist about it, she said that she’s always asked her patients to rinse before starting the cleaning, even before the pandemic. She said this can help prevent viruses from spreading.

Is this true?

Thanks in advance for your answer.

— Christine from Alpharetta, GA

Hi Christine,

Yes, it’s true that rinsing with an antimicrobial agent before a dental cleaning can prevent the spread of viruses inside a dental practice.

The concern here is aerosol generation. Aerosols are microscopic droplets of water that are generated in a vapor during certain dental procedures. These droplets can suspend viruses in the air for several hours, transporting them around the entire office where they can be inhaled by others.

As dental professionals work in the mouth, they’ve always been concerned with preventing aerosol generation, but it’s become even more critical in the wake of the pandemic.

Here are some of the ways dental offices have been trying to limit aerosol generation and exposure to aerosols in recent times:

  • High-volume suction equipment
  • Special face shields
  • Treatment area barriers
  • Enhanced ventilation systems
  • Pre-procedural antimicrobial rinses

We’re here today to talk about that last point: pre-procedural rinses.

These rinses help control aerosols by making the droplets released less infectious. A rinse with hydrogen peroxide temporarily lowers the amount of harmful virus that may be present in the patient’s mouth. This means that when aerosols are generated during the appointment (such as when the hygienist uses an ultrasonic scaler), these vapors are less likely to transmit the virus to others in the practice.

The result is a safer environment for the care providers and for other patients in the practice.

In years past, it may not have been standard practice to require patients to rinse before a dental cleaning. But the practice has become more popular in dental hygiene programs of late, so you’re now more likely to meet a hygienist who asks you to rinse at the start of the appointment.

Of course, in view of the ongoing pandemic, it’s likely that this simple practice won’t be going away soon. In fact, it’s becoming mandatory in more dental practices across the country.

This post has been published on behalf of Owasso dentist Dr. Heng Lim.

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I think my dentist damaged my dental bridge while adjusting my bite, and now the metal underneath is showing.

I’ve had a porcelain-covered metal bridge in my mouth for more than two decades. I grind my teeth a lot and while I know I should wear a mouth guard, I simply can’t afford one right now. Even so, my teeth grinding has never caused any damage to my bridge.

I had to get a couple of new crowns placed by my dentist last week and the fit wasn’t quite right, so my dentist had to make some adjustments to my bite. He said he had to adjust the surface of my porcelain-covered bridge, too. My bite felt better, but I noticed the next day that there’s now a little spot of metal showing through on the biting surface of my bridge where before it was smooth porcelain.

When I went back to my dentist to show him, he blamed the damage on my teeth grinding and covered the spot with some white filling material (which came right off later in the day).

I haven’t had a single issue with this bridge in more than 20 years. I refuse to believe that grinding my teeth caused this damage overnight, but my dentist won’t admit that he had anything to do with it.

What can I do?

Thanks,

— Jenny from Worcester, MA

Hi Jenny,

It sounds like you’re right, Jenny: your teeth grinding did not cause damage to your bridge overnight, and it’s highly likely that your dentist removing some porcelain from your bridge had something to do with this. This is an understandable and fairly common error that many dentists make when they are trying to adjust a bite.

Your dentist wouldn’t have removed the porcelain clear through to the underlying metal, but he thinned it out to the point that when you ground your teeth that night, it finished the job. Your dentist probably doesn’t want to admit that he contributed to this damage because he could become responsible for replacing your bridge.

It can be difficult to repair a bridge with this kind of damage, but it’s not impossible. As you’ve already discovered, a little white filling isn’t going to stay on very well, but there are other techniques a skilled cosmetic dentist can use to try to restore your bridge.

You may have a hard time getting your current dentist to repair or replace the bridge, however, if he’s convinced he didn’t have anything to do with damaging it in the first place.

So what you can do is visit a new dentist for a second opinion. This new dentist can take an objective look at your bridge and tell you whether it shows signs of being ground down too far by a dental drill. If the porcelain on your bridge was not compromised, then there won’t be a mark when the dentist gently draws a metal explorer across it. But if the porcelain was drilled away by a dentist, then the metal explorer will leave a mark on the surface.

When you have your “evidence,” you can go back to your original dentist, explain the findings, and ask him politely to help you repair your bridge. And if you feel that your current dentist is not taking your concerns seriously, then it could be time to search for a new one.

You can also avoid this issue in the future by choosing to restore damaged teeth with metal-free dental crowns and bridges.

This post has been published on behalf of Dr. Heng Lim, an Owasso dentist with extensive experience in creating balanced bites.

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Persistent bad breath no matter how much I brush.

A woman covers her mouth with her hand in embarrassment due to bad breath. A dentist can help her have fresher breath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have an embarrassing and frustrating problem. Even though I brush my teeth every day, my breath still smells terrible. I’ve noticed that people will lean away from me and turn their heads to the side when I’m talking to them, so I know my bad breath has reached the point that it’s affecting my social life.

Do you have any suggestions about what I can do?

– Karen from Albany, NY

Dear Karen,

Having persistent bad breath can be quite a distressing problem, as it can take a toll on your relationships and social interactions.

There are two things you can do to try to resolve your issue and improve your quality of life.

Step #1: Improve Your Oral Hygiene

Start by taking a look at your oral hygiene routine. You may be brushing once or even twice a day, but that may not be enough to keep up with the bad breath-causing bacteria.

Mouth odors are often caused by vapors released by the bacteria that make up dental plaque. This soft film of germs can grow on many surfaces of your mouth, including your teeth and tongue. Try flossing your teeth and then cleaning your tongue with a tongue cleaner. Doing so will remove a significant amount of the plaque bacteria that could be releasing foul odors.

You may also find it helpful to incorporate an antimicrobial mouthwash into your daily routine. Used several minutes after brushing, a mouth rinse can reduce the levels of residual bacteria in your mouth and keep your breath fresher between brushings.

Step #2: See a Dentist

If you find that improving your oral hygiene doesn’t freshen your breath, then the second thing you can do is visit a dentist.

A dentist can:

  • Recommend or even prescribe powerful oral hygiene products that can improve your breath
  • Detect and diagnose underlying oral health problems that may be causing bad breath
  • Provide you with treatment for gum disease and other oral and dental infections that often cause bad breath

It may simply be that you are due for a dental checkup, and there’s no one better qualified than a dentist to help you get rid of bad breath!

This post has been published on behalf of Owasso dentist Dr. Heng Lim.

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