Check out these mini infographics, which help explain the current state of oral health in the US. [Click images for larger versions.]

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Baking soda and water.

Add a teaspoon of either baking soda or sea salt to a cup of water, gargle and spit, and then rinse with clean water.

Have you run out of a basic oral hygiene product? No problem.

There are a number of fairly common household items that can stand in for your favorite toothpaste or dental floss until you can make it to the store.

Here are a few time-tested tips and tricks for making do with what you (probably) have on hand the next time you run out of dental care basics or – bummer! – your 2 year old accidentally drops your toothbrush into the john.

Oral care without a toothbrush:

  • Use your finger: place a dab of toothpaste on your pointer finger and rub all the surfaces of your teeth
  • Try a wash cloth: Wrap a terry wash cloth around a fingertip, apply paste, and use the improvised brush to brush as normal
  • Chew sugar free gum: Chewing sugar free gum when you can’t brush can help to reduce plaque and prevent cavities

Oral care without toothpaste:

  • Do without: use your toothbrush dry or with a little water to brush as you normally would
  • Use baking soda or sea salt: dampen the bristles of the toothbrush and dip them into a shallow dish of either baking soda, sea salt or a mixture of both, and go to it – Gently!
  • Use coconut oil: place a small amount of coconut oil (which recent studies suggest can help fight tooth decay) on your toothbrush and brush as usual

Oral care without floss:

  • Try a toothpick: while a toothpick is certainly not the recommended method for cleaning between teeth, it’s still better than nothing when there’s no floss on hand
  • Use a length of sewing thread: gently draw the thread between your teeth as you would with dental floss, but be careful that it does not snap up against the gum too aggressively
  • Use a piece of paper: while not really workable for cleaning all your teeth, a piece of paper may help to dislodge articles between front teeth when dental floss or another interdental device is unavailable: careful though – paper can cut

 Oral care without mouthwash:

  • Make a baking soda or sea salt rinse: add a teaspoon of either baking soda or sea salt to a cup of water, gargle and spit, and then rinse with clean water
  • Try vinegar: like salt, vinegar is one of the most ancient of mouthwash ingredients; simply gargle, spit, and rinse
  • Raid the liquor cabinet: in a pinch, an alcoholic beverage such as vodka or brandy can be used as an effective oral rinse

Don’t put off replacing basic oral hygiene products

Of course, none of the tips and tricks above are meant to be permanent replacements for dentist-approved oral care products. However, the next time you forget to pack a toothbrush or discover there are only 2 inches of dental floss left, at least you’ll have some ideas to help you get by.

And here’s a final tip – stock up on the items you use, and you’ll never have to try any of the tips in this post.

So, what do you use when you run out of an oral hygiene product?

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You can break, chip, or fracture a tooth in both dramatic and mundane ways. The damage may be the result of an extreme sports mishap, or it could just as easily happen while crunching contentedly on ice. Spectators and athletes are both at risk.

Fortunately, modern dentists know how to deal with this common, sometimes uncommonly painful, problem. From filling and bonding to crowns, veneers, and root canals, your dentist has a full arsenal of possible responses ready to deploy in your defense.

Chipped tooth repair

How a dentist repairs a chipped or broken tooth depends on how bad the damage is. The length of time she’ll need to make a thorough repair also varies based on the injury. In cases with only minor harm, repair may be done in just one office visit. Injuries that are more extensive may mean more than one visit, though.

Here’s a brief overview of the chief ways your dentist may fix a chipped, fractured, or broken tooth:

Filling                     

Most people think of a filling as work that’s done to repair tooth decay. While that is often the case, when a small amount of tooth is lost, a filling may be used to rebuild the tooth to its original shape.

…when a small amount of tooth is lost, a filling may be used to rebuild the tooth to its original shape…

Fillings most often require only one trip to the dentist. Depending on the site of the tooth and other factors, the dentist will use either an amalgam (metallic looking) or a composite (white to match the tooth surface) filling. When it hardens, the filling helps to support the rest of the tooth.

Bonding

Bonding is a type of work in which a dentist applies a special plastic resin that is matched to the damaged tooth’s natural color. The resin is first applied to the tooth and sculpted. Then, it’s “cured” using a unique ultraviolet light or laser, which bonds the resin to the tooth.

Compared to veneers and crowns, which involve time-consuming and more costly lab work, bonding is relatively easy and inexpensive. The bonding procedure can most often be done in under an hour.

Dental Veneers

A cosmetic dentistry fix, dental veneers are shells of porcelain or resin composite material tailored to cover problem areas. This type of repair typically blends in with existing teeth.

Veneers are considered stronger and more natural looking than bonding. The procedure results in less removal of the original tooth than is required for crowns, but may take as many as three trips to the dentist.

Crowns

Close up of a dental technician

Some repairs involve a multi-step process.

Dental crowns (or “caps”) are used to stabilize and maintain the normal look of a tooth. A crown provides a protective layer and allows the repaired tooth to resume normal functioning. They are most often used when a tooth has been damaged so much that a dental filling would not work.

Crowns involve a multi-step procedure. First, a temporary crown is placed over the tooth while the permanent crown is made. When the permanent crown is ready, the dentist extracts the temporary crown and cements the permanent one in place. The permanent crown may need to be altered to provide a comfortable fit, and that may mean a third visit to the dentist.

Root Canal

When tooth damage leads to an infection or inflammation of the pulp, a “root canal” may be called for. Root canals may be done by a dentist or by a dental specialist called an endodontist.

A crown provides a protective layer and allows the repaired tooth to resume normal functioning.

This work begins with the extraction of the damaged tooth’s pulp. Next, the tooth is cleaned and shaped, and the root canal is sealed. After root canal work, the dentist may attach a crown or perform another type of restoration to the treated tooth.

To learn more about these and other dental terms and procedures, visit the Online Resources area.

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Educational and Licensing Requirements for Dentists in the US

: How 5 hurdles and a marathon help keep your dentist on her toes...   

What, you may well ask, are the minimum requirements for someone to stick their mitts in your mouth? Well, like so many things, it depends on whom you ask. But if you ask the US government, you’ll discover the educational and licensing requirements for US dentists are far from minimal, indeed.

A degree from an accredited dental school is only the first hurdle.

Training in US dental schools

Dentists face educational hurdles.

The educational and licensing requirements for US dentists are far from minimal. A degree from an accredited dental school is only the first hurdle.

Before they can get into dental school, candidates must have at least three years of undergraduate education. Still, most dental schools in the US actually require applicants to have earned their BA.

Once they make it through the doors, future dentists find that dental schools are set up very much like medical schools. The academic program takes four years to complete. Students divide their time between courses that cover medical science, dental science, and hands-on, clinical training. No student graduates from a US dental school without passing the two-part National Board Dental Exam known as the NBDE I and II.

As is true in a number of countries around the world, including Japan, Sweden, and Canada, the US defines a dentist as a healthcare pro who has graduated from an accredited dental school with one of two degrees. These are the Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) and Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degrees. They’re just two out of a long list of dentistry degrees that exist around the world.

Dental Degrees: What’s the difference between the DMD and DDS?

How is a DMD different than a DDS degree? The simple answer is, the two are the same. Except for the slightly different names, the degrees are functionally equal, according to the American Dental Association. That said, more schools do use the DDS name.

Even more requirements…

More hurdles ahead? You bet there are.

…before anyone with a dental degree can practice general dentistry in the US, they must also pass a licensing exam…

You may think spending most of a decade to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees would be enough. Yet, before anyone with a dental degree can practice general dentistry in the US, they must also pass a licensing exam. Some states administer their own licensing exams, but in general, this is done by one of five regional testing agencies.

And they aren’t through yet…

With a successful licensing exam behind them, dentists must still apply to the states they plan to work in. What’s more, they must pass a state’s ethics exam before they can set up their practice.

Lastly, all dentists must complete a number of Continuing Dental Education (CDE) courses each year so they can keep their license. The specific number of courses varies by state.

Five Hurdles and a Marathon

Undergraduate and graduate degrees? Check. The two-part National Board Dental Exam? Check. Federal and state licensing? Check. Devoting even more time to staying up to date, year after year? Check. That’s five major hurdles and a lifetime learning marathon still ahead.

…seems like just about the right number of hurdles…

Hmmm…come to think of it, that seems like just about the right number of hurdles for someone to clear before you should let them put their hands on your pearly whites.

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Look good and feel good with dental bridges.

Dental bridges don’t just help you look your best. They help you feel your best, too.

There are good reasons why people get dental bridges, or “fixed partial dentures.” When a dentist replaces a tooth or teeth with a bridge, she mends not only your smile but also your health.

If gaps between teeth are not filled in, or “bridged,” your face can lose its natural shape. Chewing with teeth missing can cause the force of your bite to be misdirected, too. This can make the teeth above or below the gap start to “erupt” or drift out of position. That, in turn, can make it hard to chew and speak.

So you see, a bridge does not just fill a gap: it can help you look your best, speak properly, chew correctly, and even digest food better.

Three types of dental bridges

At their most basic, bridges have three parts. First, there are the two crowns that go on the two teeth on each side of the gap. Next, there is the false tooth or teeth that fill the gap. Dental pros call these false teeth “pontics.” A pontic can be made from many materials such as gold or metal alloys, ceramics, porcelain, or some mix of these.

Bridges come in three main types. The basic type described above is called “traditional.” This type is the most common. In most cases, they are made of ceramic or porcelain fused to metal.

When there are no teeth on one side of the gap, a “cantilever” bridge may be used. This type is held in place by a brace on just one side of the gap.

When the gap to be bridged is in the front of the mouth, a “Maryland bonded bridge” may be used. This type may be called a “resin-bonded bridge.” It is made of plastic held in place by a metal frame that is bonded to the teeth on each side.

Dental pros make the three main types of bridges outside the mouth. Then, they place them in the mouth when done. They call this the indirect method. In some cases, though, dentists have been known to build a bridge inside a patient’s mouth using composite resin.

How are dental bridges made?

Your dentist will complete a dental restoration with a bridge in several steps. She does this over the course of several visits. First, the teeth that anchor both ends of the bridge must be prepared. These must be reduced in size a bit and re-shaped for the crowns to fit over them. How much the anchor teeth need to be changed depends on the type of material that will be used for the bridge.

During the same visit, your dentist will make a mold of your teeth. The dental lab will use this to make your bridge. You’ll receive a temporary bridge, too, which will help protect you while the lab does its work.

Even if everything feels perfect to you, your dentist may only temporarily cement the bridge in place for the first few weeks until she is certain it fits as it should.

At the next visit, your dentist will remove your temporary bridge. She will also check the fit of your permanent bridge and make adjustments as needed. She may send the bridge back to the lab to make sure it fits right. Even if everything feels perfect to you, your dentist may only temporarily cement the bridge in place for the first few weeks until she is certain it fits as it should.

How to care for your new dental bridge

A lot of work goes into a dental bridge. After the dust has cleared (okay – there is not really going to be any dust…), proper care is a must to protect your investment and keep your teeth healthy.

Home dental care with a bridge is not really that much different than without a bridge. Your new bridge will depend on the strength of surrounding teeth to remain workable. That means it’s as important as ever to brush and floss correctly and regularly. This will help you prevent gum disease or tooth decay in the teeth you still have.

It may be a little tricky to brush and floss with a bridge, but your dentist or dental hygienist will be happy to show you the best way to keep your smile dazzling.

Do you already have a dental bridge? How has it changed your life for the better? Let us know in the comment section below!

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To learn about other dental technologies, be sure to check out our resources section.