Our Blog

Dental Veneers

December 10th, 2019

Are you looking to improve the appearance of your front teeth? Dental veneers are widely used to improve the appearance of front teeth and are a much more conservative option than a full dental crown. Veneers can be used to improve the appearance of staining, large gaps, large fillings, chipped teeth, or overall shape. Veneers are a thin covering over the front and biting end of the tooth used to restore the beauty of a smile. Over the years we have helped many patients who opted for veneers and now have the confidence to smile again.

Dental veneers are made in a lab from long-lasting porcelain materials. The shade can be chosen to a desirable color to whiten the appearance of your smile. Dental veneers are usually placed on the anterior, or front teeth, where the chewing forces are not as hard as the back teeth. The process of placing veneers is relatively easy requiring only two dental appointments. In some cases, only one appointment is needed. It depends on the fabrication process.

The first appointment is to “prep” the teeth and take an impression to be sent to a lab to fabricate the veneers. Veneers are fairly conservative in the preparation as it requires a small amount of space to be created on the face (front), bottom, and sides of each tooth to allow space for the veneer to be placed and look natural. You will leave the office with temporary veneers for the next week or two while the permanent veneers are being made.

The second appointment is to place the veneers and make minor adjustments if needed. What a difference it makes in the appearance of the teeth! If you’re interested in learning more, give Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega a call today!

Safety of Dental X-Ray Radiation

December 4th, 2019

We all want to live our healthiest lives. We know that part of keeping ourselves healthy is regular visits to our Poolesville and Rockville MD office for checkups and necessary dental work. And that dental work might require an X-ray. Should the amount of radiation in an X-ray concern us?

First, it is helpful to know that the radiation you are exposed to from a dental X-ray is very small. A set of most bitewing X-rays, for example, produces an amount of exposure about equal to the amount of background radiation we get from our normal surroundings in a typical day. We also take care to minimize your exposure even further by using specially designed equipment and protective shielding, and taking only necessary X-rays. If your child is very young, if you are pregnant, or if you have other health concerns, talk to us about the advisability of X-rays and whether they are essential to treatment.

Second, much of our careful general examination will be done visually. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega can check for cavities and other problems and assess tooth and gum health. But sometimes, there are conditions which can’t be detected without an X-ray.

  • Decay that isn’t visible in an oral exam—if a small cavity develops between teeth, or is hidden underneath a filling, an X-ray will catch it before more damage can take place.
  • Infection—An X-ray will reveal infections such as abscesses that can damage both bone and tooth, and gum disease that has harmed bone and connective tissue.
  • Orthodontic and periodontal issues—We might need an X-ray to determine the spacing and development of your child’s incoming teeth and maturing jaw structure, to properly create braces for adults or children, or to place an implant within the jawbone.
  • If you are a new patient, it is helpful to have complete X-rays taken as a baseline of your current dental health and previous dental work. This baseline allows us to track tooth and jaw development, if necessary, and to evaluate any future changes that might be a concern. (If you have had X-rays taken in another office, we can help you have them transferred so we have a background of your dental history.)

Even though the radiation from a dental X-ray is minimal, be assured that we will never request any unnecessary procedure. When we recommend an X-ray, we do so to make sure there is no decay or infection threatening the health of your gums and teeth, and that we have the essential knowledge we need to treat any dental, periodontal, or orthodontic condition. Because we all want to live our healthiest lives—and part of that healthy life is both active and proactive dental care.

What Are Chalky Teeth?

December 3rd, 2019

You’ve always taken care of your child’s smile. You make sure thorough brushing and flossing take place twice a day. You serve foods high in vitamins and minerals and low in sugar. You make and keep regular dental appointments at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office. But even with the best dental routines, sometimes conditions can occur that will require additional professional care.

One of these conditions can affect your child’s enamel while the tooth is still forming. When baby teeth or adult teeth appear, you might notice white, creamy yellow, or brown spots in otherwise healthy-looking enamel. These spots are softer and rougher than normal hard, smooth enamel. Because of their texture and color, such teeth are often referred to as “chalky teeth,” but this condition is actually known as enamel hypomineralization.

What is hypomineralization?

Enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies—stronger even than bones. Enamel is largely composed of minerals. If something disrupts the process of enamel development in baby or adult teeth, the result can be abnormally low mineral content in the enamel. This leaves teeth weaker and more likely to suffer decay and damage.

Premature birth, low birth weight, and other pre-natal factors have been suggested as risk factors for hypomineralization in primary teeth enamel. Permanent teeth can be vulnerable to this condition as well. Adult teeth are forming in young children well before they make an appearance. It’s been suggested that certain early childhood factors, such as recurring high fevers, some diseases, even specific antibiotics, can interrupt the formation of the enamel and lead to hypomineralization of adult teeth.

What are the results of enamel hypomineralization?

Children with this condition are much more likely to experience rapid tooth decay because of their weaker, more porous enamel, especially in the molars. Further, they tend not to respond as well to the numbing effects of local dental anesthetics, while their teeth tend to be more sensitive to pain. Cases can be mild, moderate, or severe. In severe cases, teeth might require crowns or possibly extractions, but even mild discoloration and other cosmetic problems can lead to self-consciousness in your child.

How can we help?

Catching this condition early is very important. If your child has had any medical conditions that might affect tooth development, let Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega know even before that first tooth comes in. If you notice anything unusual about a new baby or adult tooth, give us a call. For primary or permanent teeth, the sooner we can begin treatment, the better the long-term outlook.

We might suggest fluoride applications or desensitizing treatments. We can apply sealants to reduce the risk of cavities, and use bonding to restore discolored or weak patches in the tooth. Both of these methods have greater success if the enamel near the affected area is in good condition, so early treatment is vital. If teeth require more protection, crowns are often the best choice. We will design a treatment program to suit your child’s individual needs now and for the future.

How can you help?

Dental hygiene is important for every child, but especially for a child with weak and porous enamel. Because children with hypomineralized enamel develop cavities more quickly that those with strong enamel, it is very important to watch your child’s diet and keep to a regular, careful, and thorough routine of brushing and flossing at home. Be attentive to any sensitivity problems, and be sure to follow any suggestions we might have for strengthening enamel.

Remember, early diagnosis and treatment is always best! If at any time you notice chalky patches, or have any other concerns about the appearance of your child’s teeth, if they seem to be causing your child pain or are unusually sensitive, call Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega immediately. We want to work with you to treat any current problems and to prevent new ones.

Dental Sealants for Baby Teeth?

November 27th, 2019

Perhaps you’ve heard your friends talking about dental sealants, and how well they prevent cavities. And as soon as your child’s permanent molars come in, you absolutely plan to make an appointment at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office for this treatment. But should you also be concerned with your child’s baby teeth? Could they benefit from sealants too?

Even though those beautiful baby teeth are going to be replaced with permanent teeth, they should still be protected. Primary teeth help with speech development, enable your child to develop proper chewing and eating habits, and serve as place holders so that permanent teeth can erupt in the correct place. That’s why you’ve been so careful to help your child brush and floss twice daily, and make regular visits to our office for exams and cleanings.

But some teeth are just harder to keep clean with regular brushing than others. Primary molars, just like permanent ones, have depressions and grooves on the chewing surfaces. These grooves collect bacteria and food particles that are hard for bristles to reach, providing a perfect opportunity for cavities to develop in those little molars.

Cavities are not the only problem which can affect primary teeth. Because baby teeth have thinner layers of protective enamel, a cavity can actually reach the pulp (the center of the tooth) more quickly, leading to pain and potential infection.

While baby teeth can be treated, with fillings, restorations, and even stainless steel crowns, preventing tooth decay is always our first, best choice. And dental sealants are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association as one of the most effective ways to prevent cavities in both baby teeth and adult teeth.

Dental sealants are safe and effective.  Sealants are thin coatings (usually a plastic resin or other dental material) that cover a molar’s grooves and depressions, making it impossible for bacteria and food particles to collect there. Applying them is a simple, pain-free process.

Each tooth will be examined first. If we find any signs of decay starting, we will gently treat that area before applying the sealant. After the tooth is cleaned and dried, an etching solution will be brushed on to the surface area being sealed. This etching roughens the surface so that the sealant will hold to the tooth more effectively. A thin coat of the sealant is then painted on and hardened under a curing light.

That’s all there is to it! Sealants typically last from three to five years, and some last even longer. Keep up your regular careful brushing and flossing, and we will monitor the condition of the sealants at each exam.

Talk to Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega about dental sealants. We’ll let you know if your child can benefit from the procedure even before those baby teeth give way to permanent ones. It’s never too early to prevent tooth decay!

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