Dentistry used to be considered by many people as its own category of health care; you went to the doctor for a checkup, and to the dentist to maintain your teeth.But a growing body of research has blurred that biological distinction; it’s now known that a healthy mouth is intricately linked to the body’s overall state of wellness. The American Dental Association points to recent studies that indicate periodontitis (severe gum disease) is associated with a host of other health problems, ranging from heart disease to stroke and bacterial pneumonia.How can this be? The culprit, experts say, is often bacteria, which can trigger oral infections. After the germs have done their damage in the mouth, they might then enter the bloodstream, travel to other parts of the body, and continue to wreak havoc.But the good news is that, with a bit of teamwork, fighting bad-guy bacteria usually isn’t all that difficult. On the patient’s end, responsibility centers around daily brushing and flossing. Then, by joining forces with a dentist for regular checkups and cleanings to short-circuit decay and remove plaque and tartar, most folks can keep dangerous bacteria safely at bay and nip other tooth or gum problems in the bud.So, here’s the long and short of it: Get thee to the dentist at least twice a year, and brush and floss those pearly whites every day. And if you need any more convincing to make that dental appointment, just read on. You’ll discover just a few of the latest trends and advances in the dental world that make it easier than ever to enjoy a healthy, gorgeous smile.Nifty New Breakthroughs in DentistryAir abrasion Forget those bone-jarring, noisy, old-fashioned dental drills. One technique, known as air abrasion, can gently remove decay with pinpoint precision using a fine spray of tiny aluminum oxide powder. It’s quick, relatively painless, and, in some cases, local anesthesia might not even be needed.The Wand When anesthesia is called for, a clever gizmo that resembles a ballpoint pen can help omit that familiar little “ouch” sensation during dental-anesthesia injections. (Apparently it’s not the prick of the tiny needle that causes the momentary twinge for some patients, but the needle’s pressure, along with the fact that the chemical is shot all at once into gum tissue.) With this device — sometimes known as the CompuDent or STA system — computer-controlled delivery of the numbing agent assures a slow, precise rate of flow through the tiny needle of the “pen,” resulting in less gum discomfort.Better teeth replacement In cases of bone loss in the jaw, where teeth lose their anchor, new techniques make it easier than ever to replace this vital foundation. Nowadays, freeze-dried, bone-like material can be made in the lab to replace missing or damaged bone. And when it comes to replacing the lost teeth themselves, dental experts can turn to 3-D CAT scan images that ensure accurate positioning of strong-as-the-originals dental implants. What’s great, too, is that some implants can now be done right after a tooth is pulled, without waiting up to six months following an extraction — which used to be common — to wrap up the procedure.One-visit treatments Thanks to computers, some procedures that would require multiple visits can now be pared down to one relatively quick session in the dentist’s chair. CAD/CAM (it stands for computer-assisted design/manufacturing) makes it possible, for example, to finish tooth restorations such as crowns, inlays, veneers, and bridges in one visit; sort of like “one-stop shopping,” dental-style.Lasers Since their introduction in the dental world in the 1990s, they’ve been used for everything from pinpointing and removing decay, to gum treatments, treating benign growths in the mouth, and boosting the tooth-bleaching process. Healing is often speeded up and virtually painless when lasers are used, and there’s often less bleeding and swelling; lasers sometimes eliminate the need for oral sutures, too.Digital X-rays and intra-oral cameras Less radiation exposure for patients and a more precise map of the mouth for dentists — they can zoom in on a particular area, even in 3-D, using a gadget called an optical scanner — all make computer-created digital X-rays the wave of the future. Plus, the images are stored as a computer document, making them immediately accessible. So, if a consultation with another dentist (or a lab or insurance company) is needed, digital X-rays can be instantly transmitted and shared with just the tap of a computer key. Another neat breakthrough: nowadays, “smile for the birdie” can refer to inside the mouth, too; tiny intra-oral cameras can be used within the oral cavity during a dental exam to offer a close-up look, helping the dentist uncover tiny tooth cracks or other problems quickly and effectively.Cosmetic dentistry Fantastic new improvements continue to occur in this expanding field that restores damaged teeth, creates gorgeous smiles, and helps boost self-confidence in patients. One of the latest involves using composite resins for some types of veneers and bonding and for filling cavities; the results can be more durable and less noticeable. Other breakthroughs: more effective bleaching and whitening techniques (such as the popular Zoom! method to make teeth dazzle); improved “invisible braces”; and bonding, veneers, and implants that look and feel more natural than ever.Calm Those NervesRegardless of how good a dentist is — and here in the Valley, ours are certainly the cream of the crop — “dental phobia” is no joke for some people. The very notion of going to the dentist ties some folks’ stomachs in knots — often because of memories of scary, painful dental experiences back when they were kids.One study found that as many as 20 percent of all adults say they’re “very anxious” about having their teeth professionally cared for; about five percent refuse to go to the dentist at all.Most people rank somewhere in the middle; slight apprehension before a dental appointment isn’t all that unusual. But regardless of where you register on the fear-o-meter, there are plenty of ways to move past your uneasiness.For some folks, simple relaxation tricks are all that’s needed. Taking a walk or a yoga class before your appointment — or sinking into the sounds of a guided-relaxation CD or soothing music on an iPod (some dentists encourage patients to wear headphones while in the chair) — can work wonders.In severe cases, a few sessions with an expert who deals with phobias or anxiety management can help erase dental dread. Some experts occasionally suggest mild anti-anxiety prescription medications such as Versed. Holistically oriented professionals might recommend calming herbs, massage, or acupuncture prior to a dental treatment.And once you do make that appointment, today’s modern arsenal of super-effective anesthesia can help make your time in the dentist’s chair completely comfortable and pain-free. Some offices even offer sedation dentistry, which puts you totally “out.” You’ll wake up refreshed, with no memory at all of the procedure when you’re finished.Cool Facts About Dentistry’s Past
Selection process“If you had a patient in need of a dentist, which dentist would you refer them to?”This is the question we’ve asked thousands of dentists to help us determine who the topDentists should be. Dentists and specialists are asked to take into consideration years of experience, continuing education, manner with patients, use of new techniques and technologies, and of course physical results.The nomination pool of dentists consists of all dentists listed online with the American Dental Association (www.ada.org), as well as all dentists listed online with their local dental societies, thus allowing virtually every dentist the opportunity to participate. Dentists are also given the opportunity to nominate other dentists who we have missed that they feel should be included in our list. Respondents are asked to put aside any personal bias or political motivations and to use only their knowledge of their peer’s work when evaluating the other nominees.Voters are asked to individually evaluate the practitioners on their ballot whose work they are familiar with. Once the balloting is completed, the scores are compiled and then averaged. The numerical average required for inclusion varies depending on the average for all the nominees within the specialty and the geographic area. Borderline cases are given a careful consideration by the editors. Voting characteristics and comments are taken into consideration while making decisions. Past awards a dentist has received, status in various dental academies (Academy of General Dentistry, American Academy of Periodontology, etc.) can play a factor in our decision.Once the decisions have been finalized, the included dentists are checked against state dental boards for disciplinary actions to make sure they have an active license and are in good standing with the board. Then letters of congratulations are sent to all the listed dentists.Of course there are many fine dentists who are not included in this representative list. It is intended as a sampling of the great body of talent in the field of dentistry in the US. A dentist’s inclusion on our list is based on the subjective judgments of his or her fellow dentists. While it is true that the lists may at times disproportionately reward visibility or popularity, we remain confident that our polling methodology largely corrects for any biases and that these lists continue to represent the most reliable, accurate, and useful list of dentists available anywhere.DisclaimerThis list is excerpted from the 2009 topDentists™ list, a database that includes listings for more than 200 dentists and specialists in the Hudson Valley area. The Hudson Valley area list is based on thousands of detailed evaluations of dentists and professionals by their peers. The complete database is available at www.usatopdentists.com. For more information, call 706-364-0853; write P.O. Box 970, Augusta, GA 30903; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit www.usatopdentists.com. TopDentists, LLC has used its best efforts in assembling material for this list but does not warrant that the information contained herein is complete or accurate, and does not assume, and hereby disclaims, any liability to any person for any loss or damage caused by errors or omissions herein whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause. Copyright 2009 by topDentists, LLC of Augusta, GA. All rights reserved. This list, or parts thereof, must not be reproduced in any form without permission. No commercial use of the information in this list may be made without permission of topDentists, LLC. No fees may be charged, directly or indirectly, for the use of the information in this list without permission.
Photograph by Kristian Sekulic/Shutterstock