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Preventive Dentistry
Nearly all Americans will experience some form of tooth decay in their lifetimes. Untreated tooth decay progressively erodes the infected tooth and causes more serious problems. Since bacteria cause tooth decay, forgoing treatment risks spread to neighboring teeth, multiplying dental health issues. It is very important to remove the decay, clean the area, and restore the tooth with a filling.

To ensure overall oral health, missing or damaged teeth need to be replaced or restored by a licensed dentist.

Composite Fillings
A dentist applies composite fillings after tooth decay has been removed and the remaining tooth is cleaned. Instead of traditional silver fillings, composite fillings consist of a clear crystalline substance that is applied in layers and hardened with extremely bright light. Composite fillings offer several advantages:

• They look better than traditional fillings
• Their application is less intensive, which reduces the risk of tooth fracture
• Composite fillings bond directly to the tooth surface
• They are environmentally friendly; they contain no mercury

Crowns, or 'caps', are used for restoring severely decayed or fractured teeth. First, your dentist removes the damaged portion of the tooth. Then, a unique mold is taken and used to manufacture a crown out of gold or porcelain to fit the remaining healthy tooth perfectly. The crown is then fixed into place with special cement. Crowns provide the following benefits:

• They restore the tooth's original shape and size
• They help prevent decay from forming on the underlying tooth
• They add strength to the tooth's structure
• They are very durable

Crowns help prevent the need for root canals and tooth extraction by reducing the risk of tooth fracture and tooth decay.

Bridges serve to replace one or more missing teeth. First, the teeth on either side of the missing tooth are prepared to receive crowns by a dentist. Then, a false tooth is attached between the two crowns. Once the crown-false tooth-crown combination is cemented into place, it 'bridges' the gap left by the missing tooth. Bridges offer several benefits:

• They look like new teeth
• They are a permanent, durable mouth fixture
• They prevent surrounding teeth from shifting to fill the gap
• They restore a more natural bite and chewing ability

For these reasons, bridges are a good investment compared to dentures. If a bridge is not possible, or the adjacent teeth don't need crowns, dental implants may be the best alternative.

Root Canal
In cases of severe damage or decay, the tooth's soft interior (housing the nerves and blood supply) may need to be removed. Root canals replace the infected interior –or 'pulp'- with a rubber-like substance that fills and seals the interior once it has been emptied. Following a root canal, the tooth must be crowned to prevent fracture. Root canal advantages include:

• Preventing tooth death and the need for extraction
• Relieving pain associated with tooth pulp infection
• Reducing discomfort caused by hot or cold liquids
• Stopping infection from spreading

A root canal can help prevent future tooth extraction and the need for more expensive bridge or tooth implant procedures.

Implants permanently replace missing teeth by surgical attachment to the jawbone. After the dental implant is installed, the dentist will attach an artificial tooth, effectively replacing the missing tooth. Because of required healing time, there is a delay between the implant surgery and the attachment of the artificial tooth. Dental implants provide several advantages over dentures and less permanent tooth replacement solutions:

• They are very durable, nearly undetectable, and the closest thing to real teeth
• They help prevent teeth from shifting to fill gaps
• They improve bite and chewing ability
• They prevent associated jaw joint issues
• They reduce the sunken look caused by missing teeth
• They can be used to anchor a bridge to natural teeth

While implants are more expensive than bridges and dentures, the long-term health benefits and a natural looking smile make them a smart long-term investment.
Dangerous Effects Stress Can Have on Your Mouth
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Long-term stress can wreak havoc on our bodies since stress is only meant to be a short-term response to fight-or-flight situations. It's not surprising that long-term stress can be a threat to our oral health.

Direct Stress-Related Threats to Oral Health
The most common stress-related disorder is teeth-grinding, also known as bruxism. Teeth-grinding during sleep wears down teeth, damaging the enamel and exposing teeth to cavities; severe bruxism can loosen teeth or remove them completely. TMJ disorder is also triggered by stress, and it inflames the jaw and ears with pain and swelling.

Indirect Stress-Related Threats to Oral Health
Long-term stress weakens our immune systems, rendering us vulnerable to illnesses. Canker sores are one possible problem that can arise from an immune system compromised by stress. Long-term stress also increases the odds of developing gum disease, which causes a variety of problems such as loose or missing teeth, bleeding gums, and bad breath. Dry mouth can be triggered by stress, depression, and bad habits that stem from stress such as smoking and nail-biting.

Lower Stress for Your Mouth's Sake
The longer stress persists, the more damage it can do to our bodies, so controlling our stress levels should be a high priority. Getting seven to eight hours of sleep is a great first step, though external aid such as guidance from a primary care provider and mouthguards may be needed to facilitate this. Professional counseling or talking with a trusted friend can help people with stress cope and prioritize. Finally, making to-do lists and scheduling relaxation time will make daily life more manageable.

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