Living on Long Island makes people smile. It’s that simple. We have access to everything, from beautiful natural surroundings and amazing neighborhoods to incredible resources and professionals who are immersed in our communities, striving to keep us healthy and happy. With Dental Hygiene Month and National Smile Day coming up, it’s the perfect time to shine a light on how we can all keep smiling, so we turn to Long Island’s own Dr. Zoya Yadgarov of the Art of Dentistry for her expert insights into how to stay healthy, keep looking your best and start looking forward to that next visit to the dentist.
Keys to Dental Health
I think the most common and simple aspect of dental health is oral hygiene, meaning regular brushing and flossing. It’s maintenance, maintenance, maintenance. Another part of it is seeing a dentist regularly so you’re not going to get deeper into a problem. If a problem occurs, you can cure it right away instead of getting into periodontal disease, instead of all of sudden getting a root canal, or maybe an implant. Something as simple as seeing a dentist every six months, and as simple as brushing and flossing, can eliminate a lot of future dental issues.
Foiling the Fear Factor
A bad experience at a young age can ruin the whole life experience for dentistry, and it’s unconscious, it’s very hard to face those fears. Especially with patients who had a really bad experience in their childhood, who were traumatized, petrified, we have special techniques in how to handle and help these patients, basically by holding their hand and walking them through each and every procedure—procedures as simple as cleaning can be very traumatic for patients.
For every patient we create not a dental appointment, but a dental experience. And it doesn’t matter what we’re doing, from a simple cleaning or filling to implants and surgery. You would be surprised how often parents let the kids go first, and when they see how the kids are comfortable and treated nicely, and then they’re like, ‘Oh, maybe I should try and use you too.’
Do It Often, Do It Right
The technique itself, how you brush and floss, matters. It’s not just keeping your brush in your mouth for two minutes. For brushing, the latest equipment is amazing, all those electric toothbrushes. And some patients, they have problems with flossing, there is a lot of amazing stuff on the market, like WaterPik, which helps you to improve the technique—it flushes leftover food from your mouth, but you also have to go between the teeth with the floss, go below the gumline and rub each tooth a couple times, and you’ll be surprised how much is left below the gumline.
When you brush, half of the brush should be on the gum and half on the tooth. This way you’re not going to brush too hard, because your gum will feel it, and simultaneously you’re massaging your gums, so you improve blood flow to the gums and you decrease inflammation.
And then you rinse, with any type of rinse—Listerine is great, and one of the best ones to prevent cavities is ACT, because it has active ingredients that are the same as toothpaste. As simple a thing as rinsing your mouth after each meal, even if you don’t have access to your brush, is amazing. Because you’re washing out sugar, you’re washing out extra acid, because some people are drinking coffee, drinking tea, drinking soda—which is acid and sugar, the perfect combination for bacteria and cavities. And you can use plain water. You can even swallow it—it’s your water—or spit it.
How many times a day you do it also matters. Doing it in the evening is very important, because you’ve been eating all day, and then if you just leave it for eight hours and it just stays in your mouth, that’s how you get your bad breath, and bacteria enjoy this, and you get cavities. Everything is connected.
Timing Is Everything
It’s never too late, because you cannot stop periodontal disease, unfortunately, but you can decrease the velocity of the progression of the disease to the minimum level, where it’s almost stopped. The problem with gum disease is it’s correlated with heart problems, it’s correlated with premature babies in pregnant females, it’s correlated to overall health.
If somebody has knee replacement or hip replacement, for example, as doctors we are supposed to premedicate those patients, even for a simple cleaning, because bacteria from the mouth may go to the bloodstream and create problems for those big implants in the body—meaning the hip replacements and knee replacements. This is how closely the systems in our bodies are connected, and we don’t realize these connections, unfortunately.
The Confidence Correlation
You give a smile, you give confidence. We specialize in full-mouth reconstructions. People will come in completely without teeth or with few teeth left, and they forgot how to smile and eat, they live on blended food. And after full-mouth reconstruction they’re like, ‘Oh my god, I ate steak! And I’m the first one to take pictures now—I used to hide in the shade always, now I love it. I want to be with people, I want to smile, I want to be in the picture. So this is biggest thank you for us and the biggest satisfaction from the profession
There is a big correlation between dental health and self-confidence. If you are not happy with your smile, and very often it’s also gum disease and people come in and say ‘Oh, I have bad breath, I’m scared to socialize, I’m brushing and flossing but I still have this bad breath that I don’t know how to deal with.’ That means you have the first signs of periodontal disease, which means you have persistent bacteria in the mouth, which is important to be seen by a professional and take x-rays to see if there is a bone loss.
Cleaning, Cleaning, Cleaning
Unfortunately, periodontal disease is related to bone loss. The first sign is gingivitis, where you see when you brush or floss, there’s a lot of bleeding. That’s the first sign of gum disease, and you have to see a dentist, you have to get regular cleanings. For healthy people, healthy gums and teeth, it’s every six months. With periodontal disease, it’s recommended to see a doctor every three to four months for cleanings, and every year get a deep cleaning.
For a deep cleaning we use local anesthesia and we clean below the gum line—it’s very important, because unfortunately the bone just dissolves from inflammation, that’s why teeth become loose. Patients come and say, ‘I’ve never had a cavity in my life, but my teeth are loose. What is this? I brush, I floss.’ But unfortunately this is periodontal disease, and it sounds scary, but it’s like cancer, where it can be too late if you don’t know about it.
And you can have a genetic predisposition. You may have excellent oral hygiene but a genetic predisposition is not helping. That’s why you have to see a doctor. We have different treatments for different levels of periodontal disease, and they are mild, moderate and severe. The only treatment for gum disease is oral hygiene. Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. Like in real estate, location, location, location. In our profession, it’s cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.
Learn more about Dr. Zoya Yadgarov and the Art of Dentistry in Lynbrook and Manhattan at artofdentistryny.com.