All posts in Preventive Dentistry

Seal Out Cavities with Dental Sealants

Cavities are small holes in your teeth that can lead to big problems, such as serious infections and eventual tooth loss. Children are especially susceptible to cavities; in fact, The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reports that 42% of children between the ages of two and 11 have experienced at least one cavity in their short lifetime.

Cavities occur when harmful bacteria in the mouth, which thrive off the tiny particles of food and sugar trapped between your teeth, produce an acid. This acidic environment allows the tooth to lose minerals in the enamel shell of the tooth. Although your teeth are constantly demineralizing and remineralizing, in an acidic environment enough net minerals can be lost until the enamel collapses with a cavitation or cavity. This is why brushing and flossing is considered one of the best ways to prevent cavities, as you’re essentially cutting off the bacteria’s food supply by physically removing it from your teeth.

The problem with brushing and flossing alone, though, is that some teeth are often missed — especially molar teeth in the far back of our mouths. For this reason, the most likely location for a cavity to develop in your child’s mouth is on the chewing surfaces of those back teeth.

So, what if we told you there was another solution that is nearly 100% effective in cavity protection, according to the Academy of General Dentistry? That solution is called a dental sealant. This thin, protective coating has been shown to reduce the risk of decay by nearly 80% in molars. This is especially important when it comes to your child’s dental health; studies have shown that children without sealants have three times as many cavities as those with sealants.

Read on to learn more about preventing tooth decay and cavities for you or your child with dental sealants.

What Are Sealants?

As explained earlier in this article, when the cavity-causing bacteria that live in our mouth meet leftover food particles, they produce acids that cause tooth demineralization that later lead to cavities. Sealants work to keep out those food particles and stop bacterial acid from settling onto your teeth. The sealant itself is made from a completely safe, thin layer of clear resin and other dental materials.

Sealants can keep cavities from forming and may even stop early stages of decay from becoming a full-blown cavity. Sealants can also be used over areas of early demineralization to prevent further damage to the tooth.

Who Should Get Sealants?

Both children and adults can benefit from sealants to protect those area of your teeth that a toothbrush is hard to reach. At Excel Dental, we especially recommend sealants for children, around the time their first molars appear (age six), and again when the second set of molars break through around age 12. Sealing these teeth as soon as they break through can prevent cavities from the start, which helps save time, money, and headache in the long run.

Our Ozark, MO dentists also recommend sealants for patients who have existing teeth with deep pits or grooves, as they are typically more susceptible to decay.

Make sure to ask your Springfield, MO dentist if dental sealants are the right option for you or your child.

What to Expect

The application of dental sealants is a fast and painless process. Your dentist will begin by cleaning and drying the teeth. Then, an acidic gel is applied. The gel helps to lightly roughen each tooth’s surface so a strong bond will form between your teeth and the sealant. Then, your dentist will rinse off the gel and dry your teeth once again before applying the bonding agent and the sealant onto the grooves of each tooth. Finally, a special curing light is used to harden the sealant.

That’s it! The entire process from start to finish usually takes about 5 – 45 minutes, depending on how many teeth you’re sealing.

Caring for Sealants

Sealants will often last for up to 10 years before needing to be reapplied. Keep in mind, though, that sealants are not a substitute for daily dental hygiene. Sealed teeth require the same conscientious oral care as unsealed teeth. Continue to encourage your child to brush and floss his or her teeth daily, along with regular professional cleanings. During your regular dental visit, your dentist will check the condition of the sealant and can reapply as needed.


Will dental sealants make my teeth feel different?

  • The sealant material is very thin. Sometimes, children may feel the sealant with their tongue for a short period after the sealant is placed. This feeling will dissipate over time.

 Our tap water has fluoride. Are dental sealants still necessary?

  • Sealants and fluoride both prevent tooth decay, but in different ways. Sealants keep germs and food from settling into the grooves of your teeth by covering the surface with a protective shield. Fluoride in drinking water, toothpaste, and mouthwashes protects against cavities by making teeth stronger.

 Is sealing a tooth better than filling a cavity? 

  • You know what they say: A stitch in time saves nine! Prevention is always preferred over corrective treatment. Sealants are a quick, easy, and painless way to prevent cavities. A tooth without a cavity is stronger and healthier than a tooth with a filling or untreated decay. Sealants are also more cost-effective and easier to apply than fillings.

Seal Out Cavities!

Prevent cavities and protect your child’s smile with dental sealants. Schedule an appointment today with the trusted team at Excel Dental, Dr. Tracy Davis or Dr. Nick Matthews. Find us in Ozark, Missouri — just a short 10 minute drive from Springfield.

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Children’s Dentistry: Instilling Good Habits Early

The number one chronic childhood disease may surprise you. It’s not juvenile diabetes, asthma, or obesity. The most common disease plaguing children today is tooth decay. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42% of children between ages two and 11 have cavities in their baby teeth — that’s nearly half of all children in the U.S. Tooth decay is 20 times more prevalent than diabetes, five times more than asthma, and four times more than obesity, according to The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Childhood tooth decay can have lasting, devastating effects on your child’s oral development; fortunately, this chronic disease is almost entirely preventable.

It’s easy to overlook the importance of routine dental cleanings for children, especially when their teeth are just starting to emerge. However, your child’s baby teeth are at risk for decay as soon as they first appear — typically around six months of age. Sugar consumption and lack of routine oral hygiene from the start can cause a harmful reaction to bacteria in the mouth, resulting in cavities or even gum disease.

As with many matters of health, prevention is key. Teach your children good dental habits early, and they’ll enjoy healthy teeth for years to come. Read on to learn how you can make your child’s daily oral routine something they’ll actually look forward to.

At-home Tips

Preventing childhood tooth decay can largely be done at home with routine, daily dental care: brushing, flossing, and avoiding too many sugary beverages and snacks. Easy enough, right? Not quite. As many parents will agree, oftentimes kids view “brushing time” as a chore. And if your child doesn’t like the task, it’s going to be even harder to establish that task as daily routine. That’s why we’ve curated some foolproof tips below for making dental care an easy new habit for your little one.

  1. Pick out a special toothbrush together.

Allow your child to pick out their own toothbrush. If your child has ownership in the process, he or she will be more willing to take part.

  1. Don’t forget toothpaste!

While adults tend to prefer toothpaste with minty flavors, children’s palettes do not. Look for fun flavors like bubblegum, strawberry, or even sugar-free chocolate. Then, make sure to limit the amount of toothpaste on your child’s brush. Kids who are aged 3 – 6 need only a pea-size amount of fluoridated toothpaste on their brush in order to scrub properly. Children younger than three need only a rice-sized amount on their brush.

  1. Pump up the jams.

When it’s time to brush those teeth, turn on some tunes! Let your child pick out their favorite Disney track or song. Most songs are around two minutes long, which just so happens to be the dentist-recommended amount of time for brushing. So not only will music make brushing more fun, but it’ll also serve as a timer for you and your child.

  1. Start flossing.

No, we’re not referring to the viral dance move here. As soon as your child’s teeth start to touch, it’s time to start flossing. Kids flossers are designed for little hands and are easier for children to maneuver around their mouth with help from Mom or Dad.

  1. Snack smart.

Sugary snacks and drinks are one of the main culprits of childhood tooth decay. Start making healthy eating a habit by always keeping fresh cut fruits and veggies on hand. Before bedtime, try to avoid giving your child milk or juice. The natural sugars in these drinks can settle on your child’s teeth overnight.

  1. Lead by example.

Your children learn by your example. Take the lead and brush alongside your children as they get ready for the day.

The Importance of Professional Cleanings  

While it’s important to instill good oral hygiene habits at home, that’s really only half of the equation. Within six months of your child’s first tooth emerging, it’s time to schedule a dental visit.

The primary objective of your child’s first dental exam is to examine his or her mouth for proper growth and development, to provide a gentle first cleaning, and to further educate your child on good oral habits. Your Ozark, MO dentists are well-equipped to make your child feel comfortable and at ease upon their first visit to Excel Dental. Establishing trust with a dentist early in life is critical for ensuring that regular dental visits remain a lifelong habit for your child.

During your child’s appointment, your Springfield, MO dentist will also work to determine if your child is engaging in habits which could negatively impact their dental health, such as poor flossing, brushing, or teeth grinding. X-rays may be ordered to help diagnose any potential problems with your child’s adult teeth as they start to emerge.

We recommend that parents schedule regular dental check ups every six months, or more frequently if recommended. Taking your child to the dentist regularly at an early age will help them to continue practicing healthy dental habits well into adulthood.

A Healthy Smile is a Happy Smile!

Give your child the gift of a great smile by instilling proper dental habits today. Make an appointment for your child to meet the trusted team at Excel Dental, Dr. Tracy Davis or Dr. Nick Matthews. Find us in Ozark, Missouri — just a short 10 minute drive from Springfield. We can’t wait to brighten your child’s smile and their day with our friendly dental care.


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3-D X-Rays: Technology for Better Dental Health

Dental diagnostic technology has made huge strides in the past decade. Gone are the days of only relying on two-dimensional, dental x-rays. Today’s diagnostic tools provide a clearer, more accurate depiction of your oral anatomy than ever before. As a patient, you benefit from these technological advancements in the form of better preventative care, and earlier diagnosis and treatment.

One of the most pivotal developments in dental diagnostic technology has been the advancement of 3D dental imaging. At Excel Dental, we utilize the latest in x-ray technology with the Planmeca ProMax® 3D imaging machine. This highly-advanced diagnostic tool is designed to show your dentist an extremely precise image of your mouth in its entirety.

Read on to learn more about the Planmeca ProMax® 3D and how it can benefit you at your next dental visit.


What is a 3D X-Ray?

The Planmeca ProMax® 3D uses dental cone beam computed tomography (CT), also known as Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT), to take brilliant panoramic 3D photos and model scans of your teeth, roots, gums, jaw, soft tissues — even your skull and nerve pathways — in a single scan.

This groundbreaking 3 dimensional dental x-ray technology offers a better clinical experience for patients than traditional x-ray methods, and also allows your Ozark, MO dentists to diagnose and treat a variety of dental issues that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

What to Expect

Getting scanned using the Planmeca ProMax® 3D is fast and painless. Typically, a 3D panoramic scan of your jaw will take approximately 14 seconds from start to finish.

First, your Springfield, MO dentist or dental technician will position you properly for the scan. You’ll be asked to stand still, grasping the machine’s handles for support. Your dentist or dental technician will then have you bite down on a small mouthpiece to reduce your movement. Once everything is in place, the 3D scanner will circle around your head to capture the x-ray images.

While the x-ray machine is rotating around you, it’s actually capturing several hundred individual images in the span of just a few seconds. The machine’s software then compiles the images and produces a 3D, virtual model of your craniofacial structure, allowing your dentist to assess your oral health from every dimension. Check out this short video to better understand how the process works.


3D imaging allows your dentist to more accurately diagnose and to better prepare you for a variety of dental procedures. Common diagnostic uses of this type of technology include:

  • Abscesses or cysts
  • Bone loss
  • Cancerous and noncancerous tumors
  • Tooth decay
  • Developmental abnormalities
  • Implant planning
  • Poor tooth and root positions
  • Problems inside a tooth or below the gum line


There are several ways in which 3D dental x-ray technology can benefit you during your next dental exam:

  • Increased diagnostic accuracy. The high quality of 3D imagery means your dentist can pinpoint problems at their onset. This allows for early intervention that can result in less invasive, less costly dental work.
  • Increased confidence. 3D dental x-rays give a complete, clear picture of your oral environment. The accuracy of this imaging technique leaves no question marks as to what is happening in your mouth and craniofacial areas. This in turn should give you a high degree of confidence that your dentist is equipped to treat the root of your problem with zero guesswork.
  • Better reliability. 3D dental imaging also provides the power of repeatability, delivering fast and accurate imaging that’s consistent — and therefore, reliable.
  • Less radiation exposure. 3D technology emits an extremely low dose of radiation — much lower than traditional x-ray methods.

With all of these benefits to your oral health, what are you waiting for? Talk to the professionals at Excel Dental about a 3D x-ray at your next appointment.


Picture Your Next Exam in 3D!

Take advantage of the latest advancements in diagnostic technology by making an appointment today with your trusted team at Excel Dental, Dr. Tracy Davis or Dr. Nick Matthews. Find us in Ozark, Missouri — just a short 10 minute drive from Springfield.

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Maintain Oral Health With Fluoride

Maintain Oral Health With Fluoride

Do you remember getting flouride treatments as a child at the dentist’s office? Sitting still in a chair while wearing mouth trays filled with brightly colored “goop” probably wasn’t an experience that topped your “summer fun” list. But, you’re an adult now—no need for flouride treatments anymore, right?


Fluoride treatments can greatly benefit anyone’s smile, regardless of age. Everyday, we lose this natural mineral by consuming acids and sugars that break down the protective barrier on our teeth.

Fluoride treatments help prevent cavities and reverse early stages of decay and disease that are caused by this natural breakdown. And before you start having flashbacks to your youth, the good news is that there are a variety of more tolerable fluoride treatment options today than in years past, including swabs, varnishes, and mouthwashes.

Read on to learn why fluoride is an essential mineral to the health of your smile.

What is Fluoride?

Fluoride has been a trusted, essential oral health treatment for decades. In fact, fluoride treatment for cavities dates all the way back to the year 1901, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Similar to calcium, except that it carries one extra electron, fluoride bonds to your teeth in place of calcium. And similar to calcium, fluoride is a hard substance that strengthens the enamel on your teeth.

Fluoride works to prevent cavities by concentrating in the growing bones and developing teeth of children to harden enamel before the teeth emerge, and also by restoring the enamel of adult teeth that has weakened or thinned over time.

There are two different types of fluoride: topical and systematic.

Topical fluoride is applied directly to the enamel via toothpaste and/or treatments provided by your local Springfield, MO dentist.

Systemic fluoride can be found as an additive in local tap water and through dietary supplements.

Did you know? In the 1930s, researchers found that people who grew up drinking naturally fluoridated water had up to two-thirds fewer cavities than people living in areas without fluoridated water, according to the Alliance For a Cavity-free Future.

You can achieve the maximum reduction in dental cavities with a treatment approach that includes both topical and systemic fluoride.  

Benefits of Fluoride 

Fluoride benefits your oral health in two critical ways:

Protects against tooth decay and cavities. The earlier that children are exposed to fluoride, the less likely they are to develop cavities. One study found that children and teens who received fluoride treatments for one year were 43 percent less likely to experience decay and cavities. The risk of developing cavities doesn’t waver as you age, however, which is why it’s important to include fluoride treatments as part of an ongoing, regular oral health regimen.

Improves your smile. Diet, oral hygiene, and genetics are all major issues that can compromise the aesthetics of your smile. While fluoride can’t promise whiter, straighter teeth, it can help you fend off other factors that lead to discoloration, misalignment, and gaps.

Our teeth naturally age over the years, just like our skin, bones, and organs. Despite the best efforts in brushing and flossing, your teeth will naturally lose their luster over time. Getting regular fluoride treatments throughout your adult life is a smart approach for fighting back against Father Time.

What Should I Expect?

Your local dentists at Excel Dental recommend a professional fluoride treatment every 3, 6, or 12 months, depending on your oral health. Professional fluoride treatments take only a few minutes, and typically are offered in the form of a highly concentrated solution, gel, foam, or varnish. The application process may include a cotton swab or brush, rinse, or via mouth tray. These topical treatments provide more concentrated fluoride than what’s found in your tap water or at-home toothpaste.

Once the treatment is complete, make sure not to rinse, eat or drink for at least 30 minutes to allow your teeth to absorb the fluoride and repair microscopic areas where cavities might be forming. If your Ozark, MO dentist determines you are at a higher risk for cavities, a professional-grade fluoride rinse or gel for regular use at home may be prescribed. 

At Excel Dental, we’ll customize a fluoride treatment that is the perfect fit for you based off your full health history and following a full dental exam.    

All For Fluoride!

It’s much easier (and cheaper!) to preserve your smile rather than trying to restore it later. Fend off cavities and maintain a healthy grin with a tailored fluoride treatment plan from Excel Dental. Make an appointment today for the whole family with Dr. Tracy Davis or Dr. Nick Matthews. Find us in Ozark, Missouri—just a short 10 minute drive from Springfield.

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Exposed: The Truth About Receding Gums

Exposed: The Truth About Receding Gums

Healthy gums play an important role in your overall health. In fact, many leading experts agree there is a strong link between gum inflammation and chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and respiratory illness. Gingival recession—also known as “receding gums”— is one condition that can lead to inflammation in the form of irritated, lost gum tissue and tooth root exposure. Not only that, but receding gums play a role in the aesthetic of your smile. A receding gum line creates greater exposure of each tooth, which creates an elongated look. This can lead to feelings of self-consciousness for many people.

Gum recession can be largely asymptomatic in its earliest stages, making it difficult to self-diagnose. That’s why it’s paramount to understand the symptoms, causes and prevention tips for keeping your gums in tip-top shape.


You may have gingival recession if you notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Sensitive teeth (especially to hot or cold temperatures)
  • Visible roots
  • Longer-looking teeth
  • Bad breath caused by plaque buildup and/or decay on the exposed area of the tooth
  • Red, inflamed gum tissue around your teeth
  • Bleeding gums


Healthy gums fit around each of your teeth like a cuff. When gum tissue starts to recede, however, it pulls away from the tooth and can eventually leave the root exposed. Unlike the crowns of your teeth, the roots don’t have that same protective enamel coating. The root is therefore more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures and at a higher risk for decay. According to the American Dental Association, the most common causes of receding gums include:

  • Clenching or grinding your teeth
  • Brushing your teeth too hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Smoking and/or using any type of tobacco
  • Periodontal (gum) disease
  • Genetics—some people are born with gums that are more thin or weak than normal

Treatment & Prevention

When it comes to gingival recession, treatment and future prevention are key for ensuring overall health.

If you are diagnosed with gingival recession by your local dentist, the treatment you’ll receive will depend on the degree of progression. Your dentists at Excel Dental, Drs. Davis and Matthews, will first determine the cause of the problem that triggered your recession and recommend a treatment plan from there.

First and foremost: Regular dental check-ups with your local Ozark, MO dentist are imperative for helping to prevent gum recession and assess risk factors. Your dentist may then recommend a treatment plan that includes all or some of the following:

  • Recommendation for a softer toothbrush and gentler brushing technique. This won’t repair your existing damage, but it will prevent new damage to the gums.
  • Wearing a clear plastic retainer at night to circumvent jaw clenching and grinding.
  • A professional dental cleaning to rid debris and bacteria within the gum pockets.
  • Scaling and root planing, or a “deeper cleaning,” if it’s determined your gum recession is caused by periodontal disease. Scaling and root planing removes bacteria, plaque within the periodontal pocket and the biofilm and calculus attached to the tooth and root surface. This treatment is especially helpful in allowing gum tissues to heal and reattach to the tooth.

For more advanced gingival recession, gum tissue regeneration and gum grafting may be used to restore natural symmetry to the gums. A graft is when a thin piece of gum tissue is taken from another place in your mouth (or an artifical graft is used) and attached where the gum tissue has receded. The exposed tooth root is then covered once the graft begins to heal. Not only can a graft repair a receding gum line, but it can also improve the aesthetics of your smile. 


Q. Do receding gums grow back on their own?

  1. This is a common myth. There is no way for your gums to grow back on their own; however, with professional treatment and by implementing proper preventative measures, you can stop the progression of your receding gum line.

Q. Can natural treatments, such as essential oils, fix my receding gums?

  1. “Old wives tales” have circulated in recent years which claim that receding gums can be treated by applying natural oils like lemon, clove, coconut and sesame. There is currently no scientific-based evidence to substantiate these claims. At most, these natural treatments may help alleviate the discomfort which results from gingival recession; however, from a medical standpoint, oils alone are not advised as an effective treatment plan.

Q. Only older adults experience receding gums, right?

  1. While gum recession is most common in adults over 40, it can begin as early as the teen years. The most common cause of gum recession in children and teens is over-aggressive brushing. Your local Springfield, MO dentist can help educate your child on proper brushing techniques that will preserve his or her smile for years to come.

Get Your Gums Back

Receding gums are more than just an aesthetic nuisance. If you or a family member is experiencing the symptoms of gingival recession, get your gums back by making an appointment with Dr. Tracy Davis or Dr. Nick Matthews at Excel Dental. We’ll work to diagnose the cause of your receding gums and tailor a treatment plan for your smile. Find us in Ozark, Missouri—a short 10 minute drive from Springfield.

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What Causes Gum Disease?

What Causes Gum Disease?

Periodontal disease — also called periodontitis or gum disease — is a serious condition that can lead to tissue, bone and tooth loss if left untreated.

It’s estimated that nearly 65 million Americans, or about half of all adults over 30, have periodontal disease. Because it usually causes no symptoms in its early stages, significant damage may have already occurred by the time it is diagnosed.

But what causes periodontal disease? Let’s take a look at how gum disease progresses and some of the risk factors that may increase your odds of getting it.


How Can You Get Rid of Tetracycline Stains on Your Teeth?

How Can You Get Rid of Tetracycline Stains on Your Teeth?

If you or your child are diagnosed with a bacterial infection, chances are you’ll get a prescription for antibiotics.

And tetracycline is one of the most widely used antibiotics in the world.

From acne to pneumonia to urinary infections, this family of antibiotics has proven effective against some 90% of bacterial infections since its discovery in 1945 by Dr. Benjamin Duggar at the University of Missouri.

But did you know tetracyclines could also affect your teeth? Let’s take a look at how it can cause tooth discoloration, how to reduce the risk, and what to do if you’ve been affected.


Mouthwash and pH: Is Mouthwash Good for Your Teeth?

Mouthwash and pH: Is Mouthwash Good for Your Teeth?

Who doesn’t love that clean, refreshing feeling that mouthwash gives you?

Choosing a healthy mouthwash or mouth rinse can be a good addition to your oral care plan. It can help to loosen debris or plaque from around your teeth and gums.

However, so can swishing with plain water. Also keep in mind that mouthwash is not a substitute for your regular routine of brushing twice a day, flossing once a day and visiting your dentist twice a year.

It’s also important to make sure you’re choosing a product that doesn’t do more harm than good.

Watch out for mouthwash with alcohol, which can dry out your mouth and may increase risk of tooth decay. In addition, an alcohol free mouthwash may be less likely to increase the acidity in your mouth.


Three Tips for Preventative Dental Care

Three Tips for Preventative Dental Care

Approximately 80% of all Americans have had at least one cavity by age 34. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dental caries affect all ages. About 20% of children from 5 to 11 have untreated tooth decay, along with 13% of teens and 27% of adults.

What can be done to avoid the pain, discomfort and financial cost associated with tooth decay and gum disease? The American Dental Association says that quality preventative dental care is the key to achieving good oral health for both children and adults.