The Truth About Hookah

Lindsay Olsen, RDH

The Truth About Hookah

Myth: Hookah smoke is better for you than cigarette smoke and not addictive.

Reality: Hookah smoke of various fruity flavors, tastes and aromas can be even more harmful than cigarette tobacco smoke. Also, hookah smoke contains four times more nicotine (an addictive drug) than cigarette smoke. Some people can become addicted to nicotine after using any form of tobacco just a few times, this includes hookah.

Myth: Smoking hookah is less harmful than cigarettes because the smoke passes through water, which filters out the chemicals and other carcinogens.

Reality: When hookah passes through water at the base of a hookah pipe it cools the smoke, but does not filter any chemicals out of the smoke. This “cooling” process forces a hookah smoker to inhale twice as deeply as a cigarette smoker, which causes chemicals, cancer causing agents, and other harmful elements to penetrate deeper into the lungs. The charcoal that is uses in hookah pipes adds even more carbon monoxide to the higher levels that already exist in this type of tobacco.

Myth: Smoking hookah is fun, and I only do it socially with friends, its not like I do it every day.

Reality: The reality is 45-60 minutes of hookah smoking is the same as chain smoking 15 cigarettes. Even if you are only smoking hookah for an hour, twice a week, it can lead to nicotine addiction. Something also to consider, when you share the mouthpiece with others you are at risk of getting colds, viruses such as herpes simplex one (cold sores), oral bacterial infections and tuberculosis.

Need help quitting? Speak with your dental hygienist, dentist, or call

1-800-55-66-222, or visit

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Asotra, Kamlesh. Hooked on Hookah? What You Don’t Know Can Kill You. Burning Issues: Tobacco’s Hottest Topics. Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program Newsletter 7, no 3 (2005) 1-10.

Why Do I Need “X-rays” Today?


Why do I need “x-rays” today?

Many patients are concerned about radiograph frequencies, fearing they are receiving too much radiation.  While too much radiation is not good, I want to clarify what is too much and share some important facts about the purpose and benefits of radiographs.

Why do we need to take radiographs?

Radiographs can help dental professionals evaluate and diagnose many oral diseases and conditions.  Radiographs can be used to evaluate cavities, bone levels, calculus deposits, abscesses, root apices, wisdom teeth, cysts, sinuses, growths, foreign objects, jaw joints, and/or jaw fractures.  Much of what goes on in the mouth is not viewable without a radiograph.  In most cases, treating patients without radiographs would be performing below the standard of care.  Exceptions can be made in certain circumstances regarding pregnancy or patients who have undergone extensive radiation treatment for other reasons.

How often should radiographs be taken?

Radiograph frequencies are recommended by the American Dental Association.  A “full set” of radiographs is generally 18-20 images, depending on the office.  A full set is usually taken at a patient’s initial visit to the office and then every 3-5 years after.  Panoramic radiographs are helpful in assessing when/if wisdom teeth need to be removed and in viewing eruption of permanent teeth in children.  In these cases the dentist uses his/her clinical judgment to determine if a panoramic radiograph is necessary.  “Check-up” radiographs usually consist of bitewings and anterior peri-apical radiographs.  Frequency of these radiographs will vary from patient to patient but can be prescribed anywhere between 6 months and 36 months.  Radiograph frequency is prescribed by the dentist based on a patient’s risk of caries or history of caries.

Am I getting too much radiation?

On average, Americans receive a radiation dose of about 0.62 rem (620 millirem) each year.  We live in a radioactive world.  Radiation is part of the environment and some types can’t be avoided.  These include the air around us, cosmic rays, and the Earth itself.  About half of our radiation dose comes from these sources.  The other half of our yearly dose comes from man-made radiation sources that can include medical, commercial, and industrial sources.  Medical radiographic imaging causes more radiation than dental radiographs.  One dental intraoral radiograph has a radiation dose of about 0.005 rem.   Similarly, a full set of radiographs at a dental office has the same amount of radiation as flying roundtrip from L.A. to New York.  In this day and age many dental offices are using digital equipment to process radiographs.  Digital imaging emits even less radiation (as much as 80% less) while still producing diagnostic images.

Radiation Safety

As dental professionals we are aware that patient’s are exposed to radiation.  We take proper precautions and cover the neck, thyroid, and chest with a lead apron.  We also make sure our radiology equipment has regular checks to ensure it is functioning properly.  Radiographs are prescribed with the patient’s best interest at heart.   

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Oral Cancer Awareness


Oral Cancer Awareness

  • Oral cancer is on the rise.
  • One person an hour dies from oral cancer.
  • The most common risk factors for oral cancer are HPV-16 (Human Papilloma Virus- Version 16), Tobacco, and alcohol.
  • In its early stages oral cancer can be painless and often go unnoticed to the patient. The good news is that your dentist can often see and feel changes in your tissue, or notice irregular patterns in the early stages of oral cancer.
  • If caught in its early stages, oral cancer has a survival rate of 80-90%.
  • The most common sites for oral cancer are the sides or base of the tongue, and the floor of the mouth.
  • There are several different types of oral cancer. The most common type of oral cancer is squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Common symptoms of oral cancer can include:
    • A sore that does not heal
    • Pain in the mouth that does not go away
    • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
    • Numbness of the tongue or other areas of the mouth
    • Swelling, lump, or mass in the neck or jaw

If you notice any of these symptoms that do not improve or go away within 10-14 days, please contact our office.

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Why are My Teeth Sensitive?

Cortney Davis, RDH

Why Are My Teeth Sensitive?

Tooth sensitivity is one of the most common complaints among dental patients. It’s estimated that around 40 million people suffer from sensitive teeth in the United States. There are many reasons why your teeth can become sensitive and we are going to be discussing some of those reasons.

A common reason teeth are sensitive is because of exposed areas of a tooth. This happens when movement of fluid goes through tiny tubes located in the dentin (the layer which contains the inner pulp, found beneath the hard enamel), which results in nerve irritation. When enamel is worn down or gums have receded, pain can be caused by eating, drinking hot or cold beverages, or exposing them to cold air. There are different products that can help with tooth sensitivity due to worn down enamel or gum recession. There is toothpaste, such as Sensodyne toothpaste that contains desensitizing agents that protects the exposed dentin by blocking the tubes in the teeth that are connected to nerves. Most people that use sensitive toothpaste notice a difference around 2-4 weeks. Dentists also have a variety of regimens to help patients manage tooth sensitivity as well, so if you’re experiencing frequent tooth sensitivity be sure to talk to your dentist.

Another common cause of tooth sensitivity is brushing with too much force or using a hard-bristled toothbrush. Overtime, people can wear down the protective layers of their teeth. The simplest solutions are to switch to a toothbrush with soft bristles and to be gentler when brushing.

The third thing that causes tooth sensitivity is grinding your teeth. Even though your tooth enamel is the strongest substance in your body, excessive grinding can wear down the enamel which can also expose the dentin. It’s important to talk to your dentist about getting a night guard that helps people stop grinding on their teeth. The best guards are custom-made to fit a patient’s bite.

Another common cause of tooth sensitivity is excessive plaque left on the tooth. The purpose of brushing and flossing is to remove plaque that forms on your teeth. An excessive build-up of plaque can cause tooth enamel to wear away, which as stated previously can cause your teeth to become more sensitive. If gingivitis or gum disease is the problem, your hygienist alongside with the dentist will come up with a plan to treat the underlying disease.

A cracked tooth or decay can also cause tooth sensitivity. A chipped or cracked tooth can cause pain that goes beyond tooth sensitivity. Your dentist will need to evaluate the sensitive tooth and decide what treatment is best for you. Also, if you have a cavity and it is left untreated it can become larger causing tooth sensitivity.

If your sensitivity persists or is extreme, be sure to visit your dentist for an evaluation. The dentist and hygienists can determine the most likely cause and give you the best solution for your particular situation.

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What Age Should I Bring My Child for Their First Dental Appointment?

Sharma RDH

Sharma Mulqueen RDH

What Age Should I Bring My Child for Their First Dental Appointment
and What Can I Expect?

Good Pediatric dental care during the first few years of a person’s life is essential to give the proper foundation for overall good health throughout life.  At Signature Dental offices we offer the benefit of preventative care as well as restorative care and diagnostic imaging.  The earlier you bring your child to the Dentist the better off they will be.  The goal is to have every child used to visiting the dentist without fear.

We recommend you bring your child for their first dental appointment between the ages of 2-3.  At that first visit you can expect an introduction to the Dentist and Dental Hygienist.  The goal is to have the patient lay back in the chair and count their teeth so the Dentist and Dental Hygienist can have a look.  Through experience I have had a few at this young age let me polish.  As providers we will do as much as the patient will allow.  Most children will cry at this appointment which is ok.  Crying actually lets us see everywhere in the mouth.

The Dentist and Dental Hygienist will go over some things parents can learn when caring for their children’s teeth.  We ask that the child start drinking from a cup at 1 year old. If they are using a bottle at night, the milk or sugar juice can cause cavities quickly.  Thumb-sucking and pacifiers should be stopped or greatly reduced at age 3.  Lastly, we ask that the parents start brushing or using a washcloth to clean their gums.

Early and regular checkups will prevent cavities in children.  Signature Dental can help you with scheduling your appointment, verifying your Insurance and most important making sure your child has a wonderful experience.  We want our little patients to enjoy going to the dentist at a young age.  Prevention is the key to success.

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Why Are You Taking My Picture?


Arianna Marsden, RDH

Why Are You Taking My Picture In a Dental Office?

When you come into one of our offices for your first visit, we’ll likely complete a comprehensive exam for you.  As part of the comprehensive exam, our team assesses your teeth, gums, risks for oral cancer, dietary health, and makes recommendations for how to relieve pain, treat active tooth decay and gum diseases, and to improve your general and oral health.  The assessments we complete normally include a full-mouth series of radiographs, or x-rays, a thorough assessment of the health of your soft tissues, including pocket depths, bone loss, inflammation, and recession by your dental hygienist, and a thorough examination of the hard tissues by your dentist.  One important part of our comprehensive assessment, which you may not expect, is a series of photographs.

Normally, we take a series of photos as a record of how your teeth look, and how the lips drape over the teeth when you smile and at rest.  These photos allow us to show you your teeth in a way you’ve never seen them before; they are the most powerful tool we can offer you in making educated, informed decisions about your own dental health.  With these photos, you will be able to see every surface of every tooth, the condition of the gums, any teeth that are wearing or shifting, producing chipped or broken teeth, or unhealthy spacing or crowding of your teeth.  Zoomed-in intraoral photos can also help you to really see conditions that the clinical team identifies in your mouth, such as a filling that is leaking or has created fracture lines in your tooth.

As clinicians, we are concerned about your overall health, and we know that a big contributor to that is the health of your mouth.  We keep meticulous records of the conditions of your mouth, and treatments that have been recommended to achieve and maintain a healthy mouth.  Our records often include detailed written chart notes, but as the old adage states, a picture is worth a thousand words!  With these images, your clinical team can recall and understand what treatment was recommended and why, without digging through chart notes.   These photos also allow us to evaluate the quality of our work, often through before and after photos of a tooth that is being restored, or following a cleaning.   

Providing digital photography is just one of many techniques we utilize to comprehensively assess the health of your mouth, and to involve you in the process of making informed decisions about your dental health!

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If You’re Not Whitening, You’re Yellowing!


Ann Clark, RDH


If You’re Not Whitening, You’re Yellowing!
Every year our offices participate in a whitening opportunity that benefits not only our patients but also children and people in less fortunate areas of Africa.  Smiles of Hope is a non-profit organization where volunteers pay their way over to Africa to selflessly provide their services to benefit the less fortunate with eye and teeth assistance, while experiencing a life-changing adventure.  The whitening opportunity consists of products donated to our offices and we  happily donate our time.   100% of the money goes to the charity for product and supplies.  We offer 3 ways to whiten through trays and take home product,  In-office, Dentist supervised  applications to your teeth and the third option is through In-office Dentist supervised  applications with the trays and take home product as a package.  The prices are always at our lowest financial opportunity for you, the patient, during the months of March-June.
What is whitening and how does it work?
Tooth color is the result of genetics, drugs and meds during pregnancy,  the child during the tooth development stage, or an environmental factor such as increased fluoride uptake or maternal infections such as tetracycline stains, postnatal infection, measles, chicken pox, strep infections and scarlet fever.  Your tooth is made up of an outer hard enamel layer over the softer dentin. The enamel is porous and  will absorb stain from anything with color you put in your mouth…coffee, cigarette, foods.  Another layer basically forms on top of the enamel which we call a pellicle film.  We can clean this film with scaling and polishing, you can try to clean it with abrasive whitening toothpastes but this is like a scouring pad cleaning a dish.  As the film sits on your teeth, after years, is absorbs through the tooth’s pores.  Although these deeper stains are harmless they are unattractive.  This is when you need the “good stuff”.  Whiteners use bleaching chemicals to get down into the enamel and set off an oxidation chemical reaction that breaks apart the staining compounds.  Whiteners use either a carbide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide agent.  When used in the mouth, carbide peroxide breaks down into hydrogen peroxide and urea, with hydrogen peroxide being the effective agent.
Is whitening safe?
Most studies confirm that whitening is with effective and safe.  Whitening products with less than 10% carbide peroxide (3.6 hydrogen peroxide), have not been shown to cause any concerns to tooth enamel.  Higher concentrations can cause some weakening to the enamel but these also contain fluoride which counter-acts this potential side-effect.  If tooth sensitivity or gum irritation occurs it is best to reduce product frequency and time spent whitening.  Prescription  fluoride is used to treat sensitivity sometimes associated with whitening.  Gum irritation can result from any of the whitening options but is reversible and usually mild.  Over the counter oracle can also treat these symptoms.
Before any whitening service it is always recommended to have had a dental examination and any cavities filled or other dental work accomplished.



Wendy Parker, RDH


Do you feel like you’re ready for a little change in your smile without spending a lot of money?  Well, look no further!  I know it sounds a little bit like a gimmick, but it’s true!  Whitening your smile, the professional way, can change your smile for just a small cost!  I know many of us have tried over the counter products and have come away frustrated or not seeing the difference, but in the next few months, you can use the best products out on the market to help you get results and help someone else in the meantime!

The best two ways you can whiten your smile with the greatest results are with either an at home kit or an in-office procedure.  Both are safe and effective.

With the at-home procedure, we take an impression of your teeth and make custom fitting whitening trays.  Once the trays are made, you take them home and once a day you can apply whitening gel into the trays and wear them for about an hour.  You would brush and floss before whitening to make sure all the food and plaque has been removed, then place the gel in the trays and wear them for about an hour.  After the time has passed, remove the trays and brush and floss again, rinsing your mouth and trays thoroughly from any remaining gel. Do this as many days as you would like, for up to 2 weeks, or till you’ve reached your desired whiteness. Then keep the trays for any future touch up use.

The in-office procedure is slightly different, in which case, we do all the work and you just sit back and enjoy the ride.  You will spend about 2 hours with us in the office, doing a series of 3 whitening treatments in one sitting.  While protecting the tissues, we are able to apply whitening gel and achieve greatest results in such a short time. So, if you don’t have the patience to do the at home treatment, this procedure is right for you!
If you’ve been with our practice for a while, you know that this time every year we participate in a fundraising opportunity that starts in March and runs through the end of June, called Smiles for Hope.  During these few short months, our office donates all the proceeds that we earn from any whitening product and procedure to a charity called Hope Arising.  We join teams in an effort to raise money to help those in Dara, Ethiopia.  Twice a year our doctors, and several others, take supplies and their abilities, to travel to Ethiopia and spend a week giving service to help fulfill dental and medical needs in their town.

So, if you’re looking to get your sweetheart or loved one a treat for their birthday, anniversary, Valentine’s Day, or any other occasion, here is a great opportunity to help them AND help someone else.  Oh, and did I mention, it’s 100% tax deductible?  That’s right!  It’s considered a charitable contribution since 100% of the proceeds go to charity!  Don’t hesitate to ask any of our friendly team questions about how you can participate in Smiles for Hope this year!

Both at home and in-office whitening $250
In-office Whitening $200
At home Whitening $150

Why Do We Need to Brush and Floss?


Andra Mahoney, BS RDH

Why Do We Need to Brush and Floss?

Many of you know two questions that your Dental Hygienist will inevitably asked you when you go in for your regular check-up visit:  “Are you brushing two times a day?” and “How is your flossing going?”

As an Hygienist, we do not asked these questions to get after you.  We promise we do not love nagging you to floss.  We do it because we genuinely care for your health and helping our patients understand how brushing and flossing can keep you healthy is one of our professional goals.

Most of you know the guidelines. For optimum dental health, you should brushing two times a day for two minutes, and floss one time a day.  We know that is what we are supposed to do.  But do we know why?

Plaque (that soft, filmy, white stuff that grows on our teeth) accumulates constantly.  24/7.  It never stops growing.  Even if you do not eat food, it grows (common misconception that plaque only grows when you eat).  Inside plaque lives bacteria.  This is the bacteria that causes cavities and gum disease.  It is recommended that we brush two times a day to remove the plaque and disrupt the bacteria’s harm on our mouth.  If we do not remove the plaque, then we are allowing the bacteria to start creating cavities and cause inflammation and infection in our gums.

If the plaque is left in an area for a while then it will harden and calcify.  This is what we can tartar build-up, or you may even hear us refer to it as calculus.  While plaque is soft and can be removed with a toothbrush and floss, tartar is like a rock cemented onto your tooth.  You can brush and floss all day long, once it’s turned into calculus, it’s not going any where.  The biggest down side of that is that it still has the bacteria inside of it.  Now it’s stuck on your tooth, not going anywhere, with all this bacteria.  Even better for gum infections and things to occur.

Don’t worry, your awesome Hygienist will save you.  We have the tools and know-how to remove that calculus and get your mouth back to health!  But, so do you!  You can brush and floss every day, remove that plaque, and prevent that calculus from even forming!

Now many of you do brush your teeth.  Which is fantastic!  We love when you do that!  However, not as many of you floss.  I’m not sure why.  It’s just as important, and doesn’t really take that long.  Here’s something to remember when you want to skip flossing tonight… You can be THE most amazing brusher in the whole world, but you will never be able to clean between your teeth with just a toothbrush.  It’s a fact.  The best technique will not maneuver those toothbrush bristle to places they cannot physically reach.  Floss is the only way to clean the remaining 35% of your tooth that the brush did not get.  Floss is a toothbrush’s best friend.  They go hand in hand.  One just as important as the other.

I hope this helped you understand a bit more why we always ask these two simple questions.  If you have any other questions, we are here for you!  Just ask!

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Periodontal Probing


Katie Moynihan-Sias, BS RDH

Periodontal Probing

During your routine dental hygiene visits, your hygienist will perform an assessment called periodontal probing. Periodontal means to surround or encase a tooth. This assessment is used to determine the health of your gums and supporting structures. A periodontal probe is used to determine how deep the pockets are around your teeth. This probe consists of millimeter increment markings that allows the hygienist to measure the space between the tooth and the gums. As the hygienist performs this assessment, each millimeter measurement is documented with its correlating tooth. These measurements, along with x-rays and other assessments taken throughout the appointment, allow the dentist and hygienist to accurately recommend a proper cleaning for you.

Here is a breakdown of what each number means:

Pocket depths 1-3mm: tissues are in health with no bone loss present. Usually gums are firm and light pink in color with no bleeding upon probing.

Pocket depths 4mm: gingivitis is present but no bone loss. Usually the gums are red and inflamed with light-moderate bleeding present.

Pocket depths 5+mm: periodontitis is present with bone loss visible on x-rays. Periodontal disease can be classified as mild to advanced. Usually the gums are severely inflamed and painful, bleed easily, and tooth mobility can occur. Mild periodontitis is present with 4-5mm probe depths. Moderate periodontitis is present with 5-6mm probe depths. Advanced periodontitis is present with >6mm probe depths.

Once your hygienist performs a complete periodontal assessment of your mouth, he or she will inform you of your periodontal health. The dentist and hygienist will review all clinical assessments before recommending a proper cleaning. A “regular” cleaning may not be suitable for everyone. Once a patient presents with signs of periodontal disease, non-surgical periodontal therapy, such as scaling and root planning (a deep cleaning), will be recommended to properly treat the active disease. For more information on that please visit Non-Surgical Periodontal Therapy. In signs of advanced periodontitis, a referral to a Periodontist may be recommended for further evaluation and treatment.

The next time you are in for a cleaning, ask your hygienist for a report of your latest periodontal probings! As always, routine dental cleanings and proper homecare is recommended to keep your mouth happy and healthy!

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