Archive for General Dentistry

Microabrasion with Dr Emma Franks


This young patient came to us because she was becoming very conscious of staining on her front teeth. She had been told previously she would have to wait until age 18 to have them whitened.

We decided to carry out a conservative treatment known as microabrasion. This involves polishing the teeth with a mild abrasive polish, to remove the staining in the enamel.

The treatment is carried out without anaesthetic, and completed in approximately 10 minutes. It is very safe and conservative.

The patient was very happy with her new appearance and has gained the confidence to smile again.

This treatment is suitable for various types of staining- depending on the cause and severity of the stains. It can be used in conjunction with whitening before or after the microabrasion, for more complicated aesthetic cases.

If you are interested in this treatment please contact the practice.



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Everything you need to know about dental check-ups

ScottArms_SMM_20171101_patient-and-dentistsDental check-ups are something that many people see as inconvenient and unnecessary. Why bother going to the dentist if your teeth are perfectly healthy? The truth of the matter is that we all need to see the dentist every now and then. Dentists can catch any problems in their early stages and treat them before they get worse. A check-up is also an opportunity for you to discuss your oral health and hygiene habits with your dentist. In this post, we’ll answer some of the most common questions our patients ask about dental check-ups.


How often should I have a check-up?

The typical advice is to see a dentist every six months. This allows your dentist to spot tooth decay before it becomes serious. However, six months isn’t necessarily the best option for everyone: the ideal frequency of your check-ups depends on you. Some people need to visit a dentist every three months, whereas luckier patients only need to see a dentist every couple of years. It all depends on the health of your teeth and your risk of developing problems.


What’s the purpose of dental check-ups?

Dental check-ups are important because they allow dentists to catch problems such as cavities or plaque. And if do you have problems then the dentist can take care of them there and then instead of letting them get worse. After all, the longer you leave a dental problem, the more difficult it becomes to treat. That’s why it’s best to catch problems early and to see a dentist frequently.


What typically happens at a dental check-up?

At a check-up, your dentist will typically:

  • Examine your teeth
  • Ask you if you’ve had any problems with your teeth since your last visit.
  • Ask you about your teeth-cleaning habits and advise you if you can make improvements
  • Tell you when you need to come back for your next visit


What about appointments for other things?

Along with general check-ups, you might also need to visit the dentist for other reasons. For example, if you have braces, then you’ll need to visit the dentist every few weeks to have the braces adjusted.
And if you experience problems with your teeth between check-ups, then you should contact your dentist and make an appointment as soon as possible. If you wait until your check-up appointment then the problem may be worse by that point.


What about dental check-ups for children?

Children need regular dental check-ups too. NHS dental care for children is free, so there’s really no excuse! A child’s first appointment should be when her first milk teeth appear. After that, your dentist will advise you how often your child needs check-ups. Typically this will be around every six months.



We hope that you now feel more comfortable about dental check-ups. If you have any more questions, then feel free to contact us at 0121 357 5000 or visit in person at our clinic in Great Barr. If we don’t see you, then we’ll be sure to see you at your next check-up!

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How can conscious sedation can help the anxious patient?

How big a problem is dental anxiety in the UK?

According to the oral health foundation, almost half of UK adults have a fear of the dentist. They also found that visiting the dentist is ranked first (22%) for making people nervous- even more popular than heights (19%). This is significant and it is the job of dentist to put people at ease, build a rapport and try to reduce the prevalence of dental anxiety in the UK.

For some, an upcoming visit to the dentist can cause anxiety and fear in the days and weeks leading up to the appointment. The specific thing that causes this apprehension is different from person to person. For some, it’s the needle, others it’s the sound of the drill. Even the fear of an x-ray causing gagging or the smell of the dentist can cause anxiety in some patients.

Some patient’s may never have experienced dental anxiety before- they may never of had extensive treatment before and now the day is looming. Things that they have never been scared of or thought about before suddenly come to light.

How can we help?

In-house sedation can be a perfect solution for these scenarios. It is both effective and safe to use. Whether someone has always suffered from dental anxiety or perhaps feel they need a little something to get them through their first course of treatment, sedation is often a helpful tool. It may also be used if a procedure is going to be a little uncomfortable, for example, extractions.

What is conscious sedation?

Conscious sedation is when a sedative drug is given through a plastic tube into a vein in the hand or arm to help a patient relax.

Intravenous sedation is different from general anaesthesia. Many patients misunderstand and believe they will be put to sleep. This is not the case and is one reason why sedation is safer than general anaesthesia. The patient remains conscious throughout, however are often drowsy, have little awareness of what is going on and often no memory of the procedure afterwards.

What drug is used and what is the procedure?

Most commonly the drug used is midazolam, which is in the group of drugs called benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines help to dampen down stimulation in the brain, and therefore help the patient remain calm and relaxed. As it is given intravenously (through a canula in a vein) the amount of sedative drug given can be easily, and therefore safely controlled. This is what we use at Scott Arms and it makes visiting the dentist far less scary for many of our patients.

Once sedated, we still numb the gum close to the area to be treated, to ensure the patient is numb throughout and for a short while after the procedure. Patients are monitored closely throughout the procedure. Afterwards clumsiness, sleepiness and forgetfulness are all very common and are all good signs the sedation has worked well.

Sedation can help patients cope with dental treatment and reduce anxiety. It can help interrupt the cycle of anxiety and patients are often more willing to come to the dentist afterwards. It is a very safe and effective option to ensure patients get the care and treatment they need, as well as being able to relax in the dental environment.

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What’s the deal with fluoride in the water supply?



Since the 1960s, the government has added fluoride to the drinking water in some parts of the UK with the aim of preventing tooth decay. The first large scheme began in Birmingham in 1964. Today, 10% of England’s population receives fluoridated tap water, which is 5.8 million people. The places where fluoridated water is most common are Birmingham, Staffordshire and Dudley.

Fluoridation is a controversial topic. On one side of the argument, people claim that water fluoridation poses health risks and is therefore too dangerous to add to tap water. Meanwhile, supporters of water fluoridation point out that that there is no evidence of side-effects at normal doses.


The evidence

In the early 20th century, scientists noticed that people living in areas with naturally high levels of fluoride also had low levels of tooth decay. This led to an experiment in an American city called Grand Rapids, where the city’s officials started adding fluoride to the water supply. Over the next few years, scientists found that the people in Grand Rapids enjoyed lower rates of tooth decay. In light of these findings, other towns and cities around the world quickly adopted artificial water fluoridation.

In 2015, an independent organisation of researchers known as the Cochrane Collaboration analysed studies into water fluoridation. They found many flaws in these studies. For example, they found that studies from before 1975 are no longer relevant because there was a widespread adoption of fluoride-containing toothpaste after 1975. The findings of the Cochrane Collaboration shed doubt on the usefulness of mass water fluoridation.


What are the benefits of fluoridated water?

We know for certain that fluoride helps to prevent cavities. This is shown in cities across the UK and the world. For example The Telegraph claims that in Manchester, where there is no fluoridated tap water, the rate of tooth decay is twice that than in Birmingham, where fluoridated tap water is commonplace.


What are the dangers of fluoride?

One known danger of fluoride is a condition known as fluorosis. The condition is where bones and teeth lose their minerals and become porous. However, fluorosis only occurs at very high levels of fluoride. The amounts added to tap water are too small to cause fluorosis.

Some preliminary research suggests that high doses of fluoride might be toxic to the brain and nerve cells. Furthermore, other studies have found that fluoride might cause learning and memory problems at high doses. However, the fluoride level used in these studies is higher than the levels found in water supplies.


The bottom line

We know for certain that fluoride helps prevent cavities. But since we already add fluoride to toothpaste, so do we really need to add it to our drinking water as well?

To answer this question, more research is needed. Governments need to know exactly how much fluoride they should be adding to the water supply. Given that too much fluoride poses health risks, we shouldn’t add use any more fluoride than necessary. Scientists also need to perform more research on the adverse health effects of fluoride on the brain.

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When do you need a sports mouth guard?

sadp-mouth-guardDo you play contact sports such as football, rugby, boxing or basketball? These sports are intensely physical and unfortunately injuries are quite common, especially injuries to the teeth. Luckily, there’s something you can wear to protect your gnashers: a mouth guard.

How do mouth guards protect my teeth?

While mouth guards may not be seen as cool, they do help protect your teeth in a variety ways:

  • Mouth guards protect you from direct blows from your opponents. If you’re a boxer and your opponent punches you in the teeth, then a mouth guard will (hopefully) absorb the blow.
  • Mouth guards prevent your upper and lower teeth from clashing together. Your teeth are the strongest part of your body, so when they collide it can be like two rocks hitting one another. You don’t want that. A mouth guard will keep your upper and lower teeth separate during the game.
  • Mouth guards prevent you from biting your tongue during a game. A bitten tongue doesn’t sound too serious, but people sometimes need stitches after biting their tongue too hard. Mouth guards also prevent you from accidentally biting your lip too.


When should I wear a sports mouth guard?

You should wear a mouth guard for any sport involving a risk of injury to the mouth. This is basically any sport that involves speed, falls, body contact or flying objects like hockey pucks and rugby balls. You’d be surprised at the number of sports that are potentially hazardous to your teeth. We’re not just talking about football, rugby and boxing, but also sports like skateboarding, mountain biking, and gymnastics. If there’s a risk of injury to your mouth, then you should be wearing a mouth guard.

By the way, you’ll typically only need a mouth guard for your upper teeth. However, some dentists recommend mouth guards for lower teeth if you have braces or bridges.


Different types of mouth guards

There are three broad types of mouth guards:

  1. Off-the-shelf mouth guards. These are the cheapest type of mouth guard. No moulding is required, which means they are ready to wear straight out of the packet. Although these mouth guards are cheap and convenient, they are also often bulky and uncomfortable.
  2. Boil and bite mouth guards. These mouth guards become soft when you place them in boiling water. You can then mould it to the shape of your teeth by biting down into it. After the mouth guard cools down, it retains its new shape. This makes the boil and bite mouth guard superior to its off-the-shelf cousin, as you can mould the mouth guard to the shape of your teeth.
  3. Dentist-made mouth guards. These mouth guards are made by dental professionals in a laboratory. The lab technicians will make the mouth guard to fit your mouth exactly. Therefore, dentist-made mouth guards offer the best fit and protection. However, they are also the most expensive option.

No matter what type of mouth guard you get, make sure it fits well and feels comfortable. Also ensure it’s strong and tear-resistant – it’s going to be protecting your teeth, after all.

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Could tooth loss cause dementia?

Could tooth loss cause dementia?

There are almost a million people in the UK with dementia, which is a disease that makes it hard to think and remember. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which comprises over half of dementia cases.

There’s no cure for dementia and no real treatments either. Therefore, it’s no wonder that people are anxious to know what causes it. Sometimes this can lead to people getting a little too excited about new discoveries, like what happened last March.

What happened last March?

In March, The Express newspaper ran a story with the headline “Dementia breakthrough: Brushing your teeth can ‘help ward off devastating condition’”. Meanwhile, The Mirror covered the same story with the headline “Keeping more of your own teeth lessen [sic] the risk of getting dementia”.

Both stories were about a Japanese study published that same month. This study found that tooth loss is linked to an increased risk of dementia. Essentially, the participants with few teeth were more likely to develop dementia over the five years of the study. Specifically, people with 10-19 teeth had a 62% higher risk of dementia than people with 20 or more teeth, and people with only 1-9 teeth had an 81% higher risk of dementia. These figures certainly sound convincing.

How could tooth loss cause dementia?

The researchers offered several explanations for how tooth loss could cause brain disease. Perhaps people with a full set of teeth have healthier diets, and in turn their good diets help protect them from dementia. Or perhaps even the act of chewing stimulates blood flow to the brain.

The study’s flaw

Before you start brushing your teeth vigorously in an attempt to stop dementia, you should know about the study’s flaw: the researchers found no cause and effect between tooth loss and dementia. In other words, does tooth loss really cause dementia, or is there something else going on? Perhaps tooth loss and dementia were both just signs of poor overall health in the participants.

So what does cause dementia?

Instead of just one cause like tooth loss, dementia probably has many interlinked causes. Scientists think that factors like smoking, alcohol, a poor diet and lack of exercise can all contribute to the onset of brain disease. So, if you want to protect your brain, then certainly look after your body as well as your teeth.

So as long as I exercise and eat well, I won’t get dementia?

Unfortunately, nothing is certain with dementia. Some people seem to be have a genetic predisposition to it, which means that a healthy lifestyle isn’t guaranteed to protect them.

Furthermore, dementia risk greatly increases with age. Only 3% of people in the 65-74 age bracket have dementia, yet this figure jumps to nearly 50% for those aged over 85. Basically, if you’re lucky enough to live until your nineties, you’ll more than likely have dementia.

Take-home message

Don’t believe everything you read in the newspaper. And keep brushing those teeth – good oral health is important for many reasons, even if we don’t know if dementia is one of them.

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Taking Care of Your Dental Health During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman during pregnancy, enjoying the time

Pregnancy is a very exciting time. But between all the doctor’s visits, prenatal classes, and morning sickness, you might find that your dental health might end up on the side-lines. However, it’s still important to look after your dental health throughout the pregnancy. This is because some oral health problems, such as gum disease, become more common when there’s a bun in the oven. Read on to find out the special precautions to take during pregnancy.

Gum disease

Gum disease is more common in pregnancy. This is because hormonal changes during pregnancy affect gums and make them more susceptible to plaque. Signs of the disease are gums that are sore, swollen, inflamed or bleeding. See a dentist if you suspect you have these symptoms.

How to prevent gum disease during pregnancy

Prevention is better than cure, as they say. So be proactive and take these steps to prevent gum disease when you’re pregnant.

  • The best way to prevent gum disease at any time, whether you’re pregnant or not, is to maintain a good oral hygiene routine. This should consist of brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day with a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Also, floss once a day to dislodge food and plaque from between your teeth.
  • Don’t eat sugary foods and drinks too often. These include non-diet cola, sweets, cake, and even spoons of sugar in your tea. These foods are bad for your teeth as well as your baby. Try to replace sugary snacks with healthier ones, such as carrots, oat cakes, and celery. Cheese and yogurt in particular are good snacks because a growing foetus needs a lot of calcium.
  • If you smoke, then stop immediately. Smoking harms your unborn baby and can also make gum disease worse. Avoid second-hand smoke too wherever possible.
  • If you vomit during pregnancy (i.e. morning sickness), then don’t brush your teeth straight away. Vomit is acidic which means it can soften teeth; brushing your teeth after vomiting might therefore damage your teeth. So, wait at least an hour after vomiting before brushing. What you can do straight away is rinse out your mouth with water. This will stop the acidic vomit from eroding your teeth.
  • Keep seeing a dentist for your routine check-up.
  • Dental treatments during pregnancy

    Dental treatments are often postponed for pregnant women due to risk of harm to the foetus. This is why dentists tell patients to postpone elective treatments (such as braces and removal of amalgam restorations) until after they’ve given birth.

    If you really need treatment, then try to wait until after the first trimester. This is because the first trimester is a critical time for the development of the foetus and all dental treatments should be postponed if possible. After the first trimester, routine dental procedures (such as cleaning and fillings) become safe up until the final few weeks of pregnancy. At that point, it’s best to avoid all dental treatments again until after birth. However, emergency treatment is still recommended at any point during pregnancy to ensure the comfort and safety of the mother.

    Finally, after the baby is born, make an appointment with a dentist to make sure there are no problems with the baby’s oral health. We wish you have a happy and healthy pregnancy.

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How to use dental floss

Woman using dental floss

A frequent question dentists ask is “Do you floss?” This is an important question because flossing is a part of a good oral hygiene routine. It removes plaque from places that toothbrushes struggle to reach. Therefore, we advise all our patients to floss as part of their own oral hygiene routines. In the post, we’ll show you to floss properly.

How to floss

Break off about half a metre of floss (i.e. about 20 inches). Wind some around one finger of each hand. Hold the floss in one hand with your thumb and forefinger. Do the same with the other hand, leaving about an inch of floss between each hand.

Use a gentle rocking motion to manoeuvre the floss into the space between two of your teeth. Bring the floss up to your gum line. When you reach the gum line, curve the floss against one of the teeth then gently bring the floss down, scraping the side of the tooth as you do so. Repeat on the second tooth. Then remove the floss and repeat the entire procedure for the rest of your teeth.

Flossing tips

Here are some of our top tips for flossing:

  • Don’t neglect your back teeth. We know that the back teeth are the hardest to floss, but they are still important. Dentists usually see more cavities in the back teeth because patients neglect them.
    To help you remember which teeth you have already flossed, it helps to keep to a regular pattern. For example, you could start with the top teeth and work left to right.
  • Don’t be too aggressive or you could harm your gums. Be gentle.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your dentist to show you how to floss properly.

My gums are bleeding – help!

Don’t worry. A little bleeding is normal when you first start flossing. This is because your gums are not yet used to the floss. Keep flossing as normal and you should see the bleeding stop after a few days. However, if your gums still bleed after a few days, see your dentist and they can check if everything is okay.

What if I find flossing too difficult?

If you find flossing difficult, then try one of these alternatives to floss:

  • Dental tape. This is a thicker version of floss, which makes it easier to hold.
  • Floss picks. A floss pick is a thread of floss attached to a handle. This makes it easy to use because the handle gives you something to hold on to. However, floss picks are single-use and can therefore quickly become expensive.
  • An interdental brush. This is a special type of toothbrush designed specifically to clean between teeth. However, the size between your teeth needs to be big enough for the brush to fit into. If your teeth are too small for an interdental brush, then try floss picks or dental tape instead.

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Your teething baby – Everything you need to know


If you’ve just had a baby, then you might be wondering when their first teeth will come through. Don’t worry: this blog post will give you the lowdown.

When does teething start?

Most babies start teething around 6 months of age. All babies are different however. Some don’t start teething until after 12 months. Others are at the other extreme and start teething in their first few weeks. In rare cases, babies are even born with one or two teeth. These are called ‘natal’ teeth. If the natal tooth isn’t attached to a root, the paediatrician might want to remove it to prevent the baby from accidental swallowing it.

The order babies’ teeth appear in

Different teeth come through at different times. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Usually the bottom front teeth are the first to come through. These typically appear at around 6 months.
  • The next teeth to appear are usually the top front teeth, which come through at around 7 months.
  • The teeth on either side of the front teeth are next. These appear at around 10 months.
  • The back teeth come through at around 14 months.
  • The canines (the sharp-looking teeth) appear at around 19 months.
  • Finally, the second molars (the teeth right at the back of the mouth) come through at around 2 years.

Most young children will have all their teeth at around 2.5 years of age.

Symptoms of teething

Teething sometimes causes symptoms such as:

  • Chewing on things a lot
  • Dribbling
  • Flushed cheeks, or just one flushed cheek
  • Sore gums
  • Fretful behaviour, such as crying

See your GP if your baby has any symptoms that concern you.

How to soothe your teething baby

Teething can sometimes cause discomfort and even mild pain for babies. This is usually normal, but there are some things you can do to help your baby.

Sometimes babies chew objects to ease their discomfort. Common items are toys, clothes, and even their own fingers! A safer alternative is teething rings. These rings are made of plastic or wood and are usually large enough to prevent your baby from swallowing them. Some teething rings can be put in the fridge before use – the coldness will help to soothe your baby’s mouth.

Another way to sooth a teething baby is with teething gels. These gels contain a mild anaesthetic that numb the pain around the erupting tooth. These gels can be used safely on babies aged more than four months. Speak to your GP however before using gels on babies younger than four months. Also, never use adult pain relief gel on babies; always use a teething gel that’s made specifically for young children.

If your baby is over six months old then you can give them food to chew on, such as pieces of bread, carrot, or apple. However, never leave your baby alone with food in case they choke.

Register with a dentist

Don’t forget to register your baby with a dentist when their first teeth come through. We like to think we’re a good choice, so don’t be shy and contact us today!

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How to take care of your childrens teeth

Girl in dentists chair toothbrushing a model

Some parents wonder whether it’s worth taking care of their children’s first teeth because the adult teeth will replace them anyway. But good oral hygiene in childhood is a cornerstone of healthy teeth in adulthood, especially now when it’s coming up to Christmas. So from brushing to sugar to dentist visits, this post will show you how to take care of your children’s teeth.


The foundation of any oral hygiene routine is brushing, and children are no exception to this. You should begin to brush your children’s teeth as soon as their first teeth appear, which is typically around the age of four to seven months.

Some dentists recommend parents to brush their babies’ teeth with water because babies tend to swallow toothpaste and the fluoride can be harmful. However, we do recommend fluoride toothpaste because it’s better at protecting teeth. One compromise is children’s toothpaste, which has less fluoride than adult toothpaste. If you do go down this route, ensure the toothpaste actually contains enough fluoride to do its job: at least 1,000ppm fluoride is needed. You should also use toothpaste sparingly on young children. Children under the age of seven shouldn’t be brushing with more than a pea-sized blob.

Some children dislike brushing their teeth, and this is entirely normal. However, it’s still important that children do brush their teeth. You can encourage them by brushing your teeth at the same time as them. Also, flavoured toothpaste can make brushing more enjoyable for children.

Seeing a dentist

It’s a good idea to take your child to the dentist as soon as their baby teeth have started appearing. This is because the dentist can check to ensure that the teeth are erupting normally, and they will also check your baby’s mouth for any sign of other problems. Another advantage of early dental visits is it helps your child get used to going to the dentist. Unfortunately, many children are apprehensive about dental appointments, and this fear can continue into adulthood and cause poor dental health. Therefore, it’s a good idea to get your child used to the dentist by taking your child at an early age.


It’s a fact that kids love sugar. Unfortunately though, plaque loves sugar just as much as kids do! It doesn’t help that sugar is found in so many foods these days. One way to manage your kids’ sugar intake is to read the back of food packets. This will allow you to determine how much sugar is in each food. Snacks such as dried fruit, cereal bars, fruit juice, and fruit rolls are among the worst culprits for sugar. You might think that dried fruit would be healthy, but it’s actually one of the worst snacks you can give to a child. That’s because it contains around 60 g of sugar per 100 g of fruit, and it also gets stuck between teeth easily where it can stay for hours. For healthier snacks, try popcorn, cheese, peanut butter, milk, or sliced apple, and keep the sugar just to special occasions.

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