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Cleaning & Prevention

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A preventive program is a cooperative effort by the patient, dentist, and dental staff to preserve the natural dentition and supporting structures by preventing the onset, progress, and recurrence of dental diseases and conditions.

Preventing dental disease starts at home with good oral hygiene and a balanced diet.  It is continued in the dental office by the efforts of your dentist and dental hygienist to promote, restore, and maintain your oral health.

Prevention also includes regular dental exams, cleanings, and x-rays. Sealants and fluoride are also great preventive treatments that help protect the teeth.

Prevention helps avoid serious and costly dental problems and is the key to having a healthy, confident, beautiful smile.

statue bust of Hygea goddess of hygiene

HYGIE (The Greek Goddess of Hygiene)

Dental Plaque Tooth Decay and Gum Disease

Read about it in the Journal of The Royal Society of Medicine
There is a battle being fought for the ecological space in your mouth, a battle which is ongoing every day.  There are many microscopic organisms that thrive in moist warm places where there is plenty of “food” available.  The mouth is such a place. It is moist all the time, it is warm at blood heat, and there is an abundant supply of various foodstuffs left over from our diet, and importantly from the desquamated cells of the constantly shed mucosal lining of the oral cavity.

We could give the members of the army of occupiers that colonize our mouths names, like “Streptococcus mutans” and while it might be erudite it can possibly complicate unduly the basic message being communicated here.  It is impossible to eradicate bacteria from our mouths. Our bodies are covered with bacteria, they reside in every crevice, every nook, and cranny, every entrance to the body’s chambers.  They all have specific types of bacteria that thrive in each location, varying complements that balance each other and are especially well suited to each area sometimes supporting their mutual survival in a synergistic way.  The presence of one type of bacteria may enhance the opportunity for survival of another, and herein lies a particularly interesting conundrum.  While we might not want a particular bacteria in our body cavities, their presence actually prevents other organisms that would be much more harmful to us from colonizing the space in their stead.  A brief example of this can be drawn from the number of times we hear that so and so does not want to take antibiotics again, because every time they take them, they get a yeast infection.  This is a simple demonstration that if we disturb the naturally occurring bacterial complement by taking a medication, we run the risk of potentiating an opportunistic infection which was being kept at bay by the commensal bacteria that form the ground guard of that space.

Microscopic Organisms and Plaque

The bottom line then is that we need commensal colonizing organisms to prevent more hostile invasion and occupation by other more virulent and damaging life forms.  These might not be only bacterial, they can be yeasts and fungi and viruses.

So with this in mind, what is the problem for dentists and why would I bother to write this post for my patients and friends.  Basic biology teaches us that all living organisms have seven vital characteristics, they respond to stimulus, they grow and repair, they pass genetic material from one generation to another, they metabolize nutrient materials upon which the surviving, they move, they respire, and they excrete waste materials that they no longer need, these are the by-products of their life cycle.  It is this last vital characteristic, the excretion, that causes all the trouble for you and the dentists the justification for his job.

The bacteria in your mouth anchor themselves into position in the crevices between the teeth and gums and between the papillae on the rough tongue surface by secreting a mucopolysaccharide gel.  This gel, which is sticky, and binds all the bacteria together in a colony or plaque, is waterproof and requires mechanical stimulus to penetrate it and disturb it.  Into this plaque, the bacteria excrete all the waste products that would poison their cells.  This toxic waste is acidic and irritant to our tissues.  These physical properties are what damages the tissues in our mouths and are the primary reason why we need dentists.

Tooth decay and Dental Plaque

The acidic nature of the excreted waste from the bacterial life cycle is strong enough to dissolve out the minerals, the calcium salts, from which the crystals of the tooth enamel and dentine are composed.  The pH, the percentage of hydrogen ion, does not have to be very high to have a value of 5.5, but at this concentration, the minerals are literally dissolved out of the crystals.

The irritant characteristic of bacterial waste, produces an inflammatory response in our gums and makes them swell, and causes the blood vessels to dilate in an attempt to bring more protective body fluids to the area. The blood vessels bleed easily, and a critical signal is given which tells our bodies to start an inflammatory process.  This swelling of our gums makes the normally tight cuff of gingiva around each tooth loose and the pocket deeper.  There are two effects that then produce the changes we call gum disease or periodontal disease.  I would like to discuss them now before talking about plaque control.

The first important factor in protecting the teeth is that each tooth is surrounded by a tight cuff of gum tissue called the gingiva.  The depth of the cuff is usually about one to three millimeters deep, and each cuff is washed out by a flow of crevicular fluid which weeps out from the cells at the bottom of the cuff every time your heart beats.  At the height of each pulse of blood pressure that passes in a wave throughout our bodies, fluid flows into the cuff, and this fluid flushes out the cuff, preventing bacteria from entering, and washing out any excretory products.  When the gums are inflamed and swollen the pocket is deepened and becomes loose and wider. Then the flow of fluid is inadequate to flush the bacteria out.  This results in toxic materials accumulating in the cuff, and this damages the connection of the gum to the tooth and recession occurs.  The gums recede.

Our teeth are supported by bone in our jaws and held in place by a fine sling of white fibers called the periodontal ligament.  The bone, like all bone, is being remodeled continuously.  In fact, bone is completely remodeled in health about every one hundred and twenty days.  That is why our bones can be reset and mend after breaks.  However, in the presence of an inflammatory response the messages telling the cells to remodel and lay down new bone are interrupted, and while old bone is removed, new bone deposition is delayed.  The net effect is that the height of the bone supporting the teeth gradually recedes.  This is the factor that causes our teeth to become loose and eventually if left untreated, lost.

One other critical factor is that bacteria have a very short life cycle.  In twenty minutes they are formed by cell division, they metabolize and grow large enough to divide and double in number.  Threefold in an hour, thirtyfold in ten.

So now we see that we cannot eliminate dental plaque, nor would we want to.  We need the bacteria in our mouths to keep other organisms at bay. It is imperative that we control the plaque colony by diminishing its thickness and by disturbing it to the point where our saliva can neutralize the toxic and acid contents of the plaque colony.  That is what tooth brushing and flossing are all about.  They are designed to break up the colony and let saliva do its work.

A word about Saliva the miracle liquid.  Saliva is a supersaturated solution of calcium salts produced by special glands which allow us to save our teeth.  Saliva not only contains mucus that makes food slippery so that we can swallow it, and water so that our food can be dissolved and tasted.  It also contains immune- proteins that help against infection, and it is alkaline most of the time.  This alkalinity is what neutralizes the acidity of the bacterial plaque and stops the teeth from being dissolved.  The special ingredient calcium is what all the difference.   Some of us have bitten into a lemon and noted the rough feeling of the teeth immediately afterward.  What is the explanation for it?  Well, it is the result of citric acid that has etched into the tooth and produced microscopic indentations that make the tooth rough.  But two hours later the teeth will feel back to normal.  That is the repair process resulting from the saliva reconstituting the outer layer of the tooth. Saliva literally re-crystalizes the enamel on our teeth. We are wonderfully made, and this facet of human biology, the way our teeth are prevented from dissolving away is amazing.

All we have to do to save our teeth and prevent them from needing complicated treatment and repair is to brush and floss daily and see a dentist


Dr Neil McLeod in active Exam

Dr. Neil McLeod Exam

A comprehensive dental exam will be performed by Dr. Neil McLeod your  West Hollywood dentist at your initial dental visit.  At regular check-up exams, your dentist and hygienist will include the following:

Examination of diagnostic digital x-rays (radiographs): 

Essential for detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss.  X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions.

Oral cancer screening: Check the face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer.

Gum disease evaluation: Check the gums and bone around the teeth for any signs of periodontal disease.

Examination of tooth decay: All tooth surfaces will be checked for decay with special dental instruments.

Examination of existing restorations: Check current fillings, crowns, etc.


Professional dental cleanings (dental prophylaxis) are usually performed by Registered Dental Hygienists.  Your cleaning appointment will include a dental exam and the following:

  • Removal of calculus (tartar): Calculus is hardened plaque that has been left on the tooth for some time and is now firmly attached to the tooth surface.  Calculus forms above and below the gum line and can only be removed with special dental instruments.
  • Removal of plaque: Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth.  It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva.  The bacteria produce toxins (poisons) that inflame the gums.  This inflammation is the start of periodontal disease!
  • Teeth polishing: Remove stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling.

How have a beautiful Smile

You can have a beautiful smile and keep your teeth bright and white and healthy.  Give yourself a “Biting Chance at Life”.  All it takes is a few minutes every day and a couple of visits a year to Dr. Neil McLeod’s West Hollywood dental practice.  Prevention is the name of the game. You should brush your teeth regularly, and floss properly every evening before going to bed, and don’t forget to get your teeth professionally cleaned at the dentist’s at least every six months. A regular Dental Cleaning, that’s the American way and has been years.

So, why is it important to visit your dentist for regular periodic cleanings?

There are many reasons. One is that you make it easier for your dentist to make sure your teeth are healthy.  Another is that cavities can be identified and repaired in a timely manner.  Thirdly, regular cleanings remove tartar and stain that mars the brightness of your smile and causes plaque to collect and break down your dental health causing tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath.  Gum disease causes the loss of the bone supporting your teeth, the teeth then become loose and may no longer be able to support the pressure of the bite.  Cavities left untreated can lead to nerve damage and abscesses. Both of these conditions can result in teeth being lost or requiring costly additional treatment like root canal therapy, reinforcing posts and crowns.

If you have crowns or veneers or implants, or bridges and partial dentures your need for routine cleanings may be increased.  They may need special additional care.  The reason for that dental work being in your mouth in the first place must be addressed.  Extra vigilance is often needed to prevent further damage and loss.  That is the last thing you want.

If you brush and floss daily, it will make cleaning your teeth easier.  You have long been told that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.  This was never more true than where dental care and the health of your teeth is concerned.

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Digital Dental X-Ray

showing a dental x_ray

Dr. McLeod showing a patient her x-ray

Digital radiography (digital x-ray) is the latest technology used to take dental x-rays.  This technique uses an electronic sensor (instead of x-ray film) that captures and stores the digital image on a computer.  This image can be instantly viewed and enlarged helping the dentist and dental hygienist detect problems more easily than was previously possible.  Digital x-rays reduce radiation dosage by up to 80-90% compared to the already low exposure of traditional dental x-rays.

Dental X-ray for preventing tooth decay and oral care

Dental x-rays are essential, preventative, diagnostic tools that provide valuable information not visible during a regular dental exam.  Dentists and dental hygienists use this information to safely and accurately detect hidden dental abnormalities and complete an accurate treatment plan.  Without x-rays, problem areas may go undetected. 

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  • Abscesses or cysts.
  • Bone loss.
  • Cancerous and non-cancerous tumors.
  • Decay between the teeth.
  • Developmental abnormalities.
  • Poor tooth and root positions.
  • Problems inside a tooth or below the gum line.

Detecting and treating dental problems at an early stage may save you time, money, unnecessary discomfort, and your teeth!

Digital x-rays are safer than a normal X-ray.

We are all exposed to natural radiation in our environment.  Digital x-rays produce a significantly lower level of radiation compared to traditional dental x-rays.  Not only are digital x-rays better for the health and safety of the patient, but they are also faster and more comfortable to take, which reduces your time in the dental office.  Also, since the digital image is captured electronically, there is no need to develop the x-rays, thus eliminating the disposal of harmful waste and chemicals into the environment.

Even though digital x-rays produce a low level of radiation and are considered very safe, dentists still take necessary precautions to limit the patient’s exposure to radiation.  These precautions include only taking those x-rays that are necessary, and using lead apron shields to protect the body.

How often should dental x-rays be taken?

The need for dental x-rays depends on each patient’s individual dental health needs.  Your dentist and dental hygienist will recommend necessary x-rays based upon the review of your medical and dental history, a dental exam, signs and symptoms, your age, and risk of disease.

full mouth series of dental x-rays is recommended for new patients.  A full series is usually good for three years.  Bite-wing x-rays (x-rays of top and bottom teeth biting together) are taken at recall (check-up) visits and are recommended once a year to detect new dental problems.

Black and white x-ray of teeth
Beautiful Clear Images Making Diagnosis Easier

Dental Sealants

A sealant is a thin, plastic coating applied to the chewing surface of molars, premolars and any deep grooves of the tooth (These are called pits and fissures).  More than 75% of dental decay begins in these deep grooves.  Teeth with these conditions are hard to clean and are very susceptible to decay.  A sealant protects the tooth by sealing deep grooves, creating a smooth, easy to clean surface.

Sealants can protect teeth from decay for many years but need to be checked for wear and chipping at regular dental visits.

Reasons for sealants:

  • Children and teenagers – As soon as the six-year molars (the first permanent back teeth) appear or any time throughout the cavity-prone years of 6-16.
  • Adults – Tooth surfaces without decay that have deep grooves or depressions.
  • Baby teeth – Occasionally done if teeth have deep grooves or depressions and child is cavity prone.

Fissure Sealants:

    * Are safe and effective
    * Painless in the application and unnoticeable after treatment
    * Prevent decay of molars and premolars
    * Should last for many years
    * Easier to keep clean due to a smoother tooth surface
    * Reduce the likelihood of fillings in your child’s mouth

What is sealants Procedure?

Sealants are easily applied by your dentist or dental hygienist and the process takes only a couple of minutes per tooth.

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The teeth to be sealed are thoroughly cleaned and then surrounded with cotton to keep the area dry. A special solution is applied to the enamel surface to help the sealant bond to the teeth.  The teeth are then rinsed and dried. 

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The sealant material is carefully painted onto the enamel surface to cover the deep grooves or depressions.  Depending on the type of sealant used, the material will either harden automatically or with a special curing light.

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Proper home care, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits will aid in the life of your new sealants.

Mouth Guard Athlete Most Valuable Protection

In spite of endless recommendations, many of us engage in contact sports without protecting our teeth.  Children are especially vulnerable.  It is like boxing without gloves, you are bound to break something sooner or later. Thirty years of treating patient’s smiles in West Hollywood has taught Dr. McLeod and his staff that one moment of inattentiveness, one fleeting moment results in a lifetime of repeated treatments to maintain the appearance of our smiles.  A banged or chipped tooth can be knocked out, need root canal treatment, a crown or replacement with an implant or bridge or a partial denture.

If you play football or soccer, hockey or take Karate or boxing, or if you are on the swimming team or play water-polo please consider a professionally made Mouth Guard.

Right off the bat let me tell you that the “boil and bite” versions of Mouth and Bite Guards can rarely if ever do the job of a custom guard. Athletic guards need to be made out of a resilient material with sufficient thickness to prevent the teeth from biting through it and strength to withstand considerable impact. Most important they need to be vacuum molded so that they fit accurately and do not fall down or become dislodged when the head is jolted or jarred.

Victims of total tooth avulsions (knocked out teeth) who do not have their teeth properly preserved or replanted may face lifetime dental costs of $10,000 - $15,000 per tooth, hours in the dentist's chair, and the possible development of other dental problems. Please wear a mouth guard, for sporting activities, and remember to tell your family and friends that At Doctor McLeod's office in West Hollywood, we can fix these problems properly.

Mouth Guards can not fit accurately, and will not have "Suction" which holds them in place firmly unless they are made on custom-made models from impressions taken by a dentist.

multi colored moth guard 4 different varietiesAthletic Dental Mouth Guards can be made in various colors so that they may be seen easily and add personal flair.

College students playing soccer

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Dr. McLeod would love to improve your smile!

Dr. Neil McLeod, DDS

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