My Blog

Posts for: January, 2018

January 22, 2018
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  

When you buy a new car or install a carpet, you do everything can to keep it in good condition. For the car, you get oil changes, get oral hygienerequired inspections, rotate the tires and more. For your carpet, you vacuum and keep the kids and the dog from staining it. Diligence applies to your teeth and gums, too, says your Columbia general dentist, Dr. Kristina O'Neill. She and her dedicated team promote good oral hygiene habits so you have a healthy, attractive smile for life.

What's the point?

Routine oral hygiene has several benefits, including:

  • Removal of bacteria-filled plaque and tartar
  • Freshening breath
  • Keeping teeth bright and attractive
  • Avoidance of tooth decay and gum disease, both of which lead to systemic health problems and tooth loss
  • Noticing oral health problems before they become expensive, painful and hard to treat
  • Maintaining your systemic health

Many people don't realize that the last point--maintaining your systemic health--has anything to do with oral hygiene, but it does. The American Academy of Periodontology states that gum disease appears connected to harmful conditions such as diabetes, stroke, dementia, arthritis, kidney and liver problems, hypertension and more. The bacteria in plaque and tartar causes an inflammatory process outside the mouth, and overall health suffers as a result.

So what is good oral hygiene?

Here's what your general dentist in Columbia recommends:

  1. Eat a low-sugar/carb diet, and avoid between meal snacking.
  2. Drink plenty of water to wash your teeth and gums and increase saliva.
  3. Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride toothpastes, rinses and in-office treatments strengthen tooth enamel and protect against decay.
  4. Floss daily to remove the plaque your toothbrush misses.
  5. If you smoke, stop. Cigarettes and even chewing tobacco release harmful toxins into the mouth, staining teeth and degrading gum tissue.
  6. Report any oral problems to Dr. O'Neill. Don't wait. Early treatment of pain, soreness, or defects such as chips keeps problems from worsening.

Finally, visit your Columbia general dentist every six months for a check-up and cleaning. She'll check for decay and signs of gum disease and do an oral cancer assessment. (Everyone over 18 should have one with each check-up). She'll also inspect any tooth replacements or restorations, such as fillings, you already have, and discuss how you might improve your oral hygiene routine. Interested in cosmetic improvements? Dr. O'Neill will address those, too.

An ounce of prevention...

As the old adage says, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Be vigilant about your dental and gingival health by practicing your best oral hygiene routine. If you're due for your six-month check-up and cleaning, call (803) 988-1070 for an appointment. We look forward to seeing you again!

By Dr. Kris O'Neill
January 18, 2018
Category: Uncategorized

At the first-ever Players Weekend in August 2017, Major League Baseball players wore jerseys with their nicknames on the back. One player — Cleveland Indians shortstop, Francisco Lindor — picked the perfect moniker to express his cheerful, fun-loving nature: “Mr. Smile.” And Lindor gave fans plenty to smile about when he belted a 2-run homer into the stands while wearing his new jersey!

Lindor has explained that he believes smiling is an important part of connecting with fans and teammates alike: “I’ve never been a fan of the guy that makes a great play and then acts like he’s done it 10,000 times — smile, man! We’ve got to enjoy the game.”

We think Lindor is right: Smiling is a great way to generate good will. And it feels great too… as long as you have a smile that’s healthy, and that looks as good as you want it to. But what if you don’t? Here are some things we can do at the dental office to help you enjoy smiling again:

Routine Professional Cleanings & Exams. This is a great place to start on the road toward a healthy, beautiful smile. Even if you are conscientious about brushing and flossing at home, you won’t be able to remove all of the disease-causing dental plaque that can hide beneath the gum line, especially if it has hardened into tartar, but we can do it easily in the office. Then, after a thorough dental exam, we can identify any problems that may be affecting your ability to smile freely, such as tooth decay, gum disease, or cosmetic dental issues.

Cosmetic Dental Treatments. If your oral health is good but your smile is not as bright as you’d like it to be, we can discuss a number of cosmetic dental treatments that can help. These range from conservative procedures such as professional teeth whitening and bonding to more dramatic procedures like porcelain veneers or crowns.

Tooth Replacement. Many people hide their smiles because they are embarrassed by a gap from a missing tooth. That’s a shame, because there are several excellent tooth-replacement options in a variety of price ranges. These include partial and full dentures, bridgework, and dental implants. So don’t let a missing tooth stop you from being Mr. (or Ms.) Smile!

If you’d like more information about oral health or cosmetic dentistry, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Beautiful Smiles by Design” and “The Impact of a Smile Makeover.”


Controlling discomfort during dental work is one of our top priorities. Advances in anesthesia over the last century have made that objective easier to attain, especially for routine procedures.

The term anesthesia means “without feeling or pain.” It refers to the use of substances to prevent a patient’s nervous system from sensing pain. There are two basic types: general, through intravenous injection (IV) or gas inhalation that places a patient in an unconscious state; and local, which only affects the part of the body involved in the procedure while the patient remains conscious.

The latter type has become very important in dentistry, especially for mild to moderate procedures. Because teeth and gum tissues are rich in nerves, patients can have a heightened level of sensitivity that can increase anxiety and discomfort during dental work. Local anesthesia reduces that discomfort and relaxes both patient and dental provider.

We typically administer local anesthesia in two ways: by applying the anesthetic to the outside tissue surface (with a cotton swab, patch or spray) or by injection. The first type, topical anesthesia, is most often used to eliminate the pricking discomfort of the needle used to inject the main anesthetic. Using both applications eliminates any painful sensation at all — the only thing you might feel is a slight pressure during the procedure.

As mentioned before, local anesthesia benefits us as well as you. Knowing you’re at ease and comfortable allows us to better focus on the procedure — we’re not rushed to finish to spare you further discomfort. A relaxed, unhurried atmosphere is essential to a successful outcome for any dental procedure.

We’ve also found solutions for another issue with local anesthesia that concerns patients: the length of time the numbing effect lingers after a procedure. In response, the dental profession has developed different types of anesthesia that reduce this after effect considerably. We’re also more selective about what procedures actually require anesthesia — some, like routine teeth cleaning or work on the outer enamel (which doesn’t contain nerves), can usually be performed without it.

All in all, local anesthesia reduces your level of discomfort and increases our ability to be thorough in performing your dental work. You’ll not only find the experience more pleasant, but it will also enhance the quality of your care.

If you would like more information on alleviating pain and discomfort during dental work, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Local Anesthesia for Pain-Free Dentistry.”