Is Your Smile Ready for the Summer Holidays?

The holiday season is just getting into full swing and many of us make extensive preparations so we can thoroughly enjoy a well-earned rest for a week or two. However, do your preparations take into account your dental health? There is little worse than going on holiday and waking up with a toothache, and being faced with the prospect of finding an emergency dentist to deal with the pain.

healthy-smileGet Up-To-Date with Your Dental Check-ups before You Go

This is why we’d urge you to make sure that you and all your family members are up-to-date with your check-ups well in advance of your departure date. It’s even more important if you have had a niggling sensation that something is wrong with one or more of your teeth. Perhaps you have noticed increased tooth sensitivity to hot and cold or maybe you get occasional tooth pain. By coming to see our Watton dentist, we can soon diagnose any problems so they can be treated before you go away, giving you the confidence and peace of mind to thoroughly enjoy your holiday.

Don’t Forget to Book a Hygiene Appointment for a Sparkly Smile

We thoroughly recommend that everybody has a hygiene appointment every six months. You can either book this at the same time as your visit to our dentist in Watton, but you don’t need to see a dentist to book an appointment. Having your teeth professionally scaled and polished can be a really nice way to prepare for your summer holidays. Not only does this treatment help protect your teeth and gums, but having your teeth professionally polished will give them a bit of extra sparkle so you can smile with confidence. It’s also a nice way to freshen up your breath. If this isn’t quite enough then why not treat yourself to a professional tooth whitening treatment?

Teeth Whitening Is a Fast and Effective Way to Get Your Smile Ready for summer

If you have noticed your smile is looking a bit dingy and you feel slightly self-conscious about it, ask our Watton dentist about our professional teeth whitening treatment. This is highly affordable and is extremely safe. Our dentist will examine your teeth and gums to make sure treatment is suitable for you before making your custom made whitening trays. These are designed to fit exactly over your teeth, preventing tooth whitening gel from leaking out onto your gums. Every treatment is fully customised so if you have slightly sensitive teeth then we can prescribe a lower strength of whitening gel so you can whiten comfortably. All you have to do is to wear your whitening trays for a few hours each day or you can leave them in overnight. In just a couple of weeks your smile will be beautifully white. Another really nice thing about having custom-made whitening trays is that we can supply additional gel when it’s time to top up your treatment.

If you are overdue for a check-up, or want to find out more about teeth whitening treatments or any other type of cosmetic dentistry in Watton, then please contact Clarence House Dental Care on 01953 882777. You can also book your appointment online at www.ClarenceHousedental.co.uk.

Need an NHS Dentist? Look No Further

If you have been looking for a great NHS dentist in Southend then your search is over as Southend Dental Care is currently taking on new NHS patients. NHS dentistry is a great way to get essential dental care for an extremely affordable price.

NHS-DentistWhen you come to see our NHS dentist in Southend you can have a complete check-up as well as dental x-rays if required and a scale and polish if needed. NHS dentistry also covers preventative dental care which includes an application of fluoride varnish and the use of fissure sealants.

Preventative Dental Care under the NHS

Fluoride varnish is a great way to harden tooth enamel and can be very effective in helping to prevent future tooth decay. Treatment is quick and non-invasive as the fluoride varnish is simply painted onto your newly cleaned teeth and left to penetrate for a few hours or even overnight before you can brush it off. Fissure sealants are used to protect the chewing surfaces of back teeth. These teeth surfaces often need to be filled as they are particularly vulnerable to tooth decay. This is because these surfaces are often quite intricate, with deep fissures and grooves that are tricky to keep clean with a toothbrush. Fissure sealants seal these surfaces with a special flowable plastic material, creating a surface that is smooth and easy to clean but which won’t interfere with your bite.

Get Advice on How to Look after Your Teeth and Gums at Home

Our Southend dentist can also chat to you about better ways to look after your teeth and gums at home and they may suggest using a different toothbrush or floss and can show you how to use interdental brushes to clean in between your teeth. We do take preventative dentistry very seriously and of course questions about dental care are always encouraged.

Get Treatment to Restore or Replace Missing Teeth

Our NHS dentist in Southend can provide treatment to restore teeth that may have become infected or decayed with procedures such as fillings and root canal therapy and crowns. We can also provide tooth extractions if there is no hope of saving a tooth. Under the NHS you can also replace missing teeth with dentures or bridges.

The nice thing about visiting our dental practice is that we can provide both private and NHS dentistry. Even though you may be registered with our NHS dentist in Southend, you can still choose to pay for some treatments privately while still receiving your routine dental care under the NHS. For example if you wish to have any cosmetic dentistry in Southend or are interested in advanced treatments such as dental implants, then we can definitely chat to you about the additional costs involved.

NHS dentistry is a great way of accessing top quality preventative and routine dental care, helping to preserve your natural teeth for as long as possible. If you are interested in signing up with our NHS dentist in Southend then we’d recommend you contact us as soon as possible. Contact us today on 01702 465000 and you can also find out more about NHS dental care on our website at www.Southenddentalcare.co.uk.

Tooth Sensitivity: What Causes It and How to Deal with It

Tooth sensitivity can be pretty painful and may affect one or more of your teeth. It can cause unpleasant sensations whenever you eat or drink something hot or cold or which is sweet or sour. Sometimes even breathing in on a cold day can be enough to set off the pain of tooth sensitivity. So what causes it?

tooth-sensitivityTooth sensitivity is caused when the dentine layer of a tooth becomes exposed. Normally your dentine is protected by tooth enamel, but if the tooth enamel becomes worn or is damaged in any way it can expose the dentine which is a much softer and more vulnerable part of the tooth. Dentine consists of lots of tiny tubules that lead directly to the central part of your tooth called the pulp. The pulp contains nerves which is why any sensations that reach it are painful. Dentine can also become exposed if you have gum recession and where the roots of your teeth are showing. Your tooth roots are not protected by tooth enamel but instead are covered by a softer material called cementum which is much more easily eroded away.

Factors that can expose your dentine include:

  • Over brushing your teeth can wear away your tooth enamel. Ideally you should use a soft or medium bristled toothbrush and you don’t need to brush your teeth very hard to get great results.
  • Tooth decay will also expose the dentine.
  • Any damage to a tooth that has resulted in the tooth enamel becoming chipped or cracked will let bacteria into the dentine, potentially causing decay and infection and tooth sensitivity.
  • If you clench or grind your teeth then this can wear down your tooth enamel, exposing the dentine underneath. Tooth grinding is a nocturnal habit, but you might have begun to notice that your teeth look slightly shorter or more worn down than you remember and of course you could develop tooth sensitivity.
  • Overusing teeth whitening products can cause tooth sensitivity which is why we always recommend professional teeth whitening in Harrow as your dentist will make sure treatment is safe, minimising side effects such as tooth sensitivity.

Other factors such as age, eating too many acidic foods that may erode your tooth enamel and even having recent dental work can temporarily increase tooth sensitivity. It is important to visit a dentist in Harrow to find out the exact cause of your tooth sensitivity just in case it is due to an untreated dental problem. Using the correct brushing and flossing techniques will also help protect your teeth and a fluoride mouthwash can provide a little added protection by helping to slightly harden your tooth enamel.

Quite a few people find using toothpaste especially designed for sensitive teeth to be very effective. This toothpaste contains special ingredients designed to slowly block up the tubules in your dentine that lead to the pulp, reducing tooth sensitivity. The effect is cumulative so you need to be prepared to use the toothpaste for several weeks to feel the full benefits. This is not a substitute for proper dental care and cannot replace a check-up with our dentist in Harrow.

If you’d like to enjoy an ice cream without wincing in pain, then please contact Imperial Dental Care. An appointment with our dentist in Harrow will soon determine why your teeth are sensitive so call us today on 020 8427 2264. Alternatively you can book online through our website at www.Imperialdentalcare.co.uk.

Why Root Canal Therapy is Great for Saving Teeth

Root canal therapy is one of those treatments that have an undeservedly bad reputation when in fact it can be great for saving badly infected teeth. With root canal therapy, a tooth could last for many years afterwards or even for life. So when might you need a root canal treatment?

root-canal-therapyWhy We Use Root Canal Therapy

Our dentist in Basildon might suggest you have a root canal treatment if you visit us with a tooth that is painful and badly infected. A tooth can become infected when bacteria in the mouth can get right into the central part of the tooth which is called the pulp. The reason this is painful is because the pulp contains all the nerves of your tooth. Infection may occur if you have a tooth that is cracked, chipped or extensively decayed, or if you have a filling or another restoration that has been leaking and letting in bacteria.

Diagnosing an Infected Tooth

You will need a dental examination to fully diagnose the problem during which our dentist will carefully assess the tooth. They will probably want to take an x-ray to see the extent of the infection and this will also show the shape and number of the root canals. These extend into your tooth roots and the number of root canals can vary according to the size of the tooth.

Signs of an infection can include a tooth that feels painful to bite down on all which is painful all the time. You might notice that the gum around the tooth looks red and inflamed or they may even be a small pimple on the gum tissue.

Treating an Infected Tooth with Root Canal Therapy

Root canal therapy is carried out using local anaesthetic to keep you completely comfortable so there is no need to worry that it will be at all painful. If your infected tooth is causing you pain then root canal therapy should come as something of a relief and afterwards your tooth will feel much more comfortable. The aim of root canal therapy is to remove the infected pulp tissue which is done by accessing the pulp through the crown of your tooth. After clearing out the pulp tissue, our Basildon dentist will need to clean out the root canals which extend from the pulp into the tooth roots. This is done using specially shaped files to clean right into the root canals.

Afterwards the area is disinfected and if the infection was quite bad then our dentist in Basildon may choose to place antibiotics into the empty pulp cavity which will then be temporarily filled. This is to ensure all the infection is eliminated before the tooth is permanently restored. Most teeth that have been root treated will need to be restored with a crown that will cover up the tooth, protecting it against further damage.

If you have toothache, then contact us to book an appointment with an emergency dentist in Basildon. We always make every effort to see dental emergencies as soon as possible here at Felmores Dental Care as treatment is always more successful the earlier we can carry it out and of course we can help get rid of your toothache. Call us today on 01268 726789 or book online at www.Felmoresdentalcare.co.uk.

Why Mouth Cancer Screenings Are Important

You might hear mouth cancer as being referred to as oral cancer. This is exactly the same thing and simply means a cancer that can occur in any part of the mouth which includes on your lips, inside your cheeks, on your gums, on the roof or floor of your mouth, on your tongue, in your salivary glands or on your tonsils. Around 2,700 people are diagnosed annually with some form of mouth cancer in this country.

mouth-cancer-screeningsWho Is More at Risk of Developing Mouth Cancer?

It tends to affect people who are over 40 and men are more at risk. Smokers and heavy drinkers are also more likely to develop mouth cancer but around a quarter of all cases will have no known risk factors, which is why your regular screenings with your Clacton dentist are so important. One of the real problems with mouth cancer is that many patients have no real symptoms during the early stages, meaning it is often detected when treatment is trickier and likely to be less successful and far more invasive.

What Happens during a Mouth Cancer Screening?

Your screening for mouth cancer can be carried out at the same time as your check-up. It is very quick and non-invasive as your dentist in Clacton will simply closely examine all the tissues inside your mouth and they will gently feel your neck to check for any lumps. They are looking for any small changes that might indicate something is wrong and requires further investigation. Symptoms of mouth cancer can include changes to the texture or colour of the inside of your mouth as it can lead to white or red patches forming. Other indications are swellings or lumps or areas where the skin has become thicker. If our dentist in Clacton does find anything wrong, we can soon take a small sample of cells that will be sent off for a more detailed analysis, or we might refer you to a specialist for another examination.

Keeping an Eye Out for Any Changes In Between Appointments

As well as your annual mouth cancer screening, it is worth keeping an eye out for any changes to the colour of your oral tissues. Other possible signs include increased difficulty when swallowing or mouth ulcers that simply don’t heal properly. As the cancer develops, it can cause changes to the way your teeth fit together; they may become loose and any dental appliances such as dentures might begin to fit slightly differently.

If you have any doubts about your oral health then we will always suggest you come and see our Clacton dentist. We would far rather check the inside of your mouth than have you ignore possible symptoms. In most cases these symptoms will be caused by something else, but it is always better to be safe than sorry so please don’t hesitate to contact us.

If you are due for your check-up or think you have a dental problem that needs some attention, then please give Clacton Dental Carea call on 01255 221001 to book an appointment. If you prefer, you can contact us through our website at www.Clactondentalcare.co.uk.

Bad Breath and How to Get Rid of It

It can be embarrassing to think that you have bad breath but the truth is that most of us will suffer from this problem occasionally, usually as a result of eating strongly flavoured foods including garlic and onions. If you have bad breath caused by your food choices then there is nothing you can really do except wait it out until the food is eliminated from your body. You can temporarily mask the odour by using mouthwash but at least your breath will soon be back to normal. More persistent bad breath or halitosis can be a cause for concern. If you think you have bad breath then it’s best to ask a close friend or relative for their honest opinion, or of course you can always ask us.

bad-breathWhat Can Cause Bad Breath?

Most cases of bad breath are simply due to a lack of oral hygiene. Each day a layer of sticky plaque bacteria will develop over the surface of your teeth and you might even be able to feel this if you run your tongue over your teeth at the end of the day. These bacteria thrive on particles of food and cause noxious odours. They will continue to build up unless removed by regular brushing and flossing. Any pieces of food that remain trapped in between your teeth will gradually begin to rot which doesn’t smell very pleasant. A lack of oral hygiene can also cause tooth decay and gum disease, both of which can lead to bad breath.

There’s also another condition that can cause halitosis and which is called dry mouth or xerostomia. Your mouth needs to produce quite a bit of saliva every day. It is used to moisten food and to start the process of digestion and it helps to wash away old skin cells, excess bacteria and excess food particles. Without plenty of saliva your mouth can feel dry and uncomfortable and there is an increased risk of infections. Dry mouth can be due to medical conditions such as Sjögren’s disease and diabetes, as well as respiratory infections. It might also be caused by prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Dealing with Bad Breath

An appointment with our dentist in South Benfleet will soon determine the cause of your bad breath. We can then put together a treatment plan for you, detailing any procedures needed to restore your dental health. If the problem is due to poor oral hygiene then a visit to our hygienist will help tremendously. You will also find they can give you lots of useful advice on how to improve your dental care at home.

To keep your mouth fresh and clean you do need to brush at least twice a day and you must floss once-a-day. Generally it’s best to brush your teeth as soon as you get up to remove bacteria that will have built up overnight. Brush your teeth again before you go to bed and it’s better to floss at this time because your mouth is drier overnight and these conditions allow bacteria to thrive.

Very occasionally we might not be able to find a cause for your bad breath, in which case our dentist in South Benfleet will recommend a visit to your GP as sometimes bad breath can be due to an undiagnosed medical problem.

Don’t put up with your bad breath any longer. Call South Benfleet Dental Care on 01268 793485 to book your appointment today or if it’s more convenient you can book online at www.sbenfleetdentalcare.co.uk.

Wave Goodbye to Your Ill Fitting Dentures and Say Hello to Strong, Stable Teeth

Did you wake up this morning dreading putting in your dentures? It’s a common complaint as even dentures that fitted well initially and were comfortable to wear can soon become loose and ill-fitting after just a few years. Perhaps you have already tried having them relined or even remade, only to find the results are temporary. There is another solution and that is to consider having dental implants in Ladbroke Grove which can help stabilise a loose denture or you can choose to get rid of it completely and replacing it with a fixed arch of teeth.

dental-denturesImagine Having Teeth that Can’t Move

With dental implants, your teeth will be held firmly supported instead of just resting on your gums. This will greatly improve your food choices and socialising will become a pleasure a opposed to a worry. Instead of moving around uncomfortably, you can enjoy the sensation of having teeth that feel firm, strong and stable, just like your own.

You can choose between having a removable implant retained denture or if you prefer you can wave goodbye to your denture and replace it with a fixed bridge of teeth. This will be permanently cemented or screwed onto your dental implants and can only be taken out by our dentist in Ladbroke Grove.

With an implant retained denture, we normally only need to use a few dental implants that are placed towards the front of your mouth. A lower denture will generally require four dental implants, while an upper denture will usually need a couple more. This does make treatment very affordable and it’s particularly suitable for people who lost their natural teeth quite some time ago and who are likely to have suffered bone loss. The positioning of the implants helps to maximise use of strong and healthy bone, making bone grafts unnecessary. A complete bridge of teeth will generally require a greater number of dental implants but does mean that you will not need to take out your teeth.

Every Dental Implant Treatment Is Carefully Planned for Success

We take enormous care when planning dental implants in Ladbroke Grove as our dentist wants to make sure that every treatment is a complete success. This means we will thoroughly discuss the procedure with you and we will carefully assess your dental health and your general health to make sure this treatment is appropriate. There is no need to worry, as provided you have reasonable dental and general health, it’s highly likely that dental implants could help you.

The position of every dental implant is precisely planned to make sure it will be fully functional and that the final results will look great. Once you have your dental implants inserted, we can provide temporary teeth until the implants are fully integrated so you don’t need to be concerned you will be left without teeth at any stage. As soon as they have fully healed, we will make your permanent teeth.

If you’d like to find out more about dental implants, then why not contact Ladbroke Grove Dental Care? A full consultation will tell you much more about this treatment and will help you decide if it’s for you. Call us today on 020 7727 9836. You can also find out more information about dental implants on our website at www.LadbrokeGrovedentalcare.co.uk.

Ways to Give Your Smile That Wow Factor

A healthy and attractive smile can be a huge asset and may help you both personally and professionally. The really good news is that there are lots of ways you can help your smile look its best and many of these treatments are quite quick and affordable. They include teeth whitening, porcelain veneers, white fillings and dental bonding and our Downham Market dentist can restore badly damaged or missing teeth with beautiful crowns and bridges. So if you are interested in cosmetic dentistry in Downham Market, where do you start?

wow-factorPlanning Your New Smile

Perhaps the best place to start is to sit down and have a think about your ideal smile. Make a list of any issues that particularly bother you such as gaps in between your teeth, any chips or cracks, or any teeth that are oddly shaped or stained. Next, book an appointment to come and see our dentist in Downham Market. They will listen to your concerns and after examining your teeth will be able to recommend the most suitable treatments. You will receive a personalised treatment plan that can be tailored to take into account your budget. If you wish to improve your smile in time for a big event or holiday, we can also factor this in. We do take quite a bit of time to explain all possible treatments to you and you may already have a good idea about how some of them work, for example teeth whitening.

Taking a Closer Look at Possible Treatments to Help Improve Your Smile

Teeth whitening is enormously popular and with good reason as it can reduce great results very quickly and is very affordable. Having your teeth whitened by your dentist in Downham Market is definitely the safest way to get a whiter smile as we will ensure your treatment is fully customised, minimising any unwanted side effects such as tooth sensitivity. Our practice offers two different kinds of tooth whitening which include power whitening where your teeth will be whitened in the dental chair in just one hour, or if you prefer you can have a custom-made whitening kit to use at home. Both are equally as effective. Any teeth that do not respond to teeth whitening and which are internally stained can be covered up with our beautiful porcelain veneers. This treatment is also great for correcting the shape of teeth.

Renewing old fillings can be surprisingly effective in brightening up your smile, particularly if you have any older discoloured amalgam fillings that are creating darker areas in your mouth. We use the very latest composite resins that can invisibly repair teeth and which come in an enormous range of shades, ensuring your new filling will blend in with your existing tooth. The same material can be used to bond your teeth. This is a process that can be great for mending small chips and cracks in teeth and for building up areas that might have become worn down.

If you need crowns or bridges, then this is a treatment that will help protect your dental health while improving your smile. We can make your crowns and bridges from the very latest all-ceramic materials so they can be entirely metal free for the best aesthetic results.

If you’d like a nicer smile then why wait any longer? Give Downham Market Dental Care a call on 01366 382265 to book your appointment today. You can also find out a lot more information about all our cosmetic dentistry treatments on our website at www.Downhammarketdentalcare.co.uk.

Are Dental Implants Always the Best Way to Replace Missing Teeth?

It’s becoming increasingly popular to replace missing teeth with dental implants in Watton. You may already know people who have had this treatment but is it always the best choice? We thought we’d take a look at the pros and cons of dental implant treatment in comparison with dental bridges, an option that has been successfully used for many years.

dental-implants-wattonWhy You Might Want to Consider Dental Implants

There are advantages in choosing to have dental implants, most notably the fact that dental implants help to preserve your jawbone, preventing its loss and absorption that normally occurs after natural teeth are extracted. Dental implants can also look amazingly natural, particularly when used to replace just a single tooth and it would be very difficult for anyone to tell the difference between the implant tooth and your own teeth. They are also a great long-term option that can be very cost-effective. Another thing to think about is that our dentist in Watton will not need to cut down healthy teeth, which is often the case with a dental bridge.

When Is a Dental Implant Not Such a Good Choice?

Not everyone is suitable for dental implants. You might be advised by our Watton dentist to consider another choice of tooth replacement if you have uncontrolled diabetes or another condition that affects your immune system and which could slow down healing, increasing the chance of implant failure. Dental implants are also less suitable for smokers who do not wish to quit as again this habit affects healing. However, most people can benefit from this treatment.

Why You Might Want to Consider a Dental Bridge

Dental bridges can be a fast and non-invasive way of replacing missing teeth. Bridges are supported with crowns that are fitted over the teeth either side of the gap and which are attached to the replacement tooth or teeth. Each of these replacement teeth is called a pontic. A dental bridge can be a particularly good option if the teeth to be crowned could really do with being protected and covered up, for example if they already have very large fillings or have lost a significant part of their structure due to decay or trauma.

When Is a Bridge Not Such a Good Option?

A bridge isn’t such a good option if the teeth next to the gap are perfectly strong and healthy, as this would mean dentist in Watton would need to remove healthy tooth structure. Once removed, this can only be artificially replaced and these teeth will always need crowns, even if you subsequently choose to have dental implants at a later date. The risk with having teeth crowned is that the crowns can eventually leak, letting in decay-causing bacteria which may lead to teeth becoming badly infected. Dental bridges can also be more costly to replace than a single implant crown. All types of restorations need replacing every so often so it’s definitely something to consider.

We know it is a tricky decision for many people to make, but when you come to visit us at Clarence House Dental Care you will find our Watton dentist can discuss all possible options with you. The idea is for you to have all the information so you can make the right choice for your dental health. To find out more about ways to replace missing teeth please contact us to book a consultation on 01953 882777. If you prefer, you can book online at www.ClarenceHousedental.co.uk.

Learn Why Hygiene Appointments Are so Important for Dental Health

Here at Southend Dental Care we encourage all our patients to see our hygienist at regular intervals, usually every six months. It can be a great idea to book an appointment at the same time as your regular check-up with our dentist in Southend, but if you prefer you can always book a stand-alone appointment with our hygienist as you don’t need to see a dentist first. Having a hygiene appointment leaves you with a beautifully clean mouth, but it’s also vital for your dental health and here is why.

dental-healthA Scale and Polish Removes Plaque and Tartar

During your hygiene appointment your teeth will be scaled and polished. Scaling is a process that uses special hand tools to scrape or scale it away all hardened plaque which is a substance called tartar. Plaque and tartar both consist of bacteria and if allowed to remain on your teeth they will produce toxins that inflame and infect your gums. By removing plaque and tartar, you have a much better chance of maintaining healthy teeth and gums, reducing your chance of developing gum disease. Once all the plaque and tartar have been removed, our hygienist will polish your teeth. This helps to smooth your teeth, making it harder for plaque bacteria to stick to them. It is also an extremely nice process as polishing can remove some surface stains and it is great for giving your smile that added sparkle.

Get Personalised Advice on How to Improve Your Brushing and Flossing

Dental education is an extremely important part of our practice and you will find your hygienist is full of lots of information on how you can easily improve your brushing and flossing routine at home. It’s easy to brush your teeth without really paying attention and as a result you may be regularly missing out certain areas, allowing tartar to build up. Our hygienist can point out these areas so you know where to concentrate your efforts when brushing. They can also chat to you about better brushing techniques and we know lots of people struggle to floss thoroughly. Often a quick demonstration can work wonders or we can also talk to you about using alternative tools such as interdental brushes. These are extremely small brushes that come in a variety of sizes and which can be inserted in between your teeth to clean these contact areas. They are easy to manipulate and can be a great choice for anyone who finds flossing tricky. Interdental brushes can also be very good for cleaning around dental appliances and dental implants.

Our hygienist is also the person to talk to if you would like any advice about other dental issues such as bad breath. They do liaise closely with our dentist in Southend and you will find our friendly dental team will go out of their way to ensure you get the best possible treatment and advice.

If you are overdue for a check-up with our dentist in Southend or if you’d just like to book a hygiene appointment then why not give us a call today on 01702 465000. You can also find lots of useful information about all our treatments including preventative dental care on our website at www.Southenddentalcare.co.uk.