Posts for: October, 2013
Everyone's heard the jokes about root canals. Now, let's go beyond the myths and get to the “root” of the matter. Here are a few things everyone should know about this relatively painless and beneficial procedure.
1) If you experience discomfort after eating hot or cold foods, sharp pain when biting down, swelling of the gum tissue, or acute tooth pain, you may need root canal treatment.
All of the above are symptoms of disease in the pulp tissue, which lies deep within the roots of teeth, inside tiny canals that go from one end of the root to the other. Pulp tissue can become infected or inflamed for a variety of reasons, such as trauma or deep tooth decay, causing pain and leading to further complications.
2) Diseased pulp tissue in the root canal must be removed to prevent more problems.
The acute pain may go away — but without treatment, the infection in the pulp tissue won't. It will eventually travel through the ends of the tooth's roots and into surrounding areas. This can lead to dental abscesses, and may even cause systemic problems and diseases in other parts of the body.
3) Root canal treatment is effective.
Removing the diseased pulp tissue removes the infection. Pulp tissue itself is a remnant of tooth development which the tooth no longer needs. After the tissue is removed, the root canal is filled with a biocompatible material, and then it is sealed. A crown or other restoration is usually done after root canal treatment to restore the tooth to its full function.
4) Root canal treatment is generally pain-free.
Just like having an ordinary filling, the process begins with an anesthetic administered to numb the tooth and the nearby area. A tiny hole in the tooth's biting surface provides access to the canal, and minute instruments are used for the procedure. Afterwards, over-the-counter pain relievers are typically all that's needed to relieve the sensitivity that may persist for a day or two following the treatment.
5) A properly done root canal preserves your natural teeth.
A tooth that has had appropriate root canal treatment and restoration can last just as long as a natural tooth. That's important, because the other option — removal of the tooth — can lead to issues like unwanted tooth movement and bite problems. Saving your natural teeth should be the first priority in proper dental care.
If you would like more information about root canals, please contact us to schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Common Concerns About Root Canal Treatment” and “Signs and Symptoms of a Future Root Canal.”
You hardly notice the moist environment of your mouth — unless it becomes uncomfortably dry. Some instances of dry mouth are quite normal — when you first wake in the morning after reduced saliva flow during sleep, when you're stressed, or when you're dehydrated and need fluids. But some are not normal — millions of people, in fact, suffer from a chronic inadequacy of saliva production and flow.
Chronic dry mouth (or xerostomia) can have a greater effect on your oral health than discomfort. Saliva performs a number of tasks for the body: its enzymes help break down food before digestion; its antimicrobial properties help reduce harmful bacteria and its buffering ability helps neutralize acid, both of which reduce the risk of tooth decay.
There are a number of causes for chronic dry mouth. One of the most common arises as a side effect of over 500 medications, both prescription and over-the-counter. The major contributors to dry mouth fall into three main types: antihistamines, used to treat allergies; diuretics, prescribed to cardiac patients to drain excess fluid; and antidepressants. Diseases like Diabetes, Parkinson's disease, or AIDS can also cause dry mouth. Some treatments can too — persons undergoing head or neck radiation or chemotherapy may experience dry mouth.
If you've noticed dry mouth over several days, it's a good idea to visit us for an exam. Our first step is to try to determine the extent and cause of the condition. Depending on what we find, we can then recommend a treatment path that includes some changes in habit and prescribed medications. For example, if lack of hydration is contributing to dry mouth, we would recommend drinking an adequate amount of water, as well as cutting back on caffeinated or acidic beverages. We might also prescribe medication to stimulate saliva flow. Consuming foods that contain xylitol, a natural sugar substitute, may also do the same.
It's also important that you maintain a good oral hygiene regimen and regular dental checkups and cleanings. Good oral hygiene and the proper treatment for chronic dry mouth will greatly reduce your risk of tooth decay and other diseases.
If you would like more information on the causes and treatment of dry mouth, 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 “Dry Mouth.”
If you have noticed that one or more of your teeth have lost some of the surrounding pink gum tissue so that part of the root surface is now uncovered, you are experiencing gum recession. It's a very common problem — in fact millions of Americans have some degree of gum recession. Fortunately, there are very effective methods of treating it.
Gum recession can be unsightly, but there are more serious concerns. Tooth root surfaces exposed by gum recession can become sensitive to temperature and pressure changes and can decay or wear away. In very severe cases, teeth can actually be lost. That's because gum or “gingival” tissue as it is medically known is supposed to encircle and firmly attach to the necks of the teeth and the underlying bone. This forms a protective barrier that is resistant to the abrasive action of foods during eating, biting and chewing.
Gum tissue is largely made of a fibrous protein called collagen, covered by a layer of another very resilient protein called keratin (nails and hair are also made of it). Yet it is still possible for this tough tissue to lose its grip on the teeth it protects. Here are some of the ways this can happen:
- Ineffective oral hygiene — inadequate removal of dental bacterial plaque (biofilm) with daily brushing and flossing.
- Excessive brushing (and flossing) — too hard, or for too long.
- Habits — holding foreign objects between the teeth, such as bobby-pins, nails etc that press on the gum tissues.
- Oral appliances and ornaments — badly fitting removable partial dentures and orthodontic appliances (braces), or tongue bolts and oral piercings can apply pressure to the gums.
Treatment will depend in part on whether the recession is stable or progressive. For example, an older person might have a few areas of gum recession but there are still adequate zones of attached protective gum tissue and the exposed tooth root surfaces are healthy. In this case, there may not be reason to do anything but monitor the situation. On the other hand, a teenager with a history of fairly rapid gum recession (over a period of months) usually requires immediate treatment. The dental specialty of periodontics (“peri” – around; “odont” – tooth) has developed predictable surgical techniques to deal with recession.
Free Gingival Grafting, for example, involves taking a very thin layer of skin from the palate, where the tissue is identical to gum tissue, and transplanting it to the area where gum has been lost. Both sites will heal in a very predictable and uneventful manner. The free gingival graft is so-called because it is “freed” from the donor (original) site completely. It is crucial to make sure individuals with gum recession correct faulty hygiene habits prior to this (or any) treatment so that they will not jeopardize their future results.
If you are concerned about gum recession, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about gum recession and gingival grafting by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Periodontal Plastic Surgery.”
Loose teeth are an exciting rite of passage in childhood; in adulthood, they're anything but. In fact, a permanent tooth that feels loose is a sign that you need to make an appointment with our office right away. The quicker we act, the better chance we will have of saving the tooth.
What causes loose teeth? In the absence of a traumatic dental injury, the culprit is usually periodontal (gum) disease. This is a bacterial infection of the gum and/or bone tissues that surround and support your teeth. The infection is caused by bacterial plaque that sits on your teeth in the absence of effective oral hygiene. Over time, periodontal disease will cause gum tissue and eventually bone to detach from the teeth. As more of this supporting tissue is lost, the teeth will gradually become loose and (if the disease remains untreated) eventually fall out.
Loose teeth can also be caused by a clenching or grinding habit that generates too much biting force. This force can stretch the periodontal ligaments that join the teeth to the supporting bone, making your teeth looser.
Whether the cause of your tooth looseness is biological (gum disease) or mechanical (too much force), treatments are available here at the dental office. The first step in treating gum disease is a thorough cleaning to remove plaque and harder deposits on the teeth (tartar or calculus); this includes the tooth-root surfaces beneath the gum line. You will also be instructed on effective oral hygiene techniques and products to use at home. This type of therapy will promote healing of the gums that will cause some tightening of the teeth. Additional treatments will probably be necessary to gain the maximum healing response to allow the teeth to be most stable. For example, we may also want to temporarily or permanently splint the loose tooth or teeth to other teeth so that biting forces do not loosen them further.
There are other mechanical approaches we can employ to prevent a loose tooth from receiving too much force. For example, we can reshape the tooth by removing tiny amounts of its surface enamel in order to change the way upper and lower teeth contact each other. We also may suggest a custom-made nightguard to protect your teeth if you have a nighttime grinding habit.
The most important thing to know about loose teeth is that it's crucial to intervene quickly. So if you are experiencing tooth looseness, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Loose Teeth” and “Treatment for Loose Teeth.”
If a glance in the mirror reveals stained or discolored teeth that are detracting from your self-confidence, it's time to do something about it. The first step is to make an appointment for an office visit to find out how we can help you.
External (extrinsic) stains that form on the surfaces of teeth are usually caused by beverages such as red wine, tea, coffee as well as unhealthy habits like tobacco use. Extrinsic stains generally come in shades of browns, black or grays, but may even be orange or green from color producing bacteria.
Internal (intrinsic) stains are part of the structure of the tooth and cannot be removed by polishing. Among their causes are excessive fluoride levels or tetracycline antibiotics given in childhood and during tooth formation. Teeth do become more yellow and discolored as we age. Discoloration of individual teeth may be indicative of tooth decay, or teeth that have had root canal treatment and have literally lost their vitality tend to darken over time. Internal discoloration comes in a variety of shades and hues from yellows, grays, browns, and even some reds or pink.
Five Ways to lighten, whiten and brighten stained or discolored teeth
- Change your habits. Reduce or stop consuming or using foods, drinks or tobacco if they are staining your teeth.
- Improve your daily oral hygiene. Make sure to brush your teeth well, twice a day. Change to a toothpaste that contains a mild abrasive. Some toothpastes also contain tooth whiteners.
- Visit our office for a professional cleaning and polish. Routine scaling and polishing will remove most superficial external stain and discoloration. Sometimes ultrasonic cleaning (by high frequency vibration) and polishing with slightly abrasive pastes may just do the trick.
- Treatment for internal stain and discoloration. Brown colored decaying teeth need to have the decay removed and the teeth restored. Stained old and leaking fillings may also need to be replaced.
- Tooth whitening by bleaching. Bleaching or tooth whitening is a safe and effective way to brighten stained teeth. Internal tooth bleaching can whiten even discolored root canal treated teeth. Ask us for more information about this technique.
If your mirror tells you that your smile needs attention, there's no time like the present to get started. Get back your bright, white smile and your self-confidence as well.