Posts for: January, 2014
Root canal treatments are an important method for stopping the disease process within an infected tooth and ultimately saving it. However, one of the few side effects could have an aesthetic impact on your smile. Leftover blood pigments or the filling materials themselves can cause a darkening of the tooth — the tooth could eventually stand out in an unsightly way from surrounding teeth.
There is, however, one possible solution: a whitening technique known as internal or non-vital bleaching can lighten a darkened, non-vital tooth. For this procedure, we would insert a bleaching mix (usually sodium perborate mixed with hydrogen peroxide) into the pulp chamber of the darkened tooth for a short period of time. The chemical reaction of the mix whitens the tooth from within.
Our first step is to make sure by x-rays that the root canal filling in the tooth is still intact and still has a good seal. We then create a small opening in the rear of the tooth just above the root canal filling, irrigate it with water to remove any debris, and then add a special cement at the point where the root canal filling begins to seal it from any leakage of the bleaching solution into the root canal filling.
We then insert the bleaching solution into the empty pulp chamber. This is covered with a cotton pellet, which is then sealed in with a temporary filling. We repeat this application over a number of days until we see a noticeable change in the tooth color (normally after one to four visits). At this point, we would remove any residual solution and apply a permanent filling to seal the tooth.
This procedure can be performed instead of more extensive procedures such as veneers and crowns as a cover for the discolored tooth, or as a way to lighten teeth before applying a veneer or crown to help prevent discoloration from showing through. Either way, non-vital bleaching can help remove unsightly discoloration and restore vibrancy to your smile.
If you would like more information on internal or non-vital bleaching, 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 “Whitening Traumatized Teeth.”
If you think you'd rather wrestle a pack of porcupines than go to the dentist for a root canal treatment — then maybe it's time to think again! This common procedure has been the butt of jokes for a long time. Let's set the record straight by answering some common questions about the much-maligned procedure.
Q: What is a root canal?
A: Coursing through the central part of each root is a hollow space or canal, which contains the pulp tissue. The pulp tissue contains the nerves which respond to temperature changes transmitted through the tooth. When the temperatures are extreme the nerves signal sensitivity and pain. It's also shorthand for the dental procedure that is performed when the pulp tissue that fills these canals develops a disease.
Q: Why do I need to get a root canal?
A: Because an infection or inflammation has developed deep inside one or more of your teeth. When the living pulp tissue — which contains nerves and blood vessels — becomes inflamed or infected, it can cause intense pain. It also releases bacterial toxins, which can lead to further problems.
Q: What happens if I don't get a root canal?
A: Your acute pain may temporarily go away, but the infection won't. It will eventually travel through the tooth's roots into the surrounding tissues. If left untreated, it may result in an abscess or even a systemic infection. That's why you need to take care of it now.
Q: Will it be painful?
A: Generally, a root canal procedure is no more painful than getting a filling. In fact, it starts the same way: An anesthetic is given to numb the tooth and the surrounding area. Then a small hole is made through the tooth's chewing surface and down into the canal. Diseased pulp tissue is removed through the hole via a set of tiny instruments. Finally, the root canal is cleaned, disinfected, filled with inert biocompatible material and sealed up.
Q: What happens after that?
A: Your tooth may be sensitive for a few days after the treatment, but the acute pain will be gone. Over-the-counter pain relievers generally work well for pain relief at this point. To restore your tooth to its fully-functioning state, a crown or other restoration is usually needed after root canal treatment. Properly done, the restored tooth can last as long as any of your natural teeth.
Q: Is there an alternative?
A: Yes. You can relieve the pain by having the tooth removed. But you don't want to go there. Tooth loss can lead to unwanted side effects, like migration of teeth, bone loss and eventually the inability to chew properly. It's far better to save your natural teeth when you can.
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 have a toothache… or do you? That's not a facetious question — sometimes it's difficult to determine if it's your tooth that hurts, your gums or both. It's even difficult at times to pinpoint which tooth may be hurting.
This is because the pain can originate from a variety of causes. Determining the cause is the first step to not only alleviating the pain, but also treating the underlying condition. Those causes generally follow one of two paths: either the problem originates within a tooth and spreads to the gums and other tissue, or it begins with infected gum tissues and can spread to the teeth.
We refer to the first path as endodontic, meaning it originates from within a tooth. Most likely the tooth has decayed (also referred to as a cavity), which if untreated can progress, allowing bacteria to infect the tooth pulp (living tissue inside the tooth that contains nerve fibers). Pain results as the nerves become inflamed and sensitive, though often varying in quality (sharp or dull) or frequency (constant or intermittent); outside stimuli, like temperature or pressure, may also trigger pain.
Although likely originating with one tooth, it may be difficult to pinpoint which one is actually causing it; you might even feel pain in your sinus cavity radiating upward from the tooth. An untreated infection will continue to spread to surrounding soft tissue, or result in a painful abscess, an infected pocket of bacteria between the tooth and gums.
The other path is periodontal, meaning the infection originates in the gum tissues. A thin layer of dental plaque known as biofilm develops and sticks to teeth at the gum line, which can lead to infection of the gum tissue, which then becomes inflamed and painfully sensitive. The untreated infection can then progress along the tooth and invade the pulp through the accessory root canals.
Knowing the source of an ache will determine the best course of treatment, whether a root canal, root planing, or a combination of these or other procedures. It's also the best, most efficient way to relieve you of that unpleasant mouth pain.
If you would like more information on the various causes of tooth pain, 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 “Confusing Tooth Pain.”
Your mouth’s biting and chewing function is an intricate interplay of your teeth, jaws, lips, cheeks and tongue. Most of the time everything works in orderly fashion, but occasionally the soft tissues of the tongue or cheeks get in the way and are accidentally bitten. The resultant wound creates a traumatic fibroma, an overgrowth of tissue that develops to cover the affected area.
A fibroma consists of fibrous tissue made up of the protein collagen; this traumatized tissue functions much like a callous on a tender spot of skin by binding together the new tissues forming as the wound heals. But because the fibroma is raised on the surface of the cheek more than normal tissue, the chances are high it will be bitten again and reinjured, even multiple times. If this occurs the fibroma becomes tougher and more pronounced.
As it becomes raised and hardened in this way, it becomes more noticeable. More than likely, though, it poses no danger other than as an inconvenience. If it becomes too much of a nuisance, or you have concerns that it’s more than a benign growth, it can be removed with a simple fifteen-minute procedure. An oral surgeon, periodontist or dentist with surgical training will first anesthetize the area with a local anesthetic; the fibroma is then completely excised (removed) and the wound opening sutured with two or three small sutures. Any post-procedure discomfort should be mild and easily managed by pain medication like aspirin or ibuprofen.
Although it’s highly unlikely the fibroma is cancerous, the excised tissue should then be sent for biopsy. Viewing the tissue microscopically is the only definitive way to determine the true nature of the tissue and confirm any diagnosis that the tissue is benign. This is no cause for alarm as it’s a standard healthcare procedure to biopsy this particular kind of excised tissue.
“Bumps and lumps” are common occurrences in the mouth. It’s a good idea to point them out to us during your regular checkups or at any time if you have a concern. In either case, this bothersome problem can be easily treated.
If you would like more information on traumatic fibromas, 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 “Common Lumps and Bumps in the Mouth.”