Posts for: January, 2014
Perhaps you've heard about dental implant surgery — or maybe you've been told you are a candidate for the procedure. You may already know that today, implants are the “gold standard” of tooth replacement options. It's no wonder why: They have a documented success rate of over 95%, and can last a lifetime. But if you're put off by the thought of implant surgery, then it may be reassuring to learn the following five facts.
1. The entire implant process is planned before surgery is done.
This usually involves taking radiographs (X-rays), and sometimes CT scans, as precision guides to implant placement. Before the minor surgical procedure begins, we have already examined the bite and the bone structure, and determined exactly where the implant will fit in. There should be no surprises during the surgery — which is only one phase of the implant process.
2. Implant surgery uses the highest-quality materials and state-of-the-art techniques.
The implant itself is fabricated of commercially pure titanium, or a titanium alloy. This metal has a unique property — it's capable of osseo-integration, which means it can actually fuse with bone. During the implant procedure, the bone is handled with utmost care: it's gently prepared to receive the implant, and cooled with water to prevent tissue damage. If you don't have enough of your own bone tissue to support an implant, it has even become routine to restore bone with grafting techniques.
3. The surgical procedure itself is generally painless.
Almost all implants are placed using local anesthesia — typically, a numbing shot. If you're especially anxious about the procedure, it's possible to be given sedatives or anti-anxiety medications beforehand. Of course, we will make sure you don't feel any pain before we begin! Some mild vibration is generally all that you may experience during the procedure, but it's very rarely a cause for concern.
4. There is little discomfort following the procedure.
On the day of surgery and perhaps the day after, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID) of the aspirin or ibuprofen family is usually all that's needed to control minor discomfort. You may also be given a prescription for antibiotics and/or a mouth rinse to aid healing.
5. The result: Natural-looking teeth that can last a lifetime.
Implants have become dentistry's premier option for replacing missing teeth. Their placement involves minimally-invasive techniques, and has a success rate higher than any other tooth replacement system. And, given proper care, they can last for the rest of your life. Could you ask for more?
If you have questions about dental implant surgery, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dental Implant Surgery” and “Dental Implants.”
It’s often said that thereâ??s a first time for everything: Driving a car by yourself; getting your first “real” job; even… having a root canal?
Now don’t get us wrong — we’re not wishing that anyone should go through a medical procedure, no matter how minor. Yet the fact remains: A root canal procedure is one of the most common treatments performed in many dental offices… and, especially for first-timers, it’s one of the most misunderstood.
Let’s start off with the biggest misconception of all. Have you heard that a root canal is an exceptionally painful treatment? Get ready for some news: It just isn’t so. The fact is, in the vast majority of cases, having a root canal procedure is comparable to cavity treatment in terms of discomfort. Yet it brings immediate relief to the intense pain that can result from an infection in the pulp of the tooth. To understand how this works, we need to look a little closer at a tooth’s anatomy.
The hard outer surface of the tooth doesn’t have nerves, so it can’t “feel” any sensations. But deep inside of the tooth lies a bundle of nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue called the pulp. Safely sealed off from the outside world, pulp tissue is needed for proper tooth development, but has no essential function in adults. Sometimes, however, a deep cavity or a crack in the tooth allows bacteria to infect this soft tissue. That’s when the tooth’s pulp will let you know it’s still there — by causing the sensation of pain.
Pulp tissue fills a branching network of tiny canal-like passages, which can be compared to the roots of a plant. When infection develops in the root canals, the best treatment is to remove the diseased and dying tissue, clean out and disinfect the passageways, and seal up the area against further infection. This, in essence, is a root canal procedure. It is performed under local anesthesia, so you won’t feel any pain as it’s being done. When it’s over, a crown (cap) will be needed to restore the tooth’s appearance and function.
What happens if you need a root canal but don’t get one? If you can manage to ignore it, the pain may (or may not) eventually cease: This signals that the nerves have died — but the disease still persists. Eventually, it may lead to further infection… a pus-filled abscess… even tooth loss. And that’s a truly bad outcome.
It’s normal to feel a little apprehension before any medial procedure. But don’t let faded myths about the root canal procedure keep you from getting the treatment you need. Remember, root canal treatment doesn’t cause pain — it relieves it!
If you would like more information about root canal treatment, call our office for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “A Step-By-Step Guide To Root Canal Treatment” and “Tooth Pain? Don't Wait!”
An icy cold beverage on a hot day or a steaming cup of cocoa on a frigid day are some of the simple pleasures in life. So why do they sometimes seem to turn against you and send sharp, sudden pain shooting through your teeth?
When pain affects your teeth, it's because the nerves within the very center portion, the “pulp,” are reacting to a stimulus such as temperature, pressure changes, or acidic or sugary substances. In healthy teeth, the pulp is protected from stimuli. Above the gum line, a layer of enamel encases and protects the visible portion of tooth (crown). Below, the gums (gingiva) and a thin layer of “cementum” protect the root portion. Neither of these contains nerves. However, directly under the enamel and cementum, surrounding the interior pulp, is the “dentin.” This layer contains nerve fibers that can relay sensations to the nerves in the pulp, which respond as they are designed to — with an unpleasant feeling that tells you something's wrong.
That feeling can range from a momentary pang, to prolonged dull throbbing, to downright excruciating distress. The nature of the pain depends on the type and degree of stimulus. The only way to be certain of what's causing the pain is with a professional dental examination. However, your symptoms can hint at some possible sources.
Fleeting sensitivity triggered by hot and cold foods generally does not indicate a serious problem. It may be due to any of the following:
- a small area of decay in a tooth,
- a loose filling,
- an exposed root surface resulting from gum recession (often due to improper or excessive brushing), or
- temporary pulp tissue irritation from recent dental work.
To help alleviate root sensitivity, make sure the tooth is free of dental bacterial plaque by brushing gently no more than twice a day. Fluoride-containing toothpaste made for sensitive teeth might help. Fluoride and additives such as potassium nitrate or strontium chloride help relieve sensitivity. Try using the toothpaste like a balm, gently rubbing it into the tooth surface for about 10 minutes. If the sensitivity is related to recent dental work, it should resolve within a few days to a week or two, depending on the extent of the work you had done. A mild over-the-counter pain reliever may help in the meantime.
No matter what the reason, if the sensitivity persists or worsens, please come see us. Together we'll get to the root of the underlying problem and resolve it so you can get back to enjoying the foods and beverages you love, no matter what the temperature!
If you would like more information about tooth sensitivity and ways to prevent or treat it, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Sensitive Teeth” and “Tooth Pain? Don't Wait!”
A substantial amount of research has recently pointed up the connection between oral health and systemic (whole-body) health. But recently, one study went a step further: It seems to show that having certain dental-health issues in middle age — for example, tooth loss and gum disease — could signal a deterioration in cognitive function.
Study author Gary Slade, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, summed it up: “We were interested to see if people with poor dental health had relatively poorer cognitive function, which is a technical term for how well people do with memory and with managing words and numbers,” he said in an interview with U.S. News and World Report. “What we found was that for every extra tooth that a person had lost or had removed, cognitive function went down a bit. The same was true [for] patients with severe gum disease.”
Does this mean that losing teeth is a little like losing brain cells? Not really, because it isn’t clear which condition occurred first… or even if one caused the other. For example, it could be that a poor diet is responsible for both poor dental health and a decline in cognitive ability; on the other hand, there could be a genetic link between both conditions. Or, it could simply mean that people with cognitive difficulties don’t take good care of their teeth.
Still, the association is intriguing — especially because it echoes some previous studies, which indicate that systemic inflammation could be a major cause of both problems. What’s the oral-systemic connection? No one is exactly sure yet, but research suggests a relationship between periodontal disease and other diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The common link may be bacteria: The same microorganisms that cause problems in the mouth might be able to spread through the body, producing a low-grade inflammation — one that’s waiting for the right conditions to burst into fire.
So, should you rush out and grab everything off the drugstore’s oral health products shelf? Well, we wouldn’t necessarily go that far… but here’s a more sensible suggestion: Take good care of your teeth and gums. Both tooth decay and periodontal disease can cause a number of problems with your health — yet both can be treated effectively… and they’re largely preventable!
If you haven’t visited our office in a while, why not come in for an exam? When you do, ask us what’s the best way to keep your smile looking great and feeling clean and healthy. Our goal is to help you maintain proper oral hygiene — for life. If you would like more information about oral health and systemic diseases, call our office for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Link Between Heart & Gum Diseases.”