Posts for: February, 2013
For years, lasers have revolutionized the medical industry and now they are beginning to do the same within the field of dentistry. However, anytime new technologies are introduced, people naturally will have questions. Here is a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs).
What is a laser?
Lasers are beams of light that are a single wavelength and color. Laser is an acronym derived from “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.”
How are they different from regular sunlight?
White light is made up of light with many wavelengths corresponding to the visible spectrum comprising the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet). Laser light consists of beams of a single color and hence a single wavelength of light, concentrated to a high energy level, which can penetrate living tissue.
How are they used in dentistry?
Dental laser usage typically falls into three categories: disease diagnosis; soft tissue procedures of the gums, lips and tongue; and hard tissue procedures of the bone or tooth enamel and dentin. Examples of the most common hard tissue treatments include the diagnosis and removal of tooth decay, while the most common soft tissue treatments include the removal of gum tissue as it relates to cosmetic dentistry and the treatment of gum disease.
Are they safe?
Absolutely! Before blazing a trail in the field of dentistry, lasers have been used for years in the medical field with research evidence and the FDA approving both their safety and efficacy. In fact, they are minimally invasive and can result in less tissue removal, less bleeding and less discomfort for patients after surgery. And what could be better than that?
Want to learn more?
While some people associate the need for root canal treatment with an injury or trauma to a tooth (which is a valid cause), it can also most commonly be caused by tooth decay that is left untreated. This is the reason why we have put together this brief guide to explain the three common stages of tooth decay that lead up to the need for a root canal.
Stage 1: During this stage, decay begins to form in the tiny grooves on the biting surface of a tooth or where the teeth contact each other. The result is loss of the surface enamel of the tooth.
Stage 2: Left untreated, the disease progresses through the enamel and into the dentin, which forms the body of the tooth. Once in the dentin, it progresses more rapidly until it reaches the pulp — the living tissue within the root canals of the tooth. The decay infects the pulp tissues, which contain the nerves of the teeth, causing pain. The end result of inflammation and infection of the pulp is that it dies.
Stage 3: As the nerve dies an infection results, which causes pain and swelling. For some people who do not regularly visit our office, this may be the first physical sign that they have a problem. But all is not lost, a successful root canal treatment, whereby the infected pulpal tissue is removed and the root canals are cleaned and sealed will not only relieve the pain, but save your tooth. So the good news is that once a tooth has had the appropriate endodontic treatment (“endo” – inside; “dont” – tooth) followed by a proper restoration, the tooth can last as long as your other teeth. The key is to take proper care of your teeth, have routine cleanings, and visit our office as soon as you feel you have a problem with a tooth.
If you are having pain or symptoms from a tooth or teeth, check it out with us — you may or may not need a root canal treatment. Contact our office to schedule an appointment and find out. Don't wait until it's too late. And to learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatments for a root canal, read the article “I'd Rather Have A Root Canal....”
It is important to brush your teeth every day to remove plaque (that sticky white film, composed of bacteria, on your teeth near your gums), but it is possible to overdo it — particularly if you find that your teeth are becoming sensitive to hot and cold or to variations in pressure.
Brushing your teeth too hard or too many times per day can aggravate tooth sensitivity, which can range from a mild twinge to a severe pain. You can accomplish the goal of tooth brushing — plaque removal — by using a soft brush with a very gentle action. Repeated aggressive brushing with a hard brush is not required and can even be harmful to your teeth and gums.
To understand how teeth become sensitive, you need to know about the internal structure of your teeth. Teeth are covered by enamel, a hard mineralized coating that protects them from changes in temperature and pressure. If the enamel is worn away, it exposes the next lower layer of the tooth, the dentin. The dentin is a living tissue containing nerve fibers that connect to the nerves in the tooth's root.
Excessive tooth brushing can irritate your gums and cause them to shrink away from your teeth, particularly if you have thin gum tissues. The thickness or thinness of your gum tissues is something you inherit from your parents, so you can't change it. Hard brushing can begin to wear away the enamel covering of your teeth. Exposure to acids or sugars in the foods you eat and drink can continue the damage.
Acidic foods and drinks such as fruit juices dissolve some of the minerals in your teeth by a process called “demineralization.” Fortunately, your saliva can interact with the enamel and bring back minerals that are leaving the tooth's surface. This process is called “remineralization.” It is important to let your healthy saliva wash your teeth's surfaces for a while before brushing so that dissolved minerals get a chance to be returned to your enamel. It takes between twelve and twenty-four hours for plaque to form on your teeth, so you don't need to brush more than twice a day.
The best way to make sure you are brushing your teeth properly is to have us evaluate your brushing technique at your next dental appointment. We will be able to tell you whether you need to change the angle of your brush or the pressure you are applying for the most effective removal of plaque with the least wear on your teeth and gums. Tooth brushing serves an important purpose, but remember that you can actually have too much of a good thing.
When it comes to chronic pain, one of the most common problems you can face is Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD), which was formerly known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ). TMD is a condition that can be tricky to diagnose because it frequently mimics other conditions. This is why many healthcare professionals refer to it as “the great imposter.” However, regardless of what it is called, the pain it causes is real and can become quite severe — especially if left undiagnosed and untreated.
To grasp the condition fully, you must first understand the TMD pain cycle. It can start with any traumatic, psychological, metabolic, or mechanical stimulant that causes spasm in the muscles that move the jaw joints (opening, closing, chewing, and even smiling.) This is because of the constricted blood supply to the muscles resulting in less oxygen along with the accumulation of waste products. This is followed by chemical changes in the muscles and a buildup of lactic acid due to muscle fatigue. Abnormal or involuntary muscle contractions or spasms lead to pain signals to the brain that can stop muscle movement. Depending on the severity, this cycle can repeat itself resulting in acute pain that may be extremely severe at times. The pain may then seem to disappear only to resurface again later. The good news is that our office has highly trained professionals who cannot only diagnose but also treat your TMD.
If you suffer from chronic jaw pain and feel that you might have TMD, please let us know so that we can address your concerns and conduct a thorough history and examination. Or if you are in constant or severe pain, contact us immediately to schedule an appointment. You can learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for TMD by reading the article “TMD — Understanding The Great Imposter.”