Posts for: May, 2014
According to popular culture, a root canal treatment is one of life’s most painful experiences. But popular culture is wrong — this common treatment doesn’t cause pain, it relieves it. Knowing the facts will help alleviate any anxiety you may feel if you’re scheduled to undergo the procedure.
A root canal treatment addresses a serious problem involving the pulp of a tooth that has become infected. The pulp is a system of blood vessels, nerves and connective tissues inside the tooth that helps the tooth maintain its vitality. It also contains a series of minute passageways known as root canals that interconnect with the body’s nervous system.
The pulp may become infected for a number of reasons: tooth decay, gum disease, repetitive dental procedures, or traumatic tooth damage. Once the pulp becomes irreversibly damaged it must be completely removed from the tooth and the root canals filled and sealed in order to save the tooth.
We begin the procedure by numbing the affected tooth and surrounding tissues with local anesthesia and placing a dental dam (a thin sheet of rubber or vinyl) over the area to isolate the tooth and prevent the spread of infection to other oral tissues. We then drill a small hole in the top of the tooth to access the pulp chamber. Using special instruments, we then remove the infected or dead pulp tissue through the access hole and then wash and cleanse the root canals and pulp chamber with antiseptic and antibacterial solutions.
After additional preparation, we fill the root canals and pulp chamber with a filling especially designed for this kind of treatment, usually a rubber-like substance called gutta-percha that easily molds and compresses when heated. We then seal the access hole with a temporary filling (until a permanent crown can be fashioned) to prevent infection from reentering the pulp space. After the procedure, you may experience some minor discomfort easily managed with over-the-counter pain relievers.
You’ll find the root canal treatment alleviates the symptoms prompted by the pulp infection, particularly acute pain. What’s more, a successful root canal will have achieved something even more crucial to your health — it will give your tooth a second chance at survival.
If you would like more information on root canal treatment, 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 “A step-By-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment.”
Advancements in dentistry have created an abundant source of treatments for restoring health and vitality to diseased teeth and gums. Unfortunately, not all of these treatment options may be in your financial reach. Fortunately, there are some affordable restorative options, as well as cost-effective treatments that could buy you time until you can afford a more permanent solution.
Your first step is a dental examination to evaluate your current oral health and possible future treatment needs. If you’re not already showing symptoms of tooth decay or gum disease, we would evaluate your probable risk for future disease development. Risk assessment enables us to recommend a prevention strategy that is relatively inexpensive and may save you on more expensive dental procedures in the future.
If the examination reveals some current problems, it may be necessary to prioritize. Painful or abscessed teeth are a dental emergency and should be treated as soon as possible. Other conditions, like mild gum disease would be next in line; however, a word of warning: the longer you postpone treatment for many of these conditions, the greater the likelihood of subsequent bone and tooth loss, which will lead to more extensive — and expensive — treatment.
There are also new alternatives to traditional treatments that are less costly but still have many of the benefits. For example, less-costly glass — or resin-based fillers are becoming a popular option for restoring decayed or damaged teeth. Though not quite as durable as more expensive options, these new materials are life-like in appearance and work well on repair sites on non-biting surfaces.
You should also look to one other resource for managing the costs of dental care — us, your dental team. While we want your teeth and gums to be as healthy as possible, we also understand “wallet” issues. We can work with you on financial matters to ensure you’re getting the effective care you need, including payment plans for more expensive treatment processes, working with your dental insurance plan, and recommending affordable treatment options.
The key is to develop a long-term care plan targeted to your individual dental needs. Knowing where we need to go — and adapting treatment strategies that match your resources — will help you get the best dental care you can afford.
If you would like more information on dental care treatment options, 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 “Cost-Saving Treatment Alternatives.”
Q: I often seem to have noticeably bad breath — not just in the morning. How unusual is this problem?
A: Persistent bad breath, or halitosis, is a very common complaint that is thought to affect millions of people, including perhaps 25 to 50 percent of middle aged and older adults. It’s the driving force behind the market for breath mints and mouth rinses, with an estimated value of $3 billion annually. It’s also the third most frequent reason people give for seeing the dentist (after tooth decay and gum disease). So if you have bad breath, you’re hardly alone.
Q: Can bad breath come from somewhere other than the mouth?
A: Most of the time, bad breath does originate in the mouth; its characteristic smell is often caused by volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), which have a foul odor. However, it can also come from the nose, possibly as a result of a sinus infection or a foreign body. In some cases, pus from the tonsils can cause halitosis. There are also a few diseases which sometimes give your breath an unpleasant odor.
Q: What exactly causes the mouth to smell bad?
A: In a word: bacteria. Millions of these microorganisms (some of which are harmful, and some helpful) coat the lining of the mouth and the tongue. They thrive on tiny food particles, remnants of dead skin cells, and other material. When they aren't kept under control with good oral hygiene — or when they begin multiplying in inaccessible areas, like the back of the tongue or under the gums — they may start releasing the smells of decaying matter.
Other issues can also contribute to a malodorous mouth. These include personal habits (such as tobacco and alcohol use), consumption of strong-smelling foods (onions and cheese, for example), and medical conditions, like persistent dry mouth (xerostomia).
Q: What can I do about my bad breath?
A: Those breath mints are really just a cover-up. Your best bet is to come in to the dental office for an examination. We have several ways of finding out exactly what’s causing your bad breath, and then treating it. Depending on what’s best for your individual situation, we may offer oral hygiene instruction, a professional cleaning, or treatment for gum disease or tooth decay. Bad breath can be an embarrassing problem — but we can help you breathe easier.
Something about your smile isn’t quite right. It’s too “gummy” — too much of the upper gum line is visible and it looks out of proportion to your teeth and lips. Most dentists identify a smile as too gummy if four millimeters or more (approximately an eighth of an inch) of the gum tissue is visible at a full smile.
Fortunately, there are ways to minimize this effect. It’s important, though, to first determine the true cause before we embark on any treatment plan.
Your teeth may be the actual cause. As we mature, teeth “erupt” through the gums and the supporting bone and appear in the mouth. They continue to erupt until meeting their “antagonists,” the opposing teeth from the opposite jaw. In addition, the gums go to the proper position where the root meets the enamel of the teeth around late adolescence. The normal result is a length of the crown (the visible portion of the tooth) of approximately 10 mm.
If the teeth don’t erupt fully or the gums don’t go to their proper position, the teeth appear shorter and the gums more prominent. Using a surgical technique called crown lengthening, we remove excess gum tissue and, if necessary, reshape the underlying bone to reveal the proper amount of tooth length. Teeth also shorten due to excessive wear; the teeth continue to erupt to compensate for the wear that occurs over time. The attached gum tissue follows with the tooth. This can be corrected with orthodontic treatment (for bite correction) and porcelain veneers.
Two more causes of a gummy smile are when a person has a hyper-mobile upper lip — the upper lip can raise too much lift when smiling — and an upper jaw length that appears too long for the face. If lips rise higher than the normal 6-8 mm when we smile, too much of the gum line appears. This can be treated temporarily with Botox injections to reduce the mobility of the muscles, or there is a surgical procedure that reduces the mobility of the upper lip. For an elongated upper jaw, orthognathic (“to straighten the jaw”) surgery relocates the jaw to a more upward position that diminishes the amount of gum tissue that shows during smiling.
Treatments for a gummy smile range from simple techniques to more complex surgical procedures. Only a thorough dental exam will reveal the best treatment path to follow.
If you would like more information on treatments for “gummy” smiles, 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 “Gummy Smiles.”