Posts for: March, 2019
Tooth decay is a primary cause of tooth damage and loss, with annual treatment costs in the billions of dollars. It arises mainly from oral bacteria, which proliferates in the absence of effective oral hygiene. There are, however, other risk factors besides poor hygiene that could make you more susceptible to this disease.
Many people, for example, have genetically inherited deeper grooves (fissures) and depressions (pits) than the average tooth anatomy. These may be harder to reach with a toothbrush and can become havens for bacterial plaque. Others may have health conditions that indirectly affect the mouth: bulimia or anorexia, psychological conditions that involve self-induced vomiting, or GERD, gastro-esophageal reflux disease, in which stomach acid could regurgitate into the mouth. These conditions could result in a highly acidic mouth environment.
Some medical and — ironically — dental treatments could also increase your tooth decay risk. Some medications can reduce saliva flow, which inhibits acid neutralization and re-mineralization of enamel. Retainers, braces, bite guards or other dental appliances may also reduce the saliva wash over teeth, and can make brushing and flossing more difficult.
There are also risk factors that result from our lifestyle choices. Eating a lot of foods rich in sugars and other carbohydrates, for example, or acidic beverages like soda, energy or sports drinks contributes to the rise of bacteria in our mouths.
There are ways to reduce the effects of these risk factors. In addition to a daily habit of effective brushing and flossing, you should also include semi-annual cleanings and checkups at our office a part of your routine. If you have genetic, medical or dental issues that are out of your control, we can discuss solutions, such as alternatives to medications or different techniques for cleaning around dental appliances. For lifestyle-related factors, you should consider removing the habit or modifying it: for example, snacking at specific times or drinking acidic beverages only at mealtime.
While tooth decay is a serious, destructive disease, it is highly preventable. Addressing all your risk factors, not just hygiene, will reduce your chances of having it.
If you would like more information on tooth decay prevention, 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 “Tooth Decay: How to Assess Your Risk.”
As the host of America's Funniest Home Videos on ABC TV, Alfonso Ribeiro has witnessed plenty of unintentional physical comedy…or, as he puts it in an interview with Dear Doctor–Dentistry & Oral Health magazine, "When people do stuff and you're like, 'Dude, you just hurt yourself for no reason!'" So when he had his own dental dilemma, Alfonso was determined not to let it turn onto an "epic fail."
The television personality was in his thirties when a painful tooth infection flared up. Instead of ignoring the problem, he took care of it by visiting his dentist, who recommended a root canal procedure. "It's not like you wake up and go, 'Yay, I'm going to have my root canal today!'" he joked. "But once it's done, you couldn't be happier because the pain is gone and you're just smiling because you're no longer in pain!"
Alfonso's experience echoes that of many other people. The root canal procedure is designed to save an infected tooth that otherwise would probably be lost. The infection may start when harmful bacteria from the mouth create a small hole (called a cavity) in the tooth's surface. If left untreated, the decay bacteria continue to eat away at the tooth's structure. Eventually, they can reach the soft pulp tissue, which extends through branching spaces deep inside the tooth called root canals.
Once infection gets a foothold there, it's time for root canal treatment! In this procedure, the area is first numbed; next, a small hole is made in the tooth to give access to the pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels. The diseased tissue is then carefully removed with tiny instruments, and the canals are disinfected to prevent bacteria from spreading. Finally, the tooth is sealed up to prevent re-infection. Following treatment, a crown (cap) is usually required to restore the tooth's full function and appearance.
Root canal treatment sometimes gets a bad rap from people who are unfamiliar with it, or have come across misinformation on the internet. The truth is, a root canal doesn't cause pain: It relieves pain! The alternatives—having the tooth pulled or leaving the infection untreated—are often much worse.
Having a tooth extracted and replaced can be costly and time consuming…yet a missing tooth that isn't replaced can cause problems for your oral health, nutrition and self-esteem. And an untreated infection doesn't just go away on its own—it continues to smolder in your body, potentially causing serious problems. So if you need a root canal, don't delay!
If you would like additional information on root canal treatment, please contact us or schedule a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “A Step-By-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment” and “Root Canal Treatment: What You Need to Know.”
While it's possible for a teenager to lose a tooth from decay, it's more common they'll lose one from an accidental knockout. If that happens to your teenager, there are some things you should know to achieve a good outcome.
Our top concern is to preserve the underlying bone following tooth loss. Like other tissues, bone has a life cycle: older cells dissolve and are absorbed by the body (resorption), then replaced by new cells. The biting pressure generated when we chew helps stimulate this growth. But bone around a missing tooth lacks this stimulation and may not keep up with resorption at a healthy rate.
This can cause a person to lose some of the bone around an empty tooth socket. To counteract this, we may place a bone graft at the site. Made of bone minerals, usually from a donor, the graft serves as a scaffold for new bone growth. By preventing significant bone loss we can better ensure success with a future restoration.
Because of its lifelikeness, functionality and durability, dental implants are considered the best of the restoration options that can be considered to replace a missing tooth. But placing an implant during the teen years is problematic because the jaws are still growing. If we place an implant prematurely it will appear to be out of alignment when the jaw fully matures. Better to wait until the jaw finishes development in early adulthood.
In the meantime, there are a couple of temporary options that work well for teens: a removable partial denture (RFP) or a fixed modified bridge. The latter is similar to bridges made for adults, but uses tabs of dental material that bond a prosthetic (false) tooth to the adjacent natural teeth to hold it in place. This alleviates the need to permanently alter the adjacent natural teeth and buy time so that the implant can be placed after growth and development has finished.
And no need to worry about postponing orthodontic treatment in the event of a tooth loss. In most cases we can go ahead with treatment, and may even be able to incorporate a prosthetic tooth into the braces or clear aligners.
It's always unfortunate to lose a tooth, especially from a sudden accident. The good news, though, is that with proper care and attention we can restore your teenager's smile.
If you would like more information on how to treat lost teeth in teenagers, 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 “Dental Implants for Teenagers.”