If you're over thirty, you have a fifty-fifty chance of contracting gum disease and your odds worsen as you get older. But your fate isn't sealed, especially if you know what to do to prevent this harmful disease.
But before we discuss your prevention strategy, let's look first at oral bacteria, the basic cause for gum disease. Although most bacterial strains in your mouth are benign or even beneficial, a few can infect your gums. And, the more of them there are in your mouth, the higher your risk for infection.
These bacteria multiply with the help of a sticky biofilm called dental plaque, providing them a ready source of food and shelter. Plaque and its hardened form tartar accumulate daily on dental surfaces, particularly if you don't practice daily brushing and flossing.
Once a gum infection begins, the body unleashes an inflammatory response to isolate the infected tissues from healthy ones. As a result, the gums can become swollen and reddened, and may easily bleed. If you see signs like these, you should seek treatment as soon as possible to stop the infection's advance.
And, advance it will, spreading ever deeper into the gums until it threatens the supporting bone. At this point, with the gums becoming detached from the teeth and the bone compromised, the affected teeth could be in imminent danger of loss.
These basic disease processes underscore the importance of one thing—the daily removal of bacterial plaque through brushing and flossing. The bacteria that cause disease don't thrive well in an environment devoid of plaque.
But even if you're diligent about your hygiene, you may still miss some plaque; this can then calcify into tartar, which is likely impossible to remove with brushing and flossing. That's why you need dental cleanings at least every six months to remove stubborn tartar and any lingering plaque.
Regular dental visits also increase your chances of early gum disease detection. The earlier we're able to diagnose and start treating an infection, the better the outcome.
Gum disease can begin and advance quickly, sometimes without you noticing. But daily brushing and flossing, regular dental cleanings and prompt attention at the first sign of trouble can help you stay ahead of this harmful disease.
If you would like more information on preventing gum disease, 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 “How Gum Disease Gets Started.”
One of the easiest ways to upgrade your smile is to have your teeth whitened. In just one dental visit, whitening could transform your teeth from dull and dingy to bright and gleaming. And with a little care and occasional touch-ups, your new and improved smile could last for years.
But perhaps you're not one to rush into things—particularly when it may affect your health—and you'd first like to know more about this popular dental procedure. Here, then, are answers to a few frequently asked questions about teeth whitening to help you decide if it's right for you.
Is it safe? Although whitening solutions use a bleaching agent like hydrogen peroxide, it's only a small percentage of the total mixture. As long as you use the solution as directed by the manufacturer, whitening your teeth won't pose any harm to your teeth.
Do I need a dentist? There are several effective bleaching products available for whitening your teeth at home. But because it's usually a stronger solution used by a professional, whitening may not take as long to realize results, and the effect may last longer. A professional whitening might also help you achieve your desired level of whiteness better than a home kit.
Are there side effects? Your teeth may become sensitive right after whitening, especially if you already have sensitive teeth. To reduce this possibility, you might begin brushing with a desensitizing toothpaste a couple of weeks prior to your whitening session, as well as reduce your frequency of subsequent whitening procedures.
Any reason to avoid whitening? If your teeth are short or you have a gummy smile, whiter teeth may not be as attractive. You may also have internal discoloration, something teeth whitening can't change. And if you have dental work, you may wind up with natural teeth that are brighter than an adjacent veneer or crown. Your dentist can better advise you after a thorough dental exam.
To get the answer to other questions you may have, or to find out if whitening is right for you, consult with your dentist. If you are a good candidate, though, teeth whitening could very well change your smile—and your life.
If you would like more information on teeth whitening, 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 “Important Teeth Whitening Questions…Answered!”
During this year's baseball spring training, Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton got into a row with a steak dinner—and the beefsteak got the better of it. During his meal, the Gold Glove winner cracked a tooth.
Fortunately, he didn't lose it. Buxton's dentist rescued the tooth with a dental procedure that's been around for over a century—a root canal treatment. The dependable root canal is responsible for saving millions of teeth each year.
Dentists turn to root canal treatments for a number of reasons: a permanent tooth's roots are dissolving (a condition called resorption); chronic inflammation of the innermost tooth pulp due to repeated fillings; or a fractured or cracked tooth, like Buxton's, in which the pulp becomes exposed to bacteria.
One of the biggest reasons, though, is advanced tooth decay. Triggered by acid, a by-product of bacteria, a tooth's enamel softens and erodes, allowing decay into the underlying dentin. In its initial stages, we can often treat decay with a filling. But if the decay continues to advance, it can infect the pulp and root canals and eventually reach the bone.
Decay of this magnitude seriously jeopardizes a tooth's survival. But we can still stop it before that point with a root canal. The basic procedure is fairly straightforward. We begin first by drilling a small hole into the tooth to access the inner pulp and root canals. Using special instruments, we then remove all of the infected tissue within the tooth.
After disinfecting the now empty spaces and reshaping the root canals, we fill the tooth with a rubber-like substance called gutta percha. This, along with filling the access hole, seals the tooth's interior from future infection. In most cases, we'll return sometime later and bond a life-like crown to the tooth (as Buxton's dentist did for him) for added protection and support.
You would think such a procedure would get its own ticker tape parade. Unfortunately, there's a cultural apprehension that root canals are painful. But here's the truth—because your tooth and surrounding gums are numbed by local anesthesia, a root canal procedure doesn't hurt. Actually, if your tooth has been throbbing from tooth decay's attack on its nerves, a root canal treatment will alleviate that pain.
After some time on the disabled list, Buxton was back in the lineup in time to hit his longest homer to date at 456 feet on the Twins' Opening Day. You may not have that kind of moment after a root canal, but repairing a bothersome tooth with this important procedure will certainly get you back on your feet again.
If you would like more information about root canal therapy, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “A Step-By-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment.”
If you notice a loose tooth, don't wait! Call your dentist ASAP. That loose tooth may be in danger of being lost or damaged permanently—and you won't know if that's true without having the tooth examined.
To understand why, let's first consider how your teeth are normally held in place—and contrary to popular belief, it's not primarily through the bone. The actual mechanism is a form of gum tissue called the periodontal ligament attaching the tooth to the bone. This ligament secures teeth in place through tiny collagen fibers that attach to both the tooth and bone.
The periodontal ligament can effectively secure a tooth while still allowing for some movement. However, these ligaments can come under attack from periodontal (gum) disease, a bacterial infection primarily caused by dental plaque. Without aggressive treatment, the infection can destroy these tissues, causing them to eventually detach from the teeth.
This can result in loose teeth, which is, in fact, a late sign of advanced gum disease. As such, it's a definite alarm bell that you're in imminent danger of losing the teeth in question.
Treating a gum infection with accompanying loose teeth often has two components. First, we want to stop the infection and begin the healing process by removing any and all plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) on tooth surfaces. This includes deposits below the gum line or around the roots of the tooth, which may require surgery to access them.
Second, we want to help stabilize any loose teeth while we're treating the infection, which can take time. We do this by using various methods from doing a bite adjustment of individual teeth tat are getting hit harder when you put your teeth together to splinting loose teeth to healthier neighboring teeth. We may also employ splinting when the tooth is loose for other reasons like trauma. This provides a loose tooth with needed stability while the gums and bone continue to heal and reattach.
Securing a loose tooth and treating the underlying cause isn't something you should put off. The sooner we address it, the more likely you won't lose your tooth.
If you would like more information on permanent teeth that become loose, 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 “When Permanent Teeth Become Loose.”
Even with dedicated daily home care and regular dental cleanings, some children still have problems with cavities. And, that could morph into an even more serious problem in the future: Primary teeth lost prematurely to the disease could cause incoming permanent teeth to erupt out of position and form a poor bite.
To avoid this, parents often need a little extra help protecting their children's teeth from cavities. One way is with a dental sealant applied to larger teeth by their dentist.
A dental sealant is a protective coating of plastic or glass-like material that partially fills in the pits and crevices of the biting surfaces of larger teeth like molars. Even with diligent brushing it can be difficult to clean these surfaces of plaque, thus allowing bacteria to hide out in deep crevices. By "smoothing" out these areas with a sealant, they're easier to rid the teeth of decay-causing plaque.
Your child can undergo a quick and painless sealant application during a routine visit. After applying the liquid form of the sealant to the teeth with a brush, the dentist uses a curing light to harden the coating into a durable defense against decay.
Dentists have been applying sealants for several years now, which begs the question—do they work? At least two major studies say yes.
These independent studies both surveyed thousands of pediatric patients over several years. And, they both concluded that children with sealants experienced significantly fewer cavities than those without sealants. Furthermore, the protection appeared to last at least four years after the application.
A sealant application does involve a modest cost per tooth. But compared to what you'll spend to treat cavities, or even expensive orthodontic treatment later, sealants are well worth the cost.
If your child continues to develop cavities regardless of home and dental care, then talk with your dentist about sealants and other ways to minimize cavities. Taking these extra steps could help prevent a problem now, and a bigger problem in the future.
If you would like more information on dental care for children, 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 “Sealants for Children.”
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