Posts for: February, 2013
Life lessons are learned in the most surprising places. This is no different for celebrities. Take, for example, Florence Henderson, an actress, singer, philanthropist, author and star of the hit television series, The Brady Bunch. As she told Dear Doctor magazine, her experience with having four impacted wisdom teeth removed — at the same time — “...only made me more aware of how important dental care is.” She continued, “This is why I have always gone every six months for a check up.”
Another important lesson we want to share is the fact that even if your impacted third molars (wisdom teeth) are not bothering you or causing any pain, you may still need to have them removed.
Why? Having a tooth submerged below the gum, pressing on the roots of other teeth is problematic; the tooth should be removed so that you can avoid major dental problems before they occur. For example, it is not uncommon for us to find an impacted third molar pressing against the roots of the adjacent second molar. Furthermore, because the enamel crown of this impacted tooth is trapped below the gum, we sometimes find an infection, gum disease or even cyst formation occurring.
Often, the best time to remove a wisdom tooth is when it is not causing any problems. This is because a painful wisdom tooth or pain in the area of the wisdom tooth may be a sign that significant damage has occurred or is occurring. It is also better to remove wisdom teeth when you are young, as young healthy people with no prior infections at the site provide the best opportunity for us to remove the tooth with no complications.
To learn more about impacted wisdom teeth, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Removing Wisdom Teeth.” Or if you suspect or already know that you have an impacted wisdom tooth, contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can conduct a thorough examination that includes x-rays. During this private consultation, we will also address any questions you have as well as your treatment options. And if you want to read the entire article on Florence Henderson, continue reading “Florence Henderson.”
It is not uncommon to have one or more teeth that are particularly sensitive to heat, cold, or pressure. If you have such a tooth, you probably want to know what caused it and what you can do about it. Here are some frequently asked questions, and their answers.
What causes teeth to become sensitive?
The most common cause of sensitivity is exposure of the tooth's dentin, a layer of the tooth's structure that is just below the outer protective layer (the enamel).
The dentin is sensitive but the enamel layer is not. Why?
The enamel is composed of minerals that are hard and protective. It is not living tissue and has no nerve supply. The dentin layer underneath is bone-like living tissue that does contain nerve fibers. It is protected by enamel above the gum line and by gum tissue in the area of the tooth's root, below the gum line. If the tooth's protective covering is reduced, the nerve fibers in that section of the dentin are exposed to changes in temperature and pressure, which they conduct to the inner pulp layer (nerve) of the tooth. The sensations that reach the tooth's interior pulp layer cause pain.
What causes exposure of the dentin layer in teeth?
Often the dentin is exposed by receding gums, causing areas of the tooth that are normally below the gum surface to be uncovered.
What makes gums recede?
One cause of receding gums is excessive, rough brushing techniques. This is particularly common in individuals who have a family history of thin gum tissues. Removing the film of bacteria called plaque requires only gentle action with a soft brush. This is one reason that we stress the value of learning proper and effective brushing techniques. Gum recession becomes worse after the uncovered dentin of the tooth's root is exposed to erosion from sweet and acidic foods and beverages, such as fruit juices.
Doesn't tooth sensitivity indicate decay?
Decay can also cause tooth sensitivity. As decay destroys a tooth's structure, it eventually invades the inner pulp of the tooth, causing greater and greater pain.
How can you prevent or reduce tooth sensitivity?
As we mentioned above, learn proper brushing techniques; we would be happy to demonstrate them. Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride, which increases the strength of the tooth's protective coating. In more serious cases, we can apply a fluoride varnish or a filling material as a barrier to cover sensitive areas. If you experience long-term tooth sensitivity, make an appointment for an assessment and diagnosis so that we can determine the cause and proper treatment.
Periodontal or gum disease is an often silent disease that can cause significant damage to the health of your teeth and body. The reason it is so often classified as a silent disease is because it is chronic or longstanding and often without any symptoms or pain that most people associate with a disease until it may be too late.
If you think you may have gum disease, here is what to look for:
- Bleeding gums — probably one of the most common and overlooked early warning signs that most people ignore is thinking that the bleeding is being caused by brushing their teeth too hard. The truth is that you would have to brush extremely hard to cause healthy gum tissues to bleed.
- Bad breath — something everyone has experienced; however, it can also be a warning sign of periodontal disease. This is especially true for people who hate or refuse to floss their teeth, thereby trapping literally billions of bacteria where they love to collect in the protected areas between the teeth.
- Redness, swelling, and/or receding gums — all signs of gum disease often accompanied by sensitivity of the gum tissues around the teeth.
- Chronic inflammation — long-standing gum inflammation is a sign that your gum tissues are not healing properly. Periodontal disease exhibits periods with bursts of activity followed by periods where the body tries to recover.
- Loose and/or moving teeth — that seem to be drifting into a new position, are visible signs that you are highly likely to have periodontal disease.
- Abscess formation — late stage gum disease is characterized by painful, swollen, red pockets of pus, which denotes an acute localized periodontal infection.
If you have any of these signs, you need to make an appointment for a thorough evaluation. Otherwise, you could end up losing your teeth to the second most common disease known to man after tooth decay. To learn more about gum disease, continue reading, “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.” Or, contact us today to schedule an appointment.
Your car comes with a maintenance manual that tells you when to get an oil change, rotate the tires, and perform other necessary tasks. By following the manual's directions you can keep your car running in good condition for many years. Too bad a manual doesn't come with your teeth and gums!
Such a manual would concentrate on a few basic tasks we call oral hygiene and teeth cleanings. Both tasks are mainly dedicated to removing dental plaque or biofilm from the surfaces of your teeth and the surrounding gums. Plaque is now referred to as a biofilm, a film composed of bacteria, that naturally forms in your mouth. Studies have shown that dental plaque causes periodontal disease (gum disease) and dental caries (tooth decay).
Tips for Daily Removal of Dental Plaque
The way you hold your toothbrush is crucial to your ability to remove plaque effectively. We recommend that you hold it in your fingertips as you would a pen or pencil. Use small motions and pressure. Brushing too hard can damage gum tissues. Use a soft bristled brush, hold it at about a 45 degree angle to the gum line and then use a gentle scrubbing motion. Studies have shown some electric toothbrushes to be more efficient at plaque removal than hand-held brushes; but in general how you use the brush is more important than what kind of brush it is.
To remove plaque deposits from the hard-to-reach areas between your teeth, floss at least once a day. Wrap the floss around each tooth surface and gently move it up and down for a few strokes, cleaning the sides of your teeth where they face each other.
You can use an antibacterial mouthrinse to get help reduce the bacterial plaque or biofilm that you missed in brushing and flossing.
The best way to make sure you are brushing correctly is to have a dental professional demonstrate for you. We would be happy to demonstrate the correct techniques in your own mouth so that you can see how it feels, and you can copy the methods we use.
Professional Maintenance Schedule
Your car needs to go into the shop from time to time for professional maintenance. Your teeth also need a regular schedule of maintenance from a professional dentist or hygienist. Over time, plaque that you do not manage to clean off your teeth accumulates and forms hard deposits called calculus or tartar. If left on your teeth these deposits cause inflammation of your gum tissues and can lead to infection, abscesses, and even tooth loss. During a professional cleaning a technique called scaling removes these substances. For more advanced forms of gum disease, root planing is used to remove deposits of calculus below the gum line.