Posts for: January, 2014
Here's an interesting tidbit of information on Wheel of Fortune host Vanna White: like many people, she grinds her teeth at night. In a detailed interview with Dear Doctor magazine, Vanna explained how she had to replace a filling in a back tooth several times because of her grinding habit. Eventually, she had her dentist make her a nightguard to protect her famous smile.
“I really try to sleep with it every night,” Vanna told the magazine. “I try to keep it on my nightstand so when I go to bed, I remember to put it in. Or I will put it by my toothbrush so I can put it in after brushing my teeth at night.”
The habit of teeth grinding or clenching is often associated with stress and/or sleep deprivation. It is referred to as “parafunctional” (“para” – outside, “function” – normal), meaning it can generate biting forces well outside the normal range — perhaps 10 times normal. This excessive force can affect many areas of the oral system. Teeth may become worn, chipped or loose; jaw joints or muscles can go into spasm; and some grinders (or “bruxers” as they are also called) may even experience discomfort of the head, ears, neck or back. Many times, a person with a grinding habit does not become aware of it until it is pointed out by a sleep partner or dental professional.
Like Vanna White's dentist, we often recommend a nightguard to those with nocturnal bruxing habits. It is made of a very thin, wear-resistant plastic that fits over the biting surfaces of the upper teeth only. The lower teeth are then free to glide or skate over the guard, which prevents them from biting into the upper teeth. Some people wear their guards during the day if they tend to clench their teeth when under stress.
If you are concerned about teeth grinding or interested in learning more about nightguards, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation. If you would like to read Dear Doctor's entire interview with Vanna White, please see “Vanna White.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Stress & Tooth Habits.”
It’s often said that thereâ??s a first time for everything: Driving a car by yourself; getting your first “real” job; even… having a root canal?
Now don’t get us wrong — we’re not wishing that anyone should go through a medical procedure, no matter how minor. Yet the fact remains: A root canal procedure is one of the most common treatments performed in many dental offices… and, especially for first-timers, it’s one of the most misunderstood.
Let’s start off with the biggest misconception of all. Have you heard that a root canal is an exceptionally painful treatment? Get ready for some news: It just isn’t so. The fact is, in the vast majority of cases, having a root canal procedure is comparable to cavity treatment in terms of discomfort. Yet it brings immediate relief to the intense pain that can result from an infection in the pulp of the tooth. To understand how this works, we need to look a little closer at a tooth’s anatomy.
The hard outer surface of the tooth doesn’t have nerves, so it can’t “feel” any sensations. But deep inside of the tooth lies a bundle of nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue called the pulp. Safely sealed off from the outside world, pulp tissue is needed for proper tooth development, but has no essential function in adults. Sometimes, however, a deep cavity or a crack in the tooth allows bacteria to infect this soft tissue. That’s when the tooth’s pulp will let you know it’s still there — by causing the sensation of pain.
Pulp tissue fills a branching network of tiny canal-like passages, which can be compared to the roots of a plant. When infection develops in the root canals, the best treatment is to remove the diseased and dying tissue, clean out and disinfect the passageways, and seal up the area against further infection. This, in essence, is a root canal procedure. It is performed under local anesthesia, so you won’t feel any pain as it’s being done. When it’s over, a crown (cap) will be needed to restore the tooth’s appearance and function.
What happens if you need a root canal but don’t get one? If you can manage to ignore it, the pain may (or may not) eventually cease: This signals that the nerves have died — but the disease still persists. Eventually, it may lead to further infection… a pus-filled abscess… even tooth loss. And that’s a truly bad outcome.
It’s normal to feel a little apprehension before any medial procedure. But don’t let faded myths about the root canal procedure keep you from getting the treatment you need. Remember, root canal treatment doesn’t cause pain — it relieves it!
If you would like more information about root canal treatment, call our office for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “A Step-By-Step Guide To Root Canal Treatment” and “Tooth Pain? Don't Wait!”
No one wants to hear the word “cancer.” But thanks to advances in detection and treatment, the disease increasingly can be stopped in its earliest stages when it's most treatable and outcomes are most favorable. Oral cancer accounts for a relatively small 3% of cancers in men and 2% in women, but early detection rates are lagging. Our office screens for oral cancer as part of your regular checkups. Knowing some of the signs and symptoms can help you monitor as well.
The main areas where oral carcinomas (cancers) occur are:
- the tongue (most common location, particularly the sides and on the floor of the mouth),
- the lip (especially the lower one),
- the oral cavity (the mouth), and
- the pharynx (back of mouth and throat).
Most oral cancers are preceded by surface changes (lesions) of the oral membranes. In the “precancerous” stage, white or red patches start forming and a non-healing ulcer may appear. The most common locations on the tongue for this to occur are on the sides and underneath on the floor of the mouth. Lip cancers typically develop on the lower lip, usually in people with a history of sun exposure. There has often been prior damage at the site such as scaling and crusting.
Be aware that oral cancers can be mistaken for cold and canker sores, ulcers, minor infections, and even irritations caused by biting or certain types of food. If lesions don't heal within two or three weeks, there's a higher likelihood that they are cancerous.
An in-office examination includes the following:
- visual inspection of face, lips, neck and mouth;
- inspection of sides and underneath of tongue and floor of mouth using gauze to gently manipulate the tongue;
- palpation of the floor of the mouth, sides of neck and glands to detect unusual lumps; and
- an “open wide and say ‘Aah’” examination of the back of your throat.
There are some risk factors for oral cancer that can't be controlled, such as a family history, age and race. But awareness, monitoring for potential signs and seeking prompt attention are always key ingredients in protecting your oral health!
If you would like more information about oral cancer detection, 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 “Oral Cancer.”
Tooth sensitivity is an all too common problem among dental patients. If eating certain foods or simply touching a tooth causes you pain, you should know why this may be happening and what can be done about it.
Tooth sensitivity occurs in most cases because the portion of the tooth known as the dentin has been exposed. The dentin contains nerve fibers that inform and alert the brain about the current environment of the tooth (temperature or pressure changes). The enamel protects the tooth from environmental extremes.
Receding gums are the most common cause for dentin exposure — the enamel only protects the crown of the tooth and is not present on the root of the tooth. Acids in certain foods can then begin to erode the dentin around the roots and expose nerves. Sweet items (mainly sugar) and temperature shifts irritate the nerve endings, causing pain.
While receding gums (most commonly caused by brushing too hard and too often) may be the most common cause for sensitivity, it isn't the only one — tooth decay may also lead to it. Untreated, decay works its way into the tooth pulp and irritates the nerves. Treating the decay and filling the tooth may also cause sensitivity unless the dentist places a lining designed to minimize it temporarily while the area heals.
Alleviating pain from sensitivity begins with how you brush your teeth. Remember: the goal of brushing is to remove plaque, which does not require vigorous action. Brush gently with a soft-bristled brush and not too often. We might even recommend not brushing a very sensitive tooth for a few days to give the tooth a rest. You should also brush with a toothpaste containing fluoride, which will help strengthen the tooth surface against the effects of acids and sweets.
During an office visit, we can also apply a fluoride varnish or use certain filling materials that will serve as a barrier for the sensitive area. For cases where decay has irreversibly damaged the tooth pulp, a root canal may be the best treatment.
Tooth sensitivity isn't necessarily something you have to live with. There are treatments that can relieve or lessen the pain.
If you would like more information on tooth sensitivity and what can be done about it, 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 “Sensitive Teeth.”