Posts for: December, 2013
The old saying, “If it ain't broke, don't fix it,” doesn't really apply when discussing your wisdom teeth. It's great if they are not bothering you, but don't wait for problems to develop before you take action. This may seem counter-intuitive, but you should know that the best time to have your wisdom teeth removed is when they are not causing problems.
Why do wisdom teeth cause problems?
Wisdom teeth are so-called because they appear at ages 17 to 25, the age of supposedly attaining wisdom. They are also known as third molars and are farthest back in your jaws. For some people they come through the gum-line only partially, or they may not erupt into the mouth at all. Unerupted they have the potential to cause problems associated with the neighboring teeth and surrounding gums.
You may have heard of “impacted” wisdom teeth. This means that they are impacted or forced against neighboring structures, teeth or bone that prevent them from coming into the mouth in correct biting position. Since they are your last teeth to come in, space for them may be severely limited. They may push into the teeth that are already in place, becoming stuck as they try to erupt. When wisdom teeth are trapped like this below the gum line and are pushing against neighboring teeth, these molars can cause problems such as infections, cysts, or gum disease.
My wisdom teeth seem OK, so why remove them?
The dilemma is that if you wait until you feel pain connected with your wisdom teeth, their neighboring teeth may already be in trouble.
Another reason to remove these back teeth before they cause problems is that it's a good idea to have your surgery while you are young. Younger, healthy patients with no infections at the site have the best chance of having their wisdom teeth extracted without complications, with an easier recovery and uneventful healing.
Of course, each situation is different. Make an appointment with us for an examination and a consultation to discuss the risks and benefits of removing your wisdom teeth. For more information read the article “Removing Wisdom Teeth” in Dear Doctor magazine.
As life spans have increased over the last century so has the importance of maintaining good oral health. Teeth are such a critical component in good nutrition and disease protection, it’s important we do all we can to preserve them for a lifetime.
Through advances in dentistry and oral hygiene, two of teeth’s greatest enemies, dental caries (tooth decay) and periodontal (gum) disease, are not only quite treatable but even preventable. The fact remains, though, that like the rest of our body, our teeth are still subject to aging. The irreplaceable outer layer known as enamel is especially susceptible to wear over time.
The normal wearing down of teeth occurs because of occlusal (bite) activity. As our upper and lower teeth interact with each other through constant biting and chewing activities, some of the enamel surface naturally wears away as we age. Our biggest concern shouldn’t be the wear itself but the rate of wear — whether it’s exceeded the normal range.
Habits that increase the frequency and rate of biting forces are the most common reason for excessive enamel erosion. Such habits include excessive tooth-to-tooth contact as when we clench or grind our teeth and tooth-to-foreign object, the chronic habit of holding hard objects (nails, pencils, pins, etc.) tightly between the teeth. Many of these habits are a response to psychological stress that can even carry over into our sleep.
The key is to minimize these effects on the normal process of wear, and to protect teeth for as long as possible. How to accomplish that goal depends on your individual circumstance: treatments could include such things as orthodontics to correct bite problems that contribute to abnormal wear, considering restoring worn teeth with new crowns or fillings, or reducing grinding or clenching with nocturnal mouth guards or some form of stress-relief therapy.
In cases where abnormal wear has passed the point where it doesn’t make sense to repair your natural teeth, all is not lost — restorations such as dental implants can help restore lost function and inhibit further erosion. Advances over the last thirty years in restoration techniques can, in effect, extend a new lease on life for your teeth. What’s more, we can also restore form — to bring back that smile from your younger years.
If you would like more information on tooth erosion and aging, 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 and Why Teeth Wear.”
There are some people, particularly women around the age of menopause, who experience an uncomfortable burning and dry sensation in their mouths most of the time. The exact cause of this condition, known as “burning mouth syndrome,” is often difficult to determine, though links to a variety of other health conditions have been established. These include diabetes, nutritional deficiencies (of iron and B vitamins, for example), acid reflux, cancer therapy, and psychological problems. Hormonal changes associated with menopause might also play a role.
If you are experiencing burning sensations and dryness, please come in and see us so we can try to figure out what's causing these symptoms in your particular case. We will start by taking a complete medical history and getting a list of all the medications you are taking as some drugs are known to cause mouth dryness. We will also give you a thorough examination.
In the meantime, here are some ways you might be able to get some relief:
Give up habits that can cause dry mouth such as chronic smoking, alcohol and/or coffee drinking, and frequent eating of hot and spicy foods.
Keep your mouth moist by drinking lots of water. We can also recommend products that replace or stimulate production of saliva.
Try different brands of toothpastes, opting for “plain” varieties that don't contain the foaming agent sodium lauryl sulfate, whiteners, or strong flavoring such as cinnamon.
Keep a food diary of everything that you put into and around your mouth (including food, makeup and personal care products). This might give us some clues as to what's causing your discomfort.
Check with us about any medications you are taking, either prescription or over-the-counter. We can tell you if any are known to dry out the mouth and maybe help you find substitutions.
Reduce stress in your life if you possibly can. This might be achieved through relaxing forms of exercise, joining a support group for people dealing with chronic pain, or seeking psychotherapy.
Without a doubt, an effective root canal treatment can extend the life of a tooth for many years. But sometimes even a well-maintained tooth can fall prey to disease months or even years after a root canal treatment. While there are a number of reasons to account for this failure, a common one is so tiny it could have easily been missed during the first treatment.
A root canal is an open space within the tooth that contains the pulp. The pulp is a connective tissue with a network of nerve fibers connected to the root that alert the brain to environmental changes involving the tooth. It is most important during the tooth’s early development, but becomes less important as we age. The pulp is susceptible to infection from tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease, which if left untreated can threaten the tooth’s survival. During a root canal treatment, we enter these spaces, clear out the diseased pulp and fill the canal with a bio-compatible filling; we then seal it off to deter further decay.
The treatment could ultimately fail, though, because of accessory or lateral canals missed during the procedure. Like a tree with smaller branches growing out of its larger limbs, accessory canals are smaller access ways that branch off of the main root canals. These accessory canals, which can occur anywhere along a main canal, can be quite small and not easily detected during an initial root canal treatment. They are especially susceptible to infection due to gum disease if they open into the periodontal membrane, the main attachment point between teeth and bone.
If we suspect the presence of accessory canals (either initially or after ensuing problems following a root canal treatment), this could require the skills of an endodontist, a dentist who specializes in the treatment of a tooth’s interior. Accessory canals are treated in much the same way as larger canals, but may require an endodontist’s specialized microscopic equipment and filling techniques. Effective treatment of these smaller accessory canals will certainly improve the chances of a successful, long-term outcome for the tooth.
If you would like more information on root canal treatments, 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 “Accessory Canals.”