Posts for: May, 2014
Perhaps you’ve been told that you need to have root canal treatment in order to save one or more of your teeth. By now, you know that the procedure itself is essentially pain-free, and that it has an excellent chance of success. But you may be wondering — just how long can you expect that “saved” tooth to last?
The short answer is: decades… or even a lifetime. But in just the same way that no two fingerprints are exactly identical, neither are any two teeth with root canals. There are some factors that could result in one tooth having a greater longevity after root canal treatment (RCT) than another — but before we go into them, let’s look at what RCT actually involves.
When infection and inflammation is allowed to get a foothold deep inside a tooth — usually due to uncontrolled decay or trauma — the nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue that make up the tooth’s pulp begin to die. If left untreated, the infection can spread out of the tooth and into the bone of the jaw. This may lead to further problems, including the development of a painful abscess, and eventual loss of the tooth.
Root canal treatment involves gaining access to the infected pulp tissue through a tiny hole made in the tooth, and then removing it. Next, the space inside the tooth is disinfected and filled with sterile material, and the access hole is closed. Afterward, a crown or “cap” is often needed to protect the tooth and restore it to full function in the mouth.
One factor that can influence how long a treated tooth will last is how soon the tooth is restored following the root canal procedure: The sooner it receives a permanent filling or crown, the longer it is likely to last. Another factor is whether or not the underlying infection has spread into the bone of the jaw: A tooth that has received RCT promptly, before the infection has had a chance to spread, is likely to have greater longevity.
Some of the other factors that may influence the longevity of a tooth after RTC are: the location of the tooth (front teeth are easier to treat and receive less biting force than back teeth); the age of the individual (teeth become more brittle over time); and what other work needs to be done on the tooth (such as the placement of posts, which may in time weaken the tooth’s structure.) In general, however, there’s no dispute that a tooth which has received a quality root canal treatment should last for many years to come — if not an entire lifetime. And to many people, there’s simply no substitute for having your own natural teeth.
If you would like more information about root canal treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Root Canal Treatment: How Long Will It Last?”
In dentistry (as well as other branches of medicine) pediatric conscious sedation is becoming more widespread than ever — but some people aren’t yet familiar with this beneficial therapy. Conscious sedation can remove anxiety and produce a feeling of calm and relaxation during dental treatment; however, unlike general anesthesia, it doesn’t cause the loss of consciousness. That means patients can still breathe normally and can respond to certain stimuli, while feelings of pain and anxiety are blocked.
Conscious sedation is often employed for invasive procedures such as tooth extractions or root canals — which cause some people a great deal of apprehension, no matter what their age. It can be especially useful for children, however, who may have a more limited ability to understand (and cooperate with) their dental treatment. Because the medications are commonly administered orally (by mouth), there’s no needle to provoke fear. And when it’s over, there is usually little or no memory of the procedure that was done.
Pediatric conscious sedation is typically administered in an office setting by a dentist with special qualifications. The American Dental Association, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have jointly established criteria for its use. Specialized training and continuing education are part of the qualification process; additionally, the dental office must be equipped with advanced life-support equipment and trained staff, who can help in the unlikely case of an emergency.
While your child is receiving conscious sedation, he or she will be monitored by a designated staff member who keeps a close watch on vital signs like blood pressure, oxygen levels, pulse rate and respiration. This helps to ensure that the level of sedation remains safe, yet effective. When the procedure is over, the medications wear off quickly; however, children will certainly need a ride home, and shouldn’t return to school until the next day.
As new medications are developed, more dentists receive special training, and the cost of associated equipment becomes more reasonable, the practice of pediatric conscious sedation is becoming more widespread. For many kids, it could mean the difference between having fearful childhood memories of the dental office that linger on through life — and remembering almost nothing at all.
If your child has dental anxiety or requires invasive procedures, pediatric conscious sedation may be a good option for you to consider. For more information, call our office to arrange a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sedation Dentistry for Kids.”
Tooth wear, especially on biting surfaces, is a normal part of aging — we all lose some of our tooth enamel as we grow older. Even primary (“baby”) teeth may show some wear before they’re lost. But there’s also excessive, premature tooth wear caused by disease or abnormal biting habits. This type of wear is cause for concern and action before it leads to tooth loss.
Normal tooth wear occurs because of what teeth naturally do — bite and chew. When teeth come together as we eat they generate a modest amount of force: between 13 and 23 pounds. Our teeth also make brief contacts hundreds to thousands times a day. Again, this produces force, though not to the extent we see with biting and chewing: somewhere between 0.75 and 7.5 pounds. These glancing contacts are actually good for dental health because they provide needed stimulation to the teeth and jaws that help the body maintain healthy bone and tooth attachments.
But parafunctional (outside the normal function) habits like teeth grinding or foreign object chewing can greatly increase the generated force, up to 230 pounds. These may result in noticeable symptoms like fractures or loose teeth, but not always — the damage may not be noticeable until much later in the form of excessive tooth wear.
These parafunctional habits aren’t the only cause for excessive tooth wear; tooth decay can weaken the tooth structure, making it more susceptible to wear. And, some restorative materials used for fillings may also affect the rate of wear.
Because excessive tooth wear may or may not present with immediate symptoms, it’s important to maintain regular dental checkups to monitor the condition of your teeth. Our training and experience helps us identify signs of excessive tooth wear and, depending on the extent of damage, work with you on a treatment plan. You should also keep us informed about oral habits, especially teeth grinding, thumb sucking or foreign object chewing (toys, nails, pencils, etc.).
Your teeth will wear as you grow older. By keeping a close eye on your teeth, we’ll help you keep that wear at a normal rate.
If you would like more information on preventing excessive tooth wear, 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 Children Grind Their Teeth.”
It’s rare now to encounter a news story about an infection spreading among a group of dental patients — a rarity thanks to the development of standards and procedures for infection control. As these standards have improved over the last few decades, the prevention of infection stemming from dental treatment has become more effective and easier to perform.
Like other healthcare providers, dentists are held (and hold themselves) to a high legal, moral and ethical standard to stop the spread of infection among their patients, and both governmental authorities and professional organizations mandate safety procedures. The United States Center for Disease Control regularly publishes recommendations for disinfection and sterilization procedures for all healthcare providers and facilities, including dental clinics. Dental and medical licensing bodies in each U.S. state also mandate control procedures and have made continuing education on infection control a condition of re-licensure.
For both medical and dental facilities, blood-borne pathogens represent the greatest risk of infection. These viral infections spread through an infected person’s blood coming in contact with the blood of an uninfected person, via a cut or a needle injection site. One of the most prevalent of these blood-borne diseases is hepatitis. This disease, which can severely impair the function of the liver and could be fatal, is caused by either of two viruses known as HBV and HCV. Any medical facility that encounters blood through needle injection or surgical procedures (including blood transfusion and surgical centers, and dental offices) must have a high degree of concern for controlling the spread of hepatitis and similar viral diseases.
Infection control protocols cover all aspects of potential exposure, including protective wear for workers and patients, proper disposal of contaminated refuse and disinfection of instruments and facilities. These comprehensive procedures not only keep patients safe from viral exposure, they also protect healthcare providers who experience greater exposure and risk for infection than the patients they serve.
Thanks to this strong emphasis on infection control, your dental visits are reliably safe. If you do have concerns, though, about the risk of infection during a dental visit, please let us know — we’ll be happy to discuss all we do to protect you and your family from infection.
If you would like more information on infection control, 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 “Infection Control in the Dental Office.”