Posts for: April, 2013
“We all scream for ice cream,” the saying goes. But what if eating ice cream — or any very cold or hot food — literally makes you want to scream because your teeth hurt so much?
What causes sensitivity in teeth?
Understanding the anatomy of a tooth helps explain what happens when a tooth becomes sensitive to heat and cold. A tooth is composed of three types of tissue: a hard outer shell of enamel, the body of the tooth composed of the dentin, and an interior tissue of the pulp.
Enamel: The enamel forms the outside of the crown, the part of the tooth you normally see. Made of densely packed crystals of calcium, it is resistant to wear. It is not living tissue, and does not contain nerves, but it is capable of transmitting temperature like hot and cold.
Dentin: Inside the tooth's crown and root is a living tissue called dentin, which is a porous structure similar to bone. It is composed of microscopic tubules containing living cells, which are encased in a hard substance made of calcium crystals.
Pulp: The living dentin transmits sensation through to the pulp, which is in the center of the tooth and contains the tooth's blood vessels and nerves.
A tooth's enamel normally protects the dentin from exposure to extremes of temperature and pressure. If you wear away the enamel and expose the dentin, it will pass sensation through to the nerves in the pulp more directly. The result can range from a twinge to an excruciating pain.
Sensitivity can be caused by:
- Overzealous tooth brushing resulting in enamel wear and consequently dentin exposure and wear.
- Enamel and dentin erosion by acids in the foods and beverages you eat and drink.
- Tooth decay — the most common cause of sensitivity. Decay destroys enamel and dentin inflaming and infecting the living tissues of the pulp, which become increasingly painful.
What can you do to make your teeth less sensitive?
- Use a soft bristle tooth brush, and brush the affected teeth gently to remove all bacterial plaque. We can advise you on safe and effective brushing techniques.
- Use toothpaste that contains fluoride. Fluoride strengthens tooth surfaces and makes them more resistant to sensitivity and decay.
- Ask us about professionally applied fluoride varnishes or filling materials that can cover and replace sensitive or lost tooth structure.
Of course, if the problem is caused by tooth decay, make an appointment with us to remove the decay and place a filling in the sensitive teeth.
Dental implants are a great choice for many people who need to permanently replace a missing tooth. Reliable and long-lasting, they offer a highly successful outcome, and can even help reduce long-term bone loss and damage to adjacent teeth. One of the best features of implants is that the titanium metal of which they're made actually becomes fused with your natural, living bone tissue.
But sometimes, an examination may show that where you have missing teeth, you may not have enough bone remaining to properly place an implant. Does this mean you're out of luck? Not necessarily!
Employing the refined techniques of bone grafting, regenerating bone tissue has become a standard procedure in periodontal and oral surgery. In many cases, it's possible to build up just the right amount of bone using a variety of grafting materials, in combination with other special techniques. This can enable patients who wouldn't otherwise be good candidates to enjoy the benefits of dental implants.
How does it work? Basically, by helping your body repair itself.
You may already know that bone is a living tissue, which can respond to its environment positively (by growing) or negatively (by resorbing or shrinking). When you've lost bone tissue, the trick is to get your body to grow more exactly where you want it. Once we know where — and how much — replacement bone is needed, we can place the proper amount of bone grafting material in that location. Then, in most cases, the body will use that material as a scaffold to regenerate its own bone.
Bone grafting is often done at the time of tooth removal as a preventive procedure or prior to the placement of an implant, to give the body time to re-grow enough of its own tissue. The procedure is generally carried out under local anesthesia, or with the aid of conscious sedation. Sometimes, if there is enough natural bone to stabilize it, it's even possible to place an implant and perform a bone graft at the same time.
So if you're considering dental implants, let us advise you on what's best for your particular situation. We have the knowledge and experience to help you make the right choices, and achieve the most successful outcome.
If you would like more information about bone grafting, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Can Dentists Rebuild Bone?”
You have only one chance to make a first impression, and a big part of that impression is your smile. For many people, poor self-image starts with being self-conscious and inhibited about their smile.
A great smile is contagious. It can help you win friends and influence people. Conversely, inhibitions about your smile can have a negative impact on your relationships with family and friends, your career goals, and even your love life. If you think that self-consciousness about how your smile looks is holding you back, consider a smile makeover. With cosmetic and restorative dental procedures your smile can be the image of radiant health and happiness that you wish it could be.
A smile makeover is designed to enhance or even transform your self-image by giving you a brighter and more youthful smile, making your teeth look and function better through cosmetic and restorative dental procedures.
Here are ten reasons you may need a smile makeover:
- You are self-conscious about spaces and gaps between your teeth.
- Your teeth seem too small, and your smile seems “gummy.”
- Your teeth make you look older because they are stained or yellow.
- Your teeth are crooked, chipped, crowded or worn out.
- Your teeth do not work together effectively when you are biting or chewing.
- You hide your smile when posing for a photo, and you habitually hold your hand in front of your mouth when speaking or laughing.
- When you are interviewing for a new job or networking as part of your current job, your self-consciousness limits your ability to connect with people.
- Your friendships and family relations are suffering because of your low self-esteem.
- You wish you had a certain celebrity's smile or a friend's smile, instead of your own.
Perhaps most importantly:
- Your inhibitions about your smile are affecting other people's perceptions of you in all areas of your life.
If any of the above sound like you, contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about cosmetic dentistry and a smile makeover. You can also learn more by reading the article “The Impact of a Smile Makeover: What does it really mean?” in Dear Doctor magazine.
Because its symptoms can be easy to overlook, gum disease is sometimes called a “silent” malady. But don't underestimate this problem! Untreated periodontal disease can progress into a serious condition, possibly leading to tooth loss and even systemic (whole-body) health issues. With proper preventive measures and appropriate treatment, however, the disease can be controlled.
The root cause of periodontal disease — actually, a group of related diseases, all of which affect the tissues surrounding the teeth — is the buildup of bacterial plaque (also referred to as biofilm) around the gums. While hundreds of types of bacteria live in the mouth, only a comparatively few are thought to be harmful. But when oral hygiene (namely, brushing and flossing) is inadequate, the environment in the mouth becomes favorable to those harmful types.
The disease often begins with inflammation of the gums called gingivitis. It symptoms include bad breath, bleeding gums, and soreness, redness, or tenderness of the gum tissue. However, in some people these early warning signs are ignored, or masked by the effects of harmful habits like smoking.
Gum disease is chronic; that means, if left alone, it will worsen over time. Periodontitis, as it progresses, causes damage to the ligament that helps hold the tooth in place, as well as bone loss. This may become increasingly severe, and ultimately result in the loss of the tooth. Severe periodontitis is also associated with whole-body (systemic) inflammation, which has been linked to an increased incidence of cardiovascular diseases, like stroke and heart attack.
But there's no reason to allow gum disease to progress to this stage! Prevention — that is, regular daily brushing and flossing as well as regular dental cleanings — is a primary means of keeping this problem at bay. Plus, every time you have a regular dental checkup, your gums are examined for early signs of trouble. Of course, if you notice the symptoms of gum disease, you should come in for a check-up as soon as you can.
There are a number of effective treatments for gum disease. One of the most conservative, routine ways are those regular dental cleanings we referred to earlier, usually called scaling and root planning. Using hand-held and ultrasonic instruments, the buildup of plaque (tartar) is carefully removed, sometimes under local anesthesia. A follow-up evaluation may show that this treatment, carried out on a regular schedule, is all that's needed. Or, it may be time for a more comprehensive therapy.
If you have concerns about gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Understanding Gum (Periodontal) Disease” and “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”