Posts for: August, 2014
Tooth preservation is the ultimate aim of a root canal treatment. But how long should you expect a treated tooth to last? The answer will depend on a few different variables.
A root canal treatment is necessary when a tooth’s pulp — the inner tissue made of nerves, blood vessels and connective tissues — becomes infected with disease. As the pulp dies, the infection spreads into the adjacent bone; this can eventually lead to loss of the tooth.
To stop this process, we enter the tooth and remove all of the pulp, disinfect the pulp chamber and the root canals, and then fill the chamber and canals. Depending on the type of tooth and level of decay, we seal the tooth with a filling or install a crown to prevent re-infection. it’s then quite possible for a treated tooth to survive for years, decades, or even a lifetime.
There are a number of factors, though, that may affect its actual longevity. A primary one depends on how early in the disease you receive the root canal treatment. Tooth survival rates are much better if the infection hasn’t spread into the bone. The earlier you’re treated, the better the possible outcome.
Tooth survival also depends on how well and thorough the root canal is performed. It’s imperative to remove diseased tissue and disinfect the interior spaces, followed by filling and sealing. In a related matter, not all teeth are equal in form or function. Front teeth, used primarily for cutting and incurring less chewing force, typically have a single root and are much easier to treat than back teeth. Back teeth, by contrast, have multiple roots and so more root canals to access and treat. A front tooth may not require a crown, but a back tooth invariably will.
These factors, as well as aging (older teeth tend to be more brittle and more susceptible to fracture), all play a role in determining the treated tooth’s survival. But in spite of any negative factors, a root canal treatment is usually the best option for a diseased or damaged tooth. Although there are a number of good options for replacing a lost tooth, you're usually better in the long run if we can preserve your natural tooth for as long as possible.
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 “Root Canal Treatment: How Long Will it Last?”
When it comes to our overall health, many of us think we’re pretty well-informed. But a recent survey quiz given by the American Dental Association (ADA) revealed something surprising: When it comes to dental health, most people could use plenty of “brushing up.” In fact, the average score on the true/false test was a barely passing D! Among the questions most people answered incorrectly were:
- How often should you brush your teeth? (91 percent got it wrong)
- At what age should you take your child to the dentist for the first time? (75 percent wrong)
- How often should you replace your toothbrush? (65 percent wrong)
- Can cavity-causing germs be passed from person to person? (59 percent wrong), and
- Does sugar cause cavities?
We’ll come back to the last question in a moment — but first, let’s recap some basic dental health information.
While you might think it’s best to brush after every meal, the ADA recommends brushing just twice a day. That’s because excessive brushing can erode tooth enamel (especially if it has already been softened by acidic food or drinks), and can also expose and irritate the root of the tooth. But when you do brush, you should keep at it for at least two minutes each time!
Bring your child in to the dental office within six months after the first tooth appears — but no later than his or her first birthday! The age-one dental visit starts your child off right with proper preventive care and screenings, and sets the stage for a lifetime of good oral health.
Most people think it’s OK to change your toothbrush twice a year — but the ADA recommends that you get a new one every three months; that’s because stiff, frayed bristles just don’t clean your teeth and gums as well as they should. Likewise, most people don’t realize that the bacteria that cause cavities can be passed from one person’s mouth to another — by putting a child’s pacifier in your mouth or sharing a toothbrush, for example.
And speaking of cavities: Technically, they aren’t caused by sugar, as 81 percent of people thought. Tooth decay occurs when certain types of oral bacteria release an acidic byproduct that attacks the tooth enamel and creates small holes (cavities). This occurs after the bacteria have metabolized sugar in your diet. So while sugar doesn’t directly cause cavities, it does lead to tooth decay by feeding harmful bacteria. How about partial credit for that one?
If you have additional questions about your dental health, please call our office to schedule a consultation. For more information, see the Dear Doctor magazine article “Good Oral Health Leads to Better Health Overall.”
Although your teeth feel as if they’re rigidly set in the jawbone, they’re actually capable of movement. In fact, dynamic tooth movement is an essential mechanism in good dental function — it allows your teeth to adapt to changes brought on by age and other factors.
The periodontal ligament is a key component in this mechanism. This elastic tissue actually holds the teeth to the bone through tiny fibers that attach to the tooth root on one side of the ligament and to the jawbone on the other. The teeth move within the ligament to maintain contact with both adjacent and opposing teeth in response to changes like the normal wear that occurs due to aging.
This is a primary reason why a missing tooth should be replaced by an artificial one as soon as possible. Because of the tendency just described, teeth next to the space left by the missing tooth will begin to move (or drift) into the space at an accelerated rate. The end result is teeth out of their normal position and range, which could seriously disrupt their normal function as well as adversely affect your appearance.
This is especially important for back teeth. Because they’re not easily visible to others when we open our mouths, many people will forgo replacement when they’re lost. But missing back teeth can set off a chain reaction of movement that could eventually hinder jaw function.
The best option for a tooth replacement is a dental implant. Life-like and durable, dental implants encourage bone growth at the implant site and adjacent teeth will respond to it as they would a natural tooth. If an implant isn’t feasible, then a fixed bridge is also a viable replacement option that will prevent drift. As a result, tooth movement should continue normally with no adverse effects on function.
If you’ve lost teeth or are about to undergo tooth extraction, it’s in your other teeth’s best interest to consider a permanent replacement. A new implant or bridge will vastly improve your smile and prevent more serious problems in the future.
If you would like more information on the importance of teeth replacement, 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 “Replacing Back Teeth.”
Not long ago, a certain Royal Baby made his first major public appearance. At a “crawl-about” in New Zealand, young Prince George (the 8-month-old son of Prince William and Kate Middleton) was formally introduced to the world, along with a group of adorable tots and their proud parents. The press was quick to note not only the future King of England’s cute expressions and his determined crawling — but also the appearance of his first two tiny bottom teeth.
Congratulations, William and Kate — and now, it’s time to think about the taking care of those royal baby teeth. In fact, before you know it, it will be time for the age one dental visit. Why is this so important? Essentially, because proper dental care in the early years helps to establish routines that will lead to a lifetime of good oral health.
It’s a misconception to think that baby teeth aren’t important because they will be shed after a few years. In fact, not only do they have a vital function in a child’s ability to eat and speak properly — they also serve as guides for the proper development of the permanent teeth that will follow. So caring for a tot’s primary teeth is just as important as it is for grown-up teeth.
What’s the best way to do that? To prevent tooth decay, clean an infant’s gums after each feeding with a soft cloth moistened with water — and don’t let your baby go to sleep with a bottle in his or her mouth! When teeth appear, gently brush them with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a tiny dab of toothpaste. At around age two, your child can begin to learn how to brush — with your careful supervision and follow-up, of course.
Avoiding sugary and acidic drinks (including some fruit juices) is another excellent way to keep those tiny teeth healthy! If you do allow any sugar, limit it to mealtimes; this gives the saliva plenty of time to do its work of neutralizing the sugar and acid that can cause tooth decay.
And don’t forget the first visit to the dentist, which should take place by age one! Even at that early age, we’ll make sure your child (and you) feel comfortable in the dental office, and help you get started with the best oral hygiene practices. We will also check for signs of cavities, watch for developmental milestones, and screen for potential future problems.
If you have questions about caring for your young child’s teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment. For more information, see the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Top 10 Oral Health Tips For Children” and “Age One Dental Visit.”
One of our primary goals in dentistry is to deliver effective treatment to patients with the least amount of discomfort. This is especially true after a procedure — controlling pain and inflammation will actually help reduce recovery time.
There are many strong pain relievers available, including prescription opiates like morphine or codeine. It has been shown, however, that healing and comfort are enhanced with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) because they not only minimize pain, but they also reduce inflammation after a procedure. One common NSAID is Ibuprofen, which works by blocking prostaglandins, a substance released by inflamed, damaged tissues. NSAIDs are very popular with dentists and other health professionals because they act primarily on the inflammation site and don’t impair consciousness like opiates. They’re also usually less expensive than pain medication requiring a prescription.
While relatively safe, NSAIDs do have side effects that could cause serious problems for some patients. The most common caution regards NSAID’s tendency to thin blood and reduce the natural clotting mechanism, especially if taken habitually over a period of time. They can damage the kidneys and the stomach lining (causing ulcers or dangerous bleeding), and they’ve also been linked to early miscarriages and heart attacks.
For these reasons, NSAIDs are not recommended for pregnant women, patients with a history of stomach or intestinal bleeding, or patients being treated for heart disease. In the latter case, NSAIDs may interfere with the effectiveness of low-dose aspirin therapy (another type of NSAID) to prevent future heart attacks or strokes.
Health officials recommend all patients limit their dosage of a NSAID to no more than 2400 milligrams a day for short term pain relief, unless otherwise advised by a doctor. For the most part, a single 400 mg dosage is usually sufficient for pain control during a post-procedure recovery.
Your dentist will typically obtain your medical history before you undergo a dental procedure, including the medications you’re taking. Depending on your current health status and the type of procedure you’re undergoing, your dentist will recommend a pain control regimen to follow after the procedure is over.
Following those recommendations, and alerting your healthcare provider if you encounter any side effects from pain medication, will help assure your recovery period after dental work is short, safe and uneventful.
If you would like more information on the use of NSAIDs to control discomfort after a dental procedure, 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 “Treating Pain With Ibuprofen.”