Posts for: May, 2012
Why is it important to replace missing teeth with restorations such as dental implants? You might be surprised to find that the damage caused by missing teeth is much greater than the simple gaps left in your smile.
As the years go by, teeth lost early in adulthood cause structural changes in a person's face. By age 45 changes in facial structure are already visible in the form of sunken cheeks. By 60, cheeks and lips lose their support, resulting in an aging look. This process continues and if the teeth are not replaced, much of the structural support of the person's face is lost.
These changes are caused by loss of bone. Although it may seem static, bone is actually living tissue that needs constant stimulation to maintain its form and density. With normal stimulation it is in a constant state of resorption (breaking down) and deposition (building up). Teeth provide the needed stimulation for the bone that surrounds them (called alveolar bone) as they meet each other during biting, chewing, and speech. When the stimulation continues, the bone continues to rebuild itself. Without this stimulation, the bone resorbs, does not build up again, and loses substance.
Without stimulation, alveolar bone loses width, height, and volume. Since your teeth and their surrounding bone support your chin, cheeks, and lips, this has a powerful effect on your appearance. It may also affect your ability to chew and to speak.
As alveolar bone diminishes, the next layer of bone also begins to resorb. This is the bone of the jaw itself. The lower part of the face begins to collapse, and the cheeks become hollow. This effect is especially noticeable for people with no teeth (edentulous).
Usually the first tooth to be lost, due to infection and decay, is a molar (back tooth). In the past, a missing single back tooth was frequently replaced by a fixed partial denture (FPD). A crown is provided for each of the two teeth on the sides of the gap, called abutment teeth, to support a false tooth in the middle. However, if they are not well cared for, the abutment teeth may be the next to succumb to decay.
Today the treatment of choice is an implant. A dental implant is a tooth-root replacement made of titanium, which fuses with the bone — making it very stable. Above the gums it is covered by a crown that looks like a natural tooth. The benefit of the implant is that it continues to provide stimulation to the alveolar bone, preventing bone loss.
Implants are also a good choice in the case of multiple missing teeth. They can be used to support bridges or false teeth (dentures). The results are an improved, younger appearance and better functionality.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about missing teeth. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”
The medical term for dry mouth is xerostomia (“xero” – dry; “stomia” – mouth), something that many of us have experienced at some point in life. However, for some people it can be a chronic condition that is ideal for promoting tooth decay. It can also be a warning sign of a more serious health condition.
Dry mouth occurs when there is an insufficient flow of saliva, the fluid secreted by the salivary glands. Your major salivary glands are located in two places: inside the checks by the back top molars and in the floor of the mouth, with about six hundred tiny glands scattered throughout your mouth. And many people are surprised to learn that when they are functioning normally, saliva glands secret between two and four pints of saliva per day! While this may sound like a lot (and it is), saliva is key for buffering or neutralizing acids in the mouth. Without this powerful protection, tooth decay can increase quickly. This is especially true for older individuals who have exposed tooth root surfaces.
It is also important to note that there are times when mouth dryness is perfectly normal. For example, when you wake, you will probably have a slightly dry mouth because saliva flow slows at night. Another example is if you are dehydrated when it is simply a warning sign that you need to drink more fluids (especially water). Other causes for temporary dry mouth include stress as well as what you consume: coffee, alcohol, onions, and certain spices.
You can also have a dry mouth due to a side effect from an over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medication. If it turns out that this is the cause in your case, you need to talk to the prescribing physician to see if there is something else you can take to avoid this side effect. If there are no substitutes, one tip you can try is to take several sips of water before taking the medication followed by a full glass of water, or chew gum containing xylitol, which moistens your mouth and decreases the risk of tooth decay.
Another cause of dry mouth is radiation treatment for cancer in the head and neck region. Yes, these treatments are crucial for fighting cancer; however, they can inflame, damage or destroy salivary glands. You can also have dry mouth from certain systemic (general body) or autoimmune (“auto” – self; “immune” – resistance system) diseases, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, cystic fibrosis and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).
If you have discolored teeth, the cause is often staining on the enamel surfaces from foods, beverages, or smoking. But tooth discoloration may also originate deep within the root of a tooth. Sometimes this happens to a tooth that had to have earlier root canal treatment because of injury or decay.
In such cases the living pulp tissue and its blood vessels and nerves had to be removed from the root canals, resulting in the death of the dentin layer, which makes up most of the tooth's body. Over time this caused the dentin to darken. The color may come from remains of blood that was left in the tissue, or from filling materials left in the root canal that are showing through.
Since these stains are caused internally (intrinsic) and not on the outside of the tooth (extrinsic) they must be whitened from the inside. This is usually done by putting a bleaching agent into the empty chamber from which the pulp was removed. Usually the bleaching agent is a substance called sodium perborate.
When it is mixed with a solution of hydrogen peroxide, sodium perborate slowly bleaches the color from the tooth's internal material. It is considered to be safe and reliable for this use.
The work begins by taking x-ray images to make sure that the root canal is correctly sealed and the bone is healthy. After this, we will make a small hole in the back of the tooth through which the root canal space will be cleaned. The root canal space will be sealed and the bleach will be applied in a putty-like form and sealed off from the rest of your mouth. Every few days this procedure will be repeated until the bleaching reaches the desired level.
At this point a tooth-colored composite resin will be used to seal the small hole that was made in the dentin to insert the bleach. After the tooth has reached the level of whiteness that matches it to your other teeth, veneers or crowns must sometimes be used to repair the surface if it is chipped or misshapen, for example.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about whitening internally discolored teeth. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Whitening Traumatized Teeth.”
While some people associate the need for root canal treatment with an injury or trauma to a tooth (which is a valid cause), it can also most commonly be caused by tooth decay that is left untreated. This is the reason why we have put together this brief guide to explain the three common stages of tooth decay that lead up to the need for a root canal.
Stage 1: During this stage, decay begins to form in the tiny grooves on the biting surface of a tooth or where the teeth contact each other. The result is loss of the surface enamel of the tooth.
Stage 2: Left untreated, the disease progresses through the enamel and into the dentin, which forms the body of the tooth. Once in the dentin, it progresses more rapidly until it reaches the pulp — the living tissue within the root canals of the tooth. The decay infects the pulp tissues, which contain the nerves of the teeth, causing pain. The end result of inflammation and infection of the pulp is that it dies.
Stage 3: As the nerve dies an infection results, which causes pain and swelling. For some people who do not regularly visit our office, this may be the first physical sign that they have a problem. But all is not lost, a successful root canal treatment, whereby the infected pulpal tissue is removed and the root canals are cleaned and sealed will not only relieve the pain, but save your tooth. So the good news is that once a tooth has had the appropriate endodontic treatment (“endo” – inside; “dont” – tooth) followed by a proper restoration, the tooth can last as long as your other teeth. The key is to take proper care of your teeth, have routine cleanings, and visit our office as soon as you feel you have a problem with a tooth.
If you are having pain or symptoms from a tooth or teeth, check it out with us — you may or may not need a root canal treatment. Contact our office to schedule an appointment and find out. Don't wait until it's too late. And to learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatments for a root canal, read the article “I'd Rather Have A Root Canal....”