Posts for: May, 2014
According to popular culture, a root canal treatment is one of life’s most painful experiences. But popular culture is wrong — this common treatment doesn’t cause pain, it relieves it. Knowing the facts will help alleviate any anxiety you may feel if you’re scheduled to undergo the procedure.
A root canal treatment addresses a serious problem involving the pulp of a tooth that has become infected. The pulp is a system of blood vessels, nerves and connective tissues inside the tooth that helps the tooth maintain its vitality. It also contains a series of minute passageways known as root canals that interconnect with the body’s nervous system.
The pulp may become infected for a number of reasons: tooth decay, gum disease, repetitive dental procedures, or traumatic tooth damage. Once the pulp becomes irreversibly damaged it must be completely removed from the tooth and the root canals filled and sealed in order to save the tooth.
We begin the procedure by numbing the affected tooth and surrounding tissues with local anesthesia and placing a dental dam (a thin sheet of rubber or vinyl) over the area to isolate the tooth and prevent the spread of infection to other oral tissues. We then drill a small hole in the top of the tooth to access the pulp chamber. Using special instruments, we then remove the infected or dead pulp tissue through the access hole and then wash and cleanse the root canals and pulp chamber with antiseptic and antibacterial solutions.
After additional preparation, we fill the root canals and pulp chamber with a filling especially designed for this kind of treatment, usually a rubber-like substance called gutta-percha that easily molds and compresses when heated. We then seal the access hole with a temporary filling (until a permanent crown can be fashioned) to prevent infection from reentering the pulp space. After the procedure, you may experience some minor discomfort easily managed with over-the-counter pain relievers.
You’ll find the root canal treatment alleviates the symptoms prompted by the pulp infection, particularly acute pain. What’s more, a successful root canal will have achieved something even more crucial to your health — it will give your tooth a second chance at survival.
If you would like more information on root canal treatment, 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 “A step-By-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment.”
He once lived in Australia, wore his hair in a mullet, and played guitar in a band called The Ranch. Today, country music star Keith Urban looks different than he did when he started out — and it’s not just the mullet that’s changed. As before-and-after pictures show, he’s had a smile makeover. His teeth, which were dull yellow in color, and used to have a large gap in front, are now white and shiny. The gap is still there — though it has been reduced to a more modest size. How did he manage to upgrade his image, yet keep part of his signature “look” intact?
Cosmetic dentistry has a number of ways to improve the appearance of a smile like Keith’s. One is tooth whitening. It’s a simple procedure that can be done in our office or at your home; either way, it’s an effective treatment that offers great value. In-office whitening, using the most concentrated solutions under our direct supervision, will give you the fastest results. We can also prepare a take-home kit, with custom-made trays and safe bleaching gels you can use at home. You’ll get similar results, but it will take a bit longer.
Of course, whitening isn’t permanent (though it can be repeated when necessary); not all teeth can be lightened as much as you might like; and it doesn’t correct gaps or unevenness. There’s another treatment that does, however: dental veneers. These are wafer-thin coverings made of porcelain, which are bonded to the prepared surfaces of your teeth. They are available in a number of shades — from natural to “Hollywood white” — and can even hide minor chips or spacing problems. That’s why veneers are often the treatment of choice when you’re looking for a “red carpet” smile.
Perhaps the best thing about veneers is that they give you plenty of choices when it comes to designing your smile. You can choose how white you’d like your smile to be, and even fix some “flaws” — or not! So how much you choose to close that gap in your teeth is up to you… but if you’re asking our opinion, the mullet has to go.
If you would like more information on dental veneers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Beautiful Smiles by Design” and “Porcelain Veneers.”
Dental implants are one of the best tooth replacement systems available. But while they can rejuvenate patients’ smiles and potentially provide a lifetime of service, they require thorough planning and preparation before the implant is inserted.
The process begins with the assembling of your treatment team. Implants require the training and expertise of a number of professionals who collaborate during the process: a dental specialist, like an oral surgeon, periodontist or a general dentist trained in implant dentistry, who surgically installs the implant; a dental technician who fashions the permanent life-like crown that will attach to your particular implant; and a restorative dentist who begins and ends the process with you — from initial consultation and planning to the permanent crown attachment. You, the patient, are also part of the team — your input and informed choices are essential to a successful outcome.
Your restorative dentist will take the first steps to develop your treatment plan. It begins with both a dental examination and a general health assessment to determine your fitness for any surgery. The dental examination serves to evaluate the site where the proposed implant or implants will be placed, along with x-rays for assessing the quantity and quality of bone at the site. Next, the dentist will create study models of your mouth to assess bite, and possibly take photographs to guide decisions on the implant crown’s color and appearance. The last step may be the development of surgical guides to ensure accurate placement of the implants by the surgeon.
One of the biggest questions to answer at this stage is whether or not you have sufficient bone mass to support the implant. You may have experienced significant bone loss due to disease or from resorption (the dissolving of bone) because of tooth loss. Insufficient bone mass can be remedied with a bone graft placed within the site that stimulates bone growth, which if successful will provide enough bone to support the implant.
While this preparatory phase before implant placement can be very involved, it’s absolutely necessary for ultimate success. The careful planning and prep work performed by your implant team — and your own participation in the process — will ensure that you’ll be happy with your new implants and your new smile.
If you would like more information on dental implant options, 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 “Dental Implants.”
You may be considering dental implants for a lot of reasons: durability, functionality and imperviousness to decay. But perhaps the winning reason is how they will make you look — their life-like quality can restore a smile marred by missing or disfigured teeth. Achieving that result, though, requires your dental team to determine beforehand the state of your bone and gums, and treat any conditions that would interfere with the final result.
The first area to look at is the amount of bone available to support the implant. An adequate amount is necessary not only to stabilize the implant, but to also ensure proper placement needed to achieve the best “smile” result. Your specialist, then, will take steps to protect available bone during procedures, or even aid in building up the bone structure by inserting grafting materials that encourage new bone growth.
The degree of bone volume in adjacent natural teeth is also important because it can greatly affect the health of the papillae. This is the triangular-shaped gum tissue that occurs between each tooth that gives normal teeth their arched appearance. Insufficient bone in these areas could cause the papillae not to regenerate properly around the implant site, which creates unsightly dark spaces in the gum tissue known as “black hole disease.”
We must next consider the quality and health of your gum tissue. Patients whose gum tissue tends to be thin face difficulties during cosmetic surgical procedures; their thinner tissues are also more prone for objects behind them to be visible, including metal or other crown materials.
Our aim is an implant crown emerging from the surrounding gum tissue just as a natural tooth would. To achieve this requires knowing first what we have to work with regarding your bone and gums, and to address any issues that are problematic. One aid in this process is to affix a temporary “prototype” crown on the implant to wear while the permanent crown is manufactured. This allows you to “test-drive” the new look, and make adjustments in the final product regarding color and materials.
Accounting for all these factors — and then making adjustments along the way — will help ensure the final crown meets your expectations for function and appearance.
If you would like more information on the fabrication of implant crowns, 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 “Matching Teeth & Implants.”
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.”