Posts for category: Dental Procedures

RootCanalAwarenessWeekATimetoLearnHowTeethAreSaved

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the month of May? Balmy breezes? Sweet-smelling flowers? How about root canal treatment?

The last item might seem out of place…but for the last ten years, Root Canal Awareness week has been celebrated in May. So let’s take a closer look at this important—and often misunderstood—dental procedure.

What we commonly call a “root canal” is a special treatment that can save diseased teeth which might otherwise be lost. But the root canal itself is actually a set of hollow, branching passages deep inside the hard outer tissue of the tooth. The tiny “canals” contain the tooth’s soft pulp, including nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue. These tissues help teeth grow during childhood but aren’t necessary in healthy adult teeth—and, what’s worse, they can become infected via deep cavity or a crack in the tooth’s outer layers.

When bacteria infect the pulp tissue, the inflammation often causes intense discomfort. In time, the harmful microorganisms can also pass through the tooth’s root and into the tissue of the jaw, resulting in a painful abscess. Eventually, if it isn’t treated, the tooth will likely be lost.

Root canal treatment is designed to remove the infection, relieve the pain…and save the tooth. It is usually performed under anesthesia for your comfort. To begin the procedure, a small hole is made in the tooth’s enamel to give access to the pulp; then, tiny instruments are used to remove the diseased tissue and disinfect the tooth. Finally, it is sealed up against re-infection. Following treatment, a cap (or crown) is often needed to restore the tooth’s full function and appearance.

Despite some rumors you may have heard, root canal treatment is neither very painful nor likely to cause other health problems. So if you come across these discredited ideas, remember that dentists and dental specialists called endodontists perform some 25 million root canal procedures every year—and this treatment method  has been validated for decades.

Of course, like any medical procedure, root canal treatment is not 100% successful. While the procedure has a very high success rate, it’s possible that additional treatments will be needed in some cases. However, the alternative—extracting the tooth—has similar potential downsides; plus a replacement tooth will be needed to avoid the health and lifestyle troubles caused by missing teeth. But one thing is certain: Ignoring disease in the tooth’s soft tissues isn’t a good move, because the infection won’t go away on its own—and down the road it will only get worse.

So this May, while you’re taking time to smell the flowers, spare a thought for the often-misunderstood root canal. If you’d like more information on root canal treatment, please contact us or schedule a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “A Step-By-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment” and “Root Canal Treatment: What You Need to Know.”

KnowtheFactsBeforeConsideringBotoxforJawJointPain

If you have chronic jaw joint pain you may have heard of using Botox to relieve discomfort from temporomandibular disorders (TMD). Before you seek out this remedy, though, be sure you know the facts beforehand.

TMD is actually a group of conditions affecting the joints, muscles and overall structures of the jaw. People with TMD often experience sharp pain and reduced range of motion of the jaw joints. Although we don't know the exact causes, we believe stress (accompanied often by teeth grinding habits) is a major factor for many patients.

Treatments run the spectrum from conservative to aggressive. Conservative treatments include cold and heat packs, therapeutic exercises, and muscle pain or relaxant medication. On the more aggressive side, patients undergo surgery to reorient the lower jaw. Most people gain a significant amount of relief from conservative therapies; the results aren't as positive with surgery.

Botox falls on the aggressive side of treatments. Approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration for cosmetic uses, the drug contains botulinum toxin type A, a bacterial toxin that can cause muscle paralysis. It's often injected into facial structures to paralyze small muscles and temporarily “smooth out” wrinkle lines. Only recently has it been proposed to help relieve jaw pain.

The jury, however, is still out on its effectiveness with jaw pain. The double-blind testing performed thus far hasn't produced any relevant clinical results that the injections actually work with TMD.

And there are other complications. Some people injected with Botox encounter pain, bruising or swelling at the injection site, and some have severe headaches afterward. Botox is also a temporary solution, not a permanent cure — you'll need another injection a few months later to maintain the effect. You might even develop antibodies that diminish the drug's effect and require higher subsequent doses to compensate.

This and other concerns should give you pause before seeking out this remedy. The best strategy is to try the traditional treatments first, which are also the least invasive. If there's no significant relief, then talk to us and your physician about other options.

If you would like more information on treatment options for TMD, 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 “Botox Treatment for TMJ Pain.”

By O'Brien Dental
May 02, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: tooth loss  
ToothLossAHealthRiskforOlderAdults

Tooth loss is a problem that affects many seniors—and since May is Older Americans Month, this is a good time to talk about it. Did you know that more than a quarter of adults over age 75 have lost all of their natural teeth? This not only affects their quality of life, but poses a significant health risk.

According to a study in The Journal of Prosthodontics, significant tooth loss is associated with increased risk for malnutrition—and also for obesity. If this seems like a contradiction, consider that when you have few or no teeth, it’s much easier to eat soft, starchy foods of little nutritional value than it is to eat nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables.

That’s just one reason why it’s important to replace missing teeth as soon as possible. There are several ways to replace a full set of missing teeth including removable dentures, overdentures, and fixed dentures.

Removable dentures are the classic “false teeth” that you put in during the day and take out at night. Dentures have come a long way in terms of how convincing they look as replacement teeth, but they still have some disadvantages: For one thing, they take some getting used to—particularly while eating. Also, wearing removable dentures can slowly wear away the bone that they rest on. As that bone gradually shrinks over time, the dentures cease to fit well and require periodic adjustment (re-lining).

Overdentures are removable dentures that hook onto a few strategically placed dental implants, which are small titanium posts placed in the bone beneath your gums. Strong and secure, implants prevent the denture from slipping when you wear it. Implants also slow the rate of bone loss mentioned above, which should allow the denture to fit better over a longer period of time. But overdentures, too, are not meant to be worn all of the time.

Fixed dentures are designed to stay in your mouth all the time, and are the closest thing to having your natural teeth back. An entire row of fixed (non-removable) replacement teeth can usually be held in place by 4-6 dental implants. Dental implant surgery is an in-office procedure performed with the type of anesthesia that’s right for you. After implants have been placed and have integrated with your jaw bone—generally a period of a few months—you can enjoy all of your favorite foods again without worry or embarrassment.

If you would like more information about tooth-replacement options, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

GoodReasonstoConsiderOrthodontics-EveninAdulthood

Now in your adult years, you feel you’ve functioned pretty well even with a few misaligned teeth. You may also think having them straightened at this point may not be worth the effort and expense.

But there are solid reasons — beyond, of course, the psychological and social benefits gained from a new smile — why straightening teeth even as an adult can be a wise investment. Orthodontics not only enhances your appearance but may also improve your long-term oral health.

Restores proper oral function. Teeth that are aligned properly will tend to function properly. Although you can still chew, speak and smile with teeth that aren’t quite aligned properly, over time you’ll put more stress on both the teeth and the jaws, which could lead to more wear than what normally occurs with aging. By re-aligning teeth to a more normal position you could be extending the life of your teeth and reducing your risk of other functional problems.

Reduces the risk of periodontal (gum) disease. Some people with misaligned teeth are more susceptible to periodontal disease. Besides difficulties with bacterial plaque removal (a must to avoid gum disease), a person with misaligned teeth can also encounter more defects involving bone and gum tissues like gum recession that can contribute to the progression of gum disease. By straightening teeth (and performing plastic periodontal surgery if needed), we can reduce this risk dramatically — as long as we’re performing periodontal treatment for existing gum disease before and during orthodontics.

Facilitates tooth replacement. When we lose a tooth, the mouth’s natural mechanism is to move remaining teeth to fill the void left by the lost tooth. This can make it difficult to position a dental implant or similar tooth replacement in a functional and aesthetically appealing way. By applying orthodontics to move drifting teeth back into their proper place, we restore the best condition for achieving success with a tooth replacement.

The best way to know how much you could benefit from orthodontic treatment is to visit us for a full dental evaluation. From there, we can help you decide if treatment for straightening misaligned teeth is right for you.

If you would like more information on orthodontic 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 “Why Straighten Teeth.”

By O'Brien Dental
February 03, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: cosmetic dentistry  
GetABetterSmileforValentinesDay

The most romantic holiday of the year, Valentine’s Day is celebrated each February 14th. It’s a time when many look forward to giving (and receiving) cards, flowers, and other tokens of love. On special days like this, it’s natural to want to look your best—and many surveys rank a person’s smile as his or her most noticeable (and appealing) physical feature. But what if you are unsatisfied with your smile?

Don’t worry! Today, cosmetic dentistry can resolve smile problems as never before. Here are some popular and effective dental treatments that can quickly brighten up your smile.

Tooth Whitening
In just one visit, dull or stained teeth can often be lightened by up to 10 shades! How? We use special bleaching solutions that are applied safely, under our careful supervision, in the dental office. You can’t use these concentrated solutions at home. But if you‘re not in a rush, we can prepare custom-made take-home bleaching trays and whiteners that are safe for home use. The same results can be achieved, but the process may take weeks instead of hours. After months or years, depending on lifestyle factors (like whether you smoke or drink coffee, red wine, etc.) your teeth can have whitening treatment again.

Cosmetic Bonding
Small chips, cracks, or other minor irregularities can be quite noticeable in an otherwise flawless smile. Fortunately, these problems can often be resolved with a treatment called cosmetic bonding. In a relatively simple in-office procedure, we can apply tooth-colored bonding material to restore teeth to better appearance. Layers of high-tech bonding material are built up and cured with a special light to form a tough, natural-looking tooth surface. Bonding isn’t as long-lasting as some other types of restoration, like veneers or crowns, but it’s an easy and inexpensive way to resolve some smile problems.

Professional In-Office Cleaning
Remember that feeling you get after your regular checkup? Your mouth feels squeaky-clean, your breath is fresh and you’re ready to show that sparkly smile. So why wait until your next routine appointment? You can schedule a hygiene visit any time. We will remove plaque from your teeth, check your gums for signs of periodontal (gum) disease, and make sure you’re on track for good oral health. If any problems are found, we’ll take care of them right away. And if you have questions about cosmetic procedures, it’s the perfect time to ask. A professional cleaning can help your smile look (and feel) great.

If you have questions about brightening up your smile, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Artistic Repair of Front Teeth with Composite Resin” and “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”