Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Uprighting Tilted Molars

One of the most common conditions in an adult who has experienced an early loss of an anterior molar or premolar is the drifting and tilting forward of first or second molars. This drifting or tilting will cause the teeth to move off their normal vertical and horizontal positions. Teeth move at a very slow pace, so it may take many years for this movement to become noticeable to you. 

How do teeth become tilted?
Teeth are normally held in position by the contact with the adjacent and opposing teeth. When this contact or occlusion is changed because of an extraction, the teeth will migrate toward the front of the mouth. Because of the forces of occlusion, they will begin to tilt and move into the space created by the extraction. 

Why this is bad for you?
Because of the change, the tooth that has moved will be more prone to having decay start between it and the one behind it. There will also be a tendency for an adverse change in the position of the bone and gum architecture, and the change is not for the better. Because of a change in the way food deflects off the tooth and different actions and forces on the root, pathologic periodontal pockets can and usually do develop. As one tooth begins to move, the other teeth around it begin to change position too. The closer they are to to the tooth next to the space, the more they move. Three, four, five, or more teeth can easily be affected.

What are your options to fix it?
Since this is not normally a stable or good situation, we advise that you consider having it corrected. 

One tooth:
The easiest solution when there is one tooth missing and only one tooth that has moved forward and tilted is to orthodontically upright the malpositioned tooth. This can often be done in a matter of several months. Once the tooth has been moved back into position, you must stabilize it so that it will not drift back into the space again. If the tooth can be moved forward so that it is in contact with the more anterior tooth, stabilization might include some type of night retainer for several months. If there is a space anterior to the moved tooth, that is, if the tooth was moved backward in the uprighting process, you should consider replacing the missing tooth with a conventional fixed bridge, a bonded bridge, an implant, or a removable partial denture. All of these options should be considered and the choice should be made before the orthodontic treatment begins.

More than one tooth:
Conventional Bridge
If more than one tooth has moved, the orthodontic correction will become more complicated and involve more time and more teeth. Some teeth may be moved forward, and some, backward. Opposing teeth may have extruded into the space and need to be intruded back into the socket. As with the movement of only one tooth, the final prosthetic plan must be determined before any work begins. Stabilization and restoration must be begun as soon as possible after the teeth have been correctly moved, or they will move again.

How do you prevent it?
Prevention is the best treatment. Dentists recommend saving teeth. If you have had a tooth removed, get it replaced as soon as possible, thus preventing future improper movement and misalignment. But if you are unlucky enough to have had a back tooth removed at an early age and the teeth are beginning to move, consider orthodontics to upright and reposition the teeth. If you do not, you can expect future problems with decay and your periodontal supporting tissues. Continued movement may even cause the loss of more teeth!

If you have any questions about uprighting teeth, please feel free to ask us!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sour Candies

In the past 20 years, candies marketed to children have increasingly been of a “fruity” or “sour” variety.
  • Sour candies are very acidic, with a low pH level (Acid Levels in Sour Candies).
  • Some candies are so acidic it can actually burn gums and cheeks.
  • Acid weakens and wears away tooth enamel.
  • Teeth without protective enamel are prone to tooth decay.
  • Each acid attack lasts about 20 minutes.
  • Holding the acid in your mouth by prolonged candy sucking or chewing continues the acid attack.

Research Supports the Theory of Dental Erosion

Research on the harmful effects of acidic food and beverages and dental erosion is well documented in scientific literature. Minnesota dentists Dr. Robyn Loewen and Dr. Robert Marolt, in conjunction with Dr. John Ruby (University of Alabama-Birmingham School of Dentistry), have compiled this substantial evidence into an article titled “Pucker Up: The Effects of Sour Candy on Your Patients’ Oral Health,” published in the Minnesota Dental Association’s Northwest Dentistry Journal (March-April 2008).

The findings are informational and highly useful for both dental professionals and the general public.

How Tooth Erosion Happens

View a Chart Showing the Acid Levels in Popular Sour Candies (.pdf)

What You Can Do To Protect Your Teeth Now:

  1. Reduce or eliminate consumption of sour candies.
  2. Don’t suck or chew sour candies for long periods of time.
  3. If you do eat a sour candy, swish your mouth with water, drink milk, or eat cheese afterwards to neutralize the acids.
  4. Chew sugar-free gum to produce saliva which protects tooth enamel.
  5. After eating sour candy or other acidic foods or drinks, wait one hour before brushing teeth.  Brushing right away increase the harmful effects of acid on teeth.
  6. Ask your dentist about ways to reduce sensitivity or minimize enamel loss if erosion has begun.
  7. Use fluoride toothpaste and a soft toothbrush to protect your teeth.

Friday, October 10, 2014

You Know You've Got A Good Toothbrush When...

Before you even move to open your tube of toothpaste, the quality of your tooth-brushing session has already been determined. We’re talking, of course, about your toothbrush.

How is your toothbrush, and is it working as hard at keeping your teeth clean as you are? Here are a few ways to tell.

A toothbrush is good when:
  • It’s comfortable. Don’t worry about fancy add-ons—buy what you like and what feels right.
  • It has soft bristles. Ask your dentist and hygienist about this one, but the ADA recommends that most people use soft-bristled brushes to avoid damaging their teeth and gums.
  • It’s (relatively) new. When was the last time you switched out your toothbrush? Three months is about the right time to switch out, and sooner if you notice any discoloration or fraying of the bristles.
  • It’s clean and dry. This is very, very important! Wet, un-rinsed toothbrushes can harbor bacteria that can actually make your mouth less clean when you brush.   
  • Power brushes have been proven to be superior to manual brushes due to the amount of strokes/minute but even power brush heads need to be replaced. 3 months is a good rule of thumb for any brush you choose.
Go give yours a look and see if it measures up!


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Furcation Involvement

What is the furca?
The roots of the teeth are covered and surrounded by bone and gum tissues when they are in their normal state and have been disease-free. Only the crown portion is visible. Some teeth toward the back portion of your mouth have two or three roots extending into the jaw bone from the crowns of the tooth. This "V-shaped" area where the tooth branches or forks into two or three roots is called the furcation or furca. The furca is also covered with bone and is attached to the tooth by periodontal ligament fibers.

Normal amount of bone and gum vs. loss of bone
As long as a furcation of a multirooted tooth is covered with the normal amount of bone and gum, everything is fine and the furca holds no exceptional interest for the dentist or dental hygienist. When there is an alteration in the density of the furca bone, or it actually starts to resorb (disappear due to some type of dental pathology), the furca area becomes important and interesting. Continued loss of bone would lead to loss of the tooth.

The loss of the bone in the furca area could be related to periodontal disease (gum disease). The periodontal pathology in the furca could be part of a localized problem - only present at that one site - or a sign that there is a more widespread problem that needs attention. The breakdown of bone in the furcation could also indicate that the nerve inside the tooth is dying, and the tooth will need a root canal (endodontic treatment). 

If the breakdown is specific to the site on that one tooth, treatment would be localized. The type of therapy recommended would depend on the severity of the breakdown. Minimal disease might be treated by a dental prophylaxis (cleaning) and reinforcement of personal oral self-care. Treatment of a more extensive breakdown could involve aggressive periodontal procedures including but not limited to periodontal surgery and bone augmentation. You may be referred to a periodontist for these procedures.

If the furca breakdown is a sign of more widespread periodontal disease, the whole mouth will be evaluated and specific treatment recommendations will be made.

There are many very small nerves that exit through various portions of the tooth, and a localized furcation problem could indicate that the nerve in a tooth is dead or dying and the tooth may require a root canal.

You may think that teeth are difficult to floss and brush when tooth alignment and gum position are ideal. When there is bone loss in a furca, daily oral self-care becomes more complicated. A furca is a difficult area to clean - the more bone loss, the more difficult. In extreme cases, there is no bone or gum left in the furca, and a patient could actually place an interdental cleaning aid completely between the roots of a two-rooted tooth. For a three-rooted tooth with a furcation involvement, the cleaning process is even more of a problem.

You have been diagnosed with a furcation involvement problem. After careful examination, a treatment recommendation will be made. Our recommendation will be based on not only treating your furcation problem but also preventing further exposure of the furcation area.

If you have any questions about a furcation involvement, please feel free to ask us.  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Enamel Dysplasia

What is Enamel Dysplasia?
Enamel, the first word in the title, is probably familiar to you as the hard outer covering of the tooth crown. The second word, dysplasia, is probably less familiar. Enamel dysplasia is a dental term that discusses a number of dental problems, both cosmetic and structural. The condition may affect only the tooth surface and appear as small pits in the enamel or as a gross malformation of the enamel and shape of the tooth. Enamel dysplasia can range from slight to severe with all grades in between.

What causes it?
The causes of the dysplasia are numerous, but occur during a critical stage of enamel/tooth formation. Fever, illness, medication, change in nutrition, or prescription medication have all been cited as causes.

Is the tooth weaker?
Rarely do these conditions make the tooth weaker or more prone to decay. Teeth with dysplasia are not "soft." In fact, many times these affect teeth exhibit less incidence of decay than teeth that have normal shape, color, contour, and texture!
How do you correct it?
Everyone agrees that enamel dysplasia is unsightly and correction of the problem is needed. The solution depends on the type of defect and the extent to which the teeth are involved. 

If the blemish is superficial: many times it can be polished off the tooth, and  it never returns. This is done either with a drill or with special polishing compounds, or both. Sometimes a whitening agent is also used. Local anesthetic is not required because there is no pain involved. A restoration (filling) is not necessary to correct a superficial dysplasia.

When the defect is deeper in the tooth: the defect may have to be mechanically removed (drilled) and a bonded, tooth-colored restoration will be placed. Sometimes an injection of a local anesthetic is needed to correct a deeper defect. The filling should last for many years before it needs to be replaced. The color match is usually perfect.

Smoothing the enamel defect or replacing the area with a small filling is often all that is needed. When the defect is more severe, however, reconstruction of the tooth with bonded onlays or crowns is necessary. We will tell you what is indicated after examining your mouth and determining the extent of your problem.

Enamel Decalcification
There is one type of white spot or line that forms on a tooth that is not really a dysplasia of the enamel but it looks like one. This appears as a white line along the gumline and is caused by a decalcification of the enamel because of plaque or debris sitting on the tooth. In short, the area is not being brushed properly and a cavity has started to form. When a patient has orthodontic braces, cleaning the space between the orthodontic band and the gumline can be a problem. Proper oral self-care is a must for patients undergoing orthodontic therapy.

Treatment, other than some treatment with topical fluoride, may not be necessary if the enamel decalcification is discovered in the early stage. When the white line is soft or the decalcification has invaded the underlying dentin, drilling and restoration will be needed.

If you have any questions about enamel dysplasia, please feel free to ask us. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How Does A Dentist Drill Work?

Today, dentists are dependent on the drill handpiece. If the drill is running smoothly, then the practice is running smoothly.

What is it?
The drill is a sophisticated device which runs on electric motor or air pressure. The most common type is the air driven handpiece. It runs with the help of compressed air which helps in rotating the turbine, ultimately rotating the bur.

Dentist Drill (Air Driven) Consists of 2 Main Parts:
1. The body or shell through which air and water are supplied
2. The turbine which revolves the bur

Dental Handpiece
The body or shell can be made up of brass, stainless steel, or titanium. Brass is cheaper, but it is less strong and more corrosive. Steel is strong by costly. Titanium is the least corrosive, most strong, and the most costly.

The body can be further divided into head and outer sheath. The head holds the turbine and the outer sheath forms the handle and holds the inlets of air and water supply.
Interior Cross Section of Drill

Rusting of the inner surface of the head can be seen in handpieces due to repeated sterilization

Turbine is the heart of the drill. It is a kind of precision component which converts the air pressure in mechanical energy of rotation. Turbine rotates around an axis on which a bur or drill bit is fixed. As the turbine rotates, the bur will rotate. The turbine has small fin-like structures attached around its axis to catch the air resistance and convert it into rotatory motion.

How does the dental drill work?
Turbine inside head
1. Dentist presses a foot pad. The foot pad is a switch to turn the drill on and off.
2. When the foot pad is pressed, compressed air is released and enters the drill through the air inlet pipe which is attached to the drill at the back end, i.e. coupling
3. Compressed air reaches the head part of the handpiece in a small chamber which houses the air turbine
4. In attempt to escape, this compressed air rotates the turbine
5. Through various minute attachments, there is a facility to attach a bur to this turbine
6. When the turbine rotates, the bur also rotates
7. This bur is used for drilling and cutting tooth structures

Monday, October 6, 2014

Dental Emergencies

Regular dental care helps prevent inconvenient dental emergencies. However, dental emergencies can and do occur. Listed here are some of the more common dental emergencies and what you can do until you can get to our office. A good rule of thumb: if it hurts, do NOT wait to make an appointment. We will be happy to see you as soon as possible.

Toothache/Sensitive Teeth
A toothache or a sensitive tooth can be caused by several different types of problems. At times, it is a sign of a dying nerve inside the tooth. Over-the-counter pain relief medication can temporarily relieve the pain. Contact us for an appointment as soon as you notice the problem. Slight pain, if left untreated, can progress into facial or oral swelling and severe pain. Commonly, tooth pain can be eliminated with endodontic treatment (root canal therapy).

A sensitive tooth may be due to exposed root, a leaking or defective filling, decay, a bite-related problem, or a dying nerve. See us as soon as possible for an evaluation. Click here to read our blog post about the 10 biggest causes of sensitive teeth.

Broken Tooth
Teeth with large fillings can easily break or fracture. Call us as soon as possible to have the tooth evaluated and restored. If the broken tooth is not treated, more serious problems can develop. Broken teeth may or may not be sensitive to air and temperature changes. Sensitivity and pain are not necessarily an indication of how badly the tooth is damaged.

Tooth Knocked Out
Place the tooth in water or a wet towel or cloth. Do not try to scrub or wash the tooth. Get the tooth and the patient to us immediately. The faster the tooth can be repositioned, the better the odds that the tooth can be saved. Time is crucial.

Object Stuck Between Teeth
Use dental floss to gently remove the object. Do not use sharp or pointed objects to push or pry the object from between your teeth. If the object does not come out easily, come to us for help.

Final or Provisional Crown/Bridge Falls Out
See us as soon as possible to have the crown recemented. If this is not possible, you can use a denture adhesive (Fixodent, for example) that can be purchased without a prescription. Place a small amount in the crown and reseat it. Do not try to force it into place. It should not be difficult to put into place. When you cannot put the crown in correctly, save it, and bring it with you to your appointment. We will do the cementation. The reason the crown came out may make it impossible for the dentist to recement the old crown. That decision will be made during your examination.

Broken Partial or Denture
Bring the partial or denture here for repair. Do not try to glue the plastic yourself. Do not use Crazy Glue or other similar materials.

Orthodontic Problems
If the appliance is loose, take the patient to the orthodontist. If a sharp wire is exposed, cover it with a piece of wax, gum, a small cotton ball - anything to keep the sharp end from poking into the soft tissues.

Swollen Gums
Swollen gums are a sign of an infection. The infection may be caused by a dying nerve inside the tooth or a periodontal (gum) problem. Rinse your mouth with warm salt water. See us as soon as possible. The swelling may or may not be accompanied by pain. Either way, it needs immediate attention.

Contact us to make an appointment

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Top 10 Bad Habits That Can Wreck Your Teeth

Little things that you do every day can have a big impact on your teeth. Here is a list of the top 10 bad habits that can wreck your teeth!

1. Continuously sipping on soda or sweet coffee: The sugar from a single sip can sit on your teeth for 20 minutes, and the accumulation of sugar can lead to rampant decay.

What to do: Try giving up the sugary drinks. If you cannot, then try to drink the liquid within a 15- minute time period, then either brush your teeth or drink some water to wash the sugar away.

2. Brushing too hard: Some people think using a hard-bristled toothbrush will scrub more plaque off of their gums, but often they may be damaging the enamel or gums by brushing too hard. 

3. Sucking on cough drops often: Many brands of cough drops contain a lot of sugar, which will sit on your teeth. If you're using cough drops because you have a dry mouth, then your rate of tooth decay may be even worse.

4. Chewing ice and crunching on hard candy: This can fracture your teeth

5. Forgetting to use sunscreen on your lips: Exposure to the sun can cause oral cancer

6. Using your teeth to open anything or crack nuts: Do not use your teeth to open a bottle, a barrette, a bobby pin, or anything else that is hard. It can lead to chipped or fractured teeth.
7. Grinding or clenching your teeth: This can be a tough habit to break because many people do this in their sleep. The motion wears down your teeth which can cause problems with your bite and lead to fractures, loose teeth, and pain in your jaw and teeth. Ask you dentist about a night guard or other remedies.

8. Chewing tobacco: Popping a wad of tobacco into your mouth can lead to oral cancer. Why would you even want to risk it?

9. Piercing your tongue: Dentists have seen lots of patients who have accidentally bit their tongue stud or ring and ended up chipping a tooth. The tongue stud or ring could also damage gums. Even more importantly, the piercing creates a wound in the mouth, which is a highly-bacterial environment and could increase the risk of infection. These infections can be life-threatening.

10. Using your teeth to snip thread or a fishing line: The line could slip and cut your gum line 

Bonus: Biting your nails!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Replacing Unesthetic Restorations

There are 2 types of life spans:
Everything has a life expectancy, even dental filling materials. Dental materials appear to have two different types of life spans - a functional life span and an esthetic life span. The better the original dental restorative material and the skills of the operator, the longer the restoration will last. Lab-processed materials will generally last longer than direct placement materials.

What is the functional life span?
The functional life span is defined as the length of time a material will last before it fails to function properly. This failure will either (a) weaken the tooth or (b) permit decay or gum disease to begin. For example, when a piece of the filling breaks off (or often in the case of an amalgam [silver metal] filling, it causes a piece of the tooth to break off), the tooth requires a new restoration.

How is the esthetic life span different from the functional life span?

An esthetic life span is somewhat different. In the case of bonded and tooth-colored restorations, it means that the material, while possibly still able to function, has begun to degrade. A filling may have matched the tooth beautifully when placed, but over time, the change in color of the filling material, as well as actually tooth color changes, cause an obvious mismatch between tooth and filling material. Since the restorative material does not have the same properties as tooth enamel, it will wear a little differently. The shape will change over time, too. Luckily, it is a very slow process.

With lab-processed restorations, crowns and bridges, the crown may still be working well, but age and changes in your mouth make it and the surrounding soft tissues look less acceptable that it was when first placed. Again, this happens slowly, over many years.

What other esthetic problems can be fixed? 
Other esthetic problems that can be corrected include notches in fillings or under crowns caused by improper brushing (or decay), recession of the gum tissue that exposes  darker root surfaces around crowns or fillings, porcelain crowns (caps) that no longer match the adjacent teeth, and metal margins of crowns that are visible due to gum recession (and this is quite common).

Why should you consider getting new dental restorations?
When you can see these types of changes, you can be sure that others who look at you when you are speaking or smiling will see them too. If you place a high value on your personal appearance, this is the time to consider having the restorations replaced with newer materials. Newer dental restorative materials look better, last longer, are more color-stable, and more wear-resistant than older-generation bonded materials. You can expect them to look good for many years.

What fillings look the best?
In our opinion, silver metal fillings never look "good." Even at this best, polished and shined, they do not represent a picture of health. As the metal ages, it corrodes, pits, and darkens. Its constant expansion and contraction due to hot and cold foods we eat weakens the tooth. The darkening of a filling can cause a darkening of the tooth itself. After time, the tooth will become permanently dark gray. The wider your smile is (and the more teeth you show when talking and smiling), the more of a problem this can be. The most esthetic filling are tooth-colored.

What happens if I choose to keep my old fillings?
Broken, stained, worn, and visible fillings detract from your appearance. When you look at a tooth (from about 2 feet away) that has been restored, you should not see the filling. While these types of problems are, of course, non life-threatening, consider attending to them before they get worse - and difficult and expensive to correct.

In our office, we place a high value on the appearance of your teeth and how you feel about your smile. We want you to look your best. We use the best materials and techniques available in dentistry today to ensure a healthy smile. We will be happy to evaluate your particular condition and discuss options with you.

If you have any questions about replacing unesthetic restorations, please feel free to call our office to discuss restoration options at 512-250-5012.