Posts for: January, 2014
It is sometimes hard to believe all of the features and characteristics that we inherit from our parents. Whether you're tall, short, blue-eyed or blonde, you can usually attribute some of these features to your mother and father. Of course, the downside of genetics is that diseases and disorders are also linked to genes.
Well, you can add gum tissue to that list as well! Genetics actually determines whether you have what we call “thin” or “thick” gum tissue. How does this work? Well, the type of gum tissue you have relies heavily on the shape of your tooth, which indeed is genetically-coded. If you have a triangular tooth shape, you'll likely have thin gums. If you have a squarer tooth shape, you'll usually have thick gums.
So, what can you expect from each tissue type?
If you have a thin gum tissue type, you are more likely to have gum recession. Watch out for the following signs of gum recession:
- Sensitivity to hot or cold, even without the presence of dental decay
- If you have crowns on your teeth, you may see a dark gray line at the gum line from the metal casting beneath the crown
- Small dark triangular spaces between teeth
On the other hand, if you have a thicker tissue type, your gums are more vulnerable to dental disease through a condition called “pocketing.” This happens when bacterial plaque causes your tissue to become inflamed, lose its attachment to the teeth and develop a pocket. Pocketing can result in bone loss, and, in worst-case scenarios, tooth loss.
It's important to note that while we use these terms to categorize different tissue types for treatment decisions, your tissue may also fall somewhere in between the two varieties.
So, how can you prevent gum disease? Daily oral hygiene is the best way to ensure proper care of your gums, no matter what type you have. Be sure to brush twice daily (use a soft toothbrush) and floss regularly at night. Floss gently until you hear a squeak, but watch out for your gum line. And of course, continue to visit us two times a year, so that we can assess whether you are in danger of developing gum disease.
If you would like more information about genetics and gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Genetics and Gum Tissue Types.”
Whether they come as removable devices or wires permanently attached behind the front teeth, orthodontic retainers have a crucial job to do in your mouth. Here's the skinny on what you ought to know about them.
1) Retainers keep your new smile looking the way it should.
After having braces to move your teeth into the desired position, a retainer is needed to keep them from moving right back where they were! In time, the periodontal (“peri” – around; “odont” – tooth) structures, which are constantly renewing themselves, will adapt to their new positions, and the teeth will stabilize.
2) There are different types of retainers.
Once upon a time, retainers were made of pink plastic and bent wire, and were removable. They're still available — but a common alternative today is to have clear retainers that fit onto your teeth covering them entirely or to have thin wires bonded to the inside of the front teeth They don't show, and you don't have to worry about putting them in and taking them out. If you prefer, ask us whether this type of retainer would work for you.
3) It takes several months for your teeth to become stable in a new arrangement.
Teeth must be held in position long enough for the bone and ligament that attaches them to the jaw to re-form and mature around them. A retainer helps avoid trauma as the teeth and associated structures are adjusting to relocation, allowing the process to end slowly and gently.
4) Even when they're stable, your teeth are always in a “dynamic” state.
There is some “memory” inherent in bone and gum tissue, which tends to cause teeth to shift back to their former positions for a long period of time after treatment. But teeth aren't held in place just by bone and ligament — a balance between the forces of the lips, cheeks and tongue also helps them stay put. This balance changes over a period of time.
5) The movement of teeth is unique to each person, and is not predictable.
Contrary to what orthodontists used to believe, there is no “right” position for the teeth that assures they will stay in place permanently. In time, the position of the teeth may change due to a slow “uprighting” movement of the front teeth in the lower jaw, which causes them to crowd as they move toward the tongue. Other factors may also cause a gradual movement of the teeth. But remember to always follow our recommendations; they will help keep your smile looking its best.
If you would like more information about orthodontic retainers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Why Orthodontic Retainers?” and “The Importance of Orthodontic Retainers.”
During most of your life, your dental healthcare will be mainly provided by your general dentist. Sometimes, though, certain situations and conditions call for the skills of a dental specialist. One such specialist is an oral surgeon.
An oral surgeon is a dentist who has undertaken further training and residencies in the practice of oral surgical procedures and treatments. They are especially distinguished by surgical procedures that may require advanced forms of anesthesia.
The field of oral surgery touches on a wide array of conditions. They are adept at tooth extractions, especially difficult cases like impacted teeth, and surgical procedures that correct issues involving the underlying bone of the jaw. They perform procedures as part of treatment for diseases of the jaws or facial region (including biopsies, and the removal and treatment of oral cancers), reconstructive surgeries of the mouth and jaw following disease or injury, and orthognathic surgeries that correct malocclusions (bad bites) caused by the size of the jaw and its placement with the skull.
Oral surgeons also provide treatments in the area of pain management like temporo-mandibular disorder (TMD), a group of conditions involving the joint that connects the lower jaw with the skull. Because of their background training in oropharyngeal (pertaining to the back of the mouth and the throat) physiology, many oral surgeons have received further training in the diagnosis and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). They also play an important role in cosmetic dentistry, as with the surgical placement of dental implants.
All in all, these professionals are an important part of your dental healthcare team. Along with your general dentist and other oral specialists, they’re committed to helping you gain the highest degree of dental health possible, as well as a vibrant, healthy smile.
If you would like more information on the role of oral surgeons, 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 Consult an Oral Surgeon?”
It’s often said that thereâ??s a first time for everything: Driving a car by yourself; getting your first “real” job; even… having a root canal?
Now don’t get us wrong — we’re not wishing that anyone should go through a medical procedure, no matter how minor. Yet the fact remains: A root canal procedure is one of the most common treatments performed in many dental offices… and, especially for first-timers, it’s one of the most misunderstood.
Let’s start off with the biggest misconception of all. Have you heard that a root canal is an exceptionally painful treatment? Get ready for some news: It just isn’t so. The fact is, in the vast majority of cases, having a root canal procedure is comparable to cavity treatment in terms of discomfort. Yet it brings immediate relief to the intense pain that can result from an infection in the pulp of the tooth. To understand how this works, we need to look a little closer at a tooth’s anatomy.
The hard outer surface of the tooth doesn’t have nerves, so it can’t “feel” any sensations. But deep inside of the tooth lies a bundle of nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue called the pulp. Safely sealed off from the outside world, pulp tissue is needed for proper tooth development, but has no essential function in adults. Sometimes, however, a deep cavity or a crack in the tooth allows bacteria to infect this soft tissue. That’s when the tooth’s pulp will let you know it’s still there — by causing the sensation of pain.
Pulp tissue fills a branching network of tiny canal-like passages, which can be compared to the roots of a plant. When infection develops in the root canals, the best treatment is to remove the diseased and dying tissue, clean out and disinfect the passageways, and seal up the area against further infection. This, in essence, is a root canal procedure. It is performed under local anesthesia, so you won’t feel any pain as it’s being done. When it’s over, a crown (cap) will be needed to restore the tooth’s appearance and function.
What happens if you need a root canal but don’t get one? If you can manage to ignore it, the pain may (or may not) eventually cease: This signals that the nerves have died — but the disease still persists. Eventually, it may lead to further infection… a pus-filled abscess… even tooth loss. And that’s a truly bad outcome.
It’s normal to feel a little apprehension before any medial procedure. But don’t let faded myths about the root canal procedure keep you from getting the treatment you need. Remember, root canal treatment doesn’t cause pain — it relieves it!
If you would like more information about root canal treatment, call our office for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “A Step-By-Step Guide To Root Canal Treatment” and “Tooth Pain? Don't Wait!”