A deeply decayed tooth is in serious trouble, and something a regular filling may not fix. You may instead need a root canal, a common tooth-saving procedure performed by general dentists or, in more difficult cases, endodontists (specialists in interior tooth treatment).
Regardless of who performs it, though, the basics are the same: The dentist accesses the tooth's decayed interior by drilling a hole and removing diseased tissue from the pulp and root canals through it. They then fill the empty spaces with a rubber-like substance before sealing the tooth and later crowning it to prevent re-infection.
For most, a root canal gives a decayed tooth a new lease on life that can last for years, if not decades. Occasionally, though, a root canaled tooth may become reinfected from tooth decay. There are a number of possible reasons for this unfortunate outcome.
For one, the decay might not have been caught until it had advanced into root canal filling, resulting in contamination. Although root canal treatment may still be effective, the chances of success are much lower than for a decayed tooth diagnosed before it had advanced this far.
Teeth with multiple roots or complex root canal networks are also difficult to treat. The challenge is to ensure all the root canals within the tooth have been thoroughly treated. These types of situations are usually best undertaken by an endodontist with microscopic equipment and advanced techniques that can better infiltrate intricate root canal networks.
These and other situations could make it more likely a root-canaled tooth is reinfected. Depending on the extent of damage, it may be best to extract the tooth and replace it with a dental implant or other restoration. But it's also possible to repeat the root canal—and the second time may be the charm.
As with many other dental conditions, the best outcome regarding a reinfected tooth after root canal is early detection and treatment. You can increase your chances of this with regular dental visits that include monitoring of any root-canaled teeth. You should also see your dentist as soon as possible if you notice pain or gum swelling associated with the tooth.
Root canals are highly effective at saving decayed teeth. But the rare reinfection is possible—so be on the alert.
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 “Root Canal Treatment: How Long Will It Last?”
We all experience that unpleasant "cotton-mouth" feeling now and again. But what if it happens all the time? Chronic dry mouth is more than unpleasant—it could be a medical condition that threatens your oral health.
Chronic dry mouth is a sign you don't have enough saliva present. That's a problem because we need saliva to keep our teeth and gums healthy by neutralizing the oral acid that erodes tooth enamel. Saliva also supplies antibodies to fight infection.
A saliva deficiency could be the result of lifestyle habits like drinking alcohol or smoking, metabolic diseases or treatments like chemotherapy or radiation. More commonly, though, it's a side effect from a medication you're taking.
Given the heightened risk it causes to your teeth and gums, what can you do to alleviate chronic dry mouth?
Review your medications. If you're taking prescribed medications, talk with your pharmacist or doctor about possible oral side effects associated with any of them. If so, it may be possible to switch to an alternative medication without the dry mouth side effect.
Don't use tobacco. Regardless of whether you smoke, dip or chew, tobacco use can interfere with saliva production. Kicking the habit not only improves saliva flow, it may further reduce your risk for oral diseases, especially oral cancer.
Drink more water. Saliva is mainly composed of water—so, be sure your body has plenty of it to facilitate saliva production. It's a good idea to sip extra water throughout the day, and especially before and after you take medication.
Practice oral hygiene. As a general rule, brushing and flossing every day is pivotal in preventing dental disease—but it's especially important with dry mouth. Be sure, then, to brush twice and floss once every day. You should also see your dentist at least every six months for dental cleanings and checkups.
Chronic dry mouth could be setting you up for future dental disease. But taking steps to alleviate it while practicing daily dental care could help you avoid that unhappy outcome.
If you would like more information on alleviating chronic dry mouth, 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 “10 Tips for Dealing With Dry Mouth.”
Modern dental restorations are not only more life-like than past generations, but also more durable. Today's fillings, crowns and bridges can last for years or even decades.
But that doesn't mean you can set them and forget them—they all require some level of maintenance and care. Here are 3 common restorations and what you need to do to make them last.
Fillings. Whether traditional dental amalgam ("silver") or tooth-colored composites, fillings today are incredibly strong and durable. But they do have one point of vulnerability, especially larger ones—the seam where the filling material meets the natural tooth. Bacteria tend to build up along this seam, which could lead to decay and the formation of a new cavity that weakens the filling. To avoid this, be sure you're brushing and flossing everyday and seeing your dentist at least twice a year.
Veneers. Dentists bond these thin shells of tooth-colored porcelain over the visible surface of teeth to hide chips, stains or other blemishes. But although the bonding agents we use create an incredibly strong hold, the bond between the veneer and tooth could weaken when subjected to higher than normal biting forces produced by nail-biting, ice-chewing or a tooth grinding habit. If you have such a habit, see your dentist about ways to minimize it and protect your veneers.
Bridges. Traditional bridges consist of an array of artificial crowns with those in the middle substituting for the missing teeth, while those on the end attach to the natural teeth on either side of the gap to support the bridge. Bridges can also be supported by dental implants. In either case, tooth decay or gum disease could undermine the natural teeth or bone supporting a bridge. To avoid a bridge failure, keep the areas around supporting teeth or implants clean and regularly checked by a dentist.
Above all, the danger dental disease poses to natural tissues also threatens the restorations that depend on them. Keeping your mouth free of disease is your best strategy for ensuring your dental work enjoys a long, functional life.
If you would like more information on protecting your dental work, 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 “Extending the Life of Your Dental Work.”
If you're a fan of former NFL player and current host of Good Morning America Michael Strahan, then you're well aware of his unique smile feature—a noticeable gap between his front teeth. So far, Strahan has nixed any dental work to correct the gap, often saying it was part of "who I am."
But if you follow him on Twitter, you may have been shocked by a video he posted on March 30th of him sitting in a dentist's chair. Calling it a "moment fifty years in the making," Strahan said, "Let's do it." After some brief video shots of a dental procedure, Strahan revealed a new gapless smile.
But some of his Twitter fans weren't buying it—given the timing, they sniffed an elaborate April Fool's Day ruse. It turns out their spider senses were on target: Strahan appeared once again after the video with his signature gap still intact, grinning over the reaction to his successful prank.
The uproar from his practical joke is all the more hilarious because Strahan has let it be known he's truly comfortable with his smile "imperfection." But it also took him awhile to reach that point of acceptance, a well-known struggle for many people. On the one hand, they want to fix their dental flaws and improve their smile. But then again, they're hesitant to part with the little "imperfections" that make them unique.
If that's you, here are some tips to help you better navigate what best to do about improving your smile.
See a cosmetic dentist. A cosmetic dentist is singularly focused on smile enhancement, and particularly in helping patients decide what changes they want or need. If you're looking for such a dentist, seek recommendations from friends and family who've changed their smiles in ways you find appealing.
Get a "smile analysis." Before considering specific cosmetic measures, it's best to first get the bigger picture through an examination called a "smile analysis." Besides identifying the defects in your smile, a cosmetic dentist will use the analysis to gauge the effect any proposed improvements may have on your overall facial appearance.
Embrace reality. A skilled cosmetic dentist will also evaluate your overall oral health and assess how any cosmetic procedures might impact it. This might change your expectations if it whittles down the list of enhancement possibilities, but it may help determine what you can do to get the best improved smile possible.
A great cosmetic dentist will work diligently with you to achieve a new smile that's uniquely you. Even if, like Michael Strahan, you decide to keep a trademark "imperfection," there may still be room for other enhancements that will change your appearance for the better.
Although we've advanced leaps and bounds over the years treating dental disease, our strategy for preventing them hasn't changed much. That's because these prevention basics are quite effective—and as the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
The core of an effective dental disease prevention strategy is mind-numbingly simple—brush and floss every day. These twin cleaning tasks remove accumulated dental plaque, a thin, bacterial film on tooth surfaces that's the primary oral disease driver.
True, there have been innovations concerning the "tools of the trade," i.e., toothbrushes, toothpastes and flossing devices. But what really makes this prevention strategy work is a consistent daily habit of oral hygiene.
In a way, simply "showing up" for daily oral hygiene goes a long way. But you can go even farther if you perform these tasks with greater proficiency—becoming a hygiene "ninja," of sorts.
Here, then, are 4 tips to improve your brushing and flossing prowess.
Be thorough when you brush. Try to cover all of your tooth surfaces when you brush, being sure to work the bristles into all the nooks and crannies and around the gum lines. A thorough brushing should take about 2 minutes.
Easy does it. Hard scrubbing may work on floors, but not your teeth—aggressive brushing can damage your enamel and gums. Brush gently and let the mild abrasives in your toothpaste do the heavy work of plaque removal.
Don't forget to floss. Although you may not like this "other hygiene task," flossing is necessary to remove plaque between teeth that your brush can't reach. Be sure, then, that you floss at least once a day.
Take the "tongue test." Wondering how well you're doing with your oral hygiene? A quick way to find out is by swiping your tongue across your teeth: If they feel gritty rather than smooth, you may have left some plaque behind.
Be sure to also ask your dentist for additional tips on better brushing and flossing. Improving your technique can help you put even more distance between you and dental disease.
If you would like more information on daily care for teeth and gums, 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 “Daily Oral Hygiene.”
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