If you notice a loose tooth, don't wait! Call your dentist ASAP. That loose tooth may be in danger of being lost or damaged permanently—and you won't know if that's true without having the tooth examined.
To understand why, let's first consider how your teeth are normally held in place—and contrary to popular belief, it's not primarily through the bone. The actual mechanism is a form of gum tissue called the periodontal ligament attaching the tooth to the bone. This ligament secures teeth in place through tiny collagen fibers that attach to both the tooth and bone.
The periodontal ligament can effectively secure a tooth while still allowing for some movement. However, these ligaments can come under attack from periodontal (gum) disease, a bacterial infection primarily caused by dental plaque. Without aggressive treatment, the infection can destroy these tissues, causing them to eventually detach from the teeth.
This can result in loose teeth, which is, in fact, a late sign of advanced gum disease. As such, it's a definite alarm bell that you're in imminent danger of losing the teeth in question.
Treating a gum infection with accompanying loose teeth often has two components. First, we want to stop the infection and begin the healing process by removing any and all plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) on tooth surfaces. This includes deposits below the gum line or around the roots of the tooth, which may require surgery to access them.
Second, we want to help stabilize any loose teeth while we're treating the infection, which can take time. We do this by using various methods from doing a bite adjustment of individual teeth tat are getting hit harder when you put your teeth together to splinting loose teeth to healthier neighboring teeth. We may also employ splinting when the tooth is loose for other reasons like trauma. This provides a loose tooth with needed stability while the gums and bone continue to heal and reattach.
Securing a loose tooth and treating the underlying cause isn't something you should put off. The sooner we address it, the more likely you won't lose your tooth.
If you would like more information on permanent teeth that become loose, 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 “When Permanent Teeth Become Loose.”
Of the many concerns pediatric healthcare providers hear from parents, thumb-sucking is definitely on the short list. Such a worry isn't totally unwarranted—persistent thumb-sucking could influence poor bite formation.
But if you have an infant or toddler who can't seem to keep their thumb out of their mouth, there's no need to panic—yet. Thumb-sucking is a nearly universal habit among young children, but the vast majority won't suffer any long-term harm from it.
That being said, though, it can become a problem if the habit continues on into late childhood, especially as permanent teeth begin to come in. That's because of the habit's relationship with the transition that occurs in child's swallowing patterns.
Babies initially thrust their tongue forward as they swallow, which helps them maintain a seal on the breast or bottle. This causes the jaws to remain partially open and not completely shut together, what's known as an open bite. Later, when weaning off milk for solid food, the pattern will change as the child begins moving the tongue down and away as they swallow. This in turn allows the jaws to completely shut.
Thumb-sucking often coincides with the initial infant swallowing pattern, and it usually fades about the time the child is moving into the more adult pattern. Persistent thumb-sucking, however, interferes with that process, essentially extending the open bite longer than normal, which in turn creates the conditions for poor bite development. Thumb-sucking can also put undue upward pressure on the front teeth, which could disrupt their alignment.
If thumb-sucking causes these conditions to develop, a child could eventually need extensive orthodontic treatment later in childhood or adolescence to correct their bite problems. The better course, though, is to avoid this by encouraging your child to end their finger-sucking habit, preferably by the age of 3.
It was common in years past to coat a child's thumb with something spicy that although not harmful was definitely not pleasant to taste. Today, most care providers recommend a more positive approach like offering praise or rewards to a child when they avoid sucking their thumb.
It may take time, but persistence and patience can win out. And, the biggest winner in ending thumb-sucking will be the child's long-term oral health.
If you would like more information on the dental effects of thumb-sucking, 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 “How Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite.”
Of the millions of teeth removed surgically each year, the vast majority of them have few if any complications. A small number of patients, however, do experience a particularly discomforting one known as dry socket.
This condition occurs when the blood clot that normally forms in a socket after an extraction fails to form or is lost. The clot helps protect the bone and nerves underneath the socket, so losing it exposes the area to temperature variations, food particles and fluids. As a result, some unpleasant symptoms can develop.
Usually manifesting around the third or fourth day after surgery, these symptoms include a bad odor or taste in the mouth and aching, throbbing pain. Fortunately, the symptoms, which usually fade in one to three days, don't pose a threat to your health. Nevertheless, you could be in for a rough time while it lasts.
So, if it happens, why you? To be honest, some people are simply more susceptible to developing dry socket, especially smokers or women who use certain contraceptives. You're also more likely to develop a dry socket if the tooth in question experienced higher than usual trauma because of difficulties in removing it. And, you could damage the forming clot if you vigorously chew or brush your teeth too soon after your procedure.
To avoid this, dentists usually recommend rinsing your teeth the first day after surgery rather than brushing the extracted area, and to chew gently, preferably on soft foods using the other side of the mouth. You might also avoid hot liquids and smoking for a few days.
If despite your best efforts you do develop a dry socket, give your dentist a call. Your dental provider can irrigate the socket and apply a medicated dressing that can speed up healing (you'll have to change every few days until symptoms abate). The dressing will provide pain relief to dramatically reduce your discomfort within just a few minutes, which you can supplement with ibuprofen or similar medication.
In time, the pain and other symptoms associated with a dry socket will subside. In the meantime, you and your dentist can take steps to make sure you're as comfortable as possible.
If you would like more information on dry socket, 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 “Dry Socket: A Painful but Not Dangerous Complication of Oral Surgery.”
During this year's baseball spring training, Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton got into a row with a steak dinner—and the beefsteak got the better of it. During his meal, the Gold Glove winner cracked a tooth.
Fortunately, he didn't lose it. Buxton's dentist rescued the tooth with a dental procedure that's been around for over a century—a root canal treatment. The dependable root canal is responsible for saving millions of teeth each year.
Dentists turn to root canal treatments for a number of reasons: a permanent tooth's roots are dissolving (a condition called resorption); chronic inflammation of the innermost tooth pulp due to repeated fillings; or a fractured or cracked tooth, like Buxton's, in which the pulp becomes exposed to bacteria.
One of the biggest reasons, though, is advanced tooth decay. Triggered by acid, a by-product of bacteria, a tooth's enamel softens and erodes, allowing decay into the underlying dentin. In its initial stages, we can often treat decay with a filling. But if the decay continues to advance, it can infect the pulp and root canals and eventually reach the bone.
Decay of this magnitude seriously jeopardizes a tooth's survival. But we can still stop it before that point with a root canal. The basic procedure is fairly straightforward. We begin first by drilling a small hole into the tooth to access the inner pulp and root canals. Using special instruments, we then remove all of the infected tissue within the tooth.
After disinfecting the now empty spaces and reshaping the root canals, we fill the tooth with a rubber-like substance called gutta percha. This, along with filling the access hole, seals the tooth's interior from future infection. In most cases, we'll return sometime later and bond a life-like crown to the tooth (as Buxton's dentist did for him) for added protection and support.
You would think such a procedure would get its own ticker tape parade. Unfortunately, there's a cultural apprehension that root canals are painful. But here's the truth—because your tooth and surrounding gums are numbed by local anesthesia, a root canal procedure doesn't hurt. Actually, if your tooth has been throbbing from tooth decay's attack on its nerves, a root canal treatment will alleviate that pain.
After some time on the disabled list, Buxton was back in the lineup in time to hit his longest homer to date at 456 feet on the Twins' Opening Day. You may not have that kind of moment after a root canal, but repairing a bothersome tooth with this important procedure will certainly get you back on your feet again.
If you would like more information about root canal therapy, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “A Step-By-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment.”
One of the easiest ways to upgrade your smile is to have your teeth whitened. In just one dental visit, whitening could transform your teeth from dull and dingy to bright and gleaming. And with a little care and occasional touch-ups, your new and improved smile could last for years.
But perhaps you're not one to rush into things—particularly when it may affect your health—and you'd first like to know more about this popular dental procedure. Here, then, are answers to a few frequently asked questions about teeth whitening to help you decide if it's right for you.
Is it safe? Although whitening solutions use a bleaching agent like hydrogen peroxide, it's only a small percentage of the total mixture. As long as you use the solution as directed by the manufacturer, whitening your teeth won't pose any harm to your teeth.
Do I need a dentist? There are several effective bleaching products available for whitening your teeth at home. But because it's usually a stronger solution used by a professional, whitening may not take as long to realize results, and the effect may last longer. A professional whitening might also help you achieve your desired level of whiteness better than a home kit.
Are there side effects? Your teeth may become sensitive right after whitening, especially if you already have sensitive teeth. To reduce this possibility, you might begin brushing with a desensitizing toothpaste a couple of weeks prior to your whitening session, as well as reduce your frequency of subsequent whitening procedures.
Any reason to avoid whitening? If your teeth are short or you have a gummy smile, whiter teeth may not be as attractive. You may also have internal discoloration, something teeth whitening can't change. And if you have dental work, you may wind up with natural teeth that are brighter than an adjacent veneer or crown. Your dentist can better advise you after a thorough dental exam.
To get the answer to other questions you may have, or to find out if whitening is right for you, consult with your dentist. If you are a good candidate, though, teeth whitening could very well change your smile—and your life.
If you would like more information on teeth whitening, 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 “Important Teeth Whitening Questions…Answered!”
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