OnlyaDentalExamcanIdentifytheRootCauseofYourToothPain

A toothache means you have tooth decay, right? Not necessarily — your pain could be signaling a number of potential causes. Determining where, how much and how often it hurts will help us find out the cause and apply the appropriate treatment.

A single symptom, for example, can mean many things. A twinge of tooth pain as you consume hot or cold foods might indicate localized tooth decay easily repaired by a filling. But it could also mean the tooth's root surface has been exposed as a result of periodontal (gum) disease — aggressive plaque removal and maybe even gum surgery might be necessary. Or it could be a sign of inner pulp decay: in this case you'll likely need a root canal treatment to save the tooth.

Pulp decay can also announce itself with a very sharp and constant pain radiating from one or more teeth. You shouldn't hesitate to see us for an examination — even if the pain goes away. Pain cessation most likely means the nerves in the pulp have died. The infection, however, still exists, so you'll still probably need a root canal treatment.

If you notice severe, continuous pain and pressure around a tooth, particularly about the gums, you may have a localized, inflamed area of infection called an abscess. An abscess can be the result of gum disease, but it might also stem from a foreign body like a popcorn husk, getting stuck below the gums. We'll need to conduct a complete dental examination to determine the cause and how to treat it.

Finally, a sharp pain when you bite down could mean many things such as a loose filling or a fractured (cracked) tooth. The latter especially requires immediate attention to save the tooth.

These are just a few of the possible causes behind mouth or facial pain. Although all of them are serious, a few are true dental emergencies and can't wait if we're going to save a tooth. The sooner you see us, the sooner we can help relieve the pain, minimize any damage and avert disaster.

If you would like more information on treating tooth pain, 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 “Tooth Pain? Don't Wait!

By Smile Designers
March 15, 2018
Category: Oral Health
WhatIsABabyToothWorth

For most people, raising kids is an expensive proposition. (A recent estimate by the U.S. Department of Agriculture puts the average tab at almost a quarter of a million dollars before they turn 18.) But if you’ve been keeping up with parenting news lately, you may have come across an even more jaw-dropping fact: According to a survey by the Sunstar group, a maker of oral hygiene products, when the tooth fairy makes a pickup in New York City, she (or her parental surrogate) leaves an average of $13.25 per tooth!

That compares to $9.69 per tooth in Los Angeles, $5.85 in Chicago and $5.02 in Boston — and it’s a far higher rate than most other polls have shown. But it brings up a good question: What's a baby tooth really worth? Ask a dentist, and you may get an answer that surprises you: A lot more than that!

A child’s primary (baby) teeth usually begin coming in around the age of 6 to 9 months, and start making their exits about the time a child reaches six years; by the age of 10 – 13, they’re usually all gone. But even though they will not last forever, baby teeth are far from disposable — and they deserve the same conscientious care as adult teeth. Here’s why:

Primary teeth play the same important roles in kids’ mouths as permanent teeth do in the mouths of adults: they allow kids to bite and chew effectively, speak normally and smile brightly. Their proper functioning allows children to get good nutrition and develop positive social interactions as they grow toward adolescence — and those are things it’s difficult to put a price tag on.

But that’s not all baby teeth are good for. Each one of those little pearly-whites serves as a guide for the permanent tooth that will succeed it: It holds a space open in the jaw and doesn’t let go until the grown-up tooth is ready to erupt (emerge) from beneath the gums. If primary teeth are lost too soon, due to disease, decay or accidents, bite problems (malocclusions) can develop.

A malocclusion (“mal” – bad; “occlusion” – bite) can result when permanent teeth don’t erupt in their proper locations. “Crowding” is a common type of malocclusion that can occur when baby teeth have been lost prematurely. The new, permanent teeth may come in too close together because neighboring teeth have shifted into the gap left by the prematurely lost tooth, creating an obstruction for the incoming teeth. In other cases, the permanent teeth may emerge in rotated or misplaced positions.

Bite problems make teeth harder to clean and thus more prone to disease; they may also cause embarrassment and social difficulties. The good news is that it’s generally possible to fix malocclusion: orthodontists do it every day. The bad news: It will almost certainly cost more than $13.25 per tooth. Alternatively, baby teeth in danger of being lost too soon can often be saved via root canal treatment or other procedures.

We’re not advocating giving big money to toddlers — but we do want to make a point: The tooth fairy’s payout: a few dollars. A lifetime of good checkups and bright smiles: incalculable.

If you have questions or concerns about baby teeth, please call our office to schedule a consultation.

Your teeth and jaws under pressure

Do you clench your teeth when you are feeling stressed?  Do you wake up with a headache?  Do your jaw muscles hurt?  Talk to your dentist.  You may have a habit called bruxism.

WHAT IS BRUXISM?

Bruxism is a habit during which you grind your teeth or clench or thrust your jaw forward over and over again.  This habit can affect your oral health.  It can cause teeth to break or crack, and increase the chance of gum problems.  Adults are not the only ones affected.  Studies have found that this can be a problem in children as young as preschool aged.

WHAT CAUSES IT?

Researches do not know for sure what causes people to do this.  Some think stress could be a factor.  In preschoolers, studies find an association between grinding their teeth or clenching their jaws and signs of stress as anxiety or social withdrawal.

Children also can develop this habit when they are losing their baby teeth and their permanent teeth are coming in.  Nail biting also may lead to grinding of teeth or jaw clenching.  Some children outgrow this, but often adults who grind their teeth or clench their jaws did so as children.

Like many habits, you may be unaware that you do this.  You may even do it in your sleep.  Tobacco and alcohol use may increase your chances of doing this when you are sleeping.  Large amounts of caffeine- for example, 8 or more cups of coffee a day- also can increase this risk.  Some medications or illegal drugs may cause users to grind their teeth or clench or thrust their jaws as well. 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

You should talk to your dentist if you notice any of the following:

  • Jaw pain
  • Headaches when you wake up;
  • Teeth sensitivity to hot or cold drinks or food;
  • Chipped teeth and fillings.

A number of things can contribute to the problem of buxism, and there has not been a lot of research on how best to treat it.  Your dentist may suggest some options, such as

  • Decreasing or quitting tobacco use:
  • Limiting how much caffeine you eat or drink;
  • Seeking counseling to help you identify when you are doing it while you are awake and to develop ways to relax;
  • Looking at the medications you take and talking to your physician about other options.

Your dentist also may talk to you about using an oral appliance, which is a plastic tray that fits over either your top or bottom teeth.  Use of an appliance may help reduce grinding, clenching, and thrusting and may protect your teeth and gums.

-JADA February 2018

TeenswithMissingTeethmayneedaTemporaryFixUntilTheyreOlder

Dental implants are widely considered by both dentists and patients as the premier choice for replacing missing teeth. Unfortunately, implants aren’t the appropriate choice for teenagers with missing teeth.

That’s because their jaws won’t fully finish most of their growth and development until early adulthood. An implant placed too early could become misaligned as the jaw matures. The best approach for a teenager is a temporary restoration until they’re old enough for an implant.

There are a couple of good options. One is a removable partial denture (RPD), prosthetic (false) teeth set in an acrylic base that mimics gum tissue at the locations of the missing teeth. RPDs, which stay in place by way of metal clips that fit over other teeth, are easy to wear and maintain.

On the downside, an RPD can break if you bite into something too hard. They can lose their fit and may need to be replaced with a new one. And, some teens aren’t quite keen on wearing a “denture.”

Another option is a bonded or Maryland bridge, a kind of fixed bridge. We bond dental material to the back of a prosthetic tooth with portions of the material extending out from either side of it.  We then bond these extending tabs to the back of the teeth on either side of the prosthetic tooth to hold it in place. Unlike traditional bridges, we can eventually remove it without any permanent alterations to the teeth it’s attached to.

Before we undertake a bonded bridge, though, we must make sure the gums and bone of the surrounding teeth are free from periodontal (gum) disease and are healthy and strong enough to support the bridge. We also need to be sure the patient doesn’t have a deep bite or a teeth grinding habit, which could cause the teeth to make contact with the tabs and break them.

The patient also needs the maturity to responsibly perform diligent oral hygiene: this type of bridge has a tendency to build up disease-causing plaque, so brushing twice and flossing once every day is critical. Not doing so increases the risk of tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease, which could complicate a future implant.

We can discuss these options after a thorough dental examination of your teenager. Either way, we’ll be able to restore your teen’s smile until we can undertake a more permanent restoration.

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

HowTeethWhiteningBringsOutTaraLipinskisWinningSmile

What does it take to win a gold medal in figure skating at the Winter Olympics? Years and years of practice…a great routine…and a fantastic smile. When Tara Lipinski won the women’s figure skating competition at the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan, she became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event in Winter Olympics history—and the whole world saw her winning smile.

“I love to smile, and I think it’s important—especially when you’re on-air,” she recently told Dear Doctor magazine. “I am that person who’s always smiling.”

Tara’s still skating, but these days you’re more likely to see her smile on TV: as a commentator for the 2018 Winter Olympics, for example. And like many other athletes and celebrities in the public eye—and countless regular folks too—Tara felt that, at a certain point, her smile needed a little brightening to look its best.

“A few years ago, I decided to have teeth whitening. I just thought, why not have a brighter smile? I went in-office and it was totally easy,” she said.

In-office teeth whitening is one of the most popular cosmetic dental procedures. In just one visit, it’s possible to lighten teeth by up to ten shades, for a difference you can see right away. Here in our office, we can safely apply concentrated bleaching solutions for quick results. These solutions aren’t appropriate for home use. Before your teeth are whitened, we will perform a complete examination to make sure underlying dental problems aren’t dimming your smile.

It’s also possible to do teeth whitening at home—it just takes a bit longer. We can provide custom-made trays that fit over your teeth, and give you whitening solutions that are safe to use at home. The difference is that the same amount of whitening may take weeks instead of hours, but the results should also make you smile. Some people start with treatments in the dental office for a dramatic improvement, and then move to take-home trays to keep their smiles looking bright.

That’s exactly what Tara did after her in-office treatments. She said the at-home kits are “a good way to—every couple of months—get a little bit of a whiter smile.”

So if your smile isn’t as bright as you’d like, contact our office or schedule a consultation to find out more about teeth whitening.  You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered” and “Tooth Whitening Safety Tips.”





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