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Is it Worth Investing in Your Teeth?

One of the most common reasons people put off even basic dental cleanings is simply that they cost a lot of money. But here are three reasons that make your mouth worth the investment.

1. First impressions: Your smile is the first thing people see and will define people’s first impressions of you. Discolored or missing teeth affect how your smile looks (what dentists refer to as “esthetics”) and unfortunately human nature will make a judgment on what kind of person you are if your mouth doesn’t look well-cared-for. Not only that, but poor oral hygiene can result in build up of plaque and tartar leaving existing teeth unsightly and development of bad breath from the result of bacteria growing in the plaque and tartar, which will also affect those around you. If you are a mother with young children and are in the habit of sharing utensils, there is also the chance that bad-breath and cavity-inducing bacteria can be passed on to your children – even through the touching of the spoon to your lip to test the temperature.

2. Self-esteem: It’s unfortunate but true that impressions are usually made on appearances first, and whether they realize it or not, people with poorly maintained teeth or smiles are not as confident in themselves and in presenting themselves in public as those with a full smile or well-maintained dentition. They do not view themselves as pretty or presentable and will focus more on covering up their smile than on discovering and making new friends or new job opportunities.

3. Effect on other health systems: Several studies have shown that periodontal disease and other dental issues can affect other bodily systems. Studies have shown that, regardless of weight, those with periodontal disease have a higher level of insulin resistance than those with more minor or no periodontal disease. Additional studies have shown that “subjects with gum detachment that exceeded 2 mm had a 40 percent greater risk of developing lung disease than those with attachment loss of less than 2 mm” (www.sciencedaily.com). Missing teeth, particularly molars, can affect chewing and improperly or inadequately chewed food can make the stomach and digestive system work harder as it tries to process what we eat.

Your smile and overall oral health can affect how you view yourself, how others view you, and how your body deals with health issues. Taking care of your mouth with a proper oral hygiene routine including routine dental cleanings, and investing in restoration procedures such as fillings, dental implants, crowns and bridges can make the world of difference in a person’s life and improve a person’s quality of living.

Everyone knows that if you catch something early it is easier to treat. That is also true for teeth. Paying a smaller expense now is better than paying a bigger expense later to treat the resultant problem of neglect and procrastination.

A healthy smile really affects a lot of other things…it’s worth taking care of it.

Sources: Sciencedaily.com; American Academy of Periodontology

No Pain Doesn’t Mean No Problem

Tooth Pain Don’t judge a book by its cover is a common phrase usually associated with judging situations or people by looking at them. No news is good news is another adage that many people live by. Unfortunately in dentistry, these statements have proven incorrect and ultimately costly in many cases.

Dental problems such as tooth decay or root deterioration are not always obvious. Just looking at a tooth in the mirror every time you brush will not show if there are problems inside or around it. Assuming that your oral hygiene is fine or you don’t need a dentist or routine dental cleanings because your teeth don’t hurt does not mean there isn’t anything wrong with your teeth or mouth. Many issues cannot be felt and yet are discovered upon the taking of X-rays or by examining the areas around and in between with dental instruments.

Dentistry’s main goal is preventive care…maintaining optimal oral conditions to keep problems from forming. Its secondary goal is to find and treat problems before they become too painful or destroy teeth or gum or bone. Ensuring that you maintain good oral hygiene habits including regular cleanings with a hygienist and check-ups with a dentist is a lot less costly financially and personally than waiting for problems to painfully appear and dealing with them then. For many patients, there is no prior warning of anything wrong with their mouth or teeth before the onset of pain, but a simple matter of good oral hygiene and regular dental appointments would have caught the issue a lot sooner, saving the patient a lot of pain and expensive restorations.

Dealing with Cracked Teeth

If you’ve ever bitten down on a crusty piece of bread or an unpopped popcorn kernel or suffered a blow to the upper or lower jaw during an accident, you may have experienced part of a crown chipping off and falling out into your hand. In these kinds of cases, it is pretty obvious that a tooth is cracked. But many people do not realize that a tooth can be cracked without coming completely apart.

Causes of Tooth Cracking

If a tooth has had restorative work done such as a filling or root canal, or has untreated tooth decay where the structural integrity of the tooth has been compromised, there is a greater chance that this tooth will crack, either as a result of trauma or function.

Parafunctional habits such as grinding and clenching, where the molar teeth in particular are put under additional biting stress, can also increase the chances of a tooth cracking.

In many cases, the crack isn’t visible on an X-ray.

Symptoms of Cracked Teeth

So if your dentist can’t see these cracks or fractures on an X-ray, how do he or she know the crack is there? The presence of biting, percussion (light tapping or touch), or temperature and sweet sensitivity will alert your dentist that there is a potential problem.

The severity or acuteness of the discomfort is determined by the position, depth and direction of the crack. If the crack is below the gumline, an infection may develop in the gum tissue or inside the tooth root (if the crack is deep enough) resulting in a “fistula” (a blister) on the gum surface. A fistula drains pus from an infected site and is a definite sign to a dentist that something is wrong.

A dentist may not be able to diagnose a crack right away even with the presence of these symptoms. In fact, an examination by an endodontist may be required. If the source of the pain is still unknown, then a root canal might be suggested to address a suspected root issue, and it is often during this procedure that the crack is discovered. At this point, it is at the dentist’s discretion whether he or she believes the tooth can be saved, and the root canal procedure can continue with appropriate fracture management methods, or whether he or she should stop the treatment and consider other restorative options.

Adult Orthodontics

Orthodontics is not just for teens and young people anymore. Adult orthodontics is an area of increasing specialty, and many adults are deciding to have their teeth straightened, or to improve their bite and smile. The main challenge in adult cases is that the physiology of the tissues surrounding teeth is different than in growing patients. There is also the greater likelihood that adults have experienced more and more extensive dental restorations, which may limit the available orthodontic approaches. That’s why orthodontic goals in adults may be slightly different than in teens. An adult may decide to have braces as part of his or her treatment, but it doesn’t necessarily mean treatment will take two-and-a-half years, as is traditionally the case with teens. Today’s orthodontists have many different strategies and technologies available to treat all kinds of malocclusions, from simple alignment issues to full-mouth occlusal rehabilitations.

Each treatment plan is developed in consultation with the patient, family dentist, and other dental professionals as necessary (ex: oral surgeons, periodontists, endodontists) Communication between all the team members is essential.

Depending on the particular case, extractions may be needed to create space or alleviate crowding. In more extreme cases, orthodontic alignment may involve orthognathic jaw surgery to help optimally set the upper and lower jaws in relation to each other in conjunction with the brackets.

When it comes to actually moving or aligning the teeth, several options are available including traditional braces (metal or porcelain), lingual braces or invisible aligners such as Invisalign™. Your orthodontist will help you decide which option is best to achieve the results you want. Some patients will require a full-mouth treatment plan. Others will be able to treat just the dental arch in question, if the bite allows for it. Other options may also be available depending on each patient’s individual needs.

Not only does an optimally aligned smile and jaw line affect how your smile presents you to other people, but it can also affect and improve the way your teeth function together. It’s never TOO LATE to get started!

How do I know I have a Dental Problem?

Hav­ing a den­tal prob­lem is not always obvi­ous. Some peo­ple may not expe­ri­ence any dis­com­fort or pain at all, some may not expe­ri­ence it until the issue is really advanced, and oth­ers know something’s wrong from the very early stages. This is one of the rea­sons it is so imper­a­tive to sched­ule reg­u­lar den­tal check­ups; to catch any poten­tial den­tal issues at the ear­li­est stages to reduce the chances of pain or com­pli­ca­tions and costs asso­ci­ated with treat­ment. Your den­tist will always be happy to talk with you about any ques­tions you may have about some­thing new or dif­fer­ent hap­pen­ing in your mouth. Although there may not be any severe pain, below is a list of symp­toms that should prompt you to con­sult with a den­tist for eval­u­a­tion. There may not be a prob­lem, but, if there is, treat­ment can be ini­ti­ated as soon as pos­si­ble, avoid­ing com­pli­ca­tions and giv­ing you peace of mind.

Pain – This is the most obvi­ous indi­ca­tion that there is a prob­lem in your mouth. But it may not be always be asso­ci­ated with your teeth. Keep track of where the pain starts and whether it “spi­ders” or radi­ates from a cer­tain spot in your mouth. Is it actu­ally in a tooth? What hap­pens to cre­ate the pain (bit­ing or chew­ing, expo­sure to hot or cold)? If you have pain in either of your jaw joints note what hap­pens to your level of pain when you’re chew­ing or rest­ing. Also try to deter­mine whether the pain is related to the joint (ball and socket) itself, or the mus­cles around it. Obvi­ously, if you expe­ri­ence any severe pain call your den­tist imme­di­ately. Mild or mod­er­ate pain that does not go away on its own within a day or two also requires a timely call and visit to the den­tist to find out what is going on and fix the problem.

Red and bleed­ing gums – Red and bleed­ing gums are one of the first indi­ca­tions of gum dis­ease and can be eas­ily reme­died with the estab­lish­ment of a more strin­gent oral hygiene reg­i­men, includ­ing floss­ing which is often neglected. Obvi­ously if these symp­toms do not improve you need to see a den­tist, or sched­ule more fre­quent den­tal hygiene vis­its. Often a new pre­scrip­tion med­ica­tion will cause the mouth to be dry and require more fre­quent clean­ings, as the plaque builds up faster.

Decreased range of motion – This is of par­tic­u­lar impor­tance in issues related to the jaw joint, or TMJ, espe­cially if there has been some kind of trauma to the jaw area. Some­times a per­son is unable to open their jaw as wide as nor­mal. This is usu­ally because the lig­a­ments, mus­cles and joint have been stretched or dam­aged. Some­times the bone is bro­ken. Decreased range of motion can also occur when wis­dom teeth that are trapped below the gum­line, infected or impacted. Your den­tist should be con­sulted imme­di­ately if your mouth doesn’t open as usual. Again, a timely con­sul­ta­tion can avert dis­as­ter by begin­ning treat­ment early, avoid­ing com­pli­ca­tions and pro­vid­ing peace of mind.

Loose teeth – Loose teeth are often the results of poor oral hygiene which can cause red and bleed­ing gums and lead to severe peri­odon­tal dis­ease. This infec­tion in the gums causes the bone around the teeth to melt away, essen­tially reduc­ing con­tact with the teeth. Teeth can then become loose and be lost as the anchor of bone is elim­i­nated. Loose teeth are not nec­es­sar­ily painful, but they are a major sign that things aren’t right and, if treat­ment isn’t sought soon, can result in even big­ger restora­tive issues and treat­ment costs. The health of the whole body is poorly impacted by the bac­te­ria asso­ci­ated with peri­odon­tal dis­ease. Recent med­ical research has shown that the cleaner your mouth is, the health­ier your body is.

These are just some of the more com­monly expe­ri­ence den­tal prob­lems that don’t nec­es­sar­ily start with an X-ray or den­tal exam­i­na­tion and may, in fact, hap­pen in between den­tal appoint­ments with­out warn­ing. Your den­tist will always be happy to eval­u­ate your issues and dis­cuss options with you, so please call if you have any concerns!

Tooth Whitening and related sensitivity

Many patients request that we whiten their teeth, but sometimes tell us they've had an experience in the past of tooth sensitivity after the procedure. This can range from mild cold sensitivity to, in rare cases, more severe sensitivity. This sensitivity is almost always very transient and without consequence.  I recommend to my patients that they use a desensitizing toothpaste such as Sensodyne(R) or Crest Sensitivity(R) for two weeks prior to whitening and for two weeks thereafter. This often reduces or eliminates tooth sensitivity.