Posts for: July, 2013
Tooth sensitivity is an all too common problem among dental patients. If eating certain foods or simply touching a tooth causes you pain, you should know why this may be happening and what can be done about it.
Tooth sensitivity occurs in most cases because the portion of the tooth known as the dentin has been exposed. The dentin contains nerve fibers that inform and alert the brain about the current environment of the tooth (temperature or pressure changes). The enamel protects the tooth from environmental extremes.
Receding gums are the most common cause for dentin exposure — the enamel only protects the crown of the tooth and is not present on the root of the tooth. Acids in certain foods can then begin to erode the dentin around the roots and expose nerves. Sweet items (mainly sugar) and temperature shifts irritate the nerve endings, causing pain.
While receding gums (most commonly caused by brushing too hard and too often) may be the most common cause for sensitivity, it isn't the only one — tooth decay may also lead to it. Untreated, decay works its way into the tooth pulp and irritates the nerves. Treating the decay and filling the tooth may also cause sensitivity unless the dentist places a lining designed to minimize it temporarily while the area heals.
Alleviating pain from sensitivity begins with how you brush your teeth. Remember: the goal of brushing is to remove plaque, which does not require vigorous action. Brush gently with a soft-bristled brush and not too often. We might even recommend not brushing a very sensitive tooth for a few days to give the tooth a rest. You should also brush with a toothpaste containing fluoride, which will help strengthen the tooth surface against the effects of acids and sweets.
During an office visit, we can also apply a fluoride varnish or use certain filling materials that will serve as a barrier for the sensitive area. For cases where decay has irreversibly damaged the tooth pulp, a root canal may be the best treatment.
Tooth sensitivity isn't necessarily something you have to live with. There are treatments that can relieve or lessen the pain.
If you would like more information on tooth sensitivity and what can be done about it, 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 “Sensitive Teeth.”
Have you ever wondered why your smile is not as white as it used to be? Well, there may be a few different reasons that your teeth have become discolored over the years. The change in color may simply be due to wear and tear from aging. It may also be a result of dietary factors, because foods containing tannins, such as red wine, coffee and tea are known to discolor teeth. Tobacco use, whether smoking or chewing, is another common cause of stains on your teeth.
So, what should you do if you decide you would like a whiter smile? You should first make an appointment with our office, so that we can assess the root cause of the discoloration. We may recommend a quick and easy solution with in-office whitening, sometimes known as power bleaching.
An in-office whitening treatment can lighten your teeth three to eight shades in just one office visit! During your whitening treatment, we will first protect your lips, gums and cheeks, leaving only your teeth exposed. Then, we will apply a professional strength bleaching gel to your teeth. We may use a special light to make the bleach work faster. The great advantage of this treatment is that your smile will become noticeably whiter in just an hour!
If you would prefer to whiten in the comfort of your home, we can give you a take-home whitening kit. First, we will make molds of your mouth, from which we will create thin plastic mouth trays that fit your teeth exactly. You'll apply the whitening gel to the trays and wear them on your teeth 30 minutes a day, twice a week, for about six weeks. While your teeth may not whiten as fast as in our office, if you wear them as directed, you'll still see great results.
Though you may always be able to find a whitening solution in the aisle of your grocery store, remember that the best way to ensure the results you want is to get a professional treatment.
If you would like more information about teeth whitening, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Teeth Whitening.”
Perhaps you or someone you know has been told they will need root canal treatment. Maybe you're experiencing some unexplained tooth pain, and you think you might need to have this procedure done. Nervous? You shouldn't be! A good understanding of this common and relatively pain-free dental treatment can go a long way toward relieving your anxiety.
What's a root canal? It's the small, branching hollow space or canal, deep within the root of the tooth. Like an iceberg in the ocean, a tooth shows only part of its structure above the gum line: That's the part you see when you smile. But about two-thirds of the tooth — the part called the root — lies below the gum. A healthy root canal is filled with living pulp tissue, which contains tiny blood vessels, nerves and more.
A “root canal” is also shorthand for the endodontic treatment that's called for when problems develop with this tissue. For a variety of reasons — deep tooth decay or impact trauma, for example — the pulp tissue may become inflamed or infected. When this happens, the best solution is to remove the dead and dying tissue, disinfect the canals, and seal them up to prevent future infection.
How is this done? The start of the procedure is not unlike getting a filling. A local anesthetic is administered to numb the tooth and the nearby area. Then, a small opening is made through the chewing surface of the tooth, giving access to the pulp. A set of tiny instruments is used to remove the diseased tissue, and to re-shape and clean out the canals. Finally, the cleared canals are filled with a biocompatible material and sealed with strong adhesive cement.
After root canal treatment, it's important to get a final restoration or crown on the tooth. This will bring your tooth back to its full function, and protect it from further injury such as fracture. A tooth that has had a root canal followed by a proper restoration can last just as long as any other natural tooth. And that's a long time.
If you would like more information about root canals, please contact us to schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Common Concerns About Root Canal Treatment” and “Signs and Symptoms of a Future Root Canal.”