If you have periodontal (gum) disease, you’ve no doubt experienced red and swollen gums. If, however, you notice an especially inflamed area next to a tooth, you may have developed a gum abscess.
An abscess is a pus-filled sac that develops as a result of chronic (long-standing) gum disease, an infection caused by bacterial plaque that’s built up on tooth surfaces from inadequate oral hygiene or from a foreign body (food debris) getting stuck below the gums. The abscess, which typically develops between the tooth and gums, may be accompanied by pain but not always (the affected tooth may also be tender to bite on). Abscesses may grow larger, precipitated by stress or by a general infection like a common cold, and then abate for a time.
As with other abscesses in the body, a gum abscess is treated by relieving the pressure (after numbing the area with local anesthesia) and allowing it to drain. This is often followed by cleaning any infected root surfaces of bacterial plaque and then irrigating the area with a saline and/or antibacterial solution. We may also prescribe antibiotics afterward and some form of pain control (usually a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen) to help with discomfort.
Although the results of this procedure can be dramatic, it’s just the first step in treating the overall gum disease. After a few days of healing, we continue with a complete examination and recommend further treatment, usually starting with removing bacterial plaque and calculus (hardened plaque deposits), the underlying cause for the infection and inflammation, from all tooth and gum surfaces. This may take several sessions before we begin seeing the gum tissues return to a healthier state.
The key to preventing an abscess recurrence (or any symptom of gum disease) is to remove plaque everyday through proper brushing and flossing, and visiting us twice a year (or more if you’ve developed chronic gum disease) for cleanings and checkups. Doing so will raise your chances of avoiding an uncomfortable and often painful gum abscess in the future.
If you would like more information on gum abscesses, 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 “Periodontal (Gum) Abscesses.”
Yes, you brush your teeth every day. But how much do you really know about this important habit? Test your knowledge with our quiz on dental vocabulary.
Choose the correct meaning for:
- Oral Hygiene
- Clean language
- The practice of keeping your teeth and gums clean
- A shade of lipstick
- A type of dental surgery
- A movie about a person’s life, such as “Ray Charles”
- A new kind of cling wrap
- An accumulation of bacteria that forms a whitish, sticky film
- A tooth whitener
- Dental plaque
- A type of instrument used to clean teeth
- Bacteria that accumulate on teeth and gums
- An award given at the Dental Oscar ceremony
- Your dentist’s framed diploma
- The body’s response to harmful bacteria
- A condition in which your gums become red and swollen and bleed easily
- A cause of gingivitis
- All of the above
- Periodontal disease
- Any disease caused by bacteria
- Tooth decay
- Whitish sores on the lips
- Gum disease caused by dental plaque
- Simple dyes that can stain plaque and make it visible
- Television reality shows
- Dental x-rays
- A section of your annual tax report
- Any infection in the oral area
- Tooth decay
- Inflammation of the gums that can lead to periodontal disease
- All of the above
- Dental caries
- Gum disease
- A task carried out during your teeth cleaning
- A technique of orthodontia
- Tooth decay
- A mineral that has been found to prevent tooth decay
- The location of a famous dental school
- A gasoline additive
- A type of house paint
- Inter-dental Area
- Referring to the area between your teeth
- The area regular proper flossing will keep clean
- Area that wood points and specially designed brushes can be used to clean
- All of the above
Answers: 1. b, 2. c, 3. b, 4. d, 5. d, 6. a, 7. c, 8. d, 9. a, 10. d
How did you do on our quiz? The more you know about keeping your teeth and gums clean and healthy, the better you will look and feel. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about oral hygiene. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor article, “Oral Hygiene Behavior.”
Cosmetic and restorative dentistry is filled with a varied array of procedures, materials and techniques that can address any shortcoming with your smile. Whatever your condition, there’s a means to correct or enhance your smile.
The real question, though, is whether we’re both, patient and dentist, on the same page as to what’s best to enhance your smile. Dentists have a different perspective on smile outcomes than the average layperson. We’re clued into aspects like tooth alignment with facial features or gum-to-lip distance influenced by our professional training and experience. You, though, may see your smile in terms of other features that define beauty like mouth expressions or lip shape.
Bridging these differing points of view requires open and honest communication. Here are three considerations to make that happen.
Build trust between you and your dentist. It’s natural for us to have differing views on what constitutes proper smile aesthetics based on the perspectives previously mentioned. Working through those perspectives to arrive at a unified plan requires trust that both of us desire the same outcome: a beautiful smile you’re happy to display to the world.
“Seeing” your future smile can help ease your misgivings. It’s one thing to try to imagine a certain treatment outcome — it’s quite another to actually see it beforehand. And you can, through computer simulation that takes a picture of your current face and smile and then augments them digitally so you can see how your smile will appear after proposed treatment. It’s also possible in some cases for you to wear temporary or “provisional” restorations so that not only can you see how they look, but also how they feel and function in the mouth.
Understand what “type” of restoration patient you are. Although everyone is different, we can usually characterize patients and their expectations in two ways. Some patients are “perfect-minded” — they want restorations that offer the maximum symmetry, regularity and tooth brightness. Others are more “natural-minded” in that the changes they seek don’t drastically alter their natural appearance, but are just enough to look different and create a sense of character. Knowing what you really want — a drastic change or a subtle enhancement — will help you communicate your desires more clearly and help us design the treatment options that best fit your expectations.
If you would like more information on fostering communication between dentists and patients, 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 “Great Expectations.”
While braces are a tried and true method for achieving a more attractive smile, they may also give rise to problems with dental disease. This is because their hardware — the brackets and bands that serve as tracks for the tensioning wires — make it more difficult to access the tooth and gum surfaces to clean away plaque. This thin film of food remnant may then become a haven for bacteria that cause gum disease or tooth decay.
One of the more common conditions to occur while wearing braces is gingivitis. This is an initial inflammation of the gum tissues caused by bacterial plaque that hasn’t been removed by brushing or flossing. As the inflammation grows unchecked, the infection could advance deeper into the tissues to become a more serious form of gum disease that threatens the survival of affected teeth.
Difficult as it may be for those wearing braces, the best way to avoid gingivitis is through more thorough oral hygiene practices. Fortunately, there are many hygiene products that can help you get around many of the access difficulties posed by braces. Smaller toothbrushes known as interproximal brushes and floss threaders, small aids that thread dental floss under braces wires, can access the spaces between teeth more readily than conventional brushes or floss. Water flossers (which use water under pressure to remove plaque between teeth) and motorized toothbrushes can further increase efficiency. We can also reduce bacterial growth in the mouth if need be with prescription-strength antibacterial mouthrinses.
If, however, gingivitis or gum overgrowth (another common occurrence during orthodontic treatment) continues to be a problem, we may need to take other actions including surgery. In extreme cases, the braces may need to be removed to adequately treat the gums and allow them time to heal before proceeding with orthodontics.
Extra care with daily hygiene and regular dental checkups and cleanings in addition to your orthodontic visits will help keep gum problems at bay while you’re wearing braces. Taking this extra care will stop or minimize the effect of disease as you continue on to the ultimate goal of your orthodontic treatment — a more beautiful smile.
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.
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