As we age we become more susceptible to dental diseases. A common but often initially unnoticed problem for seniors is root decay.
We’re all familiar with tooth decay in the crown, the visible tooth above the gum line. Bacteria feeding on leftover sugar in the mouth produce acid, which at high levels erodes the teeth’s protective enamel. This forms cavities and, if untreated, deeper infection within the tooth that could reach the bone via the root canals.
But decay can also directly attack a tooth’s roots below the gum line. Roots are made of dentin and covered by a very thin layer of mineralized tooth structure called cementum. Cementum, which is much softer than enamel, is often lost because of its thinness, thus exposing the root’s dentin. This can make the area more susceptible to decay than the enamel-covered crown. Normally, though, the roots also have the gums covering them as added protection against bacterial infection.
But gum recession (shrinkage), a common experience for people in their later years, can expose the root surfaces. As a result, the roots become much more susceptible to decay. And an ensuing infection could spread more quickly into the interior of the tooth than decay originating in the crown.
That’s why it’s important to remove the decayed material and fill the root cavity to prevent the infection’s spread. While similar to a crown filling, the treatment can be more difficult if the root cavity extends below the gum line. In this case, we may need to perform a surgical procedure to access the cavity.
There are other things we can do to help prevent root cavities or limit their damage. We can apply fluoride varnish to strengthen the teeth and provide extra protection against cavities, or prescribe a fluoride rinse for use at home. We can also keep an eye out and treat periodontal (gum) disease, the main cause for gum recession.
The most important thing, though, is what you do: brush and floss thoroughly each day to remove bacterial plaque and limit sugary or acidic foods in your diet. Preventing decay and treating cavities as soon as possible will help ensure you’ll keep your teeth healthy and functional all through your senior years.
You want to look your best for that once-in-a-lifetime moment — like your wedding day. It can also take time and effort: many people spend months losing weight or trimming up at the gym. But while you’re getting the rest of your body ready for the big event, don’t forget your smile.
The best approach is to make a plan that addresses your smile’s shortcomings — a “smile makeover,” if you will. And the best place to begin is with us, your family dentist. We’re already familiar with your dental health status, so we can advise you on what’s possible and best for you.
We can also provide many of the services that enhance smile appearance. If your teeth are relatively healthy and attractive, a thorough dental cleaning or a whitening application can revive your smile’s brightness just in time for the big day. And for minor defects like a chipped tooth or discolored old fillings, we can bond the latest tooth-colored materials to those unsightly areas. And any of these procedures can be performed in one visit.
Installing porcelain veneers is an effective way to restore more moderate tooth defects. These thin outer coverings with life-like color, shape and texture can effectively hide mild to moderate chipping, discoloration or slight gaps between teeth. Teeth with more extensive damage can be completely covered with a crown made of similar life-like materials. Either of these solutions could match the shape and color of nearby teeth.
By planning well enough ahead, you may also benefit from more extensive cosmetic changes. Missing teeth always pose a challenge, but there are a number of viable options: fixed bridges using adjacent teeth; various denture solutions, including implant-supported removable overdentures; and the dental implant, the rising star for dental restorations that replaces both the root and crown with a durable, life-like tooth. There are also orthodontic solutions for misaligned teeth (at any age!) and surgical procedures for gums that help restore lost tissue or correct a “gummy” smile showing too much of the gums.
Whatever your needs, there’s a way to make your smile more attractive. It’ll be all the more reason to display it confidently on your special day.
If you would like more information on smile transformations, 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 “Planning Your Wedding Day Smile.”
Soon after the primary (baby) teeth begin to give way, the teeth a child will have the rest of their lives start erupting into the mouth. But while they’re permanent, they’re not as strong and developed as they will be in adulthood.
That’s why we treat young permanent teeth differently from older adult teeth. For example, a decayed adult tooth may need a root canal treatment; but this standard treatment would often be the wrong choice for a child’s tooth.
The reason why involves the pulp, the innermost layer of a tooth, which plays a critical role in early development. Young permanent teeth continue to grow in sync with the jaws and facial structure. Most of this growth is in the dentin, the layer between the enamel and pulp, which increases proportionally to the other layers as the tooth matures. The pulp generates this new dentin.
A root canal treatment completely removes the diseased tissue of the pulp. This isn’t a major issue for a mature tooth because it no longer needs to generate more dentin. But it can have long-term consequences for an immature tooth whose growth may become stunted and the roots not fully formed. The tooth may thus become brittle and darkened, and might eventually require removal.
Because of these potential consequences, a root canal treatment is a last resort for a young permanent tooth. But there are modified alternatives, depending on the degree of pulp exposure or infection. For example, if the pulp is intact, we may be able to remove as much soft decayed dentin as we can, place an antibacterial agent and then fill the tooth to seal it without disturbing the pulp. If the pulp is partially affected, we can remove that part and place substances that encourage dentin growth and repair.
Our main goal is to treat a young tooth with as little contact with the pulp as possible, so as not to diminish its capacity to generate new dentin. Avoiding a full root canal treatment if at all possible by using these and other techniques will help ensure the tooth continues to develop to full maturity.
If you would like more information on dental care for children, 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 “Saving New Permanent Teeth after Injury.”
Are you tired of those stained, chipped, slightly crooked or—in a word—unattractive teeth? We have an effective solution for you: cover them with life-like porcelain veneers.
As the name implies, a veneer is a thin layer of dental porcelain custom-made to match your tooth’s shape and color and permanently bonded to the outside enamel. With its translucent, light-reflective quality similar to tooth enamel, dental porcelain looks completely natural. Veneers are well suited for minor to moderate imperfections, and can even be used to correct slight gaps between teeth.
We begin the process by performing a comprehensive dental exam to begin planning the exact shape and color of your new veneers. We can now do much of this planning with computer imaging, which may also give you the chance to see how your veneers will look on you after treatment.
We often will also need to prepare the teeth to accommodate the veneers when we bond them. Although the alterations shouldn’t be anywhere near as extensive as with a porcelain crown, we will still often need to remove some of the enamel layer so the veneer won’t look bulky. Even though we’ll remove as little as possible, if needed it will still permanently alter your teeth—so they’ll require some form of restoration from then on.
Once we’ve prepared the teeth, it’s then time to create the veneers. This is typically done by a dental laboratory technician through a manual process that may take several weeks. Increasingly, though, equipped dental offices are now able to generate their veneers in-house with computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacture (CAD/CAM) milling technology.
Once the veneers are ready, they’re bonded securely to the teeth with a detailed process that helps ensure they’ll endure biting and chewing forces for a long time. Still, you’ll need to avoid biting into hard objects or using your teeth for such things as cracking nuts. If you have a clenching or grinding habit, we may also recommend you wear a night guard to prevent excessive forces against not just your veneers but your teeth as well.
By taking good care of them, your new veneers can give you many years of service. Most of all, they can transform your embarrassing appearance into a smile you’re proud to show.
If you would like more information on porcelain veneers, 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 “Porcelain Veneers.”
In November, many of us take time to reflect on what we are most thankful for—and good health is often put at the top of the list. If your teeth and gums have been trouble-free this year, congratulations! If not, here’s how to start making next year a better one for your oral health:
No Rushing When Brushing
It takes time to do a good job on the vital task of brushing your teeth. The American Dental Association recommends brushing twice each day for a full two minutes. That’s not a lot when you think about it: only 30 seconds to reach the front, back and chewing edge of every tooth in each quadrant of your mouth (upper left, upper right, lower left, lower right). Yet many people don’t regularly achieve the two-minute mark. So it’s a good idea to time yourself and see how long that actually is!
Clean In Between
Disease-causing dental plaque builds up not only on teeth, but also in between them. So it’s important to use floss or another interdental (between-the-teeth) cleaning aid. If you don’t floss, you’ll miss cleaning about a third of your tooth surfaces! Plaque left in place can harden into a deposit called calculus or tartar, which can only be removed at the dental office—not at home. When it remains on the teeth, tartar can irritate gums and promote dental disease.
Don’t Be a Stranger!
Practicing a good daily oral hygiene routine is essential for a healthy mouth, but regular dental exams and cleanings are also vital to maintaining your oral health. Routine dental visits are one of the best preventive healthcare values available. You’ll be screened for everything from cavities to oral cancer and alerted to any concerns that should be dealt with now—before they grow into bigger, more expensive problems later. So don’t be a stranger at the dental office!
Maintaining good oral health will help ensure your quality of life—today, tomorrow and throughout your life. That’s truly something to be thankful for.
If you have questions about oral health and hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor article “10 Tips for Daily Oral Care at Home.”
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