Monday, May 8, 2017

Only a Dental Exam can Identify the Root Cause of Your Tooth Pain

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 visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, 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!"

There's a Lot of Effort Behind the Scenes to Making Dentures Work for You

For centuries, people who've lost all their teeth have worn dentures. Although materials in today's dentures are more durable and attractive than those in past generations, the basic design remains the same - prosthetic (false) teeth set in a plastic or resin base made to resemble gum tissue.

If you're thinking of obtaining dentures, don't let their simplicity deceive you: a successful outcome depends on a high degree of planning and attention to detail customized to your mouth.

Our first step is to determine the best positioning for the prosthetic teeth. It's not an "eyeball" guess - we make a number of calculations based on the shape and size of your jaws and facial features to determine the best settings within the resin base. These calculations help us answer a few important questions for determining design: how large should the teeth be? How far forward or back from the lip? How much space between the upper and lower teeth when the jaws are at rest?

We also can't forget about the artificial gums created by the base. How much your gums show when you smile depends a lot on how much your upper lip rises. We must adjust the base size to accommodate your upper lip rise so that the most attractive amount of gum shows when you smile. We also want to match as close as possible the color and texture of your natural gum tissues.

There's one other important aspect to manage: how your upper and lower dentures function together when you eat or speak. This means we must also factor your bite into the overall denture design. This may even continue after your dentures arrive: we may still need to adjust them while in your mouth to improve function and comfort.

Ill-fitting, dysfunctional and unattractive dentures can be distressing and embarrassing. But with careful planning and customization, we can help ensure your new dentures are attractive and comfortable to wear now and for years to come.

If you would like more information on removable dentures for teeth replacement, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article "Removable Full Dentures."

Keep an Eye on Your Young Children's Fluoride Intake

We've known for a long time that fluoride strengthens tooth enamel against decay. We've also learned that fluoride consumption early in life pays later dividends with healthier teeth.

But while fluoride has generally proven safe, too much ingested by young children could cause enamel fluorosis. This condition produces a mottled or streaked appearance in teeth ranging from faint white patches to darker, pitted staining. Fluorosis doesn't harm teeth, but it does make them less attractive.

To prevent this, it may be necessary with your dentist's help to monitor your infant's or young child's fluoride intake and keep it in check. That will depend in large part on where you live, as well as your child's hygiene and eating habits.

Like three-quarters of public water systems, your local utility may be adding fluoride to your drinking water. The amount is governed by federal guidelines, which currently recommend fluoride amounts of no more than 0.70 parts per million of water. The fluoride levels in your water could have an impact on your child's total fluoride intake. You can find out for sure how much fluoride is present in your water by contacting your water utility company.

Another major fluoride source is toothpaste and other hygiene products. You can control your child's fluoride exposure by limiting the amount of toothpaste on their brush. Children under two only need a "smear," while those between two and six need only a pea-sized amount.

Processed foods can contain fluoride if fluoridated water was used in their production. In this case, replace as much of the processed food items in your family's diet as you can with fresh fruits, vegetables and other foods.

Along this line, if you have an infant you want to pay particular attention to feeding formula, especially the powdered form you mix with water. If you're concerned about the amount of fluoride in your water consider other infant feeding options. Besides breast-feeding in lieu of formula, you can also use ready-to-feed pre-mixed with water (usually lower in fluoride) or mix powdered formula with bottled water specifically labeled "de-ionized,", "purified," "demineralized," or "distilled."

This can be a lot to keep up with but your dentist can advise you. Fluoride is still a potent weapon against tooth decay and a safeguard on your child's current and future dental health.

If you would like more information on the relationship between fluoride and your child's dental health, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article "Tooth Development and Infant Formula."

Answers to Common Questions About Root Canal Treatments

A root canal treatment is a commonly known but often misunderstood procedure. Contrary to popular belief, these treatments aren't painful - in fact, they often stop a toothache. More importantly, a "root canal" can give a tooth on the verge of loss another lease on life.

Still, if you've never experienced a root canal treatment before, you probably have questions. Here are the answers to a few of the most common.

Why do they call it a "root canal"? This is the popular shorthand term for a procedure that removes diseased tissue from a decay-infected pulp, the innermost part of a tooth and the actual root canals themselves. Root canals are the narrow, hollow channels that run from the tip of the root to the pulp and are also involved in the procedure.

Why do I need one? Once infected, the pulp's bundles of blood vessels, nerves and other tissues become diseased. This often results in a painful toothache that can also suddenly disappear once the nerves within the pulp die. But there's still a problem: If we don't clean out the diseased and dead pulp tissue, the infection could spread through the root canals to the bone and endanger the tooth's survival.

What happens during the procedure? After deadening the tooth and surrounding gums with local anesthesia, we enter the pulp through an access hole we create. Using special instruments we remove the diseased tissue and shape the root canals to seal them with a filling material called gutta percha. Sealing the access hole is then necessary to prevent re-infection. Later we'll cap the tooth with a porcelain crown to restore its appearance and add further protection against fracture or cracking of the tooth.

Who can perform a root canal treatment? In many cases a general dentist can perform the procedure. There are some complex situations, however, that require a root canal specialist with additional training, expertise and equipment to handle these more difficult cases. If your tooth is just such a case it's more than likely your general dentist will refer you to an endodontist to make sure you get the right kind of care to save it.

If you would like more information on root canal treatment, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article "Root Canal Treatment: What You Need to Know."

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

This April marks the 14th observance of Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Yet there are still plenty of people who underestimate the seriousness of oral cancer, don't know the warning signs, and are unsure where to get screening or treatment for this potentially deadly disease. It's true that oral cancer doesn't have as high a profile as some other cancers - but thanks to the efforts of educational foundations, medical professionals, and celebrities like actress Blythe Danner and baseball superstar Tony Gwynn (1960-2014), it significance is increasingly being recognized.

How common is oral cancer? According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, some 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with this illness in the current year. Five years from now, slightly more than half of those people will still be alive. That's one of the most troubling aspects of the disease: Its survival rate is much lower than that of more well-known cancers - like breast or cervical cancer, or Hodgkin's lymphoma. A major reason for those discouraging odds is that oral cancer isn't generally found until it has reached a later stage of development, when it's harder to treat successfully.

That's why early diagnosis of oral cancer is so important - and why it's vital to become aware of possible warning signs of the disease. The first symptoms are often relatively minor: a red or white patch or a sore on the tongue, lips or the inside of the mouth, that doesn't go away within 14 days; an unusual lump or mass in the mouth or neck; or difficulty eating, speaking or swallowing. While these symptoms are common and most often benign, they can also indicate an early stage of oral cancer.

Fortunately, dentists are trained to recognize the early signs of oral cancer, and we can often identify possible signs of the disease in its initial stages. We perform oral cancer screenings at routine dental exams, but you can also come in for an examination any time you have a concern. The good news is that recent advances in diagnosing oral cancer offer the hope that more people will get appropriate, timely treatment for this potentially deadly disease.

If you have questions about oral cance, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation.



Encourage Your Child to Stop Thumb Sucking Around Age 3

One of the biggest concerns we hear from parents is about their child's thumb sucking habit. Our advice: if they're under age 4, there's no need for concern - yet. If they're older, though, you should be concerned about the possible effect on their bite.

Thumb sucking is a universal habit among infants and toddlers and is related to their swallowing pattern during feeding. As they swallow, their tongue thrusts forward to create a seal with the lips around the breast or a bottle nipple. Many pediatricians believe thumb sucking replicates nursing and so has a comforting effect on infants.

Around age 4, though, this swallowing pattern begins to change to accommodate solid food. The tongue now begins to rest at the back of the top front teeth during swallowing (try swallowing now and you'll see). For most children, their thumb sucking habit also fades during this time and eventually stops.

But for whatever reason, some children don't stop. As the habit persists, the tongue continues to thrust forward rather than toward the back of the top front teeth. Over time this can place undue pressure on both upper and lower front teeth and contribute to the development of an open bite, a slight gap between the upper and lower teeth when the jaws are shut.

While late childhood thumb sucking isn't the only cause for an open bite (abnormal bone growth in one jaw is another), the habit is still a prominent factor. That's why it's important that you start encouraging your child to stop thumb sucking around age 3 and no later than 4. This is best accomplished with positive reinforcement like rewards or praise.

If they've continued the habit a few years after they should have stopped, we may also need to check to see if their swallowing mechanism has become stunted. If so, we may need to use certain exercises to retrain their tongue to take the proper position during swallowing.

While you shouldn't panic, it's important to take action to stop thumb sucking before it becomes a long-term problem. A positive, proactive approach will help avoid costly orthodontic problems later in their lives.

If you would like more information about thumb or finger sucking, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article "How Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite."



Plan Ahead to Make Your Smile the Best it can be for Your Big Day!

The big day you've waited for all your life is just around the corner - your wedding day! And to make that day as special as possible you've been working on making yourself more attractive.

In all your preparations, don't forget your smile. There are many ways to make it shine, some requiring little time or effort. A professional dental cleaning and polishing, for example, can do wonders for brightening your smile. If you have above normal staining, you can also undergo professional whitening to remove stains and enhance your teeth's natural color.

Some problems, though, like chipped, slightly misaligned or heavily stained teeth may require more than a cleaning or whitening session. In these cases, you might consider covering these less attractive teeth with porcelain veneers to transform their appearance. As the name implies, veneers are a thin layer of tooth-colored, translucent porcelain custom designed for you and bonded permanently to the visible tooth.

While veneers can significantly change your smile, it can't fix every appearance problem. Some teeth require more extensive dental work, like a porcelain crown that completely covers a tooth, or dental implants to replace missing teeth. In more complex situations you may want to look at orthodontics to repair an unattractive bite, or plastic surgery to change the look of a gummy smile.

Keep in mind, though, many of such treatments take time: installing dental implants can take months and some orthodontic treatments, years. As soon as you can, you should discuss your smile appearance with your dentist and what can be done to enhance it in the time you have.

With the help of your dentist, orthodontist or other specialist, you can change your smile. And that, along with all your other preparations, will help make that once in a lifetime day even more special.

If you would like more information on undergoing a smile makeover, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, 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."