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Posts for category: Oral Health

NotJustFillingintheGapsLostTeethHaveUnexpectedConsequences

Why is it important to replace missing teeth with restorations such as dental implants? You might be surprised to find that the damage caused by missing teeth is much greater than the simple gaps left in your smile.

As the years go by, teeth lost early in adulthood cause structural changes in a person's face. By age 45 changes in facial structure are already visible in the form of sunken cheeks. By 60, cheeks and lips lose their support, resulting in an aging look. This process continues and if the teeth are not replaced, much of the structural support of the person's face is lost.

These changes are caused by loss of bone. Although it may seem static, bone is actually living tissue that needs constant stimulation to maintain its form and density. With normal stimulation it is in a constant state of resorption (breaking down) and deposition (building up). Teeth provide the needed stimulation for the bone that surrounds them (called alveolar bone) as they meet each other during biting, chewing, and speech. When the stimulation continues, the bone continues to rebuild itself. Without this stimulation, the bone resorbs, does not build up again, and loses substance.

Without stimulation, alveolar bone loses width, height, and volume. Since your teeth and their surrounding bone support your chin, cheeks, and lips, this has a powerful effect on your appearance. It may also affect your ability to chew and to speak.

As alveolar bone diminishes, the next layer of bone also begins to resorb. This is the bone of the jaw itself. The lower part of the face begins to collapse, and the cheeks become hollow. This effect is especially noticeable for people with no teeth (edentulous).

Usually the first tooth to be lost, due to infection and decay, is a molar (back tooth). In the past, a missing single back tooth was frequently replaced by a fixed partial denture (FPD). A crown is provided for each of the two teeth on the sides of the gap, called abutment teeth, to support a false tooth in the middle. However, if they are not well cared for, the abutment teeth may be the next to succumb to decay.

Today the treatment of choice is an implant. A dental implant is a tooth-root replacement made of titanium, which fuses with the bone — making it very stable. Above the gums it is covered by a crown that looks like a natural tooth. The benefit of the implant is that it continues to provide stimulation to the alveolar bone, preventing bone loss.

Implants are also a good choice in the case of multiple missing teeth. They can be used to support bridges or false teeth (dentures). The results are an improved, younger appearance and better functionality.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about missing teeth. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”

By Steven R. Gluck, D.D.S.
May 14, 2012
Category: Oral Health
LearntheSignsofPeriodontalDisease

Periodontal (gum) diseases are sometimes called “silent” because those who have them may not experience painful symptoms. But certain signs point to the existence of these common diseases. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, it is time to visit our office so these problems can be treated before they lead to serious infection and loss of teeth.

Gums that bleed during the brushing of teeth. Some people think that gums bleed from brushing too hard. In fact, healthy gum tissues will not bleed with normal brushing. The usual cause of bleeding gums is an accumulation of dental plaque in the areas where your teeth meet your gums. Plaque is a film of bacteria, called a biofilm, which accumulates on your teeth. If you are not brushing and flossing effectively, plaque irritates your gum tissues and causes an inflammation and swelling called gingivitis. This causes your gums to bleed easily on contact with a toothbrush or floss.

Gum tissues that appear red and swollen. If plaque is allowed to accumulate for 24 hours or more, the inflammation in your gum tissues becomes chronic. The continuous presence of bacteria makes it impossible for your body's natural defenses to fight the infection. Chronic inflammation leads to a breakdown of the normal attachment between the teeth and the gums, causing the formation of “pockets.” Inside these pockets the infection continues to attack the tissues that support your teeth. Eventually this can lead to a breakdown of the bone that surrounds your teeth.

Bad breath. Bad breath is another sign of accumulated plaque. The bacteria in plaque may emit gases that have an unpleasant odor.

Gums that are sensitive to hot or cold. Chronic inflammation can also cause the gums to recede, exposing the roots of the teeth in which nerves may be close to the surface, leading to sensitivity to heat and cold.

Teeth that are getting loose, or a painful area in the gums. If you experience these symptoms, the infection has progressed a long way from the “silent” stage. It is time to seek immediate professional help.

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, a professional dental examination is in order. With daily removal of plaque by effective brushing and flossing, along with frequent professional cleanings to remove any plaque that you were unable to catch, you will go a long way to preventing periodontal disease. Also, be aware that smoking tends to mask the effects of gum disease. Generally, if you smoke your gums will not bleed when brushing or flossing, nor will they show signs of swelling.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about gum disease. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Bleeding Gums” and “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”

DentalInjuriesTheTypeOfSportsYouPlayReallyMatters

When it comes to sports, all athletes need to know how to assess their risk for experiencing a sports-related injury as well as how to prevent one. The first step to accomplish this is learning how sports and activities are classified, as they define risks from little-to-no chance of injury to highly susceptible for injuries. These categories include:

  • Low velocity, non-contact sports: These sports and activities have the lowest risk, as they typically include sports where the athletes perform individually at reasonable speed without physical contact. Examples include: golf, Nordic skiing, weight lifting, running and swimming.
  • High velocity, non-contact sports: These sports and activities are those where athletes move at high rates of speed but with no contact with other participants. While there is no contact, anytime you are moving at high rates of speed, accidents can happen. Examples include: bicycling, motocross, skateboarding, skiing and snowboarding.
  • Contact sports: As the title states, these sports and activities include frequent body-to-body contact or body to equipment (e.g., a ball, glove, etc.) contact. Examples include: basketball, soccer, lacrosse, baseball and softball.
  • Collision sports: With these sports and activities, strong, forceful, body-to-body or body-to-equipment contact is a primary goal of the sport. Examples include football, ice hockey, rugby, and boxing. Without the proper protective head and mouth gear, participants are highly likely to experience an oral-facial and/or head injury.

The good news is that you can dramatically reduce the odds of serious dental and oral-facial injury by ensuring that you wear a professionally made mouthguard in addition to a helmet, facemask, or other protective gear that is appropriate to the sport. This is especially true if you participate in the high velocity, contact and collision categories. These simple steps can help reduce worries for not only players, but also for parents, caregivers and coaches. For more information, read, “An Introduction To Sports Injuries & Dentistry.” You can also download a FREE, pocket-sized guide for managing dental injuries.

By Steven R. Gluck, D.D.S.
April 28, 2012
Category: Oral Health
WhyDoesMyDentalHygienistAskSoManyQuestions

You just came in to have your teeth cleaned, but our hygienist is asking you about your general state of health and what medications you are taking. Meanwhile you are wondering why she doesn't just get on with the cleaning.

Dental hygienists are health care professionals who are trained and licensed to preserve your general as well as your oral health. That's why our hygienist begins your visit by asking you about your health history. Some health problems or medications may require special precautions during a dental cleaning. A hygienist also needs to know about your dietary history and other general health questions.

Our hygienist will examine the skin in and around your mouth for sores, lumps, and other areas that could be signs of oral cancer or other problems. She is trained to spot this disease and others.

Dental hygiene is individualized to your own situation. There is not a “one size fits all” solution. During your cleaning, our hygienist will also evaluate the health of your gums and teeth, checking for tooth decay and for inflammation (gingivitis) and bleeding. She will measure the space between your teeth and the surrounding gums, looking for pockets that form when the gums detach from the teeth. Such pockets indicate periodontal disease and can lead to serious problems.

After your health assessment and examination, the actual cleaning will begin. Your dental hygienist will remove deposits of plaque and calculus by using a technique called scaling. Plaque is a biofilm, a film of bacteria that builds up on your teeth. The reason you brush and floss every day is to remove this film from the surfaces of your teeth and gums and from between your teeth. Plaque that is not removed hardens into a mineralized substance called tartar or calculus, and this is what the hygienist removes by scaling.

The next step is a polish to remove surface stains from your teeth and to give your teeth the slick feeling that you identify as clean.

Finally, our hygienist will discuss your state of oral health with you and make suggestions for improvement. Most hygiene appointments take about 45 minutes to an hour. As you can see, during this appointment a lot must be done to preserve your oral health.

If you are in need of a dental cleaning, contact our office today to schedule an appointment. You can learn more about your visit to the hygienist by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Hygiene Visit.”

IfYourChildChippedAToothWhatShouldYouDo

Nearly every parent and caregiver has experienced that almost instantaneous sick feeling when they see that their child has been injured, especially when it is an injury to the mouth and teeth. For some, it is just a bloody lip; however, if the accident chipped a tooth, then you may have a completely different situation on your hands. If the nerve of the tooth has not been damaged, you needn't worry too much — a composite (plastic) tooth-colored restoration that is actually bonded to the tooth is an ideal material for repairing most broken or chipped teeth. See us as soon as possible to assess the extent of injury, so that proper and appropriate action can be taken.

An additional reason why bonding with composite resin may be the ideal choice for repairing a child's chipped tooth is that it can be custom created in virtually any shade so that it perfectly matches the damaged tooth and the surrounding teeth. It is also far less expensive than a crown, an important factor to consider when repairing a primary (baby) tooth that will eventually fall out to make room for a permanent tooth. If the injury is to a permanent tooth, a composite resin still may be ideal to use as a restoration until your child or teenager has stopped growing or playing contact sports. This is because your teenager may be too young for a more permanent restoration such as a crown or porcelain veneer.

An important, proactive step you can take to be prepared for the next time your child has a dental injury is to download Dear Doctor's Field-side Pocket Guide for Dental Injuries. This handy, quick reference guide is a must have for athletes, parents, caregivers, teachers, coaches or anyone who is often in an environment where a mouth injury is likely to occur. Knowing what to do and how quickly you must respond can make the critical difference between saving and losing a tooth.