Posts for: March, 2012
Periodontal (gum) disease, though it may be invisible to everyone but your dentist, can have a powerful effect on your entire body. Not only is it dangerous to your teeth and jaws, but it can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, cause preterm births in pregnant women, and affect blood sugar control in diabetics.
Diabetics are our subject for today. Symptoms of diabetes include abnormally high levels of glucose (a form of sugar) in the blood, leading to frequent urination, excessive thirst, blurred vision, unexplained weight loss, and loss of energy. The disease can also cause severe complications in various parts of the body.
Normally, glucose, your body's main energy source, is kept under control by a hormone called insulin, which is made by an organ called the pancreas. In type 1 diabetes, a person's pancreas does not produce enough insulin to deal with all the glucose in his or her blood. In type 2 diabetes — a condition related to increased age, physical inactivity, overweight, and heredity — the pancreas may produce enough insulin, but the body is not able to use it effectively. This condition is called insulin resistance.
People with type 1 diabetes need insulin to survive. Type 2 may be treated with exercise, diet, medications, and insulin supplements.
Serious complications of diabetes range from kidney failure, blindness, and nerve damage to infections that do not heal, gangrene and amputation of limbs.
Diabetes and periodontal disease seem to have reciprocal effects on each other. Diabetics are more likely to have periodontal disease than non-diabetics; and those with periodontal disease are likely to face worsening blood sugar control over time.
Periodontal disease (from “peri”, meaning around and “odont”, meaning tooth), is caused by dental plaque — a film of bacteria that settles on your teeth and gums every day. It's what you remove with daily brushing and flossing. Any bacteria that remain cause inflammation, which can lead in the worst cases to loss of bone and eventual loss of teeth.
The close relationship of diabetes and periodontal disease probably results from changes in the function of immune cells responsible for healing. Inflammation is a part of normal wound healing — but chronic or prolonged inflammation can destroy the tissues it was meant to heal. This may be a major factor in the destructive complications of diabetes.
Many of these complications begin in the blood vessels. Like the eyes and the kidneys, gum tissues are rich in blood vessels. Gum tissues are also under constant attack from bacteria. If you are a diabetic, effective plaque control, along with regular professional dental cleaning, can have positive effects not only on periodontal disease, but also on control of your blood glucose level.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about periodontal disease and its connections with diabetes. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Diabetes & Periodontal Disease.”
Most people think of bone as rock-solid, but it's actually a living tissue that's constantly changing. This has significant implications for your oral health, general health, and appearance — if you are one of the 70% of Americans missing at least one tooth.
Throughout the day, your top and bottom teeth make hundreds of fleeting contacts with each other. These small stresses are transmitted though the periodontal ligament (“peri” – around; “odont” – tooth) that supports each tooth in its socket like a hammock. Think of it as a gentle push on the hammock, which causes the tooth to gently bump the underlying bone. The bone then builds up in the spot that's receiving stress to counteract it. This constant remodeling of bone is what allows bone to stay healthy and strong.
When a tooth is lost, the bone does not receive that gentle stress. It reacts by literally melting away. Sometimes this happens fairly quickly — in a matter of months. After the tooth-supporting bone is lost, the jawbone itself begins the same process of deterioration. This could eventually change the shape of the face, as the distance from nose to chin can decrease — even if only a few back teeth are missing. The results aren't pretty. But the good news is, there's a way to prevent all this.
Dental implants, which function as substitute tooth roots, actually save underlying bone when teeth are lost. They do this because they are made of titanium, which fuses to the bone in which it's set, stabilizing it. The implant is topped by a realistic-looking crown, which replaces the part of the missing tooth that was visible in the mouth. Together, they look and function just as your natural tooth did.
If you are missing a lot of teeth, implants can also be used to anchor bridges or even removable dentures while providing that same bone-saving benefit. And when you consider that they are so durable they should never need replacement, implants are a great investment.
You can read more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”
One topic we are often asked about is finger or thumb sucking and/or pacifier use — a challenge that most parents or caregivers will likely face with at least one of their children. The first and perhaps most important thing to remember is that it is totally normal for babies and young children to suck their fingers, thumb or a pacifier. It only becomes a problem when it continues as the child ages or if you unnecessarily make it a problem.
For most children, the sucking instinct starts in the womb before birth. This fact is evident, as many expectant mothers are shown their child sucking fingers or a thumb during a mid or late-term sonogram. Once the child is born, the habit may continue because it provides the child with a sense of security. Other research indicates that some babies start sucking habits as a way to make contact with, test and learn about their new world outside the womb. It is interesting to note that most children typically tend to stop finger or thumb sucking habits on their own and without much intervention between the ages of two and four. However, for others it can continue much longer. And that is the scenario that parents and caregivers need to be aware of so that they can monitor sucking habits.
Children who suck their thumbs or a pacifier after the age of two have a higher risk of developing some long term negative effects from the habit. This includes but is not limited to upper jaw development issues and “buck” teeth (upper front teeth that protrude forward out of a natural position towards the lips). For this reason, some researchers feel that children should cease thumb or finger sucking and/or pacifier use by 18 months of age. However, the Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents and caregivers encourage children to cease this habit by age three.
If you feel your child is at risk due to his/her age and habits, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for your child. After a thorough exam, we can work with you to create a strategy for helping your child overcome finger, thumb or pacifier habits. To learn more about this topic, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Thumb Sucking in Children.”
Are you are considering a cosmetic procedure such as porcelain veneers? To assist you in making this decision, we developed the following list of questions you should consider asking before getting porcelain veneers.
- Am I a good candidate for porcelain veneers?
- Can you show me examples of your work?
- How much will my veneers cost?
- Will my insurance cover any portion of my procedure?
- Do you offer any financing for my procedure or can you make any recommendations for financing?
- Can you create a computer-generated image or mock-up of what my new smile will look like?
- How will you chose what color to make my veneers?
- How long will it take from my initial consultation until I receive my final, permanent veneers?
- How much tooth reduction (drilling) will you need to do before placing my veneers?
- How do veneers attach to my teeth?
- Can you create a prototype or temporary veneers so that I can “test drive” my new smile before my permanent ones are made?
- What do I need to do to clean and protect my veneers?
- How long can I expect my veneers to last?
- If at some point in the future I decide I want my veneers removed, what can I expect?
We hope that the above questions help you obtain all the answers you need as you consider getting porcelain veneers. If you have other questions, concerns, or if you are ready to take the next step and schedule a consultation, please contact our office.
We pride ourselves on educating our patients regarding oral health and dental treatment. This is why we are providing you with these frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding root canals. Our belief is that by being informed about this important dental treatment, you will be more comfortable should you ever require a root canal.
Exactly what is root canal treatment?
A root canal treatment is an endodontic procedure (“endo” – inside: “dont” – tooth) in which the living pulp tissues are housed, including the nerves. When a severely decayed or damaged tooth begins to hurt, it is because the pulpal tissues are inflamed or infected, and the response of the nerves is varying degrees of pain — letting you know something is wrong. If the pulp is dead or dying it must be removed and the root canal of the tooth is filled and sealed to stop infection and to save the tooth.
Who typically performs them?
Endodontics is a specialty within dentistry that specifically deals with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of root canal issues affecting a tooth's root or nerve. While endodontists are dentists who specialize in root canal treatment, general dentists may also perform root canal treatment and are usually the dentists you will consult with when you first have tooth pain and who will refer you to an endodontist if necessary.
What are the symptoms of a root canal infection?
Root canal symptoms and the character of the pain may vary depending on the cause. For example, symptoms may be:
- Sharp, acute pain that is difficult to pinpoint
- Intense pain that occurs when biting down on the tooth or food
- Lingering pain after eating either hot or cold foods
- Dull ache and pressure
- Tenderness accompanied by swelling in the nearby gums
Does root canal treatment hurt?
A common misconception is that a root canal treatment is painful when, in actuality, it is quite the opposite. The pain associated with a root canal occurs prior to treatment and is relieved by it — not visa versa.
If you have tooth pain, you may or may not need a root canal treatment. Contact us today (before your symptoms get worse) and schedule an appointment to find out what's causing the problem. And to learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatments for a root canal, read the article “Common Concerns About Root Canal Treatment.”