Posts for: August, 2014
Advanced periodontal (gum) disease is a chronic, progressive condition characterized by bacterial infection and inflammation. Without proactive treatment, gum disease can cause extensive damage to the various tissues that hold teeth in place, and lead eventually to tooth loss.
As every war has its tactics, so the war against advanced gum disease is no different. Here’s a few of the approaches and treatments we use to stop the disease and promote healing to damaged tissues.
A Change in Behavior. Regardless of other risk factors, a film of bacterial plaque on tooth surfaces caused by a neglect of proper oral hygiene is the main culprit behind progressive gum disease. Your first step is to form new hygiene habits — brushing and flossing — that will need to be performed daily to be effective. It’s also time to end some old habits like smoking that are contributing to your gum disease.
Total Plaque Removal. Although your renewed efforts at oral hygiene are essential, it’s just as important for us to use our expertise to remove the hard deposits of plaque (known as calculus) you can’t reach with brushing and flossing. Clinging stubbornly below the gum line, these deposits will continue to be sources of infection until they’re removed. Using techniques known as scaling or root planing, we employ ultrasonic or manual instruments to access and remove as much of the offending deposits as possible. This essential step may require more than one visit to give time for inflammation to subside, and may be followed with antibiotic therapy as well.
Surgical Treatments. Although quite effective in most cases of gum disease, scaling or root planing may not be adequate in more severe cases. We still have other weapons in our arsenal, though — there are a number of surgical procedures we can use to eliminate hidden pockets of infection, or repair and regenerate damaged tissues and bone. These procedures not only help restore you to better oral health and function, but also establish a more conducive environment for maintaining future care.
Using these and other techniques, we can reduce the infection and inflammation associated with gum disease. This sets the stage for healing and renewed health, both for your mouth and your entire body.
If you would like more information on treatment for periodontal gum disease, 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 “Understanding Periodontal Disease.”
Not long ago, Glee star Lea Michele had all of her wisdom teeth removed. This is a very common procedure that people in their twenties, like Michele, often undergo to prevent serious dental problems down the road. The actress found that the procedure really was actually not very difficult to tolerate.
“Feeling all better from my surgery!” she tweeted to fans a few days later. “Back to work tomorrow.”
Why do wisdom teeth so often cause problems? For one thing, they come in years later than the other 28 permanent teeth — usually between the ages of 17 and 25. By that time, there is often no room in the jaw to accommodate them. As man has evolved, the jaws have actually become smaller in size — often creating a lack of space for the wisdom teeth to erupt into proper position. If wisdom teeth become blocked (impacted) by other molars that are already there, infection and damage to neighboring teeth may result.
Sometimes the wisdom teeth themselves cause the problem by growing in at an odd angle. They push against other teeth, often compromising the adjacent tooth's supporting bone. While you would think pain would occur if any of these problems were present, that does not always alert us to a wisdom-tooth problem. It's usually diagnosed with the help of x-rays.
Wisdom tooth extraction is often performed in the dental office using a local anesthetic (numbing shot) to keep you from experiencing any pain, along with conscious sedation to help you relax. The type of anesthesia that's best for you will be determined before the procedure.
After we gently remove the tooth or teeth, you may need to have the site sutured (stitched) to promote healing. You will rest for a short time before going home, and may need to have someone drive you, depending on what type of anesthesia you were given.
Once you get home, you should apply an ice pack on the outside of your cheek for about five minutes on, five minutes off for as many hours as possible to help reduce any postoperative swelling on the first day. Starting on the second day, the warm moist heat of a washcloth placed on the cheek and hot salt water rinses will make you more comfortable. You may want to eat soft foods and brush your teeth very carefully during the recovery period, which lasts only a few days as Lea Michele discovered. Before you know it, you'll be “feeling all better!”
We’ve all heard about potentially negative health effects from the sugar that’s added to many of our favorite foods. So these days, lots of us are trying to cut down on our consumption of sugar — not only to lose weight, but also to help prevent maladies like diabetes and heart disease. We can’t help noticing those pastel-colored packets — pink, yellow and blue — on the rack of our favorite coffee shop. But now we’re wondering: Are those sugar substitutes a good alternative to natural sugar? And which one should we choose?
Artificial sweeteners have been around for decades. Six different types (including the ones in the colorful packets) are currently approved as safe by the Food and Drug Administration; a couple of older ones (notably cyclamates) have been banned for many years. In addition to those zero-calorie sugar substitutes, low-calorie sweeteners called sugar alcohols (for example, mannitol and xylitol) are often used as food ingredients. So what’s the difference between them — and which one is best?
That’s not so easy to answer. If you have a rare genetic condition called phenylketonuria, you should avoid aspartame (the blue packet), because your body can’t process the substance. Otherwise, the choice may come down to a matter of taste. Even though they are FDA-approved, some controversy (both fact-based and far-fetched) remains about the long-term safety of sugar substitutes, and their usefulness in preventing obesity and other diseases.
Yet it’s clear that for some people, the consequences of consuming too much sugar could be much worse. So if you’re at risk for diabetes or certain other diseases, sugar substitutes can be an important tool in maintaining a healthier diet. They also have another health benefit: sugar substitutes don’t cause cavities. Further, some sugar alcohols (xylitol in particular) have the property of stimulating saliva flow, and have been shown to actually impede the formation of cavities. Oral health is an important (if sometimes overlooked) component of your general well-being, and several studies have pointed to a link between oral and systemic diseases — for example, diabetes and heart disease.
As with so many aspects of our health, there seems to be no “magic bullet” to cure all our diet-related problems. But used in moderation, artificial sweeteners can be a valuable part of the effort to improve our overall health and well-being. For more information on this topic, see the Dear Doctor article “Artificial Sweeteners.”