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By Donald M Jackson, DDS, PA
January 21, 2022
Category: Dental Procedures
ARoutineDentalProcedureSavesThisMLBStandoutsBrokenTooth

During this year's baseball spring training, Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton got into a row with a steak dinner—and the beefsteak got the better of it. During his meal, the Gold Glove winner cracked a tooth.

Fortunately, he didn't lose it. Buxton's dentist rescued the tooth with a dental procedure that's been around for over a century—a root canal treatment. The dependable root canal is responsible for saving millions of teeth each year.

Dentists turn to root canal treatments for a number of reasons: a permanent tooth's roots are dissolving (a condition called resorption); chronic inflammation of the innermost tooth pulp due to repeated fillings; or a fractured or cracked tooth, like Buxton's, in which the pulp becomes exposed to bacteria.

One of the biggest reasons, though, is advanced tooth decay. Triggered by acid, a by-product of bacteria, a tooth's enamel softens and erodes, allowing decay into the underlying dentin. In its initial stages, we can often treat decay with a filling. But if the decay continues to advance, it can infect the pulp and root canals and eventually reach the bone.

Decay of this magnitude seriously jeopardizes a tooth's survival. But we can still stop it before that point with a root canal. The basic procedure is fairly straightforward. We begin first by drilling a small hole into the tooth to access the inner pulp and root canals. Using special instruments, we then remove all of the infected tissue within the tooth.

After disinfecting the now empty spaces and reshaping the root canals, we fill the tooth with a rubber-like substance called gutta percha. This, along with filling the access hole, seals the tooth's interior from future infection. In most cases, we'll return sometime later and bond a life-like crown to the tooth (as Buxton's dentist did for him) for added protection and support.

You would think such a procedure would get its own ticker tape parade. Unfortunately, there's a cultural apprehension that root canals are painful. But here's the truth—because your tooth and surrounding gums are numbed by local anesthesia, a root canal procedure doesn't hurt. Actually, if your tooth has been throbbing from tooth decay's attack on its nerves, a root canal treatment will alleviate that pain.

After some time on the disabled list, Buxton was back in the lineup in time to hit his longest homer to date at 456 feet on the Twins' Opening Day. You may not have that kind of moment after a root canal, but repairing a bothersome tooth with this important procedure will certainly get you back on your feet again.

If you would like more information about root canal therapy, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “A Step-By-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment.”

By Donald M Jackson, DDS, PA
January 11, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: cosmetic dentistry   aging  
3WaysAgingCouldDimYourSmileandWhatToDoAboutIt

Know how to get the better of an age-guesser at the carnival? Smile! A recent study found that people tend to underestimate a person's age if they're smiling.

If true, smiling—naturally associated with youthfulness—might help you look younger than you are. Unfortunately, many older people smile less, self-conscious about the effects of aging on their teeth and gums. Their smile doesn't have the same zing as when they were younger.

If that's how you feel about your smile, a cosmetic dentist can help. Here are 3 common age-related problems a skilled dentist can help you improve.

Discoloration. After decades of eating, drinking and possibly smoking, teeth enamel can yellow and dull. But there are ways to brighten discolored teeth. One simple measure is to undergo teeth whitening with a bleaching solution. On a more permanent note, bonding tooth-colored materials, porcelain veneers or life-like dental crowns to teeth can mask stains and other imperfections.

Wearing. Speaking of all those meals, you can expect some teeth wearing later in life that makes them look shorter, and their shape and edges sharper rather than softer and rounded like a youthful smile. Dentists can improve the appearance of worn teeth by reshaping and contouring them to soften harsh edges. A procedure called crown lengthening can reposition the gums to display more of the teeth. Veneers or crowns can also transform the appearance of severely worn teeth.

Receding gums. There's also a contrasting gum problem. What some call "getting long in the tooth," The teeth look longer because the gums have receded from their normal coverage. This is often caused by gum disease, which older people encounter more than other age groups. After treating the infection, the gums may need help regaining their former position by grafting donor tissue to the area to encourage regrowth.

The effects of aging on teeth and gums are quite common, but you don't have to live with them. With a few appropriate techniques and procedures, your dentist can bring back the smile you once had—or one even better.

If you would like more information on maintaining a youthful smile, 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 “How Your Dentist Can Help You Look Younger.”

By Donald M Jackson, DDS, PA
January 01, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay  
TheresMoreWeCanDoAboutToothDecayBesidesDrillandFill

Until recently, the standard treatment for tooth decay remained essentially the same for nearly a century: Remove any decayed structure, then prepare and fill the cavity. But that singular protocol has begun to change recently.

Although "drilling and filling" saves teeth, it doesn't fully address the causes of decay. In response, dentists have broadened their approach to the disease—the focus now is on an individual patient's particular set of risk factors for decay and how to reduce those.

At the heart of this new approach is a better understanding of oral bacteria, the true cause of decay. Bacteria produce acid, which can erode tooth enamel and create a gateway into the tooth for decay to advance. We therefore want to lower those risk factors that may lead to bacterial growth and elevated acidity.

One of our major objectives in this newer approach is to reduce plaque, a thin film of food particles used by bacteria for food and habitation. Removing plaque, principally through better oral hygiene, in turn reduces decay-causing bacteria.

Plaque isn't the only mechanism for bacterial growth and acidity. Appliances like dentures or retainers accumulate bacteria if not regularly cleaned. Reduced saliva flow, often due to certain medications or smoking, limits this fluid's ability to buffer acid and acid reflux or acidic beverages like sodas, sports or energy drinks can disrupt the mouth's normal pH and increase the risk for enamel erosion.

Our aim, then, is to develop a long-term strategy based on the patient's individual set of oral disease risk factors. To determine those, we'll need to examine their medical history (including family), current health status and lifestyle habits. From there, we can create a specific plan targeting the identified risk factors for decay.

Some of the elements of such a strategy might include:

  • Daily brushing and flossing, along with regular dental cleanings;
  • Fluoride dental products or treatments to strengthen enamel;
  • Changes in diet and excess snacking, and ceasing from any tobacco use;
  • Cleaning and maintaining appliances, as well as monitoring past dental work.

Improving the mouth environment by limiting the presence of oral bacteria and acid can reduce the occurrence of tooth decay and the extent of treatment that might be needed. It's a more nuanced approach that can improve dental health.

If you would like more information on tooth decay prevention and treatment, 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 “Tooth Decay: How to Assess Your Risk.”

By Donald M Jackson, DDS, PA
December 22, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: veneers  
VeneersMayNotBeaGoodOptionforaTeenager

People love dental veneers—those thin, porcelain shells bonded to teeth to mask stains and blemishes. For a relatively modest price, they can vastly improve a smile.

But what if it's your teenager who needs a smile upgrade? Teens also experience dental flaws like adults—which, at their age especially, disrupt their self-image and social confidence.

So, can veneers work for teens? Technically, yes, but there's a possible snag, depending on the maturity level of their teeth.

The potential problem relates to the tooth preparation that precedes the bonding of the veneers. One option is no-prep veneers and they are a nice solution depending on the size and shape of the existing teeth. If the teeth are slight in size, no preparation is necessary. If the teeth are large, even though veneers are thin, they can still look unnaturally bulky when bonded to unprepared teeth. A dentist may need to remove some of the tooth's surface enamel before applying the veneers.

Although this alteration has little effect on an adult tooth (other than requiring a veneer or restoration from that time on), it could damage a less mature tooth and stunt its development. A younger tooth can have a larger pulp—the central tooth chamber containing blood vessels and nerves—that's closer to the enamel surface than an adult tooth.

Because of the pulp's proximity to the surface of an immature tooth, there's a risk of damaging it during the tooth preparation phase for veneers. If that happens, the tooth may need additional treatment to save it.

We don't depend on a teen's calendar age to determine whether or not it's safe to install veneers. Instead, we examine the teeth and measure how close the pulp may be to the surface, as well as the thickness of the middle layer of dentin. Veneers could be acceptable if it appears the teeth have reached a healthy level of maturity.

If not, though, we may need to consider less invasive ways to improve a teen's smile. For stains or other outer discolorations, whitening with a bleaching solution significantly brightens teeth. We can repair chips by bonding and sculpting color-matching dental material to the teeth. And, these or similar cosmetic measures won't endanger an immature tooth like a veneer application.

Once a young patient's teeth have matured, we can revisit the subject of veneers. That may take time, but the more attractive smile that results will be worth the wait.

If you would like more information on dental care for adolescents, 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 “Veneers for Teenagers.”

By Donald M Jackson, DDS, PA
December 12, 2021
Category: Oral Health
BuffaloBillsStefonDiggsKnowsTheresNeveraBadPlacetoFloss

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs wrapped up the NFL regular season in January, setting single-season records in both catches and receiving yards. The Bills handily beat the Miami Dolphins, earning themselves the second seed in the AFC playoffs, and Diggs certainly did his part, making 7 catches for 76 yards. But what set the internet ablaze was not Diggs' accomplishments on the field but rather what the camera caught him doing on the sidelines—flossing his teeth!

The Twitterverse erupted with Bills fans poking fun at Diggs. But Diggs is not ashamed of his good oral hygiene habits, and CBS play-by-play announcer Kevin Harlan expressed his support with “Dental hygiene is something to take note of, kids! There's never a bad place to floss” and “When you lead the NFL in catches and yards, you can floss anytime you want.”

We like to think so. There's an old joke among dentists:
Q. Which teeth do you need to floss?
A. Only the ones you want to keep.

Although this sounds humorous, it is borne out in research. Of note, a 2017 study showed that people who floss have a lower risk of tooth loss over periods of 5 years and 10 years, and a 2020 study found that older adults who flossed lost an average of 1 tooth in 5 years, while those who don't lost around 4 teeth in the same time period.

We in the dental profession stress the importance of flossing as a daily habit—and Stefon Diggs would likely agree—yet fewer than 1 in 3 Americans floss every day. The 2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), conducted by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, revealed that only 30% of Americans floss every day, while 37% floss less than every day and 32% never floss.

The biggest enemy on the football field may be the opposing team, but the biggest enemy to your oral health is plaque, a sticky film of bacteria and food debris that builds up on tooth surfaces. Plaque can cause tooth decay and gum disease, the number one cause of tooth loss among adults. Flossing is necessary to remove plaque from between teeth and around the gums where a toothbrush can't reach. If not removed, plaque hardens into tartar, which can only be removed by the specialized tools used in the dental office. Regular professional dental cleanings are also needed to get at those hard-to-reach spots you may have missed.

If Diggs can find time to floss during a major NFL game, the rest of us can certainly find a couple minutes a day to do it. While we might not recommend Diggs' technique of flossing from one side of the mouth to the other, we commend his enthusiasm and commitment to keeping his teeth and gums healthy. Along with good dental hygiene at home—or on the sidelines if you are Stefon Diggs—regular professional dental cleanings and checkups play a key role in maintaining a healthy smile for life.

If you would like more information about keeping in the best dental health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Daily Oral Hygiene.”





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