Posts for: August, 2013

By Dentistry For Children & Adults
August 29, 2013
Category: Dental Procedures
IntroducingthePalatalExpander

Is there a single orthodontic appliance that can help your child get a wider, better-looking smile, correct problems with the bite, make room in a crowded upper jaw for new teeth to erupt (come in)... and shorten the overall time he or she will need to wear braces? The answer is yes: It's the palatal expander, a device that works with the natural growth patterns of a child's mouth, and offers dramatic results.

What's a palatal expander? Basically, it's a custom-made orthodontic appliance that fits between the rows of back teeth at the top (roof) of the mouth, close to the palate. After it has been put in place, it can be tensioned with a special key. Because it is contained inside the mouth, it's invisible when worn — but its benefits are easy to see.

How does it work? The palatal expander takes advantage of the fact that the left and right halves of a child's upper jaw bone don't completely fuse (knit together) until sometime after puberty. Until that happens, the upper jaw is relatively soft and easy to manipulate. When tension is applied, the palatal expander gently moves the bones apart, just like braces do for teeth. Then new bone tissue naturally fills in the space.

The appliance is tightened daily for a few weeks — while spacing improves dramatically — and then it's left on for several weeks more to stabilize the expansion. The total time a child needs to wear it is generally 3-6 months. After that, a set of braces can be put on if needed. So, what's so great about a palatal expander?

For one thing, the device can correct a crossbite, which occurs when the back top teeth bite inside (instead of outside) the bottom teeth. For another, expanding the upper jaw can relieve the condition known as crowding, which happens when the jaw isn't big enough to accommodate all the teeth. A related situation — impacted teeth — occurs when a tooth that hasn't yet erupted is blocked by another tooth above it. Both these conditions formerly required tooth extraction: an invasive and sometimes complicated procedure. Both can now be remedied by a palatal expander.

But maybe the biggest plus to a youngster — where a month can seem like an age — is the prospect of having to wear braces for less time. And that alone is a good reason to smile.

If you have questions about palatal expanders, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Palatal Expanders” and “The Magic of Orthodontics.”


By Dentistry For Children & Adults
August 22, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral cancer  
OralCancerOverviewWhatYouShouldKnow

Cancer is never a pleasant topic. Yet, rather than wish it away, many people have chosen to take an active and positive role in the prevention and early detection of the disease. Did you know that you and your dentist, working together, can help identify a major class of cancers in the early stages? Let's spend a few moments discussing oral cancer.

Oral cancer is dangerous. Although it accounts for a relatively small percentage of all cancers, it isn't usually detected until it has reached a late stage. And at that point, the odds aren't great: only 58% survive 5 years after treatment, a rate far less than that of many better-known cancers. It is estimated that in the United States, this disease kills one person every hour, every day.

Oral cancer used to be thought of as an older person's disease — and it still primarily strikes those over 40 years of age. But a disturbing number of young people have been diagnosed with the illness in recent years, making them the fastest-growing segment among oral cancer patients. This is due to the sexually-transmitted Human Papilloma Virus (HPV16). So, while long-time tobacco users and heavy drinkers still need screenings, most young people do too.

What's the good news? When it's detected early, the survival rate of oral cancer goes up to 80% or better. And having an oral cancer screening is part of doing something you should be doing anyway — getting regular dental checkups. That's one more reason why coming in to our office regularly for your routine examination is so important.

Of course, if you notice any abnormal sores or color changes in the tissue around your mouth, lips, tongue or throat — especially if they don't go away in 2-3 weeks — come in and see us right away. They could be just cold sores — or not.

An oral cancer exam is fast and painless. It involves a visual inspection of the mouth and surrounding area (face, lips, throat, etc.), during which we may also feel for lumps. We'll also gently pull your tongue from side to side, and check underneath it for early signs of a problem. If needed, we can schedule a biopsy for any suspicious areas. Sound easy? It is! So don't ignore it — remember that early detection could save your life.

If you would like more information about oral cancer, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer.”


By Dentistry For Children & Adults
August 14, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth pain  
ConfusingToothPain

Is it a root canal problem, a gum infection, or both?

Sometimes it's difficult to pinpoint the source of tooth pain; it can result from an infection of the tooth itself, or of the gum, or even spread from one to the other. Identifying the origin of a toothache is important, however, so we can choose the right treatment and do all that we can to save the tooth.

When a tooth becomes decayed, bacteria can infect the sensitive, living nerve tissue deep inside the tooth known as the root canal. This condition is called an endodontic (“endo” – inside; “dont” – tooth) problem. The infection inside the tooth can spread to the periodontal ligament (“peri” – around; “dont” – tooth) that encases the tooth and attaches it to the jawbone. Occasionally, infection of endodontic (root canal) origin can spread out from the end of the tooth root all the way up the periodontal ligament, and into the gum.

The reverse can also happen: dental pain can originate from periodontal (gum) tissues that have become diseased. Gum disease is caused by a buildup of bacterial biofilm (plaque) along the gum line. It results in detachment of the gums along the tooth surface. In advanced cases, this bacterial infection can travel into the nerve tissues of the dental pulp through accessory canals or at the end of a tooth.

To figure out where pain is coming from when the source is not obvious, we need to take a detailed history of the symptoms, test how the tooth reacts to temperature and pressure, and evaluate radiographs (x-ray pictures).

Unfortunately, once dental disease becomes a combined periodontal-endodontic problem, the long-term survival of the tooth is jeopardized. The chances for saving the tooth are better if the infection started in the root canal and then spread to the gums, rather than if it started as gum disease that spread into the root canal of the tooth. That's because in the latter case, there is usually a lot of bone loss from the gum disease. Effectively removing plaque from your teeth on a daily basis with routine brushing and flossing is your best defense against developing gum disease in the first place.

If you would like more information about tooth pain, gum disease or root canal problems, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this diagnostic dilemma by reading Dear Doctor magazine's article “Confusing Tooth Pain.”


By Dentistry For Children & Adults
August 06, 2013
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: celebrity smiles  
JohnStamosBritneySpearsandHowtoRelaxDuringDentalTreatment

We're always tickled to see dentists represented in popular culture, especially when portrayed by an actor as handsome as John Stamos. On the hit television show Glee, Stamos played a dentist who made sure the glee club members cleaned up their act when it came to oral hygiene — though perhaps he used a bit too much anesthesia to achieve this admirable goal. While under his care — and lots of sedation — several Glee characters had music-infused hallucinations in which they danced and sang with pop star Britney Spears.

Far-fetched? No doubt. Still, it's worth mentioning that sedation has its place in dentistry. In fact, if you are someone who tends to get anxious or even fearful about dental treatment, you should know that sedation can help you relax both mind and body so you can feel peaceful rather than anxious in the dentist's chair. And that's the whole point: Fear of pain should not stand in the way of your getting the care that will keep you healthy and allow you to keep your teeth for as long as possible.

You may not know this, but when you are afraid, your threshold for pain is actually lower. You become hypersensitive to every sensation and sound, and you tense your muscles. Fear and anxiety trigger the release of certain chemicals that put you in “fight or flight” mode. In this heightened state of alert you experience more pain during and even after treatment.

The good news is that this response can virtually be eliminated with various oral sedatives and/or with nitrous oxide, which is inhaled. Both treatments will allow you to let your guard down and relax. Your apprehension and hypersensitivity to pain will disappear, even though you are still conscious. And when you are relaxed, we are better able to focus on the task at hand, knowing that you are comfortable.

The sedatives used in dentistry have been subjected to rigorous testing and have a strong safety record backed by decades of use. Several even have “amnesic” properties, meaning that you will remember little to nothing of your treatment — unless, of course, you end up singing and dancing with Britney Spears!

If you would like more information about sedation in dentistry, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Sedation Dentistry.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Overcoming Dental Fear & Anxiety.”