Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the last teeth to erupt in your mouth and are the teeth least needed for good oral health. Most people have four wisdom teeth that usually erupt through the gums in their late teens or early twenties. Sometimes wisdom teeth remain trapped in the jawbone under the gums because there is insufficient room for them to erupt. Wisdom teeth can cause gum disease, crowding or other damage to adjacent teeth, decay (due to difficulty in keeping them clean with regular brushing and flossing), and bone destroying cysts. Pain and swelling are the most common symptoms of problem wisdom teeth. Whether you have obvious symptoms or not, it is important to diagnose existing or potential problems caused by your wisdom teeth. Removal is often the wisest decision for your health and well-being.
Cavities destroy tooth enamel when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) are frequently left on the tooth surface. Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on these foods, producing acids as a result that, over time, destroy tooth enamel and cause decay. Fillings are necessary to replace that potion of the tooth that has decayed, which must be removed to prevent further damage.
Your dentist can advise you on the types of fillings that are right for you, taking into account the size and location of the cavity, your dental history, cosmetic concerns and cost. Tooth-colored fillings are available in composite resins that are natural colored, plastic materials that can be made to look like your natural teeth. Alloys are combinations of metals that make durable restorations as well. Porcelain inlays and on-lays are also available and are some of the strongest and most lifelike dental restorations available.
Crowns are necessary when a tooth or teeth are too badly decayed, broken or cracked to be restored with a filling. Crowns are also normally needed for teeth that have had root canal therapy and are placed on dental implants. Crowns can be made entirely of gold or porcelain fused to a gold substrate for strength and beauty. High strength ceramic and porcelain crowns are also available for beautiful cosmetic results.
Athletes can prevent broken teeth and injuries to the lips, tongue, face or jaw by wearing a properly fitted mouth-guard. A mouth protector is an important piece of athletic gear that can help protect your smile. It should be used during any activity that could result in a blow to the face or mouth. A mouth-guard that is custom made by your dentist to fit your mouth will offer the best protection, and athletes are more likely to wear a mouth-guard that fits comfortably.
Hygiene & Preventive Care
The basis of sound dental care is routine cleaning and maintenance. Regular dental checkups and cleanings are key to optimal oral health and can be customized based on your periodontal (gum and bone) health. Medicated gels, prescription mouth rinses and fluoride products may be recommended by your dentist.
Bonding can correct chips, cracks, stains or gaps in your teeth. Your dentist prepares the tooth with an etching solution, then blends special composite resin materials in colors to match your own teeth. The material is then applied to your tooth, shaped into the right contours to make a natural looking smile, then hardened into place with a high intensity light.
Contouring and Reshaping
Tooth contouring and reshaping is a rapid cosmetic treatment that can correct crooked, chipped, cracked or overlapping teeth in a single visit and, in minor cases, can even substitute for braces. This procedure alters the length, shape or position of your teeth.
Veneers are thin, custom-made shells crafted of tooth colored materials designed to cover the front side of your teeth. A veneer place on top of your teeth can help correct natural imperfections or the result of an injury. Veneers are a permanent improvement, as it is necessary to remove a small amount of enamel from your teeth to accommodate the shell which is then bonded directly to the tooth.
Common causes of tooth discoloration include again and the use of staining substances such as coffee, tee, colas and tobacco. Injury to teeth, use of antibiotics, excessive fluoride and nerve degeneration can also darken teeth. A variety of whitening procedures and products are available to optimize your smile. Your dentist can help determine the appropriate option for you.
Clean, sweet breath is a sign of a healthy mouth. Mouth odor is most often caused by poor oral hygiene, although other causes include certain foods, a dry mouth, tobacco products or a medical disorder. When bacteria accumulate in the mouth, bad breath can result. If you have persistent bad breath, your dentist can help determine the cause and a course of treatment.
Any mouth sore that persists for more than a week should be examined by your dentist. Watch for these early signs of oral cancer:
• A sore that does not heal
• A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area
• Color changes such as a red or white patch
• Pain, tenderness or numbness anywhere in the mouth or lips
• A prolonged sore throat
• Difficulty in chewing, swallowing or speaking
• Difficulty moving the tongue or jaw
• A feeling of something in the throat
• A change in your bite
Pain is rarely an early symptom. That is why regular dental checkups are so important. If you use any type of tobacco product, you are more prone to get cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx and esophagus. The juice from smokeless tobacco can cause a mouth condition called leukoplakia, which appears either as a smooth, white patch or as leathery looking wrinkled skin. It results in cancer in three percent of all cases. Leukoplakia can also result from irritations such as ill-fitting dentures or a habit of chewing on your cheek.
Sleep apnea is a serious, sometimes fatal medical disorder that affects around 10% of American men over the age of 40, and 6% of American women of the same age. Sleep apnea sufferers completely stop breathing during sleep, sometimes hundreds of times in a single night. Normal breathing ceases because the airway becomes obstructed, causing a serious reduction of airflow to the lungs.
There are a number of dental devices that can be used to alleviate this condition. The goal of most of these devices is to separate the jaws and push them forward slightly. This slight repositioning opens up the airway, and allows oxygen to flow freely again. Wearers of sleep apnea dental devices report that they stop loud snoring, feel more rested in the daytime, and are much more comfortable going to sleep. Sleep apnea appliances work best on patients who are not significantly overweight. They offer a viable alternative to Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP).
Your dentist can give extra protection to your teeth by applying a sealant to the top, or biting, surfaces of your teeth. This slippery plastic coating makes it harder for plaque to stick to the tiny grooves on the biting surfaces and also adds a barrier between your teeth and the decay-causing bacteria that live in plaque. This painless treatment usually lasts for several months, but does not replace your regular routine of brushing and flossing. Sealants are most effective in reducing cavities in children with newly formed permanent teeth. They can reduce decay in adult teeth as well. Ask your dentist if sealants would be appropriate for you and your children.
Root Canal Therapy
Endodontic treatment, more commonly known as root canal therapy, is necessary when the pulp of your tooth becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes, such as deep decay, repeated dental procedures on the tooth, or a crack or chip in the tooth.
The infection can spread throughout the pulp and form an abscess which, unless treated, will cause the pulp to die and result in loss of the tooth. Root canal therapy can help save your damaged tooth by removing the infected pulp.
Periodontal (gum) disease affects three out of four adults at some time in their lives. Gum disease is usually caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. If plaque is not removed with thorough daily brushing and flossing, gums become irritated and inflamed. The irritated tissue can separate from the teeth and form spaces called pockets. Bacteria move into the pockets and continues to promote irritation. Left untreated, the process can continue until the bone and other tooth-supporting tissues are destroyed. The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis and often results in gums that are red and swollen and may bleed easily. Regular dental exams can identify periodontal problems. Call for an appointment immediately if you notice any of the following signs of gum disease:
• Gums that bleed during brushing or flossing
• Red, swollen or tender gums
• Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
• Persistent bad breath
• Pus between your teeth and gums
• Loose or separating teeth
• A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
• A change in the fit of partial dentures
Different periodontal therapies are available to treat gum disease, depending on the type of disease and how far the condition has progressed. Your dentist can help the gum tissue to heal and can help control infection.
When it comes to replacing one or more teeth, a dental implant is often the treatment of choice and is also one of the most conservative treatments available. Implants are biocompatible posts that replace the roots of your missing teeth. The implant post is surgically placed into the area where a tooth is missing and, in a few months, fuses to the jaw bone becoming the foundation for a natural looking restoration. A customized crown or bridge is then permanently cemented to the post.
If you have lost some or all of your teeth, dentures can be used to replace those teeth, improving your health as well as you appearance. A complete denture replaces all natural teeth; several types of partial dentures are also available when only some teeth are missing. Dentures can be made to closely match your natural teeth and high quality dentures are very comfortable. Regular dental checkups are necessary for denture wearers to ensure a healthy and comfortable fit.
A bridge is appropriate when one or more teeth are missing and there are healthy teeth on both sides of the open space. Bridges can be made from several materials, including: solid gold for reliable long wear, porcelain fused to a gold base for strength and beauty, and high-strength metal-free porcelain for optimum cosmetic results.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that all children have their first dental examination no later than twelve months of age. Dental and gum problems can develop very early in a child’s life and early dental care is vital for a future healthy mouth. Parents can play a major role by talking children before the first visit, explaining in a positive, friendly way to the child that they are getting their teeth checked to keep them healthy and happy. In most cases, your child’s first visit will include a simple examination, cleaning and fluoride application, and x-rays if necessary. The first pediatric visit is structured to be as brief as possible with no physical discomfort or anesthetics necessary, thus adding to the child’s pleasant association with the visit. Any additional treatment will be scheduled at a follow up visit, which will also be a child-friendly, positive experience.
For relatively minor procedures, such as treating cavities, a local shot of anesthesia is often all that is needed. The injection site is numbed with a topical anesthetic before the shot is given, making it virtually painless. Local anesthesia is the most economical and practical technique for dental procedures.
In case of anxiety or extra sensitivity, a patient can request, or the doctor may recommend, nitrous oxide. This is easily administered using a breathing mask that covers the nose and can be used together with local anesthesia. The effects wear off almost immediately. Nitrous oxide is an excellent option for children undergoing treatment.