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Traveling and Oral Health: Tooth Tips for the Holidays

We don’t have to tell you: the winter holidays mark one of the busiest seasons of the year. With shopping, parties and vacations jam-packed on the calendar, it’s no wonder that many people take shortcuts when it comes to oral health maintenance during this time. If you are traveling during the holiday season and you want to avoid a January surprise cavity (or worse), here are some simple tooth travel tips to help you keep your smile intact.

  1. TravelDon’t leave home with a toothache! If you suspect you have any lurking problems in your mouth, schedule an appointment prior to your travel date so that you don’t end up with a tooth emergency while out of town. Research emergency dental clinics in your destination city and have those numbers handy to ensure that your time off is as relaxing as possible.
  2. No one ever regrets buying travel-sized gear. Keeping a travel toothbrush, floss and toothpaste on hand in addition to trial sizes of your favorite toiletries reduces your packing time, and not just during the holidays.
  3. Splurge on probiotics! Diseases and germs run rampant in buses, airports and other communal places that you might encounter during your trip. Researchers believe that probiotics are not only good for the gut; they may help maintain optimal oral health too!
  4. Toothbrushes don’t last forever! Generally, dentists recommend that you buy a new toothbrush every two to three months when at home. However if you are traveling, your toothbrush is exposed to even more bacteria. It’s best to toss it when you return home and swap it for a fresh brush, even if it hasn’t hit the three-month mark yet.
  5. Chewing gum is a limitless oral-health-on-the-go tip! Bringing sugar-free gum with you has multiple benefits; not only does it taste good and make your breath smell fresh, but the gum can help remove food that may be stuck in your teeth as well, acting as a secondary toothbrush.

Dental Implants: Five Things You May Not Know

How much do you know about dental implants? With the increasing popularity and availability of dental implant surgery worldwide, patients are gaining more and more knowledge about dental implants every day.

dental implant dBut did you know these five important facts?

  1. Dental implants are appropriate for almost all ages. Not just for the elderly, dental implants are frequently placed even in the mouths of young adults. As long as the jaw has stopped growing (after puberty; age 16 for girls and age 18 for boys), a dental implant can be placed with great success.
  2. The titanium post actually fuses (osseointegrates) with the natural jawbone. They grow together to form a stronger foundation for replacement teeth. So dental implants actually improve the bone structure in the jaw, they don’t just fill it in.
  3. The “dental implant” is actually just the titanium post, one of three parts of the whole process. Other parts used in the full procedure that we think of as “dental implant surgery” are known as the abutment (the connector) and the actual replacement tooth itself (the crown).
  4. Dental implants preserve jawbone, whereas other teeth replacement options can lead to bone deterioration. Bone is similar to muscle in that it must be used in order to maintain its mass. When a tooth goes missing and the site is left untreated, the jawbone underneath tends to deteriorate. Dental implants eliminate this problem by securing a natural-like tooth right into the jawbone and thus utilizing (and preserving) that area of bone.
  5. Dental implants protect their neighbors. By contrast, a traditional, tooth-supported bridge involves the grinding away of the teeth on either side to act as a hammock for the bridge. With dental implants, the jaw is the anchor and support for the artificial tooth.

The bottom line? Dental implants offer a safe and manageable alternative to traditional tooth replacement methods.

Teeth Nerve Stem Cells Signal New Age of Recovery

Have you ever thought about the possibility of growing new teeth? Of course, when we are younger, this phenomenon does occur, with adult teeth replacing our missing baby teeth. Many scientists and doctors, however, believed it was impossible, or highly unlikely for adults to ever form new teeth.

teeth nerve stem cellsYet only recently, researchers in Sweden have discovered that such a feat may one day become commonplace. While most scientists did know that the pulp in teeth contains a certain amount of stem cells, the Swedish researchers of the Karolinska Institute have discovered the origin of these cells.

These stem cells are typically used to help reform damaged teeth by assisting with the restoration of tooth tissue. Upon further examination, however, the researchers have discovered that these stem cells originally were nerve cells of the tooth. These cells leave the nerves at early stages of development, changing their identity to become part of the connective tissue, which forms dentin underneath the enamel.

The future possibilities for this discovery are almost endless. Using these nerve tissues, it may be possible for scientists to manipulate the stem cells to form new adult teeth. As these teeth will essentially be copies of one’s original teeth, this innovative process may replace veneers and other restorative processes as the best form of teeth restoration.

In fact, the benefits of this discovery may not stop with just teeth. Igor Adameyko, from Sweden’s Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, believes that all types of peripheral nerves, not just the ones found in teeth, “may function as important stem cell reserves.” Adameyko hypothesized that these “multipotent stem cells can depart from the nerves and contribute to the healing and reformation of tissues in different parts of the body.”

To summarize this exciting research, tooth nerve cells may be the key to a new wave of human recovery and restoration, and adult tooth creation is only one of these recently discovered benefits!

TMJ Treatment: A Cooperative Approach

As with many dental health procedures, the treatment of TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders requires a cooperative approach between you (the patient) and me (the doctor).  Once we have diagnosed the condition and narrowed in on the problem, we have many different treatment options to explore together.   And luckily, most cases of TMJ do not require surgery.

TMJ Treatment A Cooperative ApproachSymptoms of TMJ disorder range from an aching jaw and painful ear to difficulty chewing. Oftentimes there is a clicking noise when chewing.  And occasionally, locking of the joint can even occur.

The causes are just as wide-ranging as the symptoms.  Sometimes TMJ disorder is caused by a lack of cartilage, sometimes by a blow or impact injury, and occasionally it can be caused by excessive teeth clenching or grinding.

Once we have diagnosed (or ruled out) TMJ disorder, we can get to work on developing a treatment plan for you.  Here are some common treatment options that we will discuss in the office, divided up by: things we will do in the office and things you can do at home.

In the Office, we may:

  • Administer medications to reduce the immediate pain and relax the muscle.
  • Provide you with a splint (night guard).  The purpose of this is to keep your teeth apart during the night, allowing the muscles to relax.
  • Provide you with an anterior positioning appliance to keep your jaw forward.
  • In EXTREME cases, where the jaw can’t open or is dislocated, surgery may be recommended.

At home, we may ask you to:

  • Be mindful of keeping your teeth apart and resting your jaw when not eating.
  • Use ice and heat packs to comfort the area.
  • Eat soft foods.
  • Be aware of your posture.
  • Try a stress management routine that might include biofeedback.

Whatever type of jaw pain you are having, please give us a call so that we can help you figure out how serious it is and what to do about it!

What To Expect When Having a Tooth Extracted

What-To-Expect-When-Having-a-Tooth-ExtractedOne of the most common procedures done in our office is tooth extraction. The removal of teeth can be necessary for a number of reasons, including:

  • Joint problems in your jaw
  • Shifting teeth
  • Too much damage to tooth to be repaired
  • Baby teeth that don’t fall out
  • 3rd molars (Wisdom Teeth) impacted (wedged between the jaw and another tooth or teeth)
  • May be needed to create room for other teeth (such as when you’re getting braces)

Prior to Surgery

In preparation for surgery, we will obtain a full medical and dental history, as well as a list of all medications you take. This includes any vitamins, supplements, or over-the-counter drugs, as well as any medications you are allergic to.

An x-ray is then taken to assess the best way to remove the affected tooth.

You may be required to take antibiotics before or after surgery, depending on the duration of the surgery, or if you have a specific medical condition. We will discuss this with you if necessary.

Day of Surgery

At the time of surgery, your oral surgeon will numb the area around the tooth or teeth to be extracted with a local anesthetic, specifically numbing the affected tooth or teeth, your jawbone and the surrounding gums.

During the simple extraction process it is common to feel a lot of pressure. The affected tooth is firmly rocked back and forth so as to loosen it for removal. You should not feel any pain, just pressure. If, for any reason, you feel pain, please notify your oral surgeon immediately so that they can administer more numbing agent.

Surgical Extraction

A surgical extraction is a slightly more complex procedure that occurs when a tooth has not yet broken through the gum line, or has not yet fully grown into the mouth. When a surgical extraction is needed, your oral surgeon makes a small incision into your gum in order to access the affected tooth. From here, the procedure is similar to a simple extraction. Your oral surgeon may stitch the incision site if necessary.

After Oral Surgery

After the extraction you will be asked to bite down on a piece of gauze for 20-30 minutes. This pressure helps to form a blood clot in the extraction site, a crucial part of the healing process. Be careful not to dislodge the clot.

 

It is common to have a small amount of bleeding 24 hours after surgery. We will provide you with detailed instructions after your procedure, but here are some important things to remember:

 

Medications/Pain Management

  • Take pain medication as prescribed and recommended by your oral surgeon
  • Research has shown that taking anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Advil and Motrin (NSAIDs) greatly decrease pain after an extraction
  • Using an ice pack on your jaw can reduce swelling. 10 minutes on and 20 minutes off is standard for the first 24 hours. A warm compress can be used if your jaw is sore after the swelling has gone down

Eating/Drinking

  • Eat soft and cool foods for the first few days
  • Avoid hot foods and alcoholic beverages for the first 24 hours
  • Chew food away from the extraction site
  • Do not use a straw or spit after surgery. This can cause the blood cut to dislodge, greatly delaying healing

Brushing/Cleaning

  • Avoid brushing the area around the extraction site for the first 24 hours
  • Avoid using antiseptic and commercial mouth rinses – they can irritate the extraction site
  • 24 hours after surgery you can rinse with warm salt water after each meal and before bedtime (1/2 teaspoon in one cup of warm water)

Healing

The extraction site will generally close up in about 2 weeks time, but it can take three to six months for the bone and soft tissue to regrow. Remember, tooth extraction is a common procedure and our caring team has years of experience helping patients through this easy treatment.

Healthy Foods After Oral Surgery

On our website and social media channels, we have thoroughly explained why and how oral surgery is beneficial. Here’s a reason that has gone unmentioned: it will make you appreciate the solid foods and acidic drinks that you aren’t able to eat or drink immediately after your procedure.  Sandwiches, chips, and orange juice should all be avoided after your wisdom tooth removal, dental implant surgery, orthagnathic surgery etc. Too much chewing can possibly re-open the sensitive areas of your mouth, and can cause bleeding or even infection. But don’t worry – we have a few healthy food and beverage recommendations when your mouth is delicate.

Foods After SurgeryFirst 24 Hours

For the first 24 hours after your surgery, your teeth/jaw will need some time off. Therefore, smoothies, low-fat jello/puddings, and cold soups will be the most beneficial for your healing process. It is extremely important to refrain from using a straw, as the sucking causes excess strain, which ultimately can delay the healing process. Here are a few recommendations:

Banana Mango Shake- A healthy, filling way to start the day after your surgery. Also, bananas help replace electrolytes and maintain fluid balance within your body.

Applesauce- You can’t eat apples, but this is the next best thing!

Tomato Soup- A great snack even when your mouth isn’t sensitive.

Cold Pasta- Ever tried a Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Orzo? Might be the perfect time to expand your taste buds!

 

Next Few Weeks

Over the next few weeks, you will start easing into enjoying solid foods again. Here are some tasty transitional foods (some can even help the healing process!)

Broccoli Omelet: Who would’ve thought that healing from oral surgery could be so healthy? Broccoli contains enough calcium to speed up the healing process, and the eggs provide enough protein to make this a fully substantial meal while taking it easy on your teeth/jaw.

Chicken Salad: Finally some real meat! Chicken that is chopped up into small pieces can be eaten with a salad, or even a cold pasta. The chicken provides the protein, while the salad (with soft vegetables) provides the healthy goodness.

Chicken Pesto Pasta: Believe it or not, this dish can prevent oral infection. The basil in pesto contains volatile oils, which can protect the mouth from oral bacteria. The last thing your mouth needs after oral surgery is oral bacteria.

We hope that these recommendations help! We genuinely want you to heal as quickly as possibly while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Feel free to call us with any questions about the post oral surgery process.

Dental Implants: Changing the Way We Treat Missing Teeth

Dental implants are rapidly becoming the standard of care in how we, as dental professionals, deal with missing teeth.    And while the incidents of adults losing permanent teeth has been declining for decades, there is still a good chance that at some point in your life you too will require treatment for a lost permanent tooth.

Dental Implants Changing the wayThe way this was treated in the past was by one of two methods.  The first method was to install a bridge.  The second commonly used method was dentures.  But both of those methods present their own challenges and hassles to patients.  Thankfully, dental implants have improved so much over the years that more often than not they are a better choice for a patient’s oral care plan.

Here are our top five reasons that dental implants have a leg up on their old competitors:

  1. Almost Natural:  Dental implants are so sturdy that they feel and function just like a natural tooth.  This is achieved by inserting a screw into the jaw which is allowed to bond with the bone in that area.
  2. Longevity:  Dentures are a long term solution and have the ability to last a lifetime when properly placed and taken care of.  By contrast, traditional bridges last only about 5-7 years.
  3. Fully Functional:  Unlike dentures, which have a tendency to slip or feel uncomfortable and might even cause worry about possible embarrassments in public, dental implants don’t move when you are eating, talking or moving around.
  4. Face Shape Protection:  When a permanent tooth is lost, over time the face and smile can sag.  Dental implants fill in those spaces and allow you to keep your natural face shape longer!
  5. Keeps your Jaw in Shape!  Dental implants actually stimulate natural bone growth when set in the jaw.  Without them, the jaw gets lazy and can deteriorate.

If you have a site in your mouth where you are missing a tooth and have been wondering what to do about it, give us a call today for a consultation to see just how great dental implants can be!

5 Minutes to a Younger Face: BOTOX®

Botox - Woman FaceWho doesn’t know someone who has had BOTOX® injections?  What is BOTOX®?  What are the side effects?  Will it give me botulism?  Rest assured, these are all questions we are used to hearing in our practice.  So in response to overwhelming interest in and mounting requests for information, we are offering answers to some of the most popular questions first-time (and veteran) BOTOX®-users bring to us on a daily basis.

What is BOTOX®?  We’re glad you asked!  BOTOX® is a temporary treatment for the inevitable signs of aging that show up in our faces over the years.  Many people are uncomfortable with the worry, laugh and frown lines, crow’s feet and other facial wrinkles that accumulate over time.  BOTOX® treats this problem by relaxing the exact muscles that are causing the wrinkles.

How soon will I see results?  After about 5 days you will see the effects of BOTOX® injections on your selected target areas.

How long does the treatment last?  Usually about 3-4 months.  After that you will need additional treatments if you want to maintain that younger look.

BOTOX® side effects:  You may notice some minor discomfort such as swelling, stinging or throbbing in the treatment area.  Occasionally some bruising and swelling can remain for a few weeks.  Redness should dissipate within 24 hours.  Note:  In rare cases, it can cause temporary weakness of the surrounding muscles in the target area that could cause a drooping eyelid or asymmetrical expression in the face.

Still wondering about the botulism question?  While BOTOX® is technically the botulinum toxin, which is the same thing that causes the kind of botulism that makes you very sick, it is extremely rare for this to happen, and when it has, it was because the medicine was used incorrectly in one way or another.  Rest assured, we are fully trained and qualified to safely administer your BOTOX® injections.

Did we answer all of your questions here?  Contact us for more information and to schedule a consultation!

Calming Your Nerves Before Dental Procedures

Almost everyone has some feelings of nervousness when thinking about visiting the dentist.  We hear it all the time from our patients.  But don’t worry (I know, easier said than done).  It is totally normal to have a bit of anxiety (or even a lot of anxiety) before you come to our office.

Calming Your NervesIn our office, we have many years of experience in dealing with nervous patients.  So to help you out, we’ve compiled this quick yet effective set of tips for dealing with those inevitable nerves before your dental procedure.

  1. Let us know!  Sometimes just saying the words, “I’m a little bit nervous” can help by normalizing the nervousness itself a little bit, which instantly releases some of that stress that has the tendency to build up in your system. It also alerts us, which is great!  In fact, we might just be able to help by doing procedures a little bit differently than we normally would or even just by offering some words of encouragement and reassurance.
  2. Music – Ask us to turn up (or down) the music in your exam room if that helps.  Or, depending on the procedure, you may even be able to listen to your own MP3 player while we work away.  Ask us ahead of time to be sure the procedure will allow for this.
  3. Breathe – Did you know that consciously taking a breath instantly calls to action your parasympathetic nervous system which is the part of the brain responsible for calming you down?  The good news is that you always have your breath with you, so don’t forget to use it!  Just by paying attention to your breath, for example, how it feels coming in and going out and the other sensations it creates, you can access the calming center of your brain.  An easy breathing exercise that can be used anytime, anywhere, including in the dental chair is to breathe in for 4 counts, then out for 4 counts.   You will instantly feel better.

We hope you find these tips helpful in dealing with your dental fears.  Just remember, you are not alone.

Can My Dental Implants Get Cavities? And other common questions…

Can My Dental Implants Get CavitiesIn my practice, I hear dozens of questions every day about dental implants from concerned (or simply curious) patients.  Every one of those questions is a good question and I always try to provide an equally good answer.  To help you better understand an upcoming dental implant procedure, we’ve compiled a top-five list of the most common questions about dental implants that we field in our office every day:

1.  Can dental implants get cavities? 

No.   Because the implant-restored crown is an artificial (not natural) material, it cannot grow cavities, phew!  However, you still need to have regular gum care and cleanings around the implant site just like you would for a natural tooth.

2.  Can implants slip or fall out like dentures?

No.  The artificial tooth (crown) is attached to the permanent titanium post that is set in the jaw.  They will not slip around or fall out like you may have experienced with dentures.

3.  Can I sleep with my dental implants in?

Yes!  They are practically “permanent”, unlike dentures.  You do not need to remove and soak them overnight.

4.  Aren’t dental implants more expensive than bridges and dentures? 

It depends.  If you are talking about just a few teeth, implants may be cheaper over time than bridges because they last longer.  However, if you need a whole row of teeth replaced, dentures may be a less expensive option for you.  Each case is unique, however, so be sure to call us for a proper consultation.   We are here to help you understand your costs and benefits so that you can make an informed decision.

5.  How long will my dental implants last?

If implanted and cared for properly, dental implants can last for many decades or possibly even a lifetime.  Some implants have been in patients for over forty years!

Don’t see your question on our list?  Contact us today for quick answers!