Posts for: May, 2014
According to popular culture, a root canal treatment is one of life’s most painful experiences. But popular culture is wrong — this common treatment doesn’t cause pain, it relieves it. Knowing the facts will help alleviate any anxiety you may feel if you’re scheduled to undergo the procedure.
A root canal treatment addresses a serious problem involving the pulp of a tooth that has become infected. The pulp is a system of blood vessels, nerves and connective tissues inside the tooth that helps the tooth maintain its vitality. It also contains a series of minute passageways known as root canals that interconnect with the body’s nervous system.
The pulp may become infected for a number of reasons: tooth decay, gum disease, repetitive dental procedures, or traumatic tooth damage. Once the pulp becomes irreversibly damaged it must be completely removed from the tooth and the root canals filled and sealed in order to save the tooth.
We begin the procedure by numbing the affected tooth and surrounding tissues with local anesthesia and placing a dental dam (a thin sheet of rubber or vinyl) over the area to isolate the tooth and prevent the spread of infection to other oral tissues. We then drill a small hole in the top of the tooth to access the pulp chamber. Using special instruments, we then remove the infected or dead pulp tissue through the access hole and then wash and cleanse the root canals and pulp chamber with antiseptic and antibacterial solutions.
After additional preparation, we fill the root canals and pulp chamber with a filling especially designed for this kind of treatment, usually a rubber-like substance called gutta-percha that easily molds and compresses when heated. We then seal the access hole with a temporary filling (until a permanent crown can be fashioned) to prevent infection from reentering the pulp space. After the procedure, you may experience some minor discomfort easily managed with over-the-counter pain relievers.
You’ll find the root canal treatment alleviates the symptoms prompted by the pulp infection, particularly acute pain. What’s more, a successful root canal will have achieved something even more crucial to your health — it will give your tooth a second chance at survival.
If you would like more information on root canal 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 “A step-By-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment.”
Many Hollywood luminaries use porcelain veneers to enhance their smiles. Take actress and singer Hilary Duff, who, according to People magazine, had veneers placed on her two front teeth after chipping them on a microphone during what must have been an extremely energetic performance.
Well, you don't have to be a Hollywood star to benefit from a smile enhanced with porcelain veneers. If you have small chips, cracks, slight tooth rotations or minor spacing problems, veneers may be able to give you back your smile — or an even better one.
The word “veneer” refers to a super-thin covering, and in dentistry a veneer is a thin layer of porcelain that replaces your natural tooth enamel. Porcelain is the material of choice because of its strength, translucency, and ability to resist erosion.
In the right hands, dental porcelain can mimic tooth enamel perfectly. To make veneers, a skilled dental technician will mix porcelain powder (in a shade specified by the dentist) with water and then fire the material in an oven like pottery; the porcelain is built up in layers for a truly lifelike effect.
Before a veneer is bonded to a tooth, often we need to remove a tiny bit of the tooth's existing enamel so that the final effect will not be too bulky. The procedure is virtually painless and can be completed in as little as two visits. Because enamel is removed, this particular cosmetic treatment is not reversible. Sometimes veneers can be added directly onto the tooth surface without any tooth reduction and therefore are reversible if used in this way.
Once you have veneers, please keep in mind that while extremely strong, porcelain veneers are not indestructible; you won't want to do things like crunch ice or break nuts open with your teeth. And if you are a teeth-grinder, you should wear a nightguard to protect your beautiful new smile. With proper care, your veneers will last 20 years or more.
If you would like more information about porcelain veneers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Smile Design Enhanced With Porcelain Veneers.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Cosmetic Dentistry: A Time For Change.”
Q: What is sleep apnea, and how common is it?
A: Obstructive sleep apnea is a type of sleep-related breathing disorder (SRBD) in which the airflow to the lungs is restricted — or even cut off completely — during sleep. This condition is usually caused by the collapse of soft tissues in the back of the throat, and is potentially deadly. Sleep disorders, including SRBD, are thought to affect tens of millions of people in the United States. They have been blamed for several catastrophic accidents, including the 2014 Metro-North train crash in New York, and the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.
Q: How can I tell if I might have sleep apnea?
A: Everyone has trouble sleeping sometimes. But if you constantly snore, wake up feeling irritable, and experience sleepiness and diminished performance during the day, it may mean you suffer from this condition. After a while, SRBDs can trigger depression, confusion, memory loss, and other personality changes. Medical professionals note that a person with SRBD tends to be obese; to show enlargement of the tongue, tonsils, or uvula; to have nasal polyps or congestion; and possibly, to exhibit other signs.
Q: How is sleep apnea treated?
A: There are various treatments for sleep apnea, depending on the severity of the problem and its likely cause. These include oral appliance therapy (wearing a retainer-like device in the mouth at night); orthodontic treatment and/or oral surgery; and using a CPAP (constant positive airway pressure) machine to help facilitate breathing at night. Each has advantages and disadvantages that should be discussed with a healthcare provider who has experience in the area of sleep disorders.
Q: What does all this have to do with dentistry?
A: Dentists are, of course, extremely familiar with the anatomy of the mouth. We sometimes notice signs of potential sleep problems before they become life-threatening. What’s more, we may be able to successfully treat the problem with oral appliance therapy. We can properly fabricate, fit and adjust an oral device that helps keep your airway open at night. Because it is inexpensive, removable, and relatively comfortable, an oral appliance may be a good remedy to try before moving on to more complex treatments, such as a CPAP machine or surgery. So if you think you might have SRBD, maybe it’s time to make an appointment and talk to us about it.