Posts for: April, 2020
If you know anything about dental disease, then you know bacteria ranks high on the Usual Suspects list. Tooth decay gets its start from acid produced by bacteria; periodontal (gum) disease is often triggered by bacteria that infect the gums.
But the particular strains of bacteria that can cause dental disease are a small percentage of the 10,000-plus species inhabiting your mouth. The rest, numbering in the millions, are fairly benign—and some, as recent research is now showing, play a sizeable role in protecting your teeth and gums against other malicious bacteria, fungi and viruses.
Dr. Aaron Weinberg, a dental researcher at Case Western Reserve University, has been investigating these protective bacteria for many years. His research began with a scientific conundrum: although the mouth has one of the highest densities of bacterial populations, wounds in the mouth tend to heal quickly.
The answer, he believes, originates with human beta defensins (hBDs), substances produced by cells in the lining of the mouth that are natural antibiotics against disease. He has found that certain bacteria actually help stimulate their production.
This isn't just an interesting fact about the body's defenses and immune system. During his research, Dr. Weinberg was able to identify the agent within the bacteria that triggered hBD production. This has opened up a new line of research: The possibility that harnessing this agent might help assist in our treatment of infection by boosting the body's defensive capabilities.
For example, researchers have proposed including a form of the agent in toothpaste. Over time, this might stimulate hBD production and guard the mouth against the development of dental diseases like gum disease.
These possibilities all come from our increasing knowledge and understanding of the microscopic world around us, especially in our mouths. Bacteria are much more complex than we may have realized—not all are our enemies, and some are definitely our friends. Learning more may open up new ways to keep our teeth and gums healthy.
As the host of America's Funniest Home Videos on ABC TV, Alfonso Ribeiro has witnessed plenty of unintentional physical comedy…or, as he puts it in an interview with Dear Doctor–Dentistry & Oral Health magazine, "When people do stuff and you're like, 'Dude, you just hurt yourself for no reason!'" So when he had his own dental dilemma, Alfonso was determined not to let it turn onto an "epic fail."
The television personality was in his thirties when a painful tooth infection flared up. Instead of ignoring the problem, he took care of it by visiting his dentist, who recommended a root canal procedure. "It's not like you wake up and go, 'Yay, I'm going to have my root canal today!'" he joked. "But once it's done, you couldn't be happier because the pain is gone and you're just smiling because you're no longer in pain!"
Alfonso's experience echoes that of many other people. The root canal procedure is designed to save an infected tooth that otherwise would probably be lost. The infection may start when harmful bacteria from the mouth create a small hole (called a cavity) in the tooth's surface. If left untreated, the decay bacteria continue to eat away at the tooth's structure. Eventually, they can reach the soft pulp tissue, which extends through branching spaces deep inside the tooth called root canals.
Once infection gets a foothold there, it's time for root canal treatment! In this procedure, the area is first numbed; next, a small hole is made in the tooth to give access to the pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels. The diseased tissue is then carefully removed with tiny instruments, and the canals are disinfected to prevent bacteria from spreading. Finally, the tooth is sealed up to prevent re-infection. Following treatment, a crown (cap) is usually required to restore the tooth's full function and appearance.
Root canal treatment sometimes gets a bad rap from people who are unfamiliar with it, or have come across misinformation on the internet. The truth is, a root canal doesn't cause pain: It relieves pain! The alternatives—having the tooth pulled or leaving the infection untreated—are often much worse.
Having a tooth extracted and replaced can be costly and time consuming…yet a missing tooth that isn't replaced can cause problems for your oral health, nutrition and self-esteem. And an untreated infection doesn't just go away on its own—it continues to smolder in your body, potentially causing serious problems. So if you need a root canal, don't delay!
If you would like additional information on root canal treatment, please contact us or schedule a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “A Step-By-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment” and “Root Canal Treatment: What You Need to Know.”
When you hear the word “dentures” you probably think of an appliance that replaces all the teeth on a dental arch. But there is another type: a removable partial denture (RPD), which can be a viable option for replacing a few missing teeth.
An RPD rests on the bony gum ridges that once held the missing teeth and are secured with clasps or other attachments to adjacent teeth. While lightweight, RPDs are designed to last for many years — they’re made of vitallium, a light but very strong metal alloy that reduces the RPD’s thickness. Recently, metal-free partial dentures are being used that don’t have the fit or longevity of the vitallium partial dentures, but are considered more of a cosmetic solution.
RPDs are custom-made for each individual patient to accommodate the number, location and distribution of teeth missing throughout the mouth. Their design must also reflect the health and stability of the gums and remaining natural teeth to ensure they won’t move unduly during normal mouth function, and will be as lifelike and unnoticeable as possible.
RPDs have been a mainstay in dentistry for many years and represent a less expensive tooth replacement option than implants or fixed bridgework. But they do have their downsides: because of their method of attachment to the remaining natural teeth they tend to accumulate plaque, which increases the risk of both periodontal (gum) disease and tooth decay. Their fit requires that they attach to the adjacent teeth that will cause some damage and lead to their looseness over time.
If you wear an RPD, there are some things you can do to decrease these problems. First and foremost, you should clean your RPD thoroughly every day, as well as brush and floss your remaining teeth to reduce plaque buildup especially at contact points. Be sure to remove the RPD at night while you sleep. And keep up regular dental visits not only for additional plaque removal but also to allow us to inspect the RPD for problems or wear.
An RPD is a viable option for improving mouth function and restoring your smile after multiple tooth loss. With proper care and maintenance, your RPD can serve you well for many years to come.
If you would like more information on removable partial dentures, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Removable Partial Dentures.”