Posts for: September, 2012
Gum disease, also called periodontal disease (from the roots for “around” and “tooth”) starts with redness and inflammation, progresses to infection, and can lead to progressive loss of attachment between the fibers that connect the bone and gum tissues to your teeth, ultimately causing loss of teeth. Here are some ways to assess your risk for gum disease.
Your risk for developing periodontal disease is higher if:
- You are over 40.
Studies have shown that periodontal disease and tooth loss correlate with aging. The longer plaque (a film of bacteria that collects on your teeth and gums) is allowed to stay in contact with your gums, the more you are at risk for periodontal disease. This means that brushing and flossing to remove plaque is important throughout your lifetime. To make sure you are removing plaque effectively, come into our office for an evaluation of your brushing and flossing techniques.
- You have a family history of gum disease.
If gum disease seems to “run in your family,” you may be genetically predisposed to having this disease. Your vulnerability or resistance to gum disease is influenced by genetics. The problem with this assessment is that if your parents were never treated for gum disease or lacked proper instruction in preventative strategies and care, their susceptibility to the disease is difficult to accurately quantify.
- You smoke or chew tobacco.
Here's more bad news for smokers. If you smoke or chew tobacco you are at much greater risk for the development and progression of periodontal disease. Smokers' teeth tend to have more plaque and tartar while also having them form more quickly.
- You are a woman.
Hormonal fluctuations during a woman's lifetime tend to make her more susceptible to gum disease than men, even if she takes good care of her teeth.
- You have ongoing health conditions such as heart disease, respiratory disease, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, high stress, or diabetes.
Research has shown a connection between these conditions and periodontal disease. The bacteria can pass into the blood stream and move to other parts of the body. Gum disease has also been connected with premature birth and low birth weight in babies.
- Your gums bleed when you brush or floss.
Healthy gums do not bleed. If yours do, you may already have the beginnings of gum disease.
- You are getting “long in the tooth.”
If your teeth appear longer, you may have advancing gum disease. This means that infection has caused your gum tissue to recede away from your teeth.
- Your teeth have been getting loose.
Advancing gum disease results in greater bone loss that is needed to support and hold your teeth in place. Loose teeth are a sign that you have a serious problem with periodontal disease.
Even with indications of serious periodontal disease, it can still be stopped. Make an appointment with us today to assess your risks. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Assessing Risk for Gum Disease.”
The embarrassment of having discolored and/or stained teeth can be monumental and negatively impact your love life, work career, interactions with others, on top of undermining your self-esteem. And it is this reality that urges many people to wonder what teeth whitening could do for their specific needs. However, before obtaining any “fix,” you really should get an understanding of what causes staining of your teeth. This important step will enable you to make the necessary lifestyle and behavioral changes to prevent future issues.
For example, letting us know which of the following common causes for staining teeth apply to you can be an excellent first step towards building an optimal action plan for brightening your smile.
Which of the following questions about discolored teeth apply to you?
- Staining from tobacco use?
- Staining from coffee, tea and/or wine?
- Your teeth have become progressively discolored and yellow with age?
- Staining from red (tomato-based) sauces, sodas/colas and blueberries among other things?
- Other family members have stained teeth so it seems to be genetic?
- Staining from medications such as the antibiotic tetracycline given as a child?
Your honest responses to the above, along with your medical history will enable us to formulate the appropriate therapy for brightening your smile. And for most people this includes bleaching, an inexpensive yet effective method for whitening teeth. It is most often accomplished using a gel that is between 15% and 35% carbamide peroxide, a type of hydrogen peroxide. Years of research have proven that this whitening agent does not damage tooth enamel or the nerves inside the teeth. The only side effect that some people experience is slight tooth sensitivity and irritation of the gum tissues. However, they both are usually temporary, often occuring when you first start bleaching and generally subside after a few days. You can learn more when you continue reading the Dear Doctor article, “Tooth Staining.” Or, you can contact us to discuss your questions or to schedule an appointment.
CAT scans or Computer Assisted Tomograph scans have been around for years. However, it is quickly becoming the new standard in dentistry. The reasons are clear both literally and figuratively, as they provide our office with millions of pictures so that we can combine them together to create 3-dimensional (3-D) images. Prior to this technology, we could only image the body in 2-dimensions with x-rays (radiographs) — a technology first developed by Roentgen.
One of the best features of CAT scans and CBCT (Cone Beam Computed Tomography) scanning is that they enable us to see and experience the body from the inside. Having this ability changes (and many times) improves upon the way we diagnose. Here's how they work in very simplistic terms. Picture your favorite multi-layered cake with each layer representing an image. A three-layer cake requires just three images. For us to build a 3-D image similar to the cake, we require millions of very thin layers (images) that we put together, one on top of another, until our results, one 3-D image. And by having so many thin layers, we are best able to diagnose. For example, in our cake analogy, it is easier to determine if the cake contains finely chopped nuts, berries or other ingredients when you cut numerous very thin slices of cake to examine versus having one large chunk of cake.
It is important to note that in our office we may not recommend using this technology in all cases, as it may not be necessary for your particular diagnosis and/or treatment. While the technology can prove invaluable, it is quite expensive and a simple 2-D x-ray may provide everything we need. However, some dental specialty areas where CAT scans are currently used include:
- Orthodontists and pediatric dentists
- Cosmetic dentists and tooth replacement specialists (prosthodontists)
- Oral surgeons
- Root canal specialists (endodontists)
- Gum specialist (periodontists)
To learn more about CAT scans and how they are used in the various specialty areas, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “CAT Scans in Dentistry.” Or you can contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your specific questions.