Posts for: November, 2013
Today's periodontal (gum) surgical procedures are less painful and have fewer complications than ever before. Nevertheless, the best outcome still depends on how well you care for yourself as you recuperate. Here are some things you can do after surgery to lessen its effect.
In the first twenty-four hours after surgery, your primary objective is to prevent swelling, the major source of post-operative discomfort. You can accomplish this by applying an ice or cold pack to the outside of your face in the area of the surgery. It's best to alternate five minutes on and off with the pack for the outside, and ice chips, cold water or ice cream inside your mouth as often as possible. Your aim is to surround the surgical site with cold as much as you can with the five-minute on and off strategy.
You should eat only foods that are cold and soft (Jell-O™, applesauce, yogurt, ice cream, etc.), to help ease any swelling. The next day switch to hotter foods like soup, mashed potatoes or buttered pasta, as well as hot, salt water rinses as often as convenient. Avoid crumbly foods like chips, cookies or popcorn for a few days to help keep the incision site particle-free.
We typically prescribe a number of medications during recuperation: analgesics (usually of the aspirin or ibuprofen family) for swelling and pain, and antibiotics and antibacterial rinses to inhibit bacterial growth. Be sure to follow directions with each prescribed medication, taking the correct dosage and for the specified duration.
There is a possibility of post-operative bleeding — but don't panic. You should first attempt to locate the bleeding area, clean it, and then apply gentle pressure with moist, sterile gauze for ten to fifteen minutes. If the bleeding doesn't stop, give us a call.
You should keep the wound site as clean as possible to help avoid infection. However, don't brush, floss or rinse during the first twenty-four hours to avoid bleeding, and limit hygiene activities to antibacterial mouthrinses like chlorhexidine near the wound site for several days to weeks. During the first few days to a week after surgery avoid activities like strenuous exercise, drinking alcohol, sucking through a straw, or blowing up a balloon, as these can also increase your risk for bleeding. You should also avoid tobacco products during this time as these can inhibit the healing process. Each surgery is different and you should make sure you follow the specific instructions your surgeon will provide for you.
Taking these precautions will help keep discomfort and complications to a minimum. They will also help you recover quickly so that you can get back to your normal life.
If you would like more information on periodontal surgery and what to expect, 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 “Instructions Following Periodontal Surgery.”
Nothing ruins a thirst-quenching cold beverage or a dish of your favorite ice cream like a sudden pang of tooth sensitivity. If you're experiencing this problem — and especially if there are other triggers, like biting down — we encourage you to make an appointment. It could be something harmless and temporary, but it's always prudent to check. At the very least, you'll feel better once the underlying problem is identified and treated if necessary.
Here are some common sources of tooth sensitivity:
- Enamel erosion — typically caused by acidic beverages/food, regurgitation of stomach acids (due to gastroesophageal reflux disease [GERD] or the eating disorder bulimia), or improper brushing
- Tooth decay — a sugary diet and poor dental hygiene may be contributing factors
- Tooth fracture or chipping due to tooth grinding (bruxism) or other trauma
- Gum recession due to age, improper tooth brushing, or gum disease
- Filling that needs repair or replacement
- Residual effects of recent dental work
Some things you can try at home to minimize sensitivity include:
- Ease up on the toothbrush; a light touch is all that's needed to dislodge daily plaque build-up
- Try using fluoride-containing toothpaste like an ointment over the affected area (fluoride decreases fluid exchange from the oral environment to the nerve inside the tooth)
- Take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen (use judiciously and according to the package insert guidelines)
Discomfort related to recent dental work should resolve on its own; give it several weeks. If you're feeling discomfort for another reason, even if the sensitivity subsides, the underlying cause may still require attention.
If you would like more information about tooth sensitivity, 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 “Sensitive Teeth.”
Maybe you've seen some marketing material for dental implants featuring smiling, silver-haired seniors. Perhaps this made you think that implants are a tooth replacement system that's primarily intended for older adults. If so, let's change that impression right now: Dental implants are suitable for almost all adults, not just older folks!
Today's best option for tooth replacement, implants can help most people who suffer from the problem of missing or failing permanent teeth. (In children, however, where the jaw is still growing, implants aren't generally used.) Of course, it is our goal as dentists to preserve as many of the natural teeth as possible. But when that isn't possible, implants offer the best option for tooth replacement.
The Implant System
What makes the dental implant system such a great option for replacing lost teeth? Let's start with the implant itself. This small, screw-shaped device is made of titanium metal, which has a unique property: When placed in the jaw, in a minor surgical procedure, it becomes fused with the living bone tissue. This provides a solid anchor for the visible part of the replacement tooth, the crown, which is attached to the implant by a connecting piece called an abutment.
Because the implant is securely fixed in the jaw, it provides the replacement tooth with a firm foundation that won't come loose — and it doesn't depend on other teeth for support, like bridges do. It also stops the process of bone loss, which occurs in the area of the jaw where a missing tooth was formerly located. The erosion of bone, which begins as soon as a tooth is lost, can create the appearance of premature aging, and may eventually lead to further dental problems.
Why You May Need Implants
Older folks aren't the only ones who experience tooth loss; younger people suffer from this problem too. Accidents and injuries are one cause, whether they are sports-related, or result from habits like biting pencils or grinding teeth. Lifestyle may be another factor. Poor nutrition, excessive consumption of sugary substances (including certain “sports” and “energy” drinks), and the lack of proper dental hygiene and professional care can allow moderate problems to get much worse.
A major cause of tooth loss is disease, such as tooth decay or periodontal disease. These can be a problem at any age. But a few conditions may cause serious dental problems in younger people — bulimia, for example. When stomach acids enter the mouth, they can rapidly erode the tooth enamel. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can create similar problems.
When Should You Get Implants?
Preserving your natural teeth whenever possible is a major goal of modern dentistry. But when teeth can't be saved, it's time to consider implants. While they are initially more expensive than more traditional tooth replacement methods (like bridges or removable dentures), they can last for the rest of your life with only routine care. That's something no other method can claim, and it makes them a great value, especially for younger people. Plus, they feel completely natural and look great.
You have a beautiful smile, but you hesitate to show it because of your stained teeth. Fortunately, whitening techniques could take away that embarrassment.
There are two basic types of tooth staining or discoloration: extrinsic, in which the stain is on the surface of the teeth and mostly caused by substances like coffee, wine or tobacco; and intrinsic, which occurs deep within the tooth, caused by such factors as aging, previous dental treatments and fillings, the use of antibiotics (tetracycline, predominantly), or over-exposure to fluoride.
Whitening or bleaching is an effective and relatively affordable solution for many instances of both intrinsic and extrinsic staining. Bleaching solutions are available in over-the-counter (OTC) home kits or as a professional application in the dental office.
Most bleaching solutions use carbamide peroxide, a chemical compound that is effective in removing most stains. OTC home applications contain carbamide peroxide (or an equivalent) in concentrations of about 10% as opposed to 15-35% found in professional solutions. Though less costly than a professional application, OTC products take longer (usually up to three weeks) to achieve desired results. With its stronger solution, a professional application in our office can achieve the same level of brightness in only one or two visits. We may also use special lighting to accelerate the chemical process, as well as rubber dams or gels to protect gums and soft tissues from solution irritation during the procedure.
Although effective, whitening isn't a permanent solution — over time the effect will fade, usually six months to a year depending on how you care for your teeth. Matching tooth color can also be difficult in some cases, especially if you have a mix of natural teeth and artificial crowns or bridges. And, whitening may not be adequate for some types of staining.
Regardless of which application you wish to use — OTC or professional — it's a good idea to visit us first for a professional consultation. We can recommend whether whitening is a good choice for your particular type and level of staining, or if some other option like porcelain veneers might be the better choice. Regardless, there are solutions to the problem of staining, and a way to gain a brighter smile.
If you would like more information on bleaching, 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 “Teeth Whitening.”