Posts for: April, 2014
Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), better known as aspirin, is an effective pain reliever and fever reducer. More recently, its anti-inflammatory properties have become part of the management of cardiovascular disease. But while regular use may benefit your general health, it could complicate your dental care.
Aspirin helps reduce inflammatory pain or fever by blocking the body’s formation of prostaglandins, chemicals that contribute to inflammation after trauma or injury. It also prevents blood platelets from sticking and clumping together. While this can prolong normal bleeding and bruising, it also helps the blood move freely through narrowed or damaged blood vessels, which reduces the risk of heart attack or stroke in at-risk cardiovascular patients. Due to side effects from prolonged aspirin use like kidney damage, stomach bleeding, or ulceration, physicians normally prescribe a low aspirin dosage (81 milligrams) to minimize these effects.
Because of its effect on bleeding and clotting, it’s important that every member of your healthcare team — including your dentist — knows how much and how often you take aspirin. The change it causes in your body’s clotting mechanism may also affect how dental procedures are carried out; by knowing you take aspirin regularly we can take extra precautions to ensure your safety.
In fact, if you’ve been prescribed aspirin for a heart condition, you may be tempted to stop taking it before a dental procedure out of fear of profuse bleeding. This is highly unadvisable — the sudden discontinuation could increase your risk of heart attack, stroke or even death. You should only discontinue aspirin treatment at the direction of your prescribing physician.
Another aspirin-related effect may involve your gums and other soft tissues. You may notice gum tissue bleeding after brushing or flossing; while this is normally a sign of periodontal gum disease, it could also be the result of your aspirin therapy. The only way to know for sure is to schedule a visit with us to examine your gums.
When it comes to aspirin or other blood-related therapies, the key is to communicate your health status with us, including all medications you are taking. With that knowledge we can provide you with the most informed and safest dental care we can.
If you would like more information on the effects of aspirin on your dental care, 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 “Aspirin: Friend or Foe?”
Periodontal gum disease is a relentless enemy to dental health that destroys gum tissue and the teeth’s attachment to the jaw. As it ravages these tissues it often creates periodontal pockets, hidden spaces between the teeth and bone that fill with infectious bacteria capable of accelerating damage to teeth and gums.
The primary treatment goal for gum disease is to create an environment that is cleansable below the gum tissues, in order to remove as much bacterial plaque from the tooth, gum and root surfaces as possible. Periodontal pockets pose a challenge to this goal as they are extremely difficult to access using standard cleaning and root planing techniques the deeper they become. Cleaning and treating these deep pockets, however, is made easier with a procedure known as periodontal flap surgery.
This procedure is not a cure, but rather a way to access the interior of a periodontal pocket to remove infection and diseased tissue. In effect, we create an opening — like the hinged flap of a letter envelope — to gain entry into the affected pocket. Not only does this opening enable us to clean out infection within the pocket, but it can also facilitate cleaning the tooth’s root surfaces.
It also provides an opening for us to insert grafting materials to regenerate lost bone and tissue. It’s nearly impossible for this tissue regeneration to occur if bacterial infection and inflammation persist in the affected area. Periodontal flap surgery provides us the critical access we need to effectively remove these contaminants that stymie healthy growth.
This procedure is normally performed with local anesthesia and usually results in little bleeding and minimal post-operative effects. Once we have finished any procedures to clean the pocket and other affected tissues, or installed grafts for future bone and tissue growth, we would then seal the flap back against the tooth using sutures and gentle pressure to promote blood clotting around the edges. We might also install a moldable dressing that re-secures the edges of the flap to their proper position and prevents food debris from interfering with healing.
Periodontal flap surgery is the result of years of research to find the best techniques for treating gum disease. It’s one of many weapons in our arsenal for winning the war against decay and gum disease, and helping you realize a healthier dental future.
If you would like more information on periodontal flap surgery, 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 “Periodontal Flap Surgery.”
When a tooth is lost, it’s important to restore your mouth to its proper function and appearance with a permanent replacement, such as a dental implant or a bridge. Recently, the implant system has received the lion’s share of attention (for some good reasons); however, in certain situations, dental bridgework offers a viable alternative. What would cause one method to be favored over the other?
In general, implants are now considered the gold standard for tooth replacement. They have the highest success rate (over 95 percent), last the longest (quite possibly the rest of your life), and don’t affect the integrity of adjacent teeth. Bridges, by contrast, require the removal of tooth structure from adjacent teeth, which can potentially compromise their health. Yet implants aren’t necessarily ideal for every situation. When might a bridge be preferred?
Some people don’t have the proper quantity or quality of bone in the jaw to support an implant; or, they may have anatomical structures (nerves or sinuses) located where they would interfere with an implant. It is possible in some cases to work around these obstacles with bone grafts, or by placing implants in alternate locations; in other cases, a bridge may be a better option.
While most tolerate the implant process quite well, a few people aren’t good candidates for the surgical procedure required to place an implant. Certain systemic diseases (uncontrolled diabetes, for example), the use of particular medications, or a compromised immune system may make even minor surgery an unacceptable risk. In these cases, a decision may be made after consulting with an individual’s other health care providers. Additionally, a few behaviors or lifestyle issues, like heavy smoking or a teeth-grinding habit, tend to make implants have a less favorable success rate.
There are also a few circumstances that could argue in favor of a bridge — for example, if you already have a need for crowns on the teeth adjacent to the gap, it can make the process of getting bridgework easier and more economical. Financial issues are often an important consideration in planning treatment — but it’s important to remember that while bridges are generally less expensive than implants in the short term, the much longer expected life of implants can make them more cost-effective in the long run.
If you have questions about dental implants or bridgework for tooth replacement, please call our office to arrange a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Crowns & Bridgework.”
Thumb or finger sucking is a normal activity for babies and young children — they begin the habit while still in the womb and may continue it well into the toddler stage. Problems with tooth development and alignment could arise, however, if the habit persists for too long.
It’s a good idea, then, to monitor your child’s sucking habits during their early development years. There are also a few things you can do to wean them off the habit before it can cause problems down the road.
- Eliminate your child’s use of pacifiers by eighteen months of age. Studies have shown that the sucking action generated through pacifiers could adversely affect a child’s bite if they are used after the age of 2. Weaning your child off pacifiers by the time they are a year and a half old will reduce the likelihood of that occurring.
- Encourage your child to stop thumb or finger sucking by age 3. Most children tend to stop thumb or finger sucking on their own between the ages of 2 and 4. As with pacifiers, if this habit continues into later childhood it could cause the upper front teeth to erupt out of position and tip toward the lip. The upper jaw also may not develop normally.
- Replace your child’s baby bottle with a training cup around one year of age. Our swallowing mechanism changes as we grow; introducing your child to a training cup at around a year old will encourage them to transition from “sucking” to “sipping,” and make it easier to end the thumb or finger sucking habit.
- Begin regular dental visits for your child by their first birthday. The Age One visit will help you establish a regular habit of long-term dental care. It’s also a great opportunity to evaluate your child’s sucking habits and receive helpful advice on reducing it in time.
While your child’s thumb or finger sucking isn’t something to panic over, it does bear watching. Following these guidelines will help your child leave the habit behind before it causes any problems.
If you would like more information on children’s thumb-sucking and its effect on dental development, 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 “Thumb Sucking in Children.”
The perception that orthodontics is mainly for children or teenagers is changing rapidly. The number of adults seeking treatment for misaligned teeth is on the rise, especially with the development of less intrusive treatments like clear aligners.
Still, as an adult you may be wondering if having your teeth straightened is really worth the effort. There are good reasons to consider orthodontic treatment even when your teen years are well in your rear view mirror — and improving your smile is only just one of them.
To be sure, smile enhancement is an important reason. We place a high value on presenting our best appearance; indeed, our self-assurance and esteem suffers if we feel we have a less than pleasing smile. Adults who improve their smiles through orthodontics typically see a rise in confidence and an improvement in life attitudes that can have a positive impact on their social, career and financial development.
But there is another reason: as a general rule, misaligned teeth do not function as well. Biting, chewing and speaking may be more difficult. Over the long-term misaligned teeth and the resulting poor bite can have an adverse effect on nutrition, social skills and normal tooth wear.
What's more, misaligned teeth are more difficult to clean even with conscientious daily hygiene. Despite your best efforts, this can lead to increased plaque that causes tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. In regard to gums, misaligned teeth may be more prone to receding gums which further exposes teeth to harmful bacteria. Realigning teeth can vastly improve dental hygiene.
As with considering any dental procedure, the first step is a complete dental examination to measure the level of misalignment, as well as the current health of your teeth and gums. After that, we can discuss your orthodontic options for not only correcting your smile, but improving your oral hygiene which can have a pronounced improvement in your oral health as well.
If you would like more information on the benefits of orthodontic 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 “Why Straighten Teeth.”