Posts for: February, 2020
How do you know if you have periodontal (gum) disease? Sometimes your gums will tell you—when they’re red, swollen or bleed easily.
But your gums can also look and feel healthy while a gum infection still brews below the gum line. In this case, a regular dental visit could make the difference. Even without overt signs of infection, we may be able to detect gum disease with a slender metal instrument called a periodontal probe.
Gum disease is a bacterial infection that most of the time arises from dental plaque. This thin film of bacteria and food particles accumulates on tooth surfaces, especially because of poor or non-existent oral hygiene. A continuing infection can weaken gum tissues and cause them to pull away or detach from the teeth.
Normally, there’s a slight gap between the gums and teeth. But as the infected gums pull away, the gaps grow larger and deeper, forming what are known as periodontal pockets. They become filled with infection that soon spreads to the root and bone and increases the risk of tooth loss.
These pockets, though, could be the means for detecting a gum infection with the help of the periodontal probe. During a dental exam we gently insert the probe, which has millimeter depth markings etched on it, between a tooth and its adjacent gums. While a depth of 1 to 3 mm is normal, a probe measurement of 4 to 5 mm could be a sign of an early stage infection. A reading of 7 to 10 mm, on the other hand, may indicate more advanced disease.
Along with other factors, periodontal probing can be quite useful identifying both the presence and extent of a gum infection and then how to treat it. The goal of any treatment is to remove plaque and tartar (calculus) deposits that sustain the infection. But probing, along with other diagnostic methods like x-rays, could point to deeper infection below the gum line that require more extensive methods, including surgery, sometimes to access and remove the disease.
Achieving the best treatment outcome with gum disease often depends on finding the infection early. Periodontal probing helps to make that discovery more likely.
It is recommended to use an electric toothbrush when you have braces as they generally do a better job with cleaning. An electric toothbrush can achieve more brush strokes in 2 minutes than you can do with your hand. Electric toothbrushes are either circular or oval-shaped, and either use an oscillating or sweeping motion. Electric toothbrushes help remove bacteria from difficult to access areas. These areas are around the braces, around the brackets, the gum line and the biting surfaces of the teeth.
A water flosser is a helpful flossing aid that actually uses a jet of water to help flush out bacteria from around the braces and between the teeth. You can either use water or mouthwash in your water flosser.
This is a type of brush that helps to clean between the brackets, which can be a tough area to access with your toothbrush and floss or a water flosser. A proxabrush is quite similar to the end of a pipe cleaner; it has small bristles that extend outward and helps by trapping plaque and pulling it out. Rinse your proxabrush with water between use.
Fluoride is an essential component in keeping your teeth healthy with and without braces. When you have brackets on your teeth and plaque building up around the brackets, sometimes you can end up with white “decalcified” areas around the brackets when you get your braces off. Fluoride helps to keep the enamel of your teeth strong and healthy so that plaque has less of a chance of damaging your teeth. Fluoride strengthens your enamel to prevent cavities.
Regular dental cleanings and checkups are necessary when braces are on to access the nooks and crannies that are difficult for you to access at home. All the plaque, tartar and staining will be cleaned off your teeth, your teeth and gums will be thoroughly checked over, and brushing and flossing will be reviewed.
Root canal treatments are an essential part of dental care — countless teeth with deep decay would be lost each year without it. Now, this traditional dental care procedure is advancing to a new level of precision through lasers.
Root canal treatments have a simple goal: access a tooth's infected pulp and root canals, clean out the infected tissue and fill the empty pulp chamber and canals with a special filling. Once filled, the access is sealed and a porcelain crown later placed for additional protection against re-infection.
In the traditional procedure, we perform these steps manually with a dental drill and hand instruments. We may also need to remove a good portion of tooth structure, both healthy and infected tissue. A laser, on the other hand, is a highly focused beam of light with the ability to interact with healthy and infected tissues differently: destroying infected tissue while having no effect on nearby healthy tissue. The end result: we may be able to remove less healthy tissue with lasers than with the conventional procedure.
Lasers are also helpful with softening and precisely molding the filling material within each canal's particular shape. And, early reports seem to indicate a higher degree of comfort for patients (less drill noise and need for anesthesia), less bleeding and faster recovery times than the conventional approach.
But as a tool for root canal treatments, lasers do have a couple of disadvantages. While light travels in a straight line, root canals are rarely straight — conventional instruments with curved designs usually accommodate odd canal shapes better than a laser. Lasers can also raise temperatures within a tooth that can damage healthy tissue, both within the pulp and outward into the dentin.
Still, lasers for root canal treatments appear promising with some dentists using a combination of lasers and manual techniques to garner benefits from both approaches. While you won't see lasers replacing the traditional root canal treatment anytime soon, the future looks bright for more efficient ways to treat deep tooth decay.