Posts for: July, 2021
During this year's baseball spring training, Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton got into a row with a steak dinner—and the beefsteak got the better of it. During his meal, the Gold Glove winner cracked a tooth.
Fortunately, he didn't lose it. Buxton's dentist rescued the tooth with a dental procedure that's been around for over a century—a root canal treatment. The dependable root canal is responsible for saving millions of teeth each year.
Dentists turn to root canal treatments for a number of reasons: a permanent tooth's roots are dissolving (a condition called resorption); chronic inflammation of the innermost tooth pulp due to repeated fillings; or a fractured or cracked tooth, like Buxton's, in which the pulp becomes exposed to bacteria.
One of the biggest reasons, though, is advanced tooth decay. Triggered by acid, a by-product of bacteria, a tooth's enamel softens and erodes, allowing decay into the underlying dentin. In its initial stages, we can often treat decay with a filling. But if the decay continues to advance, it can infect the pulp and root canals and eventually reach the bone.
Decay of this magnitude seriously jeopardizes a tooth's survival. But we can still stop it before that point with a root canal. The basic procedure is fairly straightforward. We begin first by drilling a small hole into the tooth to access the inner pulp and root canals. Using special instruments, we then remove all of the infected tissue within the tooth.
After disinfecting the now empty spaces and reshaping the root canals, we fill the tooth with a rubber-like substance called gutta percha. This, along with filling the access hole, seals the tooth's interior from future infection. In most cases, we'll return sometime later and bond a life-like crown to the tooth (as Buxton's dentist did for him) for added protection and support.
You would think such a procedure would get its own ticker tape parade. Unfortunately, there's a cultural apprehension that root canals are painful. But here's the truth—because your tooth and surrounding gums are numbed by local anesthesia, a root canal procedure doesn't hurt. Actually, if your tooth has been throbbing from tooth decay's attack on its nerves, a root canal treatment will alleviate that pain.
After some time on the disabled list, Buxton was back in the lineup in time to hit his longest homer to date at 456 feet on the Twins' Opening Day. You may not have that kind of moment after a root canal, but repairing a bothersome tooth with this important procedure will certainly get you back on your feet again.
If you would like more information about root canal therapy, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “A Step-By-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment.”
Play a round of word association with "summer," and you'll probably come up with "vacation," "camping," or "beach" just off the top of your head. But the slower pace of this sultry season offers opportunities for other pursuits—like home improvement projects. If you're in a "fixer-upper" mood, you might consider something out of the box: a smile makeover.
Changes to your dental appearance start a lot like the typical home renovation—you're not satisfied with how things look. And, like home projects, you can go little on smile enhancements (akin to maybe repainting the bedroom) or go big (that shiny new addition).
If you're up for this kind of makeover this summer, here are a few suggestions for improving your smile.
Teeth whitening. Stained tooth enamel can make your smile look dull and dingy—but you can reverse this with a professional whitening treatment. Using a precisely formulated bleaching solution, we can give you a brighter smile at just the level of brightness you want. And with good care and occasional touchups, your bright and shiny smile could last for years.
Dental bonding or veneers. Chips, stains that resist whitening or an unsightly gap can detract from an otherwise attractive smile. We can repair many minor defects by bonding tooth-colored composite material to your teeth. For more extensive defects, we can also cover teeth with custom dental veneers, thin layers of porcelain that hide dental flaws.
Orthodontics. Straightening misaligned teeth is primarily beneficial to your long-term dental health. But it can also transform a smile, earning it the title, "The Original Smile Makeover." And braces aren't your only choice—depending on your particular bite problem, you may be able to use nearly invisible clear aligners, which you can also remove for meals and hygiene.
Dental implants. Nothing downgrades a smile like missing teeth. But you can replace those teeth with dental implants, a highly popular and effective restoration. Implants have two outstanding qualities: They provide a life-like appearance that's indistinguishable from a natural tooth and they're quite durable—over 95% are still in place after ten years.
You can receive these and other cosmetic dental measures as standalone procedures or grouped with others in a comprehensive smile makeover. Some—like teeth whitening—can often be done in a single visit, while others—like teeth straightening or implants—can take months or even years.
What's important, though, is that you get the ball rolling with a comprehensive dental exam. From there, we can lay out your options and help you decide on your specific makeover plan. It could be one of your best summer projects ever!
There's still much about the underlying nature of chronic jaw joint dysfunction we have yet to unravel. Treating these conditions known as temporomandibular joint disorders (TMDs) may therefore require some experimentation to find what works for each individual patient.
Most TMD therapies are relatively conservative: eating softer foods, taking anti-inflammatory pain relievers or undergoing physical therapy. There have been some surgical techniques tried to relieve jaw pain and dysfunction, but these have so far had mixed results.
Recently, the use of the drug Botox has been promoted for relieving jaw pain, albeit temporarily. Botox contains tiny amounts of botulinum toxin type A, a poisonous substance derived from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which can cause muscle paralysis. It's mainly used to cosmetically smooth out small wrinkles around facial features.
Because of these properties, some physicians have proposed Botox for TMD treatment to paralyze the muscles around the jaw to reduce pain and discomfort. While the treatment sounds intriguing, there are a number of reasons to be wary of it if you have TMD.
To begin with, the claims for Botox's success in relieving jaw pain have been mainly anecdotal. On the other hand, findings from randomized, double-blind trials have yet to show any solid evidence that Botox can produce these pain-relieving effects.
But even if it lived up to the claims of TMD pain relief, the effect would eventually fade in a few weeks or months, requiring the patient to repeat the injections. It's possible with multiple Botox injections that the body will develop antibodies to fight the botulinum toxin, causing the treatment to be less effective with subsequent injections.
Of even greater concern are the potential side effects of Botox TMD treatment, ranging from headaches and soreness at the injection site to more serious muscle atrophy and possible facial deformity from repeated injections. There's also evidence for decreased bone density in the jaw, which could have far-reaching consequences for someone with TMD.
The best approach still seems to lie in the more conservative therapies that treat TMD similar to other joint disorders. Finding the right combination of therapies that most benefit you will help you better manage your symptoms.
If you would like more information on treatments for TMD, 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 “Botox Treatment for TMJ Pain.”