Posts for: September, 2013
Although sometimes controversial, body piercing has exploded in popularity, especially among young people. Aside from the social debate about such practices, there are health risks to consider. Oral piercings, in particular — especially of the tongue — could have an adverse effect on your dental health.
The trouble begins with the piercing procedure itself. The tongue is composed of a number of muscle groups that given its wide range of function require a lot of energy. To supply this energy the tongue has a large network of blood vessels; during a piercing it's not uncommon for profuse bleeding to occur. The tongue also contains a lot of nerve fibers — a piercing may result not only in severe pain, but in possible nerve damage too.
The tongue bolt, the most common tongue piercing, can cause a lot of damage in the mouth during wear, such as tooth chipping and increased sensitivity. It can also interfere with oral hygiene and contribute to the growth of tooth decay and gum disease. And, as with any cut or abrasion to soft tissue, piercings increase the risk of infection.
There are also issues if and when you decide to give up the tongue bolt — fortunately, though, not to the same degree as during wear. Cuts to the tongue tend to heal quickly, so the piercing hole may fill in spontaneously. In some circumstances, however, a surgical procedure (similar to one performed on large ear piercings) may be required to repair the piercing hole.
For the long-term sake of your oral health, we would advise against having your tongue or lips pierced. And, if you already have a piercing, please consider giving it up — in the long run you'll be doing your teeth, gums and other tissues in your mouth a favor.
If you would like more information on oral piercing and its effects, 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 “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”
Once upon a time, when you had a cavity, you went to the dentist and came back with a tooth filled with metal: the common silver (or, technically speaking, “dental amalgam”) filling. But today — driven by dental researchers' quest to find a better filling material, and by the desire of many people to avoid a mouth full of dull gray metal — there are other choices.
In recent years, metal-free, tooth-colored fillings have evolved into a well-established treatment method that's finding increasing use — not just in the front of the mouth, where it's most visible, but in the back too. To help understand the benefits of these new materials, let's start by looking at the structure of the tooth.
We usually think of teeth as being hard, sturdy and durable. But did you know that their crowns, or top surfaces above the gums, actually flex under the force of the bite? Understanding the composition and behavior of teeth has led researchers to develop newer and better materials for restoration. These include improved dental porcelains and composite resins which more closely mimic the natural teeth in both function and form: That is, they're strong and good-looking too.
What's more, using these materials for fillings may mean that you can get the same result with a more conservative treatment. How? It all comes down to tooth structure. To secure a traditional amalgam (silver) filling, a tooth often had to be shaped with “undercuts,” which helped hold the material in place. This meant the removal of a greater amount of tooth structure, potentially leading to chipping or cracking of the tooth down the road.
Enter composite resins. Bonding these materials to the underlying tooth doesn't require undercutting, so less of the healthy tooth is removed. That makes for a more robust tooth structure, with potentially greater longevity. Combine that advantage with the aesthetic appeal of a restoration that's hard to tell apart from natural teeth, and you've got a winning combination.
There are different options available for restorations with tooth-colored materials. These range from quick, single-visit fillings for small cavities, to the fabrication of more extensive replicas of the tooth for complicated restorations. Exactly which treatment is needed will depend on an individual's particular dental issue and the kind of results they desire. Whatever the case may be, we can listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and offer the best advice regarding your treatment options.
If you would like more information about tooth-colored fillings, 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 “The Natural Beauty of Tooth-Colored Fillings.”
Dental professionals sometimes use specialized words, and you may not be clear about exactly what we mean. Test yourself on some of the specialized vocabulary concerning tooth whitening. How many of the following can you define correctly?
A method of making yellow, discolored teeth whiter. It is relatively inexpensive and safe, with few side effects.
2. External or extrinsic staining and whitening?
Extrinsic staining mainly results from diet and smoking. For example, foods such as red wine, coffee and tea can produce extrinsic stain. Teeth with these stains are bleached by placing whitening substance in direct contact with the living tooth surface.
3. Internal or intrinsic staining and whitening?
Intrinsic tooth discoloration is caused by changes in the structure of enamel, dentin, or pulp tissue deep within the root of the tooth. When the discoloration originates with the pulp tissue, root canal treatment may be needed to whiten the tooth from the inside.
4. Chromogenic material?
Color generating material that may get incorporated into the tooth's substance. It can be a result of wear and aging, or can be caused by inflammation within the tooth's pulp.
5. Carbamide Peroxide?
A bleaching agent discovered in the 1960s and frequently used for tooth whitening. When used, carbamide peroxide breaks into its component parts, hydrogen peroxide and urea, which bleach the colored organic molecules that have been incorporated between the crystals of the tooth's enamel.
6. Power Bleaching?
This technique is used for severely stained tooth. It uses a highly concentrated peroxide (35 to 45 percent) solution placed directly on the teeth, often activated by a heat or light source. This must be done in our office.
An antibiotic used to fight bacterial infections. It can result in tooth staining when taken by children whose teeth are still developing.
8. Rubber Dam?
Use of strong bleaching solutions requires protection for the gums and other sensitive tissues in your mouth. This is done using a rubber dam, a barrier to prevent the material from reaching your gums and the skin inside your mouth. Silicone and protective gels may also be used.
9. Whitening Strips?
Strips resembling band-aids that you can use in your home to whiten your teeth. They generally contain a solution of 10 percent or less carbamide peroxide gel. When using them, be sure to read the directions and follow them strictly to avoid injury or irritation.
10. Fade Rate?
The effects of bleaching may fade over time, from six months to two years. This is called the fade rate. It can be slowed down by avoiding habits such as smoking, along with food or drink that causes tooth staining.
Participating in athletic activities offers numerous well-documented health benefits — not to mention instilling the intangible values of discipline, teamwork and goal-setting. Of course, in nearly every sport, the possibility of injury exists as well. But don't let that stop you or someone you love from playing! Instead, you can learn about the potential hazards of dental injury, and take some practical steps to minimize the risk.
It should come as no surprise that injury to the mouth is an ever-present possibility in so-called “collision” sports like football and ice hockey. But did you know that the greatest number of dental injuries result from the games of baseball and basketball, which are often played informally? Even non-contact sports like skiing, bicycling and skateboarding carry a real risk of injury.
Who suffers dental injury? Men are slightly more likely than women — but only by a small percentage. Injury peaks in the teenage years, and seems to decrease afterward — but older athletes tend to have more severe problems. In short, most anyone who participates in sports is subject to possible dental injury.
Besides the obvious aesthetic imperfections, a damaged or missing tooth can also result in functional problems with the bite — a potentially serious condition. If a tooth can't be immediately replanted, restoring it can be expensive: The total cost of each tooth replacement is estimated at $10,000-$20,000 over a lifetime. So tooth damage or loss can cause a multitude of troubles.
The American Dental Association (ADA) has recommended that participants in all of the sports mentioned above — as well as two dozen others — should wear a custom-fitted mouthguard. Why? Because when it comes to dental injury, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.
Numerous studies have shown that wearing a custom-fitted mouthguard is an effective way to prevent dental injury. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, mouthguards prevent some 200,000 injuries each year. And the ADA says that athletes who don't wear mouthguards are 60 times more likely to sustain harm to the teeth than those who do wear them.
Off-the-shelf mouthguards in a limited range of sizes are available at many sporting-goods stores. But these can't compare to the superior protection and durability offered by a mouthguard that's custom-made just for you. Using an exact model of your teeth, we can individually fabricate a piece of protective gear that fits correctly and feels comfortable in your mouth. A custom mouthguard may be more economical than you think — yet its real payoff comes in preventing dental injury.
If you have questions about mouthguards or sports-related dental injuries, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Athletic Mouthguards” and “An Introduction to Sports Injuries & Dentistry.”