Posts for: July, 2021
Finding out you have a cavity isn't the best of news. But finding out it's a root cavity is even worse: if not treated, the decay can spread more rapidly than a cavity occurring in the tooth's crown surfaces.
Our teeth are basically composed of two parts: the crown, the visible tooth above the gum line, and the roots, the hidden portion beneath the gums. The root in turn fits into a bony socket within the jaw to help hold the tooth in place (along with attached gum ligaments).
A tooth crown is covered by an ultra-hard layer of enamel, which ordinarily protects it from harmful bacteria. But when acid produced by bacteria comes into prolonged contact with enamel, it can soften and erode its mineral content and lead to a cavity.
In contrast to enamel, the roots have a thin layer of material called cementum. Although it offers some protection, it's not at the same performance level as enamel. But roots are also normally covered by the gums, which rounds out their protection.
But what happens when the gums shrink back or recede? This often occurs with gum disease and is more prevalent in older people (and why root cavities are also more common among seniors). The exposed area of the roots with only cementum standing in the way of bacteria and acid becomes more susceptible to cavity formation.
Root cavities can be treated in much the same way as those that occur in the crown. We first remove any decayed tooth structure with a drill and then place a filling. But there's also a scenario in which the cavity is below the gum line: In that case, we may need to gain access to the cavity surgically through the gums.
If you have exposed root areas, we can also treat these with fluoride to strengthen the area against cavity formation. And, as always, prevention is the best treatment: maintain a daily schedule of brushing and flossing and regular dental cleanings to remove bacterial plaque.
Because decay can spread within a tooth, dealing with a root cavity should be done as promptly as possible. But if we diagnose and initiate treatment early, your chances of a good outcome are high.
If you would like more information on treating root cavities and other forms of tooth decay, 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 “Root Cavities.”
Accidents do happen, especially if you or a family member has an active lifestyle. One such risk, especially for someone playing a contact sport, is having a tooth knocked out.
But as extreme as this injury can be, it doesn't necessarily mean the tooth is lost forever. Gum (or periodontal) cells remaining on the tooth root can regenerate and regain their attachment with the periodontal ligament that holds teeth in place. But you have to act quickly—the longer the tooth is out of the socket, the more likely these cells will dry out and die.
So, by doing the following within 5-20 minutes of the injury (and the earlier the better), that knocked-out tooth has a reasonable chance of survival.
Locate and clean the tooth. Your first priority is to find the missing tooth and clean it of any debris with clean water. Be sure not to touch the root of the tooth and only handle the tooth by the crown (the visible part of a tooth when it's in the mouth).
Insert the root end into the empty socket. Still holding the tooth by the crown, insert the opposite root end into the empty socket. Orient the crown properly, but don't worry about getting it in just right—the follow-up with the dentist will take care of that. You will, however, need to apply some pressure to get it to seat firmly.
Secure the tooth. Place a piece of clean gauze or cloth between the reinserted tooth and its counterpart on the other jaw. Then, have the person bite down on the cloth and hold it. This will help secure the tooth in place while you travel to the dentist.
Seek dental care immediately. It's important to see a dentist immediately to adjust the tooth's position and to possibly splint the tooth to better secure it while it heals. If a dentist isn't available, then visit a local emergency room instead.
Taking these actions on the scene could mean the difference between saving and losing a tooth. But act quickly—the sooner you initiate first aid for a knocked-out tooth, the better its chances for long-term survival.
If you would like more information on what to do during dental emergencies, 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 “When a Tooth is Knocked Out.”
Every Fourth of July, we Americans celebrate the day we declared ourselves an independent nation. Amid the fireworks and cookouts, it's also a time for renewing our commitment to live freely and pursue our own path of happiness. This Independence Day, why not add another pledge for you and your family: freedom from dental disease.
Alas, too many Americans are under the tyranny of tooth decay or gum disease, the two dental diseases most responsible for teeth and gum damage. Ninety percent of all adults experience some form of tooth decay by age 40. And half of the population will have had at least one gum infection by age 30, swelling then to 70% by age 65.
Both diseases also have the same worst case scenario: tooth loss, something that could impact your overall health and nutrition, your appearance and certainly your wallet. But neither of these harmful conditions has to happen—you and your family can be free of dental disease by consistently following these guidelines.
Brush and floss daily. The root cause for all dental disease is a thin film of bacteria and food particles on tooth surfaces called dental plaque. But removing daily plaque buildup by brushing and flossing drastically reduces your disease risk. A daily oral hygiene routine is the single best thing you can do to avoid dental disease.
See your dentist regularly. Twice-a-year dental visits further enhance your chances of healthy teeth and gums. Dental cleanings remove plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) you may have missed. It's also more likely your dentist will detect dental disease in its earliest stages, which leads to early treatment that minimizes long-term damage.
Eat a tooth-friendly diet. The foods you eat can affect your dental health, for good and for ill. Diets heavy in refined sugar and other processed foods are a veritable feast for harmful oral bacteria. On the other hand, whole, unprocessed foods and dairy are rich in vital nutrients and minerals that strengthen your teeth and gums against disease.
Don't smoke. Tobacco harms your health, including your teeth and gums. Nicotine, the active ingredient in tobacco, constricts blood vessels in the mouth, which in turn lowers the nutrients and antibodies available to your teeth and gums to stay healthy and fight infection. As a result, smokers are several times more likely to develop dental disease than non-smokers.
Whether Thomas Jefferson said it or not, there's a lot of truth in the saying, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." Similarly, good dental habits require a life-time commitment—but following them can keep you free from harmful dental disease.