Posts for: September, 2013
Chewing tobacco has a certain cachet among its users, especially young boys and men, who believe using it makes them appear macho or “cool.” They also believe this “smokeless” variety (as it's often marketed by tobacco companies) is safer than cigarettes or cigars.
Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, chewing tobacco is harmful to your health — and especially your oral health. Regular use of these products can lead to severe dental and mouth conditions resulting in disease, disfigurement, or even death.
Like the smoked variety, chewing tobacco infuses its users with nicotine, a chemical stimulant naturally produced by the tobacco plant. The body responds to the stimulant's effect and begins to crave it, leading to addiction.
The problem, though, is the other ingredients in chewing tobacco: more than thirty other substances known to cause various kinds of cancer, including oral. Oral cancer alone is extremely dangerous: many patients suffer partial or complete loss of oral tissue and facial structures, including the tongue, lower jaw or even the face. Some even lose their lives — statistics show that only half of those with oral cancer survive more than five years after diagnosis.
Although cancer may be the most harmful effect of chewing tobacco, it isn't the only one. Researchers have found tobacco users have higher rates of tooth decay and gum disease than non-users. Tobacco also causes cosmetic and hygiene problems, including tooth staining and chronic bad breath.
If you're a tobacco user in any form, and especially chewing or spit tobacco, as your dentist we would advise you to consider quitting the habit. Giving up tobacco will not only improve your oral health and appearance, it may even save your life.
If you would like more information on the dangers of chewing tobacco, 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 “Chewing Tobacco.”
Root planing is a procedure that allows us to achieve your — and our — basic goal in dentistry: healthy, clean gums and teeth.
At a level in between scaling by your hygienist and periodontal (from peri, around and odont, tooth) surgery, root planing is a conservative treatment that attempts to eliminate the need for gum surgery.
Plaque is a film of bacteria (a biofilm) that adheres to your teeth at the gumline. This is what you try to remove with daily brushing and flossing. Plaque that is not removed can form a hard coating called calculus or tartar. These substances irritate your gums and cause inflammation, which in turn causes your gum tissues to lose their attachment to your teeth. The resulting gaps between the teeth and gums are called pockets, and they act just like pockets in your clothing.
Your teeth are fastened in your jaws by a combination of bone and soft tissue including the gums and the periodontal ligament, tissues that holds each tooth in place. When pockets form and bacteria move into them, the bacteria and the toxins they emit can become ingrained into the surface of the roots of your teeth (the bottom parts that are below the gumline) and cause further inflammation and infection. This can lead to loss of attachment of the gum tissues and bone that anchor your teeth. In the worst cases you can lose the teeth.
1. The first level of defense is your own daily brushing and flossing. Ask us to check your technique to make sure you are effectively removing plaque.
2. Second, your dental hygienist can remove superficial collections of calculus by scaling, using hand tools or a sonic scaler.
3. Third, root planing actually planes the surface of the roots of your teeth, in the same way as a carpenter planes a piece of wood. It removes calculus, bacteria and toxins ingrained into the root surfaces so that the infected gum tissues can heal.
Root planing is usually done using local anesthesia to numb the teeth and surrounding soft tissues. The planing may be done first with an ultrasonic device that cleans by vibrating particles off the root surfaces and simultaneously flushes the pockets with water. The root planing is finished with delicate hand instruments called curettes. The area may then be flushed with antibacterial medication to fight infection.
The response to root planing is usually evaluated three to four weeks later. The gum tissues are checked for healing, and probing measurements of the pockets are retaken. Depending on the results, additional root planing may be needed.
4. Finally, in cases of the worst periodontal infections, you may need periodontal surgery. Each person's situation is unique and should be based on an examination and evaluation.
While periodontal disease can take on a variety of forms, most are caused by a thin layer of bacterial plaque called biofilm. This layer of plaque will form every 8-12 hours and sticks like glue to your teeth near the gum line. With time, tartar formation occurs at and below the gum line.
If left unchecked, biofilm can give rise to a very unhealthy progression. It first triggers an infection that leads to painful inflammation, progressive bone loss and the gum tissue losing attachment with a tooth. Void spaces (or pockets) form where the gum and bone tissue once adhered; infectious plaque and tartar moves into these pockets and advances deeper to the root. Overcome by disease, the tooth is in danger of being lost.
It's imperative then to remove as much of this entrenched plaque and tartar as possible. Renewed oral hygiene is not enough — removing plaque and tartar from the root surfaces requires a treatment known as root planing.
Root planing is a meticulous, labor-intensive process. We first clear away larger portions of plaque around the teeth and gums with hand instruments or an ultrasonic device and then flush out the pockets with water. After administering a local anesthetic for pain, we would then turn to a number of small hand instruments known as curettes to probe and scrape away as much remaining plaque below the gum line as we can get to.
Root planing requires experience and a good sense of touch to work in areas that can't be clearly seen. Observing the gum line, though, can give us a good indication of progress as these tissues will actually change color once the biofilm and tartar deposits have been removed.
Being so deeply entrenched, not all the deposits might be removed during one session. However, as plaque and tartar are removed, the gum tissues will begin to heal and become less inflamed. This will make it easier to remove plaque in subsequent sessions.
Root planing takes time, but the effort is well worth it. In the short term you'll notice less inflammation and pain around your teeth and gums. In the long-term, it just may save your teeth.
If you would like more information on root planing and periodontal disease, 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 Planing.”
Welcome to the Blog of Phillip W. Hart D.D.S.
Whether you are an existing patient or searching for a dentist in the Bartlett, TN area, we’re excited you are here. With the dental industry advancing, we recognize the importance of keeping our patients and visitors up to date with all of the new and exciting things taking place in our practice.
As we move forward with our blog, we hope to promote dental awareness as a vital part of your healthy lifestyle. Here you will find a variety of articles and topics including dental news, advancements in dental technology and treatments, practical oral health advice and updates from our practice.
We hope you find our blog to be helpful, engaging and informational to ensure your best dental health.
As always, feel free to contact our office with any dental questions or concerns.
-- Phillip W. Hart D.D.S.
Describing Vanna White, co-host of the hit television game show Wheel of Fortune as friendly is an understatement. Yes, a good portion of the credit goes to her bubbly personality; however, you can't look at her without noticing her world-famous smile.
During an interview with Dear Doctor magazine, Vanna shared some of the secrets to her trademark smile. Secrets that she is instilling in her children.
“I floss every day and I brush my teeth at least twice a day — morning and night — and sometimes after lunch.” She added, “I think that flossing is the most important thing. I believe that dental floss helps a lot, as it keeps your gums strong and looking younger.” And when asked about how often she has her teeth professionally cleaned she replied, “...every four to five months because I get a lot of plaque buildup.”
A typical dental hygiene visit is one that involves prophylaxis, a dental (and insurance) term for scaling and or polishing procedures to remove plaque and calculus (tartar) from the crown or portion of the tooth that you can see. Scaling is a procedure where we use special hand-held instruments and/or ultrasonic scalers to remove plaque, bacteria and tartar that can coat your teeth causing them to feel rough or fuzzy. To polish your teeth, we use a rubber polishing cup, prophy paste and a motorized instrument that removes bacterial plaque and surface stains. This is usually the last portion of a routine cleaning because it leaves your teeth feeling smooth and shiny.
However, if you have been seeing blood when you brush your teeth or while flossing, you have the telltale signs of periodontal (gum) disease. During your cleaning appointment, we will clean below the gum line to treat and manage your periodontal disease (an infection of the gum and jaw bones). We may also discover that additional, deep-cleaning treatments (such as root planing) may be needed to treat and manage your periodontal disease.
To learn more about this topic, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Teeth Polishing.” Or you can contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can conduct a thorough examination and cleaning. And if you want to read the entire feature article on Vanna White, continue reading “Vanna White.”