My Blog

Posts for: February, 2014

By Phil Hart, DDS
February 24, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay  
SavingaDiseasedPrimaryToothCouldBenefitFutureOralHealth

Dentists go to great lengths to save an adult permanent tooth. Even though restoration technology is incredibly advanced, none can completely replace the biological function of natural teeth. Treating a diseased tooth to preserve it is a high priority in dentistry.

It would seem, though, that a child’s primary (baby) tooth might not warrant the same treatment. Since the tooth eventually detaches from the jaw to make way for a permanent tooth, why save it?

It is worth the effort, because primary teeth provide more than a chewing function: they also serve as guides for their permanent successors. When they’re lost prematurely, the permanent teeth may not come in correctly, leading to a malocclusion (poor bite). Other areas of development, like speech and dental bone growth, may suffer as well from the longer time gap between the premature loss and the permanent tooth eruption.

Saving an infected primary tooth should be considered, especially if significant time remains in its lifespan. Due to differences between primary and permanent teeth, though, the treatment approach isn’t the same. For example, the body gradually absorbs the roots of a primary tooth (a process called resorption) as the permanent tooth beneath erupts applying pressure to the primary roots (this is what enables its eventual detachment). Dentists must factor this process into their diagnosis and treatment plan for a primary tooth.

The level of treatment may vary depending on how deep the infection has advanced. If the decay is limited to the tooth’s outer layers and only partially affects the pulp, the innermost layer of the tooth, a dentist may remove as much soft decay as possible, apply an antibacterial agent for any remaining hardened infection, and then restore the tooth with filling materials.

For deeper infection, the dentist may remove some or all of the pulp, disinfect and clean the area, and then fill and seal the empty space with a filling. A filling material like zinc oxide/eugenol paste should be used that’s capable of resorption by the body to coincide with the natural root resorption. After treatment, the tooth should continue to be monitored for changes in appearance or gum swelling, just in case the infection returns or advances.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, treating a primary tooth as you would its successor is worth the effort. Your child will reap the health benefits, both now and long after the primary tooth is gone.

If you would like more information on endodontic treatment for children, 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 Canal Treatment for Children’s Teeth.”


HowiTheBiggestLoseriStarJillianMichaelsKeepsHerWinningSmile

Anyone who has seen fitness and life coach Jillian Michaels on The Biggest Loser and Losing It with Jillian knows she has the expertise and determination to help overweight people reach new levels of fitness and health. Using her own difficult life experiences, Jillian is able to help others look below the surface to the roots of their own unhealthy lifestyles. As a child, she suffered from night terrors, then her parents divorced when she was 12. She reacted to her anger and unhappiness by comforting herself with food. By age 17 she weighed 175 pounds — too much weight for her small 5'2" frame. To get Jillian involved in physical activity, her mother signed her up for a martial arts class. It was the right choice. Jillian loved the physical and spiritual aspects of martial arts practice, and this training pointed the way to what ultimately became her career.

It's no wonder Jillian is concerned about America's obesity problem — especially in children. To counter it, she and a business partner put together a Wii game, “Jillian Michaels' Fitness Ultimatum.” “If you turn exercise into a game, it's much easier to get kids to join in,” she says.

For adults, Jillian is concerned with unhealthy body images put forward by the fashion industry and media. She says, “Educating women on the importance of a healthy diet and exercise program is essential, but getting them to realize that women are supposed to have curves is equally important.” She is working on a new book, which is designed to help people live a healthy lifestyle, realize their true potential, and find happiness in just being themselves.

Since good health also includes good oral health, here's a sampling of what Jillian discussed about healthy habits in her interview with Dear Doctor magazine.

How can parents encourage their children to have healthy habits? Jillian says it starts with parents setting a good example. Parents can persuade children to get exercise by going outside to play with them. Gardening together and serving kids home-grown vegetables is a good way to encourage healthy eating.

What is her dental care routine? Jillian brushes her teeth two or three times a day with an electric toothbrush and she flosses daily. She never leaves home without toothpaste, an electric travel toothbrush, and floss as well as some sort of lip gloss. She sees her dentist, whom she calls “amazing,” at least twice a year for cleanings.

How does she guard against damage from martial arts? Jillian broke her two front teeth as a child and had them repaired with crowns. Now she wears a mouthguard when doing vigorous exercise.

What other cosmetic dental procedures has she had? She also had braces and has had her teeth whitened.

Jillian knows that it takes hard work and commitment to health and exercise, along with good oral health habits, to look and feel your best. You can learn more about Jillian by reading the entire interview in the article “Jillian Michaels: The Biggest Loser's health and wellness expert talks about her oral health, keeping fit and plans for the future.” Contact us today to discuss your questions about tooth whitening, crowns, or mouthguards or to schedule an appointment.


By Phil Hart, DDS
February 13, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   saliva  
SalivaisaKeyIngredientinOralHealth

When you think of saliva, the word “amazing” probably doesn’t come to mind. But your life and health would be vastly different without this “wonder” fluid at work in your mouth.

Saliva originates from a number of glands located throughout the mouth. The largest are a pair known as the parotids, located just under the ears on either side of the lower jaw, which produce a thin and watery liquid. The sublingual glands under the tongue produce thicker saliva with a mucous secretion; the saliva from the submandibular glands located under the lower jaw has a consistency somewhere between that of the parotids and the sublingual glands. All these different consistencies of saliva combine to produce a fluid rich in proteins, enzymes, minerals and antibodies.

Saliva performs at least five basic functions in the mouth. First, it washes away food particles after eating and reduces the amount of sugar available for decay-causing bacteria to consume. It protects and disinfects the mouth with antibodies, proteins and enzymes that fight against and help prevent the growth of bacteria. Saliva neutralizes high acidity levels in the mouth, necessary to prevent enamel erosion from acid; and when enamel has softened due to acidity (de-mineralization), the calcium and other minerals in saliva help restore some of the enamel’s lost minerals (re-mineralization). Saliva also aids in digestion by lubricating the mouth and helping the body break down starches in food with its enzymes.

In recent years, scientists have also gained insight into another property of saliva that promises better disease diagnosis in the future. Like blood and urine, saliva contains biological markers for disease. As more diagnostic machines calibrated to these specific markers are developed and used, it could signal a more effective way to identify conditions from saliva samples that are easier to collect than other bodily fluids.

Its less than glamorous image aside, your mouth would be quite a different (and unhealthy) place without saliva. And, developments in diagnostics could make this unsung fluid even more valuable in maintaining your health.

If you would like more information on the importance of saliva to oral health, 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 “Secrets of Saliva.”


By Phil Hart, DDS
February 05, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: teething  
HelpingYourBabyCopeWiththeDiscomfortofTeething

When your baby’s first teeth erupt in the mouth, it’s a big step in their development. Unfortunately, you may not have much opportunity to celebrate — you’re too busy tending to your infant whose experience is anything but pleasant.

Commonly known as teething, the eruption process usually begins between six and nine months of age, although some children may begin as early as three months or as late as twelve. Not all teeth come in at the same time: it usually begins with the two lower front teeth, then the two upper front teeth, followed by the molars and then the canines (eye teeth). By age three, most children have all twenty of their primary teeth.

Each child’s teething experience is different and may vary in length of time and intensity. The usual signs are heightened irritability, biting and gnawing accompanied by gum swelling, ear rubbing, drooling and sometimes facial rashes. Babies also may have disturbed sleeping patterns and a decreased appetite. Occasionally, this discomfort can be intense.

There are some things you can do to ease this discomfort. Provide your baby a clean, chilled (not frozen) rubber teething ring, chilled pacifier or wet washcloth to gnaw on. Cold foods, like popsicles for older children can also be soothing, though you should limit sugary foods to lower the risk of tooth decay. You can also finger massage swollen gums to counteract the pressure coming from the erupting tooth, or administer pain relievers like baby acetaminophen or ibuprofen. You can use products with Benzocaine®, a numbing agent, for children two years or older — but you should never use alcohol for children of any age for inflamed gums.

Be sure to also set up a Year One dental examination around their first birthday. This is an important first step in your child’s long-term dental care, and a good opportunity to check their teething progress. And, by all means, if you have concerns about your child’s experience with teething, don’t hesitate to call our office.

Teething is a normal part of your child’s development. There’s much you can do to help make it as comfortable and pain-free as possible.

If you would like more information on teething, 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 “Teething Troubles.”