By Kent S. Denton, D.D.S., P.A.
May 31, 2022
Category: Dental Procedures
HowaRootCanalCouldSaveYourDiseasedTooth

Just a century ago a heavily decayed tooth was most likely a goner, but that all changed in the early 1900s when various treatments finally coalesced into what we now call root canal therapy. The odds have now flip-flopped—you're more likely to preserve a decayed tooth than to lose it.

By decay, we're not referring only to cavities in a tooth's enamel or outer dentin. That's just the start—decay can quickly spread deeper into the dentin close to the pulp, the central portion of a tooth containing bundles of nerves and blood vessels. It can then move into the tooth's pulp chamber, causing the pulp to die and producing infection that will eventually infect the surrounding supporting bone.

Root canal treatments are often a lifeline to a tooth in this perilous condition. After numbing the tooth and surrounding tissues with local anesthesia, we start the procedure by drilling a tiny hole to access the central pulp and root canals. We then use specialized tools to remove all of the infected tissue within these interior spaces.

After thoroughly disinfecting the tooth of any decay, we shape up the root canals for filling. We then inject a rubbery substance known as gutta percha and completely fill the tooth's resulting empty spaces. This filling helps to prevent a recurrence of infection within the tooth.

Once we've filled the tooth, we seal off the access hole to complete the procedure. You may experience a few days of mild discomfort, but it's usually manageable with over-the-counter pain relievers. Later, we'll cement a crown over the tooth: This provides additional protection against infection, as well as adds support to the tooth structure.

One more thing! You may have encountered the notion that undergoing a root canal is painful. We're here to dispel that once and for all—dentists take great care to ensure the tooth and the area around it are completely dead to pain. In fact, if you were experiencing a toothache beforehand, a root canal will alleviate the pain.

To get the best treatment outcome for tooth decay, it's important to uncover it as soon as possible. The earlier we begin treatment, the more likely we can bring your tooth back to good health.

If you would like more information on root canal treatment, 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 “A Step-By-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment.”

By Kent S. Denton, D.D.S., P.A.
May 21, 2022
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: celebrity smiles   crowns  
WantToBuyaDentalCrownTheKingofRockandRollsIsUpforSale

Although Elvis Presley left us more than four decades ago, he still looms large over popular culture. It's not uncommon, then, for personal items like his guitars, his revolver collection or even his famed white jumpsuit to go on sale. Perhaps, though, one of the oddest of Elvis's personal effects recently went on auction (again)—his gold-filled dental crown.

It's a little hazy as to how the "King" parted with it, but the crown's list of subsequent holders, including a museum, is well-documented. Now, it's looking for a new home with a starting bid of $2,500.

The interest, of course, isn't on the crown, but on its original owner. Dental crowns weren't rare back in Presley's day, and they certainly aren't now. But they are more life-like, thanks to advances in dental materials over the last thirty years.

Crowns are an invaluable part of dental care. Though they can improve a tooth's cosmetic appeal, they're more often installed to protect a weak or vulnerable tooth. In that regard, a crown's most important qualities are strength and durability.

In the early 20th Century, you could have utility or beauty, but usually not both. The most common crowns of that time were composed of precious metals like silver and, as in Presley's case, gold. Metal crowns can ably withstand the chewing forces teeth encounter daily.

But they simply don't look like natural teeth. Dental porcelain was around in the early days, but it wasn't very strong. So, dentists devised a new kind of crown that blended durability with life-likeness. Known as porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns, they were essentially hybrids, a metal crown, which fit over the tooth, overlayed with a porcelain exterior shell to give it an attractive appearance.

PFMs became the most widely used crown and held that title until the early 2000s. That's when a new crown leader came into its own—the all-ceramic crown. In the decade or so before, the fragility of porcelain was finally overcome with the addition of Lucite to the tooth-colored ceramic to strengthen it.

Additional strengthening breakthroughs since then helped make the all-ceramic crown the top choice for restorations. Even so, dentists still install metal and PFM crowns when the situation calls for added strength in teeth that aren't as visible, such as the back molars. But for more visible teeth like incisors, all-ceramic usually stands up to biting while looking life-like and natural.

For a star of his magnitude, Presley's crown was likely state-of-the-art for his time. In our day, though, you have even more crown choices to both protect your tooth and enhance your smile.

If you would like more information about crown restorations, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Porcelain Dental Crowns.”

By Kent S. Denton, D.D.S., P.A.
May 11, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tmj disorders  
4TipsForMoreEnjoyableEatingWithTMD

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) isn't just painful, it can severely interfere with one of life's essentials—eating. For a person with TMD, an enjoyable meal with family and friends can turn into an agonizing, painful experience.

Especially during flareups, the action of chewing can be extremely uncomfortable for someone with TMD. The condition also makes it difficult to open the mouth, which can interfere with the types of food you can eat.

Managing TMD in general often requires a combination of treatment techniques, including medication and physical therapy. For meals in particular, making some adjustments in the types of foods you eat, how you prepare them, and how you eat them can help you enjoy your mealtime experience more.

If you have TMD, here are 4 things that could ease your discomfort and bring the joy back into eating.

Peel fruits and vegetables. Although the hard skins of some foods like apples or cucumbers are edible, the extra jaw effort to eat them can trigger pain if you suffer from TMD. Take the time, then, to peel fruits and vegetables with tough outer skins.

Cut food into small bites. With limited ability to open your mouth, normal-sized portions can prove challenging. Make it easier by cutting foods into smaller than normal bites. Taking the extra time to do this can give your jaws relief and reduce the discomfort and pain associated with opening your mouth.

Chew slowly. Chewing normally may still be too vigorous for someone with TMD—the chewing action increases the pressure on your jaw joints and can result in painful spasms. By slowing down your chewing, and taking breaks along the way, can make it less likely your jaws will become overworked.

Moisten tougher foods. Although delicious, a number of meats and vegetables are by nature "chewy." You can make them easier to eat with a little liquid. Use cooking methods like braising or stewing to make these foods more tender; you can also add gravies or sauces where appropriate to help make chewing easier.

If you would like more information on coping with 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 “When TMJ Pain Flares Up.”

By Kent S. Denton, D.D.S., P.A.
May 01, 2022
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: gummy smile  
CorrectingaGummySmileStartsWithFindingOutItsCause

We instinctively know an attractive smile when we see one. But although our perceptions are subjective ("in the eye of the beholder"), there are understood aesthetic principles that shape them. For smiles in particular, proportionality is one such principle.

More specifically, an attractive smile's visible gum tissue should be proportional to its visible tooth surface. If the gum amount exceeds this, then the smile will appear too "gummy." There's no set measurement, per se, but most dentists peg it at around four millimeters—just over an 1/8 of an inch—or more.

Fortunately, there are options for improving a "gummy" smile. Notice that we said "options," plural: That's because over-exposed gums can occur due to a variety of causes.

Obviously, an actual over-abundance of gum tissue could be one of those causes. It might also result, however, from the teeth appearing and being too small, less than 10 mm of visible crown length, because the teeth are in themselves abnormally small or they failed to erupt completely during development.

There are also causes beyond the actual teeth and gums. The upper lip may move too far upward while smiling—a problem known as hypermobility—revealing too much gum tissue. The upper jaw may also appear too long because of the position of its attachment to the base of the skull. This in turn might result in too much gum tissue displaying while smiling.

Uncovering a gummy smile's underlying cause thus determines the right treatment to pursue. For oversized gums or undersized teeth, a periodontist might choose to perform a plastic surgery technique called crown lengthening. This procedure reduces and reshapes the gum tissues and underlying bone to expose the full length of the teeth.

Lip hypermobility could be limited temporarily by Botox injections administered about every six months. Another option is a surgical procedure that restricts lip movement and can offer a permanent solution. Similarly, surgery to reposition a long upper jaw could minimize gum exposure and improve smile appearance.

If you or a family member has a gummy smile, there may be an effective way to improve it. Understanding why it's gummy will be your first step to a more attractive smile.

If you would like more information on enhancing a gummy smile, 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 “Gummy Smiles.”

By Kent S. Denton, D.D.S., P.A.
April 21, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: teeth grinding   stress  
ChronicStressCouldBeDamagingYourDentalHealth

We're all quite familiar with the impact chronic stress can have on our minds and emotions. But stress can also take a toll on physical well-being, even basic physiology like pulse rate and blood pressure. It might also surprise you to know that stress could play a role in some dental problems.

April is Stress Awareness Month, an opportunity to look afresh at this unsettling problem that afflicts many in modern life. As dental care professionals, we focus on how stress could affect your teeth and what you can do to minimize that effect.

Stress is any physical or mental strain in response to a danger or peril in life. It can be a good thing, as the sudden stress a hiker feels upon meeting a bear in the woods, which can focus the mind to take life-saving action. And if expertly harnessed, the "butterflies" a musician feels right before a concert may also serve to improve their performance.

Stress becomes problematic, though, when it morphs into a chronic response to life in general. Besides health problems akin to those we've previously mentioned, chronic stress can give rise to nervous behaviors like fidgeting, smoking or binge eating.

Stress may also give rise to behaviors we don't even realize we're doing—and one such involuntary habit could impact your dental health. Teeth grinding is the gnashing or grinding of teeth together, or mindlessly chewing on a hard object like a pencil.

Although quite common and less concerning in children, it's another matter when it occurs in adulthood. The habit can accelerate the normal teeth wearing that accompanies aging. Abnormally high biting forces generated by grinding can also cause teeth weakened by disease to loosen or fracture.

There are ways to reduce the effects of grinding, like wearing a protective mouthguard or having your teeth altered to reduce the biting forces the habit can generate. But addressing the chronic stress underlying teeth grinding through the following ways could help reduce its frequency and occurrence.

Adopt a healthy lifestyle: Eating a nutritiously-balanced diet, exercising and getting enough quality sleep can help reduce stress.

Avoid drugs or alcohol: These mood-altering substances may help someone cope with stress, but they don't address the underlying issue, and they can create additional physical and emotional issues for the user.

Pursue relaxation: Meditation, biofeedback therapy or even pursuing a favorite hobby could help you better manage your response to life issues causing you stress.

Seek others' help: Sharing your life struggles with trusted friends, family, professionals, or therapy groups can help greatly reduce your experience of stress.

Reducing chronic stress will certainly improve your overall well-being. If you suffer from teeth grinding, it may also do wonders for your oral health.

If you would like more information about stress-related dental problems, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Teeth Grinding.”





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