Remembered fondly by fans as the wacky but loveable Carlton on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Alfonso Ribeiro is currently in his fifth year hosting America's Funniest Videos. It's the perfect gig for the 48-year-old actor, who loves to laugh and make others laugh as well. This is quite the opposite experience from one he had a few years ago that he remembers all too well: a severely decayed tooth.
After seeing his dentist for an intense toothache, Ribeiro learned he had advanced tooth decay and would need root canal treatment. Ribeiro wasn't thrilled by the news. Like many of us, he thought the procedure would be unpleasant. But he found afterward that not only was the root canal painless, his toothache had vanished.
More importantly, the root canal treatment saved his tooth, as it has for millions of others over the last century. If you're facing a situation similar to Alfonso Ribeiro's, here's a quick look at the procedure that could rescue your endangered tooth.
Getting ready. In preparation for root canal therapy, the tooth and surrounding gums are numbed, often first with a swab of local anesthesia to deaden the surface area in preparation for the injection of the main anesthesia below the surface. A dental dam is then placed to isolate the infected tooth from its neighbors to prevent cross-contamination.
Accessing the interior. To get to the infection, a small access hole is drilled. The location depends on the tooth: in larger back teeth, a hole is drilled through the biting surface, and in front teeth, a hole is drilled on the backside. This access allows us to insert special tools to accomplish the next steps in the procedure.
Cleaning, shaping and filling. Small tools are used to remove the diseased tissue from the interior tooth pulp and root canals. Then the empty spaces are disinfected. This, in effect, stops the infection. Next, the root canals inside the tooth are shaped to allow them to better accept a special filling called gutta percha. The access hole is then sealed to further protect the tooth from future infection, and a temporary crown is placed.
A new crown to boot. Within a couple weeks, we'll cap the tooth with a long-lasting lifelike crown (or a filling on certain teeth). This adds further protection for the tooth against infection, helps strengthen the tooth's structure, and restores the tooth's appearance.
Without this procedure, the chances of a tooth surviving this level of advanced decay are very slim. But undergoing a root canal, as Alfonso Ribeiro did, can give your tooth a real fighting chance.
If you would like more information about root canal treatments, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “A Step-By-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment” and “Root Canal Treatment: How Long Will It Last?”
1. What is dental erosion?
a. tooth decay; b. dissolving of tooth enamel by acids in food or drink; c. destruction of tooth material by wear; d. attacks on teeth by bacteria
2. Which of these drinks does not cause dental erosion?
a. orange juice; b. cola drinks; c. water; d. energy drinks
3. Soda sweetened with artificial sweeteners does not cause dental erosion.
a. true; b. false
4. Brushing your teeth immediately after consuming acidic food or drinks may make erosion worse.
a. true; b. false
5. Waiting after consuming acidic foods or drinks allows time for your saliva to neutralize the acid and add calcium back to the enamel in your teeth.
a. true; b. false
6. How long should you wait before brushing after consuming acidic foods or drinks?
a. 10 minutes; b. 20 minutes; c. 30 minutes to an hour d. eight hours
7. Loss of tooth surface material due to dental erosion is reversible.
a. true; b. false
8. People who suffer from bulimia, a psychological condition in which they frequently induce vomiting, often develop severe dental erosion from stomach acid.
a. true; b. false
9. What is the meaning of a low pH value?
a. high pH means high acidity; b. low pH means high acidity; c. neutral pH means high acidity; d. none of the above
10. Properties of a beverage that define their likelihood to erode your teeth are its acidity and its buffering capacity (resistance to being neutralized by saliva.)
a. true; b. false
11. Cola beverages, sports and energy drinks, and fruit juices have a low pH and high buffering capacity. What other factors determine their likelihood of causing dental erosion?
a. acid concentration; b. drinking them more frequently; c. swishing them around in your mouth; d. all of the above
12. How can you reduce dental erosion from the beverages you drink?
a. drink acidic beverages only at mealtimes and not all day long; b. drink beverages with added calcium; c. sip drinks through a straw to reduce contact with your teeth; d. all of the above
Answers: 1b, 2c, 3b, 4a, 5a, 6c, 7b, 8a, 9b, 10a, 11d, 12d
How did you score on our quiz? We hope you gained some information that will help you reduce dental erosion and preserve your teeth’s vital protective enamel.
Crowns are a mainstay of cosmetic dentistry used to improve your smile’s appearance in a variety of situations. Not all crowns are alike, though — and the differences could affect your cost.
Crowns or caps are needed to cover remaining tooth structure which was previously damaged. Tooth decay and trauma are the major reasons for damage or loss of tooth structure that make crowns necessary. After preparing the remaining healthy tooth to fit into the new crown, we then make an impression mold of the tooth for a dental technician to use to create the new crown. It’s at this point where the road to your new smile can take different paths, both in construction and how much artistry goes in to your crown’s formation.
Porcelain crown construction falls into two general categories. The first category involves life-like porcelain fused to an inner core of metal. Because many older types of porcelain tend to be brittle and subject to breaking under pressure, metals are used to strengthen the crown. A fused crown can thus provide both durability and a life-like appearance.
In recent years, though, new dental materials have made the second category — all porcelain crowns — a viable option. Either lithium disilicate or zirconium oxide account for nearly two-thirds of crowns made today. Although research on their durability is relatively new, initial results have been encouraging, showing advanced all-ceramic crowns can tolerate forces comparable to porcelain fused to metal (PFM) crowns used in bridges.
On the downside, these newer materials may be more expensive than PFM crowns. Costs for manufacturing may also increase depending on how life-like the matching of color with other teeth you desire your crown to be. For example, individual teeth aren’t a uniform color — there are gradations of color that can vary from the tip of the tooth to the root. To capture these gradations in an individual crown requires a high level of artistry and time by the dental technician, which increases the final cost.
If you’re in need of a crown, it’s best to first make an appointment for a consultation to review your options, and to consider both your expectations and financial ability. Together we can determine what it will take to create a new look for your teeth that fits your expectations and your budget.
You brush and floss every day to rid your teeth and gums of disease-causing plaque. But while “showing up” is most of the battle, the effectiveness of your technique will win the war.
So, how good are you at removing plaque? One quick way to find out is the “tongue test”—simply rub your tongue along your teeth: they should feel smooth and “squeaky” clean. Surfaces that feel rough and gritty probably still contain plaque.
For a more thorough evaluation, your dental hygienist may use a product during your regular dental visit called a plaque disclosing agent. It’s a solution applied to your teeth that dyes any bacterial plaque present on tooth surfaces a certain color while leaving clean surfaces un-dyed. The disclosing agent shows you where you’re effectively removing plaque and where you’re not.
These products aren’t exclusive to the dental office—you can use something similar at home if you’d like to know how well you’re doing with your hygiene before your next visit. You can find them over-the-counter as tablets, swabs or solutions. You may even find some that have two dye colors, one that reveals older plaque deposits and the other newer plaque.
You simply follow the product’s directions by first brushing and flossing as usual, then chewing the tablet, daubing the swab on all tooth and gum surfaces, or swishing the solution in your mouth like mouthwash for about 30 seconds before spitting it out. You can then use a mirror to observe any dye staining. Pay attention to patterns: for example, dyed plaque scalloping along the gum line means you’ll need to work your brush a little more in those areas.
The dye could color your gums, lips and tongue as well as your teeth, but it only lasts a few hours. And while plaque disclosing agents are FDA-approved for oral use, you should still check the ingredients for any to which you may be allergic.
All in all, a plaque disclosing agent is a good way to occasionally check the effectiveness of your plaque removal efforts. By improving your technique you may further lower your risk of dental disease.
If you would like more information on learning how effective your oral hygiene really is, 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 “Plaque Disclosing Agents.”
Professional Hockey player Keith Yandle is the current NHL “iron man”—that is, he has earned the distinction of playing in the most consecutive games. On November 23, Yandle was in the first period of his 820th consecutive game when a flying puck knocked out or broke nine of his front teeth. He returned third period to play the rest of the game, reinforcing hockey players’ reputation for toughness. Since talking was uncomfortable, he texted sportswriter George Richards the following day: “Skating around with exposed roots in your mouth is not the best.”
We agree with Yandle wholeheartedly. What we don’t agree with is waiting even one day to seek treatment after serious dental trauma. It was only on the following day that Yandle went to the dentist. And after not missing a game in over 10 years, Yandle wasn’t going to let a hiccup like losing, breaking or cracking nearly a third of his teeth interfere with his iron man streak. He was back on the ice later that day to play his 821st game.
As dentists, we don’t award points for toughing it out. If anything, we give points for saving teeth—and that means getting to the dentist as soon as possible after suffering dental trauma and following these tips:
- If a tooth is knocked loose or pushed deeper into the socket, don’t force the tooth back into position.
- If you crack a tooth, rinse your mouth but don’t wiggle the tooth or bite down on it.
- If you chip or break a tooth, save the tooth fragment and store it in milk or saliva. You can keep it against the inside of your cheek (not recommend for small children who are at greater risk of swallowing the tooth).
- If the entire tooth comes out, pick up the tooth without touching the root end. Gently rinse it off and store it in milk or saliva. You can try to push the tooth back into the socket yourself, but many people feel uneasy about doing this. The important thing is to not let the tooth dry out and to contact us immediately. Go to the hospital if you cannot get to the dental office.
Although keeping natural teeth for life is our goal, sometimes the unexpected happens. If a tooth cannot be saved after injury or if a damaged tooth must be extracted, there are excellent tooth replacement options available. With today’s advanced dental implant technology, it is possible to have replacement teeth that are indistinguishable from your natural teeth—in terms of both look and function.
And always wear a mouthguard when playing contact sports! A custom mouthguard absorbs some of the forces of impact to help protect you against severe dental injury.
If you would like more information about how to protect against or treat dental trauma or about replacing teeth with dental implants, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dental Implants: A Tooth-Replacement Method That Rarely Fails” and “The Field-Side Guide to Dental Injuries.”
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