Posts for: December, 2014
If you engage in frequent air travel, you have probably experienced pain in your ears and sinuses related to pressure changes. The pain is caused by “barotraumas” (from baro meaning pressure — also the root of the word “barometer” — and trauma meaning injury) and is also called a “squeeze.” Divers also sometimes experience this discomfort or pain.
The cause of barotraumas is air pressure (or water pressure, in the case of divers) on the outside of your body that is not equal to the pressure inside your body. Normally when pressure outside your body changes, your organs such as your blood, bones, and muscles transmit the changes equally from outside to inside. Some structures in your body, such as your middle ear spaces and your sinus cavities (spaces in the facial bones of the skull), don't transmit the pressure as well because they are filled with air and have rigid walls. The maxillary (upper jaw) sinuses are pyramid-shaped spaces in the bone located below your eyes, on either side of your nose.
You have probably tried to stop such pain in your ears by yawning, chewing, or moving your jaw back and forth. These maneuvers, called “clearing,” allow air to move from the back of your throat into your ear canals so that the pressure can equalize. Similarly, your sinuses have small openings near their lower borders, so that you can clear pressure changes within them. If you have a head cold or flu and the membranes lining your sinuses are swollen and inflamed, they may close off the openings and make it difficult to clear these spaces. This can sometimes lead to intense pain.
Because the lower walls of these sinuses are adjacent to your upper back teeth, these teeth share the same nerves as the maxillary sinuses. This sharing sometimes causes pain felt in your back teeth to be perceived as pain in the sinuses, or vice versa. Pain felt a distance from its actual stimulus because of shared nerves is called “referred pain.”
Be sure to make an appointment with us if you experience pain in any of your teeth. Any defect in a filling or tooth can allow air to enter the tooth. It could be referred pain from your sinuses, or the result of pressure changes on trapped air within a filling or a tooth. Such pain, called barodontalgia (from baro meaning pressure, don't meaning tooth, and algia meaning pain) is an early sign of injury in a tooth.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about tooth and sinus pain. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Pressure Changes Can Cause Tooth & Sinus Pain.”
Everyone knows that George Washington wore false teeth. Quick, now, what were our first President's dentures made of?
Did you say wood? Along with the cherry tree, that's one of the most persistent myths about the father of our country. In fact, Washington had several sets of dentures — made of gold, hippopotamus tusk, and animal teeth, among other things — but none of them were made of wood.
Washington's dental troubles were well documented, and likely caused some discomfort through much of his life. He began losing teeth at the age of 22, and had only one natural tooth remaining when he took office. (He lost that one before finishing his first term.) Portraits painted several years apart show scars on his cheeks and a decreasing distance between his nose and chin, indicating persistent dental problems.
Dentistry has come a long way in the two-and-a-half centuries since Washington began losing his teeth. Yet edentulism — the complete loss of all permanent teeth — remains a major public health issue. Did you know that 26% of U.S. adults between 65 and 74 years of age have no natural teeth remaining?
Tooth loss leads to loss of the underlying bone in the jaw, making a person seem older and more severe-looking (just look at those later portraits of Washington). But the problems associated with lost teeth aren't limited to cosmetic flaws. Individuals lacking teeth sometimes have trouble getting adequate nutrition, and may be at increased risk for systemic health disorders.
Fortunately, modern dentistry offers a number of ways that the problem of tooth loss can be overcome. One of the most common is still — you guessed it — removable dentures. Prosthetic teeth that are well-designed and properly fitted offer an attractive and practical replacement when the natural teeth can't be saved. Working together with you, our office can provide a set of dentures that feel, fit, and function normally — and look great too.
There are also some state-of-the art methods that can make wearing dentures an even better experience. For example, to increase stability and comfort, the whole lower denture can be supported with just two dental implants placed in the lower jaw. This is referred to as an implant supported overdenture. This approach eliminates the need for dental adhesives, and many people find it boosts their confidence as well.
If you have questions about dentures, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Removable Full Dentures” and “Implant Overdentures for the Lower Jaw.”
Did you know that millions of Americans have some degree of gum recession? Are you one of them?
Gum recession is the loss of the pink gum tissue that surrounds your teeth and can lead to exposure of the root surface of your teeth. In addition to the obvious aesthetic issues, recession can also result in tooth loss in very severe cases.
So, what causes gum recession? Well, first of all, if you are genetically predisposed to having thin gum tissues, your gums will be more prone to receding than those with thick tissues. However, other factors include ineffective oral hygiene, excessive brushing and mal-positioned teeth. In addition, poor fitting appliances, such as partial dentures can also cause gum recession.
If you think you are suffering from gum recession, you should make an appointment with us immediately, so that we can perform a thorough examination to accurately diagnose your condition. We'll look at your teeth and their position within the supporting bone and surrounding gum tissue. Depending upon our diagnosis, we may recommend a technique known as gum or soft tissue grafting, which allows us to regenerate lost or damaged gum tissue. Grafting is the surgical manipulation of tissue, taking it from one site and moving it to another, so that it can attach and grow.
There are two basic gum tissue grafting techniques, the free gingival graft and the connective tissue graft. Here is a description of each:
- Free Gingival Grafting. With this technique, we remove a thin layer of tissue from the roof of your mouth or any other site where the tissues are identical to gum tissue (the donor). We then shape and transplant it to the recipient site to create new gum tissue. Both donor and recipient sites heal within two to three weeks.
- Connective Tissue Grafting. This technique is used to cover exposed roots in the treatment of gum recession. It involves more microsurgical maneuvers to prepare both the donor and recipient sites. We take donor tissue from beneath the surface of the roof of your mouth and then cover it with the gum tissue surrounding the exposed root. Another alternative is to use processed tissue rather than your own tissue as a donor material.
When you visit us for an appointment, we will assess which procedure is best-suited to your needs.
If you would like more information about gum recession and plastic surgery, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Periodontal Plastic Surgery.”