My Blog

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
September 13, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth pain  
BothToothDecayorGumDiseaseCouldBecomeSomethingFarWorse

While mouth pain can certainly get your attention, what exactly hurts may be difficult to identify. It might seem to emanate from a single tooth, or a group of teeth. Then again, it might not be clear whether it's coming from teeth or from the gums.

Still, it's important to pinpoint the cause as much as possible to treat it correctly. One of the main questions we often want to answer is whether the cause originates from within a tooth or without.

In the first case, tooth decay may have entered the pulp at the center of the tooth. The pulp contains nerve bundles that can come under attack from decay and transmit pain signals. Incidentally, if the pain suddenly goes away, it may simply mean the nerves have died and not the infection.

The decay can also spread into the root canals leading to the root and supporting bone, and then make the jump into the gum tissues. One possible sign of this is the one mentioned earlier—you can't quite tell if the pain is from the tooth or the surrounding gums.

The root canals could also serve as a transportation medium for infection in the other direction. In that case, gum disease has advanced into the bone tissues around a tooth near its roots. The infection can then cross into the tooth. Again, both a tooth and the gum tissue around it can become diseased.

We have effective treatments for individual occurrences of interior tooth decay or gum disease: The former usually requires a root canal treatment to remove infected tissue and fill and seal the tooth from future infection; we alleviate gum disease by removing the dental plaque causing it and helping the gum tissues to heal. But combined tooth and gum infection scenarios are more difficult to treat, have a poorer prognosis and may require specialists.

To reduce the risk of either tooth decay or gum disease developing into this greater problem, it's best to take action at the first sign of trouble. So, see your dentist as soon as possible when you encounter oral pain or if you notice swollen or bleeding gums. The earlier we treat the initial outbreak of disease, be it tooth decay or gum disease, the better your chances of a successful and happy outcome.

If you would like more information on tooth pain, 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 “Confusing Tooth Pain.”

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
September 03, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: dental injuries  
BeBetterPreparedForTooth-RelatedInjuries

Disasters are an unfortunate part of life—and not just on the epic scale of a hurricane, flood or earthquake. You could easily find yourself having your own "personal pizza"-sized disaster—a car accident, a sports injury or even a tumble on a leisurely hike. And oftentimes, the consequences could affect your mouth, teeth or jaws.

We can't always account for every variable in life, but we can prepare for possible disasters, big or small. That includes being ready for a possible dental injury.

September is National Preparedness Month, when safety and emergency professionals seek to raise awareness about what people can do to prepare for when disaster strikes. When it comes to protecting you and your family's oral health, here are a few things you can do to stop or lessen the impact of a dental injury.

Use a mouthguard. These soft, plastic appliances that fit in the mouth cushion the force of a hard blow to the face and jaws. They're a must for any contact sport like football or basketball, but also for other outdoor activities like trail biking. It's also worth the investment in comfort and effectiveness to have your dentist create a mouthguard customized just for you.

Create a dental first aid kit. It's a good idea to carry along a first aid kit during sports or other physical activities. It's a great idea to include a few extra items in case of injuries to the teeth or gums. A dental mirror and flashlight, medical-grade gloves, "Save a Tooth" kits (for knocked out teeth) or even tea bags to help stop bleeding gums are handy to have if you or someone with you suffers a dental-related injury.

Know what to do in case of dental injury. As careful as you might be, you can't completely eliminate the risk of dental injury, so it's wise to know how to render specific first aid for a variety of mouth-related injuries. To that end, we've provided a free dental injury field guide that you can print to review or to include in your emergency first aid kit.

Locate dental providers away from home. Serious injuries that result in loose, knocked out or misaligned teeth need immediate dental care. No problem if your regular dentist is close at hand—but what if you're out of town or on vacation? Before you go, locate a dental provider at your destination that you can see in case of emergency, and keep their contact information close at hand.

It's no fun going through an adverse event, especially with the possibility of injury. It's even worse to meet disaster unprepared. By following these guidelines, you can have a better handle on the injury risks to you and your family's dental health.

If you would like more information about protecting your teeth from injury, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “An Introduction to Sports Injuries & Dentistry.”

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
August 24, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: gum recession  
GumRecessionDoesntHavetobePermanent

The worst outcome of periodontal (gum) disease is tooth loss—but it isn't the only form of misery you might suffer. One of the more troublesome results associated with gum disease is gum recession.

Normal gum tissue covers teeth from just above the visible crown to the roots, providing protection against bacteria and oral acid similar to the enamel on the crown. But advanced gum disease can weaken these tissues, causing them to pull away or recede from the teeth.

Not only can this diminish your smile appearance, but the exposed areas are more susceptible to further disease and painful sensitivity. And it certainly can accelerate tooth loss.

But there are some things we can do to reduce the harm caused by gum recession. If we're able to diagnose and treat a gum infection early while the gums have only mildly receded, the tissues could stabilize and not get worse.

The chances for natural regrowth are unlikely, especially the more extensive the recession. In such cases, the gums may need some assistance via plastic periodontal surgery. Surgeons reconstruct gum tissues by grafting like tissues to the area of recession. These grafts serve as a scaffold for new tissues to gradually grow upon.

There are two general types of grafting procedures. One is called free gingival grafting. The surgeon completely removes a thin layer of skin from elsewhere in the mouth (such as the palate), then shapes and attaches it to the recession site. Both the donor and recession sites heal at approximately the same rate, usually within 14-21 days. This procedure replaces missing gum tissue, but doesn't cover exposed tooth roots to any great extent.

In cases of root exposure, dentists usually prefer another type of procedure, known as connective tissue grafting.  The donor tissue is usually taken again from the palate, but the design of the surgery is different. A flap of tissue at the recipient site is opened so that after the connective tissue from the palate is placed at the recipient site to cover the exposed roots, the flap of tissue covers the graft to provide blood circulation to the graft as it heals.

Both kinds of procedures, particularly the latter, require detailed precision by a skilled and experienced surgeon. Although they can successfully reverse gum recession, it's much better to avoid a gum infection in the first place with daily oral hygiene and regular dental care.

If you would like more information on treating gum recession, 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 “Periodontal Plastic Surgery.”

AreYourTeethSensitivetoWhiteninglikeDrewBarrymoresHeresWhatYouCanDo

Best known for her roles in E.T. and Ever After, and more recently as a suburban mom/zombie on Netflix's Santa Clarita Diet, Drew Barrymore is now bringing her trademark quirky optimism to a new talk show, The Drew Barrymore Show on CBS. Her characteristic self-deprecating humor was also on display recently on Instagram, as she showed viewers how she keeps her teeth clean and looking great.

In typical Drew fashion, she invited viewers into her bathroom to witness her morning brushing ritual (complete with slurps and sloshes). She also let everyone in on a little insider Drew 411: She has extremely sensitive teeth, so although she would love to sport a Hollywood smile, this condition makes teeth whitening difficult.

Barrymore's sensitivity problem isn't unique. For some, bleaching agents can irritate the gums and tooth roots. It's usually a mild reaction that subsides in a day or two. But take heart if you count yourself among the tooth-sensitive: Professional whitening in the dental office may provide the solution you are looking for.

In the dental office, we take your specific needs into account when we treat you. We have more control over our bleaching solutions than those you may find in the store, allowing us to adjust the strength to match your dental needs and your smile expectations and we can monitor you during treatment to keep your teeth safe. Furthermore, professional whitening lasts longer, so you won't have to repeat it as often.

After treatment, you can minimize discomfort from sensitive teeth by avoiding hot or cold foods and beverages. You may also find it helpful to use a toothpaste or other hygiene product designed to reduce tooth sensitivity.

The best thing you can do is to schedule an appointment with us to fully explore your problems with sensitivity and how we may help. First and foremost, you should undergo an exam to ensure any sensitivity you're experiencing isn't related to a more serious issue like tooth decay or gum recession.

Having a bright smile isn't just advantageous to celebrities like Drew Barrymore—it can make a difference in your personal and professional relationships, as well as your own self-confidence. We can help you achieve that brighter smile while helping you avoid sensitivity afterward.

If you would like more information about teeth whitening, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
August 04, 2021
Category: Oral Health
SafelyRemoveaLooseBabyToothforaHappyToothFairyEncounter

Although Santa Claus has Christmas and the Easter Bunny has Easter, neither of these mythical characters has a day just for them (unless you count the Feast of Saint Nicholas in early December). Not so the Tooth Fairy: According to NationalToday.com, August 22nd is National Tooth Fairy Day, in celebration of this favorite sprite of children.

And, there's good reason for the love—he (or she, if you prefer) comes bearing gifts. Well, not technically a gift: the deal is a tooth in exchange for a treat. Now, what the Tooth Fairy does with all the millions of teeth obtained, no one knows. But that he/she has a huge potential supply is undeniable.

The teeth sought are a specific kind—primary ("baby") teeth that start showing up on the jaw a few months after birth and then gradually fall out by adolescence. Kids have around twenty of these teeth for the potential under-the-pillow exchange.

Here's how it happens: The roots slowly begin to dissolve and the gum tissues holding the tooth in place detach. The sure sign this is occurring is the tooth's noticeable looseness. The process continues naturally, and with no help from us, until the tooth falls out.

But children especially can grow impatient—a wiggly tooth becomes annoying, not to mention all that "earning potential" just hanging there. And so, there's an understandable urge to help it along. But some methods for doing so are problematic—tying a string to the tooth and yanking, for example. Trying to remove a tooth not quite ready can result in excessive bleeding or damage to the tooth socket.

Depending on a tooth's degree of looseness, there is a way to take it out safely. You can do this by draping a piece of gauze pad over the tooth and grasping it firmly between your fingers. Then, gently give the tooth a gentle downward pinch or squeeze. If it's loose enough, it should come out. If not, simply wait another day or two and try again.

A tooth ready to come out doesn't normally bleed much. If it does, have the child bite down on a clean piece of gauze or a wet tea bag for a few minutes until the bleeding stops. They might also eat softer foods for a few days to avoid a resumption of bleeding.

Of course, the tooth inevitably comes out whether you help it along or not. In the event it does away from home, make up some kind of small container your child can carry with them to secure the lost tooth. It's a fun project—and we wouldn't want to lose the opportunity for that profitable encounter with You-Know-Who.

If you would like more information about caring for children's primary teeth, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Losing a Baby Tooth.”





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