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Posts for category: Oral Health

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
December 02, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay  
RecurringSinusInfectionsCouldBeaSignofToothDecay

It seems like every year you make at least one trip to the doctor for a sinus infection. You might blame it on allergies or a "bug" floating around, but it could be caused by something else: tooth decay.

We're referring to an advanced form of tooth decay, which has worked its way deep into the pulp and root canals of a tooth. And, it could have an impact on your sinuses if the tooth in question is a premolar or molar in the back of the upper jaw.

These particular teeth are located just under the maxillary sinus, a large, open space behind your cheek bones. In some people, these teeth's roots can extend quite close to the sinus floor, or may even extend through it.

It's thus possible for an infection in such a tooth to spread from the tip of the roots into the maxillary sinus. Unbeknownst to you, the infection could fester within the tooth for years, occasionally touching off a sinus infection.

Treating with antibiotics may relieve the sinus infection, but it won't reach the bacteria churning away inside the tooth, the ultimate cause for the infection. Until you address the decay within the tooth, you could keep getting the occasional sinus infection.

Fortunately, we can usually treat this interior tooth decay with a tried and true method called root canal therapy. Known simply as a "root canal," this procedure involves drilling a hole into the tooth to access the infected tissue in the pulp and root canals. After removing the diseased tissue and disinfecting the empty spaces, we fill the pulp and root canals and then seal and crown the tooth to prevent future infection.

Because sinus infections could be a sign of a decayed tooth, it's not a bad idea to see a dentist or endodontist (root canal specialist) if you're having them frequently. Treating it can restore the tooth to health—and maybe put a stop to those recurring sinus infections.

If you would like more information on the connection between tooth decay and sinus problems, 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 “Sinusitis and Tooth Infections.”

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
November 22, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay  
SeeYourDentistIfYouNoticeAnyofThese3ProblemSigns

Although there are several potential problems people could encounter involving their teeth, gums or mouth, most fall into three basic categories. That's the finding of a recent survey conducted by the American Dental Association of more than 15,000 U.S. adults.

These categories are a triad of symptoms, each of which could arise from a variety of causes. If you're encountering any one of these, you should see your dentist as soon as possible.

Tooth pain. A toothache—or any form of pain from the mouth—could be sign of a number of possible issues. It could mean you have a decayed tooth, especially if the pain is sharp and localized. It could also indicate a gum abscess (accompanied by red and puffy gums), a sinus or ear infection, or inflammation of the jaw joints. The intensity, duration and location of the pain are all clues to its actual cause and what treatments it might require.

Biting difficulties. Does it hurt when you bite down? Among other things, you could have a loose tooth or one that's deeply decayed. The former could be the sign of advanced gum disease, which itself must be treated and the tooth stabilized (splinted) to other teeth. If the problem is advanced decay, you may need a root canal to remove diseased tissue from within the interior of the tooth, which is then filled and crowned to prevent re-infection.

Dry mouth. We're not talking about that "cotton mouth" feeling we all get now and then. This is a chronic condition known as xerostomia in which the mouth feels dry all the time. Xerostomia has several causes including smoking or treatments for cancer or other serious diseases. It might also be a medication you're taking, which has reduced your mouth's saliva production. Because dry mouth could lead to dental disease, you should take steps to relieve it.

Even if you're not having symptoms like these, there may still be something going on in your mouth that needs attention. That's why you should see your dentist on a regular basis, besides when you notice a problem, to keep your oral health in tip-top shape.

If you would like more information on potential teeth and gum problems, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
November 12, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  
4TipsForImprovingYourOralHygieneTechnique

Although we've advanced leaps and bounds over the years treating dental disease, our strategy for preventing them hasn't changed much. That's because these prevention basics are quite effective—and as the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

The core of an effective dental disease prevention strategy is mind-numbingly simple—brush and floss every day. These twin cleaning tasks remove accumulated dental plaque, a thin, bacterial film on tooth surfaces that's the primary oral disease driver.

True, there have been innovations concerning the "tools of the trade," i.e., toothbrushes, toothpastes and flossing devices. But what really makes this prevention strategy work is a consistent daily habit of oral hygiene.

In a way, simply "showing up" for daily oral hygiene goes a long way. But you can go even farther if you perform these tasks with greater proficiency—becoming a hygiene "ninja," of sorts.

Here, then, are 4 tips to improve your brushing and flossing prowess.

Be thorough when you brush. Try to cover all of your tooth surfaces when you brush, being sure to work the bristles into all the nooks and crannies and around the gum lines. A thorough brushing should take about 2 minutes.

Easy does it. Hard scrubbing may work on floors, but not your teeth—aggressive brushing can damage your enamel and gums. Brush gently and let the mild abrasives in your toothpaste do the heavy work of plaque removal.

Don't forget to floss. Although you may not like this "other hygiene task," flossing is necessary to remove plaque between teeth that your brush can't reach. Be sure, then, that you floss at least once a day.

Take the "tongue test." Wondering how well you're doing with your oral hygiene? A quick way to find out is by swiping your tongue across your teeth: If they feel gritty rather than smooth, you may have left some plaque behind.

Be sure to also ask your dentist for additional tips on better brushing and flossing. Improving your technique can help you put even more distance between you and dental disease.

If you would like more information on daily care for teeth and gums, 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 “Daily Oral Hygiene.”

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
November 02, 2021
Category: Oral Health
OlympiansPoleVaultingAccidentPutstheSpotlightonDentalInjuries

British pole vaulter Harry Coppell had an unpleasant mishap right before the Tokyo Olympic games. During a training vault, Coppell glanced the top bar to loosen it, which then fell on top of his face on the mat. The impact broke one of his front teeth nearly in two and severely damaged others.

Coppell posted the accident on Instagram, along with a photo of the aftermath. "I hope @tokyo2020 has a good dentist around," he quipped in the caption. Alas, after several hours with a dentist, one of the injured teeth couldn't be saved, although the chipped tooth remained. Needless to say, the Olympian's smile took a beating along with his teeth.

Fortunately, through the marvels of cosmetic dentistry, Coppell can eventually regain his attractive smile. Still, though, his experience is a blunt reminder that sports and other physical activities do carry some risk for dental injury, especially for active young adults and children.

A chipped tooth is the most common outcome of a traumatic dental injury, but not the only one: you might also suffer from a displaced, loosened or even knocked-out tooth. And, even if the teeth don't appear injured after face trauma, there could be underlying gum and bone damage that requires prompt emergency care from a dentist.

Of course, preventing a dental injury is far better than treating one that has occurred—and wearing an athletic mouthguard is your best bet for dodging such a bullet. A mouthguard's soft plastic helps absorb the force of a hard impact so that the teeth and gums don't. This important protective gear is a must for anyone who plays sports like football or basketball, or enjoys physical activities like trail biking.

When it comes to mouthguards, you have two general categories from which to choose. The first is called a "boil and bite," often found online or in sporting goods stores. These usually come in general sizes that can be customized further by softening in hot water and then having the wearer bite down while it's soft (hence the name). This personalizes the guard to fit the individual wearer.

The other category is a custom mouthguard created by a dentist from an impression of the wearer's mouth. Because of this specialized fit, custom mouthguards aren't usually as bulky as boil and bites, and are typically more comfortable to wear.

The key point, though, is that a mouthguard can help you avoid a serious dental injury, regardless of which category you choose. It could mean the difference between a forgettable incident or dental damage that could impact your life for years to come.

If you would like more information about preventing and treating dental injuries, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Athletic Mouthguards.”

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.”



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