My Blog

Posts for: October, 2021

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
October 23, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: tooth decay  
WereImprovingOurEffectivenessinTreatingToothDecay

For several decades, dentists have been saving teeth from tooth decay following a few basic guidelines: 1) Identify decay as soon as possible; 2) Thoroughly remove decayed tooth structure; and 3) Fill any cavities. With millions of diseased teeth rescued, observing these simple steps have proven a rousing success.

But as with most things, even this successful protocol isn't perfect. For one, some healthy tissue gets removed along with the diseased portions. The average percentage of "collateral damage" has dropped over the years, but it still happens—and a reduction in healthy tissue can make a tooth less structurally sound.

Another drawback, at least from the patient's perspective, is the dental drill used for removing decay and preparing cavities for filling. Many people find drilling unpleasant, whether from its vibrations in the mouth or its high-pitched whine. The drill's burr head design also contributes to greater healthy tissue loss.

But those weaknesses have lessened over the last few years, thanks to innovations on a number of fronts.

Better risk management. Tooth decay doesn't occur out of thin air—it arises out of risk factors unique to an individual patient like personal hygiene, bacterial load, saliva production or even genetics. Taking the time to identify a patient's "tooth decay risk score" can lead to customized treatments and practices that can minimize the occurrence of decay.

Earlier detection. Like other aspects of dental health, the sooner we detect decay, the less damage it causes and the more successful our treatment. X-rays remain the workhorse for detecting decay, but now with improvements like digital film and better equipment. We're also using newer technologies like laser fluorescence and infrared technology that can "see" decay that might otherwise go undetected.

Less invasive treatment. The dental drill is now being used less with the advent of air abrasion technology. Air abrasion utilizes a concentrated spray of particles to remove diseased tooth structure more precisely than drilling. That means less healthy tissue loss—and a more pleasant (and quieter!) experience for the patient.

In effect, "less is more" could describe these improvements to traditional decay treatment. They and other methods promise healthier teeth and happier patients.

If you would like more information on current treatments for tooth decay, 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 “Minimally Invasive Dentistry: When Less Care is More.”


By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
October 13, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: oral hygiene   dentures  
DoThese2ThingsForYourHealthsSakeIfYouWearDentures

Today's dentures are more comfortable, more functional and more life-like than ever before—so much so that you might forget you have them in. Even so, dentures do have some downsides, and constant wear only amplifies those.

Our biggest concern is the effect dentures can have on bone health. Older bone is constantly replaced by newer bone, and the forces generated while chewing help stimulate this new growth. When a tooth is lost, however, this growth stimulus vanishes with it for that area of the bone. This may result in a slower growth rate, which can eventually lead to lost bone volume and density.

Dentures can't restore this lost stimulus, and may even make the situation worse. That's because traditional dentures rest on the bony ridges of the gums where the teeth once were. This can put pressure on the underlying bone, which can accelerate bone loss—and even more so when wearers leave their dentures in continuously.

Dentures can also contribute to disease if they're not regularly removed and cleaned. Besides oral yeast infections, bacteria-laden dentures can contribute to the production of a protein called interleukin-6 produced by the white blood cells. If a significant amount of this protein passes into the blood stream, it can increase body-wide inflammation and foster a systemic environment conducive to serious diseases like pneumonia.

If you wear dentures, then, it's good for your health (oral and otherwise) to incorporate two practices into your daily life. The first is to remove your dentures at night while you sleep. Not only will this help slow the progression of bone loss, it will also give your gums a chance to rest and recover from denture wear.

It's also important to regularly clean your dentures, either with an antibacterial soap or a special denture cleanser. During storage, keep your dentures in clean water or a peroxide-based solution designed for dentures. This will reduce the accumulation of bacteria on your dentures that can cause disease.

Dentures restore the dental function and smile appearance that a person loses with their teeth. Taking care of your dentures (and giving your mouth a daily rest from them) will help promote good oral and general health for you and a longer life for your dentures.

If you would like more information on denture care, 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 “Sleeping in Dentures.”


By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
October 03, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implant  
ShouldYouTakeanAntibioticBeforeImplantSurgery

Although getting an implant requires surgery, it's usually a minor affair. Chances are good that after just a few days recuperation you'll be back completely to your normal activities.

But like many other minor surgeries, an implant procedure does pose a slight risk of post-op infection. That's especially so with any dental procedure like implant surgery, since the mouth harbors numerous strains of bacteria that could escape into the bloodstream. For most people, though, a post-op infection doesn't pose a major problem since their immune system kicks in immediately to defeat it.

But some patients with less than robust immune systems or other health problems can have serious complications from an infection. Among other things, infected tissues around an implant may not heal properly, putting the implant at significant risk for failure.

If you have a condition that makes a post-op infection problematic, your dentist or physician may recommend you take an antibiotic before your procedure. Known as prophylactic (preventive) antibiotic treatment, it's intended to give a weakened immune system a head-start on any potential infection after a procedure.

Using antibiotics in this way has been a practice for several decades, and at one time were recommended for a wide list of conditions. That's changed in recent years, though, as evidence from numerous studies seems to show the risk to benefit ratio isn't significant enough to warrant its use in all but a handful of conditions.

Both the American Dental Association and the American Heart Association recommend prophylactic antibiotics for patients with prosthetic heart valves, past infective endocarditis, a heart transplant and some congenital heart conditions. Some orthopedists may also recommend it for patients with prosthetic joints.

Even if you don't fall into these particular categories, prophylactic antibiotics may still be beneficial if you have a compromised immune system or suffer from a disease like diabetes or lung disease. Whether or not a prophylactic antibiotic is a prudent step given your health status is a discussion you should have with both your physician and your dentist.

If they feel it's warranted, it can be done safely in recommended doses. If your health isn't as robust as it could be, the practice could give you a little added insurance toward a successful implant outcome.

If you would like more information about dental implant surgery, 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 “Implants & Antibiotics.”




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