Posts for: December, 2014
An icy cold beverage on a hot day or a steaming cup of cocoa on a frigid day are some of the simple pleasures in life. So why do they sometimes seem to turn against you and send sharp, sudden pain shooting through your teeth?
When pain affects your teeth, it's because the nerves within the very center portion, the “pulp,” are reacting to a stimulus such as temperature, pressure changes, or acidic or sugary substances. In healthy teeth, the pulp is protected from stimuli. Above the gum line, a layer of enamel encases and protects the visible portion of tooth (crown). Below, the gums (gingiva) and a thin layer of “cementum” protect the root portion. Neither of these contains nerves. However, directly under the enamel and cementum, surrounding the interior pulp, is the “dentin.” This layer contains nerve fibers that can relay sensations to the nerves in the pulp, which respond as they are designed to — with an unpleasant feeling that tells you something's wrong.
That feeling can range from a momentary pang, to prolonged dull throbbing, to downright excruciating distress. The nature of the pain depends on the type and degree of stimulus. The only way to be certain of what's causing the pain is with a professional dental examination. However, your symptoms can hint at some possible sources.
Fleeting sensitivity triggered by hot and cold foods generally does not indicate a serious problem. It may be due to any of the following:
- a small area of decay in a tooth,
- a loose filling,
- an exposed root surface resulting from gum recession (often due to improper or excessive brushing), or
- temporary pulp tissue irritation from recent dental work.
To help alleviate root sensitivity, make sure the tooth is free of dental bacterial plaque by brushing gently no more than twice a day. Fluoride-containing toothpaste made for sensitive teeth might help. Fluoride and additives such as potassium nitrate or strontium chloride help relieve sensitivity. Try using the toothpaste like a balm, gently rubbing it into the tooth surface for about 10 minutes. If the sensitivity is related to recent dental work, it should resolve within a few days to a week or two, depending on the extent of the work you had done. A mild over-the-counter pain reliever may help in the meantime.
No matter what the reason, if the sensitivity persists or worsens, please come see us. Together we'll get to the root of the underlying problem and resolve it so you can get back to enjoying the foods and beverages you love, no matter what the temperature!
If you would like more information about tooth sensitivity and ways to prevent or treat it, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Sensitive Teeth” and “Tooth Pain? Don't Wait!”
Like many who have risen to the top tier in show business, singer Taylor Hicks found that he needed a few things (besides talent, of course) to really succeed: a willingness to seek out opportunities and work hard; a unique and energetic stage presence; and a bright, appealing smile.
“Everyone wants to have a great smile,” Hicks recently told Dear Doctor magazine. “In my business, it’s one of the most important things. A lot of what I do is smiling and having fun, being in front of the camera and taking pictures.”
To help him keep his smile sparkling, Hicks opts for in-office whitening treatments from his dentist. These treatments are a safe, quick and effective way to lighten teeth by 3 to 8 shades in a single one-hour visit. Best of all, you don’t have to be an American Idol winner or a Las Vegas headliner to take advantage of them — in fact, we offer them right here in our own office.
Why choose in-office treatments instead of take-home trays (or over-the-counter products)? While each system can be effective at lightening teeth to some degree, the in-office method offers several distinct advantages. For one, it’s the fastest way to get your teeth as bright as they can be; the same lightening that can be achieved in one office visit could take a week when done at home, using custom-made trays and dentist-supplied bleaching solutions — and several weeks with over-the-counter products! So if your time is limited, in-office treatment is the way to go.
Plus, in-office treatments are performed under our direct supervision. That means we can safely use the most powerful whitening gels, and achieve the maximum control over the result. This can be important when you have crowns or replacement teeth such as implants, which Hicks has. Artificial crowns don’t whiten like natural teeth, so it’s important to get just the right degree of lightening to produce an evenly bright smile.
The bottom line, of course, is the result: a dazzling white smile. “In entertainment, a big, pearly white smile makes a difference,” Hicks said. But you don’t have to be an entertainer to enjoy the benefits of a brilliant smile — we do it for plenty of “regular folks” too.
So if your smile could use a little brightening, why not call us and schedule an appointment for whitening treatment? You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Teeth Whitening” and “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”
Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD), which was formerly known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ), is an interesting condition because it can be hard to diagnose and often mimics many other conditions. It arises when there are problems inside the temporomandibular joint, and the muscles attached to it, causing pain. When treating TMD, we typically start by relieving the symptoms of pain and discomfort with heat, mild pain medications, a diet of soft foods, and some simple jaw exercises. We feel that it is critical to address your pain issues as soon as possible before preceding any further with treatment.
Once we have provided some pain relief and after having completed a thorough history and examination, we can move to the next phase of treatment. This may include the introduction of a bite guard or some form of oral appliance therapy. A bite guard is an unobtrusive yet rigid plastic horseshoe-shaped appliance that fits snuggly over the biting surfaces of the upper teeth. When in place and properly adjusted, this custom-made appliance allows your muscles and therefore jaw joints to relax. And it will prevent you from grinding your teeth, another contributing factor to TMD. We will probably ask you to wear it when sleeping or in times when you are feeling stressed when clenching or grinding habits may be active. We may also suggest that you obtain some relaxation therapy and/or biofeedback from a licensed therapist, as this can prove helpful in treating TMD.
If you have suffered from frequent jaw pain in the past and suspect that you may have TMD, please let us know so that we can address it at your next appointment. Or if you are currently in constant or severe pain, contact us immediately to schedule an appointment. You can learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for TMD by reading “TMD — Understanding The Great Imposter.”