Samaritan Endodontics

From Chips To Craze Lines: All About Cracked Teeth

From Chips To Craze Lines All About Cracked TeethYou may be wondering, “What does a cracked tooth have to do with endodontics?” Great question! In fact, it has everything to do with endodontics! You see, without fractured, chipped and broken teeth, there would be almost no need for root canal therapy ever!

Here are some of the most common types of tooth fractures, and what can be done about them:

Cracked Tooth: When we think of a cracked tooth, we are talking about a crack on the crown that extends down toward the root. If the crack has not reached the pulp yet, your dentist may be able to save the tooth with a crown. If it has reached the pulp, we may treat you with a root canal first to remove the pulp and place a crown for protection.

Chipped Tooth: As long as the pulp hasn’t been affected, your dentist can place a crown to fix your chipped tooth.

Craze Lines: These tiny cracks are common in adults and only exist in the outer enamel. They are not a problem and require no treatment.

Fractured Cusp: Many times, an old filling will give way and a piece of the tooth’s chewing surface will break off. If the pulp is exposed, we will perform a root canal prior to the crown to remove the pulp and save the tooth.

Split Tooth: Split all the way down to the roots, a tooth in this state cannot be saved 100%. However, sometimes a root canal treatment and crown can help to save part of the tooth. Often a split tooth started off as simply a cracked tooth, which is why it’s so important to get care early on if you have any tooth injury!

Vertical Root Fracture: In this scenario, the fracture starts at the bottom of the root of the tooth and extends upward toward the crown. Often they go unnoticed until the bone and gum become infected. Sometimes extraction is necessary. However, we will check first to see if we can save the tooth by removing the fractured portion with endodontic surgery.

Preventing Oral Cancer

Preventing-Oral-CancerWhile we cannot all necessarily prevent cancer from happening, with most cancers, including oral, head and neck cancers, there are things that you can do (or not do!) to reduce your risk.

  • Quit Smoking: After five years of quitting smoking, your risk of oral cancer is cut down to just half of that of a smoker.
  • Limit Alcohol: Excessive alcohol use is the second largest risk factor for oral cancer. Limit drinks to one per day for women and two per day for men.
  • HPV Vaccine: HPV is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer (the back of the mouth and throat). HPV is also responsible for a small number of oral cavity cancers (the mouth).
  • Self-Exams: Be an advocate for your own health by regularly examining your mouth with a mirror and flashlight. Don’t forget to look under the tongue! Watch for unusual bumps, patches, different coloring, and report any to us that don’t heal within 14 days. Feel your lips, cheeks, throat and neck for unusual bumps and masses. There are a number of online guides for performing a thorough at home oral cancer self-exam.
  • Have Regular Checkups: Oral health professionals such as dentists and oral surgeons are the second line of defense (after you) in terms of screening for oral cancers. Be sure to ask us any questions that come up during your exam.
  • Eat Well: A healthy diet includes plentiful vegetables and fruits, is low in sugar and saturated fats, and includes lean sources of protein and whole grains. Incorporate new foods into your diet slowly for long lasting results.
  • Exercise: Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day or more!
  • Get Adequate Sleep and Minimize Stress: A lack of sleep and stress both contribute to inflammation which has long been recognized as a player in the cancer game.

After the Root Canal

After the Root CanalIf you have a root canal scheduled with our office, congratulations! You have taken an important first step toward saving your tooth and, thus, your smile and your oral health down the road! You may be wondering what to expect in terms of pain and what to do to relieve it after your procedure. Luckily, we have saved our best tips for you! Read on for information on home-care after a root canal.

How much pain will I have?
You will be happy to hear that after root canal treatment, most people report little or no pain. Advancements in endodontic instruments and techniques over the years have made this procedure similar to having a filling done. While it is considered normal to have soreness for a few days following the procedure, make sure you call us if you have extreme pain or pain that lasts more than a week.

Here are our recommended pain management tips following root canal treatment:

Over the Counter Pain Medicine
For the majority of patients, an over the counter pain medication such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) is all that is needed to curb soreness and pain after a root canal.

Prescription Pain Medicine
If we feel that you may need it, we will send you home with a prescription for a stronger pain medication than can be purchased over the counter. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully on the package.

Ice and Heat
For additional comfort at home, you may apply a cool or warm compress to the cheek in the area that the procedure was performed.

Salt Water Rinse
A teaspoon of salt in room temperature water can sometimes help with pain in the days following your procedure. Rinse and spit for reduced swelling and discomfort.

Be Pro-Active with Pain Medication
Have OTC pain medications ready to go at home. Take them before the numbing solution wears off completely so that you are not caught off-guard with pain. If we give you a prescription for pain medicine, fill it before going home, even if you think you won’t use it. Stay on top of timing and dosage until you feel that the soreness is gone.

And, as always, feel free to call us anytime with your questions. We are always happy to help!

Vaping: Is It Harmless?

VapingYou may have noticed a shift in the smoking world over the past few years. Smokers have been seemingly taking a step in the right direction. Smokers are transitioning away from the traditional cigarette to the e-cigarette, this act is also known as: vaping. Transitioning to an e-cigarette from a chemical-filled cigarette that decades of research have proven is deadly seems like a good thing, right? Think again. There are many people venturing into the world of e-cigarettes blindly. While e-cigarette advertisements and companies are currently unregulated, we wanted to uncover a few potential dangers of this popular fad.

The e-cigarette anatomy consists of a battery, a heating element and a cartridge that holds the nicotine, liquid and flavoring. If anyone has tried to convince you that e-cigarettes are not addictive, they’re wrong. Nicotine is highly addictive, and while many teens and young adults believe that vaping is harmless, nicotine is known to negatively affect brain development in this age group. The act of holding an e-cigarette and the presence of nicotine has indicated that it could be a very strong gateway to smoking real cigarettes for these young adults. That correlation has big tobacco firms excited for the future. Tobacco companies have been severely restricted in their advertising campaigns. In the recent past, they were forced to rely on the ‘cool-factor’ of smoking, something they hoped that celebrities and young adult’s peers would embody. E-cigarettes present a gateway to becoming addicted to the real thing. This is just what tobacco companies had been hoping for! Speaking of advertising, while tobacco companies are highly restricted in their advertising campaigns, no one is regulating e-cigarette companies. In fact, these companies can make any claims they wish. With regard to the manufacturing aspect of the e-cigarettes and their cartridges, there is also no regulating body that creates standards for the products.

We have talked about the anatomy of the actual e-cigarette, but what makes up the vapor that is exhaled by the smoker? The cloud that you see consists of aerosol, nicotine, propylene glycol, flavoring and fine particles. The hotter the body of the e-cigarette gets, the more harmful the chemicals contained in them becomes. This means that the deadly carcinogens present in a traditional cigarette are also present in their electronic counterpart.

Research is currently underway to determine the long-term effects of vaping. While current research indicates that an e-cigarette is safer than smoking an actual cigarette, research also proves that e-cigarettes are far from harmless. If you are looking to improve your mouth and lung health, experts agree that quitting smoking devices altogether is still the only 100% risk-free option available.

Getting to the Root of It: The History of Endodontics

Getting to the Root of it - endodonticsYou may be surprised to hear that the word “endodontics” comes from two Greek words put together: “inside” and “tooth”. And you may even be more surprised to hear that the first endodontic treatment may go back as far as 200 BCE! That’s right, a skull from this era was found with a bronze wire in one of its teeth, our very first sign of endodontic treatment! Not long after that, we have evidence that people were draining the root canal area to relieve pain and pressure, and even moved into removing and covering the pulp, not too different from what we do today!

Then, in the early 1900s, X-rays and anesthesia methods were introduced to the medical and dental worlds, allowing for a more comfortable procedure for patients, and more accurate work by the dentist. And then in 1943, the American Association of Endodontists (AAE) was created.

Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, rapid advances in endodontics occurred. Instruments, materials and treatment methods were standardized, while new instruments were made and refined to streamline the safety, efficiency and effectiveness of endodontic treatment.

So if you are in need of root canal therapy now, you might want to give thanks to those who bravely started the trend with nothing more than a wire thousands of years ago!

Tooth Sensitivity: What It Means and What You Can Do

Tooth SensitivityYou’re eating a scoop of ice cream or sipping hot chocolate, and suddenly your tooth hurts. Or maybe brushing your teeth makes you wince. These are common symptoms of tooth sensitivity, one of the most common complaints among dental patients. In fact over 40 million adults suffer from sensitive teeth at some point. This blog will help you understand just what this common problem is and what the cause may be.

Causes of Tooth Sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity is caused by the movement of fluid within tiny tubes located in the dentin (the layer of tissue found beneath the hard enamel that contains the inner pulp), which results in nerve irritation. When the hard enamel is worn down or if your gums have receded, the tiny tube surfaces become exposed so that eating or drinking cold or hot food or beverages, touching the teeth, or exposing them to cold air can be uncomfortable. Dental issues that may cause tooth sensitivity include: tooth decay, fractured teeth, worn fillings, worn tooth enamel, and an exposed tooth root. Excessive consumption of foods and drinks high in acid content, such as soft drinks or citrus juices, can also put you at risk for tooth sensitivity. Acid reflux may also result in the erosion of tooth enamel due to acid coating the teeth.

Treatment. If a tooth is highly sensitive for more than three or four days, it is best to see your dentist to diagnose the cause of your discomfort. We have a variety of options to manage tooth sensitivity, including in-office treatments and products you use at home. We may apply a desensitizing agent or a protective coating to your teeth. Or we may prescribe a fluoride gel or over the counter desensitizing toothpaste, which contains fluoride and potassium nitrate or strontium chloride. These ingredients help block the transmission of sensation from the tooth to the nerve. It is also best to avoid using hard bristled tooth brushes that can wear down tooth enamel and expose sensitive areas.

It is important for us to accurately diagnose the cause of your tooth sensitivity for accurate treatment. Sometimes a damaged tooth may require a filling, bonding, or even root canal if the decay is severe.   Proper dental hygiene is the best way to prevent tooth pain and sensitivity. Please let us know if you have any areas of your mouth that experience sensitivity or if you have any questions abut your dental health.

Root Canals: Your Toughest Questions Answered

Root Canals Your Toughest Questions AnsweredFor most people, the mere mention of a root canal sets off alarm bells in the body. These bells come in the form of nervous thoughts and sensations – that fight-or-flight response we’ve all heard about. While this is a totally normal response, most fear of root canals is based on mis-information. We feel that by giving you the right information, we can help you understand the process better and calm your fears about this routine procedure.

This is not just your average list of root canal FAQs. Here, we aim to tackle the toughest questions that you can throw our way.

I’ve heard that root canals aren’t as painful as they used to be. How can that be true?

  • Better Instruments: Endodontic instruments have improved greatly over the years. They are more precise than ever, allowing us to target only necessary areas and avoid excess irritation.
  • Better Anesthetics: The anesthetics we use today are more effective and less likely to cause negative reactions than in the past. In addition, we can use an anesthetic that has adrenaline or epinephrine added to it to make it last longer. The longer it lasts, the less pain you will feel.
  • Better Imaging: Modern imaging allows for a more precise treatment and lessens the need to cause irritation in non-infected areas.
  • Better Understanding: Today, we have a better understanding of both your body and the microorganisms that cause infected roots. This results in less invasive treatments and better overall care for you.

What can I do to calm my nerves?

  • Know the Facts:
    • Over 15 million root canals are performed each year.
    • Root canals save your natural teeth and save money down the road.
    • Root canals are safe.
    • Root canals relieve pain caused by infection – they don’t cause pain!
  • Ask Questions: Sometimes patients are unsure about a specific part of the procedure and remain silent. We want you to ask questions! Usually we are able to set your mind at ease if you simply ask us.
  • Plug In: Many patients bring music and earphones to the appointment to help pass the time in the chair. Ask us if this is an option for you before your appointment.

Why not just remove the tooth? 
When a tooth hurts, often a person’s first reaction is to get rid of the tooth. However, we know that missing teeth cause bigger health problems and expenses down the road. The first choice in dental care is ALWAYS to save the tooth when possible. Root canal treatment saves teeth. In fact, a tooth that has undergone endodontic treatment can last just as long as the healthy teeth in your mouth!

Dieting and Dental Health

Dieting-and-Dental-HealthGiving up processed foods and artificial sugars is a great way to improve our overall health, but sometimes our “healthy” habits can actually deprive us of vital nutrients. Internal health is an important factor when it comes to oral hygiene, and cutting meat, dairy products or sugars out of your diet could lead to serious conditions such as gum disease if you don’t find the right substitutes. Keep reading for a list of nutrients you might be missing and some tips for balancing your diet with your oral health!

Zinc in saliva and enamel prevents the buildup of bacteria, which eventually turns to tartar or calculus. It is essential to preventing cavities and even gum disease (periodontitis). If you notice a metallic taste in your mouth, zinc deficiency may be to blame, as it causes a buildup of bacteria in the mouth.

  • Zinc-rich foods: Seafood, lean meats, dairy products
  • Alternatives: chickpeas, cashews, almonds

Gum swelling or bleeding may be a sign of Vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin C is necessary for collagen production, which is an essential part of the connective tissue in the gums surrounding the teeth.

  • Vitamin C-rich foods: citrus fruits
  • Alternatives: Bell peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes

A lack of calcium weakens the gums, and people who don’t eat animal and dairy products may be increasing their risk of periodontal disease. Calcium prevents bone degeneration, keeping the jaw strong and healthy so bacteria doesn’t destroy the bone that supports the teeth.

  • Calcium-rich foods: dairy products
  • Alternatives: chickpeas, broccoli, collard greens, oranges

Vitamin D works with calcium to promote strong bones. It increases calcium absorption, preventing tooth loss and jaw bone degeneration.

  • Vitamin D-rich foods: Fatty fish, egg yolk
  • Alternatives: mushrooms, tofu, dairy alternatives (i.e. soy milk)

If you notice a burning sensation in your mouth, specifically on your tongue, or frequent canker sores you may be suffering from iron deficiency. Iron deficiency leads to reduced red blood cells and decreased oxygen flow.

  • Iron-rich foods: Red meat, poultry, seafood
  • Alternatives: dried fruits, beans, dark leafy greens

Finding a solution to your symptoms may be as simple as picking up a few extra ingredients at your local supermarket! Adding some of these nutrient rich foods to your diet can help you get back on track with your oral health and wow us next time you visit our office!

Getting to the Root of An Apicoectomy

Just saying the word “Apicoectomy” is a mouthful! But don’t be put off by the name, it’s a simple and routine procedure that is effective in treating infections that may occur following root canal treatment.

Beautiful golden transparent tooth with roots illustration. Healthy teeth care symbol.

Beautiful golden transparent tooth with roots illustration. Healthy teeth care symbol.

What is an Apicoectomy? Teeth are held in place by roots that reach into your jawbone. The tip of the root is called the “apex” and this is where nerves and blood vessels enter your tooth. These nerves and vessels travel through a canal inside the root and into the crown, or visible part of your tooth. During root canal treatment, inflamed or infected tissue is removed from the canals. Canals are very complex, with many tiny branches, and occasionally infected debris remains in the tooth and prevents healing or causes re-infection. During an apicoectomy, the root tip, or apex, is removed, along with the infected tissue, and is replaced with a filling to reseal the end of the root.

Who needs an Apicoectomy? An apicoectomy is done only after a tooth has had at least one root canal. In many cases, a second root canal is considered before an apicoectomy. With advances in imaging, we can often detect infected canals that had not been appropriately treated in the past and treat them without the need for surgery. But if an infection persists, it is often near the root tip, and an apicoectomy is an important surgical procedure that can save your tooth from extraction.

What is the follow up? Most apicoectomies take 30 to 90 minutes, depending on which tooth it is and how complicated the root structure is. Your endodontist will use ultrasonic instruments and surgical microscopes to see the area clearly, which will increase the chances of success. The area may bruise and swell slightly in the area around the tooth. Follow up includes over the counter pain relievers or prescription medication. Stitches will be removed 2 to 7 days after the procedure, and full recovery can be expected within 2 weeks. While apicoectomy sounds complicated, most people report that the recovery is easier than that of the original root canal.

If you are having any pain or swelling from a tooth that has had a root canal procedure, please don’t hesitate to call us! We can review your treatment options and answer any questions you may have. Fortunately, an apicoectomy is usually a permanent solution and should last for the life of your tooth!

Five Foods for Healthy Teeth

We all know that foods high in sugar and acid are bad for teeth, but did you know that some foods are actually good for them? Incorporating these dental friendly foods into your family meals can both fight tooth decay and prevent gum disease. Here are five oral health friendly foods!

food tips for healthy teethAlmonds, Brazil Nuts, and Sesame Seeds. These foods contain phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and most importantly, calcium. Dietary calcium is not only good for your bones, it may actually contribute to tooth remineralization and fight tooth decay. Make sure to get the unhulled variety of sesame seeds, which are incredibly high in calcium.

Strawberries, Kiwi, and Citrus Fruits. These fruits have the highest concentration of Vitamin C, which helps to increase collagen in gum tissue and prevents gum disease.

Onions. Toss some raw onion on your salad or eat them on your hamburgers. Onions contain powerful bacteria fighters because of their sulfer-containing compounds and are natural cavity fighters.

Shitake Mushrooms. Recent studies show a natural sugar found in shitakes, called lenithan, specifically targets the bacteria which causes gingivitis (gum inflammation) and tooth decay while leaving non-harmful bacteria alone.

Apples and Celery. Water rich fruits and vegetables stimulate saliva production, which rinses teeth of bacteria. With their high fiber content, they act as natural tooth brushes, scrubbing your teeth as you chew, removing plaque and bacteria that may otherwise build up.

These simple everyday foods are great choices for snacks or to add to meals your family already enjoys. Put onions or shitakes as toppings on your pizza. Serve celery and apples with peanut butter and make a smoothie with your strawberries and kiwi. Nuts can be eaten as a snack on their own or try them as nut butter spread on toast. You can even throw nuts and sesame seeds in a stir fry for added texture and flavor as well as the nutritional benefit.

Green Tea. Besides these five teeth healthy foods, you can even get a boost for your oral health by drinking this powerhouse liquid! Green tea contains “catechins” that actually fight inflammation and control bacterial infections. One Japanese study found that regular green tea drinkers had less incidence of periodontal disease compared with people who drank the tea irregularly. So try drinking green tea instead of that second cup of coffee or have a refreshing green iced-tea on a hot afternoon.

Besides brushing and flossing, what you eat can make a difference to your oral health. It’s nice to know you can eat foods that taste good and be doing something good for your teeth at the same time. Now that’s something we can all smile about!