With smart phone in hand, you can instantaneously find out just about anything. Unfortunately, online search results aren’t always accurate. Case in point: there’s an idea floating on the World Wide Web that root canal treatments cause cancer.
Sounds ludicrous? Yes, but like other strange ideas this one has historical roots (pardon the pun). In the early 20th Century, a dentist named Weston Price propagated the idea that leaving a “dead” organ in the body caused health problems. By his view, a root canal-treated tooth fell into this category and could potentially cause, among other things, cancer.
But concern over root canal treatment safety is on shaky ground: dentistry examined Dr. Price’s ideas over sixty years ago and found them wanting. But first, let’s look at what a root canal treatment can actually do for your health.
Tooth decay is an infection that first attacks the outer tooth enamel and then continues to advance until it infects the inner pulp. It can then travel through the root canals to the roots and bone. Without intervention, the infection will result in tooth loss.
We use a root canal treatment to save the tooth from this fate. During the procedure we remove and disinfect all of the diseased or dead tissue within the pulp and root canals. We then fill the empty chamber and canals with a special filling and seal the tooth to prevent any further infection. And while technically the procedure renders a tooth unable to respond to thermal sensitivity or tooth decay, the tooth is still alive as it is attached to the periodontal ligament and its blood supply and nerve tissue. The tooth can still “feel” if you bite on something too hard and it doesn’t affect the tooth’s function or health, or a patient’s overall health for that matter.
As to Dr. Price’s theory, extensive studies beginning in the 1950s have examined the potential health risk of root canal treatments. The latest, a 2013 patient survey study published in a journal of the American Medical Association, not only found no evidence linking root canal treatment to cancer, but a lower risk of oral cancer in 45% of patients who had undergone multiple root canal treatments.
While root canal treatments do have potential side effects, none are remotely as serious as this online “factoid” about cancer. It’s far more likely to benefit your health by saving your tooth.
If you would like more information on root canal treatment, 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 “Root Canal Safety.”
It's no secret that many of Hollywood's brightest stars didn't start out with perfectly aligned, pearly-white teeth. And these days, plenty of celebs are willing to share their stories, showing how dentists help those megawatt smiles shine. In a recent interview with W magazine, Emma Stone, the stunning 28-year-old star of critically-acclaimed films like La La Land and Birdman, explained how orthodontic appliances helped her overcome problems caused by a harmful habit: persistent thumb sucking in childhood.
“I sucked my thumb until I was 11 years old,” she admitted, mischievously adding “It's still so soothing to do it.” Although it may have been comforting, the habit spelled trouble for her bite. “The roof of my mouth is so high-pitched that I had this huge overbite,” she said. “I got this gate when I was in second grade… I had braces, and then they put a gate.”
While her technical terminology isn't quite accurate, Stone is referring to a type of appliance worn in the mouth which dentists call a “tongue crib” or “thumb/finger appliance.” The purpose of these devices is to stop children from engaging in “parafunctional habits” — that is, behaviors like thumb sucking or tongue thrusting, which are unrelated to the normal function of the mouth and can cause serious bite problems. (Other parafunctional habits include nail biting, pencil chewing and teeth grinding.)
When kids develop the habit of regularly pushing the tongue against the front teeth (tongue thrusting) or sucking on an object placed inside the mouth (thumb sucking), the behavior can cause the front teeth to be pushed out of alignment. When the top teeth move forward, the condition is commonly referred to as an overbite. In some cases a more serious situation called an “open bite” may develop, which can be difficult to correct. Here, the top and bottom front teeth do not meet or overlap when the mouth is closed; instead, a vertical gap is left in between.
Orthodontic appliances are often recommended to stop harmful oral habits from causing further misalignment. Most appliances are designed with a block (or gate) that prevents the tongue or finger from pushing on the teeth; this is what the actress mentioned. Normally, when the appliance is worn for a period of months it can be expected to modify the child's behavior. Once the habit has been broken, other appliances like traditional braces or clear aligners can be used to bring the teeth into better alignment.
But in Stone's case, things didn't go so smoothly. “I'd take the gate down and suck my thumb underneath the mouth appliance,” she admitted, “because I was totally ignoring the rule to not suck your thumb while you're trying to straighten out your teeth.” That rule-breaking ended up costing the aspiring star lots of time: she spent a total of 7 years wearing braces.
Fortunately, things worked out for the best for Emma Stone: She now has a brilliant smile and a stellar career — plus a shiny new Golden Globe award! Does your child have a thumb sucking problem or another harmful oral habit? For more information about how to correct it, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite.”
A tooth that's been chipped doesn't mean it's no longer healthy. The same, unfortunately, can't be said about the attractiveness of your smile, especially if it's one of your front teeth. A chipped tooth can be quite noticeable and make you self-conscious.
The good news is a chipped tooth can be restored cosmetically to look just as normal and attractive as your other teeth. Depending on the application there are two different materials we commonly use: porcelains, a type of oven-fired ceramic most often found in veneers or crowns; or composite resins, a mixture of glass and plastic substances we apply in liquid form that hardens in built-up layers on the tooth's surface to ultimately resemble normal tooth shape and color.
So, which of these two materials is the best option for your tooth? That depends on the extent and location of the tooth damage. Composite resins are most often used for mild to moderate chipping or breaks in the enamel (and somewhat for the underlying dentin) or decayed areas in the front teeth. Porcelain veneers or crowns are better for more extensive damage or discoloration.
Both materials have their advantages and disadvantages. Composite resins can be applied in one office visit, but they require a skillful technique and an artistic eye to achieve a life-like appearance; although their strength has improved over the years, they're also limited in their durability and longevity compared to porcelain. Porcelain, on the other hand, is quite durable and has an excellent tooth-like appearance; they do, however, require removal of more tooth material than a composite resin to accommodate the new veneer or crown, along with more than one visit and the services of a dental lab to create the restoration.
The best way to find out which option is best for you is to visit us for a thorough dental examination. From there we can review with you our findings, our recommendations and the costs associated with each option. But whichever material we use, porcelain or composite resins, you can look forward to a new smile you'll be proud to display.
If you would like more information on cosmetic treatments for teeth, 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 “Artistic Repair of Front Teeth with Composite Resin.”
Your teenager is about to take a big step toward better health and a more attractive appearance — orthodontic treatment. You both know the benefits: better chewing function, lower risk of dental disease, and, of course, a straighter and more beautiful smile.
But your teen might also dread the next couple of years of wearing braces. And it's hard to blame them: although they're effective, wearing braces restricts eating certain snacks and foods, they require extra time and effort for brushing and flossing, and they're often uncomfortable to wear. And of high importance to a teenager, they may feel embarrassed to wear them.
But over the last couple of decades a braces alternative has emerged: clear aligners. This form of bite correction requires fewer food restrictions, allows greater ease in hygiene, and is considered more attractive than braces. In fact, most observers won't notice them when a wearer smiles.
Clear aligners are a series of clear plastic trays created by computer that are worn in a certain sequence. During wear each tray exerts pressure on the teeth to gradually move them in the desired direction. The patient wears a single tray for two weeks and then changes to the next tray in the sequence, which will be slightly different than the previous tray. At the end of the process, the teeth will have been moved to their new positions.
Clear aligners aren't appropriate for all bite problems. When they are, though, they offer a couple of advantages over braces. Unlike braces, a wearer can remove the aligner to brush and floss their teeth or for rare, special or important social occasions. And, of course, their appearance makes them less likely to cause embarrassment while wearing them.
In recent years, design improvements have increased the kinds of bites aligners can be used to correct. For example, they now often include “power ridges,” tiny features that precisely control the amount and direction of pressure applied to the teeth. They've also become thinner and more comfortable to wear.
If you're interested in clear aligners as a treatment option, talk with your orthodontist about whether your teen is a good candidate. If so, they could make orthodontic treatment for achieving a more attractive and healthy smile less of an ordeal.
If you would like more information on clear aligners as an orthodontic option, 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 “Clear Aligners for Teens.”
In October, the American Dental Hygienists’ Association sponsors National Dental Hygiene Month to remind everyone that having good oral health is directly related to practicing good oral hygiene at home. This includes brushing twice each day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing at least once per day. But sometimes we forget that dental hygiene applies not just to your teeth but also to anything you regularly wear in your mouth. This includes removable dentures (full or partial), clear aligners, nightguards, mouthguards and retainers. If you (or your kids, or seniors you know) wear any of these, please review the three appliance-care tips below.
1. CLEAN IT. Just like natural teeth, an oral appliance worn every day needs daily brushing. But toothpaste isn’t an appropriate cleanser for these devices; it’s too abrasive. The grainy particles it contains are great for scrubbing plaque and bits of food from the hard enamel coating of teeth—but they can actually leave little nicks in the plastic of your oral appliance, creating areas for bacteria to hide. This can eventually cause odors and stains. Instead, clean appliances with liquid dish soap or denture paste. Buy a separate brush for your appliance—don’t use the same one that you use on your teeth. It can be a very soft regular toothbrush, nail brush or denture brush.
2. RINSE IT. After cleaning your appliance, rinse it thoroughly. But don’t use hot water—and never boil an oral appliance to sterilize it! Your device was custom-made for your mouth, and it needs to fit precisely to do its job. Hot water can warp the appliance and change the fit, possibly rendering it useless or even harmful. For example, a warped orthodontic aligner might not move teeth into the correct position. Remember: the goal is to kill bacteria, not your appliance!
3. STORE IT. Keep your appliance in a safe place—away from curious pets and toddlers. When you are not wearing it or cleaning it, your device should be packed away in its case or soaking overnight in water or a cleaning solution according to your original instructions.
If you have any questions about oral appliance care or oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “10 Tips for Cleaning Your Oral Appliance” and “10 Tips for Daily Oral Care at Home.”
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