Posts for: May, 2019
For years preparing teeth for fillings or other restorations has required the use of a drill. Although quite effective in removing decayed structure and preparing the tooth for bonding, it usually requires a local anesthetic. That and the noise it generates can be unsettling for many patients.
In recent years, a different type of technique known as “air abrasion” has increased in popularity among dentists. Known also as “particle abrasion,” the technique uses a stream of fine particles to remove decayed tooth structure and is less invasive than the traditional drill. Although the technology has been around since the mid-20th Century, recent developments in suction pumps that remove much of the dust created have made it more practical. It also works well with new natural-looking bonding materials used for tooth structure replacement.
The fine particles — usually an abrasive substance like aluminum oxide — are rapidly discharged through a hand-held instrument using pressurized air aimed at affected tooth areas. Decayed teeth structure is softer than healthier tissue, which allows air abrasion to precisely remove decay while not damaging the other.
Besides removing decay or abrading the tooth for bonding, air abrasion can also be used to minimize stained areas on surface enamel and to clean blood, saliva or temporary cements from tooth surfaces during dental procedures. It’s also useful for smoothing out small defects in enamel or aiding in sealant applications.
It does, however, have a few limitations. It’s not as efficient as the traditional drill with larger cavities or for re-treating sites with metal (amalgam) fillings. Because of the fine texture of the abrasive particles, affected teeth need to be isolated within the mouth using a rubber dam or a silicone sheet. High-volume suction must be continually applied to capture the fine particles before the patient swallows them or it fills the procedure room with a fine cloud of material.
Still, while air abrasion technology is relatively new, it has clear advantages over the traditional drill in many procedures. As advances in the technology continue, air abrasion promises to offer a more comfortable and less invasive experience in dental treatment.
Drugs play an indispensable role in treating disease. For example, life without antibiotics would be much more precarious—common infections we think nothing of now would suddenly become life-threatening.
But even the most beneficial drug can have disruptive side effects. Antibiotics in particular can cause a rare but still disturbing one: a growth on the tongue that at first glance looks like dark hair. In fact, it's often called "black hairy tongue."
It isn't hair—it's an overgrowth of naturally occurring structures on the tongue called filiform papillae. These tiny bumps on the tongue's upper surface help grip food while you're chewing. They're normally about a millimeter in length and tend to be scraped down in the normal course of eating. As they're constantly growing, they replenish quickly.
We're not sure how it occurs, but it seems with a small portion of the population the normal growth patterns of the papillae become unbalanced after taking antibiotics, particularly those in the tetracycline family. Smoking and poor oral hygiene also seem to contribute to this growth imbalance. As a result, the papillae can grow as long as 18 millimeters with thin shafts resembling hair. It's also common for food debris and bacteria to adhere to this mass and discolor it in shades of yellow, green, brown or black.
While it's appearance can be bizarre or even frightening, it's not health-threatening. It's mostly remedied by removing the original cause, such as changing to a different antibiotic or quitting smoking, and gently cleaning the tongue everyday by brushing it or using a tongue scraper you can obtain from a pharmacy.
One word of caution: don't stop any medication you suspect of a side effect without first discussing it with your prescribing doctor. While effects like black hairy tongue are unpleasant, they're not harmful—and you don't want to interfere with treatments for problems that truly are.
When you first received your removable dentures the fit was firm and comfortable. Lately, though, they’ve become loose, making it difficult to eat or speak without slippage.
The problem may not be with your denture, but with bone loss. Human bone goes through a natural cycle of dissolving (known as resorption) and new growth to take the lost bone’s place. The jawbone receives further stimulation to grow from the forces generated by natural teeth when we bite or chew.
When natural teeth are missing, however, the jawbone lacks this stimulation, which over time results in bone loss and gum tissue shrinkage. Traditional dentures can’t transmit this stimulating force to the jawbone either, so the bone and gum structure under a denture will also shrink. This results in a looser fit for the denture.
The simplest option to correct a loose-fitting denture (especially if it’s the first occurrence) is to reline the dentures with additional material to re-form the fit to the new conditions in the mouth. A permanent relining will require sending your dentures to a dental laboratory to apply the new material based on a mold of your current anatomy beneath the denture.
If, however, your dentures have already undergone a few relinings, or after examining your gums we determine a relining won’t provide the fit and stability needed, then it may be time for a new denture. Although this is more costly than a relining, a new appliance could provide a more accurate fit to the current contours in your mouth.
The latter option may also give you a chance to benefit from advancements in denture technology or materials since you received your current denture. One such advancement is a removable denture that’s supported by implants. It’s possible to achieve this new supporting foundation for the denture with as few as two strategically-placed implants in the lower jaw.
If you’ve begun to notice denture looseness, be sure to make an appointment for an examination. From there, we can advise you on what will work best in your particular case.
If you would like more information on your options regarding removable dentures, 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 “Loose Dentures.”