All About Root Canals

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You might think of a root canal as being especially painful, but the truth is that most people who have one reported much less pain than they expected. In fact, many compare it to getting a crown or filling. Most importantly, the benefits to your oral health from a root canal can be huge.

So what is a root canal? It is a procedure designed to save a tooth that is infected or badly damaged. The actual term "root canal" refers to the canals inside the tooth's root.

If your dentist suspects that you may need a root canal, they will initially take an X-ray or review X-rays previously taken to see where the decay is located. After administering a local anesthesia, the dentist removes the area of the tooth that is damaged, called the pulp, and then cleans and disinfects the area before filling it and sealing the opening. Most often, the root canal is needed because the pulp has been impacted by a cracked tooth, an especially deep cavity, or trauma. If you have severe anxiety about getting a root canal, your dentist can provide you with a sedative prior to the dental procedure.

What Are the Advantages of a Root Canal?

Inflammation Relief: When the nerve inside of the tooth become inflamed, it can often ache when you consume cold or hot liquids or when you bite. Usually, the only way to stop the inflammation (and the pain) is to remove the pulp through a root canal.

Infection Control: The pulp in your teeth usually can’t recover from an infection because of its limited blood flow. Bacteria are able to get into the tooth and fester, causing infection, inflammation and pain. Even if you are able to successfully treat the bacteria with antibiotics, the pulp is often partially destroyed. This means you may still feel pain in that area.

Decay Deterrent: Tissue in your mouth will gradually decay if the damage to the pulp is not dealt with by your dentist. This can spread to the gum and bone tissue and eventually impact other teeth. In addition, the dead tissue can become a bacterial breeding ground. A root canal will prevent additional damage to your mouth.

Prevention: If you have teeth that are at severe risk for additional pulp complications, your dentist may recommend a root canal to prevent serious problems from occurring in the future. This preventative approach can prevent what are called asymptomatic abscesses from forming. These lack pain, so you don’t notice them, but they can lead to additional problems with your other teeth and impact your overall oral health. The reason these don’t create pain is because the infection site is draining through a fistula, which is a tissue tunnel that prevents pressure from increasing in the tissue in the affected tooth – which would then cause you pain, which you would notice.

By deciding on a root canal, you can usually save the affected tooth from having to be completely removed. Remember, the dentist doesn’t remove your tooth or its roots. Rather, the canals around the root are cleaned of any infection, and pulp and nerve tissue are removed. This rids the area of all the bacteria, which is where the infection came from in the first place. 

Root canals are 95% successful and almost always are able to save the affected teeth. Because a crown or filling is added once the root canal is completed, it is impossible to tell that you had a root canal.

Sources: Worldental.org, Colgate, WebMD

How Helpful Is Mouthwash to Your Oral Health?

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If you walk by the oral health care aisle in any major store, you’ll see rows of toothpaste and toothbrushes – plus an overwhelming array of mouthwashes. You have most likely heard about the important of using that toothpaste and toothbrush to brush daily, but do those bottles of mouthwash really have a positive impact on your oral health or is a just a waste of money?

Four True Mouthwash Benefits

Reduce Cavities. If you rinse with a mouthwash containing fluoride you can both reduce your risk of cavities and reduce demineralization of your teeth.

Battle Gum Disease. Your tooth sockets and gums can get inflamed or infected from plaque that is created by bacteria and food that sticks to your teeth. This is called gingivitis, which is a stage of periodontal disease. If you use an antibacterial mouthwash (one that contains alcohol or chlorhexidine), it will zap some of that bacteria in your mouth and may help prevent periodontal disease. But there are problems with this type of therapeutic mouthwash.

Help Heal a Canker Sore. If you have a canker sore, using mouthwash can help detox the area and reduce the bacteria that are irritating the area of the sore.

Safeguard Your Pregnancy. One of the risk factors for pregnant women is periodontal disease, which can lead to preterm, low-weight babies. The bacteria from a gum infection can enter the bloodstream of a pregnant woman and boost inflammatory markers, which can then stimulate contractions. Plus a recent national study found that pregnant women who used mouthwash throughout their pregnancy were less likely to go into early labor.

 

Five Mouthwash Myths 

All Mouthwashes Are Made Equal. Cosmetic mouthwashes don’t do much more than loosen bits of food from your teeth, temporarily reduce bad breath, and leave a refreshing taste in your mouth. Therapeutic mouthwashes are more effective but have side effects (see below).

Mouthwash is Harmless. Many people who use therapeutic mouthwashes with a high alcohol content experience dry mouth. Ironically this is a cause of bad breath, plus it can irritate tissues in your mouth. It also causes sensitivity to the root surface of the teeth in some people. Although alcohol-free mouthwashes are available, they can also cause side effects. These include staining your teeth or causing a sensation of burning in your mouth. Essential oils in some mouthwashes may have an uncomfortably sharp taste. Chlorhexidine can temporarily alter your sense of taste, and isn’t recommended for long-term use.

Mouthwash Cures Bad Breath. Your bad breath may be temporarily curtailed by mouthwash, but it isn’t a permanent fix. The mouthwash may actually mask the symptoms of an oral health condition that is more serious than bad breath. In addition, stinky compounds from that garlicky lunch you ate are actually coming from your lungs as you exhale. So mouthwash won’t help you for very long. In addition, your natural saliva dilutes mouthwash and can reduce the effectiveness of the ingredients in your mouthwash. 

Mouthwash Can Replace Brushing. Although some mouthwashes can cut back on the level of bacteria in your mouth, it isn’t a substitute for daily brushing and flossing. Mouthwash won’t remove plaque and food debris as efficiently or effectively as brushing and flossing. Research shows that adding a rinse with mouthwash to your oral care routine can in fact improve the overall cleanliness of your mouth and help keep gum inflammation at bay. But mouthwash is usually considered an add-on, not a replacement for brushing and flossing.

A Little Swish Is All You Need. If you do use mouthwash and you gargle or swish for a few seconds before spitting, then you’re not going to get much benefit from the mouthwash. It’s most effective if you gargle or rinse for a full 30 seconds.

Remember, what works for your friend may not be the right choice for you when it comes to using mouthwash. Consider your own oral health needs and be sure to chat with your dentist about their thoughts on the effects of mouthwash and which one they would recommend for you. 

Sources: EverydayHealth.com, KnowYourTeeth.com, Best Health Magazine

Sugar Isn’t the Only Culprit When It Comes to Causing Cavities

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What foods or drinks cause cavities? The answer from most people is simple – sugar. But while sugar is a major cause of cavities, all carbohydrates can be a cause of cavities. That’s because carbohydrates contain sugars and starches, and when these stick to your teeth, they lead to tooth decay. And a cavity is what happens when a tooth decays. So when you are eating cereal, milk, bread, soda, fruits, cakes or candy, you are bathing your teeth in sugar.

What is the process that can turn that tasty piece of toast you had this morning into an eventual cavity? It’s a simple process that has five steps:

  • You eat or drink a food or beverage that contains carbohydrates (don’t forget, both sugar and starches are in this category).
  • Bacteria in your mouth digest these foods and turn them into acids.
  • The bacteria combines with acid, saliva and food debris to form plaque, which sticks to your teeth.
  • The plaque’s acids dissolve your teeth’s enamel surface.
  • As the enamel surface dissolves, small holes are created in the teeth – and this is what is called a cavity.

Does that mean that you should completely avoid carbohydrates to reduce the chance of cavities? Not really, because the real problem isn’t the amount of starches or sugars you are bathing your teeth in from a particular food or beverage, but rather how long it stays on your teeth. As an example, foods that stick to the tops of your molars (in the back of your mouth) and don’t quickly dissolve are tough on your teeth. Foods like starchy chips and crackers or gummy candy are examples of these types of foods. Other foods that are major culprits are soda, juice and hard candies, since they douse your mouth with sugar over an extended period of time as you consume them.

How can you head off the five-step process that eventually leads to cavities in your teeth? Try these simple steps:

  • Drink water – lots of water! Drink it every time you eat a meal or have a snack and make sure you vigorously swish it around in your mouth at the end of the meal. By doing this, you’re washing away the acids that formed and remove food debris.
  • Pop a piece of sugar-free gum in your mouth at the end of a meal. This will jump start the production of saliva, which is a natural teeth cleaner, and the act of chewing will also remove food debris from your teeth.
  • Skip super sticky foods that will stick to your teeth for hours.
  • Floss daily and brush twice a day.
  • Be sure to drink fluoridated water to strengthen your teeth.
  • Feed calcium-rich cheese to your kids – and yourself. It’s a wonderful cavity-fighting snack because it stimulates the flow of saliva (a natural tooth cleaner) and neutralizes the mouth acids that wear away enamel.  

Follow these tips and you can still enjoy carbohydrates and reduce the impact on your oral health.

Top Tips to Make Travel Less Stressful on Your Oral Health

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If you travel very often, you probably know how difficult it can be to maintain your oral health routine. But missing a week or two of your regular routine can be tough on your teeth and gums. Eventually, those missed days of brushing, flossing and making good oral health decisions can lead to cavities! So here are five easy tips to follow to boost your oral health when you travel and insure that your smile remains healthy.

Don’t travel if you have a toothache. Be sure to schedule an appointment before you travel if you are experiencing pain or irritation in your mouth. You really don’t want to end up needing emergency care while you are out of town and away from your usual dentist. And just in case you experience a dental emergency without any earlier warning signs, you might want to research emergency dental clinics in the town where you will be staying.

Keep travel-sized oral health products handy. Invest in a travel-size toothbrush, small tube of toothpaste, and floss and keep them in your travel bag. That way, you won’t forget to pack them the next time you take a trip.

Be a fan of probiotics. Research has shown that probiotics help maintain oral health in addition to being great for your gut. Because traveling involves lots of time in communal places that are usually chock-full of germs, taking probiotics can help as a defense against oral health issues.

Replace your toothbrush. It is usually recommended that you replace your toothbrush every three or four months. That’s because the bristles start to wear down, and more importantly, germs build up on your toothbrush that you can’t remove. But on a trip away from home, all those new germs you are exposed to just compound the potential problems. So when you get home from a trip, toss your toothbrush and break out a new one!

Embrace the power of gum. Your oral health can get a wonderful boost from chewing gum. It has to be sugarless, and if it has xylitol that is a bonus. So why is chewing gum so powerful? It tastes good, freshens your breath, and removes food stuck between your teeth (kind of like brushing your teeth). Perhaps the biggest benefit of chewing gum is that it helps produce saliva in your mouth. Saliva washes away bacteria in your mouth that can eventually lead to cavities.

So there you have five easy tips to pump-up your oral health the next time you travel.

SOURCE: American Dental Association

 

Can Chewing Gum Actually Help Prevent Tooth Decay?

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Americans love chewing gum. In fact, the average American chews more than 1.8 pounds of gum a year. But is all that chewing gum wrecking the oral health of millions of Americans, leaving them to deal with a lifetime of cavities and problems with their teeth?

The answer is yes, if that gum is full of sugar. But if that 1.8 pounds of gum chewed annually is sugarless gum, then it is actually a boost for your oral health. In fact, clinical studies have linked the prevention of tooth decay to chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following a meal.

Why is sugarless gum such a plus for oral health? There are two main reasons. The first is linked to saliva, which your body produces in large quantities when you chew gum. Saliva is the body’s natural way of washing away food debris from your mouth, neutralizing acids that are produced by bacteria in your mouth, and providing disease-fighting substances for your entire mouth. Plus, you’ll get additional calcium and phosphate from the saliva, which helps you naturally strengthen your tooth enamel.

The second reason is that sugarless gums use sweeteners such as sorbitol, aspartame, mannitol or xylitol. Because they aren’t sugar, they don’t cause cavities because bacteria don’t use them as food. And when bacteria don’t have a ready food source in your mouth, their population in your mouth declines. That means your mouth is a safer place for your teeth.

Xylitol is especially helpful to your teeth, because it inhibits the growth of one of the main oral bacteria that causes cavities (Streptococcus mutans). Bacteria in your mouth can’t adhere to teeth if there is xylitol present, which slows down the creation of cavities. Plus, if you use xylitol over a long period of time, it reduces the amount of bacteria that can survive in your mouth and cause cavities.

Recaldent is also added to some sugarless gums, which makes your teeth stronger and reduces tooth decay. The Recaldent hardens the enamel on your teeth, thus making them stronger.

Remember, chewing sugarless gum is not a substitute for flossing daily and brushing twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste. But it can do a good job of helping to supplement your oral health care routine.

SOURCES: American Dental Association and Colgate

What You Need to Know About Bruxism

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