Posts for: February, 2016
Saliva is a true workhorse among bodily fluids — it breaks down food for digestion, keeps harmful bacteria in check and neutralizes acid that is destructive to tooth surfaces. So when saliva flow is chronically diminished, it’s more serious than the uncomfortable feeling of “dry mouth” — it can have a detrimental effect on your overall health.
It’s normal to experience temporary mouth dryness: in the morning (because saliva flow slows during sleep), when we’re under stress, or after smoking or consuming certain foods and beverages like onions or coffee. But chronic dry mouth (“xerostomia”) is different — the mouth remains dry for extended periods, leading to problems like tooth decay caused by inadequate acid neutralization.
Medications are one of the most common causes for xerostomia. According to the Surgeon General, there are over 500 medications — both prescription and over-the-counter — that can cause it, including antihistamines, diuretics and antidepressants. Radiation or chemotherapy used for cancer treatment may also cause dry mouth, sometimes permanently. There are also systemic conditions that affect saliva flow like diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and many autoimmune diseases.
Treating chronic dry mouth will of course depend on the underlying cause. If drug-related the first approach should be to find a substitute medication that won’t as readily cause reduced saliva flow. If that’s not possible, then it’s helpful to drink more water when taking the medication (a few sips before and a full glass afterward). You can also cut back on caffeinated, acidic or sugary foods and drinks as well as alcohol, and refrain from tobacco use.
A saliva stimulant might also help. Besides prescription medication, there are other products like xylitol, a natural alcohol sugar found in chewing gum, toothpaste or rinses, that help increase saliva flow — and xylitol also inhibits the growth of decay-causing bacteria.
The most important thing for chronic dry mouth is maintaining consistent daily hygiene through brushing and flossing and regular dental cleanings and checkups. Helping to increase your saliva flow and making every effort to prevent dental disease will help keep this condition from harming your teeth and gums.
If you would like more information on the causes and treatment of dry mouth, 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 “Dry Mouth.”
Any dental procedure can feel scary and confusing, but the goal of Spokane oral surgeons Dr. David Gailey is to make sure that you understand everything about your upcoming wisdom tooth extraction so you aren’t left in the dark. Find out more about the surgery and what you can expect.
Q. Why do my wisdom teeth need to come out?
A. These third and final set of molars usually come in around your late teens or early twenties. They are recommended to be removed around this time. While these teeth don’t always have to cause issues, they often do. They can come in crooked, they may become stuck (impacted) in the jaw, they can erupt through the gums only partially (which can leave gums prone to an infection) or they can cause overcrowding for your smile. If this is the case your dentist will refer you to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.
Q. Will I be asleep during the procedure?
A. There are different forms of anesthesia that your oral surgeon will choose from depending on the complexity of your extraction and how anxious you may be about your upcoming procedure. The most common types of anesthesia include:
- Local anesthesia: administering a local injection to numb the area prior to treatment. The patient is completely conscious but won’t feel pain.
- Light sedation: Sometimes referred to as conscious sedation, this IV anesthesia will go into your arm and reduce consciousness during your treatment so you won’t experience pain or discomfort. You will also receive a local anesthesia before your procedure.
- General anesthesia: This is usually only recommended for those with special or serious cases. You will be completely asleep and unaware of what is going on around you. Your breathing and heart rate will be continuously monitored while under general anesthesia.
Q. What is the procedure like?
A. Once you are under sedation we will open up the gums to expose the wisdom teeth. We may need to cut each tooth into several pieces to make removing it easier. Once all of your wisdom teeth are removed we will stitch the gums back up. Some procedures only take a few minutes while others can take up to an hour. This will depend on whether your wisdom teeth have fully erupted or are impacted.
Q. What will the recovery process be like?
A. Everyone’s healing process is different. We will give you instructions on what you should and shouldn’t do after your surgery. We will also tell you whether you have dissolvable stitches or whether you will need to come back in to have them removed. You will also be given strict dietary restrictions for about the first week after your procedure.
In real life he was a hard-charging basketball player through high school and college. In TV and the movies, he has gone head-to-head with serial killers, assorted bad guys… even mysterious paranormal forces. So would you believe that David Duchovny, who played Agent Fox Mulder in The X-Files and starred in countless other large and small-screen productions, lost his front teeth… in an elevator accident?
“I was running for the elevator at my high school when the door shut on my arm,” he explained. “The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the hospital. I had fainted, fallen on my face, and knocked out my two front teeth.” Looking at Duchovny now, you’d never know his front teeth weren’t natural. But that’s not “movie magic” — it’s the art and science of modern dentistry.
How do dentists go about replacing lost teeth with natural-looking prosthetics? Today, there are two widely used tooth replacement procedures: dental implants and bridgework. When a natural tooth can’t be saved — due to advanced decay, periodontal disease, or an accident like Duchovny’s — these methods offer good looking, fully functional replacements. So what’s the difference between the two? Essentially, it’s a matter of how the replacement teeth are supported.
With state-of-the-art dental implants, support for the replacement tooth (or teeth) comes from small titanium inserts, which are implanted directly into the bone of the jaw. In time these become fused with the bone itself, providing a solid anchorage. What’s more, they actually help prevent the bone loss that naturally occurs after tooth loss. The crowns — lifelike replacements for the visible part of the tooth — are securely attached to the implants via special connectors called abutments.
In traditional bridgework, the existing natural teeth on either side of a gap are used to support the replacement crowns that “bridge” the gap. Here’s how it works: A one-piece unit is custom-fabricated, consisting of prosthetic crowns to replace missing teeth, plus caps to cover the adjacent (abutment) teeth on each side. Those abutment teeth must be shaped so the caps can fit over them; this is done by carefully removing some of the outer tooth material. Then the whole bridge unit is securely cemented in place.
While both systems have been used successfully for decades, bridgework is now being gradually supplanted by implants. That’s because dental implants don’t have any negative impact on nearby healthy teeth, while bridgework requires that abutment teeth be shaped for crowns, and puts additional stresses on them. Dental implants also generally last far longer than bridges — the rest of your life, if given proper care. However, they are initially more expensive (though they may prove more economical in the long run), and not everyone is a candidate for the minor surgery they require.
Which method is best for you? Don’t try using paranormal powers to find out: Come in and talk to us. If you would like more information about tooth replacement, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Crowns & Bridgework,” and “Dental Implants.”