In case you didn’t know, our mouths are full of bacteria, and at times it can get out of control. Often, we can keep it in check with a daily regimen of brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash, paired with regular dental visits. If bacteria start to build up on teeth or under the gum line, however, infection can spread, leading to issues like cavities, gum disease, and in severe cases, infected pulp inside the tooth that requires a root canal.
A root canal treatment is a procedure by which a dentist drills into your tooth to reach the pulp, removes the soft tissue and sanitizes the canals, and finally, fills and seals the tooth to protect against further infection. Dentists work hard to ensure that patients feel no discomfort during the procedure, and the treatment could help to save an infected tooth, which can survive even without pulp.
Of course, you first need a diagnosis that your pulp is infected, and this requires a visit to the dentist. How do you know if you need to see your dentist outside of your regular schedule of cleanings? How can you tell if something is wrong? Here are just a few common signs that you might need a root canal treatment.
The pulp of your tooth is soft tissue under the hard, outer layers of dentin and enamel. Pulp contains blood vessels, connective tissue, and nerves, and when it becomes infected, eventually it’s going to cause you pain.
Many patients will start to notice sensitivity first, but they might not think much of it. As we age, it’s natural to develop some sensitivity to cold or hot liquids, or when biting down on hard foods, for example. This is because enamel can weaken over time. However, infection is something different. If you notice sensitivity localized to one tooth, there’s a good chance you have some form of infection, either from a cavity or infected pulp.
If this condition goes untreated, you will probably start to feel more severe pain. This could be an ongoing ache, shooting pains when you bite down on the tooth, or both. As the infection advances, you might start to feel pain around the gum line and even the jaw where the tooth sits. Any time you experience unusual tooth pain, it’s best to contact your dentist to schedule an examination.
An infected tooth will impact surrounding tissues, namely the gum tissue in direct contact with the tooth. If you notice that gum tissue surrounding a particular tooth becomes red, swollen, and tender, it could be a sign that you’re in need of a root canal, whether you’ve started to notice sensitivity or pain in the tooth or not. It could also be a sign of gum disease, in which case you also need to see your dentist, but gum disease more often affects a large swath of gum tissue, rather than centering on a specific tooth.
3. Gum abscesses
Infection in the mouth will spread, often to the nearest tissue first. Swollen, tender gums are a side effect of the infection in your tooth, and there will be further problems if you
don’t seek treatment. As the infection progresses, you might start to notice painful, pimple-like spots on the affected gum tissue. These abscesses are filled with fluid and they may leak pus that smells and tastes bad.
Naturally, the appearance of such abscesses should be cause for concern at any time. When paired with other symptoms of infected pulp, such as sensitivity and pain in one tooth, you should definitely seek professional help and undergo a root canal and related treatment (like a course of antibiotics) if necessary.
4. Tooth discoloration
It’s true that tooth discoloration could be related to a number of factors. Drinking beverages like coffee or soda, smoking, and taking certain medications (like tetracycline) could all cause teeth to become discolored. Of course, the chances that these factors will affect only a single tooth are pretty slim.
However, when the pulp of the tooth becomes infected and eventually starts to die, it could cause surrounding dentin to begin decomposing, as well. This portion of the tooth will begin to visibly darken, causing your tooth to become discolored.
When this happens, your tooth is likely in pretty bad shape, and if you take no action, you risk losing the tooth. Whether you’re experiencing unusual sensitivity or tooth pain, swelling and tenderness of the gums, gum abscesses, tooth discoloration, or other symptoms of infected pulp, you need to see your dentist immediately for diagnosis and treatment.
Whether you’ve lost one tooth, several, or all of your teeth, you’ll find that there are a few options to explore when it comes to replacing them with false teeth, and it is important that you replace missing teeth, even if the gap isn’t necessarily visible.
Missing teeth can affect your whole mouth in a variety of ways you may not consider. Not only could the teeth on either side of the gap start to lean in, leading to misalignment of your smile and your bite, but the jaw could shrink with no tooth to support and if you’re missing a significant number of teeth, the skin of your cheeks or lips could begin to cave inward, creating a hollowed appearance.
What can you do to prevent these undesirable outcomes? A bridge that affixes a floating false tooth or teeth to surrounding natural teeth is one option, but this still leaves your jaw bone with no surrogate “root” to support. Then there are partial or full dentures, removable plates that simulate missing teeth, and these could create a host of issues, from irritating gums to becoming dislodged at embarrassing moments.
When you opt for single-tooth dental implants instead, you’ll not only get the functional and attractive tooth replacement you need to smile and eat as you did before, but you’ll gain a host of additional benefits in the process. Here are some of the many advantages of choosing single-tooth dental implants over other options for tooth replacement.
An attractive smile is something that everyone notices and comments on, so when you lose teeth, it’s only natural that confidence in your smile, and your appearance in general, would suffer as a result. It’s true that any type of tooth replacement can help you here, but single-tooth dental implants are superior.
First, your dental implants will never slip out of place accidentally. The crown, or false tooth, is anchored to the jaw by a titanium screw. Dentures, which are only held in place with a temporary fixative product, could accidentally come loose when you’re laughing, eating, or drinking, leading to an embarrassing situation. This will never happen with dental implants.
A dental implant not only looks the most like a natural tooth, but it also offers the closest approximation of function. It is designed to fit perfectly in the gap where your natural tooth once was, so as to preserve your natural alignment and bite pattern. This is how bridges and dentures work, as well. However, single-tooth dental implants are affixed to the jaw, rather than wired to neighboring teeth or held in place with denture fixative.
This means that you can eat, drink, brush, and floss just as you normally would. Dentures limit what you can eat and drink, and even if you’re careful, they could come loose during wear. With bridgework, you might have trouble effectively brushing or flossing around false teeth, leading to potential oral health issues like plaque and tartar buildup, and the tooth decay and gum disease that can follow.
In addition, dental implants preserve not only your alignment and bite, but also the structure of your jaw. When a tooth is lost and there are no longer roots to support, the bone of the jaw can recede in that area, creating a hollow. With dentures, this will mean adjustments. With a dental implant, the titanium post goes deep into the jaw and bonds with the bone, acting as a sturdy anchor for the crown above, so that you can chew normally, but also preserving the integrity of the bone.
Dental implants are easily the longest-lasting option for tooth replacement. They may come at greater up-front expense, but you’ll get your money’s worth. Bridges must be replaced or upgraded if anchor teeth on either side are compromised. Dentures may need constant adjustment as your jaw bone shrinks.
Dental implants, or at least the portion implanted in your jaw, will last a lifetime. The crowns that sit on top, like other types of false teeth, are good for about 10-15 years in general, with proper care. Still, your dental implants will give you everything other options provide, plus increased functionality and the peace of mind that comes with knowing you can eat, drink, smile, laugh, brush, and floss with confidence, just as you would with natural teeth.
Teeth are extremely durable, but they’re hardly immune from damage, and often, we behave in ways that are harmful to our teeth without even knowing it. The foods and beverages you consume, for example, could help or harm your teeth. While calcium-rich foods like dairy products work to strengthen teeth, ingredients like sugar and acid in soda can weaken enamel, feed bacteria, and lead to tooth decay.
Although our teeth can be damaged by cracks, chips, staining, and decay, there are a variety of dental solutions designed to meet both your functional and cosmetic needs, protecting your teeth from further harm and restoring your smile simultaneously. In some cases, these treatment options can also correct issues like crowding, gaps, and uneven edges, as well.
The question is: are veneers or crowns a better option when facing these smile snafus? Which solution is right for you? Here are a few things you’ll want to consider.
Both veneers and crowns are potential solutions to dental issues like damage or cosmetic concerns, but there are a couple of key differences that will help to determine which one is the better option on a case-by-case basis. One of those differences is the amount of coverage each option provides.
Crowns offer significantly more coverage than veneers. One of the major selling points of veneers is how thin they are, generally less than a millimeter in thickness. This allows patients to retain the vast majority of any tooth being covered, although the enamel will have to be etched to allow for the best adhesion, or bonding of the veneer material to the tooth. In addition, veneers are only applied to the outward facing surface of the tooth, or the portion that is visible when smiling.
Crowns, on the other hand, are much thicker (often 2 millimeters or more) and they cover both the front and back surface of the tooth, providing for greater strength and coverage. This may require a significant portion of the tooth to be tapered down so that the crown doesn’t add so much bulk that the final product is too large to fit with other teeth.
In order to preserve a natural appearance and a normal bite pattern, much of the natural tooth will have to be removed to make space for the crown to fit. However, because the material of the crown is so thick, it acts as the new outer layer of the tooth, ensuring that whatever remains of the natural tooth is protected, and that the patient can chew normally and smile with confidence.
With proper care, veneers should last 10 years or more. Crowns, on the other hand, could last anywhere from about 5-15 years, and often even longer. In some cases,
dental insurance will cover crown replacement after the minimum estimated life of the product has elapsed (say, five years). If veneers are considered a cosmetic procedure rather than a dental necessity, they may not be covered by insurance, but it could depend on the policy and the patient’s situation.
Severity of Damage or Cosmetic Concern
Another factor that determines whether a crown or veneers are right for you is the severity of the situation. More severe cases will often require a crown. In terms of damage, this could depend upon the amount of enamel remaining.
Adequate enamel is essential to creating the etched surface needed for proper adhesion of veneers. If enamel is too worn, you may have to accept that a crown is the better option. Also, if a significant portion of the tooth is missing, wafer-thin veneers simply won’t provide the strength needed for practical concerns like chewing food.
Severity of cosmetic issues can also dictate whether veneers or crowns are more appropriate. For minor misalignment, uneven edges, or staining, for example, veneers are likely a better choice because they allow for more of the natural tooth to be preserved. Teeth that are relatively healthy and undamaged are the best candidates for veneers.
However, if teeth are severely rotated, overlapped, or separated by gaps, veneers are unlikely to do the trick. The amount of natural tooth that can be removed, paired with the thicker, more robust surface offered by crowns makes this option the obvious choice if the patient isn’t keen to wear braces for the next couple of years to correct the problem.