Most adults can confidently say that they have had at least one cavity in their lives. Sometimes, cavities happen. Unfortunately, because they sometimes do not initially hurt or present with any major sensitivity, cavities can often be overlooked until they become more severe in nature.
What Is a Cavity?
A small hole in the tooth that indicates decay, a cavity cannot heal on its own and requires medical intervention. A cavity is often caused by bacteria-ridden plaque that is affixed to the teeth. These bacteria create an acid that deteriorates the teeth and eventually causes a cavity.
When should you treat a cavity?
You should treat a cavity as soon as possible. If left untreated, a cavity will increase in size resulting in permanent damage to the tooth affected. Every tooth has three lines of defense: the enamel, the dentin, and the pulp. With a cavity, the enamel is the first part of the tooth that is affected. Acting as the tooth’s protective layer, the enamel does what it can to protect the sensitive inner layers of the teeth from damage.
If a cavity is not found quickly enough, it will penetrate the tooth’s enamel and enter the second layer of the tooth, the dentin layer. This will result in more pain and more damage to the tooth. Finally, if the cavity is still not treated, the bacteria will reach the pulp.
The tooth’s pulp is the innermost layer and contains all of the tooth’s blood vessels and nerves. One the cavity reaches the pulp, a filling may not be enough to fix the damage that has occurred. At this stage, a cavity often leads to either extraction of the tooth or a root canal.
Damage to the teeth aside, waiting to treat a cavity can result in a great deal of pain. When a cavity first begins to form, there is little pain. Sometimes, when dental patients come in for their regular cleanings and check-ups, their dentist finds a small cavity and fills it on the spot. This is the most ideal situation in regard to finding and treating cavities.
If caught early, there is no concerning damage to the tooth and the treatment is not as costly as the treatments required if a cavity is left untreated. According to research, around 28% of adults are currently walking around with untreated cavities noting cost and having to get a filling as reasons for avoiding making an appointment with their dentist. Unfortunately, the longer treating a cavity is put off, the more severe the symptoms and the costlier treatment becomes.
Once a cavity reaches the pulp, pain is inevitable; not just in the tooth, but in the face as well. Facial swelling and potential infections to the jaw or blood can occur and can result in needing emergent care that will likely end with the tooth being extracted.
As the saying goes, prevention is the best medicine. In order to ensure that your mouth remains cavity-free, proper oral hygiene and a tooth-healthy diet are essential. It is important to maintain a twice-daily brushing and flossing routine. Further, regular dental cleanings and check-ups can help not only prevent cavities but can catch any cavities before they become problematic.
Your dentist can also apply a dental sealant to your teeth to help protect your teeth against cavities. A dental sealant is essentially a protective coating made of plastic that is placed on the chewing surfaces of the back molars and can last for years.
Finally, a tooth-healthy diet is imperative as cavity-causing bacteria feed off of sugary and starchy foods. Cutting back on things like sugary drinks and sweets, making sure that you are drinking an adequate amount of water daily, and incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your daily diet can help ward off cavities.
If it has been a while since you visited your local dentist for a check-up, make an appointment as soon as possible so that you can catch any cavities before they progress. If you have any tooth pain or sensitivity, it is important to see your dentist as quickly as possible because it is likely that a cavity has already started to increase in size.
A “gummy smile,” also known as excessive gingival display, is a common dental complaint that is seen more often in women than in men. It is the result of a disproportionate ratio of gum tissue to teeth. When someone with excessive gingival display smiles, an above average amount of gum tissue is seen above the teeth. While this is not medically dangerous, a gummy smile can often bring about feelings of self-consciousness.
What Causes a Gummy Smile?
There are multiple causes of excessive gingival display. Genetics can play a role. If multiple family members have gummy smiles, for example, the cause is likely genetics. Other common causes are teeth that did not fully erupt (altered active eruption), an upper lip that is too short, long gums (also known as gingival hypertrophy), altered pass eruption (gums that do not recede as one ages), or an overgrowth of the upper jaw (also known as vertical maxillary excess). There is little one can do to prevent a gummy smile. However, there are non-surgical and surgical treatment options available to reduce the appearance of excessive gingival display.
Because there are multiple causes of a gummy smile, it is important to establish cause before researching treatment options. Once you have been given an accurate diagnosis from your dentist, ask if you qualify for non-surgical treatments. Sometimes, the fix is as simple as a round of orthodontic care. If a patient’s excessive gingival display is mild and is caused by something like overall wear or genetics, a round of orthodontics can be used to shift the patient’s bite into a more natural position; this will reduce the overall effect of excessive gingival display.
Veneers and Botox are two additional non-surgical, cosmetic options worth consideration. Applying veneers or crowns to the patient’s teeth will lengthen the teeth in a way that the disproportionate ratio of gums to teeth becomes proportional. Botox is another non-surgical treatment, however, it is not permanent. The doctor will inject a serum into the patient’s upper lip. This results in temporary (around three months) paralysis of the muscle and prevents the upper lip from rising too high whenever the patient smiles.
Finally, laser gum contouring is an additional procedure that is slightly more complex than the non-surgical treatments aforementioned, but it does not require general anesthesia and can be done at a dental office. The process involves removing excess gum tissue in order to produce an aesthetically-pleasing result. Recovery takes anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks.
If you have exhausted all non-surgical treatments and cannot utilize any of them due to a more complex cause of excessive gingival display, there are a few surgical treatments that have been shown to produce optimal results. Perhaps the most complex in regards to the overall procedure and recovery time is orthognathic surgery. In layman’s terms, orthognathic surgery is surgery of the jaw. If the jaw is what is causing a gummy smile, orthognathic surgery involves re-contouring and relocating the patient’s maxilla before
securing it with plates and screws. Before going under the knife, most patients with jaw protrusions that are moderate to severe will undergo a year of orthodontic treatment. The surgery requires a hospital stay and boasts a long recovery time, but those who have opted for orthognathic surgery to rid themselves of a gummy smile report very noticeable results.
Other surgical treatments that are not as extensive as orthognathic surgery include lip repositioning surgery and a gingivectomy. The latter is performed by a periodontist and involves the removal and reshaping of gum tissue in an attempt to expose more teeth and less gum. Lip repositioning surgery is utilized when the upper lip is the cause of a gummy smile. The muscles in the lip are severed so that the lip cannot excessively lift and expose too much gum tissue.
The best treatment for a gummy smile depends on the cause of a gummy smile. Because the procedure is not a medical necessity, it is wise to “shop” around and to get a second opinion if you have been told that surgery is your only option. If a gummy smile has you feeling self-conscious, ask your dentist to get to the bottom of why you have excessive gingival display and what the best treatment route is to take based on your overall diagnosis.
Losing a tooth, or multiple teeth, is an extremely traumatic experience. Whether you suffer tooth loss in conjunction with illness or injury, the loss can leave you with a gap in your smile that impacts not only your appearance and your confidence, but also your ability to eat and in some cases, speak normally.
The good news is that there are solutions to restore your smile, return functionality, improve your appearance, and boost your confidence following tooth loss. The gold standard of tooth replacement is the dental implant.
While options like dentures and bridges are also available, dental implants that permanently affix to the jaw via a titanium screw that bonds with your jaw bone are really the best. Dental implants look and act the most like your natural tooth, which means you can eat, drink, brush, floss, smile, and laugh normally, without any fear of displacing less permanent replacement teeth.
In addition, the fact that the base of the implant bonds with your jaw in place of the roots of your tooth helps to reduce common problems like jaw bone recession and preserve the shape of your jawline. Of course, you have to be tested to ensure you’re a good candidate for dental implants, and this can be impacted by the use of tobacco products.
Can smokers qualify for dental implants or will you have to quit smoking to proceed? Here’s what you need to know if you’re currently a smoker in need of a dental implant.
Can Smokers Get Dental Implants?
In order to qualify as a good candidate for dental implant procedures, patients must first exhibit optimal oral health. In some cases, such as when tooth loss is related to conditions like gingivitis or periodontitis, you may first have to undergo treatments to eliminate infection, including cleaning by the dentist (in some cases deep cleaning) and perhaps the use of antibiotics.
In addition, your jaw bone has to be strong and healthy enough to support and bond with the titanium screw. If your jaw bone is too thin, there’s a possibility you could augment it through a bone graft procedure in preparation for the dental implant procedure. With or without such preparations, it could be at least several months or longer before the implant procedure is complete and you have your new tooth (crown) in place.
As for smokers, there are further complications. Tobacco use has been found to cause problems in all kinds of therapeutic oral procedures, including the installation of dental implants. Unfortunately, studies have shown that smokers are at higher risk of implant failure than non-tobacco users. As a result, many dentists won’t even offer this procedure to patients who persist in smoking or other forms of tobacco use.
There are several good reasons to quit smoking – chiefly to reduce risk factors for certain cancers, heart disease, and other diseases, of course, but also to improve lung function and overall health. Smoking also takes its toll on oral health.
You’re probably well aware of the fact that tobacco use can stain your teeth and cause bad breath, but it can also have more serious ramifications. It causes dry mouth, which results in less flushing by saliva, growth of bacteria, plaque, and tartar, and increased risk for the onset of gum disease and tooth decay.
Tobacco products, and particularly cigarettes, also inhibit your mouth’s ability to heal. When you inhale smoke, you singe the top layer of skin in your mouth, causing skin cells to thicken. Nicotine and other toxins also inhibit blood flow to tissues in the mouth, impacting healing.
This increases recovery following oral procedures, increases the risks for infection, and jeopardizes the process of osseointegration, by which the titanium screw implant bonds with your jaw bone to form needed support for your new false tooth. Studies show that smokers experience twice the failure rate for dental implants as non-smokers.
If you want the best opportunity to replace your missing tooth with a dental implant that lasts 20 years or more, you’re going to have to quit smoking to increase your odds of success. In truth, you may have to quit just to find a reliable dental professional willing to offer the service.
Whether you need to replace a missing tooth or you’re seeking cleaning or other dental services, you’ll find the caring and qualified dental professionals to serve your needs