Posts for: November, 2013
Is it a root canal problem, a gum infection, or both?
Sometimes it's difficult to pinpoint the source of tooth pain; it can result from an infection of the tooth itself, or of the gum, or even spread from one to the other. Identifying the origin of a toothache is important, however, so we can choose the right treatment and do all that we can to save the tooth.
When a tooth becomes decayed, bacteria can infect the sensitive, living nerve tissue deep inside the tooth known as the root canal. This condition is called an endodontic (“endo” – inside; “dont” – tooth) problem. The infection inside the tooth can spread to the periodontal ligament (“peri” – around; “dont” – tooth) that encases the tooth and attaches it to the jawbone. Occasionally, infection of endodontic (root canal) origin can spread out from the end of the tooth root all the way up the periodontal ligament, and into the gum.
The reverse can also happen: dental pain can originate from periodontal (gum) tissues that have become diseased. Gum disease is caused by a buildup of bacterial biofilm (plaque) along the gum line. It results in detachment of the gums along the tooth surface. In advanced cases, this bacterial infection can travel into the nerve tissues of the dental pulp through accessory canals or at the end of a tooth.
To figure out where pain is coming from when the source is not obvious, we need to take a detailed history of the symptoms, test how the tooth reacts to temperature and pressure, and evaluate radiographs (x-ray pictures).
Unfortunately, once dental disease becomes a combined periodontal-endodontic problem, the long-term survival of the tooth is jeopardized. The chances for saving the tooth are better if the infection started in the root canal and then spread to the gums, rather than if it started as gum disease that spread into the root canal of the tooth. That's because in the latter case, there is usually a lot of bone loss from the gum disease. Effectively removing plaque from your teeth on a daily basis with routine brushing and flossing is your best defense against developing gum disease in the first place.
If you would like more information about tooth pain, gum disease or root canal problems, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this diagnostic dilemma by reading Dear Doctor magazine's article “Confusing Tooth Pain.”
Lots of people collect Beatles memorabilia, but one Canadian dentist took this hobby to new heights recently when he paid $31,200 for John Lennon's molar at auction. According to published reports, Lennon had given the extracted tooth to his housekeeper as a souvenir in the 1960s after coming home from the dentist's office. The molar was discolored and had a cavity, according to the dentist who purchased it after the housekeeper's family put it up for bids. “For the cavity to be this large he probably wasn't seeing a dentist that regularly,” the dentist said. His brushing and flossing routine may not have been that conscientious either!
For healthy teeth, it's important to have a good daily oral hygiene routine at home and regular professional cleanings here at the office. Our hygienist will scale your teeth to remove hard deposits (tartar), and polish them to remove stains for a wonderful, extra-clean feeling.
Dental hygienists are trained to do lots of other things to promote your oral health besides cleaning your teeth. They can check the skin in and around your mouth looking for any suspicious bumps, sores, etc., that may need further evaluation. They will also evaluate your periodontal health (“peri” – around; “odont” – tooth), checking for signs of gum inflammation and bleeding (gingivitis). And they monitor teeth for signs of decay, which is actually the world's most widespread disease.
Cavities, or dental caries as it is also known, are the most notable consequences of tooth decay. Left untreated, caries can lead to pain and tooth loss. John Lennon's dentist must have believed there was nothing more to be done for the badly decayed molar that later went on to fetch such a high price.
Unless you're a rock star, your teeth are worth a lot more in a healthy and functioning state — inside your mouth! So if it's been a while since your last appointment, please come in and see us. Remember: Good dental health is priceless.
If you would like more information on tooth decay, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article, “Tooth Decay.” Dear Doctor also has more on the “Dental Hygiene Visit.”