A recent episode of “America’s Got Talent” featured an engaging 93-year-old strongman called The Mighty Atom Jr. The mature muscleman’s stunt: moving a full-sized car (laden with his octogenarian “kid brother,” his brother’s wife, plus Atom’s “lady friend”) using just his teeth. Grinning for host Howie Mandel, Atom proudly told the TV audience that his teeth were all his own; then he grasped a leather strap in his mouth, and successfully pulled the car from a standstill.
We’re pleased to see that the Atom has kept his natural teeth in good shape: He must have found time for brushing and flossing in between stunts. Needless to say, his “talent” isn’t one we’d recommend trying at home. But aside from pulling vehicles, teeth can also be chipped or fractured by more mundane (yet still risky) activities — playing sports, nibbling on pencils, or biting too hard on ice. What can you do if that happens to your teeth?
Fortunately, we have a number of ways to repair cracked or chipped teeth. One of the easiest and fastest is cosmetic bonding with tooth-colored resins. Bonding can be used to fill in small chips, cracks and discolorations in the teeth. The bonding material is a high-tech mixture of plastic and glass components that’s extremely lifelike, and can last for several years. Plus, it’s a procedure that can be done right in the office, with minimal preparation or discomfort. However, it may not be suitable for larger chips, and it isn’t the longest-lasting type of restoration.
When more of the tooth structure is missing, a crown (or cap) might be needed to restore the tooth’s appearance and function. This involves creating a replacement for the entire visible part of the tooth in a dental lab — or in some cases, right in the office. It typically involves making a model of the damaged tooth and its neighbors, then fabricating a replica, which will fit perfectly into the bite. Finally, the replacement crown is permanently cemented to the damaged tooth. A crown replacement can last for many years if the tooth’s roots are in good shape. But what if the roots have been dislodged?
In some cases it’s possible to re-implant a tooth that has been knocked out — especially if it has been carefully preserved, and receives immediate professional attention. But if a tooth can’t be saved (due to a deeply fractured root, for example) a dental implant offers today’s best option for tooth replacement. This procedure has a success rate of over 95 percent, and gives you a natural looking replacement tooth that can last for the rest of your life.
So what have we learned? If you take care of your teeth, like strongman Atom, they can last a long time — but if you need to move your car, go get the keys.
If you would like more information about tooth restoration, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Crowns & Bridgework.”
Sugar and your teeth--do you really understand how the two interact? For decades, doctors and patients alike have pointed to sugar as the bad guy in tooth decay. While it is true that sugar contributes to dental cavities and other health issues such as obesity, it's just part of the decay process and only one of the ingredients in foods that can erode tooth enamel.
How teeth develop cavities
Dental cavities form when naturally-occurring bacteria in the mouth feed on and thrive in plaque build-up on the tooth surface and at the gum line. Plaque, which eventually turns to the hard tartar that the dental hygienist removes from the teeth, forms from the debris and film left on teeth after eating. While oral bacteria love the sugar in snacks such as candy, soda pop, and other "sweets," these micro-organisms enjoy the carbohydrates in grains, fruits and veggies, too--yes, "healthy snacks."
The tooth-eroding bacteria hang around in the mouth for 30 minutes after a meal or snack, and they secrete acids that decay enamel, and if left untreated, the softer dentin and pulp inside the tooth. Tooth decay can progress to the bone, resulting in abscess and tooth loss.
What to do about sugar and other food residues
The American Dental Association is adamant on these safeguards against tooth decay:
- Limit sugary snacks. This goes for children--and adults, too.
- Dessert is better than snacking in between meals. Dessert ends your meal, limits the amount of time the sugar is in the mouth and helps stop the acidic bacteria from feasting on sugars and starches.
- Brush with a fluoride toothpaste as soon as possible after eating. Floss daily.
- Watch the texture of desserts and candies. Sticky and soft is worse than foods with a firmer texture because saliva can wash less sticky foods away more quickly and easily.
- Consider sugar-free gum and candies to keep your sweet tooth healthy.
What to eat instead of sugar
Nutritionists recommend natural and whole foods rather than those which are highly processed. Select a wide range of foods from the traditional 5 groups. Include items such as:
- fruits and vegetables
- grains and cereals (pretzels, bagels and low-sugar cereals)
- cheese, milk, and low-fat yogurt
- meats such as chicken
- seeds and nuts
Modern Touch Dentistry
Jolanta Pajek DDS wants to encourage you in achieving and keeping the healthiest and brightest smile possible. At Modern Touch Dentistry in Appleton, Wisconsin, Dr. Pajek and her staff will be happy to discuss nutritional choices that are good for your teeth. They offer a wide range of preventative, cosmetic and restorative dental services for the whole family. Call the Fox Cities area office today for an appointment: 920-993-8682.
Periodontal (gum) disease is the most likely cause of a loose, permanent tooth. This progressive infection causes damage to the gums and bone tissues that hold teeth in place, leading to looseness and ultimately tooth loss.
Gum disease, however, isn’t the only cause: although not as common, excessive biting forces over time may also lead to loose teeth. The excessive force stretches the periodontal ligaments that hold teeth in place, causing the teeth to become loose.
This condition is called occlusal trauma. In its primary form, the patient habitually grinds or clenches their teeth, or bites or chews on hard objects like pencils or nails. Generating 20-30 times the normal biting force, these habits can cause considerable damage. It can also be a factor when gum disease is present — supporting bone becomes so weakened by the disease, even normal biting forces can cause mobility.
If you recognize the early signs of grinding or clenching, particularly jaw soreness in the morning (since many instances of teeth grinding occur while we sleep), it’s important to seek treatment before teeth become loose. The symptoms are usually treated directly with muscle relaxants, an occlusal guard worn to soften the force when teeth bite down, or stress management, a major trigger for teeth grinding. The sooner you address the habit, the more likely you’ll avoid its consequences.
If, however, you’re already noticing a loose tooth, treatment must then focus on preserving the tooth. Initially, the tooth may need to be splinted, physically joined to adjacent teeth to hold it in place while damaged tissues heal. In some cases, minute amounts of enamel may need to be removed from the tooth’s biting surfaces to help the tooth better absorb biting forces. Other treatments, including orthodontics and gum disease treatment, may also be included in your treatment plan.
If you notice a loose tooth, it’s critical you contact us as soon as possible for an evaluation — if you delay you increase the chances of eventually losing it. The earlier you address it, the better your chances of preserving your tooth.
If you would like more information on loose teeth, 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 “Loose Teeth.”
Model Christie Brinkley's smile has been a symbol of America's optimism since the seventies. Particularly well known for being the cover model for three consecutive Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editions, Brinkley still has a fresh-faced American girl-next-door beauty that starts with her cheerful smile, which transmits the message that all is well.
Brinkley's modeling career began when she was “discovered” in Paris in the seventies, at the age of 18. As she explained in an interview with Dear Doctor magazine, it was like a fairy tale. She had gone to study art in Paris, where a fashion designer spotted her walking down the street. “He told me later he immediately thought, ‘That's the girl!’” she said.
Brinkley attributes her famous smile to a combination of good genetics (she inherited her mother's “beautiful straight teeth”), combined with the intelligence to practice good oral hygiene and have regular dental appointments. She never needed to have work done to prepare her for the modeling life; but as a teenager, she said, she wished she could wear braces because she thought the “coolest kids had them.”
Although dental restorations were not needed to enhance her beautiful natural smile, she did have two dental implants after she fractured two rear molars in a bad helicopter crash while back-country skiing, and she says she is thankful for dental implant technology because it looks and feels so natural.
Brinkley said that her smile led directly to her assignment as spokesperson for a brand of oral rinse and mouthwash products. She is also concerned about the environment. Her company Christie, Inc. is designing environmentally friendly products.
Her advice to everyone is to smile more. “I think a smile makes EVERYONE beautiful! It's the greatest gift we give each other... It's an expression of friendship, love and peace!”
If you regularly participate in sports or other physical activity, you’re at a higher risk for dental injuries. While chipped teeth are the most common result of these injuries, a few may result in more serious trauma — dislodged, cracked or knocked out teeth. In these cases, the core of the tooth — the pulp — and the root may have been damaged. Saving the tooth may require endodontic treatment and possibly the expertise of a specialist in the field, an endodontist.
Endodontics, from the Greek words for “within” and “tooth,” is a specialty of dentistry that treats disease or damage affecting the inner parts of a tooth, particularly the pulp chamber, the root canals, and the root. While all dentists are trained in endodontic procedures, an endodontist has advanced training, experience and specialized equipment to address complex cases.
The type of endodontic treatment needed for an injured tooth will depend on the extent of damage. A mature, permanent tooth with pulp damage, for example, may require a root canal treatment. In this procedure the pulp chamber and root canals are thoroughly cleaned out, and then are filled with a special filling to prevent any future infection. Later the tooth should be crowned to permanently seal it. Although a general dentist may perform a root canal, more complex cases, such as a tooth with an extensive root canal network, may need to be performed by an endodontist using microscopic equipment.
A tooth that has undergone severe trauma, especially a knocked out tooth, will need extensive follow-up care by a general dentist and possibly an endodontist to improve its chances of long-term survival. Because of the severity, the tooth may lose viability and the body ultimately may begin to reject it. For this reason, the tooth should be monitored on a regular basis and may need further treatment from time to time, even up to five years after the injury.
One final word: if you participate in sports or exercise activity, you can significantly reduce your risk of dental injury with a mouthguard. There are various types, but the best protection is one custom designed to fit the specific contours of your mouth. We’ll be glad to advise you further on how to protect your teeth from injury.
If you would like more information on dental injury prevention and treatment, 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 “Trauma & Nerve Damage to Teeth.”
This website includes materials that are protected by copyright, or other proprietary rights. Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use, as defined in the copyright laws, requires the written permission of the copyright owners.