Posts for: July, 2018
If you’ve noticed a small sore in your mouth, it’s possible you have a non-contagious disease known as lichen planus. Although usually benign, it’s still a good idea to have it examined and monitored.
The condition is so named because its lesions are similar in appearance to lichen, the algae and fungi organism often found on rocks and trees. It’s believed to be a type of autoimmune disease, in which the body treats some of its own cells as foreign and reacts adversely to them. Certain medications and substances may also cause a lichenoid reaction. Besides the inner cheeks, gums or tongue, lichen planus may also appear on other skin or mucous surfaces on the wrists, legs or fingernails.
When it appears inside the mouth it usually resembles a lacy pattern of white lines or ulceration. Gum tissues may become red and inflamed, with some soreness after brushing or eating. Although there’s no known cure for lichen planus, it rarely causes serious problems — in fact, you may not even be aware you have the condition unless pointed out during a dental exam. It may, in time, fade away.
If the lesions do become bothersome (painful, itchy or overly-sensitive), there are some ways to ease discomfort: brushing with a soft toothbrush (to minimize irritation), flossing, and avoiding acidic or spicy foods and beverages which have been known to cause flare-ups. Managing stress is also helpful, and a topical steroid may be prescribed for more severe outbreaks.
Perhaps the greatest concern with lichen planus, though, is it may resemble more serious conditions, particularly oral cancer. The only way to be certain that it is a benign condition is to perform a biopsy on some of the affected tissue. If you notice a problem, be sure to visit us for a complete examination. And regardless of whether you have the condition or not, regular oral cancer screenings, as well as limits on alcohol consumption and stopping use of tobacco, will also reduce your risk of oral cancer.
Odds are if you have a case of lichen planus it isn’t causing you any problems. If it does cause you discomfort, though, you can take steps to ease your symptoms.
Smile gaps hurt your self-confidence, oral function, and jaw bone density. If you have lost teeth and wish to complete your smile, Dr. Steve Yi of El Paso Viva Dental in El Paso, TX, can help with dental implants. Secured with titanium screws inserted into the jaw bone, these amazing artificial teeth close gaps permanently.
What is a dental implant?
It's a tooth replacement device which is far superior to conventional fixed bridges or other dental prosthetics. The single-tooth implant has three parts:
- A titanium metal screw, or root
- A metal alloy extension post
- A lifelike porcelain crown
Because the screw is made of titanium, the human jaw bone adheres to it exceptionally well, forming an inseparable bond. The bond also ensures that the supporting bone and gum tissue remain intact and strong. This develops through a naturally-occurring mechanism called osseointegration.
Osseointegration takes many weeks to accomplish, but when complete, both patient and dentist are assured of a reliably strong tooth replacement that will last indefinitely. Dental implant success rates are high, reports Dental Tribune Science, but sufficient healing time, diligent oral hygiene habits, and good overall health are critical to implant longevity.
Evaluating for and placing implants in El Paso
Dr. Yi likes to do a complete oral examination, including a visual inspection, X-rays, and a CT scan, to determine oral health and jaw bone strength. Also important is the location of the implant--front teeth are generally easier to replace--and if bone grafting is necessary. After this detailed consultation and a "yes" decision, the entire implant treatment happens at El Paso Viva Dental.
The treatment involves incision of the gums and careful insertion of the implant into the bone. Sutures close the site, and the patient returns home to heal. Healing takes many weeks, and during that time, the patient must not bite or chew on the implant as those stresses threaten successful osseointegration.
At the next dental appointment, Dr. Yi inspects the site, and if all is well, re-opens it and bonds on the extension post and customized crown. Afterwards, the patient gently uses the implant: eating, brushing, and flossing as usual.
Life with dental implants
Dental implants look, feel, and bite just as real teeth do. When you smile, that gap is completely closed, and you can feel confident that your new tooth won't slip or make your speech odd or slurred.
However, Dr. Yi cautions that good at-home and in-office hygiene is essential. While implants cannot develop cavities or be rejected by the body's immune system, the surrounding gums and bone can develop an infection called peri-implantitis. It resembles advanced gum disease and can destroy the surrounding jaw bone. To avoid peri-implantitis:
- Stop smoking
- Brush twice a day
- Floss once a day
- Get six-month cleanings and check-ups with Dr. Yi
A fantastic smile
It can be yours with dental implants from El Paso Viva Dental. Contact the office for a consultation appointment in El Paso, TX, and ask about our special implant pricing. Call (915) 751-1007.
Want to know the exact wrong way to pry open a stubborn lid? Just ask Jimmy Fallon, host of NBC-TV’s popular “Tonight Show.” When the 40-year-old funnyman had trouble opening a tube of scar tissue repair gel with his hands, he decided to try using his teeth.
What happened next wasn’t funny: Attempting to remove the cap, Fallon chipped his front tooth, adding another medical problem to the serious finger injury he suffered a few weeks before (the same wound he was trying to take care of with the gel). If there’s a moral to this story, it might be this: Use the right tool for the job… and that tool isn’t your teeth!
Yet Fallon is hardly alone in his dilemma. According to the American Association of Endodontists, chipped teeth account for the majority of dental injuries. Fortunately, modern dentistry offers a number of great ways to restore damaged teeth.
If the chip is relatively small, it’s often possible to fix it with cosmetic bonding. In this procedure, tough, natural-looking resin is used to fill in the part of the tooth that has been lost. Built up layer by layer, the composite resin is cured with a special light until it’s hard, shiny… and difficult to tell from your natural teeth. Best of all, cosmetic bonding can often be done in one office visit, with little or no discomfort. It can last for up to ten years, so it’s great for kids who may be getting more permanent repairs later.
For larger chips or cracks, veneers or crowns may be suggested. Veneers are wafer-thin porcelain coverings that go over the entire front surface of one or more teeth. They can be used to repair minor to moderate defects, such as chips, discolorations, or spacing irregularities. They can also give you the “Hollywood white” smile you’ve seen on many celebrities.
Veneers are generally custom-made in a lab, and require more than one office visit. Because a small amount of tooth structure must be removed in order to put them in place, veneers are considered an irreversible treatment. But durable and long-lasting veneers are the restorations of choice for many people.
Crowns (also called caps) are used when even more of the tooth structure is missing. They can replace the entire visible part of the tooth, as long as the tooth’s roots remain viable. Crowns, like veneers, are custom-fabricated to match your teeth in size, shape and color; they are generally made in a dental lab and require more than one office visit. However, teeth restored with crowns function well, look natural, and can last for many years.
So what happened to Jimmy Fallon? We aren’t sure which restoration he received… but we do know that he was back on TV the same night, flashing a big smile.
If you would like more information about tooth restorations, please contact us or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Porcelain Crowns & Veneers” and “Artistic Repair Of Front Teeth With Composite Resin.”
More than likely your great-grandparents, grandparents and even your parents had a common dental experience: when one of their teeth developed a cavity, their dentist removed the decayed portion (and maybe a little more) through drilling and then filled the cavity. In other words, treatment was mainly reactive—fix the problem when it occurred, then fix it again if it reoccurred.
You may have had similar experiences—but the chances are good your dentist’s approach is now quite different. Today’s tooth decay treatment is much more proactive: address first the issues that cause tooth decay, and if it does occur treat it with an eye on preventing it in the future.
This approach depends on maintaining equilibrium between two sets of competing factors that influence how your teeth may encounter tooth decay. This is known as the caries balance (caries being another name for tooth decay). On one side are factors that increase the risk of decay, known by the acronym BAD: Bad Bacteria that produce acid that dissolves the minerals in tooth enamel; Absence of Saliva, the body’s natural acid neutralizer; and Dietary Habits, especially foods with added sugars that feed bacteria, and acid that further weakens enamel.
There are also factors that decrease the risk of tooth decay, known by the acronym SAFE: Saliva and Sealants, which focuses on methods to boost low salivary flow and cover chewing surfaces prone to decay with sealant materials; Antimicrobials, rinses or other substances that reduce bad bacteria populations and encourage the growth of beneficial strains; Fluoride, increased intake or topical applications of this known enamel-strengthening chemical; and Effective Diet, reducing the amount and frequency of sugary or acidic foods and replacing them with more dental-friendly choices.
In effect, we employ a variety of techniques and materials that inhibit BAD factors and support SAFE ones. The foundation for prevention, though, remains the same as it was for past family generations—practice effective oral hygiene by brushing and flossing daily and regular dental cleanings and checkups to keep bacterial plaque from accumulating and growing. Your own diligent daily care rounds out this more effective way that could change your family history of tooth decay for you and future generations.