My Blog
By Nelson Wollek, DDS
October 03, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: tooth decay  
WereImprovingOurEffectivenessinTreatingToothDecay

For several decades, dentists have been saving teeth from tooth decay following a few basic guidelines: 1) Identify decay as soon as possible; 2) Thoroughly remove decayed tooth structure; and 3) Fill any cavities. With millions of diseased teeth rescued, observing these simple steps have proven a rousing success.

But as with most things, even this successful protocol isn't perfect. For one, some healthy tissue gets removed along with the diseased portions. The average percentage of "collateral damage" has dropped over the years, but it still happens—and a reduction in healthy tissue can make a tooth less structurally sound.

Another drawback, at least from the patient's perspective, is the dental drill used for removing decay and preparing cavities for filling. Many people find drilling unpleasant, whether from its vibrations in the mouth or its high-pitched whine. The drill's burr head design also contributes to greater healthy tissue loss.

But those weaknesses have lessened over the last few years, thanks to innovations on a number of fronts.

Better risk management. Tooth decay doesn't occur out of thin air—it arises out of risk factors unique to an individual patient like personal hygiene, bacterial load, saliva production or even genetics. Taking the time to identify a patient's "tooth decay risk score" can lead to customized treatments and practices that can minimize the occurrence of decay.

Earlier detection. Like other aspects of dental health, the sooner we detect decay, the less damage it causes and the more successful our treatment. X-rays remain the workhorse for detecting decay, but now with improvements like digital film and better equipment. We're also using newer technologies like laser fluorescence and infrared technology that can "see" decay that might otherwise go undetected.

Less invasive treatment. The dental drill is now being used less with the advent of air abrasion technology. Air abrasion utilizes a concentrated spray of particles to remove diseased tooth structure more precisely than drilling. That means less healthy tissue loss—and a more pleasant (and quieter!) experience for the patient.

In effect, "less is more" could describe these improvements to traditional decay treatment. They and other methods promise healthier teeth and happier patients.

If you would like more information on current treatments for tooth decay, 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 “Minimally Invasive Dentistry: When Less Care is More.”

BuffaloBillsStefonDiggsKnowsTheresNeveraBadPlacetoFloss

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs wrapped up the NFL regular season in January, setting single-season records in both catches and receiving yards. The Bills handily beat the Miami Dolphins, earning themselves the second seed in the AFC playoffs, and Diggs certainly did his part, making 7 catches for 76 yards. But what set the internet ablaze was not Diggs' accomplishments on the field but rather what the camera caught him doing on the sidelines—flossing his teeth!

The Twitterverse erupted with Bills fans poking fun at Diggs. But Diggs is not ashamed of his good oral hygiene habits, and CBS play-by-play announcer Kevin Harlan expressed his support with “Dental hygiene is something to take note of, kids! There's never a bad place to floss” and “When you lead the NFL in catches and yards, you can floss anytime you want.”

We like to think so. There's an old joke among dentists:
Q. Which teeth do you need to floss?
A. Only the ones you want to keep.

Although this sounds humorous, it is borne out in research. Of note, a 2017 study showed that people who floss have a lower risk of tooth loss over periods of 5 years and 10 years, and a 2020 study found that older adults who flossed lost an average of 1 tooth in 5 years, while those who don't lost around 4 teeth in the same time period.

We in the dental profession stress the importance of flossing as a daily habit—and Stefon Diggs would likely agree—yet fewer than 1 in 3 Americans floss every day. The 2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), conducted by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, revealed that only 30% of Americans floss every day, while 37% floss less than every day and 32% never floss.

The biggest enemy on the football field may be the opposing team, but the biggest enemy to your oral health is plaque, a sticky film of bacteria and food debris that builds up on tooth surfaces. Plaque can cause tooth decay and gum disease, the number one cause of tooth loss among adults. Flossing is necessary to remove plaque from between teeth and around the gums where a toothbrush can't reach. If not removed, plaque hardens into tartar, which can only be removed by the specialized tools used in the dental office. Regular professional dental cleanings are also needed to get at those hard-to-reach spots you may have missed.

If Diggs can find time to floss during a major NFL game, the rest of us can certainly find a couple minutes a day to do it. While we might not recommend Diggs' technique of flossing from one side of the mouth to the other, we commend his enthusiasm and commitment to keeping his teeth and gums healthy. Along with good dental hygiene at home—or on the sidelines if you are Stefon Diggs—regular professional dental cleanings and checkups play a key role in maintaining a healthy smile for life.

If you would like more information about keeping in the best dental health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Daily Oral Hygiene.”

ImplantsCanProvideEffectiveOptionsforTotalToothReplacement

Losing all your teeth can dramatically impact your life for the worst. Fortunately, we can give you your "teeth" back. The most common way, at least until a few decades ago, is with custom dentures, which reasonably restore life-like appearance and dental function. But it does have one major drawback—it can't stop bone loss.

Loss of bone in the jaws often occurs with missing teeth. Normally, the bone continuously generates newer cells to replace older ones that have died. Chewing stimulates this growth as the force generated travels up through the teeth to the bone. But when teeth go missing, new bone growth slows, eventually causing the bone's volume and density to decrease.

Dentures can't reactivate this lost stimulation, and so bone loss may continue. Dentures even accelerate this loss as the compressive forces applied to the bony ridge are detrimental. This often leads to a "loosening" of a denture's fit that can make them uncomfortable and less secure to wear.

Today, however, patients with total tooth loss have another option that could alleviate the problem of bone loss—dental implants. Since their inception forty years ago, implants have become the preferred method of both dentists and patients for tooth replacement.

Implants consist of a titanium metal post that's surgically imbedded into the jawbone. Bone cells are attracted to this particular metal, readily multiplying and adhering to the implant's titanium surface. Because of this, an implant can slow or even stop bone loss.

Most people are familiar with the single tooth implant with an attached lifelike crown. Although this use of implants could be used to restore total tooth loss, it can be quite costly replacing over two dozen teeth individually.

But implants could still be part of the answer for someone with complete tooth loss, because they can also be used to support traditional restorations. A few implants strategically placed around the jaw can support either a removable denture or a fixed bridge.

Besides being a cost-effective way to add support to these traditional tooth replacements, the inclusion of implants will likely decrease continuing bone loss. Most importantly, it can give you back your dental function—and your smile to boot.

If you would like more information on dental implant options, 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 “New Teeth in One Day.”

By Nelson Wollek, DDS
September 03, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: dental injury  
TakeTheseImmediateActionstoSaveaKnocked-OutTooth

Accidents do happen, especially if you or a family member has an active lifestyle. One such risk, especially for someone playing a contact sport, is having a tooth knocked out.

But as extreme as this injury can be, it doesn't necessarily mean the tooth is lost forever. Gum (or periodontal) cells remaining on the tooth root can regenerate and regain their attachment with the periodontal ligament that holds teeth in place. But you have to act quickly—the longer the tooth is out of the socket, the more likely these cells will dry out and die.

So, by doing the following within 5-20 minutes of the injury (and the earlier the better), that knocked-out tooth has a reasonable chance of survival.

Locate and clean the tooth. Your first priority is to find the missing tooth and clean it of any debris with clean water. Be sure not to touch the root of the tooth and only handle the tooth by the crown (the visible part of a tooth when it's in the mouth).

Insert the root end into the empty socket. Still holding the tooth by the crown, insert the opposite root end into the empty socket. Orient the crown properly, but don't worry about getting it in just right—the follow-up with the dentist will take care of that. You will, however, need to apply some pressure to get it to seat firmly.

Secure the tooth. Place a piece of clean gauze or cloth between the reinserted tooth and its counterpart on the other jaw. Then, have the person bite down on the cloth and hold it. This will help secure the tooth in place while you travel to the dentist.

Seek dental care immediately. It's important to see a dentist immediately to adjust the tooth's position and to possibly splint the tooth to better secure it while it heals. If a dentist isn't available, then visit a local emergency room instead.

Taking these actions on the scene could mean the difference between saving and losing a tooth. But act quickly—the sooner you initiate first aid for a knocked-out tooth, the better its chances for long-term survival.

If you would like more information on what to do during dental emergencies, 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 “When a Tooth is Knocked Out.”

By Nelson Wollek, DDS
August 24, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
4TipstoGettingtheDentalCareYouNeedEvenonaTightBudget

If your budget gets squeezed, cutting non-essential expenses can be a wise move. But think twice before lumping dental care into that category—postponing dental visits or treatment could put your long-term dental health at risk.

True, dental treatments can get expensive, so it's tempting to let a routine visit slide or put off treatment for an obvious problem. But dental problems usually don't go away on their own—rather, they worsen. When you do get around to treatment, you'll pay and endure more than if you had tackled the issue earlier.

The key isn't cutting out dental care altogether, but to sync your limited financial resources with your dental needs. Here are 4 tips to help you do that.

Focus on the long-term. Twice-a-year cleanings and checkups are the minimum investment you should make toward good dental health. Besides lowering your disease risk, these appointments are key to a long-term care plan. By evaluating your on-going health and assessing your personal risk for dental disease, we can formulate a plan that addresses current problems and prevents future ones.

Take care of your mouth. The single most important thing you can do to protect yourself against destructive dental diseases is to practice daily oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing removes dental plaque, the bacterial film on teeth most responsible for tooth decay and gum disease. You can further boost healthy teeth and gums by eating foods rich in vitamins and minerals.

Restore teeth temporarily. We may be able to treat or restore affected teeth with temporary materials that give you time to prepare financially for a more permanent solution later. Durable but low-cost materials like resin bonded glass ionomers for repairing decayed teeth, or a partial denture to replace teeth can get you by until you're ready for a crown or dental implants.

Manage your costs. There are different ways to minimize your dental expenses or spread them out over time to make it easier on your budget. You may be able to lower expenses with dental insurance or a dental savings plan. Your provider may also have payment plans that allow you to finance your fees over time.

If you would like more information on affordable dental care, 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 “Cost-Saving Treatment Alternatives.”





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