Posts for: September, 2014
Now that celebrities can communicate directly with their fans through social media, we’ve started to see dispatches from some surprising locations — the dental chair, for example! Take singer Kelly Clarkson, who was the first winner of American Idol, and perhaps one of the first to seek moral support via social media before having an emergency root canal procedure.
“Emergency root canal — I’ve had better days,” Kelly posted on her Facebook page, along with a photo of herself looking… well, pretty nervous. But is a root canal procedure really something to be scared about? It’s time to clear up some misconceptions about this very common dental procedure.
First of all, root canal treatment is done to save a tooth that might otherwise be lost to an infection deep inside it. So while it’s often looked upon with apprehension, it’s a very positive step to take if you want to keep your teeth as long as possible. Secondly, tooth infections can be painful — but it’s the root canal procedure that stops the pain. What, actually, is done during this tooth-saving treatment?
First, a local anesthetic is administered to keep you from feeling any pain. Then, a small opening is made through the chewing surface of the infected tooth, giving access to the central space inside, which is called the “pulp chamber.” A set of tiny instruments is used to remove the diseased pulp (nerve) tissue in the chamber, and to clean out the root canals: branching tunnel-like spaces that run from the pulp chamber through the root (or roots) of the tooth. The cleared canals are then filled and sealed.
At a later appointment, we will give you a more permanent filling or, more likely, a crown, to restore your tooth’s full function and protect it from further injury. A tooth that has had a root canal followed by a proper restoration can last as long as any other natural tooth — a very long time indeed.
If you have any questions about root canal treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “A Step by Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment.”
In a recent study, 92% of dental implants were found to have survived the twenty-year mark — an impressive track record for any dental restoration.
Still, implants do fail, although rarely. Of those failures, tobacco smokers experience them twice as often as non-smokers. The incidence of early failure (within the first few months after implantation) is even higher for smokers.
Early implant failure typically happens because the titanium implant and the surrounding bone fail to integrate properly. Titanium has a natural affinity with bone — the surrounding bone will attach and grow to the titanium in the weeks after surgery, forming a strong bond. An infection around the implant site, however, can inhibit this integration and result in a weaker attachment between bone and implant. This weakness increases the chance the implant will be lost once it encounters the normal biting forces in the mouth.
Smokers have a higher risk of this kind of infection because of the way tobacco smoke alters the environment of the mouth. Inhaled smoke burns the mouth’s top skin layers and creates a thick layer of skin called keratosis in its place. Smoke also damages salivary glands so that they don’t produce enough saliva to neutralize the acid from food that’s left in the mouth after eating. This creates an environment conducive to the growth of infection-causing bacteria. At the same time, the nicotine in tobacco can constrict the mouth’s blood vessels inhibiting blood flow. The body’s abilities to heal and fight infection are adversely affected by this reduced blood flow.
The best way for a smoker to reduce this early failure risk is to quit smoking altogether a few weeks before you undergo implant surgery. If you’re unable to quit, then you should stop smoking a week before your implant surgery and continue to abstain from smoking for two weeks after. It’s also important for you to maintain good brushing and flossing habits, and semi-annual dental cleanings and checkups.
Although smoking only slightly raises the chances of implant failure, the habit should be factored into your decision to undergo implant surgery. Quitting smoking, on the other hand, can improve your chances of a successful outcome with your implants — and benefit your life and health as well.