Why Gums Recede and How Your Winston-Salem Dentist Can Help

Have you noticed increased tooth sensitivity to hot and cold? Or when you look in the mirror, does one tooth look longer than the others?

These are signs of gum recession, a very common dental problem that often occurs gradually with few or no symptoms. It is more common as people age, affecting up to 75 percent of people over age 60.

What Are Receding Gums?

Gum recession occurs when the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth wears away or pulls back to expose more of the tooth or the tooth’s root. It is also one of the first signs of gum disease and may be called “gingival recession.”

What Causes Receding Gums?

There are many reasons why your gums may recede.

  • Gum disease caused by inadequate brushing and flossing. Bacteria builds up between the teeth and in the gum line causing chronic inflammation and a gradual loss of gum tissue.
  • Brushing too hard. Ironically, brushing too aggressively or brushing the wrong way is another cause of gum recession. [Check out how to properly brush your teeth.]
  • Genetics. Some of the population is genetically predisposed to thin, fragile gum tissue that can predispose them to gum disease and recession.
  • Hormones. Female hormone fluctuations can make gums more sensitive and vulnerable to gum recession.
  • Smoking or using smokeless tobacco products.
  • Grinding your teeth (bruxism), crooked teeth or misaligned bite.  Too much force can be placed on the teeth, gums and bone, which can cause the gums to recede.
  • Lip or tongue piercing. The gum tissue can become irritated and wear away.

Do Not Ignore Gum Recession

Gum recession is not a condition you can ignore. “Pockets” or gaps can form between the gum line and the teeth, which leaves plenty of room for the build-up of disease-causing bacteria. Left untreated, these bacteria can severely damage the bone structure and supporting tissue, which can cause the tooth or teeth to fall out.

 Treating Gum Recession

The type of treatment for gum recession depends on how severe the problem is.

  • Tooth scaling and root planning. If your case of receding gums is mild, it may be treated with a deep cleaning of the affected area by dental professionals. During this process, the plaque and tartar that have built up on the teeth and root surfaces below the gum line is carefully removed. Then, the exposed root area is smoothed to make it more difficult for bacteria to attach. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to get rid of any remaining harmful bacteria.
  • Pocket depth reduction. With this procedure, the dentist or periodontist gently pulls back the affected gum tissue, removes the bacteria and tartar from the pockets, and then secures the gum tissue in place over the tooth root. This may take place under local or general anesthetic.
  • Regeneration. This is a procedure to regenerate lost bone and tissue if the bone supporting your teeth has been destroyed. After a pocket depth reduction, a regenerative material is applied to encourage your body to naturally regenerate bone and tissue in that area.
  • Soft tissue graft. There are typically three different types of grafts, and you dentist will determine which kind is best for your specific needs.

If you notice your gums receding or have any tooth sensitivity, contact Enlighten Dental Care today at (336) 765-0904.

Wisdom Teeth — What Are They and Why Would I Need Them Removed?

Molars are the teeth found in the back of your jaw that help you chew, and humans typically have three sets of them for a total of 12 teeth, six on each side of the jaw. The three types are First Molars, often called the six-year molars; the Second Molars, often called the 12-year molars; and the Third Molars, known as the wisdom teeth, as they generally erupt between the ages of 17 and 21 after you’ve gained some “wisdom.”

(We’re not sure if these are years of “wisdom” per se, but that’s what the teeth are called.)

As wisdom teeth come in, they often cause problems that can affect other teeth. Some of these problems include:

  • The wisdom teeth are impacted (unable to break through the gums) because the jaw isn’t large enough to give them room.
  • The wisdom teeth only break through the gum partially because there is not enough space. Gum tissue can grow over the wisdom tooth and trap food to cause a gum infection.
  • The wisdom teeth face the wrong direction or come in crooked.
  • The wisdom teeth are so crowded or far back in the mouth that it is difficult to clean around them.

At Enlighten Dental Care, we keep a check on wisdom teeth through dental X-rays and monitor to see if they are causing any problems such as teeth crowding, pain or infection. Wisdom teeth that are causing problems need to be removed.

Wisdom teeth that have fully erupted through the gums can be removed with a non-surgical dental extraction in our office. The teeth and surrounding tissue are numbed with a local anesthetic, and you may choose to have a sedative to help control anxiety.

Wisdom teeth that are impacted underneath the gum and embedded in the jawbone require a surgical extraction and will require an oral surgeon. The surgeon makes an incision into the gums and then removes the portion of bone that lies over the tooth.

After a wisdom tooth is extracted, patients can sometimes develop a dry socket, which is a painful condition that occurs if the blood clot that was protecting the bone and nerves in the hole where the tooth was pulled become dislodged. Only 2 percent to 5 percent of people develop dry socket.

Dry socket is easily treatable with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or stronger pain medications. If you are experiencing dry socket, we will clean the tooth socket and fill it with a medicine to promote healing. You may also rinse your mouth with saltwater or a special mouthwash each day, and antibiotics may also be prescribed.

Questions about wisdom teeth? Call Enlighten Dental Care at (336) 765-0904.

Sports Drinks and Your Teeth

During the hot weather of summer, the energy drinks and sports drinks come out, particularly among youth athletes. The drinks market their benefits as helping athletes to replace water, electrolytes and energy after training or competition.

Many people believe that these drinks are healthier than soda. Their effectiveness, however, has been questioned, and the drinks are also linked to weight gain.

Another problem sports drinks and energy drinks have been linked to is damaging teeth. The culprit is the acid — a problem in sodas too. A study published a few years ago in the journal General Dentistry found that energy and sports drinks contain so much acid that they start eroding teeth after only five days of consistent use, leaving the teeth more susceptible to decay and sensitivity.

The researchers tested 13 different sports drinks and nine different energy drinks for titratable acidity, pH and fluoride of each of the different drinks. Then they submerged samples of human tooth enamel in six drinks and found both types caused damage, with the energy drinks causing twice as much damage as the sports drinks.

There is a double whammy. Not only are the drinks highly acidic, but the sugar from the energy and sports drinks becomes food for bacteria in your mouth, which generates more teeth-damaging acid.

Now, of course, drinking the drinks is different than submerging your teeth in them for 15 minutes. And there are a few ways you can mitigate the potential for damage:

  • Drink water along with your sports or energy drink. This will help wash away the acid covering your teeth and increase saliva production to help protect your enamel.
  • Don’t brush your teeth immediately after consuming the drinks, because the drinks have softened your enamel. Wait one hour and make sure you don’t over brush.
  •  Drink your drink through a straw. This reduces the contact of the drink with your teeth.
  • Just drink water. Sports drinks are expensive and contain a lot of calories and acid you don’t need. Water is always better.

Do you have questions about damage to your teeth? Contact Enlighten Dental Care at 336.765.0904 or send an e-mail to: info@enlightendentalcare.com.

Cavity Fillings — What Type Is Best?

Cavities (tooth decay) are permanently damaged areas of the surface of your teeth that have created tiny holes. If cavities are left untreated, they will grow larger and affect the deeper layers of your teeth, leading to much bigger problems, such as infections, severe toothache and tooth loss.

Cavities that have progressed beyond the earliest enamel-erosion state are treated by removing the decayed portion of the tooth and then “filling” the area where the decayed portion was removed. The “filling” cam be made of one of the following:

  • Resin-based composite, which is tooth-colored, plastic, and glass materials
  • Silver amalgam, which consists of mercury mixed with silver, tin, zinc, and copper
  • Porcelain
  • Gold

At Enlighten Dental Care, to treat the typical cavity, we use composite resin fillings; however, there are some instances in which silver amalgam is the better choice. Gold may also be used when bite forces dictate a stronger, more supportive restoration than a filling, but there is ample healthy tooth to preserve without doing a crown. And as stronger porcelains have become available, they may also be used for this purpose.

Resin-based composite is a natural, tooth-colored material that was used for many years to fill front teeth and is much more aesthetically pleasing. Over the last few decades, with technological advances, the material has been made strong enough to withstand the pressure of chewing in the back teeth; however, it is still less durable than silver amalgam. Resin-based composite has the added benefit of bonding to the tooth structure, which provides further support.

Silver amalgam has been used for more than 150 years to fill teeth and is strong and durable. There have been concerns over the safety of amalgam because of the use of mercury as a bonding agent.; however, no scientific studies have shown that it is a risk. In addition, the American Dental Association maintains that dental amalgam remains a safe, affordable and durable cavity filling choice for dental patients. While silver amalgam is less expensive than composite resin fillings, it can cause the tooth to crack and fracture over time.

When treating our patients’ cavities, we consider the pattern of decay in the tooth before recommending which type of filling material to use. It is extremely important to end up with a tight seal to prevent leaving any space that opens the door to further decay. Other considerations include the patient’s budget and insurance coverage. If you have questions about which material is right for your treatment, we are always happy to talk with you about the pros and cons of the materials, as well as the cost. Please call us at (336) 765-0904. 

Taking Care of and Cleaning Your Dentures

May is designated Older Americans Month, a month in which we recognize older Americans for their contributions and provide information on staying healthy and active. One way in which seniors can stay healthy and active is to take care of their teeth and their dentures if they have them.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 25 percent of adults ages 65 and older no longer have any natural teeth. Missing teeth affect one’s ability to eat, speak and smile, and they can also cause your jaw to lose bone mass.

At Enlighten Dental Care, we can custom craft full or partial dentures for you that will look natural and be comfortable. They will also last for years if you give them the proper care.

Here are some ways to keep your dentures in really good shape.

  • Clean dentures daily by brushing them every day the same way you would brush your teeth except WITHOUT toothpaste. Many types of toothpaste can damage dentures.
  • Use a soft-bristle denture brush designed specifically for cleaning dentures along with water and brush all surfaces of the dentures. Do not bend any attachments.
  • After each meal, rinse dentures with water.
  • Specialized denture cleaner for soaking dentures is OK, but it is not a substitute for brushing.
  • Be careful when handling your dentures. A folded towel in the sink will keep them from breaking should you drop them.
  • Remove your full or partial dentures every night in order to allow the gum tissue underneath to rest.
  • When you are not wearing your dentures, let them soak in cool water (NOT hot water, which can warp them) or a denture-cleaning solution so they won’t dry out. If your dentures have metal attachments, some solutions could cause the metal to tarnish, so talk to your dentist about what is safe to use.
  • See your dentist every six months to check the fit and condition of your dentures, and the condition of your gums. With the proper care, your dentures could last for five to seven years.

 

Can Your Dentist Help You Sleep Better?

At Enlighten Dental Care, we sometimes have patients who fall asleep as we are are working on their teeth. while this could be a result of our relaxing chairs or calm, gentle demeanor while working on teeth, the more likely cause is that the patient is not getting a good night’s sleep.

One of the most common causes for poor sleep is obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially serious discarder that causes a person to have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while he or she sleeps. It is typically caused soft tissue in the back of the throat that collapses while you sleep creating a blockage of the airway, 

This chronic condition tends to seriously disrupt your sleep. How? When your breathing pauses or becomes shallow, you typically move to a light sleep. Thus, the quality of your sleep is poor, and you are tired during the day …

And you can easily fall asleep in the dentist’s chair! (Or at your desk at work.)

A sleep specialist is the only person who can diagnose obstructive sleep apnea. To treat the disorder, a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine is often prescribed to keep the airways open during sleep. The machine includes a device that fits over your nose and mouth, a tube that connects the mask to the machine’s motor, and a motor that blows air into the tube.

If you are feeling excessively tired during the day, have been diagnosed with sleep apnea or would prefer to try an alternative to CPAP, talk to your dentist. Oral appliance therapy may offer you an alternative to the CPAP machine. A device similar to a retainer can help prevent the collapse of the tongue and soft tissues in the back of the throat, and keep the airway open during sleep to promote  adequate air intake. These appliances can also be used in conjunction with  cotter treatments for sleep apnea, such as losing weight, surgery or CPAP.

How do they work? Oral appliances work by repositioning the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate and uvula; stabilizing the lower jaw and tongue; and increasing the muscle tone of the tongue. There are many different types of appliances available, so it is important to work with a dentist familiar with the appliances to fit you and find the right one for your specific needs.

Some of the advantages of oral appliance therapy include:

  • Comfort. Most people find the appliances easy to wear after a few weeks.
  • Convenience. The appliances are small and convenient to carry when traveling.
  • Non-invasive. Oral appliances are a non-invasive way to treat sleep apnea.

Researchers are finding more and more evidence that good sleep is crucial to your overall health and well-being. Untreated sleep apnea can increase your risk of such conditions as heart attack, stroke, obesity and diabetes. Talk to your doctor and dentist if you are excessively tired during the day or your partner tells you that you are a heavy snorer. Oral appliance therapy is just one of many ways to help sleep better.

Does Alcohol Damage Your Teeth?

As we are heading into the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, we thought it was an opportune time to talk about alcohol and your teeth. We discussed the damage soda can do to teeth in an earlier blog, but what about alcohol?

The fact is, alcohol is acidic, too, which means it can damage teeth. Here’s a few noteworthy facts:

  • Alcohol dries your mouth. This reduces saliva, which creates a more acidic environment in your mouth. And that can lead to a softening of your tooth enamel.
  • Alcohol in general, and wine in particular, can soften tooth enamel. Wine’s  malic, tartaric, lactic, succinic and citric acids lower the pH in your mouth to below a critical point. In addition, wine’s mineral content and its calcium binding properties may contribute to its erosive potential.
  • Sugary alcoholic drinks can be the worst, as the sugar also causes tooth decay. The sugar content in beer, sweet wines and, of course, such drinks as rum and coke can wreak havoc.
  • Alcohol can stain your teeth. “Red wine teeth” are caused by a mix of the acids, natural dyes and tannins in the wine. And here’s a fun fact: If you haven’t been to the dentist for a professional dental cleaning, avoid the green beer —  the dyes used in the beer stain the bacterial cell walls in plaque and can show the world that you need a check-up!
  • Excessive alcohol consumption can cause cavities, gum deterioration and tooth loss.

So, how do you best protect your teeth from alcohol?

  • Mix drinks with soda water instead of soft drinks or other sweet mixers in order to help reduce the acidity.
  • After each alcoholic beverage, drink a glass of water in order to dilute the acid.
  • Chewing sugar-free gum can help increase saliva production so your mouth does not dry out as much.
  • Wait at least 20 minutes or up to an hour after drinking alcohol to brush your teeth. It takes the saliva that long to remineralize the tooth enamel that was softened  by acid. Brushing too soon can damage the enamel further. Just don’t go to sleep before you brush.

You don’t have to go alcohol-free to protect your teeth. Moderation is key. And don’t forget to brush!

Dental Implants in Winston-Salem, NC

Do you have missing teeth? Are you wondering whether a dental implant would be right for you?

If you lose one or more teeth, the bone that surrounds the root does not receive any more stimulation from chewing, and it begins to wear away. This can cause your teeth to shift and drift into the open space, and opposing teeth on the top can actually drop down. Traditional methods of replacing teeth, such as bridges without dental implants, partials and dentures do not address the bone deterioration because they only replace the visible portion of the tooth — they do not replace the root. In addition, before the science of dental implants, the only way to replace a missing tooth was with a tooth-supported bridge, which meant healthy teeth had to be ground down to support the bridge.

Whether you are replacing a single tooth or many teeth, dental implants can be used with crowns, bridges and dentures to help prevent bone deterioration. Why? The implant is an artificial tooth root that the dentists at Enlighten Dental Care can place into your jaw in order to hold a replacement tooth (crown),  bridge or dentures.

There are two types of dental implants:

  • Endosteal implants are screws, cylinders or blades surgically placed into the jawbone. This is the most common type of implant.
  • Subperiosteal implants are placed on top of the jaw. The metal framework posts protrude through the gum to hold the prosthesis.

The benefits of implant-supported crowns, bridges or dentures include the following.

  • They help to minimize bone deterioration.
  • They look, feel and function like normal teeth
  • They do not compromise adjacent teeth by grinding them down for a bridge or securing a partial denture to them.
  • They increase stability, making chewing more natural.
  • They eliminate the pain of dentures and partials that fit poorly.
  • They improve appearance.
  • They are easier to clean than traditional tooth replacements.

Getting implants is a common, relatively pain-free procedure at Enlighten Dental Care. You will work with your dentist to create a plan that will ensure the best possible outcome. Your dentist will place the implant and form the gum tissue around the exposed collar of the implant. During the next few weeks, the bone will grow solidly onto the implant, and if the implant is in the aesthetic zone, a temporary tooth restoration will be placed while the site heals. Once healing is complete, your Enlighten Dental Care dentist will remove the cover screw and place the abutment, and take an impression in order to order the final crown, bridge or denture from the lab. When the final crown, bridge or denture is returned from the lab, your temporary will be removed and replaced , so your final beautiful smile will be put into place!

If you have questions about dental implants, please contact us at (336) 765-0904.

Don’t Lose Your Teeth! Treating Periodontal (Gum) Disease

Periodontal disease — also known as gum disease — is an inflammatory condition that affects both the soft and hard structures that support the teeth. The disease is caused by the plaque on your teeth, which contains bacteria that product harmful toxins that can irritate and inflame the gums.

Inflamed gum tissue can pull away from the teeth and form spaces called pockets, which collect more bacteria. Infected pockets that are not treated can damage the bone and other tissue that supports the teeth, and eventually the teeth may fall out or need to be removed. A periodontal infection can also spread throughout the entire body, creating disease in another organ or body part, and it has been shown to have an impact on systemic inflammation. Research indicates that gum disease may contribute to diabetes, respiratory disease, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and it may be associated with premature child birth.

Symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Gums that bleed when you brush or floss
  • Red, swollen or tender gums
  • Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
  • Bad breath that doesn’t go away
  • Pus between your teeth and gums
  • Loose or separating teeth
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bit
  • A change in the fit of partial dentures

There are two types of periodontal disease: gingivitis, which is the milder form, and periodontitis, the more advanced form.

  • Gingivitis makes the gums red and swollen, and they may bleed easily when you brush. Gingivitis can be reversed with better dental care at home (brushing and flossing) and more frequent professional cleanings.
  • Periodontitis is the more advanced form of gum disease. It results in more swelling and redness in the tissues around the teeth, and it causes the tissue and bone to break down.

To determine the extent of gum disease, the dentists at Enlighten Dental Care will evaluate the depth of space between the teeth and gums. In addition, we will take X-rays are taken to see whether the bone has been damaged. Depending on how much damage and disease progression there is, treatment may include:

  • more frequent visits to a dental hygienist
  • a procedure called scaling and root planing in which the plaque and tarter is carefully removed down to the bottom of each periodontal pocket the tooth’s root surfaces are smoothed to allow the gum tissue to heal and reattach to the tooth
  • gum surgery

We may also prescribe antibiotics to control infection.

If you are experiencing any symptoms of gum disease, please make an appointment with the dentists at Enlighten Dental Care by calling (336) 765-0904, or click here to get in touch.

Hope Your Season Is Merry and Bright!