North Penn Endodontics

Root Canals: Your Toughest Questions Answered

For most people, the mere mention of a root canal sets off alarm bells in the body. These bells come in the form of nervous thoughts and sensations – that fight-or-flight response we’ve all heard about. While this is a totally normal response, most fear of root canals is based on mis-information. We feel that by giving you the right information, we can help you understand the process better and calm your fears about this routine procedure.

Root Canals Your Toughest Questions AnsweredThis is not just your average list of root canal FAQs. Here, we aim to tackle the toughest questions that you can throw our way.

I’ve heard that root canals aren’t as painful as they used to be. How can that be true?

  • Better Instruments: Endodontic instruments have improved greatly over the years. They are more precise than ever, allowing us to target only necessary areas and avoid excess irritation.
  • Better Anesthetics: The anesthetics we use today are more effective and less likely to cause negative reactions than in the past. In addition, we can use an anesthetic that has adrenaline or epinephrine added to it to make it last longer. The longer it lasts, the less pain you will feel.
  • Better Imaging: Modern imaging allows for a more precise treatment and lessens the need to cause irritation in non-infected areas.
  • Better Understanding: Today, we have a better understanding of both your body and the microorganisms that cause infected roots. This results in less invasive treatments and better overall care for you.

What can I do to calm my nerves?

  • Know the Facts:
    • Over 15 million root canals are performed each year.
    • Root canals save your natural teeth and save money down the road.
    • Root canals are safe.
    • Root canals relieve pain caused by infection – they don’t cause pain!
  • Ask Questions: Sometimes patients are unsure about a specific part of the procedure and remain silent. We want you to ask questions! Usually we are able to set your mind at ease if you simply ask us.
  • Plug In: Many patients bring music and earphones to the appointment to help pass the time in the chair. Ask us if this is an option for you before your appointment.

Why not just remove the tooth? 
When a tooth hurts, often a person’s first reaction is to get rid of the tooth. However, we know that missing teeth cause bigger health problems and expenses down the road. The first choice in dental care is ALWAYS to save the tooth when possible. Root canal treatment saves teeth. In fact, a tooth that has undergone endodontic treatment can last just as long as the healthy teeth in your mouth!

 

Preventing Oral Cancer

While we cannot all necessarily prevent cancer from happening, with most cancers, including oral, head and neck cancers, there are things that you can do (or not do!) to reduce your risk.

  • Preventing-Oral-CancerQuit Smoking: After five years of quitting smoking, your risk of oral cancer is cut down to just half of that of a smoker.
  • Limit Alcohol: Excessive alcohol use is the second largest risk factor for oral cancer. Limit drinks to one per day for women and two per day for men.
  • HPV Vaccine: HPV is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer (the back of the mouth and throat). HPV is also responsible for a small number of oral cavity cancers (the mouth).
  • Self-Exams: Be an advocate for your own health by regularly examining your mouth with a mirror and flashlight. Don’t forget to look under the tongue! Watch for unusual bumps, patches, different coloring, and report any to us that don’t heal within 14 days. Feel your lips, cheeks, throat and neck for unusual bumps and masses. There are a number of online guides for performing a thorough at home oral cancer self-exam.
  • Have Regular Checkups: Oral health professionals such as dentists and oral surgeons are the second line of defense (after you) in terms of screening for oral cancers. Be sure to ask us any questions that come up during your exam.
  • Eat Well: A healthy diet includes plentiful vegetables and fruits, is low in sugar and saturated fats, and includes lean sources of protein and whole grains. Incorporate new foods into your diet slowly for long lasting results.
  • Exercise: Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day or more!
  • Get Adequate Sleep and Minimize Stress: A lack of sleep and stress both contribute to inflammation which has long been recognized as a player in the cancer game.

Tooth Trauma – Complicated Crown/Root Fracture – What Now?

You tripped, you fell and now you have found yourself with a part of your tooth broken and the root exposed. A complicated crown/root fracture is common in trip and fall injuries. In this form of fracture, the crown is fractured with the fracture extending below the gum line, involving the root of the tooth. This is the kind of fracture we typically see portrayed in movies.   This is a dental emergency and you should see us right away. Since this injury is traumatic, we thought it be best if you had a general overview of what to expect during the investigation and treatment stages.

(2)Tooth-Trauma-ComplicatedComplicated crown/root fracture is the most challenging type of fracture to treat. As traumatic injury responders our priority is you, your health and your safety. We will do our very best to ensure your comfort during a stressful injury such as this.

We will work quickly in order to assess the vitality of the tooth. We will first assess for pulpal necrosis, vestibule swelling, periapical lesions and/or dramatic color change of the crown. There are instances in crown/root fractures where a gingiovectomy may be necessary in order to ensure that the tooth can be properly restored. During a gingiovectomy, we remove gum tissue that is no longer vital and reshape it to accommodate the tooth accordingly. Using the most current technology and techniques, we will treat your injury as the unique situation it truly is, tailoring a treatment plan and follow-up schedule specifically for you.

Remember: chipping your tooth mildly may not always be a dental emergency but you should call or see us right away so we may help you determine this.

Vaping: Is It Harmless?

You may have noticed a shift in the smoking world over the past few years. Smokers have been seemingly taking a step in the right direction. Smokers are transitioning away from the traditional cigarette to the e-cigarette, this act is also known as: vaping. Transitioning to an e-cigarette from a chemical-filled cigarette that decades of research have proven is deadly seems like a good thing, right? Think again. There are many people venturing into the world of e-cigarettes blindly. While e-cigarette advertisements and companies are currently unregulated, we wanted to uncover a few potential dangers of this popular fad.

VapingThe e-cigarette anatomy consists of a battery, a heating element and a cartridge that holds the nicotine, liquid and flavoring. If anyone has tried to convince you that e-cigarettes are not addictive, they’re wrong. Nicotine is highly addictive, and while many teens and young adults believe that vaping is harmless, nicotine is known to negatively affect brain development in this age group. The act of holding an e-cigarette and the presence of nicotine has indicated that it could be a very strong gateway to smoking real cigarettes for these young adults. That correlation has big tobacco firms excited for the future. Tobacco companies have been severely restricted in their advertising campaigns. In the recent past, they were forced to rely on the ‘cool-factor’ of smoking, something they hoped that celebrities and young adult’s peers would embody. E-cigarettes present a gateway to becoming addicted to the real thing. This is just what tobacco companies had been hoping for! Speaking of advertising, while tobacco companies are highly restricted in their advertising campaigns, no one is regulating e-cigarette companies. In fact, these companies can make any claims they wish. With regard to the manufacturing aspect of the e-cigarettes and their cartridges, there is also no regulating body that creates standards for the products.

We have talked about the anatomy of the actual e-cigarette, but what makes up the vapor that is exhaled by the smoker? The cloud that you see consists of aerosol, nicotine, propylene glycol, flavoring and fine particles. The hotter the body of the e-cigarette gets, the more harmful the chemicals contained in them becomes. This means that the deadly carcinogens present in a traditional cigarette are also present in their electronic counterpart.

Research is currently underway to determine the long-term effects of vaping. While current research indicates that an e-cigarette is safer than smoking an actual cigarette, research also proves that e-cigarettes are far from harmless. If you are looking to improve your mouth and lung health, experts agree that quitting smoking devices altogether is still the only 100% risk-free option available.

Tooth Sensitivity: What it Means and What You Can Do

You’re eating a scoop of ice cream or sipping hot chocolate, and suddenly your tooth hurts. Or maybe brushing your teeth makes you wince. These are common symptoms of tooth sensitivity, one of the most common complaints among dental patients. In fact over 40 million adults suffer from sensitive teeth at some point. This blog will help you understand just what this common problem is and what the cause may be.

Tooth SensitivityCauses of Tooth Sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity is caused by the movement of fluid within tiny tubes located in the dentin (the layer of tissue found beneath the hard enamel that contains the inner pulp), which results in nerve irritation. When the hard enamel is worn down or if your gums have receded, the tiny tube surfaces become exposed so that eating or drinking cold or hot food or beverages, touching the teeth, or exposing them to cold air can be uncomfortable. Dental issues that may cause tooth sensitivity include: tooth decay, fractured teeth, worn fillings, worn tooth enamel, and an exposed tooth root. Excessive consumption of foods and drinks high in acid content, such as soft drinks or citrus juices, can also put you at risk for tooth sensitivity. Acid reflux may also result in the erosion of tooth enamel due to acid coating the teeth.

Treatment. If a tooth is highly sensitive for more than three or four days, it is best to see your dentist to diagnose the cause of your discomfort. We have a variety of options to manage tooth sensitivity, including in-office treatments and products you use at home. We may apply a desensitizing agent or a protective coating to your teeth. Or we may prescribe a fluoride gel or over the counter desensitizing toothpaste, which contains fluoride and potassium nitrate or strontium chloride. These ingredients help block the transmission of sensation from the tooth to the nerve. It is also best to avoid using hard bristled tooth brushes that can wear down tooth enamel and expose sensitive areas.

It is important for us to accurately diagnose the cause of your tooth sensitivity for accurate treatment. Sometimes a damaged tooth may require a filling, bonding, or even root canal if the decay is severe.   Proper dental hygiene is the best way to prevent tooth pain and sensitivity. Please let us know if you have any areas of your mouth that experience sensitivity or if you have any questions abut your dental health.

Tooth Trauma – Uncomplicated Crown Fracture – What Now?

Tooth trauma can happen at any time. It could happen during a sports game, a car accident or as a result of something as simple and unexpected as a fall. The more information you have about correctly handling these situations the better. This knowledge could very well mean the difference between life and death for the tooth. The goal in treating a tooth trauma case is always to maintain or regain pulpal vitality in the affected tooth/teeth. In the previous tooth trauma entry we covered: avulsion (when a tooth is out of the socket). In this entry we will investigate a different kind of tooth trauma: an uncomplicated crown fracture. In this tooth fracture, the damage is limited to the crown of the tooth. There will be dentin exposed, but no pulp exposure.

(1)Tooth Trauma UncomplicatedIn the instance of an uncomplicated crown fracture the first step an individual should try to accomplish is finding the piece of broken tooth. If a saline solution or distilled water is readily available, place the broken piece of tooth in this solution. Once you reach the dental professional, the rehydrated piece of tooth will be easier to bond, as the hydration increases its bonding strength.

What to expect during your visit, following an uncomplicated crown fracture:

  • X-Rays will be taken
  • Mouth will be checked for soft tissue lacerations and the presence of any other foreign bodies
  • A sensitivity analysis will be performed
  • The doctor or staff member will collect the tooth segment from you if you were able to find and preserve it
  • We will assess the prognosis for the tooth

If the tooth is still vital, the process of reattaching the segment of tooth and the subsequent bonding will occur. Filling the dentin wound and applying calcium hydroxide to the vicinity of the pulp is the second to last step. Finally, smoothing and fluoridating small enamel defects.

Stay tuned in the upcoming months for the conclusion of the “What Now?” blog series!

Lunch Time! Snacks for School that Keep Teeth Healthy

Lunch Time! Snacks for School that Keep Teeth HealthyWith back to school right around the corner, you may be wondering how your kids’ teeth brushing habits will hold up when things start getting hectic. We know that busy schedules make it hard to stay on top of your oral health routine during the school year. Luckily, brushing and flossing aren’t the only ways to keep teeth healthy. Taking care of your teeth starts with the food you eat, so packing the right lunch foods makes it easy for your kids to practice good dental hygiene all day long! Keep reading for a list of foods that your kids can eat at school to keep their teeth healthy this school year.

  1. Cheese is full of calcium and phosphate, which help to remineralize your teeth, or strengthen tooth enamel. It also stimulates saliva production, which helps to prevent tooth decay by washing away leftover food particles.
  2. Celery also enhances saliva production. It breaks down into fibrous strands that rub against teeth and clean them naturally.
  3. Apples and pears also induce salivation to wash teeth. These fruits have a high water content so they can neutralize the dissolving effect that acidic foods have on your enamel.
  4. Crunchy vegetables like carrots are great for protecting against cavities. Chewing on crunchy foods increases your chances of disturbing and dislodging food debris to stop the formation of bacteria.
  5. Citrus fruits, although they get a bad rap for weakening tooth enamel with their acidity, can actually be very beneficial to teeth if eaten in moderation. They contain high levels of Vitamin C, which strengthens gums and connective tissue to prevent gum disease. They also combat tooth discoloration caused by staining agents such as coffee.
  6. Nuts like almonds, cashews and walnuts are chalk full of Vitamin D, which is essential to calcium and phosphate absorption. It also boosts the immune system to help fight bacteria from the mouth.
  7. Raisins are full of polyphenols, micronutrients that prevent bacteria from bonding to the teeth and hardening to form plaque.

Filling their lunch boxes with healthy food options is a great way to make sure that your kids’ teeth are getting cleaned all day long. Stock up on these superfoods so the beginning of the school year isn’t the end of good oral hygiene!

Food Tips for Healthy Teeth

food tips for healthy teethWe all know that foods high in sugar and acid are bad for teeth, but did you know that some foods are actually good for them? Incorporating these dental friendly foods into your family meals can both fight tooth decay and prevent gum disease. Here are five oral health friendly foods!

Almonds, Brazil Nuts, and Sesame Seeds. These foods contain phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and most importantly, calcium. Dietary calcium is not only good for your bones, it may actually contribute to tooth remineralization and fight tooth decay. Make sure to get the unhulled variety of sesame seeds, which are incredibly high in calcium.

Strawberries, Kiwi, and Citrus Fruits. These fruits have the highest concentration of Vitamin C, which helps to increase collagen in gum tissue and prevents gum disease.

Onions. Toss some raw onion on your salad or eat them on your hamburgers. Onions contain powerful bacteria fighters because of their sulfer-containing compounds and are natural cavity fighters.

Shitake Mushrooms. Recent studies show a natural sugar found in shitakes, called lenithan, specifically targets the bacteria which causes gingivitis (gum inflammation) and tooth decay while leaving non-harmful bacteria alone.

Apples and Celery. Water rich fruits and vegetables stimulate saliva production, which rinses teeth of bacteria. With their high fiber content, they act as natural tooth brushes, scrubbing your teeth as you chew, removing plaque and bacteria that may otherwise build up.

These simple everyday foods are great choices for snacks or to add to meals your family already enjoys. Put onions or shitakes as toppings on your pizza. Serve celery and apples with peanut butter and make a smoothie with your strawberries and kiwi. Nuts can be eaten as a snack on their own or try them as nut butter spread on toast. You can even throw nuts and sesame seeds in a stir fry for added texture and flavor as well as the nutritional benefit. 

Green Tea. Besides these five teeth healthy foods, you can even get a boost for your oral health by drinking this powerhouse liquid! Green tea contains “catechins” that actually fight inflammation and control bacterial infections. One Japanese study found that regular green tea drinkers had less incidence of periodontal disease compared with people who drank the tea irregularly. So try drinking green tea instead of that second cup of coffee or have a refreshing green iced-tea on a hot afternoon.

Besides brushing and flossing, what you eat can make a difference to your oral health. It’s nice to know you can eat foods that taste good and be doing something good for your teeth at the same time. Now that’s something we can all smile about!

No Root Canal? What’s the Worst that Could Happen?

No Root CanalHave you ever wondered: “Do I have to have root canal therapy?   What’s the worst that can happen if I don’t?”

We are glad you asked! Having a root canal may seem like an intimidating and painful experience, so we are not surprised when some patients are hesitant to go through with it.

But, the fact of the matter is that: root canal treatments save natural teeth. And saving your natural teeth is the most important thing we do as oral health professionals.

Still not convinced? Here are some more compelling reasons to follow through with that root canal treatment:

  • An infected root won’t get better on its own. The pain may go away after some time, but that is not because the infection is gone, it is because the nerves are no longer working properly due to that infection.
  • Abscesses and Systemic Infections: Left untreated, an infected tooth can spread to the gums, causing a serious abscess in the jaw that requires emergency treatment. In rare cases, that could spread even further, creating a systemic (whole body) infection, which has the potential to be life threatening.
  • The role that natural teeth play in the overall health of your body during its lifetime is something that we are learning more about every day. This important role cannot be overstated. A lost, permanent tooth may not seem like a big deal to you now, but it creates a domino effect of health problems down the road. For example, a missing tooth causes nearby teeth to shift, exposing them to more decay and more tooth loss down the road. This can affect your ability to maintain a healthy diet and, in turn, affect the quality and even the span of your life.
  • Money: Even if aesthetics don’t matter to you, a lost tooth will probably cost you more money in the long run than a root canal will, now. When a tooth is missing, the jaw underneath that site atrophies. This makes it more expensive to perform restorative procedures such as dental implants in the future, as they will require more extensive prep-work such as bone grafting.

The bottom line is that your natural teeth are best. Endodontic therapy is typically the best way to save a natural tooth. It is also the most commonly used procedure, that we as oral health professionals have to help you keep your natural teeth for life.

Tooth Trauma – Avulsion – What Now?

ToothTraumaWhatNowYour son is playing a championship game against the team he’s waited all season to play. The score is tied, and as the minutes wind down, the players have gotten more forceful in their actions. You blink, and all of a sudden your son is holding his mouth and a time-out has been called. You run down to him, and your mind is racing, “What happened? How hurt is he?” As you approach him, you see that in his hand he is holding an adult tooth that has been dislodged from the socket. As the sideline paramedics assess for signs of a concussion or hemorrhage you think, “Now what?”

The injury, and circumstances surrounding the injury may cloud your ability to choose your next action. You can rest assured knowing that when you mix today’s technology and the expertise you can expect from a coordinated team approach, the tooth’s fate is looking brighter already!

In the case of avulsion (when a tooth is out of the socket), the approach will most likely be a team effort. Your first course of action following the injury is to rinse off the tooth and try to place it back in the socket. If this is not possible, place the tooth in milk. If you’re expecting an injury like this (as a coach or school teacher etc. might), have Hank’s Balanced Salt Solution on hand to place the tooth in. Water should never be used to place the tooth in. Why milk? Milk maintains the correct fluid balance in the root of the dislodged tooth, which in turn increases the tooth’s chance of survival. Water causes the cells in the tooth to swell and die. If there is no option to place the tooth in any of the approved solutions, place the tooth in between the injured person’s cheek and gum to keep it moist.

After you have arrived at our office, it’s time for us to take over. The investigation phase begins. If a concussion or hemorrhage has not been ruled out, now is the time. When the coast is clear, it is time to move onto a gathering of both radiographic evidence of the injury and clinical documentation about the patient and the incident. From that extracted information, we can make a diagnosis and a subsequent treatment plan. As we mentioned before, depending on the type and severity of the injury, the process may involve a dental professional team.

The aim of treating a tooth trauma case is always to maintain or regain pulpal vitality in the affected tooth/teeth.

In the next few months we will cover other types of tooth injuries and treatments. Stay tuned!