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Is a Loose Tooth a Lost Tooth? Not Necessarily!

May 27th, 2020

When we were small, a loose tooth wasn’t a reason to be worried. On the contrary! It was a time to celebrate: A permanent tooth on the way. A sign that you were growing up. Perhaps even a lucrative visit from the Tooth Fairy. Losing a baby tooth had quite a few benefits.

Now that we’re grown, no such benefits are in store for us, because a lost adult tooth is gone for good. That’s why any time you notice a loose tooth you need to call your dentist immediately. With prompt dental care, that tooth might be saved.

But first, a word about how our teeth stay firmly rooted in the jaw.

  • The visible part (crown) of a tooth is protected by a layer of enamel. The root below is covered with a protective layer called cementum.
  • There is a socket for each tooth in the alveolar bone of the jaw, where each root is firmly attached within the socket by the periodontal ligament which surrounds it.
  • This ligament is made up of connective tissue, which attaches both to the cementum covering the root and to the alveolar bone. It not only holds the tooth in place, it cushions the tooth from the daily pressure of biting and chewing.
  • The gums surround the teeth and bone, protecting them from bacteria.

If the tooth, bone, ligament, or gums suffer damage, the result can be a loose tooth.

Treating a loose tooth

The treatment you receive will depend on the reason your tooth is loose. There are many situations which can lead to a loose tooth or teeth, and many treatment options available to you. Some of the common causes and potential treatments include:

  • Accident or Trauma

If you have suffered a tooth or jaw injury as a result of an accident or trauma, it’s very important to see Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis immediately. You should be carefully examined to determine whether there is damage to other teeth or the jaw.

In some cases of damage to the periodontal ligament or tooth, even if your tooth is loose or extruded (partially out of its socket), it can be stabilized in place so that the ligament and tissue around it has time to heal.

We’ll make sure the root, nerves, and blood vessels are still intact, position the tooth back in its socket, and then anchor it to the adjacent teeth with a flexible splint for several weeks. In the case of an alveolar or a root fracture, a rigid splint may be used.

Splinting gives the periodontal ligament and bone surrounding it time to heal while keeping your injured tooth from further displacement.

  • Bite problems & Bruxism

Your teeth are designed to withstand a lot of pressure—in fact, in some ways, pressure is essential for healthy teeth and bone. The normal pressure of chewing and biting stimulates bone tissue in the jaw. When a tooth is lost, that stimulation is gone and the result is gradual bone loss in the area underneath the lost tooth.

But sometimes, the pressure exerted by a malocclusion (bad bite) or bruxism (tooth grinding) is too forceful. The connective tissue which holds the teeth in place is damaged by these forces, and loose teeth can be the result.

If your bite problem is caused by a tooth or teeth which are a bit too high, the enamel can be carefully contoured and reshaped. In some cases, splints, either temporary or permanent, can also be used to stabilize several adjacent teeth so that any biting or chewing force is spread over the section as a whole.

If you grind your teeth, a night guard can be custom fitted to provide relief from the pressures and impact of tooth clenching and grinding. This special kind of mouth guard is known as an occlusal splint.

  • Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis causes a loss of bone density throughout the body. Studies suggest that this disease can affect bone in the jaw, leading to weaker bone and looser teeth. Your physician will provide your best medical alternatives, and be sure to let us now if you are taking medication for osteoporosis before we plan your dental treatment.

  • Periodontal Disease

Gum disease is one of the major causes of loose—and lost—teeth. Early gum disease, called gingivitis, should be treated promptly to avoid a more serious condition called periodontitis. Periodontitis can cause the gums to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets for bacterial growth and infection. Left untreated, this infection results in connective tissue and bone loss.

If you have serious gum disease, it’s always best to call a periodontist, a specialist trained in the treatment of the gums, periodontal ligaments, and bone surrounding the teeth.

Deep cleaning procedures such as scaling and root planing, topical and oral antibiotics, and oral surgeries such as flap surgery or bone and tissue grafting can help reverse the effects of periodontitis. Bone loss cannot be reversed, but a graft can replace lost bone and allow healthy tissue to regenerate.

  • Pregnancy

Hormonal changes can cause the ligaments and bone around your teeth to loosen, which can lead to loose teeth. While this might be an alarming development, it’s generally a temporary condition. Talk to your dentist about how to take care of your teeth and gums during your pregnancy.

Hormonal changes can also make your gums more vulnerable to irritation and infection. In fact, swollen and tender gums are often one of the first signs of pregnancy. That’s another reason it’s very important to keep up with dental hygiene during pregnancy. If your gums are red, swollen, bleeding, or tender, give our San Mateo, CA office a call. Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis can be especially helpful if gum problems persist.

What to do if you have a loose tooth?

  • Call your dentist immediately. Timely professional care can mean the difference between saving your tooth and losing it.
  • Avoid wiggling the tooth. This could loosen it further.
  • Protect your loose tooth. Eat soft foods, and try not to chew near the affected area. And while a liquid diet might sound like a good idea, no straws, please. Straws require suction, which can further dislodge your tooth.
  • Keep the area clean, gently.

What to do if a tooth can’t be saved

Baby teeth become loose and fall out because the permanent teeth coming in erode the smaller roots holding them in place. That’s why it’s so easy for parents to help their child’s wiggly baby tooth find its way from mouth to Tooth Fairy.

Adult roots, however, involve alveolar bone, ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves, so an extraction really needs to be done by a professional. You should also be examined to discover the reason for the tooth loss, and to prevent further damage with additional treatment as needed.

If you do lose a permanent tooth, there is still much that can be done to restore your smile. Modern implants are almost indistinguishable from natural teeth, and, what’s more, they function just like natural teeth to stimulate the bone beneath them. Periodontists are specialists in tooth implant procedures, so give us a call to discuss your options.

Finally, a loose tooth is never a cause for celebration, but, with proper dental care, a loose tooth doesn’t always lead to a lost tooth. Restoring a firm bite and a heathy, confident smile? That’s a reason to celebrate!

Start Your Day Off with a (Healthy) Smile!

May 20th, 2020

If there’s one meal that can claim the title of “Sweetest Meal of the Day,” it’s almost certainly breakfast. Sugary cereals, syrup-covered waffles, oatmeal with honey, cinnamon toast (which is literally sugar poured on toast)—it’s hard to imagine another menu even coming close. But you’re trying to keep your diet as healthy as possible. What to do?

First, no need to deprive yourself of the occasional pastry or stack of pancakes. The real problem with breakfast isn’t so much sugar as it is added sugar.

  • Just a Spoonful of Sugar? What’s So Bad About That?

Nothing! Many healthy foods have natural sugars. Milk contains lactose sugar, and it also contains calcium and is enriched with vitamin D—both of which are essential for strong bones and teeth. Fruits get their sweetness from a sugar called fructose, and deliciously provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber to our diets.

Even processed sugar is surprisingly low in calories. In fact, a teaspoon of white sugar has only about 15 calories. But this teaspoon is also rich in nutrients for cavity-causing bacteria. The oral bacteria in plaque use sugars and carbohydrates from food particles as a fuel source to produce acids. These acids erode enamel and lead to cavities.

Choosing breakfast foods without additional sugars, then, is an easy way to reduce the number of empty calories in your diet while safeguarding the health of your teeth. We have a few suggestions.

  • Be Selective with Cereals

If the word “sugar” or “honey” or appears on the box, that’s a hint that your favorite cereal is heavy on the sugar. But there’s a more scientific way to tell just how much sugar is in that spoonful.

While the colorful packaging and playful mascots are eye-catching, check the black-and-white panel with nutritional facts found on every box. If one serving equals 27 grams, and the sugar in that serving equals 15 grams, you know you have a problem. And cereals marketed to children are especially “rich” in added sugar.

But luckily, you don’t need to give up your morning bowl. Many cold cereals are available that offer whole grains, protein, and fiber without a lot of added sugar. Spend some time in the cereal aisle comparing, or, to make life easier, there are many online sites which recommend the best (and worst) cereals in terms of sugar content.

  • Use Your Judgment with Juices

Fruits are packed with important nutrients. Not only do they provide essential vitamins and minerals, they’re a great source of water and fiber. If you drink 100% fruit juice, you are getting the benefit of most of the vitamins and minerals found in fruit. (You’re also getting less of the fruit’s natural fiber, and more of the fruit’s natural sugar, so consider fresh fruit as an option occasionally.)

But when fruit juice comes with “cocktail,” or “punch,” or “ade” attached to the end of it, there’s often something else attached—added sugar. For natural fruit flavor and the least amount of sugar, stay with 100% unsweetened fruit juice.

  • Search Out “Surprise” Sugars

Remember the childhood excitement of searching through your cereal box for the prize inside? Fun! What’s not so much fun? The surprises you might find when you search through the labels on your favorite breakfast items—because added sugars make their stealthy way into many of our morning favorites.

When you compare plain, Greek, and low-fat yogurts, for example, the low-fat options are often higher in added sugar. A container of low-fat yogurt can provide 19 grams of sugar—that’s a tablespoon and a half!

And while you’re at it, be sure to compare the sugar content in granola bars. Some are full of nuts and grains, and some are full of added sugar.

Going out for a breakfast smoothie? Those can contain 70 grams of sugar and more. Making your own at home might be a little more time-consuming, but if you use fresh fruit as your sweetener, you can make sure that what you’re not consuming is added sugar. If you’re on the go, check out all-fruit options at your favorite smoothie shop.

Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis and our team aren’t asking you to eliminate sugar from your breakfast diet altogether. (Everyone loves a doughnut now and again.) But substituting some alternatives for your regular menu choices can reduce the amount of added sugars by tablespoons every meal. That’s another great reason to greet the morning with a smile!

Periodontal Surgery: Is There a Dress Code?

May 13th, 2020

If you’re scheduled for periodontal surgery at our San Mateo, CA office in the near future, you probably have a lot of very important questions:

  • Will it help? Your periodontist has the skill and experience to diagnose and treat problems caused by periodontal disease, perform periodontal plastic surgery, and place dental implants. Periodontists are experts in these specialties, so you are in good hands!
  • Will it hurt? Your periodontist will offer you options for anesthesia, so you can choose the sedation experience which will make you most comfortable.
  • What should I do after surgery? Don’t worry! Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis will give you clear instructions on caring for the surgical site, selecting soothing diet options, cleaning your mouth, and all of the other practices that will enable a speedy and smooth recovery.
  • What should I wear? Wait—fashion questions?

Yes! Part of being prepared for your surgery is being as comfortable as you can be during and after the procedure. Happily, there is no strict dress code for periodontal surgery. It’s more a basic list of recommendations for what not to wear.

  • Don’t wear something you’re not comfortable in. Generally, loose fitting clothing is best.
  • Don’t wear clothing that might be difficult to clean. While you and your clothing will be well protected, blood, irrigation, and other staining hazards are all occasionally part of the surgical process.
  • Don’t wear something that will be difficult to remove after surgery. No one wants to struggle out of a tight turtleneck even at the best of times!
  • Don’t wear jewelry. And, by the way, this includes tongue and facial piercings.
  • Don’t be afraid to layer. While the office staff will try to make sure you are as warm or as cool as you would like to be, it’s a good idea to bring a jacket or sweater for extra warmth.
  • Don’t wear tight sleeves. Short sleeves or sleeves that can be rolled up easily allow access to your arm if you are having IV sedation or blood pressure monitoring.
  • Don’t wear contact lenses, especially if you are planning on IV sedation or a general anesthetic, because your eyes might be closed throughout the procedure.

If you have any questions in advance of your periodontal surgery, give our San Mateo, CA office a call. Planning ahead is always in fashion!

Some General Rules for General Anesthesia

May 6th, 2020

If you have periodontal surgery scheduled at our San Mateo, CA office, you have many options for your choice of anesthesia. After all, Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis and our team are trained in all forms of anesthesia and sedation therapy, so you will be able to choose the anesthesia experience that best suits your needs—and your comfort!

One such option is general anesthesia. If you choose this type of anesthesia, you will be carefully monitored at all times. While you are under our care, we want to make sure your treatment is safe, painless, and free from anxiety. And to make your experience go as smoothly as possible, there are some recommendations you can follow even before you arrive at the office.

  • Communication

Part of our job is to let you know all about your general anesthesia beforehand. If you have any questions or concerns, please voice them. And communication is a two-way street! If you have any medical conditions, or are taking any medications, or have a cold or the flu, please let us know in advance.

  • Diet Restrictions

Talk to us before your surgery to learn about any diet restrictions you should observe before general anesthesia. You will need to abstain from food and drink for a set number of hours before the procedure, so we’ll give you directions based on whether your surgery is scheduled for morning or afternoon.

  • Dress for Success

Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Make sure your sleeves are short or easily rolled up above your elbow if you’ll need an IV line or blood pressure monitoring. Leave your make-up, jewelry, and contact lenses at home.

  • Go Along for the Ride

Ask a friend or a family member for a ride home after surgery. We want you to travel safely, and, even if you think you are good to go, your thinking and decision making, your reflexes, and even your memory can be impaired for up to 48 hours after general anesthesia. If you have arranged for a cab or a ride share, don’t call for your ride until our office gives you the all clear.

  • Plan Ahead!

For the very same reasons you shouldn’t drive for several hours after general anesthesia, there are some normal everyday activities you should postpone as well. You shouldn’t operate machinery. Cooking can wait. Arrange for help with childcare if you have young children. The effects of general anesthesia will wear off over the course of a day or two—ask us for a timeline for returning to your normal activities.

We’re experts in providing you with a safe and comfortable anesthesia experience when you have periodontal surgery. And part of that expertise is letting you know the specifics about preparing for your general anesthesia. If you have any questions for how to get ready for the hours both before and after your surgery, give us a call!

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