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Is There an Act Three for Our Teeth?

April 13th, 2022

Act One: Those 20 adorable baby teeth which begin arriving when you’re about six months old and are probably gone by the time you’re twelve.

Act Two: The 32 (if you have all your wisdom teeth!) adult teeth which start showing up around the age of six, and need to last the rest of your lifetime. Unless there’s an . . .

Act Three: Where science has discovered a way to repair damaged teeth or create replacements for lost teeth that would look and function just like our original teeth.

Sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it?

In biological terms, of course, we’re not there yet. But teams of scientists around the world have been working toward just this goal—the ability to repair a tooth with its own biological material or even grow a new tooth when an adult tooth is seriously damaged or lost.

Because the pulp—the living tissue inside each tooth—contains dental stem cells, some researchers are studying whether these cells can be used to regenerate the living pulp inside a damaged tooth. Even more exciting, there’s research being done into the possibility of using these stem cells to rebuild an entire tooth—pulp, dentin, and hard enamel exterior. Because the supply of usable dental stem calls is quite small, and process of guiding these cells to create all the varied parts of the tooth is quite complex, this research is in its early stages.

In other studies, scientists have focused on tooth regeneration by studying the teeth of other species. Mice, for example, have front teeth with open roots. This allows these teeth to keep growing up as they wear down, because stem cells inside mouse gums are always working to create new tissue. Even though our teeth are not exactly comparable (no open roots in human teeth!), finding out just how this tissue regeneration works in mice and other animals might help find an answer for human tooth regeneration.

Right now, these scientific goals are just that—goals for a future day. But in the meantime, your quality of life doesn’t need to suffer when you lose an adult tooth. You can enjoy a third act right now with dental implants.

Cosmetic concerns aren’t the only reasons why you want your complete smile restored in the event of a lost tooth. A missing tooth can lead to many unpleasant consequences:

  • Speaking and eating can become more difficult.
  • Lack of stimulation from biting and chewing can cause the bone beneath the lost tooth to shrink.
  • Other teeth can shift to fill the gap left behind, which can affect tooth, bite, and jaw alignment.
  • Loss of teeth can lead to loss of confidence.

Unlike dentures or bridges, dental implants are designed to function just like your natural teeth.

The post, or base, of each implant fuses with the bone in your jaw, acting as a “root” for the implant. Once the post has fused with the bone around it, a crown designed to match your other teeth in shape and color is secured to the post. You can eat, speak, brush, floss, keep your bone healthy, and smile confidently just as you did before.

Will biological replacements be ready for your third act in the near future? Probably not. But that’s not to say this will never be possible! In the meantime, take care of your teeth with daily brushing and flossing, eat a dental-healthy diet, and visiting our San Mateo, CA office as recommended.

You do your best to keep your teeth intact and in place—but if you lose one through trauma or decay, talk to Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis about an implant. Because in any stage of life, the most important result is the happy ending a healthy and confident smile brings you!

How Often Should You Have Your Teeth Cleaned?

April 6th, 2022

That’s a good question! But first, we’re going to do that roundabout thing where we consider other questions before circling back to our original topic. Trust us, we’ll get there!

  • Why Get Your Teeth Cleaned Professionally?

Before you consider how often to have your teeth cleaned, you might be wondering why you need to have them cleaned professionally at all. After all, you’re doing all the right things. You brush twice a day for two minutes each time. You floss at least once a day. You even use a soft-bristled brush to protect your enamel. Shouldn’t this be good enough?

Conscientious dental hygiene at home is a very good thing, but, when it comes to plaque and tartar, it might not be good enough. Plaque, especially between the teeth and along the gum line, is easy to miss. In a matter of days, that overlooked plaque hardens and becomes tartar. While you can do a lot to remove food particles and plaque at home, once plaque hardens into tartar, a professional cleaning is necessary to remove it safely.

  • Why Worry About Plaque and Tartar You May Have Missed?

Because you want to avoid cavities and gum disease. You know that the bacteria in plaque cause tooth decay, but did you know that plaque and tartar can be a real problem for your gum health as well? Plaque and tartar irritate delicate gum tissue, causing inflammation and gingivitis (mild gum disease). If you have chronic bad breath, if your gums are swollen, red, or painful, if your gums bleed easily when you’re brushing and flossing, you might have gingivitis.

Left untreated, mild gum disease can become periodontitis, a more serious condition. Irritation and inflammation cause gum tissue to pull away from the teeth, forming deep periodontal pockets where bacteria and infection spread. Infection and inflammation response damage the bone and tissue supporting the teeth, and teeth become loose or lost altogether. In fact, periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.

A professional cleaning is one of the preventive steps you can take to reduce your risk of gum disease.

  • What Happens During a Cleaning?

First, your teeth and gums will be checked carefully to see if there are any problems that your dentist needs to address before the procedure begins.

The first step in cleaning usually involves removing plaque and tartar. This may be done with an ultrasonic scaler, a hand scaler, or a combination of both. Plaque and tartar need to be scraped from tooth enamel above and below the gum line to prevent cavities and gum disease, so this is definitely a job for a dental professional. Gum attachment around the teeth will be checked, and shallow pockets will be cleaned. Your dentist will have suggestions if you have deeper periodontal pockets caused by gum disease.

After all the plaque and tartar have been removed, your teeth will be polished with a gentle abrasive to remove surface stains. There are two common methods of polishing: applying a special gritty toothpaste with a small rotating cup, or air polishing, which uses a stream of fine abrasive powder, water, and pressurized air. (If you have your teeth cleaned more than twice a year, your dentist will let you know if polishing is advisable during every visit.)

Next, flossing. A professional flossing will remove any remaining plaque from between the teeth. This is a good time to double check your own flossing technique and ask for any tips which will make your personal flossing more effective.

Finally, after rinsing, a fluoride treatment might be applied to strengthen your enamel, and you’re good to go. The entire process usually takes between 30-60 minutes.

  • So, How Often Should You Have Your Teeth Cleaned?

That is a good question, and we did get there! But we don’t have just one answer for you. As with every aspect of your dental care, your dentist will recommend cleaning treatments and procedures with your specific dental needs in mind.

  • If your teeth and gums are healthy, and you don’t have periodontal disease or risk factors for periodontal disease (such as smoking, a family history of gum disease, or medical conditions such as diabetes), you might be able to get by with two cleanings each year. This is something to discuss with your dentist.
  • If you have a history of periodontal disease, or are at higher risk for periodontal disease because of one or more risk factors, your dentist might recommend more than two cleanings each year.

If you suffer from gum disease, a regular cleaning might not be enough. In this case, Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis, a specialist in treating conditions of the gums, bones, and tissues surrounding the teeth, can perform a more thorough deep cleaning. This procedure is non-surgical, and makes use of two types of cleaning:

  • Scaling, to remove bacteria, plaque, and tartar above and below the gumline.
  • Planing, to smooth the roots of the teeth. This process clears away bacteria and the rough spots where bacteria collect, and provides a smooth tooth surface for gum attachment.

Because periodontal cleanings are more thorough, they can take more than one appointment at our San Mateo, CA office to complete, and might require a local anesthetic. You might also be given medications to help the healing process. A follow up appointment will be scheduled to see is further treatment is necessary.

Regular professional cleanings play an important role in your preventive dental care. Whether it’s done once a year, twice annually, or more often as needed, a cleaning performed by a dental professional takes only a short amount of your time and provides you with long-term benefits—not only a brighter smile, but healthier teeth and gums!

Forget Something? It’s on the Tip of Your Tongue!

March 30th, 2022

Let’s see…

Toothbrush? Check.

Fluoride toothpaste? Check.

Floss? Check.

Two minutes of thorough brushing? Check.

Careful cleaning around your brackets and wires? Check.

Wait… there’s something else… it’s right on the tip of your…

Ah! Your tongue! Whenever you brush, morning, evening, or any time in between, if you want the freshest breath and cleanest teeth, don’t forget your tongue.

Why your tongue? Because the tongue is one of the most common sources of bad breath. Let’s examine just why this occurs.

The tongue is made up of a group of muscles that help us speak and chew and swallow. But there’s more to this remarkable organ than mere muscle. The surface of the tongue is covered with mucous membrane, like the smooth tissue which lines our mouths. But the tongue isn’t completely smooth—it’s textured with thousands of tiny bumps called papillae.

These little elevated surfaces have several shapes and functions. Some make the tongue’s surface a bit rough, which helps move food through your mouth. Some are temperature sensitive, letting you know that your slice of pizza is much too hot. And some are covered with thousands of the taste buds, which make eating that pizza so enjoyable.

All of these papillae with their various functions combine to create a textured surface, filled with miniscule nooks and crannies. And if there’s a nook or a cranny where bacteria can collect, no matter how miniscule, it’s a good bet that they will, and the surface of the tongue is no exception. But bacteria aren’t alone—the tongue’s surface can also hide food particles and dead cells.

How does this unappealing accumulation affect you? These elements work together to cause bad breath, especially the bacteria that break down food particles and cell debris to produce volatile sulfur compounds—compounds which create a particularly unpleasant odor. Including your tongue in your brushing routine helps remove one of the main causes of bad breath.

And that’s not the only benefit! Cleaning the tongue helps eliminate the white coating caused by bacterial film, and might even improve the sense of taste. Most important, studies show that regular cleaning noticeably lowers the levels of decay-causing plaque throughout the mouth.

So, how to get rid of that unwanted, unpleasant, and unhealthy debris?

  • When you’re done brushing your teeth, use your toothbrush to brush your tongue.

Clean your tongue by brushing gently front to back and then side to side. Rinse your mouth when you’re through. Simple as that! And just like a soft-bristled toothbrush helps protect tooth enamel and gum tissue, we also recommend soft bristles when you brush your tongue. Firm bristles can be too hard on tongue tissue.

  • Use a tongue scraper.

Some people find tongue scrapers more effective than brushing. Available in different shapes and materials, these tools are used to gently scrape the surface of the tongue clean of bacteria and debris. Always apply this tool from back to front, and rinse the scraper clean after every stroke. Wash and dry it when you’re through.

  • Add a mouthwash or rinse.

As part of your oral hygiene routine, antibacterial mouthwashes and rinses can assist in preventing bad breath. Ask Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis for a recommendation.

  • Don’t brush or scrape too vigorously.

Your tongue is a sturdy, hard-working organ, but tongue tissue is still delicate enough to be injured with over-vigorous cleaning.

Taking a few extra seconds to clean your tongue helps eliminate the bacteria and food particles which contribute to bad breath and plaque formation. Make this practice part of your daily brushing routine—it’s a healthy habit well worth remembering!

Four Good Reasons to Visit Your Periodontist

March 23rd, 2022

For most of our oral health care needs, our family dentist is the perfect person to see. Examinations, cleanings, treating cavities, restorations such as fillings and crowns, preventive care—you’ve probably seen your regular dentist for many of these procedures.

And when it comes to treating mild gum disease, known as gingivitis, your dentist is a good person to call. If you’ve noticed bleeding gums, or gum pain when brushing, or redness, or recurring bad breath, you might have gingivitis. Often, with more attention to brushing and flossing and a professional cleaning, your gums will be healthy again in no time.

Gingivitis, though, is not the only type of gum disease. Periodontitis is the medical term for advanced gum disease, and this type of gum disease is progressive, becoming more serious over time. Untreated periodontitis can lead to infection, inflammation, and loss of tooth and bone.

If you have serious gum disease, it’s time to visit Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis. Periodontists are specialists with years of advanced training and experience in the diagnosis and treatment of the structures supporting your teeth, including the gums, periodontal ligaments, and surrounding bone.

Here are four very good reasons to give our San Mateo, CA periodontal office a call:

  • Receding gums

If you’ve noticed that you’re seeing more tooth than you’re used to, this could be a sign of receding gums. Besides affecting the appearance of your smile, gum recession can impact your dental health.

When gums pull away from the teeth, the top of the roots, which were once protected by healthy gum tissue, are now exposed to bacteria and plaque. Because our roots are covered by cementum, which is softer than enamel, they are more vulnerable to decay, and decay progresses more quickly than it does in the tooth crown.

  • Infected/inflamed periodontal pockets

When the gums pull away from the teeth, a pocket forms between tooth and gum. Bacteria and plaque collect here, where your toothbrush can’t reach, leaving you at risk for abscess and infection.

A periodontal abscess is a pocket filled with pus which forms between tooth and gum. Beyond the swelling and pain caused by an abscess, infection can spread, damaging connective tissue and bone in the jaw, and potentially spreading to other parts of the body.

  • Loose teeth

A loose baby tooth is a welcome surprise for a child—a loose adult tooth? Not so much! Loose permanent teeth can be caused by several conditions, including an injury, osteoporosis, and pregnancy. But the one of the most common causes of loose teeth in adults is periodontitis.

Periodontal infection and inflammation can damage the ligaments and bone that support the teeth and hold them firmly in place. This damage results in loose teeth and can lead to tooth loss if left untreated.

  • Your dentist’s recommendation

If your dentist has suggested a periodontal consultation at Peninsula Periodontal Associates, please follow this advice!

What can a periodontist do for you?

  • Receding gums can be treated with gum grafts when the recession is extensive, both to protect the roots of your teeth and to enhance the appearance of your smile.
  • To prevent the formation of deep periodontal pockets, Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis might suggest scaling and root planing procedures, non-surgical deep cleaning treatments which encourage gum tissue to reattach to smooth, clean teeth. If necessary, pockets can be cleaned and gum tissue re-secured around the teeth with pocket reduction surgery.
  • When the bone structure has been damaged, bone and tissue grafts can regenerate and restore structural integrity.

Periodontitis is progressive, and, as time goes by, infection and inflammation will continue to do damage to the gums, ligaments, and bone that support your teeth. Your San Mateo, CA periodontal team is an invaluable resource for treating periodontitis and for preventing its recurrence. So if you suffer from gum disease, let’s finish with one more reason to see Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis: working together proactively for a lifetime of attractive, healthy smiles.

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