My Blog

Posts for: March, 2014

By JW Haltom DDS, Inc. Family Dentistry
March 24, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth pain   sensitive teeth  
GettingtotheRootofToothSensitivity

An icy cold beverage on a hot day or a steaming cup of cocoa on a frigid day are some of the simple pleasures in life. So why do they sometimes seem to turn against you and send sharp, sudden pain shooting through your teeth?

When pain affects your teeth, it's because the nerves within the very center portion, the “pulp,” are reacting to a stimulus such as temperature, pressure changes, or acidic or sugary substances. In healthy teeth, the pulp is protected from stimuli. Above the gum line, a layer of enamel encases and protects the visible portion of tooth (crown). Below, the gums (gingiva) and a thin layer of “cementum” protect the root portion. Neither of these contains nerves. However, directly under the enamel and cementum, surrounding the interior pulp, is the “dentin.” This layer contains nerve fibers that can relay sensations to the nerves in the pulp, which respond as they are designed to — with an unpleasant feeling that tells you something's wrong.

That feeling can range from a momentary pang, to prolonged dull throbbing, to downright excruciating distress. The nature of the pain depends on the type and degree of stimulus. The only way to be certain of what's causing the pain is with a professional dental examination. However, your symptoms can hint at some possible sources.

Fleeting sensitivity triggered by hot and cold foods generally does not indicate a serious problem. It may be due to any of the following:

  1. a small area of decay in a tooth,
  2. a loose filling,
  3. an exposed root surface resulting from gum recession (often due to improper or excessive brushing), or
  4. temporary pulp tissue irritation from recent dental work.

To help alleviate root sensitivity, make sure the tooth is free of dental bacterial plaque by brushing gently no more than twice a day. Fluoride-containing toothpaste made for sensitive teeth might help. Fluoride and additives such as potassium nitrate or strontium chloride help relieve sensitivity. Try using the toothpaste like a balm, gently rubbing it into the tooth surface for about 10 minutes. If the sensitivity is related to recent dental work, it should resolve within a few days to a week or two, depending on the extent of the work you had done. A mild over-the-counter pain reliever may help in the meantime.

No matter what the reason, if the sensitivity persists or worsens, please come see us. Together we'll get to the root of the underlying problem and resolve it so you can get back to enjoying the foods and beverages you love, no matter what the temperature!

If you would like more information about tooth sensitivity and ways to prevent or treat it, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Sensitive Teeth” and “Tooth Pain? Don't Wait!


By JW Haltom DDS, Inc. Family Dentistry
March 21, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: braces   orthodontics   dental hygiene  
MaintainingGoodOralHygieneWhileWearingBraces

Taking care of your teeth is a lifetime commitment, if you want your teeth to last a lifetime. But it can be especially challenging if you're wearing traditional metal braces. With a little extra attention, though, you can reduce the risk of dental disease during orthodontic treatment.

The goal of oral hygiene is to remove biofilm, a layer of leftover food particles called plaque that is a haven for disease-causing bacteria. Orthodontic braces make access more difficult for performing oral hygiene. A little extra effort and attention, though, can make a big difference.

First, be sure you're eating a healthy diet and avoiding unhealthy snacks (especially those high in carbohydrates) between meals; this will discourage the growth of bacteria in the mouth. You should also limit your intake of sodas, sports or energy drinks since their high acidity contributes to tooth enamel erosion.

Although more difficult for someone wearing braces, brushing is still essential to good hygiene. Begin by holding a soft, multi-tufted bristle brush at a 45-degree angle, and then brush the surface area between the gum and the braces all the way around. Return to your starting point and brush the area from the braces to the edge of the top of the teeth in the same direction. Be sure you do this for both the upper and lower jaw and on both the cheek and tongue side.

Flossing is also more difficult, but not impossible. Instead of conventional floss thread, you can use special floss threaders, small interdential brushes, or an irrigation device that sprays pressurized water to remove food particles between teeth.

Above all, it's important to keep up regular office visits with us. In addition to monitoring overall dental health, we can also apply or recommend additional fluoride products to help strengthen teeth or prescribe antibacterial rinses to reduce the mouth's bacterial level.

Keeping up a good daily hygiene regimen and regular checkups will ensure that the smile you gain from wearing braces is healthy as well as beautiful.

If you would like more information on oral hygiene while undergoing orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Caring for Teeth During Orthodontic Treatment.”


By JW Haltom DDS, Inc. Family Dentistry
March 12, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: denture  
ImmediateDenturesBridgetheGapBetweenToothLossandRestoration

Losing all of your teeth can be both physically and emotionally traumatic. Patients in this condition may need a period of transition from this loss to their permanent restoration. That’s the purpose of “immediate” dentures.

An immediate denture is a tooth appliance available for placement immediately after the final extraction so the patient’s ability to eat and speak isn’t unduly hampered (it also helps preserve their facial appearance). An immediate denture is a temporary measure until a more permanent replacement is achieved; hence, they’re not intended for long-term use.

Over time an immediate denture’s fit will deteriorate. This is because as the gums heal after extraction, and without the natural teeth present, the underlying bone and gum tissues will shrink significantly. The denture fit becomes looser, which leads to movement of the denture within the mouth. This can cause a good deal of discomfort emotionally and physically, and make it more difficult to eat and speak. It’s possible, however, to reline the immediate denture to fit the gum shrinkage and gain more service from it.

At some point, though, it’s necessary to transition from the immediate denture to the permanent restoration. If the permanent solution is a removable denture, we will need to wait until the gums have completely healed. At that time we will make a new and accurate impression of your mouth that reflects any changes since extraction. Even with this high level of accuracy, though, the final fit will depend on the amount of remaining bone and gum tissue needed to support the denture.

There are other options besides a removable denture. We can install a pair of implants in conjunction with a removable denture that can stabilize and retain it in the mouth; implants can also support a fixed bridge. You should weigh all the advantages and disadvantages to these options (including cost), to determine which one is the best solution for you.

In the meantime, the immediate denture will enable you to function in a normal manner, as well as aid with your appearance. Remember, though, it’s only meant for a short period of time — at some point you will need to transition from “immediate” to a more permanent and satisfying replacement.

If you would like more information on dentures, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Immediate Dentures.”


By JW Haltom DDS, Inc. Family Dentistry
March 04, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: bad breath   tongue scraper  
RemovingBacterialCoatingWithaTongueScrapercanReduceBadBreath

Although usually not considered a serious health condition, bad breath is nonetheless one of the most embarrassing conditions related to the mouth. Although some serious systemic diseases may result in mouth odor, most cases originate in the mouth or nose. Bacteria are usually the culprit — certain types of the organism can excrete volatile sulphur compounds, which emit a rotten egg or rotten fish smell.

The largest breeding ground for bacteria is the tongue, typically in the back where saliva and hygiene efforts aren’t as efficient in removing food remnants. A bacterial coating can develop on the surface of the tongue, much like the plaque that can adhere to teeth; the coating becomes a haven for bacteria that cause bad breath.

There seems to be a propensity in some people who exhibit chronic bad breath to develop this tongue coating. To rid the tongue of this coating, people with this susceptibility could benefit from the use of a tongue brush or scraper. These hygienic devices are specifically designed for the shape and texture of the tongue to effectively remove any bacterial coating. Toothbrushes, which are designed for the hard surface of the teeth, have been shown not to be as effective in removing the coating as a tongue scraper.

Before considering using a tongue scraper you should consult with your dentist first. If you suspect you have chronic bad breath, it’s important to determine the exact cause. Using a tongue scraper is unnecessary unless there’s an identifiable coating that is contributing to the bad odor. It’s also a good idea to obtain instruction from your dentist on the best techniques for using a tongue scraper to be as effective as possible and to avoid damaging soft tissues from over-aggressive use.

In addition, don’t neglect other hygiene habits like brushing, flossing and regular cleanings. Removing as much bacterial plaque as you can contributes not only to a healthier mouth but also pleasanter breath.

If you would like more information on the tongue and halitosis, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tongue Scraping.”