Dentist Blog

Posts for: November, 2016

By Paul G. Culver, DDS
November 27, 2016
Category: Dental Procedures

Did you see the move Cast Away starring Tom Hanks? If so, you probably remember the scene where Hanks, stranded on a remote island, knocks out his own abscessed tooth — with an ice skate, no less — to stop the pain. Recently, Dear Doctor TV interviewed Gary Archer, the dental technician who created that special effect and many others.

“They wanted to have an abscess above the tooth with all sorts of gunk and pus and stuff coming out of it,” Archer explained. “I met with Tom and I took impressions [of his mouth] and we came up with this wonderful little piece. It just slipped over his own natural teeth.” The actor could flick it out with his lower tooth when the time was right during the scene. It ended up looking so real that, as Archer said, “it was not for the easily squeamish!”

That’s for sure. But neither is a real abscess, which is an infection that becomes sealed off beneath the gum line. An abscess may result from a trapped piece of food, uncontrolled periodontal (gum) disease, or even an infection deep inside a tooth that has spread to adjacent periodontal tissues. In any case, the condition can cause intense pain due to the pressure that builds up in the pus-filled sac. Prompt treatment is required to relieve the pain, keep the infection from spreading to other areas of the face (or even elsewhere in the body), and prevent tooth loss.

Treatment involves draining the abscess, which usually stops the pain immediately, and then controlling the infection and removing its cause. This may require antibiotics and any of several in-office dental procedures, including gum surgery, a root canal, or a tooth extraction. But if you do have a tooth that can’t be saved, we promise we won’t remove it with an ice skate!

The best way to prevent an abscess from forming in the first place is to practice conscientious oral hygiene. By brushing your teeth twice each day for two minutes, and flossing at least once a day, you will go a long way towards keeping harmful oral bacteria from thriving in your mouth.

If you have any questions about gum disease or abscesses, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Periodontal (Gum) Abscesses” and “Confusing Tooth Pain.”

November 18, 2016
Category: Dental Procedures

You may have lost your tooth but you don't have to settle for a permanent gap in your smile. Dental implants offer a simple way to restore dental implantsyour smile. Dr. Paul Culver, your Brookfield, WI dentist, answers a few questions about implants.

What are implants?

Dental implants act as artificial tooth roots. They're made of titanium, a metal that bonds to bone. Once the implant fuses to your jawbone, your dentist adds a connector piece called an abutment on top, then adds a lifelike crown on top of that.

How do I receive dental implants?

Dental implants require a multi-step process. During your first implant appointment, the implant is placed in your jawbone. Since the gum will be closed over the implant, no one will be able to see it. It usually takes about three to six months for the dental implant to bond to your bone. If your jawbone is shallow or weak, you may need a bone graft before you can receive the implant.

Once bonding is complete, the implant will be uncovered and the abutment will be connected to it. A few weeks after this step, you'll receive your new crown, the only part of your new tooth that will be visible.

Why should I consider an implant?

If you don't replace your tooth, these things can happen:

  • Your Teeth Will Shift: Your teeth will be on the move in an attempt to close up your gap. Unfortunately, as they start to move, they'll begin to overlap, which can affect your appearance and your bite and make brushing and flossing harder.
  • Your Jawbone May Weaken: Teeth aren't just used to chew, but also play an important role in keeping your jawbone healthy. Once you lose a tooth, the jawbone underneath may begin to weaken and shrink, which may trigger further tooth loss.
  • Chewing Will Be Harder: Chewing can be difficult when there's a gap in your teeth. If your missing tooth was a molar, you might find that it's much more of a challenge to chew sticky or hard foods.

Are you ready to improve your smile with dental implants? Call Dr. Culver, your Brookfield, WI dentist, at (262) 782-1655 to schedule your appointment.

By Paul G. Culver, DDS
November 12, 2016
Category: Oral Health
Tags: teeth grinding  

There are a lot of reasons (including a blow to the mouth) why one of your permanent teeth might become loose. The most common: advanced periodontal (gum) disease that has weakened the gum attachment to the tooth.

There's also another, less common reason: you have a grinding habit that's producing higher than normal biting forces. Besides accelerating tooth wear, the constant jaw movement and teeth clenching can stretch periodontal ligaments and loosen their attachment to a tooth.

If the gums are disease-free, teeth grinding is most likely the main culprit for the damage, what we call primary occlusal trauma. Our treatment goal here is to reduce the effect of the grinding habit and, if necessary, secure the teeth with splinting while the ligaments heal. We can often reduce the grinding effect with a custom bite guard worn while you sleep. We may also prescribe minor muscle relaxants and mild pain medication like aspirin or ibuprofen.

Sometimes we may need to perform other measures like re-shaping your teeth's biting surfaces so they don't generate as much biting force. You may also benefit from counseling or other psychological treatment to help you address and cope with stress, a prime driver for teeth grinding.

Even if you don't have a grinding habit, biting forces may still contribute to tooth looseness if you have advanced gum disease. Advanced disease results in excessive bone loss, which in turn reduces the remaining amount of ligaments attached to the tooth. This type of damage, known as secondary occlusal trauma, and ensuing tooth looseness can occur even when your biting forces are normal.

It's necessary in these cases to treat the gum disease, primarily by manually removing plaque and calculus (hardened plaque deposits), which causes and sustains the infection. Once removed, the gums can begin to heal and strengthen their attachment. We may also need to apply splinting or perform surgical procedures to encourage gum and bone reattachment.

Whatever has caused your loose tooth, our goal is to remove the cause or lessen its effects. With your tooth secure and the gums regaining their healthy attachment, we have a good chance of saving it.

If you would like more information on teeth grinding and other potentially damaging oral habits, 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 “Loose Teeth: Biting Forces can Loosen Teeth.”