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.”
What is tooth wear?
“Tooth wear” refers to a loss of tooth structure that can make your teeth appear shorter or less even than they used to be. Wear starts with loss of outer covering of the teeth, known as enamel. Although enamel is the hardest structure in the human body — even harder than bone — it can wear away over time. If enough enamel is lost, the softer inner tooth structure known as dentin can become exposed, and dentin wears away much faster.
What causes tooth wear?
Tooth wear can be caused by any of the following:
- Abrasion: This is caused by a rubbing or scraping of the teeth. The most common source of abrasion is brushing too hard or using a toothbrush that is not soft enough. A removable dental appliance, such as a partial dentures or retainer, can also abrade teeth. Abrasion can also result from habits such as nail-biting and pen-chewing.
- Attrition: This is caused by teeth contacting each other. Habits that you might not even be aware of — such as grinding or clenching your teeth — can be quite destructive over time. That’s because they can subject teeth to 10 times the normal forces of biting and chewing.
- Erosion: Acid in your diet can actually erode (dissolve) the enamel on your teeth. Many sodas, sports drinks and so-called energy drinks are highly acidic; so are certain fruit juices. Eating sugary snacks also raises the acidity level in your mouth. If you can’t give up these snacks and drinks entirely, it’s best to confine them to mealtimes so your mouth doesn’t stay acidic throughout the day. Swishing water in your mouth after eating or drinking acidic or sugary substances can also help prevent erosion.
- Abfraction: This refers to the loss of tooth enamel at the “necks” of the teeth (the part right at the gum line). This type of wear is not thoroughly understood, though it is believed to result from excessive biting forces. Abrasion and erosion can contribute to this problem.
How is it treated?
The first step in treating any type of tooth wear is to determine the cause during a simple oral examination right here at the dental office. Once the cause has been identified, we can work together to reduce the stresses on your teeth. For example, you may need a refresher course on gentle, effective brushing techniques; or you might benefit from some changes to your diet. If you have a clenching or grinding habit, we can make you a nightguard that will protect your teeth during sleep or periods of high stress. Once we have dealt with the underlying cause, we can make your teeth look beautiful again by replacing lost tooth structure with bonding, veneers, or crowns. This will also allow your bite to function properly again.
Model Christie Brinkley's smile has been a symbol of America's optimism since the seventies. Particularly well known for being the cover model for three consecutive Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editions, Brinkley still has a fresh-faced American girl-next-door beauty that starts with her cheerful smile, which transmits the message that all is well.
Brinkley's modeling career began when she was “discovered” in Paris in the seventies, at the age of 18. As she explained in an interview with Dear Doctor magazine, it was like a fairy tale. She had gone to study art in Paris, where a fashion designer spotted her walking down the street. “He told me later he immediately thought, ‘That's the girl!’” she said.
Brinkley attributes her famous smile to a combination of good genetics (she inherited her mother's “beautiful straight teeth”), combined with the intelligence to practice good oral hygiene and have regular dental appointments. She never needed to have work done to prepare her for the modeling life; but as a teenager, she said, she wished she could wear braces because she thought the “coolest kids had them.”
Although dental restorations were not needed to enhance her beautiful natural smile, she did have two dental implants after she fractured two rear molars in a bad helicopter crash while back-country skiing, and she says she is thankful for dental implant technology because it looks and feels so natural.
Brinkley said that her smile led directly to her assignment as spokesperson for a brand of oral rinse and mouthwash products. She is also concerned about the environment. Her company Christie, Inc. is designing environmentally friendly products.
Her advice to everyone is to smile more. “I think a smile makes EVERYONE beautiful! It's the greatest gift we give each other... It's an expression of friendship, love and peace!”
Tooth wear, especially on biting surfaces, is a normal part of aging — we all lose some of our tooth enamel as we grow older. Even primary (“baby”) teeth may show some wear before they’re lost. But there’s also excessive, premature tooth wear caused by disease or abnormal biting habits. This type of wear is cause for concern and action before it leads to tooth loss.
Normal tooth wear occurs because of what teeth naturally do — bite and chew. When teeth come together as we eat they generate a modest amount of force: between 13 and 23 pounds. Our teeth also make brief contacts hundreds to thousands times a day. Again, this produces force, though not to the extent we see with biting and chewing: somewhere between 0.75 and 7.5 pounds. These glancing contacts are actually good for dental health because they provide needed stimulation to the teeth and jaws that help the body maintain healthy bone and tooth attachments.
But parafunctional (outside the normal function) habits like teeth grinding or foreign object chewing can greatly increase the generated force, up to 230 pounds. These may result in noticeable symptoms like fractures or loose teeth, but not always — the damage may not be noticeable until much later in the form of excessive tooth wear.
These parafunctional habits aren’t the only cause for excessive tooth wear; tooth decay can weaken the tooth structure, making it more susceptible to wear. And, some restorative materials used for fillings may also affect the rate of wear.
Because excessive tooth wear may or may not present with immediate symptoms, it’s important to maintain regular dental checkups to monitor the condition of your teeth. Our training and experience helps us identify signs of excessive tooth wear and, depending on the extent of damage, work with you on a treatment plan. You should also keep us informed about oral habits, especially teeth grinding, thumb sucking or foreign object chewing (toys, nails, pencils, etc.).
Your teeth will wear as you grow older. By keeping a close eye on your teeth, we’ll help you keep that wear at a normal rate.
If you would like more information on preventing excessive tooth wear, 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 “When Children Grind Their Teeth.”
One of the most commonly feared dental procedures, root canals are often one of the least understood. Root canals are not dangerous or painful. Instead, a root canal from Total Dental Care in Pekin is a safe, effective and relatively pain-free dental procedure that is commonly used to repair or save a badly infected or decayed tooth.
Teeth can become badly damaged or decayed in a variety of ways. For example, repeated dental procedures, faulty crowns, deep decay, tooth trauma and cracks and chips can all cause a tooth to become internally infected or decayed. Once this happens, the infected material must be cleaned out in order to prevent further problems, such as bone loss, swelling and draining problems. This is done through a root canal.
How Do Root Canals Work?
During a root canal at Total Dental Care in Pekin, a dentist will use a special instrument to go in through the top (crown) of the tooth to clean out the tooth root and to remove any damaged, decayed or inflamed tissue. Once the infection is gone, the dentist will then fill in the area to help prevent further infection. The tooth is then covered with a filling or crown.
While the pulp of a tooth is important in helping the tooth grow, once the tooth has reached maturity, it is not necessary anymore. This is why your Pekin dentist at Total Dental Care can remove it without further damaging the tooth. Once the tooth has matured, it is nourished by the surrounding tissues instead of the pulp.
While many people are fearful of root canals, there really is no reason to be. The procedure is quite simple, and the doctors at Total Dental Care in Pekin have done the procedure several times. Furthermore, the process isn't painful. With today's modern anesthesia options, root canals are no more painful than having a filling placed. Root canals don't cause pain; they relieve the pain you already have.
If your tooth is damaged or decayed, a root canal will fix that. Call Total Dental Care in Pekin and set up your appointment for a root canal today.
This website includes materials that are protected by copyright, or other proprietary rights. Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use, as defined in the copyright laws, requires the written permission of the copyright owners.