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By Jeffrey H. Wallen DDS
January 15, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: tooth extractions  
ExtractingaToothisaRoutineProcedure

Dentists around the world routinely remove diseased or damaged teeth every day. While some extractions require surgery, many don't: Your family dentist can perform these simple extractions, usually with little complication.

The term simple doesn't necessarily mean easy—as we'll note in a moment, it takes a deft and experienced hand to perform this type of extraction. The term in this case refers more to the type and condition of the tooth: The tooth roots are relatively straight and reside in the bone at an accessible angle. There are otherwise no meaningful impediments to removing it straight out.

The idea of “pulling a tooth” out of the jaw isn't the most accurate way to describe the procedure. A tooth is actually held in place within its bony socket by the periodontal ligament, a tough, elastic tissue between the tooth root and the bone that attaches to both through tiny fibrous extensions. The best method is to first loosen the tooth from the ligament's tiny attachments, for which experienced dentists can develop a certain feel. Once released from the ligament, the tooth will usually come free easily from its socket.

Not all teeth, though, can be removed in this manner. Teeth with multiple roots like back molars, and without a straight trajectory out of the socket, can have a complicated removal. Other dental conditions could also prove problematic for simple extraction, such as brittle roots that might fragment during removal.

For these and other complications, your general dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon for the tooth extraction. But even with the surgical component, these more complicated extractions are relatively minor and routine—millions of wisdom teeth, for example, are removed every year in this manner.

If you have a tooth that needs to be removed due to disease or injury, your dentist will first determine the best way to remove it and will refer you, if necessary, for surgical extraction. And whatever kind of extraction you undergo, the dentist performing it will make sure you remain pain-free during the procedure.

While tooth preservation is usually the best course for long-term dental health, it's sometimes best to remove a tooth. If that should happen, your dentist will make sure it's done with as little discomfort to you as possible.

If you would like more information on dental extraction methods, 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 “Simple Tooth Extraction?

By Jeffrey H. Wallen DDS
January 05, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: pain management  
IsThereaBetterWaytoManagePainWithoutNarcotics

The ongoing opioid addiction epidemic has brought together government, law enforcement and healthcare to find solutions. The focus among doctors and dentists has been on finding ways to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions.

Opioids (or narcotics) have been a prominent part of pain management in healthcare for decades. Drugs like morphine, oxycodone or fentanyl can relieve moderate to extreme pain and make recovery after illness or procedures much easier. Providers like doctors and dentists have relied heavily on them, writing nearly 260 million narcotic prescriptions a year as late as 2012.

But although effective when used properly, narcotics are also addictive. While the bulk of overall drug addiction stems from illegal narcotics like heroin, prescription drugs also account for much of the problem: In 2015, for example, 2 million Americans had an addiction that began with an opioid prescription.

The current crisis has led to horrific consequences as annual overdose deaths now surpass the peak year of highway accident deaths (just over 54,000 in 1972). This has led to a concerted effort by doctors and dentists to develop other approaches to pain management without narcotics.

One that’s gained recent momentum in dentistry involves the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs like acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin work by dilating blood vessels, which reduces painful inflammation. They’re available over the counter, although stronger doses require a prescription.

NSAIDs are effective for mild to moderate pain, but without the addictive properties of narcotics. There are some adverse health consequences if taken long-term, but limited use for pain or during post-procedure recovery is safe.

Many dentists are recommending NSAIDs for first-line pain management after most dental procedures. Narcotics may still be prescribed, but in a limited and controlled fashion. As part of this new approach, dentists typically combine ibuprofen and acetaminophen: Studies have shown the two work together better at reducing pain than either one individually.

Still, many aren’t eager to move away from the proven effectiveness of narcotics to primarily NSAIDs. But as these non-addictive drugs continue to prove their effectiveness, there’s hope the use of addictive opioids will continue to decrease.

If you would like more information on pain management practices in dental care, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By Jeffrey H. Wallen DDS
December 26, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: antibiotics  
ChangingAntibioticUseTodaywillHelpEnsureTheirEffectivenessTomorrow

It’s hard to imagine, but little more than a century ago today’s “minor” bacterial and viral infections were often deadly. This changed with the advent of antibiotics, drugs which kill disease-causing microbes. Decades after the development of penicillin and similar antibiotics, we routinely rely on them for treating infection. They’re quite prominent in dental care in treating advanced forms of periodontal (gum) disease or reducing bacteria that cause tooth decay.

But the age of antibiotics may be in danger: their overuse in medicine and the food industry has led to the rise of resistant microbial strains — “superbugs” — that no longer respond to first line antibiotics or, in some cases, to second or third line drugs. The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates more than two million people annually will contract one of these superbugs of which more than 20,000 will die. If current practices continue, the growth of resistant strains (as well as allergic reactions among users of antibiotics) will increase. The answer is a more modified use of antibiotics.

For healthcare providers, this means adopting new protocols in which we attempt to prescribe antibiotics that specifically target an identified microbe (which we’ve determined through more rigorous diagnostic testing), and in limited amounts. We must also rein in the practice of antibiotic use in the food industry, routinely administered to livestock to prevent disease or to enhance growth. Many countries, including the U.S., are now moving toward a more limited practice in which only animals that are demonstrably sick receive antibiotics. This will limit their release into the greater environment, which is a contributing factor to growing microbial resistance.

Patients also play a role in the better use of antibiotics. We must first change the perception that antibiotics are a “cure-all” — the answer to every illness. It’s also important for patients who’ve been prescribed antibiotics to complete the course of treatment, even if after a day or two they feel better; stopping antibiotic treatment prematurely increases the chances targeted microbes develop a resistance to that particular drug.

Altering our perception and use of antibiotics will require a tremendous effort for all of society. But making these changes will help ensure antibiotics continue to serve humanity as an important health benefit well into the future.

If you would like more information on the role of antibiotics in dentistry, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By Jeffrey H. Wallen DDS
December 15, 2020
Category: Dental Procedures
ZacEfronsSmileTransformationCouldHappentoYou

Actor Zac Efron has one of the top smiles in a business known for beautiful smiles. Bursting on the scene in 2006 at age 18 in High School Musical, Efron has steadily increased his range of acting roles. He recently starred as Ted Bundy on Netflix, wearing prosthetics to match the notorious serial killer's crooked teeth.

With his growing fame, Efron's attractive smile has become one of his more memorable attributes. But it wasn't always so. Before Hollywood, Efron's smile was less than perfect with small, uneven teeth and a gap between his top front teeth. Before and after pictures, though, make it quite apparent that the actor has undergone a significant smile makeover.

While fans are abuzz on the 411 regarding his dental work, Efron himself has been hush-hush about his smile transformation. We won't join the speculation: Instead, here are a few possible ways you can get a more attractive smile like Zac Efron.

Teeth whitening. A single-visit, non-invasive teeth whitening procedure can transform your dull, stained teeth into a brighter, more attractive smile. Although the effect isn't permanent, it could last a few years with a professional whitening and good oral practices. Having it done professionally also gives you more control over the level of shading you prefer—from soft natural white to dazzling Hollywood bright.

Orthodontics. Like Efron, if your teeth aren't quite in proper alignment, straightening them can make a big difference in your appearance (and your oral health as well). Braces are the tried and true method for moving teeth, but you may also be able to choose clear aligner trays, which are much less noticeable than braces. And don't worry about your age: Anyone with reasonably good dental health can undergo orthodontics.

Bonding. We may be able to correct chips and other slight tooth flaws with durable composite resins. After preparing your tooth and matching the material to your particular color, we apply it directly to your tooth in successive layers. After hardening, the unsightly defect is no more—and your smile is more attractive.

Veneers. Dental veneers are the next step up for more advanced defects. We bond these thin, custom-made layers of dental porcelain to the front of teeth to mask chips, heavy staining and slight tooth gaps. Although we often need to permanently remove a small amount of tooth enamel, veneers are still less invasive than some other restorations. And your before and after could be just as amazing as Zac Efron's.

Improving one's smile isn't reserved for stars like Zac Efron. There are ways to correct just about any dental defect, many of which don't require an A-lister's bank account. With a little dental “magic,” you could transform your smile.

If you would like more information about how to give your smile a boost, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “The Magic of Orthodontics” and “Porcelain Veneers.”

By Jeffrey H. Wallen DDS
December 05, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: mouth sore  
ThatOddLacyMouthSoreisNoCauseforAlarm

Looking in the mirror, you probably focus on your teeth and gums—i.e., your smile. Your dentist, though, will take the time to look deeper into your mouth, searching for anything out of the ordinary. That could be a type of mouth sore known as lichen planus.

Lichen planus are lesions that can appear on skin or mucus membranes, including inside the mouth. The name comes from their resemblance to lichens, a fungus found on trees or rocks (although the sore itself isn't fungi). As such, they often have a lacy pattern of lines emanating from purplish bumps.

Again, the first indication you have such a condition may come from your dentist. Sometimes, though, you may notice greater sensitivity to spicy or acidic foods and, if the gums are affected, irritation when you eat or brush.

If you find out you have lichen planus, don't be alarmed—it usually doesn't pose harm to your health and it's not contagious. Its appearance, though, could be mimicked by more harmful medical conditions, so your dentist will want to confirm the lesion observed is truly lichen planus.

It's routine, then, for your dentist to excise a small sample of the sore's tissue and send it to a pathology lab for biopsy. Although results will more than likely confirm lichen planus or some other benign lesion, it's better to err on the side of caution and ensure you're not dealing with something more serious.

If you are diagnosed with lichen planus, you may need to take steps to manage symptoms. In most people, the sore will go away on its own, although there's no guarantee it won't reappear sometime later. In the event it lingers, your dentist may prescribe a topical steroid to help ease any discomfort.

You can also minimize a future outbreak by practicing effective daily oral hygiene to reduce the bacterial populations that may contribute to the condition. And when you're symptomatic, try avoiding spicy or acidic foods like citrus, peppers or caffeinated beverages.

Lichen planus is more bothersome than harmful. Taking the above steps can help you avoid it or deal with it more effectively when it occurs.

If you would like more information on lichen planus, 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 “Lichen Planus: Mouth Lesions That are Usually benign.”





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