At NOLA Dentures and General Dentistry, we take pride in helping our patients love their mouth. We do not say that lightly. Your smile is how you present yourself to the world. We see many patients each month who have not liked their smiles for years as well as plenty who want to keep their smiles great. While everyone’s plan is different, they are all built into a few different components. Today I’d like to talk about removing the infection, restoring the teeth, and maintaining the mouth.
Unfortunately, people can’t see the infection in their own mouths very easily. Most people might feel a slight twinge when eating something cold, see some darkness around a tooth, or bleed a bit when they floss, but rarely do teeth ache until the infection has gotten very bad. Some people are fortunate in that the teeth break but don’t hurt. Mouth diseases, for the most part, come in two distinct types. The first is cavities which is the most familiar. Bacteria eat sugar and produce acid which destroys the teeth. As the tooth is destroyed, the bacteria goes deeper, and the cavity gets bigger. If the bacteria haven’t gotten into the nerve of the tooth, usually the tooth can be fixed by a simple filling. However, if the cavity gets into the nerve, the tooth will require root canal therapy where the tooth’s nerve is removed and medicine is placed into this space to remove the infection. After root canal therapy, a crown is often placed on the tooth to prevent further breaking. If this is not fixed, the infection can travel beyond the nerve and into the bone and blood which is where swelling can happen as well as life-threatening situations. In these cases with the swelling, often a root canal can still be done but sometimes the better option is to pull the tooth. The next type of infection is in the gums and bone around the tooth. The starting place for treating gum infections is a cleaning. Usually, the gums are numbed so that any infection around the tooth and under the gums can be cleaned easily. After the cleaning, it is best to have an exam within 2 or 3 months to see how well the gums have healed. If they haven’t healed as well as desired, sometimes patients are asked to be seen every 3 or 4 months for routine cleanings whereas other times we opt for minor surgical treatment to help correct the problems.
Restoring the teeth is the next part of the treatment. Often, the dentist restores the teeth at the same time as removing the infection as with a filling or a crown after a root canal. However, in cases where the tooth is removed, generally, a prosthetic tooth is made to restore the smile. For prosthetic teeth, they can either be fixed in place or removable by the patient. The main advantage of fixed prosthetics is that people find them more comfortable as they can feel like they have their teeth back. However, generally it is harder to clean and the cost is more expensive. For removable prosthetics, many opt for them because they are quicker to do and less expensive. Also, because they can be removed, cleaning around the other teeth is much easier. However, generally, they feel stranger to patients and take more time to adapt. There is a third type of prosthetic that is a combination of fixed and removable where implants are placed in the bone to help hold a prosthesis in. With implants holding in a removable prosthesis we can get the best of both worlds where it feels natural and chews well but can be removed at night time to help clean it. Because no two patients are alike and each dentist has their own preference for tooth replacement.
The final part of treatment is maintaining the health. People are usually most familiar with this part as it means getting routine cleanings as well as brushing teeth nightly. For patients who have had bad gum disease or a lot of cavities in the past five years, the best option is a cleaning and checkup and x-rays every 3 months as these problems can be caught sooner and fixed sooner as well. For patients who have had cavities in the past ten years or are under the age of 21, cleanings every six months work and x-rays every year is recommended. For patients who have never had any cavities and after 22 and older, cleanings once a year are sufficient to maintain a healthy mouth. While this might sound strange for a dentist to recommend fewer cleanings, some people just do not need them. However, many people opt for cleanings every six months either due to insurance coverage or the fact that clean teeth feel good and look better. After treatment is done, it is important for the patient and the dentist to discuss what is the appropriate maintenance strategy to keep everyone in good health.
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Next time you go to the dentist or when you visit a dentist for the first time, ask the dentist about what is right for you. Ask the dentist and hygienist what is the best way to keep your mouth and your smile great. If you would like to see Dr. Schafer to get an opinion on what are your options, give us a call at 504-392-5104 and we will help you out.