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Aging and Dental Health

April 2nd, 2020

What’s life like for the average 60-year-old today? It’s complicated! We travel. Or we work out. Or we relax with friends. We pursue favorite hobbies or we develop new ones. We work, or start businesses, or volunteer for schools, museums, and charities. We practice the art of writing letters or we text our grandchildren. Whatever else we do, we do our best to stay healthy so we can live our lives to the fullest.

Part of living our lives to the fullest means caring for ourselves. And caring for ourselves means learning how to look out for the potential dental problems that might come with age, and how to keep ourselves in the best of dental health.

  • Gum Disease

Gum disease, or periodontitis, is not uncommon in older patients. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, can leave you more vulnerable to gum disease. Because gum disease is often symptom free, it can remain unnoticed until the disease has progressed. Good oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist are the best means of prevention—we are trained to discover gum disease in its earliest stages, and can treat it before the disease causes serious damage to gums, teeth and bone. But if you have delayed seeing a dentist, the good news is that there are many methods of treating gum disease available, including antibiotics, professional plaque removal, and periodontal surgery.

  • Tooth Decay

As we age, our gums can recede from the teeth. The new root area that is exposed is more vulnerable to decay because it is not shielded by the hard enamel which protects the upper part, or crown, of the tooth. Maintaining your brushing and flossing routine is the best way to keep cavities from developing. If gum recession is severe, there are surgical methods we can discuss to restore gum health.

  • Time

Cosmetically, teeth can yellow with age as the dentin beneath the enamel darkens and the enamel covering it thins. Years of coffee, wine, smoking and other stain-makers take their toll. If you are self-conscious about the appearance of your smile, talk to us about suggestions for whitening and brightening.

Medically, over time our teeth are subject to damage. Enamel and tooth surfaces can wear away, leaving our teeth more at risk for breaks or fractures that can lead to infection, which can result in the need for root canal work. Simple chewing puts an amazing amount of pressure on the teeth—and if you grind your teeth, there is even more stress placed on them. See us regularly for ways to maintain strong teeth, to repair damage if necessary, and to keep your gums and bones healthy if you are a denture wearer.

  • Dry Mouth

Dry mouth can be a problem for older patients, often caused by medical conditions or medications. When we produce saliva, it helps remove sugar and the acids sugars produce which attack our enamel. Without normal saliva production, we are more vulnerable to cavities. Dry mouth can also lead to mouth ulcers, oral thrush, sores and infections. If you have been suffering from this condition, talk to us. Dr. Lisa Murray and our team have suggestions that will help.

  • Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is something we look for during every check-up. And, if you ever notice any change that causes you concern, call us immediately. Early treatment of oral cancer and other oral diseases leads to the best possible outcome.

  • Keep Up With Your Dental Care

The best way to keep our teeth and mouths healthy as we age is with prevention. Regular daily brushing and flossing and office visits twice a year for an examination and a professional cleaning are habits that should last a lifetime. Make sure to tell us about any medical conditions you may have and any medications you are taking, to avoid interactions and relieve unpleasant side effects.

What’s life like for the average older person today? There is no average older person! As we age, we are free to explore our interests in any number of creative and individual ways. But there is one goal we have in common: we all want to keep our smiles healthy and attractive. Call our South Hamilton, MA office for preventative and restorative care. We want to help you work toward an ageless smile!

Does Your Child Need Endodontic Treatment?

March 4th, 2020

Baby teeth come with a built-in expiration date. That charming first smile is meant to make way for a healthy, beautiful adult smile. Unfortunately, before they are ready to make way for permanent teeth, primary teeth can be affected by decay, trauma, or infection—problems which can lead to damage to the pulp within the tooth. If your dentist tells you that your child’s tooth needs specialized endodontic treatment, is treatment really that much better for your child than losing a baby tooth prematurely?

Quite often, the answer is yes!

Baby teeth do much more than serve as temporary stand-ins for adult teeth. They are essential for:

  • Biting and chewing—a full set of baby teeth helps your child develop proper chewing, which leads to healthy digestion. And chewing also helps build face and jaw muscles.
  • Speech development—primary teeth help guide speech production and pronunciation.
  • Spacing—a baby tooth serves as a place holder for the adult tooth waiting to arrive. If a primary tooth is lost too early, the remaining baby teeth may drift from their proper location. This, in turn, can cause overcrowding or misalignment of the permanent teeth when they do erupt.

Baby teeth, like adult teeth, contain living pulp tissue. The pulp chamber inside the crown (the visible part of the tooth) and the root canals (inside each root) hold nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. When the pulp is damaged by trauma or infected, a baby tooth can still be saved with endodontic treatment. Endodontic treatment in baby teeth can take two forms.

  • “Vital” pulp is pulp that can be saved. Vital pulp therapy uses procedures to deal with damaged pulp inside the crown, or visible part, of the tooth. Pulp therapy can be used on teeth when only the top of the pulp has been affected by decay, limited exposure, infection, or trauma, but the root pulp remains healthy. Specific treatment will depend on the nature of the pulp injury, and a crown will usually be placed over the tooth after treatment to protect it.
  • With non-vital pulp, your dentist will probably recommend a traditional root canal procedure. All of the pulp tissue will be removed from inside the crown and the roots, and the pulp chamber and root canals will then be cleaned, disinfected, shaped, and filled. Finally, because the treated tooth will be more fragile, a crown will be used to protect the tooth from further damage.

There can be good reasons for extracting a seriously damaged baby tooth, and there are situations where preserving the tooth is the best and healthiest option for your child. Discuss your options with Dr. Lisa Murray when you visit our South Hamilton, MA office for the safest, most effective way to treat your child’s compromised tooth.

Symptoms That Could Mean You Need a Root Canal

February 26th, 2020

Every tooth packs a lot of layers in a very small area. The outer, visible part of our tooth, the crown, is covered in protective enamel, and the lower root area is protected by a similar substance called cementum. Inside these very hard layers is dentin, a hard but more porous tissue which surrounds the pulp. In this central pulp chamber, we have the blood vessels which nourish the tooth and the nerves which send our bodies signals from the tooth. And if one of those signals is persistent tooth pain, you may need a procedure called a root canal.

There are a number of reasons that a tooth may cause you pain, including:

  • Fracture—a cracked or broken tooth can allow bacteria to enter the pulp chamber and cause inflammation and infection
  • Cavity—an untreated cavity can leave an opening where bacteria can reach the pulp of the tooth, and again lead to infection
  • Gum Disease—bacteria can attack from the root area of the tooth if gum disease has become serious
  • Injury—an accident or injury to a tooth can damage the nerve or the blood supply which nourishes the pulp
  • Abscess—if infection is left untreated, an abscess may form under the root

While a damaged tooth may sometimes be symptom-free, usually there are signs that the pulp has been injured or infected. What symptoms should lead you to give Dr. Lisa Murray a call?

  • Persistent pain in the tooth
  • Long-lasting sensitivity to heat or cold
  • Gum tissue adjacent to the tooth that is sore, red or swollen
  • A cracked, broke, darkened or discolored tooth
  • A bump on your gums that persists or keeps recurring—this might indicate an abscess

A root canal is performed by a trained dentist or endodontist. After an anesthetic is used to numb the area, the damaged tissue, including pulp, blood vessels and nerves, is removed from the pulp chamber and each root. The inside of the tooth is then cleaned and shaped, and filled and sealed with a temporary filling. The tooth is filled again permanently, usually on a second visit, and might require a crown in order to protect it from further damage.

The most painful part of a root canal is far more often the time spent suffering before the procedure than the procedure itself. Delaying action when a root canal is necessary can lead to infection, abscess, and even tooth loss. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, please give our South Hamilton, MA office a call!

 

Dentin Tooth Sensitivity Treatments

February 19th, 2020

Dentine hypersensitivity can be described as a sharp and sudden pain caused by cold food and beverages. It’s present in more than half the population and result from receding gums that expose the root surfaces of your teeth.

That being said, hypersensitivity can be triggered by forceful tooth brushing, teeth whitening products, gum disease, and erosion from acid reflux, bulimia, or highly acidic foods. Symptoms can range from moderate to severe, depending on the cause and how quickly it’s treated.

Tooth sensitivity begins when the dentin develops some exposure. This layer that surrounds the nerve of the tooth is usually covered by gum tissue, but when recession takes place, the dentin can get exposed and the pain begins. The dentin contains numerous pores that run from the surface of the tooth inward. This direct connection to the nerve and blood supply of the tooth can be affected by external stimuli, such as the triggers cited above.

The good news is there are several different ways to treat dentinal hypersensitivity at Lisa J. Murray, DMD.

Treatment of dentin tooth sensitivity begins by making an appointment with Dr. Lisa Murray. We encourage you to begin treatment sooner rather than later in order to figure out the cause and to reduce the pain you’re experiencing. In most cases, quick treatment options will solve the problem, including the use of desensitizing toothpaste, switching to a soft-bristled toothbrush, starting a daily fluoride rinse treatment, or minimizing teeth grinding with the help of a custom mouthguard.

For more serious cases, we may recommend you get crowns put on problematic teeth, start a gel or varnish fluoride treatment, or even schedule a surgical gum graft or root canal, depending on the cause and severity of your pain.

If you’re concerned about any tooth sensitivity you’re experiencing, please give our South Hamilton, MA office a call and schedule an appointment. Dr. Lisa Murray and our team want to help you identify the cause of your pain, and give you the best possible treatment plan. We look forward to seeing you to help alleviate discomfort and solve your tooth sensitivity.

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