Burton Dentist Mike Allen, explains what happens during this often misunderstood treatment
Everybody will have heard the term ‘root canal’. Most people will probably not have had this treatment, but will almost certainly have built up a picture of what it entails and how ‘painful’ it is. For many years now, it has become the standard for a high level of pain and often used on TV and in films with sayings like ‘I’d rather have root canal treatment than that’ to indicate their intense dislike of the subject that they are discussing.
It is hardly surprising then, that when some patients are told that they need to have this treatment at our Burton dental practice, a look of worry and even fear can be seen on their face. For all but the most nervous dental patient, we are usually able to reassure them about this treatment; although of course it would be great if it was better understood so that those fears did not exist in the first place.
Why are some people afraid of a root canal treatment?
A lot of this is based on hearsay, often from people who have not had the procedure. It is likely that it has passed into legend as the most painful thing imaginable from a time when dentistry was much more rudimentary and unrefined than it is today. Although it is likely that a very small number of patients had a bad experience and this was quickly passed on by word of mouth, it is also true that in the fairly distant past, a root canal treatment would have been more difficult, largely due to the fact that x-rays and scans were not so widely used. This is significant as it would not have been possible in most cases to detect if an abscess was present at the time of the treatment. Without wishing to give you nightmares, you can probably imagine how painful that would be.
Modern treatment has changed….
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Why it usually makes good sense to replace a lost tooth, visible or not
Nobody likes to lose an adult tooth. When we lose our baby teeth we know that there are more still to come through, but this isn’t the case with adult teeth of course. Once we lose one, all that will be left is the space where the tooth once was. Whether this happens because of neglect or because it was accidentally knocked out, still has the same end result and leaves us with the dilemma of what, if anything, we should do about it.
When it comes to a missing front tooth, the vast majority of people will want to replace it. A smile that reveals a big gap in our teeth isn’t the most attractive look, to say the least. Quite a few patients at our local dental clinic though, have asked us whether they need to replace a missing tooth that is less visible or not. To this, our answer is that you should, and there are a number of reasons for this which we will now explain.
As we mentioned above, a missing tooth can obviously affect your smile if it is a front tooth, but can one at the side, for example, make any difference to your appearance? Well, yes it can, and especially if you have lost a few teeth there. Without the teeth to support the cheeks, it can lead to a ‘sunken’ appearance of your cheeks. This can, in turn, make you look a lot older than you actually are. There is also the additional contribution to this from loss of bone in that area. We will come to that shortly.
When a tooth, or a number of teeth, are lost, we inevitably shift the load onto other teeth when we chew our food. Not only can this lead to additional stress on these teeth but they may also be having to do work that they are not designed for. All of our teeth have different roles. Essentially, our front teeth are for tearing off food, our side teeth for breaking it down into smaller pieces and finally, our rear teeth for chewing it until it is suitable for swallowing. Problems arise when, for example, we use our front teeth for the role that our rear teeth are better for. The front teeth are not really designed for this purpose and could wear down, or even break, much faster.
Bone loss and crooked teeth
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Burton dentist, Mike Allen, looks at why lockdown may have worsened dental fears.
It was just over a year ago when the country first went into lockdown. Since then, we have had a number of restrictions placed upon our lives. Thankfully though, despite a few ‘hiccups’, it does now look like things are finally changing for the better and that we can hope for some sort of normality in the not too far off future.
As many patients of Mike Allen’s Dental Surgery will be aware, dentists have also had restrictions placed upon them which has meant that getting a non urgent appointment has been more difficult. This means that, for some, no visits will have been made to see a dentist during this time. We are optimistic that this will soon change and we will be able to start seeing our usual number of patients again. For those who are generally nervous about their appointments though, this last year could have added extra concerns.
If you are someone who is naturally anxious about their health, the daily news diet of deaths and hospital admissions may not have helped the situation. You may also have started to use social media in an attempt to learn more. Unfortunately, as we know, this doesn’t always mean that you are getting correct information and ‘fake news’ may have also caused your anxiety levels to rise. For those who fear their dental visits, there may be concerns that because you haven’t had a check up for a long time; when you do go, the dentist may find lots of things wrong with your teeth and you might start to imagine all sorts of treatments that you might need.
Addressing your fears
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Where teeth have been lost, a dental bridge can be used to close the gap in your smile
In many of our blogs, we have advocated the use of dental implants to replace missing teeth, and with good reason. These are undeniably the strongest and longest lasting option currently available as well as being the most realistic looking. They are not the only tooth replacement method in use though and, in addition to dentures, bridges can also be provided at our Burton dental surgery.
Although bridges may have gone ‘out of fashion’ a little with newer methods, they can still be used and may be the best option in certain situations. In today’s blog, we will take a look at the use of bridges and how to care for them.
What is a dental bridge?
It is known as a bridge as it is used to ‘bridge’ a gap between teeth. They are often used when a number of consecutive teeth are missing. In essence, they consist of a number of replacement teeth attached to a cap, or crown, at either end. They are fitted by attaching the cap to the teeth on either side of the gap and offer a secure tooth replacement option.
Most bridges are made from porcelain but these can be reinforced with metal in areas of the mouth where additional strength is needed for chewing etc. One factor which can deter some patients from this treatment is the fact that the dentist needs to prepare the teeth that the crowns will be attached to. This usually means shaping them and removing some of the tooth so that the crowns fit securely. In many cases, this will have to be done to teeth that are otherwise healthy. This is one of the reasons why people seeking a secure tooth replacement are turning to dental implants instead, as they do not require this part of the procedure.
Who would have a bridge?
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Common oral health issues in advancing years
At Mike Allen’s Dental Practice we see a wide range of patients of all ages. From young babies to the very elderly, we are here to help you have the best oral health possible, and to help enable you to have a functioning set of teeth. It is sometimes said that ‘youth is wasted on the young’, and most of us past a certain age would probably acknowledge that if we had the wisdom that we do now, we would have done some things differently. For some of our Burton dental patients, this would no doubt include the way that they looked after their teeth.
When we are young, we think little about our teeth unless we have a toothache. They seem strong and almost invincible as we crunch our way through sweets with not a care in the world, probably skipping cleaning our teeth when we can get away with it too.
Unfortunately, the folly of youth and the general wear and tear of life can have an impact on our teeth as we grow older. In today’s blog, we take a look at some of these common problems and what can be done in the way of restoration as we advance in years.
The older we get, the more wear and tear our teeth have had to endure. Some of us will have stronger teeth than others due to our genes, but broken teeth due to them weakening over time is a common problem. The treatment for this will depend on individual circumstances. For less significant damage, it may be possible to fill the tooth, including using a tooth coloured filling for those wishing to have as natural a look as possible.
For more significant damage, crowns may be used instead. These provide additional strength which can make a big difference to how you feel about eating certain foods. Crowns are usually made from porcelain and in addition to the strength they provide, are also long lasting with the correct care.
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Mike Allen discusses this sometimes underappreciated but essential aspect of oral care
As dentists, most people probably associate us with teeth. This is understandable and indeed the word dentist comes from the French ‘dent’, meaning teeth. Over time though, our remit has grown to cover not only looking after a patient’s teeth but also the soft tissue area of the oral cavity. Care of some aspects of this are observational only, with potentially serious issues such as mouth cancer, referred to medical specialists. Gum health however, is certainly within our remit.
Good gum health is important, not only for your own comfort but because poor gum health can lead to a number of problems including, ultimately, the loss of teeth. In today’s blog, we take a look at potential symptoms, the problems it can cause and how you can keep yours in good health.
Why is gum disease a problem?
As we just mentioned, ultimately, advanced gum disease can lead to tooth loss. Even before this stage though it can cause wobbly or loose teeth as well as a significant amount of discomfort and can also lead to socially embarrassing problems like having smelly breath. There are various degrees of gum disease and most of us will have it from time to time in our lives for a short period of time. Perhaps we are ill and forget to clean our teeth or haven’t brushed as well for some reason or other. In most cases, as long as this is short lived, your gum health should be restored once you start to clean them well again.
There are two main stages of gum disease; gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is easier to manage and sometimes just an improvement in the way that you clean them can reverse this. Regular professional cleaning by the dental hygienist at our Burton practice will also help to keep this in check.
Periodontitis is more serious and can, in some cases, require an invasive treatment known as root planing, where the hardened bacteria has to be removed from the root of the tooth and sometimes the supporting bone too. This has to be carried out by a suitably qualified dentist and not by the hygienist.
What are the symptoms of gum disease?
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Renewed optimism for 2021 in Burton on Trent?
It may, for some of us, feel that lockdowns and restrictions on our lives are becoming a permanent feature; although the need for them at the moment is clear. Even in the past when restrictions were lifted to a degree, things seemed to rapidly take a turn for the worse and we ended up back where we started. This latest lockdown may feel especially stressful for some people, especially in this grey and wet weather which deters us from getting outside for some fresh air.
It is a trying time for sure, but there are signs of hope. The vaccination roll out seems to be going reasonably well, and even if there are a few drawbacks along the way, we should hopefully expect things to start to improve by the spring or summer of this year. Of course, it is over optimistic to expect things to be completely normal but with a little care, we should all be able to start living our lives again.
When this time arrives, what better way to greet it than with a brighter, whiter smile.
Sprucing up for spring with cosmetic dentistry
It might seem a long way off at the moment as we look out onto another rainy day, but in a few months, the sun will be out more and flowers and buds starting to come through. This is often a time when we start to think about a new set of clothes and look at general ways to give our lives a bit of a ‘kick start’ for the year. At Mike Allen’s Dental Practice, it is often around this time of year when we start to see more patients coming to us for cosmetic dental treatments to improve their smile. Whilst some of these treatments offer an almost immediate result, some are better started a little earlier to allow time for them to work fully.
Let us take a look then, at some of the treatments available at our Burton dental clinic that can help you have a nicer smile with more attractive teeth. We also offer some guidance on how long these take to work so that you can plan your treatments accordingly.
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Your Burton dentists offer some food for thought during the current lockdown
On the 4th January, the inevitable happened and we were told, once again, that we were going into lockdown. This is a similar one to the first lockdown and is certainly stricter than the previous Tier 4 restrictions. Most of us would agree that however unpleasant this lockdown is, it is essential to control the rapid increase in cases and deaths from Covid-19 that we have seen recently.
We don’t know yet how long this will last, but some commentators believe that it will continue possibly into March, with restrictions being eased more gradually than before. One big difference between the first lockdown and this one though, is that dental practices are allowed to continue treating patients and Mike Allen’s Dental Practice will be open for patient appointments as we have been since we re-opened in June.
We hope that patients understand that we are still having to implement a lot of restrictions due to Covid, and that means we are unable to see as many patients as before this all started. Your oral health is important though and we are doing our best to ensure that essential dental care is carried out as quickly as possible.
Daily oral care
We have covered much of this in previous blogs but it is always worth reiterating that you have a lot of control over the health of your teeth and gums. Your lifestyle choices and the care that you take in cleaning your teeth and gums will go a long way to avoiding most dental problems. This doesn’t mean that they won’t necessarily occur though and professional care is still important.
During lockdown, do try to avoid eating too much sugar, and make sure that you clean your teeth well, both morning and night. This is also a good time to introduce flossing to your daily routine if you don’t already do so.
Essential and emergency dental treatment
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A few festive suggestions to help you look after your teeth and gums in the coming weeks
As this will probably be our last blog until 2021, we thought that we would use it to help you get through the festive season, keeping your teeth and gums in good health. For many of us, this will probably be a completely different Christmas to the ones we have been used to, with gatherings being much smaller or even cancelled altogether. Despite this, it is quite likely that some of us will compensate for what has been a pretty horrible year, with a major ‘blow out’ of festive food and fun.
We are not expecting our Burton patients to be ‘angels’ and we know that more sweets, chocolates, alcohol etc will be consumed in the coming weeks than would normally be the case. The fact is though, that no one wants to spend the festive season nursing a toothache or a damaged tooth.
With that in mind, here are some top festive tips from the team at Mike Allen’s Dental Practice to help you keep your teeth healthy over Christmas and the New Year.
Maintain your teeth cleaning regime
Most of us hopefully brush our teeth twice a day without really giving it a second thought. It has long been a routine which we keep to. Christmas can be quite a disruptive period though, especially if you have children, and it is quite possible that our usual routine quickly goes out of the window.
Although this is understandable, it is important that we do not skip our teeth cleaning routine. Whilst the morning brushing may not pose too many problems, although you may forget in the excitement of opening your presents of course! The evening brushing is likely to be more vulnerable as we become tired after a long day of cooking, entertaining etc and we may feel too tired to brush our teeth and go to bed without having done so. As you will know from our previous blogs, going to sleep with your teeth coated in sugar is a very bad idea and a recipe for disasters including tooth decay and gum disease.
However tired you are, make sure to give your teeth the usual two minute brushing just before you go to bed, and no sneaking that last chocolate afterwards! Also, do try to floss as well. This is a great way of removing pieces of food that have become trapped between your teeth.
Go steady with the chocolates
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A Burton dental hygienist looks at the pros and cons of these oral health accessories
There has recently been an increase in TV advertisements for toothpastes and other products that target gum disease. This is a positive move as it will hopefully make people more aware of how serious gum disease can potentially be. As a dental hygienist at Mike Allen’s, my role is to help our patients have healthy gums, both by professionally cleaning them and offering advice on how they can better take care of them at home.
One of the main pieces of advice we give to those patients who don’t already do so is to use dental floss. It is then a very common response to be told that they have tried and couldn’t do it or found it difficult and gave up. Some have tried alternative methods such as interdental sticks or waterpiks and found these easier to use.
Given that there are now alternatives to dental floss, we thought that we would take a look at these and see how they compared to traditional floss.
Before we look at the alternatives, it is worth discussing dental floss. Most local dentists and hygienists will still recommend that you use this as the first choice. It is a traditional and long standing method that is very effective if used correctly. It is cheap and very flexible for getting into those difficult spaces. Given its low cost, we do recommend that you try this first of all and we are always happy to show you how to do so if you find it a little difficult. A little patience may be required but once you have mastered it, cleaning between your teeth with floss should only take a few minutes each day.
Traditionally called ‘toothpicks’ and not to be confused with interdental brushes which we will look at in a minute. These are traditionally made from wood and are a little like cocktail sticks, with a pointed end to make it easier to get between the teeth.
They have their uses in that they can be taken out with you if you are going to a restaurant and can help to remove larger pieces of food that get trapped between the teeth and, perhaps, look unsightly. By and large though, they are limited in effectiveness as they will not remove smaller pieces as well as other methods. The pointed end also means that there is a risk of damaging the gum and you may also push small pieces of food beneath the gum line rather than removing them. So please take care.
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