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Posts for: December, 2013

By Gregory J. Gauthier DDS, LLC
December 23, 2013
Category: Oral Health
GumDiseaseASilentProblemYouShouldntIgnore

Because its symptoms can be easy to overlook, gum disease is sometimes called a “silent” malady. But don't underestimate this problem! Untreated periodontal disease can progress into a serious condition, possibly leading to tooth loss and even systemic (whole-body) health issues. With proper preventive measures and appropriate treatment, however, the disease can be controlled.

The root cause of periodontal disease — actually, a group of related diseases, all of which affect the tissues surrounding the teeth — is the buildup of bacterial plaque (also referred to as biofilm) around the gums. While hundreds of types of bacteria live in the mouth, only a comparatively few are thought to be harmful. But when oral hygiene (namely, brushing and flossing) is inadequate, the environment in the mouth becomes favorable to those harmful types.

The disease often begins with inflammation of the gums called gingivitis. It symptoms include bad breath, bleeding gums, and soreness, redness, or tenderness of the gum tissue. However, in some people these early warning signs are ignored, or masked by the effects of harmful habits like smoking.

Gum disease is chronic; that means, if left alone, it will worsen over time. Periodontitis, as it progresses, causes damage to the ligament that helps hold the tooth in place, as well as bone loss. This may become increasingly severe, and ultimately result in the loss of the tooth. Severe periodontitis is also associated with whole-body (systemic) inflammation, which has been linked to an increased incidence of cardiovascular diseases, like stroke and heart attack.

But there's no reason to allow gum disease to progress to this stage! Prevention — that is, regular daily brushing and flossing as well as regular dental cleanings — is a primary means of keeping this problem at bay. Plus, every time you have a regular dental checkup, your gums are examined for early signs of trouble. Of course, if you notice the symptoms of gum disease, you should come in for a check-up as soon as you can.

There are a number of effective treatments for gum disease. One of the most conservative, routine ways are those regular dental cleanings we referred to earlier, usually called scaling and root planning. Using hand-held and ultrasonic instruments, the buildup of plaque (tartar) is carefully removed, sometimes under local anesthesia. A follow-up evaluation may show that this treatment, carried out on a regular schedule, is all that's needed. Or, it may be time for a more comprehensive therapy.

If you have concerns about gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Understanding Gum (Periodontal) Disease” and “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”


By Gregory J. Gauthier DDS, LLC
December 20, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: celebrity smiles  
LearnAboutLivingtheLifeYouLovewithDesignerNateBerkus

Design expert and television celebrity Nate Berkus has definite ideas about how to live. In a recent interview, he explained his ideas on design. He also talked about health, and how he keeps his teeth and mouth healthy.

From an initial design makeover that he did eight years ago on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Berkus has gone on to do 127 such makeovers. He was such a success that he now hosts his own daily talk show. He has also developed a line of home products for the Home Shopping Network and has his own design firm, Nate Berkus Associates. His clients include well-known restaurants and hotels as well as private homes. He has written articles for O Magazine and authored a book on the subject of transforming your home into a place you love.

“I realized many years ago that I wasn't going on Oprah to pick sofa colors and paint chips. I was there to lift people up through the way they live,” he says. His secret to design success is to “go with what you love.” He says, “Don't worry about mixing metals, eras or styles. If you love each item, you'll find a way to make it work.”

His common sense practical attitude continues when it comes to dental health. Berkus is blessed with a healthy mouth and teeth. He doesn't feel anxious when visiting the dentist because he usually has a good report. He has not needed orthodontics or cosmetic dentistry. He thanks his childhood dentist for giving him fluoride treatments and sealants, and for teaching him healthy dental hygiene habits.

Berkus brushes his teeth twice or even three times a day, with a manual or electric toothbrush — depending on whether he is at home or traveling. He also follows his dentist's advice about flossing: “Floss the ones you want to keep!” He says that he tried tooth whitening once, but he felt that the whiteness was “too white.” Now he simply works to maintain his natural tooth color and smile.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about maintaining healthy teeth. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nate Berkus, Helping Others Love the Way They Live.”


By Gregory J. Gauthier DDS, LLC
December 12, 2013
Category: Oral Health
ToothTraumaDoesntHavetoMeanToothLoss

Tooth decay and other oral diseases aren’t the only dangers your teeth face — accidental injuries also pose a risk. Fortunately, much can be done to save injured teeth, if you act quickly.

Dental injuries where part of the enamel crown has chipped off are the most common. Even if only one tooth appears damaged, adjacent teeth and bone might also have been damaged internally. Most chip injuries can be repaired either by reattaching the broken crown or with a tooth-colored filling or veneer. If the damage has extended into the inner tooth pulp then a root canal treatment might ultimately be necessary.

Teeth that have been knocked loose from normal alignment (dislodged) or where the entire tooth with its root has separated from the socket (avulsed) are rare but severe when they occur. It’s imperative to see a dentist as soon as possible — even more than five minutes’ of elapsed time can drastically reduce the tooth’s survivability. Dislodged teeth are usually splinted to adjacent teeth for several weeks; we would then carefully monitor the healing process and intervene with endodontic treatment (focused on the tooth’s interior) should something unfavorable occur.

With the possible exception of a primary (baby) tooth, an avulsed tooth should be placed back in the socket as soon as possible. This can be done by someone on scene, as long as the tooth is handled gently, the root not touched, and the tooth rinsed with cold, clean water if it has become dirty. If no one is available to do this, the tooth should be placed in milk to avoid drying out the root, and the patient and tooth transported to a dentist immediately. Once in the socket, the treatment is similar as for a dislodged tooth with splinting and careful watching.

The damaged tooth should be checked regularly. Your body’s defense mechanism could still reject it, so there’s a danger the root could be eaten away, or resorbed. Some forms of resorption can’t be treated — the aim then is to preserve the natural tooth for as long as possible, and then replace it with a life-like restoration to regain form and function.

If you would like more information on the treatment of injured teeth, 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 “Trauma & Nerve Damage to Teeth.”


By Gregory J. Gauthier DDS, LLC
December 04, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay  
WinningtheBattleOverToothDecay

Tooth decay (also known as caries by professionals and as cavities by consumers) is an infectious disease process that damages tooth structure. Cavities, hollowed-out holes in the teeth, are the most common result of untreated caries. It affects millions of Americans, young and old alike.

How does this destructive process happen? It begins when acid-producing bacteria multiply beyond normal levels in the mouth. Dental plaque, a film of remnant food particles and bacteria, cover the teeth due to poor oral hygiene. The bacteria break down sugars and carbohydrates present in the mouth, which in turn produces acid. Too many “bad bacteria” can raise the acidic level in the mouth.

The normal pH level of the mouth is neutral — 7 on the pH scale. But when the acidic level increases, dropping the pH to 5.5, the calcium and phosphate minerals in the hard, protective layer of tooth enamel begin to dissolve in a process known as de-mineralization. A healthy flow of saliva, however, acts as a buffering agent to return the pH level of the mouth back to neutral. Saliva also contains calcium and phosphate that can replace those lost from the enamel and is referred to as re-mineralization.

So, a constant battle rages within the mouth. On one side acid-producing bacteria, the possible absence of saliva, and poor diet and hygiene habits create the conditions where teeth enamel loses its mineral strength, allowing decay to eventually invade the fragile inner dentin of the tooth; on the other side is an adequate flow of saliva, a good diet and hygiene, boosted by treatment options like sealant application, antimicrobials and the topical application of fluoride.

The key, of course, is prevention. We add protection to the teeth by strengthening them; applying fluoride topically is the best approach, along with sealants that can be applied in our office. We reduce the level of acid-producing bacteria, usually with an anti-bacterial mouth rinse. You can also adopt a healthier diet that limits sugars and carbohydrates and reduces snacking between meals.

These preventive measures, along with early treatment of known tooth decay, can help you avoid the full impact of this destructive disease.

If you would like more information on tooth decay and how to prevent it, 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 “Tooth Decay.”