TreatingSmallEnamelCracksCouldHelpyouAvoidaDangerousToothFracture

Teeth can take a lot of force over a lifetime of biting and chewing, thanks to enamel, their outer layer made of the strongest substance in the human body. Unfortunately, they’re not invincible: it’s even possible for you to break or “fracture” a tooth while biting or chewing normally.

Although such a fracture might seem to occur out of the blue, it’s usually related to a condition known as cracked tooth syndrome. It usually occurs in three stages: in the first, miniscule cracks in the outer enamel known as craze lines develop. They’re not immediately dangerous since they only involve the enamel surface; but left untreated they could deepen and progress to the next stage, a larger crack that penetrates the tooth’s underlying dentin.

If allowed to grow, this crack in turn can lead to the third stage, a full fracture that could extend down to the root. A fracture can put the tooth in danger of loss, especially if its inner pulp becomes exposed. To avoid this worst case, it’s best to treat the tooth at the earliest stage possible when craze lines are just developing.

There is a difficulty, though, with detecting craze lines — they’re small, too small to detect normally with x-rays. We, therefore, rely on other methods such as using an instrument called an explorer to feel for cracks, having the patient bite on a stick or rubber pad to replicate pain symptoms or using fiber-optic lighting with special dye stains to highlight possible cracks. Endodontists, specialists in root canals, can use microscopic equipment that’s quite adept at detecting craze lines.

There are also some signs you can be on alert for that might indicate a craze line or crack. If you feel a short, sharp pain — a “wince” — when chewing and releasing food, you could have a crack that hasn’t yet affected the nerves. If a true fracture occurs, the pain will intensify and you may notice pieces of the tooth coming off. If the crack extends to the root, the pain will become greater and more chronic.

It’s important then that you see us for any recurring pain symptoms as soon as possible. If it’s a crack, the sooner it’s treated the better your tooth’s chances for survival.

If you would like more information on cracked tooth syndrome, 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 “Cracked Tooth Syndrome.”

By James P. Watts, DMD
November 28, 2018
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
AHealthyDietisYourBestSourceforVitaminsandMinerals

The food we eat not only provides us energy, but it also supplies nutrients to help the body remain healthy. The most important of these nutrients are minerals and tiny organic compounds called vitamins.

While all of the thirteen known vitamins and eleven minerals play a role in overall health, a few are especially important for your mouth. For example, vitamins D and K and the minerals calcium and phosphorus are essential for strong teeth. Another mineral, fluoride, helps fortify enamel, which can deter tooth decay.

Other vitamins and minerals serve as antioxidants, protecting us against molecules called free radicals that can damage cellular DNA and increasing our risk of cancer (including oral). Vitamins C and E and the mineral selenium fall into this category, as well as zinc for DNA repair.

We acquire these nutrients primarily in the foods we eat. But for certain people like older adults or pregnant or nursing women a healthy diet may not be enough. Any person who can't get enough of a particular vitamin or mineral should take a supplement to round out their nutritional needs.

If you don't have a condition that results in a nutrient deficiency, you may not see that much benefit from taking a supplement. In fact, taking too much of a dietary supplement could harm your health. For example, some studies have shown ingesting too much supplemental Vitamin E could increase the risk of heart failure or gastrointestinal cancer. And some dietary supplements can interact poorly with drugs like blood thinners or ibuprofen.

The best way to get the vitamins and minerals your body — and mouth — needs is to eat a healthy diet. Dairy products like fortified milk are a good way to get vitamin D, as well as calcium and phosphorus. Fruits and vegetables are a good source of Vitamin C. And while you can take in fluoride from toothpaste or other oral hygiene products, you'll also find it in seafood and tea.

While good oral hygiene and regular dental visits are necessary for dental health, your diet can also make a difference. Be sure you're getting all the nutrients your teeth and gums need.

If you would like more information on the role of diet in oral health, 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 “Vitamins & Dietary Supplements.”

By James P. Watts, DMD
November 18, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: bonding   chipped tooth  
WhyBearaChippedTooth

Having a chipped tooth certainly can make life more difficult. It not only keeps you from wanting to smile, but it may also make it harder to eat your favorite foods. And that can be a major problem — especially if you need to eat up to 80 pounds of bamboo every day to stay healthy.

Just ask Bai Yun, the female giant panda at the San Diego Zoo. The 23-year-old animal recently chipped one of her lower canines, and her keepers were concerned that it might impair her ability to get good nutrition (pandas spend as many as 12 hours a day munching on the woody plants). So they decided it was time for a little dental work!

What followed was not unlike a regular visit to the dental office… except that, instead of sitting in a chair, the 227-pound panda reclined on a large table. After being anesthetized, the patient’s teeth were examined, and x-rays were taken. A composite resin was applied to the damaged tooth, and it was cured with a special light. After the repair work was done, her teeth were given a professional cleaning. When the anesthesia wore off, Bai Yun was released in good health — and ready to eat more bamboo.

Tooth bonding with composite resin is the restoration of choice in many situations. This method can be used to repair small chips or cracks in the teeth, and to clear up some spacing irregularities. The resin itself is a mixture of tough, translucent plastic and glass components that can be made in a number of different shades, which look remarkably like the tooth’s natural enamel coating. And the bonding material links up so well with the tooth structure that this treatment can be expected to last for years.

Another benefit of bonding is that it can be done right in the office — there’s no lab work involved (as there could be for veneers or crowns, for example). That makes it a relatively simple and economical treatment that can typically be completed in a single visit. It’s ideal for fixing minor flaws that don’t involve a great deal of tooth structure. It’s also a cost-effective solution for teenagers who need cosmetic dental work, but must wait until they have stopped growing to get more permanent restorations.

While it isn’t usually as long-lasting as restorations like crowns and veneers, cosmetic bonding is a minimally invasive, reversible treatment that can keep your smile healthy and bright for years to come. And that’s important — whether or not you spend most of your day eating bamboo and posing for snapshots at the zoo.

If you have questions about whether cosmetic bonding could help your smile look its best, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Repairing Chipped Teeth” and “Artistic Repair Of Front Teeth With Composite Resin.”

By James P. Watts, DMD
November 09, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures

Dental ImplantsHave you been thinking about replacing missing teeth with dental implants but have a few questions about the process? The latest restoration options offer several benefits that can make it an appealing choice. Mystic, CT, dentist Dr. James Watts helps his patients care for and improve their smiles with dental implants and other treatments.

How do dental implants work?

Dental implants are designed to become a permanent part of your jawbone. The titanium posts replace your natural tooth roots and are placed in small openings made in the bone. Once in place, the posts begin to osseointegrate, or bond, to your jawbone. Osseointegration ensures that your synthetic root can provide a stable foundation for the dental crown that will be attached to it.

After the crown is attached, your new tooth will act just like your natural teeth. You'll be able to eat anything you want and won't experience any slippage or irritation, even if you take a bite of a hard apple or enjoy a juicy steak.

Are implants the best choice for me?

Before you make your decision, you'll need to consider a few factors, including:

  • Longevity: Dental implants usually never need to be replaced, unlike bridges and dentures. If you're looking for a long-term replacement option, implants are an excellent choice. Keep in mind that you will need to replace the crowns on top of the implants approximately every 10 to 15 years due to wear.
  • Versatility: Implants are the only restoration option that can replace an unlimited number of lost teeth. If you've lost all of your teeth, you may want to consider implant-supported dentures. The dentures can be secured with as few as four implants per arch.
  • Biting Power: Unlike removable dentures, implant-supported dentures don't significantly reduce your biting power or limit your food choices.
  • Strength: Without stimulation from your roots, your jawbone will eventually begin to shrink. This shrinkage, called resorption, can cause your teeth to drift, lead to further tooth loss and even cause facial sagging. Dental implants provide the constant stimulation needed to prevent resorption.
  • Depth: Your Mystic dentist considers jawbone depth when deciding if you're a good candidate for dental implants. If your bone is too shallow, it won't be able to support the implants. In many cases, adding bone grafts to your jawbone will increase the depth and allow implants to be placed.

Restore your smile with dental implants! Call your Mystic, CT, dentist Dr. James Watts at (860) 536-6446 to schedule an appointment.

DentalInjuryIsJustaTemporarySetbackforBasketballStarKevinLove

The March 27th game started off pretty well for NBA star Kevin Love. His team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, were coming off a 5-game winning streak as they faced the Miami Heat that night. Less than two minutes into the contest, Love charged in for a shot on Heat center Jordan Mickey—but instead of a basket, he got an elbow in the face that sent him to the floor (and out of the game) with an injury to his mouth.

In pictures from the aftermath, Love’s front tooth seemed clearly out of position. According to the Cavs’ official statement, “Love suffered a front tooth subluxation.” But what exactly does that mean, and how serious is his injury?

The dental term “subluxation” refers to one specific type of luxation injury—a situation where a tooth has become loosened or displaced from its proper location. A subluxation is an injury to tooth-supporting structures such as the periodontal ligament: a stretchy network of fibrous tissue that keeps the tooth in its socket. The affected tooth becomes abnormally loose, but as long as the nerves inside the tooth and the underlying bone have not been damaged, it generally has a favorable prognosis.

Treatment of a subluxation injury may involve correcting the tooth’s position immediately and/or stabilizing the tooth—often by temporarily splinting (joining) it to adjacent teeth—and maintaining a soft diet for a few weeks. This gives the injured tissues a chance to heal and helps the ligament regain proper attachment to the tooth. The condition of tooth’s pulp (soft inner tissue) must also be closely monitored; if it becomes infected, root canal treatment may be needed to preserve the tooth.

So while Kevin Love’s dental dilemma might have looked scary in the pictures, with proper care he has a good chance of keeping the tooth. Significantly, Love acknowledged on Twitter that the damage “…could have been so much worse if I wasn’t protected with [a] mouthguard.”

Love’s injury reminds us that whether they’re played at a big arena, a high school gym or an outdoor court, sports like basketball (as well as baseball, football and many others) have a high potential for facial injuries. That’s why all players should wear a mouthguard whenever they’re in the game. Custom-made mouthguards, available for a reasonable cost at the dental office, are the most comfortable to wear, and offer protection that’s superior to the kind available at big-box retailers.

If you have questions about dental injuries or custom-made mouthguards, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “The Field-Side Guide to Dental Injuries” and “Athletic Mouthguards.”





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