Posts for: March, 2019

By James P. Watts, DMD
March 28, 2019
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: root canal  
ThreeThingsYouMayNotKnowAboutRootCanalTreatments

The term “root canal” is a part of our social lexicon, and not always with a positive meaning. But contrary to its negative reputation, a root canal treatment can make all the difference in your dental health.

Here are 3 things you may not know about this important procedure.

A root canal treatment is a “tooth” saver. Decay deep inside the tooth pulp puts the entire tooth at risk. The infection not only destroys nerves and tissue in the pulp, it has a direct path to the root through tiny passageways known as root canals. By cleaning out this infected tissue, then filling the empty pulp chamber and the root canals with a special filling, the procedure stops the disease from further harm and seals the tooth from future infection. Without it, it’s highly likely the tooth will be lost and other teeth threatened by the infection.

A root canal doesn’t cause pain — it relieves it. The biggest misconception about root canal treatments is their supposed painfulness. That’s just not true, thanks to anesthetic techniques that numb the teeth and gums — and any discomfort afterward is quite manageable with mild anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. The procedure actually stops the real pain, caused by the infection damaging and finally killing the tooth’s nerves, when it stops the infection.

Root canal treatments are even more effective thanks to recent advancements. Not all infected tooth situations are the same: some teeth have smaller offset passageways called accessory canals that grow off a larger root canal that can be quite difficult to detect and access. Missing them can leave the door open for re-infection. In recent years, though, endodontists, specialists in root canal disorders, have improved the way we address these complications using advanced technologies like specialized microscopic equipment and new filling techniques. The result: a lower risk of re-infection and a higher chance of long-term success.

Hopefully, you’ll continue to enjoy good dental health and won’t need a root canal treatment. But if you do, rest assured it won’t be the unpleasant experience you might have thought — and will be a welcomed solution to pain and threatening tooth loss.

If you would like more information on root canal treatments, 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 “A Step-By-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment.”


By James P. Watts, DMD
March 26, 2019
Category: Dental Procedures

Healthy SmileWhat's one of the most popular aesthetic dental treatments? It's porcelain veneers, shells of tooth-shaped ceramic bonded to the front of teeth which have defects in color, shape, size, and texture. Dr. James Watts, your Mystic cosmetic dentistry expert, places veneers singly or as a component of a comprehensive smile makeover. Either way, patients love the results.

What is a dental veneer?

Also termed a dental laminate, a porcelain veneer disguises the front side of a tooth which is healthy but cosmetically marred. Veneers strengthen teeth which have weakened structure or have cracks, fissures, or large chips. Also, when teeth are so deeply stained they cannot respond to professional teeth whitening, veneers are wonderful options.

Veneers and you

You should know that porcelain veneers are permanent refurbishments. The treatment involves removal of a thin portion of enamel which changes dental contours and appearance.

After a complete examination, X-rays, oral impressions, and formulation of a treatment plan, Dr. Watts will gently resurface the enamel. This typically needs nothing more than local anesthetic. Also, he'll place temporary laminates on your teeth so your smile looks normal as you wait for the final veneers.

In a week or so, you'll come back to the office for placement of the permanent veneers. A special tooth-colored cement and curing light ensure the bond is strong. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry says that fitting, adjusting and bonding the veneers are very important to appearance, oral function, patient comfort, and overall longevity of this smile enhancement. So you and your Mystic cosmetic dentist will work together for best result.

Most patients find they adjust to their porcelain veneers in a week or so. Care is the same as for any other tooth: brush twice daily, and floss once a day. See Dr. Watts every six months for a cleaning and examination and for any concerns or problems you may have after veneer placement. Expect your quality veneers to last for many years--a decade or more with good care and gentle use (avoid peanut brittle, biting your fingernails, and the like).

Find out more

Custom-made porcelain veneers are just one of the many cosmetic dental treatments Dr. James Watts offers in his Mystic, CT, office. To learn more about how to reach your smile goals or to ask any questions about cosmetic dentistry, call his office at (860) 536-6446.


By James P. Watts, DMD
March 18, 2019
Category: Oral Health
GettheFactsAboutPopularArtificialSweeteners

Barley malt, corn syrup, maltodextrin — these and over fifty other label ingredients are all names for refined sugar. Under its various aliases, this sweet carbohydrate is tucked away in three-quarters of packaged foods in the U.S.

Although in recent years the general health effects from too much sugar have gained the spotlight, its effect on dental health has been known for decades. Accumulated sugar in the mouth is a prime food source for bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease.

For both general and oral health, people have been looking to artificial alternatives to satisfy their sweet tooth. But do they have their own issues that can impact overall health? Here is an overview of some of the more popular brands of artificial sweeteners and their effect on health.

Saccharin — One of the most widely used artificial sweeteners, saccharin is often used under the names Sweet’N Low or Sugar Twin in low-calorie foods because it contains no calories. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) there are no associated health risks with consuming saccharin in recommended servings.

Aspartame — used commonly in beverages as Equal or NutraSweet, aspartame is unsuitable for cooking because its chemical structure breaks down under high heat. Although generally safe for consumption, it can affect people with a rare condition known as phenylketonuria that can’t adequately break down its chemicals.

Sucralose — marketed as Splenda, this sweetener is made by chemically altering refined table sugar so the body can’t process it. This may be one reason it has the most recognized natural flavor profile among consumers and is a market leader. It’s stable at high temperatures, so it’s often used in cooked or baked goods.

Stevia/Erythritol — this combination of an extract from the extremely sweet herb stevia and the sugar alcohol erythritol is marketed as Truvia. Unlike other calorie-free artificial sweeteners, this and other alcohol-based sweeteners have a low calorie level due to sugar alcohol’s characteristic of slow and incomplete absorption during digestion.

Xylitol — although all the previously mentioned sweeteners won’t promote bacterial growth like refined sugar, the sugar alcohol xylitol — often added to chewing gum and mints — has an added benefit: it may actually reduce levels of bacteria most likely to cause decay.

If you would like more information on the effect of sweeteners on dental 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 “Artificial Sweeteners.”


SteelyDanFoundersDeathHighlightsImportanceofEarlyCancerDetection

Fans of the legendary rock band Steely Dan received some sad news a few months ago: Co-founder Walter Becker died unexpectedly at the age of 67. The cause of his death was an aggressive form of esophageal cancer. This disease, which is related to oral cancer, may not get as much attention as some others. Yet Becker's name is the latest addition to the list of well-known people whose lives it has cut short—including actor Humphrey Bogart, writer Christopher Hitchens, and TV personality Richard Dawson.

As its name implies, esophageal cancer affects the esophagus: the long, hollow tube that joins the throat to the stomach. Solid and liquid foods taken into the mouth pass through this tube on their way through the digestive system. Worldwide, it is the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths.

Like oral cancer, esophageal cancer generally does not produce obvious symptoms in its early stages. As a result, by the time these diseases are discovered, both types of cancer are most often in their later stages, and often prove difficult to treat successfully. Another similarity is that dentists can play an important role in oral and esophageal cancer detection.

Many people see dentists more often than any other health care professionals—at recommended twice-yearly checkups, for example. During routine examinations, we check the mouth, tongue, neck and throat for possible signs of oral cancer. These may include lumps, swellings, discolorations, and other abnormalities—which, fortunately, are most often harmless. Other symptoms, including persistent coughing or hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, and unexplained weight loss, are common to both oral and esophageal cancer. Chest pain, worsening heartburn or indigestion and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also alert us to the possibility of esophageal cancer.

Cancer may be a scary subject—but early detection and treatment can offer many people the best possible outcome. If you have questions about oral or esophageal cancer, call our office or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer.”