Prevention is the Key to a Healthier Mouth and Reduced Costs
Article by Frank Orlando, DDS
New York Cosmetic Dentist
Prevention is the Key to a Healthier Mouth and Reduced Costs
A major misconception with dentistry is that your teeth are healthy unless you feel pain. This, in fact, is false! Though it would be hard for your family doctor to look at you and say, “You're going to get sick next month”, in dentistry, we can confidently tell people, “If you don't fix this issue (tooth or gums), it will start hurting soon.”
Prevention is the key. Treating disease and infection before it hurts is the best method to prevent future problems and escalated costs. Once your gums and teeth are healthy, protect them with some type of nighttime appliance and you will have a healthier mouth and in turn a healthier body!
QUESTIONS FROM THE DENTAL OFFICE
Below are a few commonly asked questions and answers that can help you prevent dental pain, avoid additional appointments, and reduce escalated long-term costs:
It doesn’t hurt. Do I need to fix it now?
By seeing a dentist regularly you can avoid pain. We now have the technology to detect cavities when they are very small. Small cavities can be filled before they progress into larger/painful ones. Each time a cavity gets larger, it leaves a slightly bigger hole, and presents more of a chance of needing a root canal or crown in the future. Our goal is to prevent any root canals and crowns – treat things when they are small, before they hurt and you can greatly increase your chances of avoiding major issue issues in the future.
I get food caught there all the time, does that matter?
If you have a space between your teeth where food gets caught, it is inevitable that bacteria are getting caught there as well. If you notice this after a filling or crown was done, then it has to be re-done to prevent future problems and pain. Bacteria caught between teeth cause 2 major problems: cavities and gum disease – You want to avoid both. If your natural teeth are spaced and cause food/bacteria traps you may want to consider Invisalign or braces to move those teeth so they have a tighter contact to prevent future problems.
Do I really need that crown?
Cracks can form on teeth from grinding while sleeping, clenching, biting down on a hard object such as a popcorn kernel, and just old fillings wearing out. A tooth with a large filling is at risk already because the inside of the tooth has been hollowed to clean out decay and replaced with amalgam (silver), or composite (white), which are only meant to last 7-10 years. However, I often see them in teeth that are 15-20 years old.
When chewing, teeth put an incredible amount of force on the object between them. If an old filling leaks or is larger than half the tooth, it will eventually fracture and not be able to sustain another filling. A crown/onlay is necessary to restore the tooth to full function to enable it handle the force of chewing. It is simply a waste of time and money because then the tooth is at risk for breaking a large corner off. Long term, the walls of this tooth will not support another filling. Or worse, waiting on a time bomb like this means the tooth could crack all the way down to under the gum line between the roots. Now, you can no longer just crown it, it may need a root canal or even worse, have to be pulled.
My gums only bleed a little bit when I brush and floss, why do they need more than a regular cleaning?
If you brush your hair and the comb has blood on it, would you consider that a problem? If you scratch your arm and it bleeds, would you consider that a problem? Your gums should be considered with the same reaction. Any signs of bleeding when brushing and even with flossing are signs of Inflammation. There have been numerous studies that show how inflammation in your mouth can wreck havoc on the rest of your body. Inflammation of the gums often leads to periodontal disease, which has been linked to Heart disease, Stroke, Respiratory Problems, Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Lung Disease, Pancreatic Cancer, and Rheumatoid Arthritis among others. A healthy mouth leads to a healthy body.
Why do I need a root canal if the tooth is already dying?
If your toe or finger were rotting, would you just let it go if you didn't feel any pain from it? All those toxins being released in the mouth and body are not good for your heath. And yes, people have died from abscessed teeth. Your immune system is on constant demand working against these bacteria. The decaying material makes bacteria, which start coming out the bottom of the tooth showing as a dark spot beneath the tooth on an x-ray or it can be seen as a small red bump that releases a bad taste in the mouth. The nerve is dying and must be sealed off or the tooth will usually hurt.
Antibiotics are given to temporarily heal the infection and the pain will temporarily subside. However, if the tooth is left untreated, the infection will come back. People can and do let this go sometimes and will present with broken teeth, or a half rotting shell of a tooth. Trying to cap a shell of a tooth is more difficult or impossible. Once a root canal is done, the tooth can become brittle and so a crown supports the tooth for strength during chewing.
What if I just pull the tooth? I have other teeth to chew with.
Your teeth are needed for more than just chewing. Teeth actually hold each other in place. Once a tooth is removed, several things start to happen. The opposing tooth that normally meets this now missing tooth will start to over erupt. This exposes more of the root of the tooth, which is not covered with super hard enamel and is at greater risk for decay. The remaining teeth will forward or even start to lean slightly. Teeth in front can rotate and the occlusion changes in the mouth. The occlusion is how you bite your teeth together. If you have ever bit down on a new filling and it "hit" first, you knew it needed to be adjusted down to the level of the other teeth.
It can be problematic when you have teeth shifting around in your mouth. The only way to prevent or repair this is with an implant, bridge, or removable partial denture. So now instead of one crown and that expense, you need an implant, two crowns on either side of the empty space connecting with a crown in the middle, or something you have to take in and out of your mouth.
I say, get in to see your dentist and save money on the front end. It's your mouth!
Frank Orlando DDS, FAGD, FICOI
Founding Member of the American Academy of Oral Systemic Health