My Blog

Posts for: January, 2021

By Stephen J. Wessels, DMD
January 25, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
HowAFVsAlfonsoRibeiroSavedHisTooth

Remembered fondly by fans as the wacky but loveable Carlton on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Alfonso Ribeiro is currently in his fifth year hosting America's Funniest Videos. It's the perfect gig for the 48-year-old actor, who loves to laugh and make others laugh as well. This is quite the opposite experience from one he had a few years ago that he remembers all too well: a severely decayed tooth.

After seeing his dentist for an intense toothache, Ribeiro learned he had advanced tooth decay and would need root canal treatment. Ribeiro wasn't thrilled by the news. Like many of us, he thought the procedure would be unpleasant. But he found afterward that not only was the root canal painless, his toothache had vanished.

More importantly, the root canal treatment saved his tooth, as it has for millions of others over the last century. If you're facing a situation similar to Alfonso Ribeiro's, here's a quick look at the procedure that could rescue your endangered tooth.

Getting ready. In preparation for root canal therapy, the tooth and surrounding gums are numbed, often first with a swab of local anesthesia to deaden the surface area in preparation for the injection of the main anesthesia below the surface. A dental dam is then placed to isolate the infected tooth from its neighbors to prevent cross-contamination.

Accessing the interior. To get to the infection, a small access hole is drilled. The location depends on the tooth: in larger back teeth, a hole is drilled through the biting surface, and in front teeth, a hole is drilled on the backside. This access allows us to insert special tools to accomplish the next steps in the procedure.

Cleaning, shaping and filling. Small tools are used to remove the diseased tissue from the interior tooth pulp and root canals. Then the empty spaces are disinfected. This, in effect, stops the infection. Next, the root canals inside the tooth are shaped to allow them to better accept a special filling called gutta percha. The access hole is then sealed to further protect the tooth from future infection, and a temporary crown is placed.

A new crown to boot. Within a couple weeks, we'll cap the tooth with a long-lasting lifelike crown (or a filling on certain teeth). This adds further protection for the tooth against infection, helps strengthen the tooth's structure, and restores the tooth's appearance.

Without this procedure, the chances of a tooth surviving this level of advanced decay are very slim. But undergoing a root canal, as Alfonso Ribeiro did, can give your tooth a real fighting chance.

If you would like more information about root canal treatments, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “A Step-By-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment” and “Root Canal Treatment: How Long Will It Last?


By Stephen J. Wessels, DMD
January 15, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implant  
TwoMajorCausesforImplantFailureandHowYouCanPreventThem

Dental implants are a reliable way to replace teeth. More than 95% of implants survive ten years after their installation, and many of these could conceivably continue for decades.

But that still leaves a tiny few that don't reach the ten-year mark. Some fail early because the implant didn't integrate fully with the bone to create a durable hold. But others fail later—usually for one of two major causes.

Some failures occur due to over-stressing of the implant from abnormally high biting forces, usually because of teeth grinding. People who have this involuntary habit generate excessive force as they grind their teeth, which can damage implants (as well as natural teeth). To reduce this force, a patient's dentist can fit them with a biteguard they wear in the mouth to prevent teeth from making solid contact with each other during a grinding episode.

Fortunately, teeth grinding isn't that prevalent among adults—but that can't be said about the other major cause for implant failure: periodontal (gum) disease. This is a bacterial infection caused by dental plaque, a thin, bacterial film that accumulates on teeth. The implant itself isn't affected by the infection, but the gums and underlying bone supporting the implant can be.

Implants are most in peril from a form of gum disease called Peri-implantitis, which spreads deeper into the gum tissues around implants faster than infections around natural teeth. That's because implants lack the gum attachment of real teeth, which supply a collagen barrier that slows the spread of infection. Peri-implantitis can quickly infect the supporting bone and eventually weaken its connection with the implant.

Because of its aggressiveness and speed, we must diagnose and treat peri-implantitis as soon as possible to limit any damage to the support structures around an implant. If you notice any swollen, reddened or bleeding gums, you should call your dentist as soon as possible for an examination.

And in light of this potential danger to your implants, you should also strive to prevent gum disease through daily oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing your teeth, including around your implants, removes harmful plaque buildup. This daily habit and regular dental cleanings will help you avoid a costly gum infection and ensure your implants are there for years to come.

If you would like more information on dental implants, 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 “Dental Implants: A Tooth-Replacement Method That Rarely Fails.”


By Stephen J. Wessels, DMD
January 05, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: partial denture   bridge  
TwoGoodOptionsforTemporarilyReplacingaTeenagersMissingTooth

While anyone can lose a permanent tooth, the cause often varies by age group. Adults usually lose their teeth to disease, while those under twenty lose a tooth to accidents.

For adults, a dental implant is usually the best way to replace a missing tooth. Teenagers and younger, on the other hand, must wait to get implants until their jaws fully develop. An implant placed on an immature jaw will eventually look and feel out of place.

For most, their jaws won't reach full maturity until their early twenties. Even so, they still have a couple of good options for restoring their smiles in the meantime, albeit temporarily.

One is a removable partial denture or RPD, a device with the replacement prosthetic (false) tooth or teeth set in a gum-colored acrylic base. Of the various types of RPDs, most teenagers do well with a rigid but lightweight version called a “flipper,” called so because it can be flipped in and out of place with the tongue.

These RPDs are affordable, their fit easily adjusted, and they make cleaning the rest of the teeth easier. But they can break while biting down hard and—because they're dentures—aren't always well accepted among teenagers.

The other option is a bonded bridge. Unlike a traditional bridge secured with crowns cemented to natural teeth, a bonded bridge uses a strip of dental material affixed to the back of the prosthetic tooth with the ends of the strip extending outward horizontally. With the prosthetic tooth inserted into the empty space, these extended ends are bonded to the backs of the natural teeth on either side.

Though not as secure as a traditional bridge, a bonded bridge is more aesthetic and comfortable than an RPG. On the other hand, patients who have a deep bite or a teeth-grinding habit, both of which can generate abnormally high biting forces, run a higher risk of damaging the bridge. A bridge can also make hygiene tasks difficult and time-consuming, requiring a high degree of self-discipline from the patient.

Whichever you choose, both options can effectively replace a teenager's missing tooth while waiting for dental implants. Although temporary, they can make the long wait time for a teenager more bearable.

If you would like more information on restorations for children and teens, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.