Periodontal (gum) disease is the most likely cause of a loose, permanent tooth. This progressive infection causes damage to the gums and bone tissues that hold teeth in place, leading to looseness and ultimately tooth loss.
Gum disease, however, isn’t the only cause: although not as common, excessive biting forces over time may also lead to loose teeth. The excessive force stretches the periodontal ligaments that hold teeth in place, causing the teeth to become loose.
This condition is called occlusal trauma. In its primary form, the patient habitually grinds or clenches their teeth, or bites or chews on hard objects like pencils or nails. Generating 20-30 times the normal biting force, these habits can cause considerable damage. It can also be a factor when gum disease is present — supporting bone becomes so weakened by the disease, even normal biting forces can cause mobility.
If you recognize the early signs of grinding or clenching, particularly jaw soreness in the morning (since many instances of teeth grinding occur while we sleep), it’s important to seek treatment before teeth become loose. The symptoms are usually treated directly with muscle relaxants, an occlusal guard worn to soften the force when teeth bite down, or stress management, a major trigger for teeth grinding. The sooner you address the habit, the more likely you’ll avoid its consequences.
If, however, you’re already noticing a loose tooth, treatment must then focus on preserving the tooth. Initially, the tooth may need to be splinted, physically joined to adjacent teeth to hold it in place while damaged tissues heal. In some cases, minute amounts of enamel may need to be removed from the tooth’s biting surfaces to help the tooth better absorb biting forces. Other treatments, including orthodontics and gum disease treatment, may also be included in your treatment plan.
If you notice a loose tooth, it’s critical you contact us as soon as possible for an evaluation — if you delay you increase the chances of eventually losing it. The earlier you address it, the better your chances of preserving your tooth.
If you would like more information on loose 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 “Loose Teeth.”
While most tooth loss stems from dental disease or injury, another major cause is a condition known as cracked tooth syndrome. What begins as a microscopic crack in an individual tooth’s enamel could ultimately grow to a fracture that endangers its survival.
Most often related to age-related brittleness, expansion and contraction of the enamel surface because of hot foods followed by cold foods and beverages, or grinding habits, cracked tooth syndrome usually occurs in three phases. The first phase is the emergence of miniscule cracks in the outer enamel known as craze lines. These can be very difficult to detect even with x-rays, and usually calls for specialized detection methods such as probing with a sharp instrument (an explorer) or fiber-optic lighting with dye staining to highlight enamel abnormalities. If you have pain symptoms, we may ask you to bite down on a bite stick or rubber pad to locate the area by replicating the sensation.
In the next phase, the craze line grows into a crack that penetrates below the enamel into the tooth’s dentin. Pain becomes more prominent and the risk of infection increases. Left untreated, the crack may enter the third phase, a full break (fracture) occurring deep within the inner layers of the tooth. The deeper the fracture occurs, the more serious the danger to the tooth, especially if the pulp is exposed.
The best treatment approach is to attempt to detect and treat a crack as early as possible. Craze lines and moderate cracks can usually be repaired with restorative materials like composite resins. A deeper crack extending into the pulp may require a root canal treatment and the tooth covered with a permanent, protective crown.
If, however, the fracture is too deep, the tooth may be beyond repair and will need to be extracted and replaced with a dental implant or permanent bridge. In any event, the sooner a cracked tooth is discovered and treated, the greater your chance of avoiding pain, discomfort, and, ultimately, tooth loss.
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.”
Don’t let decay, old fillings or cracks keep you from having the healthy smile you deserve.
Even though cavities can be prevented with the proper care, this common problem can happen to anyone no matter how hard they seem to work to keep their smile clean. In fact, about 92 percent of adults between the ages of 20 to 64 have had cavities and about 26 percent have untreated decay. If you are suffering from minor to more moderate tooth decay, then find out how your Honolulu dentist could help repair your smile.
What are inlay and onlays?
These dental restorations are used to fix decayed or cracked back teeth. They also offer a more conservative option over the common dental crown. They repair and restore teeth that have suffered decay or other structural damage, improving both the function and aesthetic of the tooth. Inlays and onlays are often recommended if the extent of the damage is so much that a filling won’t be enough, but there is still enough healthy enamel that a dental crown is unnecessary.
Inlays are similar to fillings, as they cover damage to the chewing surfaces of the tooth. Onlays are often used in cases of more extensive damage to the cusps and sides of teeth.
What does getting an inlay or onlay entail?
After the decay has been removed, inlays and onlays are usually created in a dental lab before they are placed on your tooth. This makes them a bit different from dental fillings, which are molded onto your tooth in the dentist’s chair.
The first step is to take impressions of your tooth to then send to the lab to fabricate your inlay or onlay. These restorations can be made from gold, composite or porcelain, depending on the look you want to achieve. Once they are fabricated, we will cement them into place during your second visit.
What are the benefits of inlays and onlays?
One of the major benefits of getting inlays or onlays is that they are resilient and strong, lasting up to 30 years with the proper care and maintenance. They also increase the strength of a tooth by up to 75 percent, improving the tooth’s lifespan and preventing other dental restorations from being required.
If you are dealing with dental decay, then it’s time you did something about it. The longer you let decay affect your smile the worse it will be. Nip this problem in the bud now by scheduling an appointment with your Honolulu dentist, Dr. Jonathan C. Okabe, DDS at Okabe Dental Arts.
Oral cancer is on the rise in the United States, yet few people are familiar with the disease and its risk factors. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) estimates that 35,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease each year. The good news is that prevention and early detection can greatly reduce your risk of developing oral cancer.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer Include:
- Tobacco: Smoking and using chewing tobacco have been shown to increase the risk of developing oral cancer.
- HPV virus: The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the same virus linked to cervical cancer and genital warts. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF), many young people and women are being diagnosed with oral cancer as a result of exposure to the HPV virus.
- Age: Although it occurs more frequently in people over the age of 40, the incidence is increasing in younger people.
- Alcohol Consumption: Oral cancer is six times more common in those who drink alcohol excessively.
- Diet: People who consume lots of red and processed meat and fried foods are at greater risk.
Symptoms: Alert our office if you notice a change in your mouth such as a sore that doesn't heal or bleeds easily; a lump, thickening, crust or erosion; pain or tenderness; or a change in the way your teeth are positioned. Our office can administer an easy, painless test that detects abnormal cells.
Other symptoms may include unexplained bleeding or numbness in the mouth, difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking, hoarseness, chronic sore throat or changes in your voice.
Importance of Dental Screenings: In its early stages, oral cancer can often go unnoticed, but visiting our office regularly can ensure that any cancerous cells are detected and treated early. Our office will check your tongue and the area under your tongue, as well as your lips and palate and the back of your mouth.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss any questions that you may have regarding oral cancer. Read more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer: This Article May Save Your Life.”
Rock star Steven Tyler fell and broke his two front teeth while on tour with his band Aerosmith not long ago. But Tyler was back on stage the very next day, thanks to modern dental implant technology.
Dental implants are the most optimal tooth replacement system in use today. The reason we say “system” is because replacing teeth with implants involves two, or sometimes three, components: the implant itself, which replaces the root-part of the tooth; the dental crown that sits on top of it to replace the part of the tooth that's visible in the mouth; and a connecting piece placed in between the implant and crown, known as an abutment.
The implant itself, made of titanium, is placed directly into the jawbone with a minor surgical procedure. Titanium has the unique ability to fuse to bone, creating a very strong connection. An implant provides virtually the same function as a natural tooth root, including stabilizing the bone underneath and preventing its loss — something that naturally occurs when a tooth is lost.
This fusion process takes a period of weeks, which is why the implant needs time to heal before a permanent crown is attached. One reason for early implant failure is “loading” them with biting forces too soon. But in experienced hands, implants are extremely successful. Documented research and clinical studies indicate success rates of over 95% — which is higher than any other tooth replacement option. Once integrated and functional, implants can last a lifetime. That's why, though they are a bit more expensive initially than other tooth-replacement options, they are more cost-effective in the long term.
Of course, another advantage of implants is that they look and feel completely natural. Just ask Steven Tyler!
If you would like more information about dental implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants.” Dear Doctor also has more on “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”
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