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What is gum disease?

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a bacterial infection in the gums and supporting structures of the teeth. There are two types of gum disease, gingivitis and periodontitis.

Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease and is characterized by gum tissue that is red, swollen, and bleeds easily when touched with a toothbrush, floss, or dental instrument. There is usually little or no discomfort experienced at this stage of gum disease. It is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment from your dentist along with good oral hygiene practiced at home. If left untreated, gingivitis can advance to periodontitis.

Periodontitis happens when plaque spreads and grows below the gum line, destroying the bone supporting the teeth. The surrounding tissues and bone break down and cause the gums to separate from the teeth, forming pockets that become infected. As the disease progresses, the spaces between the teeth and gums deepen causing more gum tissue and bone to be destroyed. Tooth can become loose, causing eventual tooth loss. The treatment for periodontitis is more complicated, usually consisting of a special deep cleaning with anesthesia and sometimes gum surgery.

Some symptoms of periodontal disease include: bleeding gums, redness of gum tissue, swelling of gums around the teeth, persistent bad breath, receding gums, pus between the gums and teeth, and/or mobility of teeth.

Periodontal disease can go on for years without pain and without detection unless specific examination procedures are performed. Regular dental checkups are important and essential in detecting gum disease early and treating it before tooth loss occurs.

I have bad breath. Is there any treatment for it?

While bad breath, medically called halitosis, might be a symptom of some other disorder, persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth may be warning signs of periodontal (gum) disease and tooth decay.

Periodontal disease affects the gums and bone that support the teeth and is a result of inadequate tooth brushing and flossing. If you don’t brush and floss your teeth daily, food particles can remain in your mouth which promotes bacterial growth between teeth, on the tongue, and around the gums. This does not only cause bad breath, it can also advance to periodontal disease when the irritated gums pull away from the teeth and form pockets between the teeth and gums that will fill with the bacteria growing in your mouth.

Patients with bad breath need a complete dental evaluation. If gum disease and/or dental decay are diagnosed, it can be treated readily. The patient will no longer have an infection in his or her mouth, and the bad odor will have been eliminated.

Can I replace my silver fillings with white fillings?

A dental cavity is due to tooth decay. When this happens, the decay needs to be drilled out and the tooth needs to be filled to prevent further decay. Many of our patients have had silver fillings placed into their teeth because they had cavities. These silver fillings are called amalgams. They are a mixture of metals, consisting of liquid mercury and powdered alloy composed of tin, silver, and copper.

Over time, the amalgam which contains approximately 50% of elemental mercury corrodes and leaks, blackening the silver and darkening the tooth as well. This is easily seen when a person opens his or her mouth and can be a source of embarrassment. At Garden State Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, we can provide you with resin composite fillings which are made of ceramic and plastic compounds. The composite fillings are durable and long-lasting. The resins mimic the appearance of natural teeth, making them “invisible.”

Composite fillings also lack the sensitivity associated with silver amalgam fillings. They are especially suited for smaller cavities and for patients who may be allergic to metal fillings.

I have a missing tooth. What happens to my bite now?

When a tooth is missing, the biting force on the remaining teeth begins to change. The gap that results from losing a tooth, whether it is by accident or by extraction, will allow nearby teeth to tilt and/or drift from their normal position.

Depending on the location of the missing tooth, the gap can present a cosmetic concern while some missing teeth can affect speech. Aside from that, as the bite changes to compensate for the missing tooth, there is a risk of extra pressure on and discomfort in the jaw joints that may lead to pain and headaches.

Missing teeth should be replaced to keep other teeth in their normal position so they can work together the way they were designed to. A tooth replacement should last for years. That is why it is important to choose the best replacement option for you. This can be done with a fixed bridge, a dental implant, or a removable partial denture. These treatments offer a good functional and cosmetic result.

What is a dental implant?

A dental implant is an artificial titanium tooth root that is surgically implanted into the jawbone. As the body heals after surgery, the bone cells around the implant fuse themselves directly to the surface of the implant through a process called osseointegration. After the healing phase is complete, the implant(s) functions as a sturdy anchor for crowns, bridges, or dentures.

What is a root canal therapy?

A root canal treatment is done when decay will likely damage or has already killed a tooth. Your dentist will remove the pulp from the center of the tooth and fill the pulp cavity. This procedure can prevent the development of a painful infection that may spread to surrounding teeth and into the jaw. A root canal therapy serves the purpose of relieving a toothache, stopping infection, and promoting healing so that the original tooth can be maintained instead of replacing it with a bridge, implant, or denture.

A root canal is the space within the root of a tooth. This space is a channel which connects to the bone and up to the surface of the tooth. The canal contains blood vessels, nerves, and the complex cells that make up the living tissue inside a tooth. The dental pulp is at the center of every tooth. The pulp receives nutrition through the blood vessels.

When a tooth is decayed or cracked, bacteria can reach the pulp. The acid from the bacteria irritates the pulp, infecting it and causing it to become inflamed. When the pulp tissue becomes inflamed, it is difficult for blood to flow to the tissue, and the resulting pressure creates pain inside of the tooth.

A root canal procedure limits the infection and keeps it from destroying the tooth. It is like washing out the invasive bacteria from the root and filling it with a biocompatible material before sealing it back up. This allows you to keep your tooth.

Why do expectant women experience gum disease during pregnancy?

It is common for mothers to experience gum disease, dental pain and/or tooth extraction during or shortly after their pregnancy. This is often considered “normal” because of the hormonal changes caused by the pregnancy. The increased level of progesterone makes it easier for certain gum disease-causing bacteria to grow, as well as make the tissue surrounding the gums more sensitive to plaque.

At Garden State Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, we feel that dental disease (an infection of the teeth and/or gums) is not “normal” for any patient. We advise expectant mothers to book a dental consultation and receive dental care. Personalized oral hygiene instructions from our dentist will be given to fight the disease and promote overall good health for the mother and her baby.

I have had an accident and I’ve lost a permanent tooth. What should I do?

If a tooth is knocked out, immediately call your dentist or go to an emergency room. A permanent tooth that is knocked out can sometimes be re-implanted.

If the tooth is loose but still attached in any way, leave it in place. Do not remove the tooth. If the tooth has fallen completely out of its socket and is unattached, but still in the mouth, it is best to hold it in the mouth until it can be re-implanted. Be careful not to swallow the tooth.

If the tooth has fallen out of the mouth, do not let it dry. Place the tooth in a small container and cover it in milk. Try to handle the tooth as little as possible. If the tooth does need to be handled, do not handle the roots of the tooth. Handle only the chewing edge or crown portion of the tooth. Do not attempt to disinfect the tooth, brush it, or remove anything that may be attached to it. Any handling of the tooth root might damage them and decrease the chance for a successful reattachment.

If the tooth is recovered from a soiled area, gently rinse it off in lukewarm water. Preserve it in milk until it can be examined by your dentist. If milk is not available, lukewarm water will do. The time the tooth spends out of the socket is critical in the long-term success of re-implantation. After about 30 minutes, the success potential begins to decline. However, reattachment of the tooth is still possible after several hours, so the attempt can still be made even if the tooth has been out for a long period.