Posts for: January, 2012
What does it mean when your dental hygienist recommends root planing? To put it simply, root planing is a method of cleaning the roots of your teeth in order to avoid periodontal (“peri” – around, “odont” – tooth) disease.
Periodontal disease happens when dental plaque, a biofilm of bacteria, is not regularly removed and begins to build up on teeth near the gum line. The bacteria cause inflammation, and this in turn causes the gum tissue to detach from the teeth. The widening spaces between the gum tissue and the teeth, called pockets, are environments in which bacteria can continue to collect and cause further inflammation and infection. Ultimately, this can lead to infection, bone loss, and loss of teeth.
Root planing is a technique designed to avoid such dire results. The bacteria, along with products they manufacture as part of their metabolism, can become ingrained in the surfaces of the tooth's root (the part of the tooth that is below the enamel). These bacterial products will form hard deposits called tartar or calculus.
Deep Cleaning Your Teeth
Of course, the best idea is to brush and floss away the plaque before the bacteria begin to build up on your teeth. If this is not done and pockets begin to form, the bacteria and toxic products are more difficult to remove in order to deep clean your teeth.
The first step is scaling. My hygienist or I will remove superficial collections of calculus. If material still remains within deep pockets, root planing is the next step. It involves actually planing the surface of the root, smoothing the surface free of calculus, bacteria, and toxins that have ingrained into the root surfaces.
Root planing is most often done under local anesthesia so that you remain comfortable while the cleaning procedures are done. The initial cleaning may be done by an ultrasonic instrument that vibrates particles off the root surfaces and flushes the pockets with water. Small hand instruments called curettes are used to finish the process. Antibacterial medication may then be used to help clear away infection from the pockets. Sometimes you may experience some tooth sensitivity to hot and cold after the root planing. If needed, this can be treated by applying fluoride to the root surfaces.
Depending on the extent of your gum disease, it may not be possible to remove all the deposits at one appointment, and it may be necessary to have multiple appointments over a few weeks to remove the remaining deposits. Often after three to four weeks the inflamed tissues have healed, leaving you with healthy gums once again.
If you are experiencing cracking in the corners of your mouth, you have a common condition called perleche or angular cheilitis. Perleche comes from a French word meaning “to lick,” because people tend to lick the irritated areas of their mouths. Angular cheilitis comes from cheil meaning “lip,” and itis meaning “inflammation.”
Sufferers from perleche are usually young children who drool in their sleep, young adults with braces, and older adults who have developed skin wrinkling with deep lines at the corners of their mouths. Perleche may become worse in the winter, when cold weather and dry air dries out the skin of your lips. You may lick your lips often to keep them moistened. This constant licking of the cracked areas can lead to infection, most commonly from a type of yeast called candida albicans. Sources of infection can also include dentures that are not cleaned frequently enough, missing teeth that cause facial changes and added skin wrinkling, and health conditions such as iron-deficiency anemia, vitamin B deficiency, diabetes and cancer.
Conditions associated with perleche can be treated in a number of ways. Yeast is a type of fungus, so to combat a chronic yeast infection you need antifungal medication. This may be taken orally or applied to the cracking places as an ointment. You may be asked to dissolve a medicated lozenge in your mouth and then swallow it, so that its medicine treats both the mouth surface and the entire body. Antifungal medications may be combined with other medications to lessen inflammation and assist skin repair.
If the skin-cracking is related to serious underlying conditions such as missing teeth, improperly fitting dentures, or systemic health conditions, these must be treated in order to keep the perleche from recurring. We can perform a dental assessment to check the health of your teeth, gums, and lips, and you may also want to visit a dermatologist to see if treatments can improve and rejuvenate the quality and appearance of your facial skin.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about cracks at the corners of your mouth. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cracked Corners of the Mouth.”
As a successful author, interior design guru (with 127 makeovers in eight years on The Oprah Winfrey Show), and host of his own television program, The Nate Berkus Show, Nate Berkus understands the important role a beautiful smile plays in one's life and career. In a recent interview with Dear Doctor magazine, Nate discussed his oral health history. Berkus credits his all natural smile — no cosmetic dentistry here — to the treatments he received as a child from his dentist. “I'm grateful for having been given fluoride treatments and sealants as a child.” He then added that, “healthy habits should start at a young age.”
Dental sealants are important because they help protect developing young teeth until the enamel has matured. Without dental sealants, the newly erupted immature enamel of teeth is more permeable, meaning that the acids produced by bacteria in the mouth can damage these teeth more easily. This makes the teeth less resistant and thus more susceptible to tooth decay.
Regardless of how much your children brush their teeth, the reality is that toothbrush bristles cannot reach down to clean out the crevices found in the deep grooves (“pits and fissures”) of teeth. And if not removed, the bacteria found in these grooves produce decay-causing acids as a byproduct of metabolizing sugar. However, when sealants are used in combination with fluoride, good hygiene and nutrition (including lower sugar consumption), the odds of having tooth decay is dramatically reduced.
We refer to dental sealants as “pit and fissure” sealants because they protect the grooves found in the top of back teeth and the back of front teeth. Sealants also may reduce the need for subsequent treatments as your child grows older — just as it did for Nate Berkus. For these reasons, sealants are definitely something that all parents and caregivers should consider for their young children.
To learn more about dental sealants, contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can conduct a thorough examination, discuss any questions you have as well as what treatment options will be best for you or your child. Or to learn more about sealants now, you can continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sealants for Children.” And to read the entire interview with Nate Berkus, please see the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nate Berkus.”