Posts for: March, 2015
Not long ago, Glee star Lea Michele had all of her wisdom teeth removed. This is a very common procedure that people in their twenties, like Michele, often undergo to prevent serious dental problems down the road. The actress found that the procedure really was actually not very difficult to tolerate.
“Feeling all better from my surgery!” she tweeted to fans a few days later. “Back to work tomorrow.”
Why do wisdom teeth so often cause problems? For one thing, they come in years later than the other 28 permanent teeth — usually between the ages of 17 and 25. By that time, there is often no room in the jaw to accommodate them. As man has evolved, the jaws have actually become smaller in size — often creating a lack of space for the wisdom teeth to erupt into proper position. If wisdom teeth become blocked (impacted) by other molars that are already there, infection and damage to neighboring teeth may result.
Sometimes the wisdom teeth themselves cause the problem by growing in at an odd angle. They push against other teeth, often compromising the adjacent tooth's supporting bone. While you would think pain would occur if any of these problems were present, that does not always alert us to a wisdom-tooth problem. It's usually diagnosed with the help of x-rays.
Wisdom tooth extraction is often performed in the dental office using a local anesthetic (numbing shot) to keep you from experiencing any pain, along with conscious sedation to help you relax. The type of anesthesia that's best for you will be determined before the procedure.
After we gently remove the tooth or teeth, you may need to have the site sutured (stitched) to promote healing. You will rest for a short time before going home, and may need to have someone drive you, depending on what type of anesthesia you were given.
Once you get home, you should apply an ice pack on the outside of your cheek for about five minutes on, five minutes off for as many hours as possible to help reduce any postoperative swelling on the first day. Starting on the second day, the warm moist heat of a washcloth placed on the cheek and hot salt water rinses will make you more comfortable. You may want to eat soft foods and brush your teeth very carefully during the recovery period, which lasts only a few days as Lea Michele discovered. Before you know it, you'll be “feeling all better!”
While tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease destroy more teeth than any other causes, both of these diseases are largely preventable with proper oral hygiene and dental treatment. It’s more than possible, then, to enjoy a lifetime of healthy, disease-free teeth.
But even with healthy teeth, the effects of aging will cause tooth wear over time. And although we can’t prevent the aging process from occurring altogether, there are steps we can take not to accelerate the process.
Most tissues, including bone and teeth, have a growth cycle in which older cells are broken down (known as catabolism), removed and replaced by newer cells (anabolism). As we develop during childhood, the growth phase exceeds breakdown; when we reach adulthood, the two phases come into equilibrium. But as we age, breakdown will gradually overtake growth. This aging effect results in, among other outcomes, tooth wear.
“Normal” wear appears to be greatest — and most visible — along the biting surfaces of the teeth. The forces generated when we bite or chew causes enamel to erode over time. Unfortunately, you can accelerate this process through bad oral habits: clenching or grinding teeth, often times at night while you sleep, as well as habitually chewing on hard objects like nails or pencils.
Normal forces generated when we bite or chew are actually beneficial for dental health — they help stimulate bone growth. But when they exceed their normal range as when we clench or grind our teeth, they can increase tooth wear and cause other problems such as diminished function or changes in appearance, such as a shortened facial height.
To slow the rate of wear, it’s important to modify any behaviors that may be contributing to it. In many cases an occlusal night guard worn while you sleep helps prevent teeth clenching. You may also need assistance with stress management, a major trigger for these kinds of habits, through biofeedback therapy or counseling.
If you’ve already encountered excessive wear, bonding techniques using colored composite resin, veneers or crowns that attach directly to the teeth can restore lost function and rejuvenate the appearance and color of your teeth. We can perform a “smile analysis” to determine if one of these techniques is right for you to help you regain a more youthful and attractive smile.
If you would like more information on aging and tooth wear, 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 “How and Why Teeth Wear.”