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I have been diagnosed with cancer and my oncologist has advised me to get dental clearance before proceeding with my therapy. Doesn’t his seem like a waste of time? I want this cancer out now, not spend time in a dental office.

added on: January 20, 2012

Your greatest ally in the process of ridding one of cancer is your immune system. This consists of a finite number of cells whose job it is to heal infection and cancerous masses. Cancer therapy consists of removing or shrinking masses so that the body can do its natural job of fighting illness.

Dental disease can represent a chronic disease that constantly uses up many immune cells to keep it at bay. This all goes on without you realizing it much like you can’t tell how big your cancer is or when its completely gone. Using immune cells to fight off dental disease when you need them to fight a war against cancer is a waste. Your oncologist wants the treatments to be a success. Going in with half an army just won’t do it!

Recently, a tooth broke off while chewing something soft. What makes teeth break?

added on: January 20, 2012

Two things make teeth break: force and brittleness. As adults we have thirty two teeth. We have that many so that the tremendous forces of chewing can be distributed evenly. The average chewing force is about 162 pounds per square inch and teeth can easily withstand many times that in normal function which is up and down chewing. If we exert these forces side to side, as in during tooth grinding, that’s a whole other story. If there are large fillings in a tooth, side to side motion becomes more destructive. Combine that scenario with fewer than normal teeth in your mouth and the odds of breaking go up.

Teeth that have had root canal or old teeth which are not as vital as they once were are very brittle. Great care is taken while restoring these teeth to protect them from being over stressed by force. Many times a protective device, such as a night-guard is recommended to shield them from grinding forces that may occur during sleep. Failure to protect them usually ends in fracture.

I recently had a tooth removed at the surgeon’s office. I was told that a dental implant was my best choice to replace it. Wouldn’t a fixed bridge work just as well?

added on: January 20, 2012

It might, but it depends on the situation. Fixed bridges have been a tried and true mode of replacement for missing teeth for generations. And they still are. However, it has been documented that every restoration, no matter how perfectly it is fabricated, has a lifespan. A fixed bridge is fitted to natural teeth and while there is very little surface area exposed to the attack of sugars and plaque, it is still inherently vulnerable. A dental implant is made of titanium. It cannot decay. It is also surprisingly resistant to periodontal breakdown.

When a bridge fails due to decay, the subsequent replacement of it may be a more compromised bridge perhaps due to loss of the supporting tooth’s nerve or due to a shortened tooth holding the new bridge ( picture a fence section where a post is replaced by a new one that is not as deep in the earth.) If a bridge fails due to fracture of one the abutments, the replacement may need to be longer, thus incorporating more teeth. A dental implant can represent a more long lasting replacement. It maybe more conservative if other teeth do need need restoring in the process.

I have had a white filling placed a number of times on a front tooth, but it keeps on popping off. I even had a different dentist fill it and the same thing happened. Are these dentists doing something wrong or are these fillings not what they are cracked up to be?

added on: January 20, 2012

The bonded materials used today are extremely strong and long lasting. There are many different types of bonded materials but their placement is very straight forward. There are a couple of common reasons why new bonded fillings fail. One reason is the temptation to try to push the material to do things beyond its capability. If a filling makes up most of the tooth structure it is much more likely to fail. There are more predictable ways to restore a tooth that is more filling than tooth.

The most common cause of failure of a recently placed restoration is excessive bite trauma. Many times there are signs of bruxism ( tooth grinding ) that a person may be unaware of. An unstable bite that is prone to wear puts tremendous stress on any restoration. Have your dentist analyze your bite or, more simply, look at your teeth in a makeup mirror. If the edges of your teeth are worn or flattened or if you see craze lines in the enamel you may find that your answer was right before your eyes!

One thing I hate about summer barbecues is the awkward feeling of having food stuck between one’s teeth. It seems insulting to turn down foods like corn on the cob especially if the hosts prepared it themselves. What do you suggest?

added on: January 20, 2012

Isn’t it amazing how many summer foods are the most difficult to eat in public? They are either messy, difficult to manage with your hands or get stuck easily between your teeth. While these issues can arise in any dining experience, it is uncanny how often it can occur in the backyard.

The perfect solution to the food trap problem is to simply carry small floss samples with you. They are small, easy to carry and fit anywhere. I find it handy to keep these in the car, on the boat, in a travel bag or just in your pocket. One should never feel uncomfortable slipping off to take care of this promptly after consuming these delicious summertime specialties. especially after lavishing the host with culinary compliments! You will feel much better after doing so!

To make sure you never run out, just ask for extras at your next cleaning!

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