Posts for: September, 2014
Now that celebrities can communicate directly with their fans through social media, we’ve started to see dispatches from some surprising locations — the dental chair, for example! Take singer Kelly Clarkson, who was the first winner of American Idol, and perhaps one of the first to seek moral support via social media before having an emergency root canal procedure.
“Emergency root canal — I’ve had better days,” Kelly posted on her Facebook page, along with a photo of herself looking… well, pretty nervous. But is a root canal procedure really something to be scared about? It’s time to clear up some misconceptions about this very common dental procedure.
First of all, root canal treatment is done to save a tooth that might otherwise be lost to an infection deep inside it. So while it’s often looked upon with apprehension, it’s a very positive step to take if you want to keep your teeth as long as possible. Secondly, tooth infections can be painful — but it’s the root canal procedure that stops the pain. What, actually, is done during this tooth-saving treatment?
First, a local anesthetic is administered to keep you from feeling any pain. Then, a small opening is made through the chewing surface of the infected tooth, giving access to the central space inside, which is called the “pulp chamber.” A set of tiny instruments is used to remove the diseased pulp (nerve) tissue in the chamber, and to clean out the root canals: branching tunnel-like spaces that run from the pulp chamber through the root (or roots) of the tooth. The cleared canals are then filled and sealed.
At a later appointment, we will give you a more permanent filling or, more likely, a crown, to restore your tooth’s full function and protect it from further injury. A tooth that has had a root canal followed by a proper restoration can last as long as any other natural tooth — a very long time indeed.
If you have any questions about root canal treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “A Step by Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment.”
By the time you reach adulthood, roughly 100 trillion microscopic organisms will have taken up residence in and on your body, outnumbering your own cells 10 to 1. Most are bacteria, a domain of the animal kingdom considered synonymous with disease. But only a few of the thousands of bacterial species cause us harm; the rest are either benign or actually beneficial to our health, including in our mouths.
Dentistry pioneered much of our knowledge about bacteria, developing processes used to identify, classify and understand those species inhabiting our mouths. Science as a whole is catching up with the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) begun in 2007. Through HMP, researchers have catalogued and begun to study more than 10,000 bacterial species.
We’re finding that our bodies develop a symbiotic relationship with many of these creatures invisible to the naked eye. During our infancy the bacteria we ingest from birth and breast feeding begin to interact with our body’s immune system, “teaching” it to refrain from attacking friendly organisms that contribute to health and searching and destroying enemy species that cause disease.
We’re also learning that an imbalance with our individual population of bacteria has links with disease. Our digestive system is a prime example: bacteria related to obesity can overpopulate our digestive tract, while malnutrition can create an environment that produces too many bacteria that inhibit digestion of vitamins and other nutrients.
The same microbial imbalance can occur in the mouth. For example, our typical Western diet encourages the growth of bacteria most associated with tooth decay (Streptococcus mutans). We’re also finding that tobacco smoking creates a mouth environment more conducive to the bacteria that cause gum disease. Just by quitting smoking you can alter that environment to encourage growth of health-promoting bacteria and inhibit growth of malevolent species.
The desired outcome of this knowledge is to develop treatments that target disease-causing bacteria without harming those beneficial to us (as often occurs with traditional antibiotics). In dentistry, such possibilities could help stop the spread of tooth decay, gum disease or similar bacterial infections, while fostering a healthier oral environment that prevents disease and protects health.