Our Dental Blog

Posts for: April, 2020

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
April 28, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth pain  
FindandTreattheActualSourceofToothPaintoRelieveit

Determining which of your teeth is causing your toothache isn’t always easy — or even if it’s a tooth at all. The pain could be coming from a tooth, the gums, or both. Only a thorough dental examination can pinpoint the exact cause and best course of treatment.

If a decayed tooth is the problem, the pain may be coming from nerves and other tissue deep within the tooth’s pulp. The symptoms could be dull or sharp, constant or intermittent, specific to one area or spread out. It’s even possible for the pain to suddenly subside after a few days. This doesn’t mean the infection has subsided, but rather that the infected nerves have died and no longer transmit pain. Pain can also radiate from the actual source and be felt somewhere else — the pain in your sinuses, for example, could actually originate from an infected back tooth.

If the source is periodontal (gum) disease, the infection has begun in the gum tissues. As they become more inflamed they lose their connectivity with the teeth, bone loss occurs and the gums may “recess” or draw back. This exposes the tooth root, which without the protective cover of the gum tissues becomes highly sensitive to changes in temperature or pressure. As a result you may encounter sharp pain when you eat or drink something hot or cold, or bite down.

Treating these issues will depend on the actual infection source. An infected tooth often requires a root canal treatment to clean out the pulp and root canals of dead or infected tissue, fill them with a special filling, and seal and crown the tooth to prevent future infection. If the source is gum disease, we must manually remove the bacterial plaque causing the disease from all tooth and gum surfaces to stop the infection and allow the gums to heal. In advanced cases, surgical procedures may be necessary to repair damage and encourage new gum and bone growth.

Where dental disease has spread from tooth to gums or vice-versa, you may need treatments for both areas to address your overall condition. Whatever the treatment course, we can put an end to your tooth pain and restore health to your teeth and gums.

If you would like more information on the sources of mouth pain, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Confusing Tooth Pain.”


TheRealTruthBehindEdHelmsMissingToothinTheHangover

Ed Helms is best known for his role as the self-absorbed, Ivy League sales rep, Andy Bernard, on television's The Office. But to millions of fans he's also Stu, a member of a bachelor trip to Las Vegas in the 2009 movie The Hangover. In it, Stu and his friends wake up from a wild night on the Strip to find some things missing: the groom-to-be, their memories and, for Stu, a front tooth.

In reality, the missing tooth gag wasn't a Hollywood makeup or CGI (computer-generated imagery) trick—it was Ed Helm's actual missing tooth. According to Helms, the front tooth in question never developed and he had obtained a dental implant to replace it. He had the implant crown removed for the Hangover movie and then replaced after filming.

Helms' dental situation isn't that unusual. Although most of the 170 million-plus teeth missing from Americans' mouths are due to disease or trauma, a few happened because the teeth never formed. While most of these congenitally missing teeth are in the back of the mouth, a few, as in Helms' case, involve front teeth in the “smile zone,” which can profoundly affect appearance.

Fortunately, people missing undeveloped teeth have several good options to restore their smiles and dental function. The kind of tooth missing could help determine which option to use. For example, a bridge supported by the teeth on either side of the gap might work well if the teeth on either side are in need of crowns.

If the missing tooth happens to be one or both of the lateral incisors (on either side of the centermost teeth), it could be possible to move the canine teeth (the pointy ones, also called eye teeth) to fill the gap. This technique, known as canine substitution, may also require further modification—either by softening the canines' pointed tips, crowning them or applying veneers—to help the repositioned teeth look more natural.

The optimal solution, though, is to replace a missing tooth with a dental implant which then has a lifelike crown attached to it, as Ed Helms did to get his winning smile. Implant-supported replacement teeth are closest to natural teeth in terms of both appearance and function. Implants, though, shouldn't be placed until the jaw has fully developed, usually in early adulthood. A younger person may need a temporary restoration like a bonded bridge or a partial denture until they're ready for an implant.

Whatever the method, there's an effective way to restore missing teeth. Seeing us for an initial exam is the first step toward your own winning smile.

If you would like more information about restoring missing teeth, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants.”


By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
April 08, 2020
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: tooth replacement  

Replacing a lost tooth improves your appearance and your oral health. Dental implants, bridges and dentures, three tooth replacement options offered by your Decatur, IL, dentist, Dr. Carol Cunningham, can help you restore your smile.

Dental Implants

Dental implants provide the newest and longest-lasting way to replace missing teeth. The implant process pairs synthetic titanium posts with dental crowns to create brand new teeth. The titanium posts serve as artificial tooth roots and are placed in your jawbone during minor oral surgery in Decatur.

Titanium implants slowly bond to your jawbone, creating secure, stable new roots in just three to six months. A dental crown, an artificial tooth that looks just like the visible part of your tooth, is added to the top of each implant to complete the restoration process.

Dental implants don't reduce your biting power, help keep your jawbone strong and feel very much like natural teeth. Because the implants become part of your jawbone, they may never need to be replaced.

Bridges

A bridge may be an option if you've lost one or two teeth. The restoration consists of several artificial teeth connected to dental crowns on either side. The hollow crowns slip over teeth on either side of the gap and anchor the bridge. Removable bridges are available, although most bridges are cemented on to the supporting teeth and become a permanent part of your smile.

Implanted-supported bridges offer an alternative to traditional bridges if you've lost several teeth in a row.

Dentures

Full or immediate dentures replace all of your upper or lower teeth. The removable restorations consist of synthetic teeth attached to a pink base that looks like gum tissue. Dentures improve your appearance and make it easier to chew and speak clearly.

Implant-supported dentures offer another denture option. Each denture can be supported by as few as four dental implants. The dentures are connected directly to implants or to a metal framework. Benefits of implant-supported dentures include improved biting power and comfort.

Fill the gaps in your smile with dental implants or other restoration options! Call your dentist in Decatur, IL, Dr. Cunningham, at (217) 422-7448 to schedule an appointment.


By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
April 08, 2020
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants   diabetes  
DiabetesCanMakeGettinganImplantDifficultButNotImpossible

Over 26 million Americans have diabetes, a systemic condition that interferes with maintaining safe levels of blood sugar in the bloodstream. Over time, diabetes can begin to interfere with other bodily processes, including wound healing—which could affect dental care, and dental implants in particular.

Diabetes affects how the body regulates glucose, a basic sugar derived from food digestion that's the primary source of energy for cell development and function. Our bodies, though, must maintain glucose levels within a certain range — too high or too low could have adverse effects on our health. The body does this with the help of a hormone called insulin that's produced as needed by the pancreas to constantly regulate blood glucose levels.

There are two types of diabetes that interfere with the function of insulin in different ways. With Type I diabetes the pancreas stops producing insulin, forcing the patient to obtain the hormone externally through daily injections or medication. With Type II diabetes, the most common form among diabetics, the body doesn't produce enough insulin or doesn't respond adequately to the insulin that's present.

As mentioned, one of the consequences of diabetes is slow wound healing. This can have a profound effect on the body in general, but it can also potentially cause problems with dental implants. That's because implants once placed need time to integrate with the bone to achieve a strong hold. Slow wound healing caused by diabetes can slow this integration process between implant and bone, which can affect the entire implantation process.

The potential for those kinds of problems is greater if a patient's diabetes isn't under control. Patients who are effectively managing their diabetes with proper diet, exercise and medication have less trouble with wound healing, and so less chance of healing problems with implants.

All in all, though, it appears diabetics as a group have as much success with implants as the general population (above 95 percent). But it can be a smoother process if you're doing everything you can to keep your diabetes under control.

If you would like more information on managing dental care with diabetes, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.