By Kenneth Woo, DDS and Associates
March 13, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures

Team USA figure skater Adam Rippon became one of the breakout stars of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea last month. But it wasn’t just his acrobatics on the ice that dazzled—it was also his bright smile. As it turns out, the 28-year-old skater had prepared for his big moment on the world stage not only by practicing his jumps…but also by whitening his teeth.

Teeth whitening is a great way to prepare for a special day: a wedding, graduation or any time you want to look your best. Compared to many other cosmetic dental treatments, teeth whitening is less expensive and takes fewer office visits to achieve noticeable results.  It all starts with a dental exam, where we will make sure your tooth discoloration is not the result of an underlying dental issue that needs treatment. We can also give you a better idea of what kind of results you can expect from various bleaching methods.

Professional in-office whitening treatments offer the fastest and most dramatic results. Using concentrated bleaching solutions, it’s often possible to lighten teeth up to 10 shades in a single hour! Yet we always take care to protect the sensitive soft tissues of your mouth (gums, lips, etc.) from the powerful bleaching solutions.

We can also prepare a take-home kit that will allow you to achieve similar results at home, though the process will take longer (usually a few weeks). We will provide you with bleaching trays that are custom-made from a model of your mouth for a precise fit, along with bleaching gel to use at home. What’s great about the trays is that you can give yourself a touchup treatment months (or even years) later by getting another tube of bleach from the dental office.

If you have questions about teeth whitening, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”

By Kenneth Woo, DDS and Associates
February 26, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: tooth pain  

Tooth decay is one of the most common diseases in the world, nearly as prevalent as the common cold. It’s also one of the two major dental diseases—the other being periodontal (gum) disease—most responsible for tooth and bone loss.

Tooth decay begins with high levels of acid, the byproduct of oral bacteria feeding on food remnants like sugar. Acid can erode tooth enamel, leading to a cavity that will require removal of decayed material around it and then a filling.

Sometimes, though, decay can spread deeper into the tooth reaching all the way to its core: the pulp with its bundle of nerves and blood vessels. From there it can travel through the root canals to the bone. The continuing damage could eventually lead to the loss of the infected tooth.

If decay reaches the tooth interior, the best course of action is usually a root canal treatment. In this procedure we access the pulp through the crown, the visible part of the tooth, to remove all of the diseased and dead tissue in the pulp chamber.

We then reshape it and the root canals to receive a filling. The filling is normally a substance called gutta percha that’s easily manipulated to conform to the shape of the root canals and pulp chamber. After filling we seal the access hole and later cap the tooth with a crown to protect it from re-infection.

Root canal treatments have literally saved millions of teeth. Unfortunately, they’ve gained an undeserved reputation for pain. But root canals don’t cause pain—they relieve the pain caused by tooth decay. More importantly, your tooth can gain a new lease on life.

But we’ll need to act promptly. If you experience any kind of tooth pain (even if it goes away) you should see us as soon as possible for an examination. Depending on the level of decay and the type of tooth involved, we may be able to perform the procedure in our office. Some cases, though, may have complications that require the skills, procedures and equipment of an endodontist, a specialist in root canal treatment.

So, don’t delay and allow tooth decay to go too far. Your tooth’s survival could hang in the balance.

If you would like more information on tooth decay treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor article “Root Canal Treatment: What You Need to Know.”

By Kenneth Woo, DDS and Associates
February 18, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants  

Dental implants are today’s closest restorative facsimile to natural teeth. And they’re versatile: not only can they replace single teeth but they can also support bridges or dentures.

But since one of their crucial components is made of metal, are you out of luck obtaining this state-of-the-art dental restoration if you have a metal allergy?

The answer is: probably not—it’s rare for implants to cause an allergic reaction. Still, metal allergies can be a potential problem within your mouth as with other areas of health.

An allergy originates from the body’s necessary response to potentially harmful microorganisms or substances. Sometimes, however, this response becomes chronic and exaggerated, creating an allergy. People can have allergies to nearly anything with responses ranging from a minor rash to a potentially life-threatening multi-organ system shutdown (anaphylactic shock).

A small number of people have allergies to particular metals. One of the most common is nickel, which affects an estimated 17% of women and 3% of men; cobalt and chromium are also known to cause allergies. Consumer exposure, particularly metal contact with the skin through jewelry or clothing, is the most prevalent, but not the most concerning. That’s reserved for metal allergies related to medical devices like coronary stents or hip and knee prostheses. And in dentistry, there are rare occasions of inflammation or rashes from metal amalgam fillings.

Which brings us to dental implants: the main metal post that’s inserted into the jawbone is usually made of titanium. It’s the metal of choice for two reasons: it’s bio-compatible, meaning the body normally accepts its presence; and it’s osteophilic, which means bone cells readily grow and adhere to it, a major reason for implant durability.

While it’s possible for someone to have an allergy and subsequent reaction to implants with titanium, the occurrences appear to be extremely low. In one study of 1,500 patients, titanium allergies were estimated to be a factor in implant failures in less than 1% of those studied.

Even so, if you have known metal allergies you should make sure your dentist knows. Being aware of all the facts will help them recommend the best tooth replacement choice for you—and hopefully it will be dental implants.

If you would like more information on dental implant restorations, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor article “Metal Allergies to Dental Implants.”

By Kenneth Woo, DDS and Associates
February 03, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures

Your smile isn’t the same without healthy gums—neither are your teeth, for that matter. So, maintaining your gums by protecting them from periodontal (gum) disease is a top priority.

Gum disease is caused by bacterial plaque, a thin biofilm that collects on teeth and is not removed due to poor oral hygiene practices. Infected gums become chronically inflamed and begin to weaken, ultimately losing their firm attachment to the teeth. This can result in increasing voids called periodontal pockets that fill with infection. The gums can also shrink back (recede), exposing the tooth roots to further infection.

Although gum disease treatment techniques vary, the overall goal is the same: remove the bacterial plaque fueling the infection. This most often involves a procedure called scaling with special hand instruments to manually remove plaque and calculus (tartar). If the infection has spread below the gum line we may need to use a procedure called root planing in which we scrape or “plane” plaque and calculus from the root surfaces.

As we remove plaque, the gums become less inflamed. As the inflammation subsides we often discover more plaque and calculus, requiring more treatment sessions. Hopefully, our efforts bring the disease under control and restorative healing to the gums.

But while gum tissue can regenerate on its own, it may need some assistance if the recession was severe. This assistance can be provided through surgical procedures that graft donor tissues to the recession site. There are a number of microsurgical approaches that are all quite intricate to perform, and will usually require a periodontist (a specialist in gum structures) to achieve the most functional and attractive result.

While we have the advanced techniques and equipment to treat and repair gum disease damage, the best approach is to try to prevent the disease from occurring at all. Prevention begins with daily brushing and flossing, and continues with regular dental cleanings and checkups.

And if you do notice potential signs of gum disease like swollen, reddened or bleeding gums, call us promptly for an examination. The sooner we diagnose and begin treatment the less damage this progressive disease can do to your gums—and your smile.

If you would like more information on protecting your gums, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor article “Periodontal Plastic Surgery.”

By Kenneth Woo, DDS and Associates
January 19, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures

Once upon a time, celebrities tried hard to maintain the appearance of red-carpet glamour at all times. That meant keeping the more mundane aspects of their lives out of the spotlight: things like shopping, walking the dog and having oral surgery, for example.

That was then. Today, you can find plenty of celebs posting pictures from the dentist on social media. Take Julianne Hough, for example: In 2011 and 2013, she tweeted from the dental office. Then, not long ago, she shared a video taken after her wisdom teeth were removed in December 2016. In it, the 28-year-old actress and dancer cracked jokes and sang a loopy rendition of a Christmas carol, her mouth filled with gauze. Clearly, she was feeling relaxed and comfortable!

Lots of us enjoy seeing the human side of celebrities. But as dentists, we’re also glad when posts such as these help demystify a procedure that could be scary for some people.

Like having a root canal, the thought of extracting wisdom teeth (also called third molars) makes some folks shudder. Yet this routine procedure is performed more often than any other type of oral surgery. Why? Because wisdom teeth, which usually begin to erupt (emerge from beneath the gums) around age 17-25, have the potential to cause serious problems in the mouth. When these molars lack enough space to fully erupt in their normal positions, they are said to be “impacted.”

One potential problem with impacted wisdom teeth is crowding. Many people don’t have enough space in the jaw to accommodate another set of molars; when their wisdom teeth come in, other teeth can be damaged. Impacted wisdom teeth may also have an increased potential to cause periodontal disease, bacterial infection, and other issues.

Not all wisdom teeth need to be removed; after a complete examination, including x-rays and/or other diagnostic imaging, a recommendation will be made based on each individual’s situation. It may involve continued monitoring of the situation, orthodontics or extraction.

Wisdom tooth extraction is usually done right in the office, often with a type of anesthesia called “conscious sedation.”  Here, the patient is able to breathe normally and respond to stimuli (such as verbal directions), but remains free from pain. For people who are especially apprehensive about dental procedures, anti-anxiety mediation may also be given. After the procedure, prescription or over-the-counter pain medication may be used for a few days. If you feel like singing a few bars, as Julianne did, it’s up to you.

If you would like more information about wisdom tooth extraction, please call our office to arrange a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Wisdom Teeth” and “Removing Wisdom Teeth.”

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