Did you see the move Cast Away starring Tom Hanks? If so, you probably remember the scene where Hanks, stranded on a remote island, knocks out his own abscessed tooth — with an ice skate, no less — to stop the pain. Recently, Dear Doctor TV interviewed Gary Archer, the dental technician who created that special effect and many others.
“They wanted to have an abscess above the tooth with all sorts of gunk and pus and stuff coming out of it,” Archer explained. “I met with Tom and I took impressions [of his mouth] and we came up with this wonderful little piece. It just slipped over his own natural teeth.” The actor could flick it out with his lower tooth when the time was right during the scene. It ended up looking so real that, as Archer said, “it was not for the easily squeamish!”
That’s for sure. But neither is a real abscess, which is an infection that becomes sealed off beneath the gum line. An abscess may result from a trapped piece of food, uncontrolled periodontal (gum) disease, or even an infection deep inside a tooth that has spread to adjacent periodontal tissues. In any case, the condition can cause intense pain due to the pressure that builds up in the pus-filled sac. Prompt treatment is required to relieve the pain, keep the infection from spreading to other areas of the face (or even elsewhere in the body), and prevent tooth loss.
Treatment involves draining the abscess, which usually stops the pain immediately, and then controlling the infection and removing its cause. This may require antibiotics and any of several in-office dental procedures, including gum surgery, a root canal, or a tooth extraction. But if you do have a tooth that can’t be saved, we promise we won’t remove it with an ice skate!
The best way to prevent an abscess from forming in the first place is to practice conscientious oral hygiene. By brushing your teeth twice each day for two minutes, and flossing at least once a day, you will go a long way towards keeping harmful oral bacteria from thriving in your mouth.
If you have any questions about gum disease or abscesses, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Periodontal (Gum) Abscesses” and “Confusing Tooth Pain.”
Gum recession is an all too common problem for millions of people that if left untreated could lead to tooth and bone loss. But the good news is not only can the process be stopped, much of the damage can also be repaired through periodontal plastic surgery.
Gum recession occurs when the gum tissue protecting the teeth detaches and draws back to expose the root surface. This exposure may result in a range of effects, from minor tooth sensitivity to eventual tooth loss. There are a number of causes for gum recession, including overaggressive brushing or flossing, biting habits or badly fitting dentures or appliances.
The most prominent cause, though, is periodontal (gum) disease, a bacterial infection triggered by plaque buildup on tooth surfaces due to poor oral hygiene. Fortunately, early gum disease is highly treatable by thoroughly cleaning tooth, root and gum surfaces of plaque and calculus (hardened plaque deposits), along with possible antibiotic therapy, to reduce the infection and promote tissue healing.
Unfortunately, advanced cases of gum recession may have already resulted in extensive damage to the tissues themselves. While disease treatment can stimulate some re-growth, some cases may require reconstructive surgery to repair and further rebuild the tissues.
There are several techniques periodontists (specialists in gums, bone and other dental support structures) or dentists with advanced training can perform to “re-model” recessed gum tissues. One of the major areas is placing tissue grafts (either from the patient or a human donor) at the site to encourage further tissue growth. Properly affixing a graft requires a great deal of training, skill and experience, especially in cases where the graft may need to be connected with adjoining tissues to establish a viable blood supply for the graft.
In skilled hands, a periodontal surgical procedure is fairly predictable with minimal discomfort afterward. And the lasting effects are well-worth it — not only will your health benefit from restored gum tissue and greater protection for your teeth, you’ll also enjoy a more attractive smile.
If you would like more information the treatment of gum recession, 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 “Periodontal Plastic Surgery.”
Get a brighter smile that will be sure to turn heads this school year.
Always wanted to get teeth up to 10 shades whiter in just one hour? Then ditch those over-the-counter products from your drugstore and head on over to your Kona dentist Dr. Garrett B.K. Oka, who can give you a visibly brighter smile in just one visit. How’s that for fast? It might seem too good to be true, but professional in-office whitening has become one of the most popular cosmetic dental treatments in the US, and there’s a reason.
How Professional Teeth Whitening Works
Before we talk about our whitening system it’s important to know a little about teeth. Your teeth are made up of an inner layer (dentin) and an outer layer (enamel) that helps to protect your teeth. Unfortunately, food, smoking, drinks and even natural aging can form another layer on your beautiful enamel. Because enamel is porous, if this grimy film is left on teeth, it can actually seep in. This means that you now have stains in layers of your teeth that you can’t brush or clean away. While these stains aren’t harmful, they aren’t the most attractive.
This is where your Kona dentist’s whitening system comes in. The whiteners we use contain strong chemicals like carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide, which penetrate enamel and break down the stains through oxidation. This leaves you with a smile that is brighter and stain-free.
The Teeth Whitening Process
While you can also opt for at-home whitening treatments, if you are looking to get results before the school year or a special event, then time is of the essence. This is when you should opt for in-office whitening.
Before your treatment, your Kona dentist will clean your teeth and check to make sure there are no cavities or signs of gum disease. What makes our system so effective is that it uses a high-grade hydrogen peroxide gel (between 15 to 35 percent). Couple this with a high-intensity light beam, and you have the quickest way to a whiter smile.
After cleaning your teeth we will apply a protective coating over your gums to reduce sensitivity to the bleaching gel. Then the hydrogen peroxide gel will be painted on the teeth and left for several minutes, rinsed off and then reapplied multiple times. On average, most patients get smiles that are four to six shades whiter after only 45 minutes, but a lot will depend on the severity of your stains.
Ready to get a more radiant smile before the new school year? Then call your Kona dentist with Sweet Tooth Dental and don’t be afraid to flash those pearly whites.