My Blog

Posts for: January, 2013

By Drake Tollefson DDS
January 24, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gum recession  
WhatIsGumRecessionandHowIsItTreated

Gum recession is a common problem affecting millions of Americans to some degree. If you have it, you will notice that the pink gum tissue surrounding one or more of your teeth has shrunk or receded and left the tooth-root surfaces exposed. How does this happen? And does it require treatment? The answers to both of these questions will vary from person to person. The good news is that treatment is available for those who need it.

The way you care for your teeth can be a major factor in gum recession. If you do not effectively remove plaque (bacterial biofilm) from your teeth daily, you may develop gum inflammation, gum disease and/or recession. Conversely, if you brush or floss too hard or for too long, you can also damage your gums. Please remember that it doesn't take a lot of pressure to remove biofilm; you just need to make sure you get to each tooth, right down to the gum line.

Other causes of gum recession include: mal-positioned and/or prominent teeth that are not fully encased in supporting bone; muscle attachments (frenums) pulling at the gum line; habits such as holding foreign objects (nails, pins) between the teeth that press on the gum tissues; and badly fitting oral appliances such as dentures, braces – even tongue bolts and lip piercings.

Besides not looking too great, gum recession can lead to anything from minor tooth sensitivity to tooth loss in the most severe cases. If you are experiencing any discomfort from a loss of gum (also called “gingival”) tissue, we'd certainly like to know about it. We would be happy to examine your condition and make recommendations.

There are surgical procedures that are very effective in treating these problems. Procedures such as gingival grafting or periodontal plastic surgery (“peri” – around; “odont” – tooth), often involve taking a small piece of healthy gingival tissue from the roof of your mouth and grafting it to the area where it is needed. Ultrafine sutures hold the graft in place until it “takes.” Laboratory-processed donor tissue can also be used. In either case, the procedure has a terrific success rate.

If you have any questions about gum recession, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. To learn more about the topic of oral appliance therapy, please see the Dear Doctor magazine article “Periodontal Plastic Surgery.”


By Drake Tollefson DDS
January 15, 2013
Category: Oral Health
FactsYouShouldKnowAboutToothWear

You may have noticed, as you get older, that the enamel of your teeth is looking worn in certain areas. Sometimes tooth wear takes the form of a minor chipping or fracturing at the incisal (cutting) edges of the teeth, or a loss of tooth material from the area near the gum line. In more severe cases, worn teeth look quite a bit smaller than they used to. Why does this happen?

Some wear with age is natural. But too much wear can interfere with your bite, expose more sensitive inner parts of the tooth to decay, and give you a more aged appearance.

There are things you can control that affect wear:

Your habits: Clenching or grinding habits, also called “bruxism,” is a major cause of tooth wear. The motion of teeth sliding over each other with forces that are beyond what's normal for biting or chewing causes a mechanical removal of tooth enamel. This can happen during sleep or periods of high stress. In either case there are therapies available, such as a thin, professionally made mouthguard that prevents your teeth from coming into contact with each other. Holding foreign objects, such as nails and bobby pins, between your teeth can also cause wear.

Your diet: Tooth enamel can be eroded (dissolved away) by acidic beverages, such as sodas, sports drinks and juices. Frequent snacking on sugary foods encourages the growth of oral bacteria that produce acid as a byproduct — also leaving your teeth vulnerable to tooth decay. Your saliva can buffer the effects of the acid in your mouth in about half an hour; if you consume these types of foods and beverages continually, there won't be enough time for this to work.

We can restore the appearance and function of worn teeth in a variety of ways. Porcelain crowns and veneers, for example, can re-establish the normal thickness and length of teeth while improving their color and giving you a more youthful appearance.

If you have any questions about tooth wear, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about tooth wear by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How And Why Teeth Wear.”


By Drake Tollefson DDS
January 07, 2013
Category: Dental Procedures
SealYourChildrensTeethfromDecay

Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could put up a protective shield to guard your children's teeth from decay? Think of the time and money you would save, not to mention the pain your children would avoid. Well, it turns out that you can put up such a protective shield — or at least, we, your dental professionals, can.

The natural protective mineral coating (the enamel) of a child's new teeth is more permeable to the acids that dissolve minerals and cause decay, so the new teeth are more vulnerable to tooth decay than mature teeth are. As a tooth's enamel matures it becomes more resistant and stronger. Thus it is important to protect the surfaces of the new teeth when they erupt (grow up through the child's gums).

The back teeth, particularly, often erupt with deep grooves in them. The backs of the top front teeth may also have such grooves, which dentists call “pits and fissures.” When the grooves are deep, they are hard to keep clean. Toothbrush bristles may not be able to reach to the bottoms of the grooves; and bacteria may gather in them, releasing acid byproducts that dissolve tooth enamel and start forming decay.

Dental sealants are among the preventive options we have in the war against decay in your child's new teeth. Regular tooth brushing and flossing, regular dental visits, application of fluoride, and low sugar consumption are also important in decay prevention techniques.

Sealants are protective coatings placed in the tiny pits and fissures to seal them off from bacterial attack. Some dentists routinely seal all permanent molar teeth and many primary (baby) molar teeth soon after they erupt.

Some dentists use sealants only when an examination shows that decay is just starting or very likely to start in a particular tooth. In such cases a minimal amount of tooth enamel is removed to eliminate any decay, and a mini-resin, invisible filling is applied.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about dental sealants for your children. You can learn more about them by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sealants for Children.”


By Drake Tollefson DDS
January 05, 2013
Category: Oral Health
FAQWhatYouNeedtoKnowAboutYourChildsBabyTeeth

Losing a baby tooth is an important milestone in a child's life. Be sure to take a photo of that toothless smile — it will be something you treasure as your child grows up.

You may be wondering what is really happening when a baby tooth becomes loose and eventually falls or is pulled out. Read on for some answers.

What are baby teeth?
An infant's teeth begin to form before birth, by the fifth to sixth week after conception. When the baby is born, 20 primary (baby) teeth are almost completely formed inside the jaws. These first teeth, also called deciduous teeth, begin to erupt through the gums at about the time the baby begins to eat solid food. The front teeth (incisors) are usually the first to come in, at age six months to a year.

Why are they called deciduous teeth?
Deciduous means “falling off at maturity.” The same term refers to trees that lose their leaves every fall. In many mammals, including humans, it refers to the first teeth, which need to come out to make room for the larger permanent teeth to come in.

What causes the deciduous teeth to become loose?
While your child is using his primary teeth to bite and chew, his adult (permanent) teeth are quietly growing inside his jawbone. Starting with tooth “germs” (the word comes from germination, meaning the start of growth), the top part of each tooth, called the crown, grows first. Then the bottom part, or root, begins to grow and elongate. As the roots develop and the permanent teeth take up more room in the child's jaw, they begin to push against the baby teeth. This causes the roots of the baby teeth to melt away or resorb. Eventually little or nothing is left to hold the baby teeth inside the child's gums, they become wiggly, and finally they can easily be pulled out. This may leave a little bleeding gum tissue that quickly heals.

What should you watch for in the transition from primary to permanent teeth?
As the permanent teeth erupt (push through the gums and become visible), you may notice that they are too crowded, have too much space between them, or are crooked. It's a good idea to have an orthodontic (from ortho, meaning straight and dont, meaning tooth) evaluation at age five to seven. Watch to see that the baby teeth are lost in the right sequence. If one is lost prematurely, for example from decay, make sure that the space that it occupied is maintained to make room for the adult tooth that will replace it. We can help you with this.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss whether your child's baby teeth are being lost in the right sequence and if the adult teeth are coming in correctly. For more information see the Dear Doctor magazine article “Losing a Baby Tooth.”