My Blog

Posts for category: Dental Procedures

By Jeannie Chung, DDS, MS, Inc. Specialist in Periodontics
January 18, 2019
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: gum disease  
AreLasersforGumDiseaseTreatmentinOurFuture

One of the most important revolutions in healthcare in recent decades is the increasing use of lasers. Now, laser technology is making a showing in dental care for the treatment of periodontal (gum) disease.

Lasers (an acronym for "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation") narrowly focus and amplify light within a small area. First developed in the early 1960s, laser technology rapidly advanced in the ensuing decades with more compact and precise devices that were eventually safe and effective for many types of medical procedures. Its remarkable features are now available for the primary focus of gum disease treatment—removing bacterial plaque.

Plaque is a thin, built-up film of bacteria and food particles on tooth and gum surfaces that serves as a haven for the bacteria that cause gum disease. The continuing presence of plaque and calculus (tartar) enables the infection to thrive and advance within the gum tissues, ultimately damaging them along with supporting bone. As the tissues weaken and bone volume diminishes, the teeth are at greater risk for loss.

It's necessary, therefore, first and foremost to remove all detectable plaque and calculus to stop the infection. This is traditionally done with special hand tools called scalers used to manually remove plaque, or with ultrasonic equipment that vibrates plaque loose to be flushed away with water. These procedures can take numerous sessions and may result in some minor post-procedural discomfort and bleeding during the cleaning.

But lasers specifically designed for plaque removal can minimize tissue damage and resulting discomfort. Because the particular laser light used reacts only with plaque and diseased tissue, it can remove them without disturbing nearby healthy tissue usually more efficiently than traditional scaling. Dentists who've used the technology frequently report less bleeding and higher patient satisfaction.

But before lasers for gum disease treatment are widely adopted, the procedure must undergo further scrutiny. Reports from dentists notwithstanding, not enough research studies have been performed to date that meet the necessary scientific criteria. But if the evidence so far from the field holds up, it's quite possible lasers will one day become a regular part of dental practice for treating gum disease.

If you would like more information on treating gum disease, 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 “Lasers Versus Traditional Cleanings for Treating Gum Disease.”

By Jeannie Chung, DDS, MS, Inc. Specialist in Periodontics
January 08, 2019
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: gummy smile  
ImprovingaGummySmileDependsonitsCause

A “gummy” smile, in which the upper gums are too prominent, is a common condition. There are several causes for gummy smiles — determining which one is the first step to having your appearance changed.

Although perceptions vary from person to person, most dentists agree a gummy smile shows 4 mm or more of gum tissue, and the amount is out of proportion with the length of the crown (the visible tooth). Teeth normally erupt through the gums during childhood and continue development until early adulthood, shrinking back from the tooth until stabilizing in place.

This typically produces a crown length of about 10 mm, with a “width to length” ratio of about 75-85%. But variations can produce differences in the relationship between teeth and gums and the width to length ratio of the teeth. The teeth may appear shorter and the gums more prominent. Worn teeth, caused by aging or grinding habits, may also appear shorter.

If tooth to gum proportionality is normal, then the cause may be upper lip movement. When we smile, muscles cause our lips to retract 6-8 mm from the lip’s resting position. If the amount of movement is greater (meaning the lip is hypermobile), it may show too much of the gums. The upper jaw can also extend too far forward and cause the gums to appear too prominent.

There are a number of ways to improve gummy smiles, depending on the cause. Periodontal plastic surgery known as crown lengthening removes and reshapes excess gum tissue to reveal more of the tooth. Lip hypermobility can be reduced with Botox injections (to paralyze the muscles) or in some cases with surgery to reposition the muscle attachments. Orthognathic surgery can be used to surgically reposition an overextended upper jaw. Other cosmetic enhancements such as orthodontics, bonding or porcelain restorations can also prove effective.

The first step is to obtain an accurate diagnosis for your gummy smile. From there, we can devise the best treatment approach to bring your smile back into a more attractive proportion.

If you would like more information on minimizing a gummy smile, 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 “Gummy Smiles.”

By Jeannie Chung, DDS, MS, Inc. Specialist in Periodontics
December 29, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
DrTravisStorkIfOnlyIdWornAMouthguard

If we could go back in time, we all probably have a few things we wish we could change. Recently, Dr. Travis Stork, emergency room physician and host of the syndicated TV show The Doctors, shared one of his do-over dreams with Dear Doctor magazine: “If I [could have] gone back and told myself as a teenager what to do, I would have worn a mouthguard, not only to protect my teeth but also to help potentially reduce risk of concussion.”

What prompted this wish? The fact that as a teenage basketball player, Stork received an elbow to the mouth that caused his two front teeth to be knocked out of place. The teeth were put back in position, but they soon became darker and began to hurt. Eventually, both were successfully restored with dental crowns. Still, it was a painful (and costly) injury — and one that could have been avoided.

You might not realize it, but when it comes to dental injuries, basketball ranks among the riskier sports. Yet it’s far from the only one. In fact, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), there are some two dozen others — including baseball, hockey, surfing and bicycling — that carry a heightened risk of dental injury. Whenever you’re playing those sports, the ADA recommends you wear a high-quality mouth guard.

Mouthguards have come a long way since they were introduced as protective equipment for boxers in the early 1900’s. Today, three different types are widely available: stock “off-the-shelf” types that come in just a few sizes; mouth-formed “boil-and-bite” types that you adapt to the general contours of your mouth; and custom-made high-quality mouthguards that are made just for you at the dental office.

Of all three types, the dentist-made mouthguards are consistently found to be the most comfortable and best-fitting, and the ones that offer your teeth the greatest protection. What’s more, recent studies suggest that custom-fabricated mouthguards can provide an additional defense against concussion — in fact, they are twice as effective as the other types. That’s why you’ll see more and more professional athletes (and plenty of amateurs as well) sporting custom-made mouthguards at games and practices.

“I would have saved myself a lot of dental heartache if I had worn a mouthguard,” noted Dr. Stork. So take his advice: Wear a mouthguard whenever you play sports — unless you’d like to meet him (or one of his medical colleagues) in a professional capacity…

If you would like more information about mouthguards, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Athletic Mouthguards.”

By Jeannie Chung, DDS, MS, Inc. Specialist in Periodontics
December 09, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: medication  
MildPainRelieversmaybeallyouneedforDiscomfortafterDentalWork

For most dental procedures you’re usually back to your regular routine in no more than a day or two (or even hours) afterward. For the most part, the mouth heals rather quickly.

But there may still be a short period of discomfort after tooth extraction, gum surgery or similar invasive procedures. The good news is you will most likely have no need for strong narcotic painkillers — milder, over-the-counter pain relievers are usually sufficient to manage your discomfort.

The most common of these are known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This group of pain relievers — which include aspirin and ibuprofen — block the release of substances in the body known as prostaglandins that stimulate inflammation that increases pain in damaged tissues. They’re much preferred for mild to moderate pain because they don’t have the side effects of steroids or narcotics like morphine or codeine. They also tend to be less costly than these other prescription drugs.

But while they’re reasonably safe, they can cause problems if you exceed the recommended dosage or use them for prolonged periods. Their blockage of certain chemicals reduces the clotting mechanism in blood leading to a blood-thinning effect. Not only will this increase bleeding, it can also damage the stomach lining and cause ulcers if used over a period of weeks. Improper dosage of NSAIDs has also been linked to miscarriages and repeat heart attacks, which is why they’re not recommended for use during pregnancy or with patients with a history of heart or intestinal problems.

But if taken as directed by your physician or dentist — usually no more than 2,400 milligrams a day and only for a few days — such side effects are quite rare. The benefit is much more common: about five hours of pain relief from a single dose for most people. With the help of ibuprofen or similar drugs, you’ll be on your feet after your dental work in no time. 

If you would like more information on managing pain after a procedure, 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 “Treating Pain with Ibuprofen.”

By Jeannie Chung, DDS, MS, Inc. Specialist in Periodontics
November 29, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: gum surgery  
GumSurgeryCanImproveYourSmileandSaveYourTeeth

While the term “plastic surgery” might bring to mind face lifts or tummy tucks, not all procedures in this particular surgical field are strictly cosmetic. Some can make a big difference in a person’s health.

One example is periodontal plastic surgery, which corrects gum tissue loss around the teeth. Although these procedures can indeed improve appearance, they more importantly help save teeth.

Gum loss is most often a consequence of periodontal (gum) disease, a bacterial infection arising from a thin film of food particles on the teeth called dental plaque. As the disease weakens the gums’ attachment to teeth, they shrink back or recede, exposing the area around the roots. Without the protective cover the gums provide the roots, they become more susceptible to decay.

In milder cases of gum recession, treating the infection often results in the gums regaining their normal attachment to teeth. But with more advanced recession, natural gum healing may not be enough to reverse it. For such situations grafting donor tissue to the recessed area can help stimulate new tissue growth.

While gum tissue grafts can come from an animal or other human, the most likely source is from the person themselves. In one type of procedure, free gingival grafting, the surgeon locates and completely removes (or “frees”) a thin layer of skin resembling gum tissue, typically from the roof of the mouth, shapes it and then transplants it by suturing it to the recession site. Both donor and recipient sites heal at about the same rate in two to three weeks.

Another technique is known as connective tissue grafting. In this procedure the surgeon partially removes the donor tissue from its site while leaving a portion containing blood vessels intact. The palatal tissue is still used and transported to fit beneath the tissue that’s still attached to the blood supply. This connective tissue graft is then positioned and sutured to the recipient site while still maintaining its blood supply connection at the donor site. Maintaining this connection facilitates healing and increases the chances the graft will “take” and become firmly attached to the new site.

Grafting procedures require advanced techniques and skills. But with them we may be able to restore gum attachment to teeth with an impact on appearance and dental health that’s well worth the effort.

If you would like more information on treating gum disease, 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.”