Posts for: February, 2014
Dentists go to great lengths to save an adult permanent tooth. Even though restoration technology is incredibly advanced, none can completely replace the biological function of natural teeth. Treating a diseased tooth to preserve it is a high priority in dentistry.
It would seem, though, that a child’s primary (baby) tooth might not warrant the same treatment. Since the tooth eventually detaches from the jaw to make way for a permanent tooth, why save it?
It is worth the effort, because primary teeth provide more than a chewing function: they also serve as guides for their permanent successors. When they’re lost prematurely, the permanent teeth may not come in correctly, leading to a malocclusion (poor bite). Other areas of development, like speech and dental bone growth, may suffer as well from the longer time gap between the premature loss and the permanent tooth eruption.
Saving an infected primary tooth should be considered, especially if significant time remains in its lifespan. Due to differences between primary and permanent teeth, though, the treatment approach isn’t the same. For example, the body gradually absorbs the roots of a primary tooth (a process called resorption) as the permanent tooth beneath erupts applying pressure to the primary roots (this is what enables its eventual detachment). Dentists must factor this process into their diagnosis and treatment plan for a primary tooth.
The level of treatment may vary depending on how deep the infection has advanced. If the decay is limited to the tooth’s outer layers and only partially affects the pulp, the innermost layer of the tooth, a dentist may remove as much soft decay as possible, apply an antibacterial agent for any remaining hardened infection, and then restore the tooth with filling materials.
For deeper infection, the dentist may remove some or all of the pulp, disinfect and clean the area, and then fill and seal the empty space with a filling. A filling material like zinc oxide/eugenol paste should be used that’s capable of resorption by the body to coincide with the natural root resorption. After treatment, the tooth should continue to be monitored for changes in appearance or gum swelling, just in case the infection returns or advances.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, treating a primary tooth as you would its successor is worth the effort. Your child will reap the health benefits, both now and long after the primary tooth is gone.
If you would like more information on endodontic treatment for children, 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 “Root Canal Treatment for Children’s Teeth.”
“Break a leg” is a well-known theatrical expression for wishing good luck to an actor about to go on stage. Singers should have one of their own…“Chip a tooth”! Apparently collisions between microphones and pearly whites are an occupational hazard for crooners. Taylor Swift became one of the latest casualties during a concert in Pittsburgh while belting out her hit “I Knew You Were Trouble.” The consummate professional, she didn’t miss a beat and kept on singing despite seeing a tooth chip hit the floor.
After all, while chipping a tooth is an inconvenience, it’s not a permanent smile wrecker. Modern dentistry offers several options for restoring a damaged tooth to its original symmetry and luster, or even better!
Dental cosmetic bonding is the quickest and lowest-cost option to repair a chip. This involves application of a composite filling material that is colored and shaped to match the original tooth. Bonding material can be used to replace the lost portion of tooth or to seamlessly reattach the lost portion if it has been preserved and is otherwise undamaged. Little to no removal of existing tooth surface is needed.
A veneer can be used for slightly larger areas or discolored teeth. This is a thin, custom-made shell placed on the front of the tooth to give it a new “face.” Some removal of existing tooth surface may be necessary to fit a veneer so it is flush with the surfaces of surrounding intact teeth.
When a relatively large portion of the tooth is missing, a crown is often the better choice. It fully encases the visible portion of the remaining tooth above the gum line and is shaped and sized to match the original. It can be made of tooth-colored porcelain fused to metal crowns or all-ceramic (optimal for highly visible areas). A small amount of the existing tooth surface will be removed to allow the crown to fit over it.
If you would like more information about repairing a chipped tooth, 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 “Artistic Repair of Front Teeth With Composite Resin.”