Don't be fooled! Although very tasty, frequent consumption of juices can heighten the risk for cavities!

Don’t be fooled! Although very tasty, frequent consumption of juices can heighten the risk for cavities!

The visible part of the tooth, known as a crown, is coated with a thin, translucent but tough shell called enamel. This shell does not provide the tooth color, but it can be stained from coffee, tea, soda, tobacco products, red wine and fruit juices. These stains, however, can be easily removed during routine, twice-yearly dental cleanings. A bigger threat to the protective shell is erosion, which can have many causes. When erosion happens, tooth enamel repair must be performed.

The purpose of this hard outer layer is to protect the teeth from daily wear caused by chewing, biting or grinding. It also provides insulation for the teeth from extreme hot or cold temperatures as well as from harmful chemicals. Though this protector is tough, it can still become permanently damaged by cracking and chipping. It cannot heal itself since it has no living cells.

Erosion of the tooth’s surface can be caused by diet, medicine, illnesses and other medical conditions, genetics and environmental factors. Drinking too many sugary, carbonated drinks allows the high level of acids in these drinks to begin the erosion process. Drinking fruit juices and eating a diet high in sugary and starchy foods also has the same effect. Some medications, such as aspirin, can lead to erosion. Medical conditions, such as Acid Reflux Disease, other gastrointestinal conditions, bulimia and even dry mouth can harm the surface of the teeth. Some genetic birth defects also lend themselves to increased erosion.

The environmental factors that can cause damage to the teeth include attrition, or the friction between teeth as they grind or clamp together, as well as abrasion, which is caused by brushing the teeth too hard, improperly flossing, biting on hard surfaces such as pens and glass bottles, and using tobacco products. Abfractions, which are fractures on the teeth as a result of stress, and corrosion, which is caused by the acidic makeup of certain products, also can contribute to overall erosion.

Treatment of erosion actually begins with prevention. To prevent further damage to the shell, an oral hygiene routine that includes brushing after every meal and flossing daily must be adopted. Following a schedule of twice-yearly visits for dental cleanups is vital. A diet that avoids foods and drinks with high acidic contents can also help with prevention. Even chewing sugar-free gum between meals and monitoring the content of snacks as well as making sure to rinse the mouth after eating can all be part of a prevention plan.

When actual restoration is needed, there are a few options available for tooth enamel repair. To treat erosion that has been caught early, a dentist might choose to use some bonding to protect the crowns and improve the cosmetic appearance of the patient. If the damage to the tooth’s surface is more extensive, however, a dentist can use a crown to cover the tooth and stop further decay. Sometimes, the dentist also has to put in a filling or even perform a root canal, if the problem has become too invasive.

A tooth removal is not as painful as many patients perceive it to be.

A tooth removal is not as painful as many patients perceive it to be.

An extraction, or getting a tooth pulled, is a procedure that many patients prefer over getting a root canal. However, an extraction is considered oral surgery and has some risks for possible complications. Following the indications to prepare for the procedure and for the aftercare helps patients to have successful extractions.

One of the most common reasons for getting a tooth pulled is an impacted tooth. An impacted tooth happens when the tooth cannot grow into the correct position due to crowded teeth blocking the space or gum tissue or bone getting in the way. Extractions are often done in conjunction with orthodontic treatment for patients who have crowded teeth. A tooth is pulled to make space so that the teeth can be aligned with the use of braces.

Another common reason for extraction is an extremely damaged tooth. If decay or trauma have affected the tooth too much, the dentist might feel the best course of action is to remove it.

Some patients develop infections that make it necessary to have an extraction because the infection can spread. Likewise, patients who have weaker immune systems from conditions such as cancer might need to have a tooth removed if there is a risk of an infection. Removing a tooth is sometimes the only option for patients who have advanced gum disease that loosens teeth and weakens the bone around the teeth.

Before the extraction, a dentist or oral surgeon takes the patient’s complete medical and dental history, including any conditions the patient suffers from and medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, that the patient takes. X-rays will also be taken to analyze the tooth. Sometimes, the dentist will prescribe antibiotics before the extraction to prevent infection from developing. There are some medications, such as aspirin, that the patient must stop taking a few days before the extraction to prevent complications.

Depending on the complexity of the removal, the patient will either get a local anesthetic or a general deep anesthetic to have the tooth removed. For impacted teeth, the dentist has to cut through bone and gum tissue and then pull it, as gently as possible from its location. Some teeth need to be pulled in various pieces.

A blood clot should form in the space left by the tooth. This blood becomes bone, and gum tissue should grow over it and cover it. The dentist covers the space with a roll of gauze so that the patient can bite down gently against it to stop the blood flow and encourage the clot to form. Sometimes the blood clot does not form properly, and a condition called dry socket develops, which can lead to infection since the bone under the socket is exposed to food debris. This can prevent proper healing.

After getting a tooth pulled, patients should give themselves time to rest, should eat soft food on the side opposite the extraction and should not drink from a straw for a few days. Though the actual wound closes in about two weeks, complete healing is a process that takes about three to six months.

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