Posts for: October, 2013
The lengths that some comedians will go to for a laugh! Actor Ed Helms, as dentist Stu Price, pulled out his own tooth in the movie The Hangover. Or did he? Turns out Helms really is missing a tooth, which never grew in. When he was in his late teens, he received a dental implant to make his smile look completely natural.
Helms told People magazine he wasn't exactly eager to remove the implant crown that had served him so well for almost 20 years, but there was no better way to do the famous tooth-pulling scene.
“We started to do different tests with prosthetics and blacking it out and nothing worked,” Helms told the magazine. Helms' dentist said it would be okay to take the implant crown out. “My dentist was really into it,” Helms said. The rest is movie history!
Congenitally missing (“con” – together with; “genital” – relating to birth) teeth are inherited and actually quite common. More than 20% of people lack one or more wisdom teeth, for example. These would not usually be replaced if missing (in fact, wisdom teeth are often removed) but it's a more serious issue when the missing tooth is in the front of the mouth — and not just for aesthetic reasons.
When a particular type of tooth is missing, it disrupts the pattern and function of the teeth. If left alone, sometimes the existing teeth will shift to close the gap. It's like removing a brick from an arch — the rest of the bricks would fall together in a different formation (or collapse entirely). And when upper and lower teeth don't come together properly, they can't function well.
The best treatment for this type of situation is the one Ed Helms had: a dental implant. They look and function like real teeth and do not attach to or damage adjacent teeth as other tooth-replacement options might.
It is important that a child with a congenitally missing tooth wait until jaw growth is complete — different for every person but usually in the late teens — before getting an implant. Otherwise, the artificial tooth might eventually appear too short when the person has stopped growing. In the meantime, there are temporary tooth replacements that can be made.
If you would like more information about options for congenitally missing teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “When Permanent Teeth Don't Grow.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Teenagers & Dental Implants.”
If you have recently noticed swelling, bleeding or pain in your gums, you may have developed a gum abscess. It's the result of periodontal disease, an infection in the gum tissue caused by bacterial plaque that has adhered to the teeth. It's important in the short term to treat the abscess, and in the long-term the underlying gum disease for the survival of the affected tooth and your overall health.
A gum abscess is a sac filled with infection that has developed between the tooth and gum. Besides swelling, you may also notice tenderness when you bite down on a tooth or feel that the tooth is loose. If the abscess originates from a root canal infection it tends to be much more painful, and the pain will seem generalized rather than from a specific tooth.
The first step in treatment is to drain the abscess. We would numb the area with a local anesthetic and then allow the infection to drain. After drainage we would clean and irrigate the infected root surfaces to remove any noticeable bacterial plaque, and possibly prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling and pain. The drained abscess should heal in a few days to a week.
The next step is to treat the underlying cause of the abscess. Depending on what we find in our examination, this can include root planing and scaling (deep plaque and tartar removal), or a root canal treatment where the infected pulp within the root canal is removed, and the canal is then cleaned, filled and sealed.
It's also a good idea for patients with gum disease to have a thorough health checkup. It's possible that other general health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease may be contributing to the gum disease, and vice-versa.
Treating a gum abscess and the underlying cause is about more than relieving pain or discomfort — you're also protecting your dental and general health.
If you would like more information on the treatment of abscesses or 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 (Gum) Abscesses.”