Posts for: October, 2014
If you have osteoporosis, one of the drugs you may be taking is alendronate, more commonly known by the brand name Fosamax®. Alendronate is a member of the bisphosphonate drug family, which inhibit bone resorption (the loss of bone mass). While an effective treatment of osteoporosis, alendronate may cause an opposite side effect in other areas of the body, the inhibition of new bone growth. This effect on the jaw in particular could result in an adverse reaction after dental surgery.
The main concern is a condition called osteonecrosis, or literally “bone death.” Bone tissue normally goes through a cycle of resorption (the dissolving of bone tissue) and new growth to replace the cells that have been lost through resorption. Osteonecrosis disrupts the growth phase so that the bone doesn’t recover properly after resorption. This results in the bone becoming weaker and less dense.
There have been a number of cases of increased osteonecrosis in patients on alendronate after experiencing trauma to the mouth. This includes dental surgery, particularly tooth extractions. In addition, patients with certain risk factors like diabetes, tobacco use or corticosteroid therapy appear more vulnerable to osteonecrosis.
Although the risk of osteonecrosis after dental surgery is small, many dentists recommend stopping the use of alendronate for three months before the procedure if you’ve been taking the drug for more than three years. This recommendation is based on a number of studies that seem to indicate three or more years of bisphosphonates therapy makes patients especially vulnerable to osteonecrosis. These studies also indicate stopping the therapy for three months significantly reduces the risk of developing the condition.
There’s still much to be learned about this link between alendronate therapy and dental health. It’s a good idea, then, to let us know what medications you’re taking (especially bisphosphonates) whenever you visit us for an exam. Knowing all your medications will help us develop the safest and most effective treatment plan for your dental care.
If you would like more information on bisphosphonates and their effect on oral health, 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 “Fosamax and Surgery.”
Periodontal (gum) disease is an infectious condition that if left untreated could lead to tooth loss. While gum disease is primarily caused by a thin layer of bacterial plaque and calculus left on the teeth due to poor hygiene, you may also have extenuating factors that may make you more susceptible to the disease.
Gum disease is actually a group of infectious diseases in which some forms are more difficult to control than others. All these forms arise from interactions between the bacteria in the dental plaque and your body’s immune system. Depending on both your body’s individual response and the disease form, your resistance to the resulting bacterial infection may be low.
That low resistance to certain strains of bacteria may be genetic — something you’ve inherited from your parents. Your stress level, particularly when it’s high, can also diminish your body’s ability to resist disease. There are also numerous strains of bacteria that could lead to gum disease — your body may not be able to effectively resist the particular “mix” of strains contained in your dental plaque.
Aside from lifestyle issues like stress or oral hygiene, we can at least test and verify any susceptibility you may have due to uncontrollable factors like genetics or the particular bacterial makeup within your plaque. Unfortunately, a minority of people will continue to deal with gum disease even after treatment and adopting a more effective hygiene regimen. Although we can’t cure the disease, we can certainly control it with regular monitoring and treatment when necessary.
The key is to adopt a long-term strategy that will seek to preserve the teeth for as long as possible. In some cases, the best treatment approach is to prolong the life of the affected teeth for as long as possible to give you time to prepare emotionally and financially for eventual tooth replacement.
Indeed, any patient experiencing some form of gum disease should seek professional treatment, followed by a daily oral hygiene program and regular checkups and office cleanings. Taking the right steps in consultation with your dentist will assure you’ll preserve your teeth for as long as possible.
If you would like more information on treatment for periodontal 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) Treatment and Expectations.”
If there was an “Unsung Hero” award for dental procedures, the root canal treatment would win hands-down. Much aligned in popular culture, today’s root canal treatment is actually a valuable tool for saving teeth that would otherwise be lost. And contrary to popular belief, root canal treatments don’t cause pain — they relieve it.
To help you understand its true worth, here are some common questions and answers about the root canal treatment.
What problem does a root canal treatment fix?
A root canal treatment stops a bacterial infection that has invaded the innermost part of a tooth — the pulp — and is advancing toward the end of the root through small passageways known as root canals. Most people first notice the problem as a sharp pain in the affected tooth that may suddenly dissipate in a few days. The infection has attacked the inner pulp tissue, rich in nerve fibers; when the nerve fibers die they stop sending pain signals. The infection, however, hasn’t died: as it advances, you may then begin to experience pain when you bite down or when you encounter hot foods. You may also notice tenderness and swelling in nearby gums.
How does the procedure stop the infection?
A root canal treatment removes all the infected or dead tissue and cleanses the pulp chamber. We enter the pulp chamber through a small access hole created in the tooth’s biting surface. After tissue removal, we then “shape” and prepare the empty chamber and root canals (often with the aid of microscopic equipment) to be filled with a special filling. After filling, the tooth is then sealed to prevent re-infection (most often, we need to install a permanent crown at a subsequent visit for maximum protection).
How much pain can I expect during and after the procedure?
During the procedure, none — the tooth and surrounding gums are fully anesthetized before we begin the procedure. Afterward, you may experience mild discomfort for a few days that can be relieved with over-the-counter medications like aspirin or ibuprofen.
What’s the ultimate value for a root canal treatment?
The procedure can save a tooth severely damaged by the infection. Even covered by an artificial crown, a living tooth continuing to exist and function normally within the mouth is usually more conducive for optimum oral health than an artificial tooth replacement.
If you would like more information on root canal treatments, 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 “Common Concerns About Root Canal Treatment.”