Posts for: February, 2018
Did you see the move Cast Away starring Tom Hanks? If so, you probably remember the scene where Hanks, stranded on a remote island, knocks out his own abscessed tooth — with an ice skate, no less — to stop the pain. Recently, Dear Doctor TV interviewed Gary Archer, the dental technician who created that special effect and many others.
“They wanted to have an abscess above the tooth with all sorts of gunk and pus and stuff coming out of it,” Archer explained. “I met with Tom and I took impressions [of his mouth] and we came up with this wonderful little piece. It just slipped over his own natural teeth.” The actor could flick it out with his lower tooth when the time was right during the scene. It ended up looking so real that, as Archer said, “it was not for the easily squeamish!”
That’s for sure. But neither is a real abscess, which is an infection that becomes sealed off beneath the gum line. An abscess may result from a trapped piece of food, uncontrolled periodontal (gum) disease, or even an infection deep inside a tooth that has spread to adjacent periodontal tissues. In any case, the condition can cause intense pain due to the pressure that builds up in the pus-filled sac. Prompt treatment is required to relieve the pain, keep the infection from spreading to other areas of the face (or even elsewhere in the body), and prevent tooth loss.
Treatment involves draining the abscess, which usually stops the pain immediately, and then controlling the infection and removing its cause. This may require antibiotics and any of several in-office dental procedures, including gum surgery, a root canal, or a tooth extraction. But if you do have a tooth that can’t be saved, we promise we won’t remove it with an ice skate!
The best way to prevent an abscess from forming in the first place is to practice conscientious oral hygiene. By brushing your teeth twice each day for two minutes, and flossing at least once a day, you will go a long way towards keeping harmful oral bacteria from thriving in your mouth.
If you have any questions about gum disease or abscesses, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Periodontal (Gum) Abscesses” and “Confusing Tooth Pain.”
The red, scaly rash suddenly appearing on your face doesn’t cause you much physical discomfort, but it’s still embarrassing. And to make matters worse treating it as you would other skin ailments seems to make it worse.
Your ailment might be a particular skin condition known as peri-oral dermatitis. Although its overall occurrence is fairly low (1% or less of the population worldwide) it seems to be more prevalent in industrialized countries like the United States, predominantly among women ages 20-45.
Peri-oral dermatitis can appear on the skin as a rash of small red bumps, pimples or blisters. You usually don’t feel anything but some patients can have occasional stinging, itching or burning sensations. It’s often misidentified as other types of skin rashes, which can be an issue when it comes to treatment.
Steroid-based ointments that work well with other skin ailments could have the opposite effect with peri-oral dermatitis. If you’re using that kind of cream out of your medicine cabinet, your rash may look better initially because the steroid constricts the tiny blood vessels in the skin. But the reduction in redness won’t last as the steroid tends to suppress the skin’s natural healing capacity with continued use.
The best treatment for peri-oral dermatitis is to first stop using any topical steroid ointments, including other-the-counter hydrocortisone, and any other medications, lotions or creams on it. Instead, wash your skin with a mild soap. Although the rash may flare up initially, it should begin to subside after a few days.
A physician can further treat it with antibiotic lotions typically containing Clindamycin or Metronidazole, or a non-prescription, anti-itch lotion for a less severe case. For many this clears up the condition long-term, but there’s always the possibility of relapse. A repeat of this treatment is usually effective.
Tell your dentist if you have recurring bouts of a rash that match these descriptions. More than likely you’ll be referred to a dermatologist for treatment. With the right attention—and avoiding the wrong treatment ointment—you’ll be able to say goodbye to this annoying and embarrassing rash.
A lot of time and effort goes into straightening your smile. But there’s a possibility it might not stay that way—and all that hard work could be lost. The same natural mechanism that enables your teeth to move with braces could cause them to revert to their old, undesirable positions.
So for a little while (or longer for some people) you’ll need to wear a retainer, an appliance designed to keep or “retain” your teeth where they are now. And while the removable type is perhaps the best known, there’s at least one other choice you might want to consider: a bonded retainer.
Just as its name implies, this retainer consists of a thin metal wire bonded to the back of the teeth with a composite material. Unlike the removable appliance, a bonded retainer is fixed and can only be removed by an orthodontist.
Bonded retainers have several advantages. Perhaps the most important one is cosmetic—unlike the removable version, others can’t see a bonded retainer since it’s hidden behind the teeth. There’s also no keeping up with it—or losing it—since it’s fixed in place, which might be helpful with some younger patients who need reminding about keeping their retainer in their mouth.
There are, however, a few disadvantages. It’s much harder to floss with a bonded retainer, which could increase the risks of dental disease. It’s also possible for it to break, in which case it will need to be repaired by an orthodontist and as soon as possible. Without it in place for any length of time the teeth could move out of alignment.
If you or a family member is about to have braces removed, you’ll soon need to make a decision on which retainer to use. We’ll discuss these options with you and help you choose the one—removable or bonded—that’s right for you.
If you would like more information on bonded retainers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor article “Bonded Retainers: What are the Pros and Cons?”