My Blog

Posts for: February, 2018

By Rick K. Harrison, DMD, PA
February 26, 2018
Category: Oral Health
Tags: toothache  
WhatsCausingYourThrobbingToothache

There are few more painful experiences than a toothache. You can't ignore it: it's as if your mouth is screaming for relief.

But while the throbbing pain can tell you something's wrong, it may not be clear exactly what's wrong. There's more than one possibility — it could be with the tooth itself, the gums around the tooth or a combination of both.

In the first case, a toothache could be a sign of severe tooth decay within the tooth's innermost layer, the pulp. The pain you feel comes from the nerves within the pulp under attack from the infection.

For this level of decay there's one primary way to save the tooth and stop the pain: a root canal treatment. In this procedure we remove all the infected and dead tissue from the pulp and fill the empty chamber and root canals with a special filling. We then seal and crown the tooth to prevent further infection.

Another source of toothache happens when your gums have become painfully inflamed due to infection. This is usually caused by periodontal (gum) disease, triggered by a thin film of bacteria and food particles on tooth surfaces known as plaque. In this case, we must remove all plaque and calculus (hardened plaque deposits) from tooth and gum surfaces, including on the roots. Your gums can then heal and return to health.

But your situation could be more complex. Untreated tooth decay can advance to the roots and subsequently infect the gums. Likewise advanced gum disease can pass the infection from the gums to the root and into the pulp.  For such cases you may need a specialist, either an endodontist specializing in root canal issues or a periodontist specializing in the gums.  They can better diagnose the origin and extent of the problem and offer advanced techniques and treatments to deal with it.

It's possible in these more complex situations your tooth has become diseased beyond repair and must be replaced. It's important, then, that you see us if you experience any significant tooth pain, even if it seems to go away. The sooner we diagnose and begin treating the cause of your pain, the better your chances of regaining your dental health.

If you would like more information on treating dental 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 “Confusing Tooth Pain.”


By Rick K. Harrison, DMD, PA
February 18, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: impacted teeth  
YourChildsImpactedFrontTeethcanbeSaved-butDontWaittooLong

Children's permanent teeth normally erupt over several years after first forming below the gum line. All their permanent teeth should come in by the time they reach early adolescence.

Unfortunately, this process doesn't always happen as it should. If the erupting teeth become crowded due to a poor bite (malocclusion), teeth still to come in may not have enough room to fully erupt. They become impacted, a condition in which the visible crown remains partially or completely submerged below the gum line.

Impacted teeth create consequences for other teeth and dental health overall. They more readily cause abscesses (a localized infection within the gum tissue) and can damage the roots of nearby teeth. Impacted front canine (eye) teeth can interfere with bite function and their visual absence mars an otherwise attractive smile.

If your child's canine teeth have failed to erupt properly, there is a way to help them fully come in if you act before their mouth structure fully matures. The first step is an orthodontic evaluation of their entire bite. This will determine if there's enough space to move other teeth to make room for the impacted canines.

If so, we would then find the exact position of the impacted teeth using x-rays and possibly cone beam CT scanning for a detailed three-dimensional image. The teeth could be in a variety of positions, such as angled toward the roof of the mouth or cheek or buried high in the jawbone. If the teeth are too far out of position the best course of action may be to remove them and replace them later with a dental implant.

If the impacted teeth, though, are in a feasible position for retrieval, we first expose each tooth through the gums with a minor surgical procedure and bond a small bracket to it. We then attach a small gold chain to the bracket that loops over an orthodontic appliance attached to other teeth. The appliance will exert pressure over several months to pull the tooth into proper position.

If successful, your child will gain the use of these important teeth and a more attractive appearance. But don't delay — this desired outcome will become much harder if not impossible to attain as their teeth and jaws continue to develop.

If you would like more information on treating impacted teeth, 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 “Exposing Impacted Canines.”


By Rick K. Harrison, DMD, PA
February 03, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants   bone graft  
NotEnoughBoneSupportforanImplantHeresaWaytoRebuildIt

Due to financial circumstances, people often have a lost tooth restored with a removable partial denture, an effective appliance that restores function and a degree of aesthetic appearance. Later, though, they may want to improve both function and appearance with a dental implant.

If this describes you, you’re making a great choice. Dental implants are the closest technology we have to a natural tooth. But there may be a roadblock to your implant, especially if a long time has passed since your tooth loss—there may not be enough bone at the site to place an implant.

The heart of an implant is a titanium metal post surgically imbedded in the jawbone. The titanium naturally attracts bone cells, which grow and adhere to it to form a solid hold that can support a porcelain crown or other restorations like bridges or dentures. But to achieve a natural appearance it’s important that the implant is placed in the right location. To achieve that requires adequate bone.

But there may not be adequate bone if the tooth has been missing for a while. The forces generated when we chew travel through the teeth to the jawbone, which stimulates bone growth. If that stimulus is absent because of a missing tooth, new bone cells may not replace older ones at a healthy rate and the total bone volume begins to diminish. A denture can’t compensate and, in fact, accelerates bone loss.

But there may be a solution: bone grafting. With this procedure we place a donor bone graft into the area of bone deficiency some time before implant surgery. The graft serves as a scaffold for new bone cells to grow upon. Hopefully, this will produce enough healthy bone to support an implant. If the bone deficiency is minor, we may place the implant and the bone graft at the same time.

If you have experienced bone loss, we must first determine the amount of bone at the missing tooth site and whether grafting is a viable option. Bone grafting postpones your implant, but the delay will be worth the wait if we’re successful. With increased bone volume you’ll be able to obtain a new tooth that’s superior to your current restoration.

If you would like more information on dental implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.