Our Blog

How do I know if I need a root canal?

January 18th, 2017

Tooth decay affects everyone, with studies reporting that 92% of adults have had a cavity at one point in their lifetime. In more serious instances of tooth decay, however, the nerve of the tooth may become infected. This type of infection requires a root canal, in which the affected nerve is removed, and the interior of the tooth is cleaned and filled.

Tooth Anatomy

Although each tooth is covered by a hard outer shell, the interior of a tooth consists of dental pulp. This pulp is soft, containing blood vessels that bring nutrients to the tooth. Each tooth also has an associated nerve, which resides within a root canal passing from the tooth’s root into the dental pulp. This nerve provides information about temperature, allowing teeth to sense heat or cold.

Symptoms of Nerve Infection

Damage to the dental pulp or nerve tissue leads to a rapid multiplication of bacteria within the interior of the tooth. The result may be an abscess, a small pocket near the root of the tooth that becomes full of pus. This infected area commonly causes the following symptoms:

  • Intense pain or sensitivity when pressure is applied to the tooth
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, even after the heat or cold has been removed
  • Darkening or discoloration of the affected tooth
  • A small, persistent pimple that forms on the gums
  • Swollen or tender gums
  • Swelling in other areas of the face, neck, or head

Nerve infection may occur due to deep decay, although repeated dental procedures, facial trauma, chipping or cracking of a tooth, or large fillings may also contribute to an abscessed tooth.

What to Do if You Think You Need a Root Canal

Only a visit to Dr. Guifang Cai can confirm whether a tooth’s nerve has become infected. We will perform an oral examination and X-rays to confirm whether the tooth is abscessed. If a root canal procedure is needed, a small hole will be placed in the tooth. The pulp and nerve tissue are removed from the tooth, which is thoroughly cleaned and filled. Then, the hole is sealed with a special compound to prevent bacteria from entering the tooth’s interior. The entire procedure is performed under local anesthesia to numb pain.

If you think you may have tooth or nerve decay, call our Safety Harbor, FL office today to schedule a diagnostic appointment.

Alleviating Anxiety before Your Implant Procedure

January 11th, 2017

Does the thought of getting a dental implant put knots in your stomach? There are many people who don't enjoy getting dental work done and there is a myriad of reasons why. For whatever reason you aren't at your best when you arrive at our Safety Harbor, FL office, we'd like to offer some tips that can help put you at ease for your implant procedure.

Sedation

For lengthy visits like an implant procedure, sedation dentistry may be an option for you. With sedation dentistry you are given sedation medication, usually orally with a pill or intravenously, which allows you to drift through the entire procedure without any memory of it afterward. If you decide on oral sedation, typically you take the medication about an hour before your procedure starts.

To avoid any complications, a complete medical background check is made along with a record of any allergies before any sedation is administered. Your vital signs are also monitored throughout the entire procedure.

If you decide sedation is not the right option for you, there are other techniques that you can benefit from. Some of these include:

  • Communication: This may seem obvious, but communicating any fears or anxiety you may have about your procedure with us is extremely helpful. Not only does this build a relationship of trust but it allows us to try and alleviate your anxiety as much as we can.
  • Herbal teas: Drink some herbal tea (like chamomile or lemon balm) before you visit the office. Many patients find this is a great help in relieving anxiety and putting them sufficiently at ease.
  • Relaxing music: Bring a pair of headphones along and listen to your favorite music during treatment (preferably something low-key). Or why not catch up on your reading when you visit us — some patients like to listen to audiobooks too!
  • Meditate or practice deep breathing: Meditation and deep breathing are good to practice in general, since they relax both the body and mind. They can be effective in the case of anxiety, too!

It's been years since my last appointment; what should I expect?

December 28th, 2016

Feeling apprehensive or guilty for not visiting a dentist in over a year is common, but coming back to receive dental care is easier than you may think. Our dental team at Safety Harbor Dentistry provides caring, non-judgmental, personalized service, and knowing this you can truly feel at ease making your first appointment back.

During your first appointment back, we will focus on three prominent dental issues including gum disease, cavities, and wear and tear by utilizing a full mouth series of X-rays, a hygiene appointment, and a comprehensive exam.

The full mouth series of X-rays are taken every three to five years, or as needed. A full mouth series may be a panoramic X-ray and bitewings (a set of four that checks for cavities) or a set of X-rays that views the entire anatomy of every tooth. The set of X-rays will depend on your individual needs.

Your hygiene appointment will begin with a review of your medical history, personal concerns and questions, and an evaluation checking for any infection. After any necessary diagnoses are made, the appropriate level of cleaning is proposed and completed if time allows.

A comprehensive exam serves as a review of what the hygienist has already covered. Dr. Guifang Cai will again review your medical history and dental concerns, and confirm any periodontal diagnosis. An evaluation of any decay, breakdown or broken fillings, or areas that are at risk for future problems will also be reviewed.

After the appointment, a team member at Safety Harbor Dentistry will review any recommended treatments, payment options, insurance coverage, and scheduling. The time spent at your first visit back is an important step in the right direction, and we are committed to making this visit as comfortable and easy as possible! Come see us in Safety Harbor, FL.

What are mini implants used for?

December 21st, 2016

The use of mini dental implants (MDIs) is on the rise. MDIs are about the diameter of a toothpick (1.8 to 2.9 millimeters with lengths between ten to 18 millimeters) and are primarily used to secure loose upper or lower dentures or partial dentures.

MDIs are particularly useful for patients who suffer from osteoporosis or otherwise aren't well enough to get the bone grafts sometimes required by traditional dental implants. Their diminutive size also allows them to replace smaller teeth where the placement of a dental implant isn't feasible or called for.

Some of the benefits of MDIs include:

  • The procedure is quicker and less invasive – Since MDIs don’t require the cutting of gum tissue or sutures, Dr. Guifang Cai can place the implant quickly, resulting in a shorter healing process. MDIs go directly through the gum tissue and into the jawbone.
  • Lower cost – MDIs run in the range of $500 to $1500, whereas traditional dental implants can cost around $4,000.
  • Less risk of surgical error – Since MDIs don't go as deep into the tissue or jawbone, there is less risk of surgical error, like hitting a nerve or sinus cavity.
  • Can be used in thinner areas of the jawbone – Since MDIs don't require as much gum tissue or jawbone, they can be used in thinner areas of the jawbone, where a traditional dental implant would require a bone graft.

Although there are many advantages to MDIs, they aren't for everyone or every situation. There are some drawbacks, especially when it comes to their durability and stability. MDIs also haven't been studied nearly as much as dental implants.

Whatever your situation, it's best to speak with Dr. Guifang Cai about your options, and whether an MDI or a dental implant would work best for your specific case. Schedule an appointment at our Safety Harbor, FL office to learn more.