Posts for: March, 2016
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.”
Eliminating pain and discomfort is one of our major objectives during dental treatment. To that end, our profession has developed a number of anesthetic drugs and deliveries that ensures your experience in the dentist’s chair is as pain-free as possible.
But there’s another experience many people have with dental care that’s different from physical discomfort — emotional anxiety. These negative emotions can range from nervousness about a procedure to extreme fear. Very often the patient has no control over these emotions — they’ve become imbedded from earlier experiences or the influence of others.
Although each can influence and heighten the other, anxiety and physical discomfort are different and require a different approach. Physical pain and sensation is eliminated through anesthesia, either locally through topical application or injection or generally through intravenous medication that renders a person unconscious. Anxiety, on the other hand, requires first building a trustful relationship with an understanding dentist. But it may also call for certain drugs that sedate — promote a feeling of relaxation — rather than numb sensation.
We’ve incorporated a number of sedative medications in dentistry like Valium or Ativan that work well to reduce anxiety before and during treatment. Many are taken orally, usually just before scheduled treatment, and they dissipate from the system quickly afterward. Some medications also have “amnesic” qualities, meaning you won’t remember anything or little at all about the treatment period. This can be helpful in amassing positive treatment experiences that may diminish negative feelings you’ve developed about dental treatment.
It’s important, though, to find the right types of medication that work well for you. For that reason we’ll take a thorough medical history, including prescription or over-the-counter medications and supplements you’re taking and any medical conditions you may have. It’s also important to discuss your diet (certain foods can inhibit the action of some sedatives) as well as if you use tobacco or regularly drink alcoholic beverages.
Taken properly, oral sedation can effectively reduce your anxiety during treatment. As a result, it will be much easier and pleasant for you to receive the care you need for a healthy mouth.
If you would like more information on reducing anxiety during dental treatment, 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 “Oral Sedation Dentistry.”