Q: “I come every six months, how can I have so much work to do?”
The six month dental check up is designed to identify dental problem areas at an earlier stage so that they can be treated by more conservative means (such as fillings) rather than needing more complex treatments (such as root canals). There are several reasons why you might have more areas that need dental treatment at one of your visits even if you have been coming every six (6) months:
1.Age of the work: So far, none of our restorative materials completely mimic natural tooth structure. Because of this, the margin or edge of your filling or crown eventually breaks down, allowing decay to form in the gap between the margin and your tooth. If you had a large number of teeth filled around the same time in the past, it is possible that they will all break down around the same time and need to be replaced.
2.Proximity of other work that needs to be done: For example, if you have decay between your teeth, the area will tend to trap food and plaque. This will often cause decay to occur on the tooth next door.
3.Ignoring known or identified problems: I know it sounds silly when it’s put like that, but I can’t tell you how many times we hear people say they’ll “just wait” when I tell them there is a dental problem. Tooth decay does not go away—it just gets bigger and deeper. A tooth abscess won’t go away on its own—it will stay abscessed until the path the bacteria is taking to the nerve is treated by a root canal or by tooth removal. Gum disease doesn’t go away on its own—it gets progressively worse, and the more bone that has been lost, the tougher it is to manage. A split tooth won’t magically heal itself. The fact is that very few dental problems will fix themselves if you “just wait”. While in most cases it is fine to wait a couple weeks to make arrangements, putting treatment off indefinitely can lead to many things going wrong at once.
4.Changes in your habits, health, or medications: Have you changed what you eat or drink in the last 6 months? One patient’s increase in tooth decay was traced to the grape Hubba Bubba bubblegum (not sugar free) that she chewed to replace her cigarettes while quitting smoking. Has your health changed in the last 6 or so months? Some health conditions and/or their treatments can cause changes in your mouth. For example, diabetes can cause gum disease to worsen more quickly than it does in a non-diabetic person. Have your medications or supplements changed in the last 6 to 12 months? Many medications cause dry mouth. Saliva/spit rinses food and other particles off your teeth and also helps make the mouth less acidic. Acids can wear away your tooth structure.
5.Bruxing, grinding and clenching your teeth: These habits create a lot of stress and force on your teeth. Teeth can crack, break, chip, or split as a result. Fillings can break too, especially if they wear thin. Changing the bite on one tooth can change how other teeth in your mouth hit and cause the other teeth to have problems.
There are other reasons why you might feel like a whole bunch of dental treatment is needed all at once or within a short period of time. Each person is unique. Communication with your dentist and dental team is important to determine which factor or factors are at work in your mouth.
Note: The information in this article is not meant to replace the clincial judgement of your healthcare professionals.
Dr. Jennifer Robb is a general dentist with an office at 1320 Cooper Foster Park Rd., Lorain, OH. She is accepting new patients. Please call 440-960-1940. Also check out her website www.drjrobb.com and find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DrJenniferRobb