Posts for: August, 2014

By Sarah J. Morris, DDS, PLLC
August 29, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
OccasionalTongueRednessmaybeIrritatingbutnotaSeriousHealthIssue

If you occasionally notice mildly irritating red patches on the top surface of your tongue, you may be one of the three percent or less of the population with a condition called benign migratory glossitis. It’s also known as “geographic tongue” because the red patches often resemble land masses on a world map.

While the symptoms may be discomforting, geographic tongue isn’t a cause for serious concern. The red patches are caused by the temporary loss of papillae, tiny bumps that grow on the surface of the tongue, which may appear and disappear repeatedly over a short time period (ranging from hours to days). As its medical name implies, this form of glossitis isn’t cancerous or contagious; it’s referred to as “migratory” because the red patches often appear to move around while changing size and shape. An outbreak can cause a mild burning or stinging sensation, and some people also encounter numbness in the patchy areas.

While there isn’t a firm consensus as to geographic tongue’s exact cause, there do appear to be triggers for it including stress, hormonal changes and mineral or vitamin deficiencies (particularly zinc and Vitamin B). There also seems to be a connection with psoriasis, a skin ailment characterized by redness and scaling — a number of people will experience both conditions. Geographic tongue appears more often in middle-aged, non-smoking adults, particularly women during hormonal fluctuations (as during pregnancy or ovulation). Individuals with deep grooves on their tongues called fissures are more susceptible as well.

There’s no cure for the condition, but there are some treatments that can help alleviate any accompanying irritation. Depending on what we find during examination, we may prescribe anesthetic mouthrinses, antihistamines, steroid ointments or other treatments to help manage discomfort. It may also be helpful to limit your intake of foods during outbreaks that may increase irritation, including high acidic foods like tomatoes or citrus fruit, as well as eggplant, mint, spicy foods and alcohol (including certain mouthwashes).

If you experience these occasional patchy outbreaks on your tongue, please schedule a visit with us for a full examination. We may be able to reduce your discomfort and certainly put your mind at ease.

If you would like more information on geographic tongue, 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 “Geographic Tongue.”


By Sarah J. Morris, DDS, PLLC
August 20, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: bad breath  
BadBreathMightbeaSignofaMoreSeriousOralCondition

If you’re experiencing chronic halitosis (bad breath), it could be a sign of oral disease (as well as a systemic condition or treatment). In fact, it’s quite possible to visit our office about bad breath and find the cause is actually tooth decay, gum disease or some other oral condition.

In those cases treating the more serious condition might also result in a reduction in bad breath. Here are a few scenarios where such treatment could result in both better health and fresher breath.

Repairing decayed teeth. Repairing teeth damaged by decay — removing diseased tissue, filling cavities or repairing defective fillings — will also reduce the level of decay-causing bacteria. Such bacteria are often responsible for bad breath since they also release volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs), characterized by a foul “rotten eggs” odor. After treatment, these odors can diminish significantly.

Treating gum disease. Periodontal gum disease is a progressive infection caused by bacterial plaque. The basic treatment is to remove as much offending plaque and tartar (hard deposits) as possible. This may require extensive cleaning techniques (like root planing) to remove plaque from tooth root surfaces beneath the gum line, as well as antibiotic therapy. Periodontal therapy not only restores health to gum tissues, it may also alleviate bad breath caused by bacteria.

Extracting third molars (wisdom teeth). The opercula (flaps of gum tissue) around wisdom teeth have a tendency to trap food debris, which fosters bacterial growth. If this leads to chronic infection we may recommend removing the wisdom teeth. This not only reduces the chances of infection but may also alleviate bad breath caused by the bacterial growth.

Treating candidiasis. This is a yeast infection arising as a result of antibiotic use that suppresses normal oral flora. It’s also a source of bad breath. Treating the infection and restoring normal balance in the mouth may help alleviate bad breath as well as prevent disease.

You may see a pattern here: many of these conditions that simultaneously contribute to bad breath stem from high levels of bacteria, which flourish in plaque built up on tooth surfaces due to inadequate oral hygiene. Effective daily brushing and flossing (along with semi-annual office cleanings) removes much of the offending bacterial plaque. As a result you’ll experience better oral health — and maybe fresher breath too.

If you would like more information on controlling chronic bad breath, 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 “Bad Breath.”


By Sarah J. Morris, DDS, PLLC
August 15, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants  
MajorBenefitsforToothReplacementWithDentalImplants

Perhaps you’ve heard a lot about dental implants, an increasingly popular tooth replacement system. Although they can be expensive (depending on the exact application) they have a number of important benefits that add value to your investment.

Here are four of those benefits that make dental implants one of the best tooth replacement options available:

Life-like Appearance. Like an automobile, an implant’s “engine” — the titanium post inserted into the jawbone — is covered by a stylish “body” — the visible crown, custom-made to look just like the natural tooth. Composed of porcelain ceramic or a similar translucent material, the implant crown is the key to not only restoring natural function in the mouth but also rejuvenating your smile.

Long-term Durability. Implants have been in use for over three decades (over 3 million placed since their introduction) and have built an impressive track record for durability. If properly cared for, it’s possible for dental implants to last for many years or even a lifetime. Compared with other restorations that may not last as long and lead to additional dental cost, the implant’s “return on investment” can be quite high.

Contribution to Bone Health. Most implants are made of surgical titanium, which has a strong affinity with bone. In time, bone cells will grow and fuse with the titanium. The result is not only a solid anchoring of the implant into the jaw, but also the preservation and possible re-growth of bone mass where it may have been lost.

Versatility. Although implants are often used as a single tooth replacement, they’re increasingly used in multiple-tooth replacements. A few strategically placed implants can permanently support a bridge (two or more teeth linked together), an arch (an entire set of upper or lower teeth), or as a foundational support for a removable denture, particularly the lower arch.

If you’ve experienced tooth loss, a preliminary dental examination will determine if you’re a potential candidate for dental implant replacement. If so, dental implants could be a way for you to not only restore lost function but also regain your smile.

If you would like more information on dental implants, 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 “Dental Implants 101.”


By Sarah J. Morris, DDS, PLLC
August 04, 2014
Category: Oral Health
MinimizingX-RayExposureRisksinChildrentoMaximizeBenefits

X-ray diagnostics have revolutionized our ability to detect early or hidden cavities, paving the way for better dental care. But x-ray exposure also increases health risks and requires careful usage, especially with children.

A form of invisible radiation, x-rays penetrate and pass through organic tissue at varying rates depending on the density of the tissue. Denser tissues such as teeth or bone allow less x-rays to pass through, resulting in a lighter image on exposed film; less dense tissues allow more, resulting in a darker image. This differentiation enables us to identify cavities between the teeth — which appear as dark areas on the lighter tooth image — more readily than sight observation or clinical examination at times.

But excessive exposure of living tissue to x-ray radiation can increase the risk of certain kinds of cancer. Children in particular are more sensitive than adults to radiation exposure because of their size and stage of development. Children also have more of their lifespan in which radiation exposure can manifest as cancer.

Because of these risks, we follow an operational principle known as ALARA, an acronym for “As Low As Reasonably Achievable.” In other words, we limit both the amount and frequency of x-ray exposure to just what we need to obtain the information necessary for effective dental care. It’s common, for example, for us to use bitewing radiographs, so named for the tab that attaches the exposable film to a stem the patient bites down on while being x-rayed. Because we only take between two and four per session, we greatly limit the patient’s exposure to x-rays.

Recent advances in high-speed film and digital equipment have also significantly reduced x-ray exposure levels. The average child today is exposed to just 2-4 microsieverts during an x-ray session — much less than the 10 microsieverts of background radiation we all are exposed to in the natural environment every day.

Regardless of the relative safety of modern radiography, we do understand your concerns for your child’s health. We’re more than happy to discuss these risks and how they can be minimized while achieving maximum benefits for optimum dental health. Our aim is to provide your child with the highest care possible at the lowest risk to their health.

If you would like more information on the use of x-rays in dentistry, 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 “X-Ray Safety for Children.”


By Sarah J. Morris, DDS, PLLC
August 01, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gummy smile  
FrequentlyAskedQuestionsaboutGummySmiles

Q: What is a gummy smile? I’ve never heard that term before.
A: You may not have heard the phrase, but you’ve probably noticed the condition. A “gummy smile” occurs when too much gum tissue (in technical terms, over 4 millimeters, or about one-eighth of an inch) is visible in the smile. Different people have different ideas about when this issue becomes a problem… but if you feel it detracts from your appearance, there are several ways dentists can treat a gummy smile.

Q: What can cause a smile to appear “gummy”?
A: A number of factors can contribute to this perception. One is simply that an excess of gum tissue is covering up the teeth. Another is that the teeth themselves are relatively short; this can be a natural anatomical feature, or it can result from the teeth being worn down by a grinding habit or another cause. In some cases, the problem is that the upper lip is hypermobile, meaning it rises too high when you smile. And in rare instances, the upper jaw is proportionately too long for the face, making the gums and teeth extend down too far.

Q: What’s the best way to fix this condition?
A: It all depends on what is causing the smile to appear gummy. If it’s too much gum tissue, a periodontal procedure called “crown lengthening” can be used to remove the excess tissue and reveal more of the teeth. If the teeth themselves are responsible, they can be crowned (capped), or covered by porcelain veneers. A hypermobile lip can be controlled temporarily with Botox injections, or permanently with a minor surgical procedure. Jaw problems present the most complex condition, but can be successfully treated with orthognathic (jaw-straightening) surgery. Orthodontic treatment may also be recommended in conjunction with these therapies.

Q: I’m unhappy with the way my smile looks, but I’m not sure exactly what’s wrong. What should I do?
A: A great-looking smile comes from the harmonious dynamic between teeth, lips and gums. If you feel your smile could use a little improvement, we can help you identify the things you like about it, and point out the things that need improvement. Working with an experienced cosmetic dentist is the best way for you to get the smile you’ve always dreamed about.

If you’d like more information about cosmetic gum treatments or cosmetic dentistry in general, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Gummy Smiles.”




Dentist - Fort Worth
2551 River Park Plaza
Fort Worth, TX 76116
817-732-4419

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