My Blog

Posts for: July, 2017

By Great Meadows Dental Group
July 24, 2017
Category: Dental Procedures

In her decades-long career, renowned actress Kathy Bates has won Golden Globes, Emmys, and many other honors. Bates began acting in her twenties, but didn't achieve national recognition until she won the best actress Oscar for Misery — when she was 42 years old! “I was told early on that because of my physique and my look, I'd probably blossom more in my middle age,” she recently told Dear Doctor magazine. “[That] has certainly been true.” So if there's one lesson we can take from her success, it might be that persistence pays off.

When it comes to her smile, Kathy also recognizes the value of persistence. Now 67, the veteran actress had orthodontic treatment in her 50's to straighten her teeth. Yet she is still conscientious about wearing her retainer. “I wear a retainer every night,” she said. “I got lazy about it once, and then it was very difficult to put the retainer back in. So I was aware that the teeth really do move.”

Indeed they do. In fact, the ability to move teeth is what makes orthodontic treatment work. By applying consistent and gentle forces, the teeth can be shifted into better positions in the smile. That's called the active stage of orthodontic treatment. Once that stage is over, another begins: the retention stage. The purpose of retention is to keep that straightened smile looking as good as it did when the braces came off. And that's where the retainer comes in.

There are several different kinds of retainers, but all have the same purpose: To hold the teeth in their new positions and keep them from shifting back to where they were. We sometimes say teeth have a “memory” — not literally, but in the sense that if left alone, teeth tend to migrate back to their former locations. And if you've worn orthodontic appliances, like braces or aligners, that means right back where you started before treatment.

By holding the teeth in place, retainers help stabilize them in their new positions. They allow new bone and ligaments to re-form and mature around them, and give the gums time to remodel themselves. This process can take months to years to be complete. But you may not need to wear a retainer all the time: Often, removable retainers are worn 24 hours a day at first; later they are worn only at night. We will let you know what's best in your individual situation.

So take a tip from Kathy Bates, star of the hit TV series American Horror Story, and wear your retainer as instructed. That's the best way to keep your straight new smile from changing back to the way it was — and to keep a bad dream from coming true.

If you would like more information about orthodontic retainers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Why Orthodontic Retainers?” and “The Importance of Orthodontic Retainers.” The interview with Kathy Bates appears in the latest issue of Dear Doctor.

By Great Meadows Dental Group
July 16, 2017
Category: Oral Health
Tags: sleep apnea   snoring  

Your nightly snoring has become a major sleep disturbance for you and other family members. But it may be more than an irritation — it could also be a sign of sleep apnea, a condition that increases your risk for life-threatening illnesses like high blood pressure or heart disease.

Sleep apnea most often occurs when the tongue or other soft tissues block the airway during sleep. The resulting lack of oxygen triggers the brain to wake the body to readjust the airway. This waking may only last a few seconds, but it can occur several times a night. Besides its long-term health effects, this constant waking through the night can result in irritability, drowsiness and brain fog during the day.

One of the best ways to treat sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. This requires an electric pump that supplies constant pressurized air to a face mask worn during sleep to keep the airway open. But although effective, many patients find a CPAP machine clumsy and uncomfortable to wear. That's why you may want to consider an option from your family dentist called oral appliance therapy (OAT).

An OAT device is a custom-made appliance that fits in the mouth like a sports mouthguard or orthodontic retainer. The majority of OAT appliances use tiny metal hinges to move the lower jaw and tongue forward to make the airway larger, thus improving air flow. Another version works by holding the tongue away from the back of the throat, either by holding the tongue forward like a tongue depressor or with a small compartment fitted around the tongue that holds it back with suction.

Before considering an OAT appliance, your dentist may refer you to a sleep specialist to confirm you have sleep apnea through laboratory or home testing. If you do and you meet other criteria, you could benefit from an OAT appliance. There may be other factors to consider, though, so be sure to discuss your options with your dentist or physician to find the right solution for a better night's sleep.

If you would like more information on sleep apnea treatments, 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 Appliances for Sleep Apnea.”

By Great Meadows Dental Group
July 12, 2017
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: root canal   Dental Pain  

You know something's wrong with your tooth. It throbs with pain. The surrounding gums are red and sore, and you taste some nastyTeeth Pain drainage coming from the site. You need to see your dentist at Great Meadows Dental Group, but must you have that sick tooth extracted? Only Dr. Nicholas Papapetros, Dr. Leo Kharin or Dr. Jessica Ristuccia in Bedford, MA, can tell you for sure. It's possible that root canal therapy--also called endodontics--could save your teeth for many years of additional service.

What is root canal therapy?

Most people call it a "root canal," named for the up to 4 pulp-filled chambers deep inside your tooth. When a tooth is damaged due to infection, accident or decay, a root canal in Bedford extracts the pulp, fills the canals and preserves the remaining healthy structure. Fortunately, the adult tooth can function well without the connective tissue, nerves and blood supply present in the pulp.

Performed by dentists all over the world for generations, root canal therapy has a truly unmerited reputation for being lengthy and painful. However, the 15 million people who receive endodontic therapy in the US annually could testify to the contrary. According to the American Association of Endodontists, root canal therapy is comfortable and takes only 2 visits to your dentist at Great Meadows Dental Group.

Dr. Papapetros, Dr. Kharin or Dr. Ristuccia confirms the need for root canal treatment with oral examination and digital X-rays. The procedure itself involves:

  • Removing the diseased pulp
  • Instilling antiseptic and antibiotic medication
  • Filling the canals with biocompatible gutta-percha to seal and protect it
  • Placing a temporary restoration until the tooth heals and a porcelain crown can be placed over it

Caring for the tooth

Root canal therapy generally needs no more than local anesthesia to keep the patient comfortable. After care involves a soft diet for a few days with over the counter analgesics as needed.

When the patient returns to Great Meadows Dental Group, the dentist removes the temporary crown and places a custom-made and lifelike porcelain crown to finish the restoration. Routine flossing, brushing and in-office care at Great Meadows Dental Group can keep the restored tooth in place and functional for years to come.

Keeping your teeth

Why is retaining your natural teeth important? Frankly, tooth loss compromises oral function, speech and smile aesthetics. Additionally, jaw bone and gums recede around an empty tooth socket, and the gap compromises the strength, position and stability of adjacent teeth. So the professional staff at Great Meadows Dental Group recommend root canal therapy, tooth-colored fillings and porcelain crowns to preserve as many natural teeth as possible.

If you are experiencing dental pain...

The sooner your dentist sees, diagnosis and treats your sick tooth, the better your chances are to preserve it. Contact Great Meadows Dental Group in Bedford, MA, when in pain, and see us semi-annually for your routine check-up and cleaning. Call (781) 275-7707 for an appointment.

By Great Meadows Dental Group
July 01, 2017
Category: Dental Procedures

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.”