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What is Remineralization?

October 9th, 2019

“What is the strongest substance in the body?” If this question comes up on trivia night, be prepared to impress your team when you confidently answer, “Tooth enamel!”

Tooth enamel? The reason for this surprising answer lies in the biology of our teeth. Minerals make up well over 90% of our enamel, a much higher percentage than is found anywhere else in the body, including our bones. But unlike bone tissue, which can heal and regenerate, tooth enamel cannot. Even though it is extremely strong, enamel can be damaged by a process called demineralization.

Demineralization

Demineralization is a result of acids at work in our mouths. Acids actually break down the minerals in our enamel, making the enamel softer. Over time, bacteria attack deeper into the tooth, eventually leading to decay. Acidic foods like sodas, citrus, pickles, and coffee are obvious culprits in providing an acidic environment, but there are other problem foods as well. We all have bacteria in our mouths, which can be helpful or harmful. The bacteria in plaque use the sugars and starches we eat to produce even more acids.

This process is something that takes place very quickly. In fact, even brushing too soon after eating something acidic can damage the demineralized surface of a tooth. Waiting at least 20 to 30 minutes to brush gives our bodies a chance to restore the enamel surface in a process called remineralization.

Remineralization

Our bodies are actually designed to help protect our enamel, and the most important part of this process is saliva production. Saliva cleanses our teeth and reduces levels of acidity. And our saliva constantly washes important minerals over our teeth. Calcium and phosphate ions rebuild and strengthen molecules where demineralization has taken place. This process is called remineralization.

We have other ways to help the remineralization process along. Fluoride toothpastes and fluoridated water speed up the movement of mineral building blocks back to the surface of the tooth. Fluoride also strengthens our teeth so that they resist acids and demineralization better than teeth without fluoride, making them less vulnerable to cavities.

New products are available for home and professional use that are designed to increase remineralization—talk to Dr. Alan Ferguson at our North Vancouver office if you would like the latest recommendations. In fact, talk to us about tooth-friendly menus, the best toothpastes, brushing techniques, and all the ways to keep your enamel its healthiest. You’ll be answering all those trivia questions with a strong, confident smile!

What to Know if You Think You Have a Cracked Tooth

October 2nd, 2019

You use your mouthguard for sports, wear a nightguard if you grind your teeth, and never bite down on solid objects. But even with all the care in the world, accidents happen. If we break a leg, our bones can regenerate tissue and knit together over time. A cracked tooth, on the other hand, can only be repaired, but will not heal. The right treatment is essential to protect your injured tooth. If you suspect you have a fractured tooth, what should you do?

Sometimes you know right away when you’ve cracked a tooth. A fall off a bike, a blow to the face on the basketball court, a bite of something that turned out to be much harder than it should have been—the results can be instantly apparent. If you have a broken or chipped tooth, call our North Vancouver office immediately. If you have lost a piece of your tooth, bring it in with you. Early treatment can not only restore the appearance of your tooth, but might prevent the possibility of infection or damage to the root and pulp.

Sometimes, a fractured tooth is an unwelcome surprise. It doesn’t take one specific incident to cause damage to a tooth. A crack or break can develop over time if you grind your teeth, have a large filling that has compromised a tooth, or have undergone a root canal procedure that has left the tooth brittle.  You might notice a crack or a missing piece of tooth, or experience pain while chewing or sensitivity to heat and cold. If you have any of these symptoms, call us. Once again, the earlier a tooth is treated, the better the outcome.

No matter how you discover an injury, immediate treatment by Dr. Alan Ferguson is the best way to safeguard your healthy smile. Prompt treatment and restoration repair your smile cosmetically, and, in the case of more serious fractures, extend your tooth’s life, prevent further damage, and ward off potential infections of the gum and bone.

We have many options for restoring your damaged tooth, and our recommendations will depend on the type of injury your tooth has suffered.

  • Chips

It is important to bring any broken piece of your tooth with you because sometimes the piece can be reattached. If that is not possible, a small chip might only require bonding with a tooth-colored resin. A veneer is an option for a larger chip, or where a translucent, natural appearance is important. If the chip is deep enough, and there is pulp damage, we might suggest a root canal and a crown.

  • Broken Cusps

A lost cusp is a common result of injury, especially near a filling. If the pulp is unaffected, which is generally the case, a filling or crown can restore the appearance and function of the tooth.

  • Cracks through the Tooth

A tooth cracked from the chewing surface to the root presents a more serious problem. If the crack has extended to the pulp, but remains above the gum line, a root canal and crown can preserve the tooth. If the crack extends below the gum line, however, extraction might be necessary. Early cracks will eventually extend below the gum line, so early treatment is essential.

A tooth can also fracture from the root up. Any crack in the root is a serious matter, and often is not discovered until infection has set in. Extraction is a common recommendation, although some specific cracks near the tip of the root might be treated with endodontic surgery.

  • Split Tooth

Sometimes an untreated vertical crack can lead to a tooth split into two pieces. An endodontist can determine whether any portion of the tooth can be saved, although extraction is more likely.

If you injure your tooth, or have any symptoms of a tooth fracture, call us immediately. Whether you have suffered a chipped tooth, a broken cusp, crown or root fractures, or even a split tooth, prompt treatment is the best way to restore and protect your attractive and healthy smile.

Four Oral Health Issues Seniors Face

September 25th, 2019

Oral health is an important and often overlooked component of an older person’s general health and well-being. Dr. Alan Ferguson and our team know that for many of our older patients, oral health can become an issue when arthritis or other neurological problems render them unable to brush or floss their teeth as effectively as they once did. Today, we thought we would discuss four common oral health issues our older patients face and how they can avoid them:

Cavities: It’s not just children who get tooth decay—oral decay is a common disease in people 65 and older. Ninety-two percent of seniors 65 and older have had dental caries in their permanent teeth, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The risk for tooth decay increases because many older adults don’t go to the dentist as often as they used to, thus cavities go undetected and untreated for longer than they should. Keeping regular appointments with Dr. Alan Ferguson is the key to getting cavities treated in a timely manner.

Difficulty eating: Oral health problems, whether from missing teeth, cavities, dentures that don’t fit, gum disease, or infection, can cause difficulty eating and can force people to adjust the quality, consistency, and balance of their diet.

Dry mouth: Also called xerostomia, dry mouth is a common issue for a lot of seniors. Our friends at the Oral Cancer Foundation estimate that 20 percent of elderly people suffer from dry mouth, which means the reduced flow of saliva (saliva plays a crucial role in preventing tooth decay). Many seniors are on multiple medications for a variety of chronic illnesses or conditions. Common medications taken that may cause dry mouth are decongestants, antihistamines, blood pressure medications, pain pills, incontinence medications, antidepressants, diuretics, muscle relaxers, and Parkinson’s disease medications. To help counter this, we suggest drinking lots of fluids and limiting your intake of caffeine and alcohol. We also encourage you to check with Dr. Alan Ferguson during your next visit if you think your medications are causing your mouth to feel dry.

Gum Disease: Gum (periodontal) disease is an infection of the gums and surrounding tissues that hold teeth in place. While gum disease affects people of all ages, it typically becomes worse as people age. In its early stages, gum disease is painless, and most people have no idea that they have it. In more advanced cases, however, gum disease can cause sore gums and pain when chewing.

Gum disease, which can range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease, is usually caused by poor brushing and flossing habits that allow dental plaque to build up on the teeth. Plaque that is not removed can harden and form tartar that brushing simply does not clean. Only a professional cleaning at our office can remove tartar. The two forms of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis. In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen, and can bleed easily; in periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces that become infected.

Proper brushing, flossing, and visiting our office regularly can prevent gum disease. Seniors with limited dexterity who have trouble gripping a toothbrush should ask Dr. Alan Ferguson about modifying a handle for easier use or switching to a battery-powered toothbrush.

Why are my gums shrinking?

September 18th, 2019

If you’ve noticed that your teeth have appeared to be longer, you may be suffering from gum recession. This is a common problem among adults, and can result from several factors. If gum recession seems to be happening in your mouth, schedule an appointment at our North Vancouver office. We will take a look and figure out the cause, and help you decide on the best treatment.

The first thing Dr. Alan Ferguson will do is take measurements of the recession to see if the cause could be periodontal disease. Based on how much attached gingiva is present on the gums, a varying amount of gum recession will be present.

The less bone support you have for your teeth, the higher the chance of tooth loss will be. If you have a high likelihood of tooth loss, it’s critical to address the problem right away.

Gum recession can also be caused by stress-related issues that lead to jaw clenching and teeth grinding in the night. This added, ongoing pressure puts extra stress on your teeth, which flexes them at the gum line.

If this happens over a long period, microscopic breaks in your enamel will cause your gum line to move away from your teeth. An occlusal guard may serve as a solution to gum recession caused by teeth grinding. Talk to Dr. Alan Ferguson about this option if you consistently wake up with jaw pain, headaches, or uncomfortable pressure on the sides of your face.

The way you brush and floss your teeth may also cause gum recession. If you’re an aggressive brusher, make sure to purchase toothbrushes labeled “soft.” It’s best to brush your teeth in a circular motion in order to sweep over all your gum lines and remove the most plaque. Generally, brushing in a straight line can leave spots of plaque that lead to periodontal disease, which is a common cause of gum recession.

There are several options for treatment of gum recession. Depending on the cause, Dr. Alan Ferguson will talk with you to decide the best treatment plan. Care may involve a deep cleaning or an antibiotic treatment. In serious cases, treatment might involve pocket-depth reduction, a soft tissue draft, or gum regeneration surgery.

These are just a few of the many potential causes of gum recession and how we can treat the problem. Unfortunately, gums do not grow back, and the consequences of ignoring this condition can be painful and time-consuming.

Please call our North Vancouver office to schedule an appointment if you’ve noticed any elongating of your teeth or recurring irritation of the gums. We will work as hard as possible to help rid you of your gum recession and prevent it from getting worse in the future.