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Implants: Why It’s Important to Replace Missing Teeth

April 1st, 2020

Sometimes, despite our best care, we lose a tooth. If it is a front tooth, it will probably be a high priority to replace. But if a missing tooth doesn’t show when we smile, what’s the hurry? Let’s look at the reasons why prompt replacement with an implant is always a good idea, no matter which tooth is involved.

Appearance

Implants look like natural, individual teeth, but that is not the only aesthetic reason to replace a lost tooth. Without some type of tooth replacement, missing teeth can eventually affect the structure of our jawbones and change our facial appearance. Cheeks, lips, profiles—all are impacted by the changes in our bones resulting from tooth loss.

Better Bite

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so do our teeth. When a space is left by a missing tooth, the teeth around it might shift positions, affecting the even pattern of our bite. And without a tooth to keep it in place, a tooth above or below the missing one might begin to grow longer to fill the void in your bite. This lengthening, in turn, can cause even more bite problems.

Chewing

With the loss of only a single tooth, there is a negative impact on the remaining teeth. More pressure is placed on the other teeth in order to chew properly, front teeth not meant for chewing might need to be used for that purpose, or food is not chewed as thoroughly as it should be. The first two problems are not healthy for our teeth, and the last one is not healthy for digestion!

Don’t Delay

Changes in bite and chewing problems probably won’t happen overnight, so is putting off the process really a big deal? It can be! Time is not on our side when a tooth is lost. The bone tissue which supports our teeth needs the stimulation of biting and chewing to stay healthy. Without that stimulation, the bone area under the missing tooth gradually shrinks. If there is not enough bone area left, you might need surgical bone grafting to achieve the right bone height to hold an implant, or it could lead to the impossibility of placing an implant at all.

Expense

Replacing a lost tooth quickly requires less restoration of the gums and bone in the future and prevents other serious problems from developing.

We could continue through the alphabet, but instead, come talk to Dr. Alan Ferguson about all the reasons a tooth implant might be your best option. Whether you have already lost a tooth, or if you have an extraction scheduled at our North Vancouver office, we are happy to recommend the best procedure at just the right time to make your smile beautiful, healthy, and complete!

Medication Can Lead To Xerostomia in Women

March 4th, 2020

Xerostomia, otherwise known as dry mouth, can be a side effect of many common medications. Drugs used for blood pressure, birth control, antidepressants, or cancer treatments may cause the dry mouth problems you’re experiencing. When you have dry mouth, you’re more likely to experience tooth decay and an increased risk of developing periodontal disease. Medication can sometimes be the cause of dry mouth in women, and lead to an increased amount of cavities.

You may not develop a cavity for years, but suddenly find more than one when you’re on medication for several months. This is due to there being less saliva in your mouth, which normally prevents bacteria from flourishing. When there is a lack of saliva flow, your mouth will be more likely to host tooth decay and be more prone to gum disease.

You may not notice it, but birth control can lead to inflammation of the gums and bleeding because of dry mouth. The condition can also emerge if you’ve undergone cancer treatments such as radiation, because your saliva glands may be damaged in the process.

Boosting saliva production is critical for treating xerostomia. Many over-the-counter saliva products are designed to help manage dry mouth. For women with severe cases of dry mouth and decay, we may recommend in-home fluoride treatments that offer extra enamel protection. This can come in the form of fluoride trays, prescription toothpaste, or a special fluoride rinse.

Other ways to relieve dry mouth include chewing sugar-free gum, limiting caffeine intake, avoiding mouthwashes that contain alcohol, sipping water regularly, using a humidifier at night, and stopping all tobacco use.

If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of dry mouth, contact our North Vancouver office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Alan Ferguson. It’s wise to take medications that have been prescribed by your doctor, but it’s also smart to watch for any side effects. If you think a medication is causing you to have dry mouth, let’s figure out how to manage your symptoms as a team!

My gums are shrinking!

February 26th, 2020

Have you ever looked in the mirror and noticed that your teeth looked longer? Does it seem like your gums are shrinking? This condition is called recession—many adults have it. Let’s look at some of the causes and what you can do about it.

During your exam at Ferguson Dental, we will take measurements to check for periodontal disease. Dental professionals take recession measurements to see how much attached gingiva is present. This is the kind of tissue that is most resilient to infection.

The more recession, the less attached gingiva. The less attached gingiva, the less bone support. The less bone support, the higher your chances of tooth loss. It is quite a domino effect.

Don’t lose hope. The effect can be halted once you know the cause of your recession.

Do you ever wake up with your jaw clenched, and/or a headache that originates just above your ears? Clenching or grinding your teeth can cause recession. When there is added stress on a tooth, it flexes at the gum line.

Over time this causes microscopic breaks in the enamel and then a notch appears. The gum line is forced to move away from its original position. If this is something you see in your mouth, we can discuss the possibility of an occlusal guard at your next visit.

How do you brush your teeth? Do you brush in a straight line or circles? What kind of bristles do you use? Are the bristles on your toothbrush frayed?

When you brush in a circle, you are sweeping all along the gum line, removing the plaque from most angles. When you brush in a straight line, you may often miss the concave portion of the gums. This leaves plaque behind and leads to gingivitis. Whenever gingivitis occurs, the body attacks supporting structures like bone while trying to get rid of the infection. This is periodontal disease, which can cause recession.

Recession may also result from an irritant on the gums, such as a bar from a partial denture or orthodontic appliance (braces).

Gums do not “grow back.” The most common treatment for advanced recession is a tissue graft. There are many different kinds of tissue grafts.

Other factors can cause recession. If you think recession is happening in your mouth, schedule an appointment with Dr. Alan Ferguson to discuss your options, so you can make the appropriate treatment choice.

Protect Your Enamel from Dental Erosion

February 19th, 2020

We know that the foods we eat and drink can have a definite impact on our smiles. Staining is an unhappy side effect of many of our menu favorites. That’s why we sip red wine through a straw, rinse with water after a slice of blueberry pie, and cut back on the coffee and tea after a single cup (or two—we’re not perfect!). And sugar is the fuel for cavity-causing bacteria, so we try to substitute water for soda, or replace the hot fudge sundae with grilled fruit. And we always brush carefully after indulging.

So far, so good. But while we’re saving our brilliant smiles from stains and decay, let’s not forget one other source of diet-related damage—acids. Acidic foods and beverages can actually erode the surface of our enamel, leaving our teeth more vulnerable to sensitivity and discoloration.

What Is Dental Erosion?

Enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies—stronger than bone—but it is not indestructible. And acids are one of the major causes of enamel damage. (In fact, it’s the acids produced by bacteria that lead to cavities.) Luckily, our bodies are designed to protect our enamel. Saliva helps clean the teeth by washing away food particles and it neutralizes acidity as well. But a diet that’s too heavy in acidic foods can undo all this good work and upset the healthy pH balance in our mouths.

Why is this a problem? Because acidic environments actually cause the minerals in our enamel to break down, a process known as “demineralization.” This weakening of the enamel leaves teeth more sensitive to heat and cold. It can even lead to discolored teeth, as thinner enamel allows the brownish-yellow dentin underneath the enamel surface to become visible.

Are You Aware of Acids?

We can immediately guess at some of the most acidic foods. Citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes in their many culinary forms, anything pickled in vinegar, coffee, tea, wine—these foods are certainly acidic, but also a regular part of many a healthy diet. You don’t need to avoid these foods altogether, but it’s best to enjoy them as part of a meal or enjoy them sparingly. And balance out some of these high-acidity foods at mealtime with low-acidity choices like bananas, bread, and dairy products.

Other sources of damaging acids might surprise you. Studies have linked sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks to higher levels of tooth erosion. The combination of citric acid, phosphoric acid and/or carbonation raises acidity levels in the mouth. And because we tend to sip them all day long, it’s like a continuing acid bath for our enamel. Water is always a healthy alternative for hydration, but if you do indulge in a soda or sports drink, rinse with water after drinking. And don’t swish—just swallow.

Won’t Brushing Help?

Yes, but watch your timing. Because the acids in foods weaken enamel, brushing right after a big glass of orange juice or a soda can actually be even more abrasive for tooth surfaces. We recommend waiting anywhere from 20-60 minutes to brush. This gives your saliva the chance to not only wash away acids, but to “remineralize” your teeth, bathing them in the phosphate and calcium ions that strengthen enamel.

If you notice any of the symptoms of dental erosion, including pain, sensitivity when you eat or drink something hot, cold or sweet, or yellow discoloration, talk to Dr. Alan Ferguson during your visit to our North Vancouver office about what you can do to help protect and strengthen your teeth. Unfortunately, our bodies can’t produce new enamel. By avoiding foods that stain, by reducing sugars that lead to decay, and by limiting the acidic foods that erode our enamel, we give ourselves the best opportunity for a lifetime of beautiful, healthy smiles.