Specialty Dental Services in Colorado Springs, CO

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Endodontics

Endodontics is a specialized branch of dentistry that deals with the complex structures found inside the teeth. The Greek word “Endodontics” literally means “inside the tooth” and relates to the tooth pulp, tissues, nerves, and arterioles.  Endodontists receive additional dental training after completing dental school to enable them to perform both complex and simple procedures, including root canal therapy.

Historically, a tooth with a diseased nerve would be removed immediately, but endodontists are now able to save the natural tooth in most cases. Generally, extracting the inner tooth structures, then sealing the resulting gap with a crown restores health and functionality to damaged teeth.

Signs and symptoms of endodontic problems:

  • Inflammation and tenderness in the gums.
  • Teeth that are sensitive to hot and cold foods.
  • Tenderness when chewing and biting.
  • Tooth discoloration.
  • Unexplained pain in the nearby lymph nodes.

Reasons for Endodontic Treatment

Endodontic treatment (or root canal therapy) is performed to save the natural tooth. In spite of the many advanced restorations available, most dentists agree that there is no substitute for healthy, natural teeth.

Here are some of the main causes of inner tooth damage:

Bacterial infections – Oral bacteria is the most common cause of endodontic problems. Bacteria invade the tooth pulp through tiny fissures in the teeth caused by tooth decay or injury. The resulting inflammation and bacterial infection jeopardize the affected tooth and may cause an abscess to form.

Fractures and chips – When a large part of the surface or crown of the tooth has become completely detached, root canal therapy may be required. The removal of the crown portion leaves the pulp exposed, which can be debilitating painful and problematic.

Injuries – Injuries to the teeth can be caused by a direct or indirect blow to the mouth area.  Some injuries cause a tooth to become luxated or dislodged from its socket. Root canal therapy is often needed after the endodontist has successfully stabilized the injured tooth.

Removals – If a tooth has been knocked clean out of the socket, it is important to rinse it and place it back into the socket as quickly as possible. If this is impossible, place the tooth in special dental solution (available at pharmacies) or in milk. These steps will keep the inner mechanisms of the tooth moist and alive while emergency dental treatment is sought. The tooth will be affixed in its socket using a special splint, and the endodontist will then perform root canal therapy to save the tooth.

What does an Endodontic procedure involve?

Root canal therapy usually takes between one and three visits to complete. Complete X-rays of the teeth will be taken and examined before the treatment begins.

Initially, a local anesthetic will be administered, and a dental dam (protective sheet) will be placed to ensure that the surgical area remains free of saliva during the treatment. An opening will be created in the surface of the tooth, and the pulp will be completely removed using small handheld instruments.

The space will then be shaped, cleaned, and filled with gutta-percha.  Gutta-percha is a biocompatible material that is somewhat similar to rubber. Cement will be applied on top to ensure that the root canals are completely sealed off. Usually, a temporary filling will be placed to restore functionality to the tooth prior to the permanent restoration procedure. During the final visit, a permanent restoration or crown will be placed.

If you have questions or concerns about endodontic procedures, please contact our office.

Extractions

There are times when it is necessary to remove a tooth. Sometimes a baby tooth has misshapen or long roots that prevent it from falling out as it should, and the tooth must be removed to make way for the permanent tooth to erupt. At other times, a tooth may have so much decay that it puts the surrounding teeth at risk of decay, so your doctor may recommend removal and replacement with a bridge or implant. Infection, orthodontic correction, or problems with a wisdom tooth can also require removal of a tooth.

When it is determined that a tooth needs to be removed, your dentist may extract the tooth during a regular checkup or may request another visit for this procedure. The root of each tooth is encased within your jawbone in a “tooth socket,” and your tooth is held in that socket by a ligament. In order to extract a tooth, your dentist must expand the socket and separate the tooth from the ligament holding it in place. While this procedure is typically very quick, it is important to share with your doctor any concerns or preferences for sedation.

Once a tooth has been removed, neighboring teeth may shift, causing problems with chewing or with your jaw joint function. To avoid these complications, your dentist may recommend that you replace the extracted tooth.

No one wants to lose their teeth, but sometimes it is necessary to undergo an extraction to restore and maintain the health of your smile. Extractions are never your dentist’s first choice, but in certain situations, the preservation of your oral health may be dependent on it.

Reasons Why Tooth Extractions Are Necessary

We always do everything we can to help patients keep their natural teeth, but sometimes it isn’t a viable option. Here are a few reasons why a tooth extraction may be necessary to restore your overall dental health and function:

  • There is severe damage or decay to the tooth that is irreparable.
  • To allow for a patient to undergo orthodontic treatment.
  • For ensuring long-term success with a restoration, like a denture.
  • When a primary tooth won’t fall out on its own.
  • If a tooth is impacted and unable to erupt properly.

Ultimately, by extracting problematic teeth, future infections and other oral health issues are significantly less likely to occur.

The Process of Removing a Tooth

Teeth are generally removed by either pulling or surgical extraction. Teeth can only be “pulled” when they have fully emerged from the gumline. In this case, we will start by numbing the area around your tooth and use a clasping tool to shift the tooth around until it breaks away from the gumline. If pulling isn’t a possibility, the tooth will need to be surgically extracted. For this procedure, a small incision is made into your gum tissue to allow us the ability to reach enough of your tooth to fully remove it.

To determine which extraction method would be necessary for you, come see us for a consultation where we can evaluate your smile. In the process of discussing the extraction, we will also talk about necessary tooth replacement options to prevent future oral health issues as a result of tooth loss.

Tooth Extraction Aftercare

Before you leave the practice, we will provide you with a specific aftercare plan to help you stay comfortable and avoid complications. While every case is different, here are some steps that we will generally recommend for optimal recovery:

  • Take recommended over-the-counter and prescribed medications as directed
  • Rinse with saltwater 24 hours after your procedure
  • Avoid using tobacco products until your mouth has healed
  • Do not drink using a straw
  • Elevate your head while sleeping
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Apply a cold compress to reduce swelling and discomfort
  • Stay away from hard, crunchy, and sticky foods
Wisdom tooth picture

Third molars, commonly referred to as wisdom teeth, are usually the last four of 32 teeth to erupt (surface) in the mouth, generally making their appearance between the ages of 17 to 25. They are located at the back of the mouth (top and bottom), near the entrance to the throat. The term “wisdom” stems from the idea that the molars surface at a time typically associated with increased maturity or “wisdom”.

In most cases, inadequate space in the mouth does not allow the wisdom teeth to erupt properly and become fully functional. When this happens, the tooth can become impacted (stuck) in an undesirable or potentially harmful position. If left untreated, impacted wisdom teeth can contribute to infection, damage to other teeth, and possibly cysts or tumors.

There are several types, or degrees, of impaction based on the actual depth of the teeth within the jaw:

Soft Tissue Impaction: The upper portion of the tooth (the crown) has penetrated through the bone, but the gingiva (gum) is covering part or all of the tooth’s crown and has not positioned properly around the tooth. Because it is difficult to keep the area clean, food can become trapped below the gum and cause an infection and/or tooth decay, resulting in pain and swelling.

Partial Bony Impaction: The tooth has partially erupted, but a portion of the crown remains submerged below the gum and surrounding jawbone. Again, because it is difficult to keep the area clean, infection will commonly occur.

Complete Bony Impaction: The tooth is completely encased by jawbone. This will require more complex removal techniques.

Reasons to remove wisdom teeth

While not all wisdom teeth require removal, wisdom teeth extractions are most often performed because of an active problem such as pain, swelling, decay or infection, or as a preventative measure to avoid serious problems in the future. If impaction of one or more wisdom teeth is present, and left untreated, a number of potentially harmful outcomes can occur, including:

  • Damage to nearby teeth: Second molars (the teeth directly in front of the wisdom teeth) can be adversely affected by impacted wisdom teeth, resulting in tooth decay (cavities), periodontal disease (gum disease) and possible bone loss.
  • Disease: Although uncommon, cysts and tumors can occur in the areas surrounding impacted wisdom teeth.
  • Infection: Bacteria and food can become trapped under the gum tissue, resulting in an infection. The infection can cause considerable pain and danger.
  • Tooth Crowding: It has been theorized that impacted wisdom teeth can put pressure on other teeth and cause them to become misaligned (crowded or twisted). This theory isn’t universally accepted by all dental professionals, and it has never been validated by any scientific studies.

Wisdom teeth examination

As with any dental procedure, your dentist will want to initially conduct a thorough examination of the wisdom and surrounding teeth. Panoramic or digital X-rays will be taken in order for your dentist to evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and determine if a current problem exists, or the likelihood of any potential future problems.  The X-rays can also expose additional risk factors, such as deterioration or decay of nearby teeth. Early evaluation and treatment (typically in the mid-teen years) is recommended in order to identify potential problems and to improve the results for patients requiring wisdom teeth extractions. Only after a thorough examination can your dentist provide you with the best options for your particular case.

What does the removal of wisdom teeth involve?

Wisdom teeth removal is a common procedure, generally performed under local anesthesia, intravenous (IV) sedation, or general anesthesia by a specially trained dentist in an office surgery suite. The surgery does not require an overnight stay, and you will be released with post-operative instructions and medication (if necessary), to help manage any swelling or discomfort.