All posts by Patrick Chang

Save Money With Professional Teeth Cleaning!

Why a Visit to the Dentist Will Save You Money (Now and in the Long Run)

For many individuals, regular six-month visits to the dentist are an important part of life from early childhood into old age. Routine teeth cleanings reduce your risk for periodontitis, the most advanced form of gum disease. Periodontitis affects half of adults aged 30 or older in the US. Unfortunately, a lack of affordability often prevents people from going to their preventive dental checkups

At Penn Dental Medicine, we are passionate about providing high-quality dentistry at reduced rates. Regular professional cleanings are essential to prevent periodontitis, which can have long-lasting and painful effects. By investing a little in your oral health care now, you’ll enjoy significant savings down the road when you don’t have to pay for expensive restorative treatments. 

Understanding Periodontal Disease

Young male dentist shows an older male patient the results of his dental exam on a tablet.Dental caries and periodontal disease are common dental conditions that are caused by different bacteria. People who suffer from dental caries may not experience gum disease and vice versa. But both are the result of bacteria buildup in the mouth. 

Periodontal disease occurs due to the accumulation of dental plaque in the mouth. Dental plaque is comprised of millions of harmful bacteria all clumped together in a community. The only way to disrupt these communities is to receive a professional teeth cleaning. People who experience gingivitis (the first stage of gum disease) will need to make more frequent visits to the dentist to prevent dental plaque from advancing further. Once the gingivitis is under control, we recommend making six-month appointments in addition to brushing and flossing daily. 

When left untreated, gum disease stimulates a constant state of inflammation. Inflamed gums represent the body’s immune response to the presence of unwelcome bacteria. Eventually, the gum tissue will pull away from the teeth (known as gum recession) to protect itself from dental plaque. Gum recession leads to small gaps, or “pockets,” between the teeth and gums. Dental plaque can then migrate into these small spaces and begin wearing away at the jaw tissue. Infections grow rapidly in these pockets, which can be extremely painful and cause the teeth to fall out. 

How Can Dental Cleanings Save Money?

Promoting oral health is well worth the small investment it takes to visit the dentist. While a dental checkup may be at the bottom of your list of priorities, you should think of it as a life insurance plan for your teeth. After all, gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss. 

Given the prevalence of gum disease in the general population, it is more likely than not that you have some degree of gum disease, if not incipient cavities as well. Because only a professional cleaning can fully disrupt dental plaque, making regular visits to the dentist is the most cost-effective way to address these conditions.

Here are a few other ways you can work to save on your oral health

  1. Brush your teeth daily. This might seem like a given, but how often (and how thoroughly) do you brush your teeth? The official recommendation is to brush your teeth twice daily for a total of two full minutes. You can divide those two minutes into the four sections of your mouth: top and bottom, right and left sides. Brushstrokes should start from the gums and end in a circular movement for maximal effectiveness. To clean the inside surfaces, tilt the brush vertically and use up-and-down strokes. Brushing does not need to be vigorous, especially if you have thin gums!
  2. Don’t forget to floss. Flossing once a day is essential to achieve optimal oral health. Flossing helps to remove plaque from the spaces between the teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach. Nothing else you do can take the place of flossing — not mouthwash, not toothpicks, not gum. When you start flossing, you may experience gum bleeding. This bleeding indicates the presence of harmful bacteria, which likely means you have at least a minor case of gum disease (gingivitis). As you continue to floss daily, this bleeding should decrease because you’re removing the bacteria. It is not necessary or recommended to put pressure as you floss, especially if your gums are already tender.
  3. Avoid sugary foods. Though bacteria represent the primary cause of gum disease, consuming sugary foods and drinks can exacerbate it. When bacteria have plenty of sugars to feed on, they can multiply quickly in the mouth. Depriving yourself of these sugars is a way of depriving the harmful bacteria, as well. 

Meanwhile, eating fresh vegetables and probiotic-rich foods helps to establish a healthy equilibrium in the mouth by feeding the beneficial bacteria. If you do opt for a sugary treat, we recommend downing a glass of water afterwards to wash out your mouth.

To schedule your appointment for a professional teeth cleaning in Philadelphia, we invite you to call Penn Dental Medicine at 215-898-8965. If it’s your first visit, you can get additional savings on your dental cleaning when you present this $25 off coupon. We look forward to serving you and your family! 

How Long Does a Root Canal Take?

Why Root Canal Therapy Isn’t What You Imagined

One of the most deeply misunderstood dental procedures is the root canal.  Maybe part of the problem comes from the ominous-sounding name. After all, words like “crown,” “cap,” and “bridge” all have a more familiar ring to them. But did you know that the term “root canal” itself is frequently misapplied? 

“Root canal” refers to the inner chamber of the tooth — specifically, the pulp tissue where the blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue are located. When you need work done in the interior of the tooth, this process is typically referred to as root canal therapy, or treatment (also known as endodontic treatment). So how long does a root canal take?” When is the treatment necessary? What happens after the procedure? We examine these questions and other common concerns about root canal treatment below.

The Real Reason to Worry—Infection

Young African-American executive touches his jaw as he winces from the pain of a toothache.An infected tooth is the most common reason why people seek endodontic treatment. Infection may occur as a result of:

  • Deep decay
  • Repeated dental procedures on the tooth
  • Faulty crown
  • Crack in the tooth

Any of these problems can lead to a situation in which the pulp tissue becomes exposed to harmful bacteria. Once it becomes infected, root canal treatment is the only way to save the tooth

Oftentimes, the causes of infection go unnoticed until the pain sets in. By the time you realize that you need to see an endodontist, the pain may be quite severe. However, because anesthesia is used during the procedure, you shouldn’t feel anything at all during treatment. Afterward, your tooth may feel a bit sore or numb, but any discomfort should resolve itself within a few days. The pain that people so often associate with a root canal is in fact due to the infection — not the treatment. 

What Does Root Canal Treatment Involve?

Maybe you’re dreading the prospect of root canal treatment because you have unrealistic ideas about its duration. How long do you think a typical procedure would take? Four hours? Five? Six?

Most people drastically overestimate root canal treatment time, which averages at about 90 minutes per visit (in one or two visits). During the procedure, an opening is made through the top of the tooth and the infected pulp is removed from the chamber. The canals are cleaned with sodium hypochlorite or another disinfecting solution. Then, the endodontist will shape the canals to ensure that all infected structures are removed. 

A series of X-rays will be taken throughout the procedure to check that the canals are being adequately cleaned and shaped. If the root canal treatment requires two visits, the endodontist will place calcium hydroxide in the canal to kill bacteria. An antibiotic may also be prescribed to help fight infection. Then, a temporary filling will be placed to seal the opening until the second appointment. If the tooth can be treated in a single appointment, the endodontist will go straight to filling the root canal and then place a crown to seal the tooth.

When Is Root Canal Treatment Necessary?

You may be surprised to learn that a tooth’s nerve is not essential to its continuing health and functioning. The presence or absence of the nerve will not affect its daily functioning. It is because of this fact that endodontic treatment is preferable to extraction. While the tooth may be more susceptible to fracture after the procedure, it will keep functioning normally even once the nerve has been removed. 

Endodontic treatment is required when the pulp is damaged, whether from trauma or infection. The bacteria and damaged pulp remnants can cause an infection and even progress into an abscess, which is a pocket of pus that forms in the tooth. An abscess is a very serious condition that can spread deeper into the jaw, surrounding tissues, and even other parts of the body. Root canal treatment is the only way to prevent infection in the tooth from progressing further.

How Do I know If I Need a Root Canal?

Tooth pain the most common symptom of a tooth requiring root canal therapy. If the tooth is still alive, you will experience extreme sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures. The tooth may start hurting spontaneously, even when you’re not using the affected tooth to eat or drink. This pain can progress into a severe, generalized headache. If the nerve root has died and becomes abscessed, you will only feel pain when putting pressure on the tooth. An abscess may cause severe swelling of the surrounding area, which would indicate the need for emergency treatment. 

Intense toothache can masquerade as root canal pain but may actually be a symptom of another condition requiring a different treatment. For example, the tooth root can become exposed due to gum disease, creating a sensitivity not unlike root canal pain. Sinus congestion can also put pressure on the upper teeth, which can also imitate nerve pain when you’re chewing. Thus, it is very important to receive a thorough examination of pulp vitality from an endodontist for a proper diagnosis. 

What Comes After Treatment?

After performing a root canal treatment, the endodontist will apply a permanent tooth filling to protect it from bacteria. A custom made restoration, such as a crown, will be placed over the filling to support the weakened tooth. If the tooth has lost considerable structure due to cracks or extensive decay, porcelain or gold alloy materials may be needed. Once the crown is placed, the treated tooth will be indistinguishable from any of your other teeth.

How Hard Is it to Find an Affordable Endodontist?

Penn Dental Medicine performs endodontic treatments at discounted rates for all our patients. As an institution of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, we provide premium care through our student dentists overseen by experienced dental professionals. How long does a root canal take at Penn Dental Medicine? Generally speaking, patients will typically experience slightly longer treatment times in exchange for our more affordable rate. 

If you’ve been experiencing deep tooth pain, sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, or a severe headache that started as a toothache, then you should seek immediate care from an endodontist. To schedule a consultation for a low cost root canal at Penn Dental Medicine, please call us at 215-898-8965.

Tobacco Effects and Your Health

Tobacco use negatively affects your body in many ways, leading to a variety of health complications. Some are more immediate, while others take a heavy toll on the major body systems over several years. Tobacco’s effects on health are best understood when we take a closer look at what it actually is. 

Understanding the Toxicity of Tobacco

Smoking is the most common way people consume tobacco, but other delivery methods are equally harmful, such as chewing or inhalation through the nose. In addition to nicotine, tobacco products can contain anywhere from 4,800 to 7,000 chemicals, the byproduct of over 600 ingredients. These ingredients include: 

  • Lead 
  • Hexamine
  • Methanol 
  • Formaldehyde 
  • Arsenic 
  • Cadmium 
  • Benzene 

All of the above have been found to cause cancer. There are 70 other known cancer-causing ingredients commonly found in most tobacco products. 

This lethal mixture can damage nearly every organ system in the human body. Tobacco increases your risk of developing cancer anywhere in the body and is the cause of most cases of lung cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco-related deaths exceed the number of U.S. citizens who have died in all the wars fought by the United States.

No amount or type of tobacco consumption is safe. Damage to the body begins with only a small amount of tobacco and progresses with the regularity of use. Immediate tobacco effects can include any of the following:

Woman pulls lip down from teeth, showing the red irritation of gum disease.

  • Anxiety/irritability
  • Poor vision
  • Dulled smell and taste
  • Early menopause
  • Bronchitis 
  • Persistent coughing 
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Yellow fingernails
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Infertility
  • Wrinkly skin
  • Increased blood clotting, raising risk for heart attack and stroke
  • 30-40% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes 

Furthermore, studies show that a life-long smoker will lose an average of 10-11 years of life. Exposure to secondhand smoke also puts you at a greater risk for cancer, heart disease, and other tobacco-related health problems.

How Does Tobacco Affect Oral Health? 

While the health effects of tobacco tend to be well-known, its impacts on oral health are often underestimated. Here are three things you should watch out for if you currently consume tobacco:

Teeth Staining 

One of the most visible impacts of tobacco use is teeth staining. The tar and nicotine in tobacco products are absorbed into the pores of your teeth, resulting in a yellow or brown discoloration. While nicotine itself is colorless, it turns yellow in interaction with oxygen. That means that even e-cigarettes or vapes that contains nicotine can stain teeth. 

In the case of chewing tobacco, the brown tobacco mixes with saliva to produce a dark brown liquid that heavily stains teeth. The presence of this liquid will stain any teeth that it comes into contact with. Certain teeth may be darker than others, depending on your method of consumption.

Gum Disease

Periodontal disease, an infection of the gums, is the most common cause of tooth loss. It begins with bacteria that build up on the teeth and find their way under the gums. In later stages, the gums start to pull away from the teeth, forming deep pockets where infection can occur. 

The bone and tissue holding the teeth in place will disintegrate over time when left untreated, causing teeth to loosen and eventually fall out. Studies have confirmed that regular smokers have a higher rate of tooth loss when compared to the general population. Women who smoke are 2.5 times more likely to lose teeth than nonsmokers, while male smokers are 3.6 times more likely. 

Unfortunately, smoking tends to mask the gum bleeding of periodontitis, making the gums appear to be healthier than they truly are. This may explain why many tobacco users don’t end up receiving periodontal treatment until their condition has become more serious.

Another reason why tobacco consumers are so much more vulnerable to gum disease is that tobacco weakens the immune system. The presence of tobacco in the body detracts from immune functionality, making it harder for people to recover from gum disease.

Plaque Buildup

The chemicals in tobacco products affect the salivary glands in the mouth, decreasing saliva flow. Without a normal amount of saliva to wash away the oral bacteria from the teeth and gums, the plaque can build up more quickly. Plaque is a biofilm of live bacteria that grows on the inner surfaces of the mouth. At first, it is a filmy, colorless deposit, but when it hardens into tartar, it becomes brown or pale yellow. Tartar is a substance so hard that only a professional dental cleaning can remove it. 

The accumulation of plaque gives rise to dental decay, which progresses over time when left untreated. Enamel, the tooth’s top layer, can repair itself by using minerals from fluoride, commonly found in toothpaste. But when the enamel is weakened or destroyed from progressive decay, a cavity forms. A cavity entails permanent damage to the tooth and must be repaired with a filling.

Confronting the Effects of Tobacco 

If you smoke or consume tobacco products, you can reduce your risk of oral health problems by brushing and flossing twice daily. Schedule regular appointments as directed by your dentist to receive professional cleanings and oral cancer screenings. We usually recommend biannual appointments for tobacco users in order to address oral conditions that can rapidly develop in a short amount of time. 

If possible, quit smoking or at least cut down on the amount of tobacco consumed each day. Even decreasing to less than half a pack of cigarettes per day can help reduce your risk of developing gum disease. Creating a plan to quit tobacco use is an important step in improving your oral health. You should consult with your doctor about nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products, which take the edge off nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Counseling and other psychological services may also be recommended to help you develop coping mechanisms that will reduce your need to use tobacco for stress relief.

The student dentists at Penn Dental Medicine understand the health challenges associated with tobacco use and want to help by providing high-quality dental care. We meet patients where they are and offer preventive and restorative treatments, as well as education to assist you in reaching your oral health goals. To contact us, please call 215-898-8965

Free New Patient Fair for Veterans!

Penn Dental Medicine Is Glad to Offer Discounted Dental Care for Veterans

There’s no way to truly thank our veterans for everything they sacrifice for our country, but all of us at Penn Dental Medicine want to express our heartfelt gratitude. Thank you for your dedication and service to the United States! This Veteran’s Day, we remember that our freedom isn’t guaranteed. We recognize all members of the military who have served to keep us protected, past and present. 

On November 12th, Penn Dental Medicine is hosting a special event in honor of our veterans. To facilitate access to quality dental care for veterans, we will be holding a Veteran’s Fair from 9:00 am to 3:00pm, with 56 appointment slots available. We will provide comprehensive screening exams, including oral cancer screenings free of charge. Our goal is to support veterans’ oral health by helping them to get the quality dental care they need.

In addition, we’re inviting faculty members who are also veterans to the event. Participating veterans will receive dental supplies and oral health care information, with the opportunity to schedule follow-up care when needed. 

For those who seek further dental treatment at Penn Dental Medicine, we offer a Veteran’s Discount for all care received at our School of Dental Medicine. All veterans are eligible for a 20% dental discount on a sliding scale fee schedule. This discount is in addition to our already low rates for dental services, which we can price competitively as a teaching dental clinic associated with the University of Pennsylvania. Also, an appointment line has been set up for the exclusive use of veterans at 215-573-VETS(8387)

Comprehensive Dental Care for Veterans

Penn Dental Medicine administers comprehensive dental care for patients at all stages of life. We diagnose and treat a wide variety of conditions, providing age-specific care in each of our specialties. Our preventive dental services help patients to avoid developing cavities, gum disease, and other conditions while promoting their oral health. Restorative treatments include crowns, fillings, bridges, dentures, implants, and more. When your examination reveals a specialized condition, it’s not necessary for you to look for another provider to get it treated because we can usually treat it in-house. Penn Dental Medicine offers a wide array of dental specialties, all under one roof: 

Female army member smiles against a desert backdrop.

A streamlined system of care means that you’ll be able to receive coordinated attention from dentists in different specialties. We are committed to continuity of care so that patients don’t have to start over with a new provider every time they need specialized treatment. Penn Dental Medicine is equipped to treat oral conditions ranging from oral cancer reconstruction (prosthodontics), to oral disorders (oral medicine), to severely misaligned and/or crooked teeth (orthodontics). We provide inclusive treatment to patients of all ages, taking special measures to better serve our patients with disabilities, different language needs, and dental phobias

Affordable Dental Care for Veterans at PDM 

At Penn Dental Medicine, we are honored to provide dental care for veterans in our community and look forward to serving you. If you are on active duty or a veteran, we hope that you will come visit us this November 12th. All veterans receive a free oral examination as well as information about how to promote a healthy mouth. To reserve your spot at the Veteran’s Fair, please call us at 215-573-VETS(8387). Please contact us as soon as possible— appointment slots are limited and fill up quickly! 

Interested in learning more about how to become a patient? Please come to the Veteran’s Fair with your questions. We look forward to serving you soon!

Q & A with Penn Student Dentists

We Offer High-Quality Dental Care at Reduced Cost to Patients

At Penn Dental Medicine, patients receive dental treatment from student dentists at the final stages of their training. We recently welcomed our student dentists back to the clinic and had the chance to talk with two of them about their experience. Below, you can read the details of our conversation about what brought them to the Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and why their patients love being treated here! 

1.  Can you tell me a little bit about your background?

Irada: I was born and raised as Uyghur, a Turkic ethnic minority in northwest China. After graduating from high school, I left home and came to the U.S. by myself to pursue a higher education. I learned English while in Washington D.C. and studied microbiology and cell science at the University of Florida (UF) before coming to Penn.

Vidisha: I was born in Munger, Bihar, India and moved to the U.S. when I was just 2 years old. My family moved around a great deal when I was young, finally settling in Pittsburgh, PA. I grew up taking piano lessons and learning Bharatanatyam, a form of Indian classical dance. I attended college at the University of Pittsburgh and earned a B.S. in microbiology before enrolling at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. 

2.  What inspired you to study dentistry?

Irada: While I was a student at the University of Florida (UF), I became a patient at the university’s dental school. It turned out that I had dental caries in all my posterior teeth. While I was receiving extensive dental treatments, I was introduced to floss and given an oral health education for the first time in my life. My student dentist, Magda, explained all the steps of treatment during my visits. Finally, I was able to enjoy stable oral health and smile with confidence! This experience inspired me to explore the field, which I fell in love with as I shadowed other dentists and volunteered. 

Vidisha: I always wanted to pursue a career in health services but I also enjoyed art and working with my hands. Dentistry combines these two passions. In high school, I attended the program at Pitt Dental and had the chance to shadow my pediatric dentist. Then during college, I worked at the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh dental clinic for two years, which helped me to realize how much I enjoy hospital pediatric dentistry. 

3.  Why did you choose UPSDM?

Irada: I applied to Penn Dental Medicine because it’s one of the top dental schools worldwide. However, I didn’t quite understand why until I came for an interview. Everyone, from the admissions faculty to the staff, was responsive and professional. My interview process felt personal because they showed genuine interest in me and my story. It gave me the impression that the administration cares about students’ wellness as much as their success. All the students I interacted with during the interview seemed very happy to be here. I couldn’t stop imagining being a student after my interview.

Vidisha: I was accepted into multiple dental schools and ended up choosing Penn because it seemed like a genuine fit. My interview experience was wonderful; I felt a connection with all the faculty members and students I met that day. In addition, I was impressed by Penn’s cutting-edge technology and approaches. The faculty are willing to adapt their practices in accordance with new research. I felt that a dental education at Penn offered the best preparation for residency and a career, while also allowing me to build a lifelong community of friends and colleagues.

4.  What has been your favorite part of your experience at Penn so far?

Happy black family nestles together on a couch. Left to right: Mom, young girl and boy, and Dad. Irada It’s difficult to decide between Penn’s diversity and outreach opportunities, so I’ll mention both:

  • Diversity 
    While at Penn, I have met people from all over the world who have the most interesting stories I’ve ever heard. Everyone can teach you something, no matter where they are in their professional careers. 
  • Outreach 
    Our community health department provides us with many unique opportunities to serve. If you want to get out and do something in the community, there is always a need to be met. The department is also welcoming to new ideas when student dentists want to start projects. 

Vidisha: I love the relationships I have been able to build with both students and faculty members. I’ve made some of the closest friendships of my life at Penn and I can see myself staying in touch with the faculty for the rest of my career! 

5.  What have you enjoyed about working in the clinic?

Irada: I love meeting and serving patients. Being able to relieve pain and help people smile initially drew me to this profession. I’m happy when I can make the kind of positive impact on someone’s life the way Magda did on mine. It’s also comforting to know that the faculty is always there to guide and teach us. They come from diverse backgrounds: some are more academically oriented while others continue to practice full time. We learn the fundamentals here but we never miss out on the newest techniques and materials in the field.

Vidisha: I enjoy working with faculty members on complex cases and treatment plans. The program at Penn has equipped us to have nuanced discussions about treatment options with the faculty. 

6.  What is something fun about you that your patients might not know?

Irada: I speak 5 languages!

Vidisha: I studied abroad in Ecuador, living in the Amazon rainforest for several months. It was quite the adventure and I learned so much about their food and culture. I hope to go back someday! 

7.  What are the benefits for patients seeking care at PDM?

Irada: Patients often remark on the value of having multiple pairs of eyes to ensure a high quality of care. Because we are in an educational institution, every step of a procedure must be checked by a licensed faculty member. It might take a bit longer than it would in a private practice, but patients enjoy the assurance of a high standard. A faculty member is always present when we review treatment options with a patient.

Patients also prefer PDM for financial reasons. We accept most dental insurance plans and use a sliding fee scale for Medicaid patients and veterans. Even self-paying patients find that our prices are significantly lower than those of private practices. Our financial assistant programs and interest-free payment plans make it possible for patients to receive the dental care they need. 

Last but not least, Penn Dental Medicine stays up-to-date on dental technologies and developments in the field. We utilize microscopes, Computer-Aided Manufacturing and Design (CAM/CAD), intraoral scanners, and other cutting-edge instruments as part of our clinical education. It’s refreshing to watch the field evolve as we combine new technologies with traditional techniques and concepts.

Vidisha: Patients are truly receiving some of the best dental care in the area. We do everything that we can to offer multiple treatment options that will meet the needs of the patient, including different options for payment to make treatment affordableOur faculty are experienced and knowledgeable. My patients have often expressed how much they appreciate having the insight of multiple faculty members on their case. They also enjoy the convenience of accessing all the dental specialties in one building so that they don’t have to be referred to other dentists.

Get Treated by our Student Dentists!

Are you looking for affordable dental treatment in the Philadelphia area? We hope that you will come visit us at Penn Dental Medicine, where you’ll enjoy the benefits of affordability, convenience, quality, and cutting-edge care. The work of our student dentists is overseen by experienced faculty members and supported by access to the latest dental technologies. You will not find a higher standard of quality than at our dental school teaching practice. To schedule your first appointment with one of our student dentists, we invite you to call 215-898-8965

You can also learn more about how to become a patient by clicking here.

Healthy Aging Month: Understand Your Options for Tooth Replacement!

These Tooth Replacement Options Help You Look and Feel Good

One of the biggest myths about aging is that tooth loss is inevitable as you get older. The reality is that diligent oral hygiene makes an enormous difference in healthy aging. Even so, tooth loss remains a common problem for many people. Older adults suffer higher rates of gum disease, dental decay, mouth infections, oral cancer, and tooth loss. 

There are many steps you can take to reduce your risk of oral problems and promote oral health as you age. But even if you do experience tooth loss, the options for tooth replacement are better today than ever before. 

In honor of Healthy Aging Month this September, we’ll explain the underlying causes of tooth loss and highlight some of the most important daily oral health practices. We’ll also discuss the three unique tooth replacement options. 

Wear and Tear

While your enamel is the hardest substance in your body, a lifetime of crunching, grinding, and exposure to acidic foods wears your teeth down. Weakened enamel can set the stage for dental problems, such as cracks or tiny fractures in the teeth. A break leaves the pulp tissue vulnerable to inflammation. The nerves in the pulp tissue tend to lose sensitivity with age, which means that the condition can advance rapidly before you notice any pain. This explains why people over the age of 65 are three times as likely to need a root canal procedure.

Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss. Gum tissue naturally recedes with age, leaving the tooth root exposed. Gum bleeding and inflammation indicates some level of gum disease, which ranges from its mildest form in gingivitis to advanced periodontal disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of Americans over age 30 have periodontitis. While gingivitis can be reversed with proper treatment, tooth loss occurs when extensive gum damage is present.

The good news is that what you do matters. Visiting the dentist each year and keeping up good daily oral hygiene practices will reduce your risk of losing teeth. 

Important Daily Practices in Oral Hygiene 

Cavities and gum disease form due to the presence of harmful bacteria in the mouth. What we eat has a great impact on these bacteria’s ability to survive. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables translates into a more healthy microbial environment in the mouth. A high level of sugar consumption (including simple sugars from carbohydrates), on the other hand, feeds the harmful bacteria so that they are able to multiply rapidly. 

CTA-small 1 02-07-2017Aside from minimizing your daily sugar intake, you can promote a healthy mouth by practicing these habits: 

  • Brush your teeth. Use a soft brush to avoid eroding the gums from rigorous scrubbing. Good technique is key to keeping your teeth clean, so ask your dentist to review proper brushing at your next appointment!
  • Floss. You can use traditional floss or flossers; either works well in removing plaque and microfilm buildup. People who don’t practice daily flossing are much more likely to develop gum disease and cavities between the teeth. Even if you don’t see what you’re removing when you floss, it is essential for healthy teeth! 
  • Mouthwash. Though it’s not an essential oral practice for everyone, a good mouthwash can be useful for people who already struggle with gingivitis. A 30-second rinse before bed or in the morning helps kill the bad bacteria on the teeth and gums. 

What Are Your Options for Tooth Replacement?

If you do lose a tooth, whether due to a fracture or gum disease, a number of replacement options are available. The three major categories for replacement are: fixed bridges, dentures, and implants. While a dental implant is the most recommended choice, some patients may not be eligible for the procedure if they have severe gum erosion.

Fixed bridges: A bridge is made up of two or more crowns which bridge the gap created by the missing tooth or teeth. Two adjacent teeth, called abutment teeth, are used to suspend the false tooth in between. A false tooth in a fixed bridge can be made of porcelain, gold, alloys, or a combination. 

Happy older couple hiking in the mountains.Dentures: A removable or fixed replacement for missing teeth, dentures come in two types: partial and complete. Complete dentures are used when all teeth have been lost, while partial dentures are customized to replace only the teeth you need. Sometimes dentures are combined with other treatments. For example, crowns can be paired with partial dentures to provide more stability. Likewise, dental implants can be used with fixed dentures to create a base of support for an entire row of teeth. 

Dental implants: An implant consists of an artificial tooth that has been anchored to the jaw with a titanium base. The procedure requires multiple office visits to prepare the mouth, surgically insert the implant into the jaw, and place the false tooth on the implant when it’s ready. Implants provide a long term replacement option that appears indistinguishable from the natural teeth. With a 95% success rate for 10 years, the procedure is a healthy and effective way to solve the problem of having missing teeth.

Find Your Tooth Replacement Solution at Penn Dental Medicine

If you’re trying to decide which tooth replacement option would be appropriate for you, we hope you will come visit us at Penn Dental Medicine. We offer dental consultations aimed at meeting the unique needs of older adults, especially in tooth replacement treatments that improve quality of life. To learn more about our services or to schedule an appointment, please call us at 215-898-8965. 

How to Find the Best Pediatric Dentist Near You

Both You and Your Child Should Feel at Ease with Your Pediatric Dentist

Have you been searching online for a “pediatric dentist near me? When you need to find a dentist for your child, it’s important to learn as much as you can to choose the best provider. Most parents would agree that safety, quality, and a child-friendly environment are top priorities when selecting a dentist for their child. 

Safety First

Dental visits should be a routine, and generally agreeable, experience for most people. It should go without saying that no parent should ever worry about safety when their child receives dental care. At Penn Dental Medicine, parents can rely on the exceptional care provided by our pediatric dentists. 

A fully equipped facility with access to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Penn Dental Medicine ensures quality and safety for every child under our care. When performing oral surgery for children, we abide by the anesthesia guidelines issued by the American Dental Association and take special measures to ensure your child’s comfort during any procedure. Below, you can learn more about how we prioritize a child-friendly environment when providing pediatric dental services. 

Quality Care

Young female pediatric dentist with a red shirt examining a little girl’s teeth.Penn Dental Medicine has been teaching excellence in dentistry since 1878. As an Ivy-League institution, we guarantee the highest quality care to our patients, who know that they can trust the Penn name and reputation. Procedures are performed by our student dentists and carefully overseen by experienced Penn faculty members. At PDM, your child will benefit from the collective experience of our dental team, with the expertise that comes from years of research and clinical practice. 

We believe that our long history of quality and our reputation in the region make us stand out as an exemplary provider of pediatric dentistry. Because we are an educational institution of the University of Pennsylvania, we are accountable to the highest standards of dental excellence. Families choose us because they know that our pediatric care is among the best they will find in the field.

State-of-the-Art Technology

A major advantage of choosing Penn Dental Medicine regards our access to state-of-the-art dental technologies. As a dental school, we have dental equipment on-site and available for use at the time of your child’s appointment. For many private practices, it’s simply not feasible to keep these dental technologies at their office. The benefit of receiving care from PDM is that our facilities make it possible to house these pieces of important equipment. For you and your child, that means easy access to materials and technologies with cutting-edge features. Our equipment is current, quality, and offers the most advanced capacities. 

A Child-Friendly Environment

Our student dentists work hard to help children feel comfortable at their appointment. We are prepared to meet the needs of diverse children, including patients for whom English is a second language and those with special needs. For very young patients who have anxiety or other special needs, we provide the option of sedation at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. When it comes to finding a trustworthy, quality provider for your child’s dental care, you will not find a better option than Penn Dental Medicine.

Affordable Preventive Care at Penn Dental Medicine

Pediatric dentistry is all about prevention. Childhood sets the stage for a lifetime of good oral health, which is why it’s so important to choose a provider that will apply the best practices in preventive care while taking the safety measures required when a procedure is necessary. We are also proud to offer our services at discounted rates, which makes it possible for many more families to receive the dental care they need. If you would like to learn more about pediatric dentistry near you at Penn Dental Medicine, please call our offices at 215-898-8965 or fill out our contact form today.

Weighing Root Canal Cost with Outcomes: You Might be Surprised!

In the past, an infected or damaged tooth would have been pulled. Today, these teeth can often be saved with root canal treatment. When you compare costs over time, a root canal’s cost will be lower than extraction because it doesn’t require the follow up of replacement procedures.

Comparing Endodontic Treatment with Tooth Extraction

Many of our patients want to know why endodontic treatment is recommended rather than extraction. The simple answer to this question is that root canal treatment offers better health benefits in the long run, which drives down the overall cost of your dental care. While the sticker price on a root canal procedure may seem higher at first glance, extracting the tooth has hidden costs. To better understand, it’s helpful to learn what endodontic treatment is, and why it’s a more desirable alternative to extraction.

Why Endodontic Treatment?

The need for an endodontic dental procedure can arise from a trauma to the tooth or dental decay that has penetrated to the tooth root. Either of these causes are damaging to the tooth pulp (the inner chamber of the tooth comprised of blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue). When the tooth has reached maturity, it can survive without the pulp because of its access to surrounding live tissues.

Endodontic treatment effectively “saves” the tooth by removing the diseased or damaged pulp. After, a crown is placed on the tooth to protect it from further damage.

root canal costSix major steps are involved in saving the damaged tooth:

  1. Diagnosis: A dentist or endodontist examines the tooth and orders X-rays to confirm infection or damaged pulp.
  2. Anesthesia: A local anesthetic is administered to numb the tooth.
  3. Preparation: The tooth is isolated using a small protective sheet, which keeps it clean during the procedure.
  4. Cleaning: After a tiny opening is made in the tooth crown, the dentist cleans the infected pulp from the inner chamber using tiny instruments.
  5. Sealing: Once the affected tooth has been cleaned and shaped, the root canal will be sealed with a biocompatible material.
  6. Filling: A temporary filling is placed over the opening, to be followed by a permanent crown at your follow-up appointment.

Once a root canal treatment is completed, you don’t have to do anything else. The only exception to this rule is if the tooth becomes re-infected. If this happens, retreatment would be required. In either case, the procedure is aimed at allowing you to keep your tooth for a lifetime.

A Convenient, Healthy Choice

Because of modern techniques and anesthesia, root canal treatment is virtually painless. Many people erroneously believe that a root canal will be painful because of its association with pulp damage or infection. But make no mistake: the infection is the real source of your pain. In fact, when compared to extraction, root canal treatment is the more comfortable option!

The American Association of Endodontists reports that patients who chose a root canal procedure are six times more likely to say it’s painless than a patient who opts for an extraction.

Root canal treatment also has a high success rate. Numerous dental studies have demonstrated the efficacy of this procedure. A root canal will almost always be recommended due to its establishment as the safest, most effective, and long-term method for treating a diseased tooth.

The Hidden Cost of Extraction

Extraction may appear to be the better deal at face value, but removing the tooth almost always implies further procedures. Sometimes, tooth removal is inevitable because endodontic treatment is no longer viable. The best thing to do after a tooth extraction is to replace it with a dental implant. By filling the empty space left by the tooth, you will avoid the problems of jawbone loss and teeth shifting, as well as functional challenges.

Choosing extraction when you still have the option of receiving root canal treatment, is more costly in the long run. Extraction also has a more harmful impact on your oral health. Gaps in the teeth can make your mouth more susceptible to tooth decay and lead to jaw bone loss over time. Moreover, the costs of replacing your missing tooth are higher than saving that same tooth through root canal treatment.

Low-Cost Endodontic Treatment at Penn Dental Medicine

Whether your tooth hurts because of dental decay or pulp damage, it’s important to seek adequate dental treatment as soon as possible. An untreated tooth will only become more painful and difficult to treat, decreasing your likelihood of being able to save the tooth through endodontic treatment.

If you’re worried about root canal costs, then you will find no better deal than at Penn Dental Medicine. We provide dental care at affordable prices at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, where you will be treated by student dentists in the final stage of their training.

All procedures are overseen by experienced dental professionals at the forefront of their field. Whether you are on a dental plan, dental insurance, or pay out of pocket, you’ll benefit from the reduced costs of root canal treatment at PDM.

To schedule your free root canal consultation with a student dentist at PDM, please call us at 215-898-8965 today.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Options in Philadelphia

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery for Conditions Affecting the Facial Structures

If your dentist has suggested you may need “oral and maxillofacial surgery,” you probably have a lot of questions. What will oral surgery be like? How long will recovery be? What, if any, are the risks involved?  

The truth is that oral surgery procedures are quite common and address conditions that many people experience at least one time in their life, such as tooth loss or impacted wisdom teeth. Every case is different, but many patients can resume work and normal activities within a few days of their surgical procedure.

What Is an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon?

An oral and maxillofacial surgeon specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders, diseases, injuries, and defects of the facial complex, including the jaws and oral cavity. Training in both medicine and dentistry allows these surgeons to treat conditions pertaining to both fields, such as congenital face disproportion, trauma, oral cancer, salivary gland disease, temporomandibular joint disorders, tumors, and dental implant surgery.

Oral and maxillofacial surgery is recognized as a dental specialty by the American Dental Association. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons must complete advanced training, which includes:

  • 4 years of undergraduate study (BS, BA, or equivalent degree)
  • 4 years of dental school
  • 4-6 years of residency training, which includes the two extra years required for a medical degree
  • Passing the specialty exams of the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

The average time it takes to become an oral and maxillofacial surgeon after high school is 12 to 14 years. In addition, many graduates pursue fellowships to gain subspecialty expertise in one of the following areas:

  • Cosmetic facial surgery
  • Head and neck cancer reconstruction
  • Cranio-maxillofacial trauma, i.e. soft tissue/skeletal injuries to the facial area
  • Pediatric maxillofacial and craniofacial surgery, i.e. cleft lip and palate repair

Types of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

Patients are referred to oral and maxillofacial surgeons by both general dentists and medical doctors. Oftentimes, oral and maxillofacial surgeons will work in collaboration with other specialists such as orthodontists, plastic surgeons, or oncologists to provide comprehensive care for conditions that affect the facial structures. Below, read on to learn more about major conditions and treatments:

  • Dentoalveolar surgery. The alveolar bone contains the tooth sockets (dental alveoli) on the maxilla and mandible. Dentoalveolar surgery simply refers to any procedure involving this area of the mouth: tooth extraction, impacted teeth, or bone grafting, as examples.
  • oral and maxillofacial surgeryTooth extraction. Sometimes, a diseased or damaged tooth cannot be saved using endodontic treatment. Pulling the tooth may be the only option if it is too damaged to be repaired with a filling or crown. Extraction is also necessary for some orthodontic patients to ensure adequate room for other teeth as they move into the correct position.
  • Impacted tooth extraction. Approximately 9 of 10 people have at least one wisdom tooth that requires removal, according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. When a tooth doesn’t fully grow in, it is called “impacted” because there isn’t enough room for it to break through the gums. An impacted tooth carries several risks: damaging the nearby teeth, becoming infected, or developing a tumor. In cases where one of these serious conditions has developed, surgery should be performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.
  • Bone grafting. Periodontal disease and tooth loss lead to bone degradation in the jaw, causing the facial features to sag. Modern bone-grafting techniques have made it possible to rebuild this bone. This procedure benefits your appearance while providing a base for effective tooth replacement (implants).
  • Dental implants. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons pioneered dental implant treatment more than 25 years ago and continue to be leaders in the the use of innovative techniques that improve patient outcomes. Their extensive training and finely honed surgical techniques allow them to place implants successfully even in many high-risk patients (those with gum disease or other chronic conditions).
  • Cosmetic surgery of the head and neck. Cosmetic surgery is used to reconstruct facial structures damaged by trauma or improve overall appearance and function. Any facial cosmetic surgery requires the expertise of maxillofacial surgeons, many of whom can perform the procedure on an outpatient basis at their offices. A few examples of popular cosmetic surgeries include facelift, cheek augmentation, lip enhancement, and liposuction.
  • Craniofacial surgery. Cleft lip and palate is an example of a well-known birth defect—  though there are others that affect the way in which the face or head develops. These congenital malformations can be corrected during childhood through a series of surgeries, which should be accompanied by therapy to support the child’s language development. Penn Dental Medicine takes a comprehensive approach to the treatment of craniofacial disorders through our Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Clinic.

Schedule Your Visit at Penn Dental Medicine

Even with insurance, dental surgery can be expensive. At Penn Dental Medicine (PDM), you’ll enjoy the unique advantage of lower fees for services administered by our oral and maxillofacial residents. We are dedicated to providing the highest standard of care at our teaching clinic, where experts in the field oversee all aspects of the student dentists’ work.

If you are in need of oral and maxillofacial surgery, we encourage you to schedule a consultation at PDM to determine your eligibility to participate in our reduced-costs surgery program. To learn more, please call our offices at 215-898-8965 today.

Missing Teeth? Everything You Need To Know about the Dental Implant Procedure

Dental Implants Promote Good Oral Health for Years to Come

Are you thinking about having a dental implant procedure, or perhaps have already made the decision to do so? For some people, the thought of having an implant surgically placed can seem intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be. Learn all about what a dental implant procedure entails and how it promotes good oral health in the long term!

Why Do People Get Dental Implants?

People opt for dental implants to replace missing teeth that have been removed, whether because of injury or infection. Instead of wearing removable dentures, the patient can have an implant custom-fitted for them. Candidates must have good gum tissue that has not been affected by periodontal disease. That’s because the success of a dental implant procedure largely depends on the health of the gum tissues and underlying bone.

If you wait too long to place the implant after tooth loss or removal, the surgery may become impossible due to teeth shifting. When a gap is left in the mouth, the teeth gradually shift over towards the gap, shrinking the area available for the implant. While this shifting process does address the problem of an uneven dental structure, it cannot protect you from jaw bone loss.

Bone loss is the biggest problem associated with missing teeth. The jaw bone needs to be used in order to stay healthy. When a tooth is absent, the immune system senses that part of the jaw is no longer necessary to the body and begins to break down the bone. Bone recession can lead to more lost teeth, cause difficulties in enunciation and chewing, and give the face a collapsed appearance. Dental implants will help you to maintain the integrity of your jaw bone, and help your smile remain healthy for years to come!

What Exactly Is a Dental Implant?

A dental implant consists of an artificial tooth root that is anchored to the jaw. A false tooth is then screwed into the implant, where it becomes indistinguishable from the other teeth. A dental implant will also function as well as any of your natural teeth.

Dental implant surgery is well-established as an effective treatment for missing teeth. With a 95-99% success rate, the implant procedure is an effective and safe treatment option. Like any dental restoration, duration of the implant depends on the patient’s maintenance habits. While the false teeth cannot develop a cavity, it is important to keep the surrounding gums and teeth clean to ensure continuing oral health.

What Types of Dental Implants Are Available?

dental implant procedureThere are two major types of dental implants: endosteal and subperiosteal. Most people will choose endosteal because of its higher success rate and effectiveness. People who are unable to have an endosteal implant may be candidates for a subperiosteal implant.

Endosteal (in the bone): This type of implant is typically used as a more permanent option for patients who would otherwise be eligible for removable dentures or bridges. It is the most common implant type and may include screws, cylinders, or blades placed surgically into the jawbone. Each one holds one (or more) artificial teeth.

Subperiosteal (on the bone): This kind of implant is chosen for patients who have jaw bone loss and cannot wear conventional dentures. The implant sits on top of the bone, resulting in a shorter recovery time because the bone and implant do not need to fuse together. However, because failure rates are also higher for subperiosteal implants, they are a less popular alternative.

What Should I Expect from a Dental Implant Procedure?

You and your student dentist will decide on a customized treatment plan that addresses your particular needs. Penn Dental Medicine takes an individualized approach to implant treatment, offering a range of options including single implants, multiple implants, full-arch implants, and implant-supported dentures:

  • Single implants: If you’re missing one tooth, it can be replaced by an implant and a healing cap (crown).
  • Multiple implants: If you’re missing several teeth, you can replace each with an implant for the best possible jaw health.
  • Full-arch implants: Another approach for someone with multiple missing teeth is a fixed bridge anchored to dental implants. This treatment provides a permanent, stable, and aesthetic solution.
  • Implant-supported dentures: Implants can also serve as the base for a fixed denture, which is an excellent option for people with teeth missing in the top and the bottom.

The exact steps of your dental implant procedure may vary, but the process tends to look something like this:

  1. Dental exam. Your student dentist will perform a comprehensive examination to diagnose the problem and develop a treatment plan. This will likely include several imaging tests, such as dental X-rays.
  2. Mouth modelling. PDM’s computer-aided dental implant technology allows us to create an image that perfectly represents your mouth in order to manufacture a custom restoration. No molds are taken when you seek treatment at PDM.
  3. Anesthesia. General or local anesthesia will be administered at the beginning of the surgical procedure.
  4. Removal. The damaged or diseased teeth are extracted, when necessary.
  5. Jaw preparation. In certain cases, bone grafting will be required as preparation for the surgery.
  6. Implantation. The dental implant anchor is attached to the jawbone, where it will fuse together over a period of several months.
  7. Implant abutment. After the gum tissue has healed from the implant surgery, the false tooth (or abutment) will be placed on the dental implant.

Seek Expert Implant Treatment

If you’re looking for high quality, affordable dental implants, we encourage you to make an appointment at Penn Dental Medicine. When accepted into our program, you will receive treatment performed by student dentists at a reduced rate. To schedule your implant consultation, please call 215-898-8965 today!