The newest advancements in dental medicine are revolutionizing traditional methods, meaning less discomfort, minimal downtime, and maybe even a little fun. Words by Sylvie Baggett.
It doesn’t have to be a headache
Botox for your mouth? Yes! Dr. Lindsay Sammons at Howard Family Dental wants you to know that Botox does more than ease pesky fine lines and wrinkles—it aids in minimizing pain stemming from temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) and migraines.
Sammons estimates that 25 percent of the population suffers from headache-inducing disorders – and since 2011, she has been using Botox not only for its cosmetic purposes, but also as therapeutic treatment for her headache-affected patients.
Once injected, Botox works by acting as a protein that binds to muscle, limiting movement so that pain receptors in nerve endings don’t have the chance to activate. For about 3 months after treatment, patients experience less frequent, less severe headaches – just like magic.
The procedure is so effective that one of Sammons’ clients gets treated every three months, like clockwork. And since Sammons and other members of her staff are specifically trained in both the therapeutic and cosmetic application of Botox, patients get a double-whammy win: fewer headaches and fewer wrinkles. What could be better than that?
A trip to the dentist can feel like … well, a trip to the dentist. But as technology improves by leaps and bounds, the process has come to involve some real “Gee whiz!” moments, as Dr. Eric Gladden likes to say.
His new favorite toy—I mean tool— is the laser. Depending on the laser’s settings, it can aid in involved procedures such as root canals by reshaping the gums and eliminating bacteria, or simply kick-start the healing process post-op. Rather than suffer through the discomfort (and horror) of a steel scalpel in the mouth, patients now have the option of surgical operations via laser. Not only is it less invasive than traditional methods, patients report having little to no discomfort during laser surgery.
Gladden explains that lasers also have the capacity to stop an infection in its tracks. If a patient comes in with a cold sore or herpes outbreak, the laser can be dialed down and applied to the affected area, immediately halting the production of infectious cells and allowing the healing process to begin.
Dr. Rutledge Coleman Jr. of Morrison Dental Associates is equally as enthusiastic about the benefits of using lasers—namely PerioLase—to stimulate new bone growth and treat gum disease.
“It’s a game-changer,” Coleman says. While recovery from traditional periodontal surgery would take up to a couple of weeks, patients recover from this less invasive laser procedure in two days on average.
Have your cake and eat it, too
What’s worse than a kid at the dentist? A kid at the dentist with a cavity (or three—thanks, Sour Skittles). Rather than risk the potential danger of anesthetizing children, Dr. Stephanie Sweeney opts for a more conscious solution.
“Silver diamine fluoride is great for kids, because it stops cavities without any drilling or sedation,” Sweeney explains. She simply paints the fluoride over the cavity, effectively stopping any further decay and creating a protective barrier.
It’s a relatively inexpensive alternative to crowns or extraction. The bad news? The fluoride turns the tooth black. But once the child is old enough to safely tolerate it, the cavity can be filled with tooth-colored material. And dentist-fearing adults can use it, too.