Dentist in Syracuse, NY
Dr. Karen Lawitts

100 Intrepid Lane
Syracuse, NY 13205

(315) 492-8138
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(315) 492-8138

100 Intrepid Lane
Syracuse, NY 13205

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Posts for: August, 2014

OurArsenalofWeaponsintheWarAgainstGumDisease

Advanced periodontal (gum) disease is a chronic, progressive condition characterized by bacterial infection and inflammation. Without proactive treatment, gum disease can cause extensive damage to the various tissues that hold teeth in place, and lead eventually to tooth loss.

As every war has its tactics, so the war against advanced gum disease is no different. Here’s a few of the approaches and treatments we use to stop the disease and promote healing to damaged tissues.

A Change in Behavior. Regardless of other risk factors, a film of bacterial plaque on tooth surfaces caused by a neglect of proper oral hygiene is the main culprit behind progressive gum disease. Your first step is to form new hygiene habits — brushing and flossing — that will need to be performed daily to be effective. It’s also time to end some old habits like smoking that are contributing to your gum disease.

Total Plaque Removal. Although your renewed efforts at oral hygiene are essential, it’s just as important for us to use our expertise to remove the hard deposits of plaque (known as calculus) you can’t reach with brushing and flossing. Clinging stubbornly below the gum line, these deposits will continue to be sources of infection until they’re removed. Using techniques known as scaling or root planing, we employ ultrasonic or manual instruments to access and remove as much of the offending deposits as possible. This essential step may require more than one visit to give time for inflammation to subside, and may be followed with antibiotic therapy as well.

Surgical Treatments. Although quite effective in most cases of gum disease, scaling or root planing may not be adequate in more severe cases. We still have other weapons in our arsenal, though — there are a number of surgical procedures we can use to eliminate hidden pockets of infection, or repair and regenerate damaged tissues and bone. These procedures not only help restore you to better oral health and function, but also establish a more conducive environment for maintaining future care.

Using these and other techniques, we can reduce the infection and inflammation associated with gum disease. This sets the stage for healing and renewed health, both for your mouth and your entire body.

If you would like more information on treatment for periodontal gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Understanding Periodontal Disease.”


OvercomeOralCancerWithScreeningsandLifestyleChanges

Baseball legend Babe Ruth, President Ulysses S. Grant and George Harrison of the Beatles — these three notable people from different backgrounds and historical eras have a sad commonality — they all died from oral cancer. They are a reminder that regardless of one’s wealth or fame, no one is immune from oral cancer and its deadly effects.

Like other cancers, oral cancer is characterized by abnormal cell growth capable of spreading into nearby tissue or other parts of the body. Although oral cancer accounts for less than 3% of all occurring cancers, it’s among the most deadly: only 58% of oral cancer patients survive five years after treatment. This is mostly due to the difficulty of detecting oral cancer in its early stages; in fact, 30% of oral cancers have already spread (metastasized) when they’re finally diagnosed.

Early detection through careful monitoring is the best strategy for defeating oral cancer. If you have a predisposing factor like a family history of oral cancer, then regular screenings during dental checkups are a must. During an exam we may be able to detect abnormalities (like unusual white spots on the gums or jaws) that may signal a cancer in a pre-cancerous or early stage. You also should be on the lookout for a persistent sore throat or hoarseness, lingering mouth pain, a painless lump in the mouth or on the neck, or ear pain on only one side.

There are also conditions or behaviors that may increase your risk for oral cancer, like using tobacco (both smoke and smokeless) or consuming alcohol. If you use tobacco you should consider quitting it altogether; you should consider cutting back on alcohol consumption if you’re a moderate to heavy drinker. You should also avoid sexual behaviors that increase your chances of viral infection — research has found a link between oral cancer and the viral infection caused by the sexually-transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV 16).

Improving your nutrition can also reduce your cancer risk. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables supplies the body with cancer-fighting nutrients, including antioxidants that protect cells from damage caused by carcinogens. Studies have shown this kind of diet consistently lowers the risk of oral and throat cancer, as well as cancers of the esophagus, breast, prostate, lung and colon.

If you would like more information on oral cancer, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer.”


TakingPrecautionsBeforeDuringandAfterImplantsWillHelpEnsureSuccess

One of the many reasons for dental implant popularity is their reliability — studies have shown 95% of implants still function well after ten years. Still, on rare occasions an implant will fail. We can minimize this risk by taking precautions before, during and after installation.

Long-term success begins with careful planning before surgery. We thoroughly examine your teeth and jaws, using x-rays or CT scanning to map out the exact location of nerves, sinus cavities and other anatomical structures. Along with your medical history, this data will help us develop a precise guide to use during implant surgery.

We’ll also assess bone quality at the intended implant site. The dental implant needs an adequate amount of bone for support — without it the implant will not be able to withstand the biting force of normal chewing. It may be possible in some cases to use bone grafting or similar techniques to stimulate growth at the site, but sometimes other restoration options may need to be considered.

The surgery can also impact future reliability. By precisely following the surgical guide developed during the planning stage, the oral surgeon can increase the chances of success. Still, there may be an unseen variable in play — a pre-existing or post-operative infection, for example, that interferes with the integration of the implant with the bone. By carefully monitoring the healing process, we can detect if this has taken place; if so, the implant is removed, the area cleansed and the implant (or a wider implant) re-installed.

Even if all goes well with the implantation, there’s still a chance of future failure due to gum disease. Caused mainly by bacterial plaque, gum disease infects and inflames the supporting tissues around the teeth; in the case of implants it could eventually infect and weaken the surrounding bone, a condition known as peri-implantitis. This calls for aggressive treatment, including plaque and infected tissue removal, and possible surgery to repair the bone’s attachment to the implant. Without treatment, the implant could eventually detach from the weakened bone.

Maintaining your implants with good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups is the best insurance for long-term reliability. Taking care of them as you would natural teeth will help ensure a long, happy life for your “third set” of teeth.

If you would like more information on dental implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants.”


HomevsProfessionalTeethWhitening-WeighingYourOptions

If you’re considering tooth whitening, you may be torn between using a home product and undergoing a professional application in our office. Here’s a brief comparison of both approaches to help you in your decision process.

It helps first to know what we’re trying to correct — that dull, discolored tooth stain. Tooth staining comes in two varieties: intrinsic, which occurs deep within the tooth and can be caused by aging, old root canal treatments, tetracycline antibiotic use or excessive fluoride intake during childhood development; or extrinsic, which occurs mainly on the tooth surface and is caused by substances like coffee, tea, wine or tobacco. Intrinsic stains can only be treated through an in-office procedure — the comparison we’re making between home and professional whitening refers only to extrinsic staining.

Whitening, then, is the use of a chemical agent to bleach those stains. The majority of both home and professional products use hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide (which also contains hydrogen peroxide) as its primary bleaching agent. Depending on the application, either of these chemicals can effectively bleach extrinsically stained teeth. The two approaches differ, however, in the strength of the bleaching agent: home products usually contain a 10% or less concentration, while professional solutions usually contain between 15% and 35%. As a result, the home application takes longer than a dentist’s treatment to achieve desired results — two to three weeks as opposed to one or two office visits.

Whichever option you choose, remember teeth whitening isn’t a permanent solution. The brightness will fade over time — six months to a year if you restrict foods and habits that stain teeth. You can also receive a touch-up once or twice a year to help extend brightness.

There’s also a middle of the road option — you can use a home application with guidance from our office. It’s also a good idea to visit us for an examination beforehand — we can then advise you on what options will work for your particular type of staining and teeth condition.

If you would like more information on teeth whitening options, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Teeth Whitening” and “Tooth Staining.”


PreservingorRestoringTeeth-BothPathsLeadtoBetterOralHealth

A wise man once said, “No man is an island.” Something similar could be said about our teeth — their health and vitality are intricately linked with a person’s general health. Missing teeth in particular can set off a chain reaction that leads to bone loss, an issue for both your health and appearance.

Bone is composed of living cells that go through normal cycles of growth and resorption (the dissolving of mineral composition in the bone). In our early years, there’s more growth than resorption as our skeletal structure develops; in adulthood the cycle tends to equalize between the two phases. In our later years, the cycle tends more toward resorption.

The action of biting and chewing actually helps keep the cycle on track as the generated forces stimulate bone growth. When teeth are missing, though, the bone no longer receives this stimulation and will resorb at a higher rate. This is especially a concern for people who’ve suffered a complete loss of their teeth.

This bone loss may in turn trigger a number of related problems. The jaws may no longer close properly, leading to painful stress in the joints. Nutrition suffers as food choices become limited due to the lack of teeth and bite problems. And, a person’s appearance may change as well — the bone loss shortens the look of the face and causes the person to appear much older than they are.

Because of these potential problems, we should do everything we can to preserve and prolong natural teeth. But if preservation isn’t an option, then some form of restoration should be pursued. Dental implants in particular may actually prevent and even reverse bone loss. Bone has an affinity with titanium (which is what the implant is made from) and will attach and grow around it over time. This not only anchors the implant, it also increases bone mass where it may have been prematurely lost.

Caring for and preserving your natural teeth is one of the best things you can do for the health of your jawbone. If you lose your teeth, though, there are ways to restore them and protect bone health — and your smile — at the same time.

If you would like more information on the effects of tooth loss, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “New Teeth in One Day.”




Dr. Karen Lawitts

Dr. Karen Lawitts

 

 

Dr. Lawitts was born and raised in Syracuse, NY. She received her Bachelor of Science and D.D.S degree from Northwestern University in Chicago.  
       
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