On the one hand, dentists exist to make sure their patients have healthy teeth free of cavities. Keeping teeth in good working order and free from infection is, in a lot of ways, Dr. Diane Hourigan’s primary concern. However, there is another aspect of dentistry that can be every bit as satisfying and, frankly, every bit as important to patients: how teeth look.

Dental implants are one option Dr. Diane Hourigan has for making sure patients not only have a healthy, functional bite, but also an aesthetically-pleasing smile. They are, in many cases, one of the best options for people in search of a more beautiful smile.

What Are Dental Implants?

These days, dental implant repair is considered the standard of care for prosthetic replacement of missing teeth. Unlike dentures, dental implants require surgery that sets the implants into the jawbone, helping them act nearly identical to real teeth. The post that is surgically installed acts the same as a root does, holding the artificial tooth in place, while the artificial tooth is built to fit the size, shape, and color of the teeth surrounding it. For all intents and purposes, a dental implant will look and behave like a normal tooth. Most people won’t even be able to tell that it isn’t, in fact, real.

Who Would Need Dental Implants?

Theoretically, a patient could have a mouthful of dental implants, but most often Dr. Hourigan works with patients who are missing one or just a few teeth. Anybody with a gap in their smile of any size can enjoy the benefits of this surgery, which improves the function and aesthetics of a smile.

Dental implants obviously are not the only option for people with missing teeth. Dentures and fixed dental bridges also are common procedures, but certain factors might make implants more preferential for certain types of patients. The quantity and quality of jawbone available where the implant would be installed is one consideration, as is the location of the missing tooth or teeth. Also, invasive surgery of any sort typically is only recommended for patients in good standing health, and cost always is a consideration.

The bottom line is that people in search of a permanent, durable solution to replacing missing teeth will not find a better option than dental implants.

What is the Process for Dental Implants?

After an initial consultation with Dr. Hourigan, she will begin the process of determining next steps. Once the mouth is prepared for the implant, a post is installed into the jawbone, and patients are given a temporary denture during the healing process. When the post has solidified in place, an abutment is connected to the dental screw, and a crown is cemented or screwed to that abutment.

Schedule an Appointment

Once the process is complete, patients can enjoy a prosthetic tooth or teeth that look and act like the real thing. If you would like more information about dental implants, give our office a call and set up a consultation with Dr. Hourigan. She will happily set you on the right course toward having a smile you love.



If there’s one dental procedure that’s universally dreaded, it’s root canals. Almost everyone sees a root canal as being a painful and challenging experience, but there’s one crucial fact the Chapel Hill general dentist wants you to know –root canals don’t cause pain, they relieve it. 

Why Do I Need a Root Canal?

Root canal therapy is needed to remove an infection or extensive decay from the pulp deep inside your tooth. Dental pulp carries the blood vessels and nerves that keep the tooth alive.

When an infection reaches this part of your tooth, you experience pain that continues to develop until you’re unable to function, and you finally give in and call the dentist. Unfortunately, it’s this intense discomfort that gives root canals their negative reputation. The pain isn’t a result of root canal treatment; it’s the result of the infection.

What Happens During a Root Canal?

The first step is a local anesthetic to numb the tooth we’re treating, and at that moment all your pain will wash away.

Our Chapel Hill general dentist has many ways to keep you comfortable during treatment, and we may recommend nitrous oxide (laughing gas) or an oral sedative. These options combined with the local anesthetic should be enough to keep you pain-free throughout the procedure.

Treatment involves opening a tiny hole in your tooth so our dentist can reach its interior. Using special instruments, the infected pulp is cleared away and a material is used to fill the canals. Finally, a temporary filling is placed until the tooth heals and we know the infection is gone. At some point after, a crown will need to be placed to protect the weakened tooth.

Don’t Put Off a Root Canal

An infected root canal is a serious problem and needs to be addressed as quickly as possible to save the tooth. If you are in pain and suspect it might be time for a root canal, please call our office so we can arrange to see you as soon as possible and provide the relief you need.



Warning Signs of Gum Disease

by Dr. Diane Hourigan

When we are children, the concept of brushing and flossing is drilled into our collective subconscious, but most of the scare tactics used to convince us to brush and floss revolve around what will happen to our teeth if we don’t. The fear of cavities often is the major selling point, but the truth is that gum disease can be just as problematic long-term, and brushing and flossing regularly is every bit as good for the gums as it is for the teeth.

Thankfully, periodontal (gum) disease can be prevented in part by better brushing and flossing habits, but if left untreated it can lead to serious long-term problems, including sore, bleeding gums, painful chewing problems, and possibly even tooth loss.

The following are some of the warning signs for periodontal disease that suggest you should visit your general dentist sometime soon for a deeper cleaning and a consultation about how to take better care of your gums moving forward:

#1 Bleeding Gums

Perhaps the most common byproduct of gum disease is bleeding gums, which more often are irritated when you brush or floss, though it can happen when you eat hard foods, as well. If you do notice some blood along your gum line when you floss, it most likely is a result of bacteria buildup along the gum line, which is causing gingivitis—an early form of periodontitis.

#2 Receding Gums

If left unresolved, that early-stage periodontitis can lead to receding gums, which means your teeth have started to appear longer when you smile. This is common in many older patients but is not reserved exclusively for them. Bacterial infection actually is destroying gum tissue in this instance, so receding gums are a major red flag for gum disease.

#3 Halitosis

Persistent bad breath, also known as halitosis, also can be a symptom of gum disease. The bacteria caught at the gum line can create a bad odor or bad taste in your mouth, so if you feel as though you’ve got bad breath that just won’t quit, it’s possible gum disease it at least partially to blame.

#4 Tender/Swollen Gums

If your gums have begun to look swollen and/or redder than usual, that should be a red flag that something isn’t right with them. Left alone too long, this type of inflammation can cause big problems on the gum tissue and the bone in your teeth, and can even lead to the loss of teeth long-term.

#5 Tooth Sensitivity

Sensitive teeth can be caused by any of a number of things, but one potential root of the cause could be gum disease. Any kind of tooth sensitivity should be checked out by your general dentist, but in conjunction with any of these other symptoms, it could represent the beginnings of periodontal disease.

Your Trusted Chapel Hill Dentist

Keep an eye out for these symptoms, and understand that in many cases the fix to these issues boils down to taking better care of your teeth and gums. Brush more often and more thoroughly, and don’t forget to floss. And, as always, if you need a deeper cleaning or think you may be suffering from more serious gum disease, do not hesitate to reach out to the office of Dr. Diane Hourigan any time. She and her staff will help get your gums healthy again!

Source: https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/gum-disease/more-info