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



Many patients who visit our Chapel Hill TMJ dentist come to us with the very basic question, “What is TMJ?” They may have been experiencing what seem to be symptoms of TMJ such as pain in the face, jaw, and head as well as neck aches.
TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder)
Painful symptoms such as headaches, tooth, and neck pain are a result of excessive pressure on the Temporomandibular joint. This is caused by damage resulting from decay or trauma, causing uneven surfaces on your teeth. This can result in an unbalanced bite that puts abnormal amounts of stress on the TMJ.
If your TMJ symptoms include a clicking or popping noise in the jaw, this is actually the sound of the joint breaking down. The sound is caused by cartilage in the joint becoming permanently malformed from prolonged overuse. You may also experience soreness in facial muscles as a result of continued stress. Another of the common TMJ symptoms is ear congestion or ringing in the ears.
So exactly what does TMJ treatment consist of? If your symptoms are caused by an improper bite, Chapel Hill TMJ dentist Dr. Diane Hourigan creates a custom-made night guard is designed to reposition the TMJ and surrounding muscle into a relaxed position. The mouth guard will stop the pain and return the mouth to a stable, comfortable position.
If you believe that the symptoms you are experiencing are related to TMJ, contact our office. Teeth grinding, headaches and neck or jaw pain can be eliminated with the proper TMJ treatment. We will arrange a consultation with our dentist to discuss your situation and explain possible options, including a custom mouth guard. Chronic TMJ pain does not have to take over your life.