How Is Gum Disease Linked To Heart Problems And Diabetes?

Gum Disease

At Downtown Dental Specialty in San Diego, we understand the importance of oral health and its impact on your overall well-being. Recently, studies have shown a link between gum disease and a number of serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, among several others. By better understanding the connection between gum disease and your systemic health, as well as ways to prevent and detect gum disease, you can boost your quality of life in the years ahead.

What’s The Difference Between Gum Disease, Periodontitis, And Gingivitis?

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease or periodontitis, is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. It starts out as mild inflammation, known as gingivitis, gradually evolving into more severe infections (periodontitis,) which can lead to tooth loss.

Studies have shown that individuals with gum disease are more likely to suffer from heart problems and diabetes, and vice versa. The exact connection is not fully understood, but it is thought that inflammation caused by gum disease and plaque spreading from the mouth into the cardiovascular sytstem may contribute to the development and progression of this condition. In some studies, researchers found periodontal bacteria lodged within the heart or arteries of cardiovascular attack victims

How Do I Prevent Gum Disease?

To prevent gum disease, it’s important to maintain good oral hygiene habits. This includes brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily. Upgrading to oral hygiene aids like an electric toothbrush or a water flosser can also be helpful. It’s also important to schedule regular dental check-ups and cleanings every six months so that our dentist in San Diego can detect and treat early signs of gum disease before it becomes a more serious problem. These preventative cleanings will help you control plaque and tartar buildup—which are responsible for periodontitis—between checkups.

How Do I Know If I Have Gum Disease?

In addition to scheduling regular dental exams and periodontal screenings, you need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of gum disease. These can include red, swollen, and bleeding gums, receding gums, bad breath, and loose or shifting teeth. If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to schedule an appointment with us as soon as possible.

Should I tell my dentist and hygienist if I have a heart condition? Will I need antibiotics before a dental procedure?

If you have a heart condition or diabetes, we’ll need to know before scheduling any dental procedures. Especially surgeries such as dental extractions or sedation appointments. We will take extra precautions to ensure your safety and may even recommend antibiotics before certain procedures to reduce the risk of infection. Our San Diego dentist may want to speak with your medical specialist beforehand to ensure a holistic approach to your care.

It is also important for individuals with heart disease or diabetes to pay extra attention to their oral health, as they may be at a higher risk of developing gum disease. Regular dental check-ups and cleanings, as well as good oral hygiene practices, are essential in maintaining good oral health and reducing the risk of complications.

Know the Risks

Gum disease is a serious oral health condition that can lead to a number of health problems as that bacteria spreads elsewhere in your body. Including your heart, lungs, brain, and other organs. You can’t treat issues like cardiovascular disease without also paying attention to an infection inside your mouth.

If you have a heart condition let us know. We’ll help you stay ahead of potential gum disease to lower your risk of dangerous side-effects.

Schedule Your Checkup Today

At Downtown Dental Specialty, we are committed to providing our patients with the highest quality of care. If you have any concerns about your oral health or would like to schedule an appointment, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are here to help you maintain a healthy beautiful smile, as well as a healthy heart!

7 Common Signs You Need a Root Canal

Root Canal

Our San Diego dentists will only recommend endodontic treatment (or root canal therapy) if you need to save a dying or accessed tooth. Root canal treatment is different from fillings, which only treat a part of the tooth or crowns which cover it completely. This treatment fills and seals off the nerve chamber inside the root of the tooth.

Root canals remove nerve and blood supply tissue that keep your tooth alive. It’s usually because the nerve and blood supply tissues are deteriorating or infected. This causes the tooth to erode from within.

While a broken, dying, or abscessed tooth is not always a problem, there are seven signs you should be aware of. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with Downtown Dental Specialty right away:

  1. Swelling and Drainage

A root canal is required when there are dental abscesses inside a tooth. The abscess is usually a small cyst that appears near the root of the tooth and can be seen on dental X-rays. You may experience side effects such as a salty taste and swelling.

Fistulas, which look like pimples on your gums, are areas of swelling around infected teeth. These fistulas are full of fluid and bacteria from the tooth. Sometimes, these fistulas can burst and cause visible or salty-tasting drainage.

  • Your Tooth Has a Dark Appearance

Our teeth are porous, so it is natural for them to develop stains and discoloration over time. However, when they do, you will see a generalized change in your smile and not just in one tooth.

It’s easy for a person to spot a tooth that is changing in color. The shade changes to a brownish or greyish hue, which can affect the whole tooth. It’s usually a sign that the nerve tissues within the tooth are beginning to die or have already died.

  • Sensitivity to Hot Temperatures

Sensitivity to cold temperatures is quite common. However, if a tooth reacts to heat, it is almost always a sign of nerve infection.

The tooth’s hypersensitivity to heat will usually indicate that something is wrong with the nerve tissue. An abscess, deep cavity, or severe crack could be the cause. Root canals are the only way to save your tooth from being extracted.

  • A Cavity Deep Inside Your Tooth

The nerve inside your tooth is protected by a layer of enamel or dentin. If you don’t fix it immediately, decay can spread to adjacent layers or neighboring teeth. The cavity will eventually burrow through the enamel and reach the next layer, called dentin. Dentin isn’t as strong or dense, so it decays faster.

Left untreated, the cavity will quickly burrow through this softer layer, eventually reaching the nerve. Then, the nerve tissues can become infected. If the tooth was covered with a crown or filling without addressing the root, the bacteria trapped inside the nerve would cause recurring toothaches and abscesses.

  • A Past Injury

Sometimes, your teeth can surprise you. If there was an injury to your mouth, the affected tooth could start to discolor and die — even if your injury happened 10 years ago. You might have been in an accident that caused your tooth to break, received a blow to the mouth from a rogue baseball, or had your child accidentally headbutt you in the mouth. It’s completely normal for teeth to discolor and die several years later, rather than at the initial time of the injury.

  • Old, Leaky Fillings

Old fillings may leak or develop new areas of decay around them before you even notice it. Endodontic treatment treats the whole tooth from the inside, not just the area where the crowns or fillings are placed.

  • Lingering Pain

Abscessed teeth will usually present themselves with some degree of pain. You may notice discomfort, particularly when you put pressure on the tooth, such as when you’re biting or chewing something. If you do, it’s time to call Downtown Dental Specialty.

Schedule Your Consultation

Our experienced San Diego dentists can tell you whether or not you need a root canal. If you experience any of these signs, call to schedule a checkup.

What to do if You Have a Dental Emergency During The Christmas Holiday?

healthcare, dental health and problem concept – unhappy asian woman suffering from toothache at home

At Downtown Dental Specialty, it’s far more common to see dental emergencies pop up during the holiday season than you might think. Why? Because more of us are indulging in sweets, candies, home-baked treats, and foods that easily cause a toothache or worse.

Experiencing sudden, severe tooth pain or losing a tooth during a holiday game of football can be traumatic and unnerving. On top of the pain you may be experiencing, now you’re faced with the issue of finding an emergency dentist who can see you over Christmas.

Our San Diego dental office has seen this scenario play out every year. In the unfortunate event that you find yourself looking up an emergency dentist near you, we’re happy to accommodate you!

Relief From Toothache Pain

Toothaches are one of the most common dental emergencies during Christmas. Thankfully, there are several things you can do at home to lighten the pain until you are able to see the dentist. Since most toothaches are caused by inflammation or swelling, here are some ways to ease the pain in the meantime:

  • Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, such as Motrin or ibuprofen as directed.
  • Apply a cold compress to the affected side of your face for 20 minutes, rest, and repeat.
  • If you can, chew on the opposite side of your mouth.
  • To help remove debris and reduce inflammation, rinse with warm salt water several times per day.
  • Clean and floss around your gumlines every day, as food could be lodged in areas, leading to additional discomfort or swelling.
  • Make “miracle mouthwash” for soft-tissue injuries like rashes, blisters, or trauma.

Most Common Christmas Dental Emergencies

If you’ve broken a tooth or have a tooth that’s fallen out, you must quickly take action to save your smile. Once you find the missing portion of your tooth, place it in a container and cover it with milk, saline, or tap water as soon as possible. Then, call Downtown Dental Specialty to set up an appointment at your earliest opportunity and to find out how to handle your specific dental emergency.

Some of the most common dental emergencies we treat in our San Diego office include:

Toothaches: A terrible toothache can be an indicator of a serious problem. If your toothache is preventing you from eating normally, sleeping, or participating in holiday activities, it’s time to call our office.

Abscessed Teeth: Dental abscesses are a red flag that a tooth’s nerve is dying or has undergone some type of trauma. Even if it doesn’t feel painful, some abscessed teeth are known to expand into adjacent structures and cause severe pain. If endodontic therapy is not performed quickly, you could lose your tooth.

Broken Teeth: Broken or chipped teeth can be extremely sensitive and often need immediate treatment to prevent pain, further decay, infection, or tooth loss.

Tooth Avulsion (Knocked Out Teeth): While it’s not always possible to save a knocked-out tooth, our emergency dentistry team will do everything possible to replace it. If the tooth can be reinserted, a root canal is usually necessary. Otherwise, we’ll discuss replacement options with you.

Broken Fillings: When a filling falls out, teeth are especially prone to fracture and cracking. Our San Diego emergency dentist can repair the filling and limit additional tooth damage.

Denture Repairs: Dropping your partial or full denture in the bathroom can completely ruin your Christmas. Depending on how badly they’re damaged, broken dentures can cause trauma to your mouth and your self-esteem. We offer emergency repairs and adjustments for our denture patients.

Bleeding: Your mouth is highly vascular, and even small injuries can cause major bleeding. If the bleeding does not stop, you may require stitches or immediate medical attention.

Emergency Dentistry Near You (San Diego)

If you need emergency dental care over the holidays, please call our office and follow the prompts. We will contact you to walk you through the steps you need to take until we can see you in person.

What is Periodontal Disease and What Are The Treatment Options?

Periodontal Disease
Periodontal Disease
Woman with gum inflammation, closeup

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, occurs when harmful bacteria in your mouth cause damage to the soft tissues and bones that support your teeth. There are many different treatments for gum disease depending on the severity of your condition. While gum disease is preventable, it often goes overlooked until the infection becomes severe enough to trigger tooth loss.

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease is a localized infection that encompasses both gum and bone loss around specific teeth.  The infected tissues create pockets in the gums, allowing additional bacteria to accumulate underneath them and trigger an inflammatory response from your immune system.

During cases of severe periodontal infections, the bacteria can enter your bloodstream and spread throughout your cardiovascular system. In fact, bacteria have been found lodged inside of arterial linings and the brain. Scientists warn that active gum disease can statistically increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Ultimately, periodontal disease is the #1 cause of adult tooth loss in San Diego and across the United States.

What Causes Gum Disease?

Gum disease is caused by plaque, which builds up on teeth and irritates the gums. Usually, plaque is removed with daily brushing and flossing. But if home care is lacking or areas are missed, chronic inflammation of your gum tissue can result. From there, your immune system will react to the bacteria in your mouth and increase blood flow as it rushes antibodies to those spaces. This reaction triggers redness and bleeding, due to a bacterial presence. As gums become more infected, they pull away from the teeth and reduce the amount of tissue support. Bone loss also follows.

What Are Some of the Early Warning Signs of Periodontal Disease? 

Some of the early warning signs of gum disease are soreness in your gums and bleeding while brushing or flossing. Early-stage infections like gingivitis will usually improve with good oral hygiene, but periodontal infections do not. In fact, gingivitis can usually be reversed in about two weeks with good home care. But if it evolves into periodontal disease, symptoms will ultimately include:

  • Bone loss
  • Gum recession
  • Exposed root surfaces
  • Tooth mobility and loss
  • Chronic halitosis
  • Heavy tartar buildup

Treatment Options for Periodontal Infections

Periodontal disease usually requires a series of therapeutic deep cleanings (scaling and root planing) to target the bacteria responsible for your gum infection. Preventative cleanings do not reach these deep pocket areas and are inadequate for managing active gum disease.

If your infection is severe, our San Diego dentist may recommend more advanced periodontal therapies, such as crown lengthening, pocket reduction, gum augmentation, or bone grafting.

Until periodontal disease is treated professionally, it will only continue to expand deeper into your supporting oral tissues or spread to adjacent teeth. It cannot be treated at home, regardless of how well you brush or floss.

Is Periodontal Disease Reversible?

Gingivitis is reversible but gum disease is not. Periodontal disease is a progressive condition, meaning that the more time that goes by, the worse it will get. Left untreated, gum disease will progress to permanent bone loss and tooth loss, impacting your entire smile. If you are experiencing symptoms like bleeding gums or loose teeth, don’t put off seeing our San Diego dentist for a professional evaluation.

The goal of periodontal treatment is to prevent additional tissue detachment and preserve the current level of integrity around your teeth. It does not reverse soft or hard tissue loss. Rather, it serves to maintain the level of oral health and structural support where it’s at before it gets any worse.

What Happens if Periodontal Disease Goes Untreated?

Untreated gum disease poses a risk to both your smile and your overall health. As gum disease progresses, it can lead to tooth loss, chronic bad breath, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Even people with diabetes or infertility issues may find that their conditions do not improve until their oral infection is stabilized.

If you suspect that you have gum disease, call Downtown Dental Specialty in San Diego today for an appointment.

Myths about Root Canal Treatment

Root Canal Treatment
Root Canal Treatment
Dental caries prevention.Teenage boy at the dentist’s chair during a dental procedure, smile close up. Healthy Smile. Beautiful male Smile

Root canals are one of the most misunderstood procedures in dentistry. There are more myths about endodontic treatment (San Diego) than any other service we offer at Downtown Dental Specialty.

How can you tell the difference between fact and fiction when it comes to root canals? These are the most common myths that our San Diego dentists hear and the truth behind them:

MYTH: Root Canal Treatments is Painful

Root canal treatment shouldn’t be any more painful than a regular dental filling. Endodontic treatment relieves tooth pain. It does not cause toothaches to feel worse or last longer. They don’t cause any additional discomfort. How long does a root canal take? Root canals take longer to complete due to the number of tooth roots involved. If you’re worried about your mouth getting sore from keeping it open so long, we can use soft props and numbing medication to ease the discomfort.

Root canals are often thought to be painful. But the truth is that the pain of abscessed teeth comes from putting treatment off for too long. These teeth can be difficult if not impossible to numb with local anesthetic, which is why antibiotics may also be used ahead of time. What happens during a root canal? We numb the tooth and remove the infected nerve. It eliminates the source of your pain altogether.

MYTH: Antibiotics Clear Up Abscessed Teeth

Let’s say our San Diego dentist suggests that you take an antibiotic before your root canal. After you take the medication, your tooth feels fine. Now what? Can you skip the endodontic treatment appointment?


It’s only a matter time before the abscess recurs, even with antibiotics. The antibiotic reduces the extent of infection (which is why your symptoms improve) but it doesn’t heal the source of it, such as a crack or open cavity.

Overuse of antibiotics can result in drug resistance. Plan to have your root canal completed within the ideal timeframe to ensure you’re as comfortable as possible during the procedure.

MYTH: You Don’t Need a Root Canal if Your Tooth Doesn’t Hurt

Abscessed teeth don’t have healthy nerves to transmit painful stimuli like healthy teeth do. That’s why it’s physically possible to have severe decay without ever feeling anything.

Sometimes, a small cavity can cause extreme sensitivity or pain when you’re eating. At other times, they can be completely pain free without any symptoms whatsoever. Abscessed teeth are similar. Root canal treatment should not be determined by your pain level. Rather, it should be based on the extent of infection that is visible on your dental X-rays and during an exam.

MYTH: It’s Better to Pull a Tooth Than Get a Root Canal

You may think that having your tooth removed is the best, most cost-effective, and fastest way to solve all your dental problems. But once a tooth is pulled, it needs to be replaced with a new one. If it isn’t, all other teeth will shift and your bite will change. The bone can also shrink in that area, which can lead to premature aging in your lips, cheeks, and overall facial features.

Our San Diego dentists want to help you maintain your teeth as long as possible. Replacing missing teeth is always an option, but it does bring additional costs with it that you may not have considered.

MYTH: You’re Going to be in Pain After a Root Canal

After a tooth’s nerve has been removed, it is practically impossible for it to feel pain. We will remove the nerves inside of the tooth root. This eliminates the physical transmission of painful stimuli altogether.

Root canals physically leave your tooth with no way to interpret pain. That being said, it’s not unusual to experience some discomfort from at the injection site or simply having your mouth open for a longer amount of time. These problems are temporary and can be remedied with over-the-counter pain medication and warm compresses.

Root Canal Treatment Near You

When it comes to saving a tooth that has abscessed, endodontic treatment (San Diego) can often be the last resort. Fortunately, root canal treatment has never been easier or more painless thanks to modern technology. If you are suffering from a toothache, abscess, or a dying tooth, our San Diego dentists can help. For an appointment, call Downtown Dental Specialty today!

What To Do If You Have Cracked Molar

Tooth treatment

When it comes to prosthodontics, San Diego patients can struggle with major issues like a cracked molar (back tooth.) Cracked molars aren’t uncommon, but you tend to hear about them less often than you do other types of dental emergencies, such as chipped front teeth.

Why Do Teeth Crack?

There are several reasons why a molar may crack or break. Some are preventable with early intervention, while others are not. Here are some of the most common causes that we see in our San Diego practice:

Large, untreated area of tooth decay.

Active cavities continually expand into the surrounding, healthy tooth structure unless they’re treated. While decay may not be painful, it doesn’t mean the cavity isn’t rapidly expanding. As cavities become large, the outer shell of enamel thins out and becomes especially brittle. Until one day, you bite down, and the molar cracks apart entirely.

Older, large amalgam filling that needs to be replaced.

Silver fillings are very useful for filling large cavities or teeth that are difficult to keep dry, such as molars. But over time, fillings may start to leak and pull away from the tooth. This process creates an open margin around the filling where bacteria can seep into the tooth. If the filling isn’t replaced or upgraded to a crown, it’s only a matter of time until the tooth cracks apart around the filling when you bite or chew.

Biting down on something hard.

Perhaps it’s a fork, a tongue piercing, or using your teeth as tools to open something. Biting down on an extremely hard object can easily cause severe tooth fractures or broken dental work.

How to Tell if Your Tooth is Cracked

Sometimes cracked tooth symptoms are extremely obvious, and other times they’re so subtle that it’s hard to tell whether a tooth is cracked or not.

Depending on the extent of damage to your cracked tooth, symptoms may or may not include:

  • Pain or throbbing
  • Sensitivity to biting pressure (or when you release the pressure)
  • Rough edges you can feel with your tongue
  • Visible fractures
  • Pieces of tooth falling out of your mouth

When you visit Downtown Dental Specialty to check on your cracked tooth symptoms, we will take an X-ray and visually examine your tooth. But since some cracks in teeth are invisible to the naked eye, we will also use a special tool to have you bite down on certain points of the suspected tooth. This can help us pinpoint whether there is a hairline fracture somewhere in the tooth or tooth root.

First Steps if You Have a Cracked Molar

If you suspect that you have a cracked molar, it is extremely important not to chew on that side of your mouth. Otherwise, you could inadvertently damage the tooth and cause more tooth structures to break off or crack.

To help manage discomfort, we recommend taking Motrin (ibuprofen) as directed. The anti-inflammatory effects will help ease hypersensitive tooth nerves to reduce pain until you can seek out treatment.

Although it’s an aged analogy, cracked teeth can easily be compared to a “run” in an old pair of nylon stockings. Once it starts, it can easily grow and get out of hand.

Contact our office immediately if you suspect your tooth is cracked.

Cracked Tooth Treatment

The best treatment for cracked teeth will depend on how deep the crack is. If the fracture is limited to the crown (the portion of the tooth above the gums) our specialist may recommend a restorative porcelain crown over the tooth. The restorative crown will protect the compromised tooth and distribute biting pressure evenly, preventing additional breakage.

For cracks that extend deeper into the tooth structure or nerve, root canal therapy may also be required in addition to the crown.

Severe cracks that extend well into the root that cannot be restored are best managed by removing the tooth entirely and replacing it with a dental implant.

Prosthodontics San Diego

Downtown Dental Specialty offers advanced cracked tooth treatment in San Diego. If you’re experiencing cracked tooth symptoms, contact us as soon as possible. We offer advanced prosthodontics (San Diego) to help restore your smile, regardless of how extensive the damage may be.

New patients are always welcome. Contact us today.

What is a Root Canal (and How is it Done?)

Root Canal
Root Canal
Human teeth anatomy. Cross section of human tooth. 3d illustration

Endodontic treatment—more frequently referred to as a root canal procedure—is a special type of dental service that helps preserve damaged or infected teeth. More often than not, you’ll need a root canal as a last line of defense before removing it altogether.

What is a Root Canal?

You can think of a root canal almost like a dental filling. Except with a traditional filling, voids/cavities in the top of the tooth are filled. In the case of a root canal, the filling material goes deeper inside the tooth to fill and seal off all of the empty nerve chambers running through the root structures. These sealed areas block any bacteria from re-entering the tooth.

Endodontic treatment removes the nerve tissues inside the tooth that is dying, traumatized, or infected. By performing a root canal, our endodontist (San Diego) can prevent the need to remove the tooth altogether.

When a cavity is limited to the outer layers of tooth, a filling or crown is usually more than adequate for treating the issue. But once the tooth’s nerve becomes involved, endodontic treatment is a must.

The Root Canal Procedure

Understanding how a root canal is performed can help put your mind at ease about the endodontic procedure.

What is a root canal, and how is it done? Essentially, we are removing the pulp tissues inside of a dying or abscessed tooth. When we take this step, we can preserve the surrounding tooth structure for several more years.

During a root canal, our San Diego dentist will carefully numb the tooth to prevent any discomfort during your procedure. If there is a severe infection or abscess, an antibiotic will reduce the inflammation leading up to your appointment to improve your comfort level.

After the tooth is completely numb, we create a small opening in the crown to access the nerve tissues. From there, the pulp is removed and the inside of the tooth is carefully cleaned, medicated, and sealed off.

Once your endodontic procedure is complete, we will need to place a crown over the tooth to protect the structure that’s left behind. Since your tooth no longer has a vital blood supply, it’s generally weaker and more prone to chipping. A crown will reinforce the remaining tooth so that you can continue biting and chewing normally.

After your root canal, there may be some minor tenderness where the local anesthetic was injected. An over-the-counter pain reliever such as Motrin is usually more than adequate. Because the nerve tissues are removed, the tooth cannot feel any discomfort after the endodontic procedure.

Do I Need a Root Canal?

Although toothaches usually accompany a tooth with nerve damage, some teeth never hurt at all. You may need a root canal if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms:

  • Severe pain in a specific area of your mouth
  • Sensitivity to hot temperatures (coffee, soup, etc.)
  • Visible abscess or swelling on the gums
  • Pain when you bite down
  • A deep crack or cavity
  • Fractured root
  • Traumatic injury to the tooth
  • Darkening of the tooth overall

Why not remove the tooth, you ask? Extracting an abscessed or decaying tooth creates added spacing between your teeth, leading to other teeth drifting out of alignment. Over the months ahead, the misaligned teeth will wear down irregularly, change how your TMJ functions, and even cause aesthetic concerns.

Endodontic treatment prevents added costs like tooth replacement or alignment therapy, minimizing the overall impact on your smile.

The only way to know for certain if you need a root canal or not is to have an X-ray taken of the tooth to see the full root structure and areas around it. If there are signs of an abscess or decay that has ruptured into the nerve chamber, a root canal will be necessary.

Visit Our Endodontist | San Diego

Downtown Dental Specialty provides comprehensive endodontic therapy in a gentle, relaxing atmosphere. If you’re struggling with a chronic dental abscess or toothache, specialized root canal therapy is the best way to save your smile.

Contact our San Diego office today to reserve an exam with our expert dental team.