Walker Dental
60 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
617-354-3351




 


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Eric Walker, D.M.D.


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PorcelainVeneersareaViableOptionforSmileTransformation

There are a number of materials and techniques available in cosmetic dentistry that help us improve our patients' smiles. Porcelain veneers stand out as one of the most popular and least interventional of these options.

As the name implies, a veneer is a thin layer of dental restorative material that covers the original tooth surface. Veneers don't require an extensive amount of tooth preparation or removal of sound tooth structure, as with a crown or bridge.

Veneers are made of dental porcelain, a material compatible with living tissue and with a very life-like appearance. The dentist as artist can fashion the porcelain to precisely imitate an individual's natural teeth, including the natural color and hue of surrounding teeth.

Are porcelain veneers an option for you? Only a smile analysis in our office can determine that. Your teeth must be in a somewhat normal position. The teeth in question must have a sufficient amount of remaining tooth structure to support veneers. And you must have symmetrical gum contours that will allow for proper framing of the teeth, which will enhance the final cosmetic result.

If your current dental health meets these criteria, then porcelain veneers could help correct spaces between teeth that aren't too wide, improve poor color, or address poor shape, contours or minor bite problems. Veneers, however, do have their limitations. They aren't effective if you have poor tooth position, if the root positions are widely out of line, or if you have a poor profile. Some form of orthodontics may be needed initially for these situations.

That being said, porcelain veneers are an excellent long-term option in the right situation. Depending on your individual circumstance and how you care for your teeth, a veneer application can last for several years, or if they come loose or become chipped they can be repaired in most cases. The material is strong enough to withstand normal pressures exerted during chewing or biting, as long as you avoid activities like opening nutshells with your teeth or chewing on very hard candy.

Overall, porcelain veneers can give your smile a whole new look with little impact on your remaining tooth structure.

If you would like more information on porcelain veneers, 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 “Smile Design Enhanced With Porcelain Veneers.”

By Walker Dental
July 15, 2013
Category: Dental Procedures
LeAnnRimesDentalDramaEmergencyRootCanal

Singer LeAnn Rimes was forced to cancel a string of performances recently, as a more pressing engagement came up: a late-night meeting with her endodontist. It turned out that the country-pop star needed some emergency dental work performed while she was on tour. But her die-hard fans needn't have felt left out — Rimes faithfully tweeted each stage of her dental treatment.

The trouble began before she was scheduled to play a show in Ohio. “Waiting on the endodontist to meet me and do a nighttime root canal,” she informed her twitter followers. Instead of performing, Rimes was advised to spend the next few days resting after the emergency treatment. “Happy Friday! I'll be spending mine in bed,” she tweeted after the previous evening's procedure. The following Monday, Rimes returned to the dentist's chair for follow-up treatment.

It turned out that the singer had been battling dental pain for months. “I am so disappointed that I can't make it to my fans tonight.” Rimes explained in a statement. “I had wanted to give them the show they deserved and only wish this tooth pain held out a little longer.”

If there's a moral to this story, it's this: If you have tooth pain, don't wait to see a dentist. Call us right away!

A feeling of constant pain and pressure in your mouth is a clear indication that you may need a root canal. Another telltale symptom is sharp pain when you bite down on food, or lingering pain after eating something hot or cold. Not every symptom is as clear-cut, however — the only way to know for sure whether you need treatment is to come in for an evaluation.

Pain in your teeth or gums may be a symptom of a serious condition. Even if the pain goes away temporarily, an underlying infection generally does not. If a treatment such as root canal therapy is needed, the sooner it is obtained, the better you'll feel. And remember, root canal treatment doesn't cause tooth pain — it relieves it!

If you have any concerns about tooth pain, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “I'd Rather Have a Root Canal” and “Signs and Symptoms of a Future Root Canal.”

By Walker Dental
June 27, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: toothache   tooth pain  
WhyYourTeethMayHurt

Don't ignore tooth pain hoping it goes away. No matter how mild or fleeting it may be, it's a sign that something's wrong. Healthy teeth shouldn't cause discomfort because the parts containing the nerves — the interior pulp and the dentin around it — are shielded by dental enamel and gums.

Here are some common reasons that teeth ache:

  1. Gum Recession. Over time, gums can recede. Improper or excessive brushing can affect them, especially if you are genetically predisposed by having thin gums. When gums retreat, dentin can, or eventually will, be exposed. Besides its susceptibility to sensation, dentin is also more vulnerable to erosion and decay than enamel.
  2. Tooth Erosion/Decay. When acid-producing oral bacteria get the upper hand, they can eat through the tooth's protective enamel to the dentin. You may start feeling sensitivity as the decay gets deeper and closer to the pulp (nerves). Only removal of the decay and filling the cavity can stop the process.
  3. Old/Loose/Lost Filling. Fillings seal off areas of past decay. If they don't fit right or are dislodged altogether, air or food particles can slip inside and irritate exposed nerve endings. A crevice to hide in makes it prime real estate again for bacteria, too.
  4. Cracked Tooth. Teeth grinding and jaw clenching can have a similar impact on teeth that a miner's pick has on rock. At first thin lines in your enamel can develop, then cracks develop that may expose the dentin, and finally the tooth might fracture, exposing the pulp. The earlier this process is caught, the better.
  5. Pulp Tissue Infection/Inflammation. This can be caused by deep decay or trauma and suggests your tooth may be in its death throes. Sometimes the pulp infection travels into the surrounding periodontal (peri – around; odont – tooth) tissues and causes an abscess to develop. This absolutely requires immediate attention.
  6. Residual Sensitivity from Dental Work. Removal of decay before placing a filling can cause tooth sensitivity. It can take 1-4 weeks or so to improve.
  7. Sinus Pain. Congestion can cause “referred” pain in the upper teeth. When the congestion subsides, the pain should, too.

As you can see, it's risky to discount tooth pain and “wait ‘til it goes away.” Our office can help you determine the origin of your pain and the best course of action to resolve it. When in doubt, it's always better to err on the side of caution!

If you would like more information about tooth pain and ways to prevent or treat it, 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 “Tooth Pain? Don't Wait!” and “Sensitive Teeth.”

DidYouKnowMajorLeagueBaseballPlayersHaveNewRestrictionsonChewingTobacco

Chewing tobacco is a known cause of oral cancer, yet many a Major League Baseball player has been seen walking onto the field with a round tin visibly poking out of his back pocket. That was before this year. Recognizing the influence big-leaguers have on their young fans, MLB players agreed to a new contract that limits their use of chewing tobacco and their ability to carry it around their fans. The 2012 season is the first to be played under the new rules, which were championed by Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.

One player who used smokeless tobacco heavily is Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. The former Padres slugger earlier this year endured 14 hours of surgery to remove a cancerous growth from the inside of his right cheek and graft a nerve from his shoulder to replace a facial nerve damaged by the tumor. This was Gwynn's second cancer surgery in less than two years.

When it comes to oral cancer, the importance of early detection can't be stressed enough. Unfortunately, this form of cancer is not usually detected until a late stage so the overall survival rate is poor, with only 58% surviving five years after treatment. Yet when oral cancer is detected while a lesion is small, survival rate exceeds 80%. That's why an oral cancer screening is always part of your dental check-up or regular cleaning appointment at this office.

During this screening we will examine your face, neck, lips, mouth, tongue and the back of your throat for any suspicious lesions (sores or ulcers) or lumps. Of course, if you notice any unusual lesions, or color changes (white or red patches), anywhere in your mouth that do not heal within two-three weeks, please come in to see us as soon as possible. And if you need help kicking a tobacco habit, we can advise you on how to get it.

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

By Walker Dental
May 31, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tmj   tmd  
AnsweringCommonQuestionsonTMJDisorders

You have probably heard a lot of people talk about TMJ disorders, but do you know what it all means? How do you know if you are suffering from a TMJ disorder?

Below are answers to some common questions about TMJ disorders.

What is a TMJ disorder?
First, we should explain that TMJ actually refers to the Temporomandibular Joint, which is the formal name for your jaw joint(s). TMD stands for Temporomandibular Disorders, which is the correct name for the muscle and/or joint symptoms that commonly arise when there is TMJ pain and dysfunction. You may have heard people refer to the actual disorder as TMJ, but this name is incorrect.

When I experience TMJ pain, what exactly is happening?
Let's first understand all of the parts that play a role in your pain. The temporomandibular joints connect your mandible (lower jaw) to your skull on both the left and right sides, which makes the lower jaw the only bone in the body with completely symmetrical joints at both ends. There is a ball-and-socket relationship between your jaw and your skull on both sides, but the unique part is the presence of a cushioning disk between the two surfaces in each joint. Each TMJ has a disk between the ball (condyle) and socket (fossa), and this sometimes ends up being an especially important area when trouble arises.

So, how do I know if I have TMD?
You can never be absolutely sure, but here are some symptoms you should be sure to share with us during your examination:

  • Clicking. You may experience a clicking sound in the jaw, usually due to a shift in the position of the disk inside the joint. However, if you do not have pain or limited jaw function, this symptom may be insignificant.
  • Muscle Pain. The next symptom is jaw muscle pain, usually in the cheeks or temples. If the muscle is sore or stiff in the morning, this pain is usually related to clenching or grinding in your sleep. However, there are more complex muscle pains that can spread to your head and neck.
  • TMJ Pain. This third symptom refers to pain actually inside one or both of your jaw joints, technically described as arthritis of the TMJ.

If diagnosed, what can I expect from treatment?
We will first need to assess the damage to your TMJ, and from there we will recommend a course of treatment to relieve your pain. Treatment may range from hot or cold compresses and anti-inflammatory medications to physical therapy or a bite guard. We may also advise you to do jaw exercises at home. In general, we will do our best to treat your issue without orthodontic treatment or surgery.

If you would like more information about TMD, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Seeking Relief from TMD.”





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