Posts for: April, 2013
Think you already know all about dentures? Answer the following questions, and see whether your understanding of false teeth is more true than false.
True or False: About one-quarter of the U.S. population has none of their own teeth left by the age of 65.
The technical term for the complete loss of all permanent teeth is edentulism, and it's a big issue, affecting 26% of adults between 65 and 74 years of age. Without treatment, many individuals not only suffer a reduced quality of life, but also risk nutritional problems and systemic health disorders. Dentures are a reliable and affordable way to replace their missing teeth.
True or False: Tooth loss has nothing to do with bone loss.
Far from being a fixed, rigid substance, bone is actually growing and changing constantly. In order for it to stay healthy, bone needs constant stimulus. For the alveolar bones of the jaw, this stimulus comes from the teeth; when they are gone, the stimulus goes too, and the bone resorbs or melts away. The missing bone mass can cause changes in facial features, difficulties with eating, speech problems and other undesirable effects.
True or False: Once the teeth are gone, there is little that can be done to mitigate bone loss.
While a certain amount of bone loss is unavoidable, it can be minimized. The techniques of bone grafting may be used to create a “scaffold” on which the body can restore its own bone tissue. Bone loss can also be limited by retaining the roots of teeth that had previous root canal treatment, even when the crowns must be removed. Perhaps the best way to limit long-term bone loss is the use of dental implants, which restores function and prevents excessive resorption from tooth loss. When tooth loss is inevitable, a pre-planned transition to dentures offers the opportunity to retain as much bone as possible, and avoid future problems.
True or False: There are many options available to make wearing dentures a fully functional and comfortable experience.
Fabricating prosthetic teeth is a blend of science and art. Not only must the appearance of the teeth and gums be made to look natural, but the fit has to be exact and the bite must be balanced. After a little practice, most people subconsciously adapt to the slightly different muscular movements required when wearing dentures. For those few who have difficulty, hybrid forms of implant-supported dentures may offer an alternative. In all cases, developing a partnership of trust between a skilled clinician and an informed patient is the best way to ensure that the experience will be a success.
If you would like more information about dentures, 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 “Removable Full Dentures.”
If you're looking to improve the appearance of your smile, tooth whitening treatments — whether done at home or in our office — are a popular option. Here are the answers to some questions that many people ask before they begin the process.
Q: Are commonly used tooth-whitening methods safe?
A: Yes — provided they are used as directed. A large body of research has shown that using the correct concentration of peroxide — the bleach that whitens teeth — for the proper amount of time is not known to cause any major health problems. However, there have been cases where poor-quality bleaching solutions and/or excessive usage have caused deterioration of tooth enamel and extreme gum sensitivity. Always follow our office's recommendation.
Q: Does this mean I have to have in-office treatments to whiten my teeth?
A: No. But you should come in for a thorough dental examination, with x-rays, before you begin whitening treatments. Why? Because if there is trouble with the underlying tooth structure, then whitening the tooth is like painting over rusty metal: It hides the symptom, but doesn't fix the problem. Abscesses and root-canal problems are just two of the underlying causes of tooth discoloration that should be treated before teeth are whitened.
Q: What are some different methods for whitening teeth, and how long do they take?
A: The fastest is in-office whitening treatments, using a strong bleaching solution and appropriate gum protection. Next comes the cost-effective method of at-home bleaching with custom-made flexible plastic trays (sometimes called nightguard vital bleaching.) If you're not in a hurry, over-the-counter (OTC) products can do the same thing — given enough time. One study comparing different whitening treatments found that a six-shade improvement in whitening was accomplished by three in-office treatments. A week was needed for custom-tray bleach applications, or 16 daily applications of OTC products, to achieve comparable results.
Q: Can any tooth be made bright white?
A: No. Every tooth has a maximum level of whiteness, beyond which it can't get any lighter. Furthermore, fillings, crowns and other dental restorations can't be lightened with bleach — another reason to talk to our office; we can help you achieve the best possible look for your particular smile.
Q: How long will my white teeth last?
A: It depends. No whitening method is permanent, but the typical result lasts for up to two years. To preserve that bright smile, you can take some positive steps: Avoid tobacco and beverages that stain, like red wine, tea and coffee; keep up with regular cleanings in our office; and, practice good oral hygiene at home. You can also have a touch-up treatment once or twice a year.
If you need more information about tooth whitening, or you're ready to start the process, 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 “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”
Dental implants are now the gold standard for tooth replacement. Why? Because not only do they offer the longest-lasting method of restoring missing teeth, but they also help mitigate one of the greatest problems associated with tooth loss — the loss of underlying bone structure. While standard dental implants have been around since the 1970s, mini-implants are a smaller version of the same technology that have recently come into their own. Here are a few things you should know about them.
Mini-implants rely on the same structure and principles as their larger relatives.
Like standard implants, mini-implants are screw-shaped devices made of titanium which are set into the bone of the jaw. Put in place permanently, they become fixed to the bone itself, which grows around and fuses to the implant. Or, they can be used as temporary anchors for the attachment of other dental work.
Mini-implants are a great option for attaching lower overdentures.
Overdentures (implant-retained dentures) are now considered the standard of care for people who have lost all of their teeth in one or both jaws. But the undesired movement of lower dentures has been a perennial problem for many denture wearers. One key use of mini-implants is to anchor overdentures to the lower jaw. Just two mini-implants provide the stability needed to attach a set of lower dentures sturdily, giving the denture wearer increased dental function — and a restored sense of confidence.
Mini-implants offer some real benefits in orthodontics.
TADS (Temporary Anchorage Devices), another type of mini-implants, are finding increasing use alongside of orthodontic appliances (braces). Braces move teeth by placing small forces on them, which are transmitted by a wire. The wire must be anchored at a “fixed” point: usually, other teeth; but it may cause these teeth to move as well! TADS offer an anchorage point that's truly immovable. They help to speed up orthodontic treatment, and give more accurate control as well.
Placing mini-implants is a relatively simple process.
It's an office procedure done by an experienced clinician, normally under local anesthesia. Most patients tolerate the procedure very well, experiencing only minor discomfort. In some cases, a single two-hour visit is all that's needed for implant placement, and the patient can go home and eat a steak afterward!
Mini-implants may be more economical than you think.
These smaller cousins of standard implants are often easier to place. They save treatment time, and, if you're a denture wearer, they may be compatible with your existing dentures. If your dental situation could benefit from using mini-implants, you should give them serious consideration.
If you would like more information about mini-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 articles “Implant Overdentures for the Lower Jaw,” “The Great Mini-Implant,” and “What are TADS?”
Your son has fallen and hit his face against a hard surface. Not only is he in pain but now there is also a chip missing from his front tooth. He is worried that his smile will never be the same. What should you do?
Answer: If you can find that missing chip, sometimes we can bond the fragment back on to the tooth. The tooth should be evaluated and repaired as soon as possible, although in the absence of other signs and symptoms of injury, and if your child is not in acute pain, it can probably wait up to 12 hours.
If the fragment can't be found, then the tooth can be restored with tooth-colored filling materials, which are also physically bonded to the natural tooth. Done well, these “composite resin” fillings can last for years and look perfectly natural. They may eventually need to be replaced with something more permanent.
If the chipped tooth is a child's primary (baby) tooth rather than a permanent (adult) tooth, the treatment will be similar.
However, a blow to a tooth can cause damage to the pulp — the living tissue within the tooth, which can become infected and die. If the damage to a primary tooth is too extensive it may be better to remove it to avoid damage to an underlying and developing permanent tooth. A place-holding appliance called a space maintainer may be used. If it is a permanent tooth it may need root canal treatment.
If a tooth is not chipped but is loosened or tender to the touch, it may require temporary stabilization, called splinting, until it has healed. Sometimes no treatment is required. If there has been a fracture to the tooth's root (the part below the gum line) it may heal by itself, or it may require further treatment especially if it is a permanent tooth, depending on the individual situation.
It is important to evaluate teeth that have been hit or damaged as a result of injury to ensure that they remain healthy and functional. We will keep track of the tooth or teeth, with observation, x-rays when necessary and monitoring over time to make sure no permanent damage has been done.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about repairing a chipped tooth. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Field-Side Guide to Dental Injuries.”