Posts for: May, 2014
Some dental procedures that can beautify a smile — orthodontics or implants, for example — take months. Others take only minutes! Tooth contouring and reshaping is one of them. So just what is this remedy, and why would you need it?
Tooth contouring involves removing a tiny amount of enamel (the tooth’s outer covering) with a dental drill to sculpt a more pleasing shape and make the tooth fit in better with its neighbors. It is most often used on highly visible teeth that have minor yet noticeable cosmetic flaws.
For example, you may have a tiny chip in a front tooth, a slight size discrepancy among adjacent teeth, or extra-pointy canines. None of these issues are as serious as, say, a misaligned bite or a tooth that’s missing altogether — but they can be annoying nonetheless. If you find yourself staring in the mirror at any of these subtle yet distracting imperfections in your own smile, you may want to consider having us reshape a specific tooth or teeth.
Contouring can correct small chips, uneven tooth length, slight overlaps, and tooth edges that are too flat or pointy. We can also give teeth a more “feminine” or “masculine” appearance, simply by rounding or squaring the edges. Contouring also has a non-cosmetic use: It can be employed to adjust the bite so that the teeth come together more evenly. For example, if one tooth is just a little higher than the others, it might be subjected to more than its share of stress during chewing. This brings up another important point: We would not recommend tooth contouring if any bite imbalances could result from the procedure. And if we do determine that tooth contouring would not be the best way to go in your particular case, don’t worry — we can come up with a solution for any cosmetic issues that are of concern to you.
If you have any questions about tooth contouring and reshaping — or any other cosmetic dentistry procedures — please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How and Why Teeth Wear.”
Perhaps you’ve been told that you need to have root canal treatment in order to save one or more of your teeth. By now, you know that the procedure itself is essentially pain-free, and that it has an excellent chance of success. But you may be wondering — just how long can you expect that “saved” tooth to last?
The short answer is: decades… or even a lifetime. But in just the same way that no two fingerprints are exactly identical, neither are any two teeth with root canals. There are some factors that could result in one tooth having a greater longevity after root canal treatment (RCT) than another — but before we go into them, let’s look at what RCT actually involves.
When infection and inflammation is allowed to get a foothold deep inside a tooth — usually due to uncontrolled decay or trauma — the nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue that make up the tooth’s pulp begin to die. If left untreated, the infection can spread out of the tooth and into the bone of the jaw. This may lead to further problems, including the development of a painful abscess, and eventual loss of the tooth.
Root canal treatment involves gaining access to the infected pulp tissue through a tiny hole made in the tooth, and then removing it. Next, the space inside the tooth is disinfected and filled with sterile material, and the access hole is closed. Afterward, a crown or “cap” is often needed to protect the tooth and restore it to full function in the mouth.
One factor that can influence how long a treated tooth will last is how soon the tooth is restored following the root canal procedure: The sooner it receives a permanent filling or crown, the longer it is likely to last. Another factor is whether or not the underlying infection has spread into the bone of the jaw: A tooth that has received RCT promptly, before the infection has had a chance to spread, is likely to have greater longevity.
Some of the other factors that may influence the longevity of a tooth after RTC are: the location of the tooth (front teeth are easier to treat and receive less biting force than back teeth); the age of the individual (teeth become more brittle over time); and what other work needs to be done on the tooth (such as the placement of posts, which may in time weaken the tooth’s structure.) In general, however, there’s no dispute that a tooth which has received a quality root canal treatment should last for many years to come — if not an entire lifetime. And to many people, there’s simply no substitute for having your own natural teeth.
If you would like more information about root canal treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Root Canal Treatment: How Long Will It Last?”
At one time people who had lost all their teeth faced a grim future. With no feasible alternative, their tooth loss severely limited their ability to eat or speak. Their appearance suffered too, not only from the missing teeth but from bone loss in their facial structure.
We’ve come a long way since then — today, it’s possible to restore complete tooth loss with a permanent set of implant-supported teeth. Unlike other options like removable dentures, implantation can stop and even reverse bone loss caused by missing teeth. And because it now only takes a few strategically-placed implants to support an entire fixed bridge of teeth, the implant option is more affordable than ever.
In essence, implants are tooth root replacement systems. The titanium post that is surgically placed within the jawbone is osseophilic (“bone-loving”), which means bone will grow and adhere to it in a few weeks to further secure it in place. A dental restoration — a single crown (the visible portion of the tooth) or an entire bridge or arch — is then cemented or screwed to the implant.
While dental implants for single teeth normally require full bone integration before the permanent crown is set, it’s often possible for an implant-supported bridge of many teeth to be set at the same time as implantation. The bridge is attached to four or more implants that support the bridge like the legs of a stool; the teeth within the bridge also act to support each other. Both of these factors help to evenly distribute the biting force, which reduces the risk of crown failure before complete bone integration. You would still need to limit yourself to a soft food diet for 6-8 weeks while the bone integration takes place, but the procedure is essentially completed when you leave the dentist’s office.
As marvelous as the possibilities are with implant restorations, it still requires a great deal of planning and artistry from a team of dental professionals to realize a successful outcome. But working together, you and your team can achieve what wasn’t possible even a few years ago: a complete set of life-like, fully functional implant-supported teeth — and a new smile to boot!
If you would like more information on implant-supported teeth, 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 “New Teeth in One Day.”
Alternative medicines — also known as herbal or homeopathic remedies — have grown in popularity in recent decades. Because they don’t think of these remedies as “medicines,” many people will try them based on their friends’ advice or an internet search — with or without a doctor’s advice. Any herbal remedy, though, should be viewed as a real drug with real, and often significant, side-effects.
With that said, many of these alternative treatments are safe and effective if taken in an appropriate manner. Arnica Montana, a member of the daisy family, is a good example: various preparations of this herb have been found to reduce pain and inflammation caused by sprains or bruising, as well as control infection by killing bacteria. It’s also one herbal application that’s finding a home in the field of dentistry.
You can find many products containing Arnica, particularly topical applications made from the herb’s roots and dried flowers. It’s common to find Arnica in tinctures (the herb mixed in with a gel), tea infusions and a variety of ointments; the best-selling topical product is a gel containing 8% of the Arnica herb.
Many dentists are now prescribing Arnica to patients following invasive procedures like gum surgery, root canal treatment, implant surgery or wisdom teeth extraction to help reduce swelling and bruising. In this case, topical applications won’t work: directly applying a topical treatment to open mouth wounds can cause mucositis (an irritation of the lining of the mouth) and reactions in people with allergies to plants related to daisies. Dentists prescribe a programmed capsule regimen taken orally for four days after the procedure. This has been shown to lessen the length and degree of recovery time.
Any medicine, whether traditional or non-traditional, can have unintended consequences. Know the facts about what you’re taking, and be sure you consult with your doctor or dentist before trying any herbal remedy.
If you would like more information on Arnica Montana and similar remedies, 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 “Herbal and Homeopathic Remedies.”