Posts for: February, 2014
Dental implants are one of the best tooth replacement systems available. But while they can rejuvenate patients’ smiles and potentially provide a lifetime of service, they require thorough planning and preparation before the implant is inserted.
The process begins with the assembling of your treatment team. Implants require the training and expertise of a number of professionals who collaborate during the process: a dental specialist, like an oral surgeon, periodontist or a general dentist trained in implant dentistry, who surgically installs the implant; a dental technician who fashions the permanent life-like crown that will attach to your particular implant; and a restorative dentist who begins and ends the process with you — from initial consultation and planning to the permanent crown attachment. You, the patient, are also part of the team — your input and informed choices are essential to a successful outcome.
Your restorative dentist will take the first steps to develop your treatment plan. It begins with both a dental examination and a general health assessment to determine your fitness for any surgery. The dental examination serves to evaluate the site where the proposed implant or implants will be placed, along with x-rays for assessing the quantity and quality of bone at the site. Next, the dentist will create study models of your mouth to assess bite, and possibly take photographs to guide decisions on the implant crown’s color and appearance. The last step may be the development of surgical guides to ensure accurate placement of the implants by the surgeon.
One of the biggest questions to answer at this stage is whether or not you have sufficient bone mass to support the implant. You may have experienced significant bone loss due to disease or from resorption (the dissolving of bone) because of tooth loss. Insufficient bone mass can be remedied with a bone graft placed within the site that stimulates bone growth, which if successful will provide enough bone to support the implant.
While this preparatory phase before implant placement can be very involved, it’s absolutely necessary for ultimate success. The careful planning and prep work performed by your implant team — and your own participation in the process — will ensure that you’ll be happy with your new implants and your new smile.
If you would like more information on dental implant options, 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 “Dental Implants.”
Your lower jaw is an integral part of eating, speaking and other tasks involving the mouth. But what happens if you suffer an injury to one of the two joints that connect it to the skull? The result could be serious pain and the inability to bring the upper and lower teeth together properly.
The exact types of injuries causing the pain and disability can vary, like the displacement of a tooth or a group of teeth. Another is swelling in the joint space that prevents the head of the joint (the condyle) from fully seating in the joint space; you could also experience a joint dislocation as the condyle is forced completely out of the joint space. Either swelling or dislocation can prevent the back teeth on the side of the affected joint from fitting together properly.
Another traumatic injury is a fracture of the bone at or near the joint; one of the most common is known as a “sub-condylar” fracture where the break occurs just below the condyle and results in more severe pain than inflammation or dislocation. A more serious fracture may involve the joint itself.
To treat the symptoms properly, it’s important to determine which of these injuries has occurred. This requires a full examination, including x-ray imaging, to determine if the injury involves soft tissue, bone or both. In the case of inflammation, we would prescribe anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant medication. The latter is especially helpful because trauma often leads to muscle spasms that lock the jaw in place to reduce further damage (nature’s splint, if you will). A dislocation may also require gentle manipulation to seat the condyle back into the joint.
Fractures are treated generally by repositioning the broken portions of the bone into their normal position and then immobilizing them while they heal. Immobilization is accomplished by joining the upper and lower teeth together, either by external or internal means. The latter option requires a surgical procedure.
If you’ve suffered an injury that results in any of these symptoms you should contact our office immediately. Only a complete diagnosis can point the way to the proper treatment that will relieve your discomfort.
If you would like more information on the causes and treatment of jaw pain, 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 “Jaw Pain — What’s the Cause?”
Tooth whitening procedures and products have become increasingly popular over the last two decades. There are two main sources of application: professional procedures performed in a dentist’s office; and over-the-counter products for performing whitening applications at home. While there are pros and cons to both approaches, neither type poses a significant health risk — that is, if you match the correct product to the type of staining you have, and it’s applied according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Although whitening treatments may differ in formula and strength, almost all use hydrogen peroxide as the bleaching agent, usually contained in carbamide peroxide which splits into hydrogen peroxide and urea upon activation. After many studies, there’s a strong consensus that hydrogen peroxide used at the levels found in whitening products doesn’t cause any harm to the body, including as a precursor to cancer.
But as the 16th Century Swiss physician Paracelsus once noted, “All substances are poisons… The right dose differentiates a poison from a remedy.” This is true of the chemicals that make up whitening products — they’re safe unless they’re overused. Going beyond their directions for use could lead to tooth enamel damage.
Further caution is also in order for teenagers using whitening products. Although they may have their permanent teeth (although younger teens may still have some primary teeth), the enamel layer is still developing and can be more vulnerable to damage from whitening chemicals than for adults.
The best approach for both a professional or home whitening procedure is to first seek consultation from our office. If nothing else, you should at least undergo a dental examination to identify the true cause of your teeth’s staining or discoloration. If the discoloration originates within the tooth, home applications and many professional treatments will not help if they bleach the outer surface only. We can also advise you on the proper application and dosage for a chosen product.
Using the right whitening product and in an appropriate manner will reduce the risk of injury to your teeth and overall health. And, the end result can be a brighter, more vibrant smile.
If you would like more information on tooth whitening, 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 “Tooth Whitening Safety Tips.”
If you’re missing a tooth, you’re not alone; in fact 35 million Americans are missing all of their teeth in at least one jaw! Whether it’s one tooth or many, it’s important to replace what’s missing. Depending on the number of teeth lost, the potential drawbacks to doing nothing may become hard to ignore: impediments to eating, interference with speech, and unaesthetic appearance, for example.
Traditional bridges and dentures are the most affordable options for replacing teeth. Tooth implants — tiny titanium, screw-like substitutes for a tooth’s natural root to which natural-looking dental crowns are attached — are pricier but offer an important extra benefit. In addition to addressing the common problems previously mentioned, by acting like the original tooth root, an implant can maintain or stimulate “remodeling,” of the jawbone below. Without a tooth root to provide stimulation, mature bone cells will continue to be removed, or resorbed, but no new bone cells will regenerate to replace them, leading to a progressive loss of bone width, height and density. The more teeth are lost, and with less bone structure to support it, the whole shape of the face can change.
Unfortunately, when greater numbers of teeth must be replaced, implants can become financially unrealistic for some people. But in appropriate cases there is a third option: a bridge or denture/implant hybrid. In the case of a bridge intended to fill a gap when multiple teeth are missing, an implant can be used on either side of the gap to support the bridge, leaving the natural teeth undisturbed. Strategically placed implants can be used to support a removable denture, too.
If you would like more information about dental 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 article “Dental Implants: Your Best Option For Replacing Teeth.”