Posts for category: Dental Procedures
Tooth loss is a problem that affects many seniors—and since May is Older Americans Month, this is a good time to talk about it. Did you know that more than a quarter of adults over age 75 have lost all of their natural teeth? This not only affects their quality of life, but poses a significant health risk.
According to a study in The Journal of Prosthodontics, significant tooth loss is associated with increased risk for malnutrition—and also for obesity. If this seems like a contradiction, consider that when you have few or no teeth, it’s much easier to eat soft, starchy foods of little nutritional value than it is to eat nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables.
That’s just one reason why it’s important to replace missing teeth as soon as possible. There are several ways to replace a full set of missing teeth including removable dentures, overdentures, and fixed dentures.
Removable dentures are the classic “false teeth” that you put in during the day and take out at night. Dentures have come a long way in terms of how convincing they look as replacement teeth, but they still have some disadvantages: For one thing, they take some getting used to—particularly while eating. Also, wearing removable dentures can slowly wear away the bone that they rest on. As that bone gradually shrinks over time, the dentures cease to fit well and require periodic adjustment (re-lining).
Overdentures are removable dentures that hook onto a few strategically placed dental implants, which are small titanium posts placed in the bone beneath your gums. Strong and secure, implants prevent the denture from slipping when you wear it. Implants also slow the rate of bone loss mentioned above, which should allow the denture to fit better over a longer period of time. But overdentures, too, are not meant to be worn all of the time.
Fixed dentures are designed to stay in your mouth all the time, and are the closest thing to having your natural teeth back. An entire row of fixed (non-removable) replacement teeth can usually be held in place by 4-6 dental implants. Dental implant surgery is an in-office procedure performed with the type of anesthesia that’s right for you. After implants have been placed and have integrated with your jaw bone—generally a period of a few months—you can enjoy all of your favorite foods again without worry or embarrassment.
Did you see the move Cast Away starring Tom Hanks? If so, you probably remember the scene where Hanks, stranded on a remote island, knocks out his own abscessed tooth — with an ice skate, no less — to stop the pain. Recently, Dear Doctor TV interviewed Gary Archer, the dental technician who created that special effect and many others.
“They wanted to have an abscess above the tooth with all sorts of gunk and pus and stuff coming out of it,” Archer explained. “I met with Tom and I took impressions [of his mouth] and we came up with this wonderful little piece. It just slipped over his own natural teeth.” The actor could flick it out with his lower tooth when the time was right during the scene. It ended up looking so real that, as Archer said, “it was not for the easily squeamish!”
That’s for sure. But neither is a real abscess, which is an infection that becomes sealed off beneath the gum line. An abscess may result from a trapped piece of food, uncontrolled periodontal (gum) disease, or even an infection deep inside a tooth that has spread to adjacent periodontal tissues. In any case, the condition can cause intense pain due to the pressure that builds up in the pus-filled sac. Prompt treatment is required to relieve the pain, keep the infection from spreading to other areas of the face (or even elsewhere in the body), and prevent tooth loss.
Treatment involves draining the abscess, which usually stops the pain immediately, and then controlling the infection and removing its cause. This may require antibiotics and any of several in-office dental procedures, including gum surgery, a root canal, or a tooth extraction. But if you do have a tooth that can’t be saved, we promise we won’t remove it with an ice skate!
The best way to prevent an abscess from forming in the first place is to practice conscientious oral hygiene. By brushing your teeth twice each day for two minutes, and flossing at least once a day, you will go a long way towards keeping harmful oral bacteria from thriving in your mouth.
If you have any questions about gum disease or abscesses, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Periodontal (Gum) Abscesses” and “Confusing Tooth Pain.”
You’ve decided to obtain dental implants for your missing teeth. It’s a good choice — they provide the closest restoration to the function and appearance of natural teeth. You will, however, need to undergo a surgical procedure to imbed the implants’ threaded titanium posts into supporting bone.
It’s understandable if you’re a little apprehensive about undergoing surgery. We’re here, though, to set your mind at ease: implantation is a relatively minor procedure carefully planned in advance. Most patients experience no discomfort during the procedure and very little afterward.
We begin by completely numbing the surgical site with a local anesthetic. If you have a high level of anxiety, we can also administer a sedative or similar medication to help you relax. We then access the underlying bone through a series of incisions that create a flap in the gum tissue that we’ll later suture closed.
It’s quite common to have prepared a surgical guide or template beforehand. The template placed in the mouth marks the exact site for a small channel (or hole) we create in the bone. We then incrementally increase the size of the hole by drilling until it matches precisely the implant’s size and shape. This takes time to avoid overheating and damaging the bone.
We then remove the implant from its sterile packaging and insert it into the opening. We’ll also take x-rays to ensure correct positioning, which is critical for achieving an attractive result. We then suture the gum flap in place using stitches that will eventually dissolve. The implant will then integrate with the bone for a few weeks to create a strong, durable hold before we continue with the restoration.
Most patients can manage any post-surgical discomfort with mild anti-inflammatory pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen, although we can prescribe something stronger if you need it. We may also prescribe a mouthrinse with an anti-bacterial agent like chlorhexidine for you to use while the gums are healing to reduce the risk of infection.
Implant surgery is part of a long process that will eventually result in regaining the function of your lost teeth. What’s more, undergoing this minor procedure will also help you regain something just as important — a beautiful smile.
If you would like more information on dental implant restoration, 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 Implant Surgery.”
There are a lot of ways to improve the appearance of your teeth. Some methods can be quite involved like crowns or bridgework, which require extensive alteration of teeth to accommodate them.
Other methods, though, can achieve stunning results with less tooth reduction or alteration to your teeth. Porcelain veneers are one such alternative that literally puts a new face on your teeth. A dental veneer is a thin layer of restorative material (usually porcelain) that is bonded to the outside of a tooth to cover blemishes. They’re an excellent choice for dealing with otherwise healthy teeth with mild to moderate chipping, wearing, staining or slight misalignment.
Veneers can be fashioned to match the shape and texture of the prepared tooth, as well as coloring that blends with neighboring teeth. They’re created by skilled dental lab technicians who use porcelain powder mixed with water to create layers of pliable porcelain laminated together to achieve the appropriate thickness and shape. The veneer is then oven-fired to produce a strong, durable product.
Their use in various dental situations does require some tooth preparation, though normally not as much as other restorative measures — usually no more than 0.5 mm of surface enamel. Removing this small amount will ensure the veneer doesn’t look too thick and bulky once bonded to the tooth.
There are some situations, though, where veneers aren’t the best choice: because they’re mainly a cosmetic solution, they can’t remedy problems like poor tooth position and bite or large discrepancies in root position. And teeth that are heavily decayed may require more extensive dental work to repair and preserve them.
In the right situation, though, veneers can make a huge difference to your smile and last for years, as long as you practice effective oral hygiene and don’t subject them to abnormal biting force (no cracking hard shell nuts with them — they can shatter). In skilled hands, veneers can transform your teeth from embarrassing to dazzling.
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.”
The reason for extracting a tooth may be all too obvious — the tooth is too decayed or damaged to attempt saving. The reason for extracting a wisdom tooth, on the other hand, may not be so apparent: from the perspective of pain or reduced function, you may not notice a thing. Our recommendation to remove a wisdom tooth is based primarily on what may be occurring out of view below the gum line and its potential threat to adjacent teeth.
Teeth grow and develop below the gum line in the jaw, and then push their way through the gums as they appear in the mouth (eruption). After a normal eruption, the enamel-covered crown is visible above the gum line; the remaining tooth root (about two-thirds of the tooth’s length) resides below the gum line. Because wisdom teeth, or third molars, erupt rather late between ages 17 and 25, they may lack the room to erupt properly due to crowding from other teeth that have already erupted. This can cause the wisdom tooth not to erupt fully through the gums, leaving the crown trapped below the gum line, a condition known as impaction. For the tooth, impaction increases the chances of infection, cyst formation and gum disease around it.
An impacted wisdom tooth can also cause problems for the adjacent teeth as well. The impacted tooth may begin to press against the roots of other teeth; the resulting pressure can damage the other roots, increasing the risk for disease or future tooth loss. A person may not even know they have this problem since there’s often little to no noticeable pain or symptoms.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the best time to remove a wisdom tooth is when it’s not causing immediate problems. There will be, however, signs found during examination (particularly x-rays or CT scan) that future problems are in the making. By extracting an impacted wisdom tooth at the appropriate time, we can avoid more serious problems in the future and improve oral health.
If you would like more information on wisdom teeth and your oral health, 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 “Removing Wisdom Teeth.”