Posts for: March, 2013
Lose a baby tooth when you're a young kid, no big deal — you'll grow another. Lose a permanent one and there's cause for concern. For one thing, tooth loss is often a symptom of an underlying oral health problem, such as tooth decay or gum disease, so it's important to identify the cause and treat it to prevent it from progressing. It is equally important to replace the tooth — not simply for the immediate impact it can have on your smile or bite, but for long-term function, esthetics and the health of the bone that supports your teeth.
The primary options for tooth replacement are fixed bridgework and dental implants. Both result in esthetically pleasing outcomes; the main difference is how each is attached. With a bridge, the replacement tooth, referred to as a “pontic,” uses the two natural teeth on either side of the gap — referred to as “abutments” — for support. The pontic is sandwiched between two other crowns, which fit over and are bonded or cemented to the teeth on either side of the gap. To ensure the companion crowns fit properly, the enamel must be removed from each abutment.
Placing dental implants, by contrast, involves working only on the affected area. The “implant” is actually a small titanium rod with spiraling threads just like a miniature screw that is carefully inserted into the jawbone as though it were a natural root. The replacement tooth, a customized crown, is secured to the end portion of the implant by way of an intermediary referred to as an abutment, which firmly anchors it in place.
Both bridges and implants are natural looking, functional, predictable, and reliable. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and based on your oral health, one may be more appropriate than the other.
If you would like more information on tooth loss and replacement, 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 “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth” and “Dental Implants vs. Bridgework.”
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.”
The eruption of your child's first permanent teeth is a milestone in his or her development. As parents, you want to help your child preserve and protect their new permanent teeth so that they can last a lifetime. Dental sealants are one easy, simple, and inexpensive way to protect them from decay.
How do cavities develop?
The back teeth (premolars and molars) are formed with deep grooves on their biting surfaces that we call “pits and fissures.” These crevices are too deep for toothbrush bristles to reach. Bacteria can therefore grow and thrive inside them. The acid produced by these bacteria begins to dissolve the tooth enamel, starting the decay process.
Are new teeth more vulnerable?
Yes, the enamel surface of newly erupted teeth is more permeable and less resistant to tooth decay. As the enamel matures, it becomes more resistant.
How can you prevent decay in these new teeth?
Good oral hygiene habits, nutrition (including low sugar consumption), together with fluoride, sealants, and regular dental visits strengthen the teeth and can dramatically reduce tooth decay.
How does fluoride protect these teeth?
Fluoride makes the enamel surface harder and more impermeable and, therefore, less susceptible to acid attack and decay. Fluoride adds some protection to the deep pits and fissures of the teeth but they are still at high risk because of their shape and they often need further protection.
What are sealants and how do they work?
Sealants are protective coatings placed in the tiny pits and fissures to seal them from the bacteria and acids that promote decay. They actually “seal” the pits and fissures to prevent decay and can be used in the treatment of very early decay by arresting it. Greater use of sealants could reduce the need for subsequent treatment and prolong the time until treatment may become necessary.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about dental sealants for your children. You can learn more about them by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sealants for Children.”