Posts for: October, 2013
A “crown” or a “cap” is the term used to restore a decayed or broken tooth that needs to be completely encased to protect the tooth beneath it. A crown's dual purpose is to restore the tooth's form and function. Decades ago gold was the material of choice for a crown. What we ultimately choose depends on a particular crown's requirements with regard to the tooth's appearance and function, and to some extent what you want.
Gold: Gold crowns last the longest and wear the best (at about the same rate as natural teeth), but they are not used as frequently today, especially if they are visible in a person's smile. Gold crowns are made of cast gold, a technique that has been in use for over a hundred years. They can last for decades, and have been known to last 50 years or more. They tend to cost less per tooth than porcelain or other materials.
All-Porcelain: “All porcelain” crowns have a natural appearance and as technology improves they are gaining popularity. Dental porcelains are composed of ceramic substances that are variations of glass. This gives them their translucent, lifelike appearance — but it makes them brittle and subject to fracture. Therefore all-porcelain crowns may not be a good choice for back teeth because they frequently fail under the biting forces applied during chewing and especially adverse habits like tooth clenching or grinding. Porcelain crowns are made of material that doesn't wear. Consequently, it can cause excessive wear to the teeth they bite against.
Porcelain-Fused-to-Metal (PFM): PFM crowns have been in use for more than 40 years. They combine a substructure of gold or platinum for strength and have porcelain “facings” for the visible surfaces. In some ways they combine the best of both worlds, but they do have some problems; the metal can show through the porcelain, detracting from its life-like appearance. These crowns can have a functional lifespan of about 20 years or more.
New and Future Materials: Newer “pressed-ceramic” restorations and computer-milled ceramics have received good reviews for aesthetics and service. These new materials are being intensively researched. Initial results look good, but we'll have to see how they last over time.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about crowns and other dental restorations. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Gold or Porcelain Crowns?”
One of your teeth's best defenses against tooth decay is its hard, outer layer made of a mineral-rich substance known as enamel. This great protector, however, has an enemy — acid — from the foods and drinks we consume as well as the acid byproducts from bacterial plaque. A high acidic level in the mouth could lead to the complete erosion of enamel, leaving teeth more susceptible to decay.
When the acid level in the mouth rises, calcium and other minerals in enamel become soft and begin to slough off, a process called de-mineralization. But the body can reverse this process with the help of saliva, which can neutralize acid. Saliva also contains calcium that can bind to the tooth surface and help replace what was lost during de-mineralization — a process known as re-mineralization. Saliva can normally accomplish this in thirty minutes to an hour after eating.
Unfortunately, saliva's neutralizing power can be overwhelmed when there is too much acid present. This occurs when we ingest substances like sodas or sports drinks that are high in citric acid. Many of these same beverages also have a high buffering capacity that slows the neutralizing effect of saliva. Ironically, we can also interrupt re-mineralization if we brush our teeth too quickly after eating or drinking something acidic. The enamel has been softened by the acid and when we brush before re-mineralization we can actually brush away some of the enamel.
There are some steps you can take to help this natural process for maintaining a healthy pH balance in the mouth. First, limit your intake of acidic foods and beverages. Drink water for rehydration, or at least acidic beverages enriched with calcium. If you do drink an acidic beverage use a straw to reduce acid contact with teeth, try not to swish it around in your mouth, and try to drink it during mealtime. Finally, wait 30 to 60 minutes before brushing your teeth after eating or drinking something acidic.
Tooth enamel is a key component in maintaining healthy teeth. Protecting this prime defense against decay will pay you dividends for many years to come.
If you would like more information on enamel erosion, 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 Erosion.”
Diabetes and periodontal (gum) disease are two types of inflammatory conditions that have more in common than was once thought. There is strong evidence to show that each of these diseases is a risk factor for the development and growth of the other. Studies have also found that treating one condition successfully may have a positive impact on the treatment of the other.
From the Greek meaning “to pass through the urine,” diabetes mellitus causes an abnormal rise in blood glucose level that can't be adequately controlled by insulin, the body's primary hormone for that task. Either the pancreas can't produce an adequate supply of insulin (as with Type 1 diabetes) or there is resistance to the hormone's effects (as with Type 2 and gestational/pregnancy diabetes). If you are a diabetic patient, you face many difficult issues with your health: your body develops an altered response to inflammation that may severely inhibit wound healing. You also may become more prone to chronic cardiovascular disease.
Periodontal (gum) disease describes a group of diseases caused by dental plaque, a whitish film that contains infection-causing bacteria. As infection rises within the gum tissues, the auto-immune system of the body responds to this threat and inflammation results. If the person is also a diabetic, this response may be impaired and may have a direct effect on how severe the periodontal disease progresses.
Periodontal disease can also affect your blood glucose level, if you are a diabetic. A number of studies have demonstrated that diabetic patients who have improved control of their periodontal disease through better oral hygiene and dental treatments have shown improvement in their blood sugar levels. There's even some evidence that effective periodontal treatment that reduces inflammation may improve the body's sensitivity to insulin. Likewise, bringing diabetes under control with supplemental insulin or positive lifestyle changes can help lessen the likelihood and severity of periodontal disease.
To sum it up, if you have been diagnosed with some form of diabetes, taking care of your teeth and gum tissues can have a positive impact on your diabetes. Likewise, making healthy changes in your lifestyle to bring your diabetes under control can reduce your risk for periodontal disease.
If you would like more information about periodontal disease and its effect along with diabetes, 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 “Diabetes and Periodontal Disease.”
Your otherwise beautiful smile has one noticeable flaw — one or more of your teeth are deeply discolored or stained. More than likely this staining is deep within the teeth, what we refer to as intrinsic staining. There are a number of reasons this can occur — from fillings or use of antibiotics, for example — and our first approach should be to attempt a whitening technique.
However, if that doesn't produce the desired result, porcelain laminate veneers are another option you might consider. Veneers are made of dental porcelain, a bio-compatible material that can be shaped and colored to closely match neighboring teeth. After a minimal amount of tooth reduction (removal of some of the enamel from the tooth surface) to prepare for the laminate, the veneers are then permanently bonded to the tooth surface and cover the discolored natural tooth. Besides changing the appearance of discolored or stained teeth, veneers can also be used to correct other imperfections such as chipped or misshapen teeth.
Patients, however, have a common question: how long will the veneers last? With proper care, veneers can last anywhere from seven years to more than twenty years. It's possible, though, to damage them — for example, you can break them if you bite down on something that goes beyond the porcelain's tolerance range, such as cracking nut shells with your teeth (not a good idea even for natural teeth!). You should also keep in mind that veneers are composed of inert, non-living material and are attached and surrounded by living gum tissue that can change over time. This process may eventually alter your appearance to the point that the veneer may need to be removed and reapplied to improve the look of your smile.
If a veneer is damaged, all is not necessarily lost. It may be possible to re-bond a loosened veneer or repair a chipped area. The worst case is replacement of the veneer altogether. Chances are, though, this will only happen after the veneer has already served you — and your smile — for many years.
If you would like more information on porcelain laminate 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 “Porcelain Veneers.”
A consistently dry mouth is not only uncomfortable and unpleasant but also probably more serious than you think. Dry mouth, medically known as xerostomia (“xero” – dry; “stomia” – mouth) affects millions of people, but few understand why it happens or why it is important.
What Causes Dry Mouth?
It is normal to awaken with a dry mouth because saliva flow decreases at night. But if your mouth is persistently dry throughout the day, it may be a result of habits such as smoking, alcohol or too much coffee drinking or even dehydration. It is also a common side effect of some medications. Xerostomia is not a disease in itself, but it could be a symptom of salivary gland or other systemic (general body) disease.
Why is Saliva Important?
A persistently dry mouth can be a problem. Not only does it feel unpleasant and lead to bad breath, it can also significantly increase your risk for tooth decay. Saliva lubricates your mouth for chewing, eating, digestion and even speaking. Saliva also has important antibacterial activities. Most importantly normal healthy salivary flow neutralizes and buffers acids in the mouth to protect the teeth from the acids produced by bacteria on the teeth that cause decay, and by acids in sodas, sports drinks and juices that can erode tooth enamel.
Not only does saliva neutralize acids but with its high mineral content it can actually reverse de-mineralization — the process by which acids attack enamel and remove calcium from the enamel surface. Healthy saliva actually re-mineralizes the outer layers of tooth enamel, but the process can take 30-60 minutes. That's why it's important not to snack on sugars or drink sodas between meals — one an hour and your mouth is acidic all the time.
Individuals without enough saliva are especially at risk for root decay and fungal infections, and they are also more likely to lose tooth substance through abrasion and erosion.
What Can We Do for a Dry Mouth?
If your mouth is usually dry, make an appointment with us to assess the causes of the problem. However it may be more serious with medical implications. The solution may be as simple as drinking more water and using good daily oral hygiene, or it may necessitate prescription medication to promote more saliva flow.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your dry mouth and what we can do to help. For more information read the article in Dear Doctor magazine “Tooth Decay – How To Assess Your Risk.”