Posts for: December, 2013
As life spans have increased over the last century so has the importance of maintaining good oral health. Teeth are such a critical component in good nutrition and disease protection, it’s important we do all we can to preserve them for a lifetime.
Through advances in dentistry and oral hygiene, two of teeth’s greatest enemies, dental caries (tooth decay) and periodontal (gum) disease, are not only quite treatable but even preventable. The fact remains, though, that like the rest of our body, our teeth are still subject to aging. The irreplaceable outer layer known as enamel is especially susceptible to wear over time.
The normal wearing down of teeth occurs because of occlusal (bite) activity. As our upper and lower teeth interact with each other through constant biting and chewing activities, some of the enamel surface naturally wears away as we age. Our biggest concern shouldn’t be the wear itself but the rate of wear — whether it’s exceeded the normal range.
Habits that increase the frequency and rate of biting forces are the most common reason for excessive enamel erosion. Such habits include excessive tooth-to-tooth contact as when we clench or grind our teeth and tooth-to-foreign object, the chronic habit of holding hard objects (nails, pencils, pins, etc.) tightly between the teeth. Many of these habits are a response to psychological stress that can even carry over into our sleep.
The key is to minimize these effects on the normal process of wear, and to protect teeth for as long as possible. How to accomplish that goal depends on your individual circumstance: treatments could include such things as orthodontics to correct bite problems that contribute to abnormal wear, considering restoring worn teeth with new crowns or fillings, or reducing grinding or clenching with nocturnal mouth guards or some form of stress-relief therapy.
In cases where abnormal wear has passed the point where it doesn’t make sense to repair your natural teeth, all is not lost — restorations such as dental implants can help restore lost function and inhibit further erosion. Advances over the last thirty years in restoration techniques can, in effect, extend a new lease on life for your teeth. What’s more, we can also restore form — to bring back that smile from your younger years.
If you would like more information on tooth erosion and aging, 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 “How and Why Teeth Wear.”
It's not just your teeth that are on display when you smile; it's also your gums. For a smile to look appealing, there needs to be a frame of healthy pink tissue to set off those pearly whites. But just as there can be cosmetic issues with teeth, the shape or condition of the gums, too, can create an aesthetic problem. If you feel the appearance of your gums is in any way detracting from the appeal of your smile, we can help with a variety of in-office surgical procedures.
Here are some common cosmetic gum problems — and possible solutions:
Problem: Too Much Gum Tissue. A smile can look “gummy” when excessive gum tissue covers more of the enamel surface of a tooth's crown (upper portion) than normal.
Solution: Crown Lengthening. This is a procedure in which gum tissue (and rarely but sometimes a small amount of bone tissue) is removed to expose more tooth surface.
Problem: Not Enough Gum Tissue. Sometimes your gums can shrink down (recede), exposing some of a tooth's root — which is more yellow than the enamel surface of the tooth.
Solution: Gum Grafting. There are various grafting procedures that can be used to cover exposed roots by moving gingival (gum) tissue from one site in the mouth to another. Sometimes laboratory-processed donor tissue can even be used to minimize the surgery.
Problem: Uneven Gum Line. This means that some teeth are covered by more gum tissue than others, which can make a smile seem off-kilter.
Solution: Gum tissue can be recontoured (reshaped) for a very pleasing effect with either conventional surgery or the newer dental laser technology.
All of the above procedures can be performed at the dental office — usually with only a local anesthetic (numbing shot). In fact, for laser surgery you may need only a topical anesthetic gel. An examination is required to determine whether conventional or laser treatment is in your best interests. Whatever your cosmetic gum surgery needs may be, the procedures are routine and predictable — and they can work wonders for your smile!
If you have any questions about cosmetic gum surgery, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Gummy Smiles” and “Periodontal Plastic Surgery.”
You've taken good care of your teeth all your life, with brushing, flossing and regular visits to the dentist. But chances are that someday (or maybe even now) you may be told that you need a restoration on one or more of your teeth. Oftentimes, that means a crown.
But what exactly is a crown, and why is it used? We're glad you asked!
In the course of time, natural teeth may need to be restored for a variety of reasons. As we age, our teeth may eventually become chipped or discolored. They can become weak and prone to cracking, or actually break due to tooth decay or trauma. Treating tooth decay may require a filling so large that there isn't much tooth surface left. Or, getting a dental implant (which replaces the roots of the tooth) means that you will need a replacement for the visible part of the tooth as well.
A crown (sometimes called a cap) is a common type of dental restoration. It's a way of replacing the tooth structure, in part or in full. A crown can cover the whole visible portion of the tooth, right down to the gum line. Since it's custom-made just for you, it is designed to fit in and function just like the rest of your teeth. And because it's composed of an extremely hard substance (gold, porcelain, ceramic, or some combination of these materials) it's made to last for a long time.
If a dental examination shows that you need a crown, here's how the process works: First, any decay is removed from the affected tooth, and it is prepared for restoration. Then, a 3-D replica of the tooth (and adjacent teeth) is made. This model is used to create a crown that matches your natural teeth. If you're getting a tooth-colored crown, the exact shade of the adjacent teeth will be duplicated as closely as possible.
After the crown has been fabricated, the tooth is made ready to receive the restoration. The crown is adjusted to mesh perfectly with the prepared tooth, and to function with the whole bite. Then, it is cemented or bonded into place. When it's all done, it can be hard to tell that you had any dental work done at all.
If you're thinking that it's a challenge to make an “artificial” tooth fit in with your natural teeth, you're right — but we do it all the time! Creating a superb-looking restoration is a blend of science and art. It takes a careful eye to match tooth colors and to adjust biting surfaces and spacing for a perfect fit. But when experienced dental professionals and patients work together, the results can make us both proud of the achievement.
If you would like more information about crowns, 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 “Porcelain Crowns & Veneers” and “Gold or Porcelain Crowns.”
Your toothbrush serves the invaluable purpose of minimizing bacterial buildup (plaque) that can irritate gums and lead to periodontal disease, infection of the bone and tissues supporting your teeth. Brushing also helps dislodge food particles that certain oral bacteria would otherwise feed on, producing acids in the process that can eat through protective tooth enamel and the vulnerable dentin below. Given its importance to your oral health, you can maximize your toothbrush’s effectiveness by using and storing it properly, and replacing it (or the brush head if you have a powered model) regularly.
Using and Storing Your Brush
All that’s needed to dislodge plaque from oral surfaces is a relaxed grip and a gentle jiggling motion. Too much pressure can wear away tooth enamel, cause gum tissue to recede, and shorten the life of your brush head.
When you’re done using your brush:
- Thoroughly rinse it to remove any remaining tooth paste, food particles, etc.
- If you’re super-vigilant, you also can disinfect your brush by soaking it in mouthwash, brush-sanitizing rinse, or a half water/half hydrogen peroxide solution, or dipping it in boiling water for 5 to 10 seconds.
- Air dry in an upright position and do not routinely cover your toothbrush or store it in a closed container. A dark, moist environment is more conducive to the growth of microorganisms.
Replacing and Recycling Your Toothbrush
Even with the best of care, toothbrush bristles become frayed and worn and their cleaning effectiveness diminishes after 3 or 4 months, according to the American Dental Association, though it could be sooner depending on factors unique to each patient. Besides checking the bristles regularly, a good way of keeping track is to write the date you start using your toothbrush in permanent pen on a big-enough spot on the handle (or doing it on masking tape applied to the base of a power brush).
Once your brush has passed its useful life for oral hygiene, you can still get plenty of mileage out of it. You’ll find plenty of ideas on the internet for cleaning grout between tiles and grime-filled spots around taps and toilet lid hinges; removing mud from boot treads; scrubbing off corrosion from around car battery terminals and more!
If you would like more information about oral hygiene, 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 “Toothbrush Lifespan” and “Manual vs Powered Toothbrushes.”