Posts for: March, 2014
Maybe you've seen some marketing material for dental implants featuring smiling, silver-haired seniors. Perhaps this made you think that implants are a tooth replacement system that's primarily intended for older adults. If so, let's change that impression right now: Dental implants are suitable for almost all adults, not just older folks!
Today's best option for tooth replacement, implants can help most people who suffer from the problem of missing or failing permanent teeth. (In children, however, where the jaw is still growing, implants aren't generally used.) Of course, it is our goal as dentists to preserve as many of the natural teeth as possible. But when that isn't possible, implants offer the best option for tooth replacement.
The Implant System
What makes the dental implant system such a great option for replacing lost teeth? Let's start with the implant itself. This small, screw-shaped device is made of titanium metal, which has a unique property: When placed in the jaw, in a minor surgical procedure, it becomes fused with the living bone tissue. This provides a solid anchor for the visible part of the replacement tooth, the crown, which is attached to the implant by a connecting piece called an abutment.
Because the implant is securely fixed in the jaw, it provides the replacement tooth with a firm foundation that won't come loose — and it doesn't depend on other teeth for support, like bridges do. It also stops the process of bone loss, which occurs in the area of the jaw where a missing tooth was formerly located. The erosion of bone, which begins as soon as a tooth is lost, can create the appearance of premature aging, and may eventually lead to further dental problems.
Why You May Need Implants
Older folks aren't the only ones who experience tooth loss; younger people suffer from this problem too. Accidents and injuries are one cause, whether they are sports-related, or result from habits like biting pencils or grinding teeth. Lifestyle may be another factor. Poor nutrition, excessive consumption of sugary substances (including certain “sports” and “energy” drinks), and the lack of proper dental hygiene and professional care can allow moderate problems to get much worse.
A major cause of tooth loss is disease, such as tooth decay or periodontal disease. These can be a problem at any age. But a few conditions may cause serious dental problems in younger people — bulimia, for example. When stomach acids enter the mouth, they can rapidly erode the tooth enamel. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can create similar problems.
When Should You Get Implants?
Preserving your natural teeth whenever possible is a major goal of modern dentistry. But when teeth can't be saved, it's time to consider implants. While they are initially more expensive than more traditional tooth replacement methods (like bridges or removable dentures), they can last for the rest of your life with only routine care. That's something no other method can claim, and it makes them a great value, especially for younger people. Plus, they feel completely natural and look great.
If you have ever had tooth decay, you should know:
- Tooth decay is one of the most common of all diseases, second only to the common cold.
- Tooth decay affects more than one-fourth of U.S. children ages 2 to 5, half of those ages 12 to 15, and more than 90 percent of U.S. adults over age 40.
- Tooth decay causes pain, suffering and disability for millions of Americans each year — even more disturbing, tooth decay is preventable.
- If it is not treated, in extreme and rare cases tooth decay can be deadly. Infection in an upper back tooth can spread to the sinus behind the eye, from which it can enter the brain and cause death.
- Tooth decay is an infectious process caused by acid-producing bacteria. Your risk for decay can be assessed in our office with a simple test for specific bacterial activity.
- Three factors are necessary for tooth decay to occur: susceptible teeth, acid-producing bacteria and a diet rich in sugars and refined carbohydrates.
- Babies are not born with decay-causing bacteria in their mouths; the bacteria are transmitted through saliva from mothers, caregivers, or family members.
- Fluoride incorporated into the tooth structure protects teeth against decay by making the enamel more resistant to acid attack.
- Sealants, which close up the nooks and crannies in newly erupted teeth, stop bacterial collection where a toothbrush can't reach. Teeth with sealants have been shown to remain 99 percent cavity-free over six years.
- Restricting sugar intake is important in preventing tooth decay. Your total sugar intake should be less than 50 grams a day (about ten teaspoons) including sugars in other foods. A can of soda may have six teaspoons of sugar — or more!
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about tooth decay. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay – The World's Oldest & Most Widespread Disease.”
When you think of saliva, the word “amazing” probably doesn’t come to mind. But your life and health would be vastly different without this “wonder” fluid at work in your mouth.
Saliva originates from a number of glands located throughout the mouth. The largest are a pair known as the parotids, located just under the ears on either side of the lower jaw, which produce a thin and watery liquid. The sublingual glands under the tongue produce thicker saliva with a mucous secretion; the saliva from the submandibular glands located under the lower jaw has a consistency somewhere between that of the parotids and the sublingual glands. All these different consistencies of saliva combine to produce a fluid rich in proteins, enzymes, minerals and antibodies.
Saliva performs at least five basic functions in the mouth. First, it washes away food particles after eating and reduces the amount of sugar available for decay-causing bacteria to consume. It protects and disinfects the mouth with antibodies, proteins and enzymes that fight against and help prevent the growth of bacteria. Saliva neutralizes high acidity levels in the mouth, necessary to prevent enamel erosion from acid; and when enamel has softened due to acidity (de-mineralization), the calcium and other minerals in saliva help restore some of the enamel’s lost minerals (re-mineralization). Saliva also aids in digestion by lubricating the mouth and helping the body break down starches in food with its enzymes.
In recent years, scientists have also gained insight into another property of saliva that promises better disease diagnosis in the future. Like blood and urine, saliva contains biological markers for disease. As more diagnostic machines calibrated to these specific markers are developed and used, it could signal a more effective way to identify conditions from saliva samples that are easier to collect than other bodily fluids.
Its less than glamorous image aside, your mouth would be quite a different (and unhealthy) place without saliva. And, developments in diagnostics could make this unsung fluid even more valuable in maintaining your health.
If you would like more information on the importance of saliva to 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 “Secrets of Saliva.”
If your gums bleed when you brush your teeth, it’s unlikely the cause is brushing too hard. The more common reason (especially if you’re experiencing little to no pain) is periodontal (gum) disease caused by the accumulation of bacterial deposits known as dental plaque and calculus where your teeth and gums meet.
This bacterial dental plaque results in an infection in the soft tissues of the gum; the body responds to this infection with antibodies, which in turn cause the gums to become swollen, or inflamed. As this biological “war” rages on, both the infection and inflammation become chronic. The tissues are weakened from this disease process and bleed easily.
Bleeding gums, then, is an important warning sign of possible gum disease. As the infection progresses the normal attachment between the teeth and gums begins to break down and form pockets in the void. The infection will continue within these pockets, eventually spreading deeper into the gums and bone. The gum tissue may begin to recede, resulting in bone loss and, if untreated, to tooth loss.
In the early stages of the disease, bleeding gums could be the only symptom you notice. It’s possible the bleeding may eventually stop, but this doesn’t mean the disease has, and is more likely advancing. If you’ve encountered bleeding gums, you should visit us as soon as possible for a complete examination.
There’s a two-pronged approach for treating gum disease. The first prong — and top priority — is to remove as much of the offending bacterial plaque and harder deposits (calculus) as possible, along with the possibility of follow-up antibacterial and antibiotic treatment. This may require more than one session, but it’s necessary in stopping the disease. The second prong is instituting proper oral hygiene: daily brushing and flossing (using proper techniques we can teach you) and semi-annual professional cleanings in our office to remove any plaque or calculus not removed with brushing.
Bleeding gums is your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right with your gums. The sooner you seek diagnosis and treatment, the better your chances of halting the damage caused by the disease.
If you would like more information on bleeding gums as a warning sign of gum disease, 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 “Bleeding Gums.”