Not long ago, musician, businessman, and actor 50 Cent (AKA Curtis James Jackson III) joined the growing ranks of celebrities (like Demi Moore and LeAnn Rimes) who have sent out tweets from the dental chair. The rapper, who has had extensive cosmetic work done on his teeth, even live-tweeted an action shot of his dentist giving him an oral exam!
Some might consider this too much information — but we're happy whenever people are reminded of the importance of regular dental checkups. In fact, the “routine” dental exam is truly one of the most useful procedures (and one of the best values) in dental care. Let's “examine” some reasons why that's so.
For one thing, coming in to our office when you don't have a specific problem gives us the chance to talk to you about any concerns you may have in regard to your mouth — or your health in general. In fact, many of the questions we ask and the exam procedures we perform give us an opportunity to detect potentially deadly diseases. For example, simply monitoring your blood pressure may identify a risk for heart disease; or an examination of the oral tissues may reveal the first signs of oral cancer. Both conditions are treatable if caught early on.
Of course, at a dental exam we always look closely at your teeth for signs of cavities. We also check your gums for inflammation or bleeding, which could indicate gum disease. X-rays or other diagnostic tests are performed when necessary. Generally, the sooner we can diagnose and treat any problems we may find, the better (and less costly) the outcome tends to be.
A typical checkup also includes a thorough, professional teeth cleaning with specialized tools, performed by our skilled dental hygienists. This not only makes your mouth look and feel sparkly clean — it also removes the built-up hard deposits (called tartar or calculus) that can lead to bad breath or gum disease.
Once the exam and cleaning are done, we have a good idea of the general state of your dental health. We can then give feedback on your oral hygiene techniques, assess your risk for disease, and make recommendations tailored to your individual needs. And we can do all this in about half an hour.
So talk about it, tweet about it — but don't neglect it! Along with regular brushing and flossing, routine dental checkups are the best way for you to maintain good oral hygiene — and prevent future dental problems.
If you would like more information about the benefits of regular dental exams, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Dental Hygiene Visit.”
Tooth decay (also known as caries by professionals and as cavities by consumers) is an infectious disease process that damages tooth structure. Cavities, hollowed-out holes in the teeth, are the most common result of untreated caries. It affects millions of Americans, young and old alike.
How does this destructive process happen? It begins when acid-producing bacteria multiply beyond normal levels in the mouth. Dental plaque, a film of remnant food particles and bacteria, cover the teeth due to poor oral hygiene. The bacteria break down sugars and carbohydrates present in the mouth, which in turn produces acid. Too many “bad bacteria” can raise the acidic level in the mouth.
The normal pH level of the mouth is neutral — 7 on the pH scale. But when the acidic level increases, dropping the pH to 5.5, the calcium and phosphate minerals in the hard, protective layer of tooth enamel begin to dissolve in a process known as de-mineralization. A healthy flow of saliva, however, acts as a buffering agent to return the pH level of the mouth back to neutral. Saliva also contains calcium and phosphate that can replace those lost from the enamel and is referred to as re-mineralization.
So, a constant battle rages within the mouth. On one side acid-producing bacteria, the possible absence of saliva, and poor diet and hygiene habits create the conditions where teeth enamel loses its mineral strength, allowing decay to eventually invade the fragile inner dentin of the tooth; on the other side is an adequate flow of saliva, a good diet and hygiene, boosted by treatment options like sealant application, antimicrobials and the topical application of fluoride.
The key, of course, is prevention. We add protection to the teeth by strengthening them; applying fluoride topically is the best approach, along with sealants that can be applied in our office. We reduce the level of acid-producing bacteria, usually with an anti-bacterial mouth rinse. You can also adopt a healthier diet that limits sugars and carbohydrates and reduces snacking between meals.
These preventive measures, along with early treatment of known tooth decay, can help you avoid the full impact of this destructive disease.
If you would like more information on tooth decay and how to prevent it, 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 “Tooth Decay.”
Rock star Steven Tyler fell and broke his two front teeth while on tour with his band Aerosmith not long ago. But Tyler was back on stage the very next day, thanks to modern dental implant technology.
Dental implants are the most optimal tooth replacement system in use today. The reason we say “system” is because replacing teeth with implants involves two, or sometimes three, components: the implant itself, which replaces the root-part of the tooth; the dental crown that sits on top of it to replace the part of the tooth that's visible in the mouth; and a connecting piece placed in between the implant and crown, known as an abutment.
The implant itself, made of titanium, is placed directly into the jawbone with a minor surgical procedure. Titanium has the unique ability to fuse to bone, creating a very strong connection. An implant provides virtually the same function as a natural tooth root, including stabilizing the bone underneath and preventing its loss — something that naturally occurs when a tooth is lost.
This fusion process takes a period of weeks, which is why the implant needs time to heal before a permanent crown is attached. One reason for early implant failure is “loading” them with biting forces too soon. But in experienced hands, implants are extremely successful. Documented research and clinical studies indicate success rates of over 95% — which is higher than any other tooth replacement option. Once integrated and functional, implants can last a lifetime. That's why, though they are a bit more expensive initially than other tooth-replacement options, they are more cost-effective in the long term.
Of course, another advantage of implants is that they look and feel completely natural. Just ask Steven Tyler!
If you would like more information about dental implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants.” Dear Doctor also has more on “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”
Did you ever think a dentist might suggest that you have a bone graft performed as part of a standard tooth replacement procedure? Believe it or not, it's now a routine treatment — and it's not as complicated as you may think. Welcome to 21st Century dentistry!
If you're thinking about getting a tooth implant — an attractive, strong and long-lasting option for tooth replacement — here are four things you should know about bone grafting.
A bone graft may be needed prior to placing a dental implant.
One major reason why dental implants work so well as replacements for natural teeth is that they actually become fused to the underlying bone. This system offers superior durability, and a host of other advantages. Unfortunately, when a tooth is lost, the surrounding bone often begins to disappear (resorb) as well. In that case, it may be necessary to rebuild some of the bone structure before an implant can be placed effectively.
Bone regeneration for tooth implants is a routine procedure.
When it's needed, bone grafting has become a standard practice in periodontal and oral surgery. It is often performed prior to (or, occasionally, at the same time as) placing a dental implant. The grafting procedure itself can be done in the office, using local anesthesia (numbing shots, like those used for a filling) or conscious sedation (“twilight sleep”) to relieve anxiety.
The process may use a variety of high-tech materials.
The small amount of bone grafting material you need may come from a variety of sources, including human, animal or synthetic materials. Before it is used, all grafting material is processed to make it completely safe. In addition to the grafting material itself, special “guided bone regeneration” membranes and other biologically active substances may be used to promote and enhance healing.
Bone regeneration lets your body rebuild itself.
Your body uses most bone grafting materials as a scaffold or frame, over which it is able to grow its own new bone tissue. In time, the natural process of bone regeneration replaces the graft material with new bone. As we now know, maintaining sufficient bone tissue around the teeth is a crucial part of keeping up your oral health. That's why today when a tooth is going to be extracted (removed), often a bone graft will be placed at the time of extraction to preserve as much bone as possible.
Are you considering dental implants for tooth replacement, and wondering whether you may need bone grafting? Come in and talk to us! With our up-to-date training and clinical experience, we can answer your questions, and present the treatment options that are best in your individual situation.
If you would like more information about bone grafting, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Can Dentists Rebuild Bone?”
You may think snoring is a minor problem, but it can be a lot more than that. Just ask hoops star Shaquille O'Neal, whose rambunctious snoring bothered his girlfriend enough for her to suspect a health problem. Her observations eventually led to Shaq's diagnosis of moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which occurs when the soft tissue structures at the back of a person's throat, including the tongue, partially close off the upper airway and prevent air from moving into the lungs during sleep. Sometimes airflow can be blocked completely for 10 or more seconds.
When air flow is reduced, blood oxygen levels drop. This leads to brief waking episodes known as “micro-arousals,” which can happen sometimes more than 50 times an hour. The sleeper might not even be aware of this, even while gasping for air. Micro-arousals prevent the person from ever reaching deep, restful sleep.
Besides suffering from excessive daytime sleepiness, studies show sleep apnea patients are at higher risks of heart attacks, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, brain damage and strokes. People with sleep apnea also have a higher incidence of work and driving-related accidents.
OSA can be treated in a few different ways. On the advice of his doctor, Shaq opted for a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine, which generates pressurized air delivered through a face mask worn while sleeping. The force of the pressurized air opens the airway (windpipe) in the same way as blowing into a balloon does.
For people with milder OSA, or who find they can't tolerate wearing a mask during sleep, an oral appliance supplied by a dental professional might be the answer. Oral appliances are worn in the mouth and are designed to gently reposition the jaw and move the tongue forward away from the back of the throat. Success rates of 80% or more have been reported using oral appliances, depending on the severity of the OSA.
If you would like more information on sleep apnea, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about sleep apnea by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Snoring & Sleep Apnea.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Sleep Disorders & Dentistry.”
This website includes materials that are protected by copyright, or other proprietary rights. Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use, as defined in the copyright laws, requires the written permission of the copyright owners.