There’s no question that x-ray imaging has transformed how we diagnose and treat dental problems. But traditional x-rays have at least one limitation — they are two-dimensional portraits that can only provide a portion of the information available. If you could view the interior of teeth or other mouth structures in three dimensions, you would have access to more detail about their conditions.
Computerized axial tomography (CAT) scanning has brought that third dimensional view to physicians generally and, in more recent years, to dentists. The latest development in this technology is known as Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT). A CBCT emits a spiral of x-rays that form a cone-shaped beam that is caught on detectors. Using digital geometry, the CBCT then generates a three-dimensional image by precisely “layering” this large series of two-dimensional images caught by the detectors on top of each other.
CBCT is already making a significant impact in dentistry and its related specialties. Dentists now can visualize with amazingly precise detail the three-dimensional anatomy of the teeth, jaws, facial bone and other structures in the head and neck area. Orthodontists can examine the growth stages of a patient’s teeth eruption to better prepare treatment strategies. Oral surgeons can determine the precise location of impacted teeth and their exact proximity to nerves and sinuses. And, periodontists who specialize in gum disease and treatment can better determine the level of bone loss and gum attachment for more accurate diagnoses and effective treatment.
While a CBCT delivers a higher dose of x-rays than a traditional panoramic radiograph, it actually delivers a lower dosage than a digital standard 18 film full mouth series or than conventional medical CT scanners. The field of view also determines the level of x-ray exposure — the smaller the field of view (and more concentrated the x-rays) the higher the dosage and the better detail of anatomy.
The good news, though, is that a low dosage CBCT scan can still provide a level of detail that can provide dentists with a very accurate view of anatomical features, including bone density and mass, in three dimensions. That capability can vastly elevate the accuracy of diagnoses and lay the groundwork for effective dental treatment.
If you would like more information on the uses of CBCT scanning to help you maintain dental 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 “CAT Scans in Dentistry.”
Florence Henderson has inspired generations of people through her portrayal of America's most beloved TV mother, Carol Brady, on one of the longest running situational comedies, The Brady Brunch. Today Florence is still a role model but for a much different audience: senior citizens.
Henderson created the FloH Club as an organization to assist senior citizens with understanding and embracing technology, as she described in an interview with Dear Doctor magazine. “I was inspired to create the FloH Club because of my own fear of technology and because I didn't want to keep asking my children for help,” she said.
And while Henderson was blessed with naturally straight teeth and has had no cosmetic work done, she is not opposed to it. “I wouldn't care how old I was, if I had misaligned teeth or felt I needed cosmetic dentistry I would certainly do it!”
One teeth-straightening option many adults consider is clear orthodontic aligners. They are an excellent way for self-conscious adults to align their teeth without feeling that they will appear as an awkward “brace-faced” youth — a look that is commonplace for the teenage years.
But what are clear aligners? They are an alternative system to traditional braces that use a sequence of individual, custom-fitted trays that are clear and removable to gradually straighten teeth. They are usually recommended for correcting mild to moderate spacing problems or crowding of the teeth, and for cases in which there are no major issues with your bite (i.e., your back teeth fit together properly and biting forces are distributed evenly on all of your teeth).
To learn more about this method of aligning teeth, you can continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Clear Orthodontic Aligners.” Or you can contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can conduct a thorough examination and discuss what treatment options will be best for you. And to read the entire interview with Florence Henderson, please see the Dear Doctor article “Florence Henderson.”
Last year, over 1.5 million people heard the words no one wants to hear: “You have cancer.” While only a small portion of those — about three percent — were diagnosed with oral cancer, their survival rate isn’t as good as with other types of cancers: 58% five years after diagnosis.
Here, then, are some things you should know about this deadly disease.
Oral cancer is an “equal opportunity” disease. People from all walks and stations of life experience oral cancer. The disease has caused the untimely deaths of Ulysses S. Grant, Babe Ruth and George Harrison, one of the original Beatles. However, you don’t have to be prominent or famous to acquire oral cancer: it can strike anyone at any age, especially people 40 years and older.
Oral cancer is difficult to detect early. Oral cancer usually appears as a small, scaly-shaped sore known as a squamous cell carcinoma. Appearing in the lining of the mouth, lips, tongue or back of the throat, the early stages often resemble other benign conditions such as cold or canker sores, so they’re easily overlooked in the early stages. To increase your chances of an early diagnosis, you should see your dentist about any mouth sore that doesn’t heal in two to three weeks; it’s also advisable to undergo a specific oral cancer screening during your regular dental checkups.
Tobacco and heavy alcohol use are strongly linked to oral cancer. Tobacco smokers are five to nine times more likely to develop oral cancer while snuff or chewing tobacco users are roughly four times more likely than non-tobacco users. People who are moderate to heavy drinkers are three to nine times more likely to develop oral cancer than non-drinkers.
You can reduce your risk for oral cancer. Besides quitting tobacco use and moderating your alcohol consumption, there are other things you can do to reduce cancer risk: a nutritious diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables; limited sun exposure with adequate sunscreen protection and clothing; and safe sexual practices to avoid contracting Human Papilloma Virus (HPV16), strongly linked to oral cancer. And above all, practice effective, daily oral hygiene with regular dental cleanings and checkups.
If you would like more information on prevention and treatment of oral cancer, 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 “Oral Cancer.”
Before she began hosting the long-running TV competition Top Chef, Padma Lakshmi was a well-known model and successful cookbook author. (Appropriately, she is said to have been “discovered” by a modeling agent while sitting in a café in Madrid.) Yet the Indian-born beauty's striking look — at once exotic and familiar — doesn't come from any cookie-cutter mold.
So when Lakshmi had cosmetic work done on her teeth, early in her career, her dentist didn't use a cookie-cutter approach either: Instead, her smile was carefully designed, using small amounts of bonding material to brighten her teeth and to bring their shape and spacing into harmony with her facial features.
Dentistry by Design
What exactly is smile design — and what could it do for you? Essentially, it's the process of evaluating your smile in concert with the appearance of your entire face, and visualizing the changes — some dramatic and some subtle — that will make it really shine. Some aspects we consider include the face's shape, the proportion or “balance” of facial features, the complexion, eye and lip color and form, and the overall dimensions of the smile.
Based on dental aesthetics and clinical experience, we will probably have a number of suggestions to make on how you can improve your smile. Your input will also be very important; while some individuals prefer perfectly even teeth and a sparkling “Hollywood white” smile, others are looking for a result that's more in keeping with a “natural” look: slight irregularities in tooth shape, spacing, and even color.
There's no right or wrong answer here: Having a “perfect” smile means what's perfect for you, so it's very important for dentists and patients to communicate openly during the smile design process. But sometimes, words alone just aren't enough to convey the subtle dimensions of beauty.
The Trial Smile
Fortunately, it's now possible to preview your “perfect” smile using a number of different techniques. Advances in computer imaging make this the first step in previewing your new smile — you can see the changes before a single tooth is touched! Still, many people find that having a more concrete picture is helpful. The next step is to make a 3-D mock-up the proposed dental work on an actual model of your mouth. That way, you can see a physical representation of the final results — and even turn it around and hold it in your hands.
There's still one more way to really experience the difference cosmetic treatments can make without committing to a permanent change: the provisional restoration. Here, tooth-colored bonding material and other techniques are used to actually create the new smile — temporarily. This gives you time to “live with it,” and see if the proposed changes work for you. If everything goes well with the provisional work, the permanent restoration is guaranteed to please.
So if you want holiday treats, get out the cookie cutter — but if you're looking for a smile that's uniquely yours, and one that enhances your own individual appearance… call our office and ask about a smile design consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Great Expectations — Perceptions in Smile Design” and “Beautiful Smiles by Design.”
A critical part of effective, daily oral hygiene, flossing removes bacterial plaque from between teeth that can’t be accessed with brushing. Unfortunately, it’s often neglected — string flossing requires a bit more dexterity than brushing and can be difficult to do properly.
It can be even more difficult for people with implants or who wear orthodontic appliances. For brace wearers in particular, getting access to areas between teeth with string floss is next to impossible; the metal brackets and tension wire also have a tendency to catch and retain food debris that’s difficult to remove with brushing alone.
Water flossing, using a device called an oral irrigator, is an effective alternative that addresses many of these difficulties. First available for home use in the 1960s, an oral irrigator delivers pulsating water at high pressure through a handheld applicator that forcefully flushes material from between teeth.
There’s no question that string flossing is effective in plaque removal between teeth — but what about oral irrigators? A 2008 study looked at a group of orthodontic patients with braces who used oral irrigators and compared them with a similar group that only brushed. The study found that five times as much plaque was removed in the group using the oral irrigators as opposed to the group only brushing.
Oral irrigators may also be effective for people who’ve developed periodontal (gum) disease. In fact, oral irrigators coupled with ultra-sound devices are routinely used by dental hygienists to remove plaque and calculus (hardened plaque deposits) in periodontal patients. As with regular oral hygiene, though, it’s important for patients with gum disease to include water flossing with daily brushing (at least twice a day) and regular cleaning sessions at the dentist to ensure removal of all plaque and calculus.
If you’re interested in using an oral irrigator, be sure to consult with us at your next appointment. Not only can we recommend features to look for in equipment, but we can also instruct you on the techniques to make water flossing an effective plaque remover.
If you would like more information on water flossing, 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 “Cleaning Between Your Teeth.”
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