Posts for: May, 2012
Periodontal (gum) disease can lead to serious infection and even loss of teeth; but it can easily be prevented. Here are seven things you can do to prevent gum disease — or stop it in its tracks if you already have it.
- Understand the causes of gum disease. Diseases of periodontal (from the root words meaning “around” and “tooth”) or gum tissues start with bacteria collecting on your teeth, in the areas where the teeth and gums meet. The bacteria, called plaque or biofilm, irritate the surrounding tissues and cause them to become inflamed and swollen, and to bleed easily on contact. This condition is called gingivitis.
- Brush correctly and effectively. Brushing twice a day is not just to polish your teeth to pearly whiteness. An important reason to brush is to remove the daily coating of plaque from your teeth. At your next dental appointment, ask me or our staff to show you the most effective way to brush.
- Floss every day. Daily flossing removes the plaque that settles in between your teeth, in places where your brush can't reach.
- Have regular professional cleanings. Our hygienist will remove plaque that you missed by brushing and flossing. This plaque hardens into a material called calculus or tartar. In a professional cleaning your hygienist uses special tools to scrape these materials away. The hygienist also measures the distances between your gums and teeth to make sure that inflamed gums have not separated from the teeth, forming pockets in which the bacteria continue to grow.
- Recognize the signs of developing gum disease. These signs include any of the following: gums that bleed easily when you brush or floss; bad breath; red or swollen gums; and sensitive teeth.
- Stop smoking. If you haven't stopped smoking for your heart or lungs, here is another reason to quit. Smokers are more likely to develop periodontal disease than nonsmokers. Smoking masks the effects of gum disease, so smokers are less likely to notice the symptoms, allowing the disease to progress to a greater degree before they seek help.
- See our office right away if your teeth become loose or your gums become red and swollen. If inflamed gum tissues do not heal, the disease continues to progress. The tissues that attach your teeth to your bone, called ligaments, are lost as pockets deepen as the infection advances. Your gums may also become red, swollen, and painful. As the infection gets worse it eats away the bone around your teeth, causing the teeth to loosen and fall out.
So start with prevention and stop periodontal disease in its early stages.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about gum disease. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”
Of all the of amazing procedures in today's dentistry, surgery that causes new bone to grow — in places where it had previously been lost — is high on the list of the most extraordinary. (When bone is lost or resorbed, it is broken down into its mineral components, which are dissolved into the bloodstream. Resorption of tooth-supporting bone often takes place after teeth are lost.) Dental techniques that cause new bone growth are important because a certain amount of bone is needed to replace lost teeth with dental implants.
Today's dental implants themselves are an amazing innovation. Implants consist of a replacement for the tooth's root, usually made of a metal called titanium. A replacement for the crown, the part of the tooth that is visible above the gums, is attached to the titanium root. Titanium has the remarkable quality of being able to fuse with the bone in which it is anchored. This process, first discovered in the 1950s, is called osseointegration.
In the case of missing upper back teeth, many people who wanted dental implants in the past were told that they did not have enough bone to anchor the implants and that they had to get removable dentures instead.
But now a new surgery called maxillary sinus augmentation can cause your body to regenerate bone where it was lost and is needed to anchor dental implants.
Bone in the upper jaw or maxilla usually supports your upper back teeth. Inside the maxilla, on either side of your upper jaw, are air spaces in the bone, which are lined with a membrane. These spaces, called the maxillary sinuses, are generally shaped like pyramids; but their shape and size is different in each person. The new surgical procedures involve lifting up the sinus membrane in the area where bone is needed and filling the space thus created with a bone grafting material. Your body then creates new bone to fill the space. This usually takes about six months. If you have almost enough bone to stabilize the implants, they can be placed simultaneously with the graft, thus saving time and avoiding a second surgical procedure.
All grafting materials used today are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and must be prepared according to their guidelines. They are specially treated to render them completely safe for human use.
After the surgery there is usually no more than mild to moderate swelling and some discomfort, about the same as having a tooth removed.
If you are missing upper back teeth, contact us to schedule an appointment to evaluate your upper jaw. You can also learn more about this procedure by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sinus Surgery.”
Why is it important to replace missing teeth with restorations such as dental implants? You might be surprised to find that the damage caused by missing teeth is much greater than the simple gaps left in your smile.
As the years go by, teeth lost early in adulthood cause structural changes in a person's face. By age 45 changes in facial structure are already visible in the form of sunken cheeks. By 60, cheeks and lips lose their support, resulting in an aging look. This process continues and if the teeth are not replaced, much of the structural support of the person's face is lost.
These changes are caused by loss of bone. Although it may seem static, bone is actually living tissue that needs constant stimulation to maintain its form and density. With normal stimulation it is in a constant state of resorption (breaking down) and deposition (building up). Teeth provide the needed stimulation for the bone that surrounds them (called alveolar bone) as they meet each other during biting, chewing, and speech. When the stimulation continues, the bone continues to rebuild itself. Without this stimulation, the bone resorbs, does not build up again, and loses substance.
Without stimulation, alveolar bone loses width, height, and volume. Since your teeth and their surrounding bone support your chin, cheeks, and lips, this has a powerful effect on your appearance. It may also affect your ability to chew and to speak.
As alveolar bone diminishes, the next layer of bone also begins to resorb. This is the bone of the jaw itself. The lower part of the face begins to collapse, and the cheeks become hollow. This effect is especially noticeable for people with no teeth (edentulous).
Usually the first tooth to be lost, due to infection and decay, is a molar (back tooth). In the past, a missing single back tooth was frequently replaced by a fixed partial denture (FPD). A crown is provided for each of the two teeth on the sides of the gap, called abutment teeth, to support a false tooth in the middle. However, if they are not well cared for, the abutment teeth may be the next to succumb to decay.
Today the treatment of choice is an implant. A dental implant is a tooth-root replacement made of titanium, which fuses with the bone — making it very stable. Above the gums it is covered by a crown that looks like a natural tooth. The benefit of the implant is that it continues to provide stimulation to the alveolar bone, preventing bone loss.
Implants are also a good choice in the case of multiple missing teeth. They can be used to support bridges or false teeth (dentures). The results are an improved, younger appearance and better functionality.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about missing teeth. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”
A dental crown is a tooth-shaped “cap” or cover that we place over a tooth that is badly damaged from trauma or decay to restore its shape, strength, size and functionality. We also use them for cosmetic reasons to improve a tooth's appearance with natural, life-like results. Crowns are generally handcrafted by dental laboratory technicians using high-quality dental porcelains (ceramic materials) that are made to fit on precise replicas (molds) of the prepared teeth. In our office, we generally make temporary crowns to protect the teeth to keep them comfortable and functional while the permanent crown(s) is being made. And once a crown is placed (cemented into position), it fully encases the entire visible portion of the tooth that lies at and above the gum line.
When Are They Necessary?
There are many reasons a crown may be needed. Some of these include:
- To repair a tooth that is worn down, broken or badly damaged by decay or injury.
- To restore a tooth so severely damaged by decay that the tooth's structure is no longer intact enough to place a filling or where a filling can't restore the tooth to its former strength.
- To protect a tooth that has minor cracks or fractures from further damage.
- To create a bridge to replace a missing tooth, in which the teeth on either side, known as abutments, must be “crowned” to attach to the “pontic” (from the French word, “pont” that means bridge).
- To create the visible part of the tooth that sits atop a dental implant.
- To improve the appearance of a tooth providing a more appealing shape and color.