Posts for: May, 2014
Q: I’ve heard about dental implants, but I’m still not sure exactly what they are. Can you explain?
A: It’s no wonder you’ve heard of them: Dental implants have been called the most exciting advance in dentistry in the last 50 years! Essentially, the implant itself is a small, screw-shaped post that is placed in the jaw bone (underneath the gums), and serves as a replacement for the tooth’s roots. It is attached to a lifelike crown (a replacement for the visible part of the tooth) via a sturdy connector called an abutment. Dental implants offer results that can last a lifetime, and have the highest documented success rate of any tooth replacement system — over 95%.
Q: How does a dental implant work?
A: A few decades ago, it was discovered that titanium metal has a unique property: It can actually become fused to living bone tissue in a process called osseointegration. Implants are made of titanium, and take advantage of this feature. Solidly anchored in place by both osseointegration and mechanical forces, dental implants provide a strong and durable base for several different kinds of natural-looking and fully functional replacement teeth.
Q: What are dental implants used for?
A: One dental implant can be used to replace just one missing tooth with a crown that matches your own teeth. Two or more dental implants can be used to support a fixed bridge (a series of three or more replacement teeth) without requiring any work to be done on the adjacent, healthy teeth. Four or more implants can support an entire arch (complete top or bottom set) of replacement teeth that won’t slip and will never need to be removed — a great alternative to traditional removable dentures! Implants can also be used to support some kinds of removable dentures, and in certain orthodontic procedures.
Q: What is the procedure for getting a dental implant?
A: The implant process begins with a consultation, a thorough exam, and a set of diagnostic images. Placing one or more implants involves minor surgery, which is typically performed in the dental office and requires only local anesthesia. After the area has been numbed, a small opening is made in the tissue of gums and jaw bone, and the implant is carefully inserted. In some situations, a temporary replacement tooth may be placed on the implant immediately; otherwise, the implant will be allowed to rest for a period of weeks. In either case, the permanent replacement teeth will be secured to the implants at a subsequent visit.
Q: What are the advantages of an implant over other tooth replacement methods?
A: We already mentioned the high success rate and the long life of dental implants. Another advantage is the fact that implants stop the deterioration of bone in the jaw that inevitably follows tooth loss. Bone loss, a “hidden” consequence of tooth loss, is what tends to make people who are missing teeth look older than they really are. Implants need no special care beyond what you would give your natural teeth, and their longevity can make them a cost-effective investment in the long term. Plus, they look, function and “feel” just like your natural teeth.
If you’d like to find out more about dental implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dental Implants” and “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”
He once lived in Australia, wore his hair in a mullet, and played guitar in a band called The Ranch. Today, country music star Keith Urban looks different than he did when he started out — and it’s not just the mullet that’s changed. As before-and-after pictures show, he’s had a smile makeover. His teeth, which were dull yellow in color, and used to have a large gap in front, are now white and shiny. The gap is still there — though it has been reduced to a more modest size. How did he manage to upgrade his image, yet keep part of his signature “look” intact?
Cosmetic dentistry has a number of ways to improve the appearance of a smile like Keith’s. One is tooth whitening. It’s a simple procedure that can be done in our office or at your home; either way, it’s an effective treatment that offers great value. In-office whitening, using the most concentrated solutions under our direct supervision, will give you the fastest results. We can also prepare a take-home kit, with custom-made trays and safe bleaching gels you can use at home. You’ll get similar results, but it will take a bit longer.
Of course, whitening isn’t permanent (though it can be repeated when necessary); not all teeth can be lightened as much as you might like; and it doesn’t correct gaps or unevenness. There’s another treatment that does, however: dental veneers. These are wafer-thin coverings made of porcelain, which are bonded to the prepared surfaces of your teeth. They are available in a number of shades — from natural to “Hollywood white” — and can even hide minor chips or spacing problems. That’s why veneers are often the treatment of choice when you’re looking for a “red carpet” smile.
Perhaps the best thing about veneers is that they give you plenty of choices when it comes to designing your smile. You can choose how white you’d like your smile to be, and even fix some “flaws” — or not! So how much you choose to close that gap in your teeth is up to you… but if you’re asking our opinion, the mullet has to go.
If you would like more information on dental veneers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Beautiful Smiles by Design” and “Porcelain Veneers.”
Orthodontics is a specialty of dentistry dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of misaligned teeth, or malocclusions. The goal is to help patients achieve better long-term oral health by improving teeth alignment. Sometimes, though, the misalignment is much more involved than the position of the teeth — it may be that the jaw structure is also misaligned. In that case, the skills of an oral surgeon may be in order.
The jaws are similar in shape to the arch of a horseshoe, hence the referral to either upper or lower sets of teeth as dental arches. In a normal jaw structure, the lower arch fits just inside the upper arch when you bite down and the teeth are able to function correctly. In some individuals, though, the lower arch closes in front of the upper arch, commonly known as an underbite. If the underbite is only slight, the malocclusion can be corrected by repositioning the teeth only, as with braces. If, though, the underbite is more severe it would require a surgical procedure to realign the jaws, also known as orthognathic surgery.
Orthognathic surgery can help relieve a number of functional complications caused by jaw-related malocclusions: difficulty chewing and swallowing; chronic jaw or head pain; or sleep apnea. It can also enhance the patient’s facial appearance by correcting an imbalance between the two lateral sides (asymmetry), or by minimizing a receding chin or protruding jaw.
Its primary benefit, though, is its effect on the patient’s bite and tooth alignment. For this purpose, the orthodontist and oral surgeon work together to achieve the best result possible. In some cases, the orthodontist may perform his or her work first by moving teeth into the proper position. This sets the stage for the oral surgeon to perform orthognathic surgery to complete the correction of the misalignment.
Each individual patient’s case is different — the best plan of action must begin with a full examination by an orthodontist, and a consultation with an oral surgeon if necessary. It may require time and the expertise of two specialties, but the final result will be better health and a better look.
If you would like more information on various orthodontic procedures, 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 “Jaw Surgery & Orthodontics.”