Posts for: June, 2014
As our profession advances, we dental professionals continue to find the biggest factor for successful outcomes is an informed patient. The more you know about your own teeth and gums, the greater your chance for a healthy outcome.
Regular dental care is fundamental to becoming informed. Your regular office visits and cleanings are an opportunity for us to “get real” — for you to learn the unvarnished truth about your dental issues and the reasons why you need to consider some options regarding your oral health. We also need to be just as realistic about what can or can’t be done to improve your situation and the cost involved.
The best way to approach this is to develop a plan based on managing risk. Risk is essentially weighing anything we may potentially lose against the solutions for not losing it. In dentistry, we look at risk in four basic areas: periodontal, the threats to structures like gums, ligaments and bone that support the teeth; biomechanical, the threats to the structural integrity of teeth such as decay, enamel erosion or fracture; functional, problems that can arise with how the teeth, muscles and jaw joints work together; and aesthetic, the impact of all these threats to the outward appearance of your smile.
Once we know the risks you’re facing, we then determine the best treatment approach for managing the risk based on costs and potential outcomes. For example, if you’re diagnosed with gum disease, you’re at risk for losing supporting bone and, ultimately, the affected teeth. Our primary goal is to prevent that loss from occurring through plaque and calculus removal that slow or stop the disease and allow affected tissues to heal. But if the disease has advanced and you’ve already experienced bone or even tooth loss, we may then need to modify our treatment goal by including gum surgery or tooth replacement options like dental implants.
Using a risk management approach helps us identify what needs to be treated and the most reasonable and achievable options for treating it. The foundation for this approach is prevention — stopping problems before they start or progress. Developing and maintaining this kind of action plan will help reduce your ultimate costs — emotional, social and financial.
If you would like more information on dental treatment planning, 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 “Successful Dental Treatment.”
A beautiful smile has been proven to enhance your confidence and self-esteem. However, not everyone was born with the perfect smile. If you have an overbite, crowding of the teeth, too much space in between your teeth or missing teeth, then you may be a candidate for orthodontic treatment. With orthodontic treatments, teeth are moved into proper alignment by placing continuous, gentle forces in a carefully controlled direction with an orthodontic appliance.
Here are a few things you should know about malocclusions (bad bites) and orthodontics:
- Causes. In many cases, bad bites are simply inherited. Malocclusions can also be caused by skeletal growth problems, and in these cases, early intervention with orthodontics can make a big difference. Acquired bite problems can be caused by trauma, thumb sucking and any premature loss of teeth.
- Options. Nowadays, there are many different options available for those that require orthodontic treatment. In addition to traditional braces, which are applied to the front of the teeth, there are now braces that can be attached to the back of your teeth. Another popular option is clear orthodontic aligners, an alternative system to traditional braces that use a sequence of clear, removable and custom-fitted trays to gradually straighten your teeth.
- Age. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children should be evaluated for orthodontic problems no later than age seven, as early detection and action helps to avoid more difficult treatment later in life. One out of every five orthodontic patients today is an adult, so remember that it is never too late.
- Time. While treatment time will vary, you can expect it to range from one to three years, depending on the severity of the problem. However minor tooth movement may take as little as six months.
- Maintenance. Remember that once your treatment has concluded, the work is not done. We will often recommend that you wear a retainer for a prescribed period of time to maintain your new, straight smile.
If you would like more information about orthodontics, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Magic of Orthodontics.”
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.”
Not long ago, Jane Fonda gave a British interviewer a clue as to how she manages to look so young at her advanced age. During the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, the septuagenarian actress and fitness guru said to a journalist from the London-based Daily Mail, “See these teeth? They cost $55,000. It was teeth or a new car — and I opted for the teeth.”
We think she made the right choice — though she might have overpaid just a tad. Most people don't have that kind of cash to spend on either a car or new teeth. But luckily, you can get either for a lot less — particularly the teeth!
The truth is, at a reasonable cost, cosmetic dentistry really can make you look a lot younger while giving your self-esteem a tremendous boost. It's an investment in both your emotional and oral health as we will never implement a smile makeover without first making sure we've addressed any underlying dental disease. Best of all, it doesn't have to cost anywhere near what you'd pay for the latest-model Jaguar, the price tag of Fonda's smile notwithstanding. Here is a list of the more common cosmetic dental techniques used to enhance a person's smile:
- Whitening — a peroxide-based bleach is applied directly to the teeth to remove minor staining and discoloration.
- Bonding — an acrylic material is applied to a tooth, colored and shaped to match the person's other teeth. Primarily used for chipped, broken or decayed teeth.
- Enamel Shaping — the removal of very tiny amounts of enamel, the tooth's outer layer, for a more pleasing tooth shape.
- Veneers — a thin shell of custom-designed tooth-colored material, usually porcelain, affixed to the front surface of the teeth.
- Crowns and Bridgework — a technique that covers heavily damaged teeth or replaces missing teeth by capping them, or using capped teeth to support one or more false teeth.
- Dental Implants — a small titanium post is surgically implanted in the jawbone to replace the root-part of a missing tooth. A lifelike crown is attached to the implant above the gum line and is the only part of the whole tooth restoration that is visible in the mouth.
- Gum Contouring — a minor surgical procedure altering the position of the gum tissue to improve the look and regularity of the gum line around the teeth.
If you'd like more information on cosmetic dentistry, please contact us or schedule an appointment. To learn more, please read the Dear Doctor magazine articles, “Beautiful Smiles by Design” and “The impact of a Smile Makeover.”