Bacteria are bad… right? They can cause diseases like pneumonia, strep throat, and tooth decay. They are the reason we wash our hands with soap (or antibacterial gels) and cook (or refrigerate) our food. Yet it turns out that bacteria are also necessary to keep our bodies healthy — and new research is showing just how important these tiny microorganisms are to our well-being. Here are five facts you should know about bacteria.
The bacteria in our bodies outnumber our cells by a factor of 10 to 1. An estimated 100 trillion bacteria live inside the average human — but because they’re so small, they make up only 1-3 percent of our body mass.
The collection of bacteria we harbor is called our “microbiome.” Like the groundbreaking study of human DNA called the Human Genome Project, recent research is leading to a “map” of our bacterial makeup. This revolutionary study is called — you guessed it — the Human Microbiome Project.
No two people have exactly the same microbiome. But in general, the bacteria that live in a particular spot on the body (the mouth, for example) play the same roles in different individuals. Research has also shown that a healthy microbiome looks very different from a diseased microbiome.
In terms of bacteria, the mouth is one of the best-understood areas of the body. It has long been known that tooth decay can result when “bad” oral bacteria begin to outnumber their “good” counterparts. Now we are gaining a better understanding of how certain lifestyle factors — like cigarette smoking — may influence the bacterial balance in the mouth.
Understanding the microbiome may lead to new treatments for disease. Researchers hope that one day, certain serious diseases could be controlled by bacterial “transplants” that re-balance an individual’s microbiome. Maintaining a healthy microbiome could also help prevent many diseases.
So by all means, don’t stop brushing your teeth or washing your hands — this helps control bacteria that could harm you — but do remember that not all bacteria are harmful. One day, an infusion of bacteria might just cure your illness.
You may be considering dental implants for a lot of reasons: durability, functionality and imperviousness to decay. But perhaps the winning reason is how they will make you look — their life-like quality can restore a smile marred by missing or disfigured teeth. Achieving that result, though, requires your dental team to determine beforehand the state of your bone and gums, and treat any conditions that would interfere with the final result.
The first area to look at is the amount of bone available to support the implant. An adequate amount is necessary not only to stabilize the implant, but to also ensure proper placement needed to achieve the best “smile” result. Your specialist, then, will take steps to protect available bone during procedures, or even aid in building up the bone structure by inserting grafting materials that encourage new bone growth.
The degree of bone volume in adjacent natural teeth is also important because it can greatly affect the health of the papillae. This is the triangular-shaped gum tissue that occurs between each tooth that gives normal teeth their arched appearance. Insufficient bone in these areas could cause the papillae not to regenerate properly around the implant site, which creates unsightly dark spaces in the gum tissue known as “black hole disease.”
We must next consider the quality and health of your gum tissue. Patients whose gum tissue tends to be thin face difficulties during cosmetic surgical procedures; their thinner tissues are also more prone for objects behind them to be visible, including metal or other crown materials.
Our aim is an implant crown emerging from the surrounding gum tissue just as a natural tooth would. To achieve this requires knowing first what we have to work with regarding your bone and gums, and to address any issues that are problematic. One aid in this process is to affix a temporary “prototype” crown on the implant to wear while the permanent crown is manufactured. This allows you to “test-drive” the new look, and make adjustments in the final product regarding color and materials.
Accounting for all these factors — and then making adjustments along the way — will help ensure the final crown meets your expectations for function and appearance.
If you would like more information on the fabrication of implant crowns, 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 “Matching Teeth & Implants.”
Dental implants are a great choice for many people who need to permanently replace a missing tooth. Reliable and long-lasting, they offer a highly successful outcome, and can even help reduce long-term bone loss and damage to adjacent teeth. One of the best features of implants is that the titanium metal of which they're made actually becomes fused with your natural, living bone tissue.
But sometimes, an examination may show that where you have missing teeth, you may not have enough bone remaining to properly place an implant. Does this mean you're out of luck? Not necessarily!
Employing the refined techniques of bone grafting, regenerating bone tissue has become a standard procedure in periodontal and oral surgery. In many cases, it's possible to build up just the right amount of bone using a variety of grafting materials, in combination with other special techniques. This can enable patients who wouldn't otherwise be good candidates to enjoy the benefits of dental implants.
How does it work? Basically, by helping your body repair itself.
You may already know that bone is a living tissue, which can respond to its environment positively (by growing) or negatively (by resorbing or shrinking). When you've lost bone tissue, the trick is to get your body to grow more exactly where you want it. Once we know where — and how much — replacement bone is needed, we can place the proper amount of bone grafting material in that location. Then, in most cases, the body will use that material as a scaffold to regenerate its own bone.
Bone grafting is often done at the time of tooth removal as a preventive procedure or prior to the placement of an implant, to give the body time to re-grow enough of its own tissue. The procedure is generally carried out under local anesthesia, or with the aid of conscious sedation. Sometimes, if there is enough natural bone to stabilize it, it's even possible to place an implant and perform a bone graft at the same time.
So if you're considering dental implants, let us advise you on what's best for your particular situation. We have the knowledge and experience to help you make the right choices, and achieve the most successful outcome.
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?”
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.”
Dental implants are a popular and effective restoration for lost teeth, if there’s enough bone present to support the implant. That might not be the case, however, because without the stimulation of the lost tooth, the bone may dissolve (resorb) over time. It’s possible, however, that you may need to re-grow bone in the back area of the upper jaw where your upper (maxillary) sinus is located.
Sinuses are air space cavities located throughout the skull. This feature allows your head to be light enough to be supported by your neck muscles. Inside each sinus is a membrane that lines your sinus cavities, nasal passages and other spaces. The maxillary sinus is located on each side of the face just below the eyes. Pyramidal in shape, the floor of the pyramid lies just above the upper back teeth.
A surgeon approaches the sinus through the mouth, with the objective of moving the sinus membrane up from the floor of the sinus. This is accomplished by placing bone-grafting material in the area. Over time the body uses the grafting material as a scaffold to produce new bone that then replaces the grafting material. The resulting new bone becomes the support for the implant.
If enough bone exists to stabilize an implant but not anchor it, then the surgeon can approach the sinus from the same opening that’s used for the intended implant site, insert the grafting material, and install the implant during the same procedure. If not, the surgeon creates a small “window” laterally over the teeth to access the sinus and insert the graft. The implant is installed a few months later after the new bone is created.
The procedure usually requires only a local anesthetic, although some patients may require additional sedation or anti-anxiety medication. After the surgery, you normally experience mild to moderate swelling and discomfort, about the same as having a tooth removed. All these symptoms can be managed with non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory pain medication and a decongestant for minor congestion in the sinus. We might also prescribe an antibiotic to help prevent infection.
Although this procedure adds another step and possibly more waiting time to implantation, it gives you an option you wouldn’t otherwise have — a life-like, effective replacement of your back teeth with dental implants.
If you would like more information on bone regeneration for implants, 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 “Sinus Surgery.”
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