Tooth loss is a problem that affects many seniors—and since May is Older Americans Month, this is a good time to talk about it. Did you know that more than a quarter of adults over age 75 have lost all of their natural teeth? This not only affects their quality of life but poses a significant health risk.
According to a study in The Journal of Prosthodontics, significant tooth loss is associated with increased risk for malnutrition—and also for obesity. If this seems like a contradiction, consider that when you have few or no teeth, it’s much easier to eat soft, starchy foods of little nutritional value than it is to eat nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables. If all of your teeth are missing, it’s especially critical to replace them as soon as possible.
There are several ways to replace a full set of missing teeth, including removable dentures, overdentures, and fixed dentures:
Removable dentures are the classic replacement teeth that you put in during the day and take out at night. (However, if you suffer from sleep apnea, research has found that keeping dentures in at night may help keep the airway open, so if you have this condition, be sure to mention it to your doctor and dentist it). Dentures have come a long way in terms of how convincing they look, but they still have some disadvantages: For one thing, they take some getting used to—particularly while eating. Also, wearing removable dentures can slowly wear away the bone that they rest on. As that bone gradually shrinks over time, the dentures cease to fit well and require periodic adjustment (re-lining) or a remake.
Overdentures are removable dentures that attach onto a few strategically placed dental implants, which are small titanium posts placed in the bone beneath your gums. Strong and secure, implants prevent the denture from slipping when you wear it. Implants also slow the rate of bone loss mentioned above, which should allow the denture to fit better over a longer period of time. The ability to maintain hygiene is easier because you can remove them for cleaning.
Fixed implant-supported dentures are designed to stay in your mouth all the time, and are the closest thing to having your natural teeth back. An entire row of fixed (non-removable) replacement teeth can usually be held in place by 4-6 dental implants. Dental implant surgery is an in-office procedure performed with the type of anesthesia that’s right for you. After implants have been placed and have integrated with your jaw bone—generally after a few months—you can enjoy all of your favorite foods again without worry or embarrassment.
If you would like more information about tooth-replacement options, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Overdentures & Fixed Dentures” and “Removable Full Dentures.”
With the advent of home whitening kits, you no longer have to go to the dentist to have your teeth whitened. DIY kits are relatively safe and effective, if you follow the directions carefully.
So, you might be thinking: why have a dentist whiten my teeth? Actually, there are good reasons why you might. Here are 4 of them.
We'll make sure your teeth are healthy first. Your teeth may need some attention first, such as treatment for dental disease, before we undertake whitening. We'll also determine why your teeth are stained, which could impact how they're whitened (more about that in a moment).
Our application could take less time and last longer. Bleaching agents in home kits make up less than 10% of volume, much weaker than the applications we use. While it often takes several applications at home to achieve the desired brightness, you may only need one or two sessions with us. Our stronger solution may also extend the “fade time” — when the whitening begins to diminish — than what you may encounter with home whitening.
We can be more precise achieving the right shade. There are different shades of teeth whiteness — what looks good for someone else might not look good for you. We have the training and expertise to achieve a color that's right for you. What's more, we also have techniques and equipment like UV lighting that enables us to color match more precisely than you can with a home kit.
Your DIY kit can't alter some forms of staining. Home kits bleach only the outermost layers of tooth enamel. That won't help, though, if your discoloration originates inside the tooth. This intrinsic staining requires procedures only a dentist can perform to bleach the tooth from the inside out.
Even if you'd still like to use a home kit we'll be happy to advise you on purchasing and application. It's also a good idea to have us check the staining first to see if a home kit will work at all. In the end, we share the same desire as you do: that your teeth are as healthy as they can be and bright as you want them to be.
If you would like more information on tooth whitening options, 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 Whitening Safety Tips.”
When considering “smile makeover” options, it’s easy to focus on whitening, veneers or implants — techniques and materials focused mainly on the teeth and gums. But if you don’t also consider the bigger picture of how your upper and lower teeth come together to form your bite, these efforts may be a lot like picking out paint colors for a house with foundation problems.
That’s why orthodontics, the dental specialty concerned with the bite, could be a consideration in your smile makeover plan. Moving teeth into better positions not only improves your teeth’s function and health it could also help facilitate any cosmetic changes that follow.
The first step, of course, is to visit an orthodontist, a dentist with advanced training and experience in tooth alignment and function, for a comprehensive evaluation. Orthodontists are also knowledgeable in the growth and development of the bite, and so can develop a treatment approach that reflects the patient’s needs, whether a child or adult.
Treatments vary, depending on your particular needs. Fixed appliances like metal or clear braces that can’t be removed by the patient are the standard treatment for most malocclusions (bad bites). Clear aligners, removable trays that fit over the teeth with programmed incremental movements of the teeth, find the greatest application with adults. Orthodontists may also use specialized appliances, like temporary anchorage devices (TADs), which work to isolate teeth that need to be moved from those that don’t.
In comprehensive makeovers, orthodontists will work with a team of other dentists and specialists, including periodontists (specializing in the gums, bone and other supporting structures of the teeth) and oral surgeons. In these cases, orthodontic treatment may occur before or after other treatments with the overall goal of producing a beautiful, transformed smile.
If you would like more information on how orthodontics can transform your smile, 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 “The Magic of Orthodontics: The Original Smile Makeover.”
Most dental problems arise from tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. But they aren't the only source of danger to your teeth—gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) could be just as damaging to your tooth enamel as dental disease.
GERD usually occurs when a ring of muscles at the top of the stomach weaken, allowing stomach acid to enter the esophagus. This resulting acid reflux can make life unpleasant and pose potential health dangers—over time it can damage the lining of the esophagus and cause ulcers and pre-cancerous cells. It can also erode tooth enamel if acid enters the mouth and raises its level of acidity.
This can be a problem because acid can soften and dissolve the mineral content of tooth enamel. This is the primary cause of tooth decay as acid produced by oral bacteria attack enamel. The more bacteria present, often thriving in dental plaque, the higher the potential levels of acid that can damage enamel. Stomach acid, which is strong enough to break down food, can cause similar harm to enamel if it causes higher than normal acidity in the mouth.
There are some things you can do to protect your teeth if you have GERD, namely manage your GERD symptoms with lifestyle changes and medication. You may need to avoid alcohol, caffeine or heavily acidic or spicy foods, all known to aggravate GERD symptoms. Quitting smoking and avoiding late night meals might also ease indigestion. And your doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription drugs to help control your acid reflux.
You can also boost your teeth's enamel health by practicing daily brushing and flossing—but not right after a reflux episode. The enamel could be softened, so brushing can potentially remove tiny particles of mineral content. Instead, rinse with water mixed with or without a little baking soda to help neutralize acid and wait about an hour—this will give saliva, the mouth's natural acid neutralizer, time to restore the mouth's normal pH level.
And be sure you're using a fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride strengthens enamel—in fact, your dentist may recommend topical fluoride applications to boost the effect.
These and other tips can help minimize the effects of GERD on your dental health. With an ounce of prevention, you can keep it from permanently damaging your teeth.
If you would like more information on managing your dental health with GERD, 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 “GERD and Oral Health.”
Today's dental restorations are truly amazing. Not only are they life-like and functional, they can endure for many years a hostile environment of bacteria, acid and heavy biting forces.
Even so, you'll still need to take care of your restorations to help them last. Here's how to extend the life of 3 common forms of dental work.
Fillings. We use fillings, both metal amalgam and tooth-colored materials, to repair holes or cavities in teeth caused by tooth decay. Although strong, dental fillings can break if you subject them to abnormally high biting force (like chewing ice). There's also a chance that if a slight separation occurs between the filling and tooth, bacteria can take up residence and reignite the decay process. To prevent this, practice a daily regimen of oral hygiene to clean away bacterial plaque—and reduce sugar in your diet, a prime food source for bacteria.
Veneers. Usually made of thin porcelain, veneers are bonded to the front of teeth to mask chips, stains, gaps or other blemishes. But although they're strong, veneers aren't immune to damage. Habits like biting nails, the aforementioned ice chewing or unconsciously grinding your teeth could cause a chipped veneer. And if periodontal (gum) disease causes your gums to recede, the exposed part of the tooth may look noticeably darker than the veneer. To protect your veneers and their appearance, avoid habits like ice chewing, and seek treatment for teeth grinding and dental disease.
Bridgework. Bridges are used to replace one or more missing teeth. Traditional bridges use the natural teeth on either side of the gap to support the bridge; for a single missing tooth, implants are a preferable option because they don't require permanently altering the neighboring teeth to support it. With either option, though, you should brush and floss around the restoration to reduce the risk of dental disease. Infections like gum disease or tooth decay could eventually weaken the bridge's supporting teeth or gum disease can damage an implant's gum and bone support.
With any dental restoration, be sure to practice daily oral hygiene, eat a nutritious, low-sugar diet, and see your dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups. Taking care of your dental work will help it take care of you for a long time to come.
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