If you’ve been reviewing tooth replacement options, you probably already know the superior benefits of dental implants: their durability, functionality and life-like quality could provide you with years, even decades of satisfying service.
If you take this option, however, you should be prepared for a slightly longer process than a couple of office visits. From concept to permanent crown placement, it will require several months of preparation, expertise and teamwork. The more you know about this process, the better prepared you’ll be to handle it.
After careful preparation, which may include extracting the tooth being replaced, the process begins in earnest with the surgical placement of the implant’s titanium post into the jawbone. The surgeon uses a guide based on your bite and mouth structure to precisely implant the post in a pre-planned location: this ensures that the permanent crown will be affixed in the right location for best appearance and functionality.
While a temporary crown can sometimes be attached immediately after implantation, the permanent crown must wait until the bone grows and attaches around the titanium post (osseointegration). Once this has occurred, usually over several months, the implant can fully support the permanent crown and its function.
This last element, the permanent crown, is in many ways a work of art. Taking into consideration the patient’s facial features and shape, the type of tooth replaced and the tooth coloring natural to the patient which is transmitted this information to the dental technician who will manufacture the crown. The goal is to produce a life-like replica that will look natural and perform well.
It may seem quite involved, but all these stages are necessary for a successful outcome. Although dental implants take careful attention and time, the outcome is worth it. In the end you’ll not only recover lost function, you’ll also have a new, transformed smile.
If you would like more information on the procedures for placing dental 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 “Dental Implants: Evaluating Your Professional Options for Care.”
Teeth crowding is a difficult bite problem (malocclusion) that often involves the entire jaw structure to be evaluated. Normally occurring when the jaw doesn’t have adequate space for normal tooth eruption, teeth coming in later put pressure on other teeth, causing them to develop improperly.
Crowding also makes it difficult to realign teeth with braces because there’s simply not enough room for sufficient movement to take place. The solution may then be to consider the removal of some of the teeth to create enough space for orthodontic treatment.
Not just any tooth can be removed, however — we must first conduct a careful analysis to determine which can be removed to facilitate optimum movement of the remaining teeth without disrupting normal mouth function or affecting appearance. The teeth most frequently removed for this purpose are the bicuspids, located between the cuspids or eyeteeth (which are positioned directly under the eyes) and the molars, the largest teeth in the back of the mouth. Sometimes one premolar tooth on each side of the jaw can be removed without sacrificing future form or function.
There are a few important considerations we must keep in mind when extracting teeth for orthodontic reasons; perhaps the most important is preserving bone at the extraction site. Because continuing bone growth depends on the forces generated by teeth when we bite or chew, bone near a missing tooth socket will tend to diminish over time. If there’s insufficient bone during orthodontic treatment, it may result in gum recession and root exposure — not only damaging to the teeth themselves but also to a person’s smile appearance. To avoid this, we sometimes will consider inserting a bone graft, which will stimulate bone growth, into the empty socket immediately after extraction. While this isn’t commonly done, it’s being considered if the patient’s bone is thin and a concern during healing.
We must also consider how to accommodate other, unrelated tooth loss to assure the final result is visually appealing. It may be necessary in these cases to maintain the space at the missing tooth site for a future restoration once the orthodontics is completed. This takes planning as well as the use of restorations like dental implants, bridges or partial dentures.
Regardless of your bite issues, the field of orthodontics has the appliances and techniques to overcome even the most complicated condition. When necessary, using procedures like tooth extraction can help turn an unappealing, dysfunctional bite problem into a beautiful smile.
If you would like more information on orthodontic teeth extractions, 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 Removal for Orthodontic Reasons.”
For years preparing teeth for fillings or other restorations has required the use of a drill. Although quite effective in removing decayed structure and preparing the tooth for bonding, it usually requires a local anesthetic. That and the noise it generates can be unsettling for many patients.
In recent years, a different type of technique known as “air abrasion” has increased in popularity among dentists. Known also as “particle abrasion,” the technique uses a stream of fine particles to remove decayed tooth structure and is less invasive than the traditional drill. Although the technology has been around since the mid-20th Century, recent developments in suction pumps that remove much of the dust created have made it more practical. It also works well with new natural-looking bonding materials used for tooth structure replacement.
The fine particles — usually an abrasive substance like aluminum oxide — are rapidly discharged through a hand-held instrument using pressurized air aimed at affected tooth areas. Decayed teeth structure is softer than healthier tissue, which allows air abrasion to precisely remove decay while not damaging the other.
Besides removing decay or abrading the tooth for bonding, air abrasion can also be used to minimize stained areas on surface enamel and to clean blood, saliva or temporary cements from tooth surfaces during dental procedures. It’s also useful for smoothing out small defects in enamel or aiding in sealant applications.
It does, however, have a few limitations. It’s not as efficient as the traditional drill with larger cavities or for re-treating sites with metal (amalgam) fillings. Because of the fine texture of the abrasive particles, affected teeth need to be isolated within the mouth using a rubber dam or a silicone sheet. High-volume suction must be continually applied to capture the fine particles before the patient swallows them or it fills the procedure room with a fine cloud of material.
Still, while air abrasion technology is relatively new, it has clear advantages over the traditional drill in many procedures. As advances in the technology continue, air abrasion promises to offer a more comfortable and less invasive experience in dental treatment.
The goal of restorative dentistry is to return the teeth to full form (shape) and function. For years, a key tool for achieving this goal has been through the use of metal amalgams (silver looking dental fillings). However, this technique does have some disadvantages. One is the fact that they can involve removal of healthy tooth structure to retain them. Too much “undercutting” can undermine and weaken a tooth resulting in less resistance to biting forces possibly leading to fatigue fractures and cracked tooth syndrome. Another approach is call “biomimetic” which literally means mimicking life. This approach to dentistry is made possible through the structured use of tooth-like materials such as composite resins. Scientific studies and clinical experience have validated their use as both safe and predictable.
By mimicking life, we rely upon our delicate balance of artistry, experience and expertise to provide you with properly restored teeth that function and wear normally, while appearing indistinguishable from natural teeth. Dental composite are now the most commonly used materials for tooth-colored adhesive restorations and have properties similar to a natural tooth's enamel and dentin. They consist of resin which are plastic and fillers made of silica (a form of glass). The fillers give the composites wear resistance and translucency (see through properties). However, most of the properties of enamel are also mimicked quite well by dental porcelains. Porcelains are a form of ceramic, that are formed by the action of heat. Dental porcelains come in all colors and shades so we can easily and perfectly match the color of virtually any natural tooth. As for longevity, porcelain is typically your best option because it is the closest option in mimicking a natural tooth.
To learn more on this subject, you can continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Natural Beauty of Tooth Colored Fillings.” Or contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your specific questions.
Sleep apnea, a form of sleep-related breathing disorders that is estimated to affect some 22 million Americans, is sometimes thought of as the “quiet culprit” lurking behind many other maladies. But ask anyone who sleeps alongside a sufferer, and you'll get a different response: It isn't quiet at all! Instead, it's often marked by loud snoring and scary episodes where breathing seems to stop. If you've ever worried that you or someone you care about may have this condition, here are five facts you should know.
1) Sleep apnea is a potentially deadly disease
For one thing, it leads to chronic fatigue that can make accidents far more likely — a special concern in potentially dangerous situations, like operating machinery or driving a vehicle. It also appears to be related to heart conditions such as high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, coronary artery disease, and even stroke. Plus, it can lead to weight gain, depression and mood disorders.
2) People with sleep apnea may wake hundreds of times every night
These “micro-arousals” may occur 50 or more times per hour, and may keep a person from getting any relaxing sleep — even though they retain no memory of the episodes. That's why people who suffer from sleep apnea often go through their days on the verge of exhaustion. And they aren't the only ones who suffer: Their bed partners may also be kept up throughout the night, becoming anxious and irritable.
3) Persistent snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea
Snoring is caused when breath being drawn into the lungs is obstructed by soft tissue structures in the upper airway. Most everyone snores sometimes… but chronic loud snoring is a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) — and the louder and more frequent the snoring, the greater the likelihood of OSA. To confirm a diagnosis of sleep apnea, a sleep study using special monitors may be conducted in a clinical setting, or an at-home test may be used.
4) Your dentist may be able to help diagnose and treat sleep apnea
What does dentistry have to do with sleep apnea? For one thing, sleep apnea is a disease that involves structures in the oral cavity — an area dentists are quite familiar with. Sometimes, fatigued folks who suffer from OSA begin snoring when they recline in the dental chair, showing their symptoms firsthand. But even if their patients don't fall asleep, dentists with proper training are recognized by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) as being able to provide first line therapy for mild to moderate sleep disorders.
5) An oral appliance is a good step to try before more invasive treatments
If it's appropriate in your situation, your dentist can custom-fabricate an oral appliance that may alleviate sleep-related breathing disorders. This device, worn while you're sleeping, helps to maintain an open airway in the throat and to reduce breathing problems. With a success rate of around 80%, in many cases it's comparable to the more complex CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machines, but people often find it easier to wear. Plus, it's a non-invasive treatment that can be explored before deciding on a more involved treatment, such as surgery.
If you would like more information about dentistry and sleep problems, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Sleep Disorders and Dentistry” and “Sleep Apnea FAQs.”
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