Why is it important to replace missing teeth with restorations such as dental implants? You might be surprised to find that the damage caused by missing teeth is much greater than the simple gaps left in your smile.
As the years go by, teeth lost early in adulthood cause structural changes in a person's face. By age 45 changes in facial structure are already visible in the form of sunken cheeks. By 60, cheeks and lips lose their support, resulting in an aging look. This process continues and if the teeth are not replaced, much of the structural support of the person's face is lost.
These changes are caused by loss of bone. Although it may seem static, bone is actually living tissue that needs constant stimulation to maintain its form and density. With normal stimulation it is in a constant state of resorption (breaking down) and deposition (building up). Teeth provide the needed stimulation for the bone that surrounds them (called alveolar bone) as they meet each other during biting, chewing, and speech. When the stimulation continues, the bone continues to rebuild itself. Without this stimulation, the bone resorbs, does not build up again, and loses substance.
Without stimulation, alveolar bone loses width, height, and volume. Since your teeth and their surrounding bone support your chin, cheeks, and lips, this has a powerful effect on your appearance. It may also affect your ability to chew and to speak.
As alveolar bone diminishes, the next layer of bone also begins to resorb. This is the bone of the jaw itself. The lower part of the face begins to collapse, and the cheeks become hollow. This effect is especially noticeable for people with no teeth (edentulous).
Usually the first tooth to be lost, due to infection and decay, is a molar (back tooth). In the past, a missing single back tooth was frequently replaced by a fixed partial denture (FPD). A crown is provided for each of the two teeth on the sides of the gap, called abutment teeth, to support a false tooth in the middle. However, if they are not well cared for, the abutment teeth may be the next to succumb to decay.
Today the treatment of choice is an implant. A dental implant is a tooth-root replacement made of titanium, which fuses with the bone — making it very stable. Above the gums it is covered by a crown that looks like a natural tooth. The benefit of the implant is that it continues to provide stimulation to the alveolar bone, preventing bone loss.
Implants are also a good choice in the case of multiple missing teeth. They can be used to support bridges or false teeth (dentures). The results are an improved, younger appearance and better functionality.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about missing teeth. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”
Did you know that the bacteria that cause tooth decay are usually transmitted to children from their parents, through sharing the same spoon or kissing? Once inside the child's mouth, the bacteria live on the teeth in what is called a biofilm. When the child consumes sugary foods or drinks, the bacteria act upon the sugar to produce acids that eat away at the child's teeth, producing tooth decay.
These bacteria thrive on carbohydrates such as bread, sweets, and sodas. Even fruit juices, which offer more vitamins than soda, are filled with sugars that lead to decay. The child's saliva works hard to neutralize the acidity produced from these foods, but if the child often snacks between meals this neutralization process doesnÃ¢Â€Â™t have a chance to occur.
The first sign of decay may be white spots on the teeth, an indication that minerals in the surface enamel have been dissolved in certain locations. Before it goes any farther, this process can be reversed by reducing the exposure to acids and using fluorides to strengthen the tooth surface.
Make sure your child sees a dentist by his first birthday, to provide preventive care and treat any beginning decay.
You can also help your child develop the habit of brushing his teeth with fluoridated toothpaste. It is important to use only a smear of toothpaste on the brush for very young children, and a pea-sized amount on the brush for children over the age of 2. Sometimes small children swallow their toothpaste, and excessive amounts of fluoride can cause staining on the teeth. When your children are very young, you must brush their teeth. As they get older, they can do it themselves, with your supervision. We can also apply fluoride varnish to strengthen the tooth surface and make it resistant to acids.
Brushing twice a day is a good start. But it can't prevent tooth decay when a child is eating carbohydrates all day. One way to reduce the use of sugar is to use xylitol, a naturally occurring sweetener that looks and tastes like table sugar and improves oral health. Studies have shown that use of this sweetener reduces tooth decay in children.
Another good idea is to wean children from bottles and training cups as early as possible. Sometimes children are given bottles filled with milk or sugary beverages at bedtime to help them relax. A better idea for their teeth is to teach them to drink from a regular cup filled with milk — or preferably, with water.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about tooth decay in children. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Managing Tooth Decay In Children With Chronic Diseases.” While this article focuses on children with health challenges, it contains excellent advice to help all children prevent tooth decay.
Oral cancer is on the rise in the United States, yet few people are familiar with the disease and its risk factors. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) estimates that 35,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease each year. The good news is that prevention and early detection can greatly reduce your risk of developing oral cancer.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer Include:
- Tobacco: Smoking and using chewing tobacco have been shown to increase the risk of developing oral cancer.
- HPV virus: The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the same virus linked to cervical cancer and genital warts. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF), many young people and women are being diagnosed with oral cancer as a result of exposure to the HPV virus.
- Age: Although it occurs more frequently in people over the age of 40, the incidence is increasing in younger people.
- Alcohol Consumption: Oral cancer is six times more common in those who drink alcohol excessively.
- Diet: People who consume lots of red and processed meat and fried foods are at greater risk.
Symptoms: Alert our office if you notice a change in your mouth such as a sore that doesn't heal or bleeds easily; a lump, thickening, crust or erosion; pain or tenderness; or a change in the way your teeth are positioned. Our office can administer an easy, painless test that detects abnormal cells.
Other symptoms may include unexplained bleeding or numbness in the mouth, difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking, hoarseness, chronic sore throat or changes in your voice.
Importance of Dental Screenings: In its early stages, oral cancer can often go unnoticed, but visiting our office regularly can ensure that any cancerous cells are detected and treated early. Our office will check your tongue and the area under your tongue, as well as your lips and palate and the back of your mouth.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss any questions that you may have regarding oral cancer. Read more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer: This Article May Save Your Life.”
When treating Temporomandibular (jaw joint) Disorder (formerly known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, TMJ), we feel we have two equally important challenges facing us. First, we must start your treatment by relieving the symptoms of pain and discomfort. We typically accomplish this with heat, mild pain medications, a diet of soft foods, and some simple jaw exercises. Once we have begun to relieve your pain, our second critical objective is to identify and remedy what is causing the pain. It could be the result of an injury or trauma to the jaws and/or teeth or it could be due to a bite issue or a filling or crown that is too high and thus causing a misaligned bite. There are many other reasons, so it is first necessary to obtain a thorough medical history and conduct a comprehensive evaluation so that we can properly diagnose and treat the TMD condition and what is causing it.
Next to stress resulting in clenching and grinding habits, the four most common causes leading to TMD include:
- Underlying dental conditions that are triggering muscle pain
- Internal joint derangement (displaced or improperly positioned jaw joint)
- Osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease)
- Synovitis — the painful inflammation of a synovial joint-lining membrane that is characterized by swelling, due to effusion (fluid collection)
If you or another family member suffer from chronic jaw pain, please let us know so that we can properly address your concerns and conduct a thorough examination. Or if you are in constant or severe pain, contact us as soon as possible to schedule an appointment. You can learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for TMD by reading “TMD — Understanding The Great Imposter.”
When it comes to replacing missing teeth, we have numerous options. However, two of the most common treatment options include bridgework and dental implants. See how much you really know about dental implants and bridgework by taking our quick and easy true/false self test.
- When it comes to costs, dental implants may initially cost more than bridgework but are less expensive than bridgework over a lifetime.
True or False
- Both bridgework and dental implants can last a lifetime when properly maintained.
True or False
- Prior to placing a three-unit fixed bridge, if the surrounding teeth have crowns, they must be redone so that the bridge fits and wears properly.
True or False
- Replacing a single tooth with a three-unit bridge, requires removing the enamel on the adjacent teeth even if these teeth are disease-free.
True or False
- In addition to being permanent tooth replacements, another advantage of dental implants is that they don't decay like teeth supporting bridgework.
True or False
- It is not uncommon for root canal treatment to be required to save teeth that support bridgework if they have been subjected to severe decay and their nerves become infected.
True or False
- Placing a dental implant requires more time when compared to placing a three-unit bridge.
True or False
- Both bridgework and dental implants require minor surgery to replace a missing tooth.
True or False
- Dental implants are more desirable than bridgework because placing them does not affect the adjacent teeth.
True or False
- Studies indicate that bridges are only 67% successful at 15 years whereas dental implants have success rates into the 90s.
True or False
Answers: 1) True. This fact shocks many people. 2) False. This is more commonly true for dental implants. 3) True. 4) True. This is one of the disadvantages of bridgework. 5) True. This is just one of the advantages of a dental implant. 6) True. 7) True. 8) False. Dental implants require surgery to be placed. 9) True. This fact is a significant advantage for dental implants. 10) True. Your results may vary; however, this statistic represents what you might expect.
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