Posts for: March, 2012
You may have noticed, as you get older, that the enamel of your teeth is looking worn in certain areas. Sometimes tooth wear takes the form of a minor chipping or fracturing at the incisal (cutting) edges of the teeth, or a loss of tooth material from the area near the gum line. In more severe cases, worn teeth look quite a bit smaller than they used to. Why does this happen?
Some wear with age is natural. But too much wear can interfere with your bite, expose more sensitive inner parts of the tooth to decay, and give you a more aged appearance.
There are things you can control that affect wear:
Your habits: Clenching or grinding habits, also called “bruxism,” is a major cause of tooth wear. The motion of teeth sliding over each other with forces that are beyond what's normal for biting or chewing causes a mechanical removal of tooth enamel. This can happen during sleep or periods of high stress. In either case there are therapies available, such as a thin, professionally made mouthguard that prevents your teeth from coming into contact with each other. Holding foreign objects, such as nails and bobby pins, between your teeth can also cause wear.
Your diet: Tooth enamel can be eroded (dissolved away) by acidic beverages, such as sodas, sports drinks and juices. Frequent snacking on sugary foods encourages the growth of oral bacteria that produce acid as a byproduct — also leaving your teeth vulnerable to tooth decay. Your saliva can buffer the effects of the acid in your mouth in about half an hour; if you consume these types of foods and beverages continually, there won't be enough time for this to work.
We can restore the appearance and function of worn teeth in a variety of ways. Porcelain crowns and veneers, for example, can re-establish the normal thickness and length of teeth while improving their color and giving you a more youthful appearance.
If you have any questions about tooth wear, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about tooth wear by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How And Why Teeth Wear.”
A pregnant woman has a lot to think about while preparing to welcome a new member of her family. It's important to think about her oral health as well. She is sharing her body with the developing infant, so problems with her health — including her dental health — can affect the baby. The following facts will help you understand the relationship between oral health and pregnancy.
- A baby's primary (baby) teeth begin to form during the sixth week of pregnancy. They begin to form their enamel (the hard outer layer of the teeth) and dentin layer (just under the enamel) at about the third or fourth month. The calcium, phosphorous, and protein that are needed for these structures must all be provided by the mother's diet.
- A good diet for a pregnant mother, in order to provide for both her needs and those of the fetus (the developing baby), includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables — including green leafy vegetables — proteins and dairy products. A doctor may also recommend iron and/or folic acid supplements.
- If the mother's diet does not provide enough calcium for the baby's bones and teeth, it will come from calcium stored in her bones — not from her teeth. The old idea that a mother's teeth lose calcium during pregnancy has been found to be a myth.
- Progesterone, a normal female hormone, is elevated during pregnancy. This hormone stimulates production of prostaglandins, substances that cause inflammation in gum tissues if the bacteria that cause periodontal (gum) disease are present. The resulting swelling, redness, and sensitive gum tissues, called pregnancy gingivitis, are common during the second to eighth months of pregnancy.
- The bacteria involved in periodontal disease can affect whole body conditions such as heart disease and strokes, diabetes, and respiratory diseases. The inflammation resulting from such bacteria can also cause premature delivery (birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or low birth weight in the baby.
- Periodontal disease is also related to pre-eclampsia, or high blood pressure, during pregnancy.
- Dental x-rays do not expose the mother to very high radiation, but in any case every precaution is taken to minimize exposure to the fetus. These include a leaded apron that shields the baby from exposure.
- Most drugs commonly used in dentistry, including local anesthetics, can safely be given to pregnant women without affecting the fetus. However, it is important to let your dentist know you are pregnant before embarking on any treatment to make sure anything that is done will be safe for the fetus and its developing teeth.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about pregnancy and your oral health. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Pregnancy and Oral Health.”
When dentists talk to patients, they often use specialized vocabulary referring to various dental conditions. Do you understand what they mean when they use these words — or are you wondering what they are talking about?
Here's your chance to test your knowledge of ten words that have a particular meaning in the context of dentistry. If you already know them, congratulations! If you don't, here's your chance to learn what these words mean in the dental world.
In dentistry, enamel is the hard outer coating of your teeth. It is the hardest substance produced by living animals. It is a non-living, mineralized, and composed of a crystalline form of calcium and phosphate.
The dentin is the layer of a tooth that is just beneath the enamel. It is living tissue similar to bone tissue.
When dentists speak of pulp, we mean the tissues in the central chamber of a tooth (the root canal) that nourish the dentin layer and contain the nerves of the tooth.
Many people exert excess pressure on their teeth by clenching or grinding them. This is called bruxism, a habit that can be very damaging to teeth.
By this we mean how the upper and lower teeth are aligned, and how they fit together. This can also be referred to as your bite.
This term refers to tooth decay. Dental caries and periodontal disease (see below) are two of the most common diseases known to man. Today, these diseases are not only treatable, but they are also largely preventable.
A term for gum disease, this term comes from “peri,” meaning around and “odont,” meaning tooth. It is used to describe a process of inflammation and infection leading to the progressive loss of attachment between the fibers that connect the bone and gum tissues to the teeth. This can lead to loss of teeth and of the bone itself.
When you consume acidic foods or drinks, the acids in your mouth react directly with minerals in the outer enamel of your teeth, causing chemical erosion. This is not the same as tooth decay, which is caused by acids released by bacterial film that forms on your teeth (see below).
A dental implant is a permanent replacement for a missing tooth. It replaces the root portion of the tooth and is most often composed of a titanium alloy. The titanium root fuses with the jaw bone, making the implant very stable. A crown is attached to the implant and can be crafted to match your natural teeth.
Dental plaque is the whitish film of bacteria (a biofilm) that collects on your teeth. Your goal in daily brushing and flossing is to remove plaque.
Worldwide it is generally accepted that the best method for permanently replacing a missing tooth is with a dental implant. However, one fact that can affect the timing of placement of dental implants is that the person should be fully mature. In this case, it means that growth is complete, in particular the jawbones have completed growing. And while we are sensitive to teens who may beg for a dental implant to replace a missing, damaged or traumatized tooth, parents or caregivers should know that research and experience have shown that it is better to wait.
The main reason it is best to wait is because natural teeth grow and move with the jaws as they mature whereas implants don't. Natural teeth change positions and move with the jaws as the jaws grow, implants don't. They are fused to the bone in one position and as the jawbone grows, they get left behind and appear to sink as the adjacent teeth and jawbone grow in harmony.
Although it is not really possible to determine exactly when a person has finished growing, it is generally best to wait until the jaw is fully matured and developed. However, we are the most qualified, along with our orthodontic colleagues to “guesstimate” based on family history, age and genetics. Specialized radiographs (x-rays) of the skull and jaws may also be helpful in determining the timing of jaw growth completion and when implants can be placed.
Dental implants are a permanent solution to a dental problem and thus should not be used until all growth is complete. Think about it. Your young child gets a beautifully restored smile through a dental implant...and for a year or two it looks fantastic. However, as your child's jaws continue to grow, everyone begins to notice gaps between the implant and adjacent teeth. So it makes sense to avoid this eventuality; by just waiting until late teens when beautifully restored crowns on properly positioned dental implants should last for many many years.
FAQs About This New and Miraculous Procedure
How can sinus surgery contribute to the replacement of missing back teeth with dental implants?
Dental implants must be anchored the in bone to be successful. Maxillary sinus surgery can help regenerate bone that has been lost and is critically needed to anchor dental implants.
What are the maxillary air sinuses?
Inside the upper jaw, or “maxilla,” are structures known as the maxillary air sinuses, one on either side of the upper jaw. Each sinus is an air-filled space lined by a membrane. Upper back teeth are normally encased in the bone of the maxilla, below the sinuses.
Why is it important to replace missing back teeth?
Replacing back teeth restores the ability to eat, chew, and talk properly. The back teeth also provide facial and cheek support.
Why use dental implants?
Dental implants are the state-of-the-art method for replacing missing teeth.
Why does bone loss occur?
Unless special precautions are taken to prevent it, when teeth are lost, the bone supporting them is also lost.
If there is insufficient bone to anchor dental implants, what are the alternatives?
If all the back teeth are lost and dental implants cannot be placed, removable upper dentures may be the only alternative.
How do you determine whether a sinus surgical procedure is necessary?
The size, shape, and remaining bone of the maxillary sinuses influence whether you can have dental implants with or without a sinus surgical procedure.
How does surgery grow bone?
A small window is created in the sinus wall above where implants need to be placed. The sinus membrane is lifted and the space thus created filled with bone grafting and biologically active bone generating materials. The window is then closed and simply heals.
How is the surgery done?
The surgical procedures are performed from inside the mouth in the area just above the missing back teeth. They are generally carried out under local anesthesia (small shots, just like for a filling), sometimes with the addition of sedation or anti-anxiety medication.
How do bone grafts work?
Bone grafts act as scaffolds that the body replaces with its own bone. The most well researched bone substitute grafting material is currently bovine (cow) bone. All grafting materials are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. They are specially treated to render them completely sterile, non-contagious, and free of rejection factors.
What can I expect after surgery?
Moderate swelling and discomfort after surgery generally lasts for a few days to a week, about the same as having an upper impacted wisdom tooth removed. Supportive treatment usually includes a course of antibiotics to prevent infection and prescription strength medication of the aspirin or ibuprofen type. A decongestant may also be prescribed, if necessary. Healing is generally uneventful.
Who performs this surgery?
Maxillary sinus augmentations are usually carried out by oral surgeons, periodontists, or appropriately trained general dentists. Proper assessment of your situation and diagnosis are critical pre-requisites to the right procedure.
If you are missing upper back teeth, contact us today to schedule an appointment and discuss maxillary sinus augmentation. You can also learn more about this procedure by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sinus Surgery: Creating Bone for Dental Implants out of Thin Air.”