Posts for: August, 2014
Dentistry can accomplish some amazing smile transformations. But these advanced techniques and materials all come with a price. Additionally, your dental insurance plan may be of limited use: some procedures may not be fully covered because they’re deemed elective.
It’s important then to review your financial options if you’re considering a major dental procedure. Here are a few of those options with their advantages and disadvantages.
Pay Up Front. It may sound old-fashioned, but saving money first for a procedure is a plausible option — your dental provider, in fact, may offer a discount if you pay up front. If your condition worsens with time, however, you may be postponing needed care that may get worse while you save for it.
Pay As You Go. If the treatment takes months or years to complete, your provider may allow you to make a down payment and then pay monthly installments on the balance. If the treatment only takes a few visits, however, this option may not be available or affordable.
Revolving Credit. You can finance your treatment with a credit card your provider accepts, or obtain a medical expenditure card like CareCredit through GE Capital that specializes in healthcare expenses. However, your interest may be higher than other loan options and can limit the use of your available credit for other purchases. In addition, some healthcare cards may offer interest-free purchasing if you pay off the balance by a certain time; however, if you don’t pay off the balance on time, you may have to pay interest assessed from the date you made the purchase.
Installment Loans. Although not as flexible as revolving loans, installment loans are well-suited for large, one-time purchases with their defined payment schedule and fixed interest rate. Some lenders like Springstone℠ Patient Financing specialize in financing healthcare procedures, and may possibly refinance existing loans to pay for additional procedures.
Equity Loans. These loans are secured by the available value in an asset like your home. Because they're secured by equity, they tend to have lower interest rates than credit cards or non-secured installment loans. On the downside, if you fail to repay, the lender can take your property to satisfy the loan.
To determine the best financing route for a dental procedure, be sure to discuss your options with your financial advisor and your dental provider.
If you would like more information on financing dental care, 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 “Financing Dental Care.”
No matter how damaged or decayed your teeth may have become, there’s a restorative solution for it. From porcelain veneers that cover unattractive teeth to dental implants that permanently replace missing teeth, we have the means to give you back a beautiful, life-like smile.
But what if the problems with your teeth are relatively mild — a chipped tooth or a cavity in a highly visible place? Porcelain veneers and bridgework involve extensive tooth preparation that permanently alters the tooth. Is there a less intrusive option that still results in a life-like restoration?
The answer is yes. Composite resins are tooth-colored materials that are bonded directly to tooth surfaces. Made of a plastic-based material matrix with inorganic glass-like filler, composite resins require very little tooth preparation and are often applied in a single visit.
They’re an excellent way to address imperfections or defects with an otherwise healthy tooth, while still preserving the majority of its remaining structure. In the hands of a skilled dentist, composite resins can be used to fill, repair and reshape teeth. They’re also an ideal choice for younger patients whose dental arches are still in development — restorations that require extensive tooth preparation might compromise the tooth’s long-term health. A composite resin treatment could serve as a transitional bridge until a more extensive restoration can be performed after the patient’s mouth structure has fully matured.
Composite resins do have some disadvantages. Because the resin material isn’t as strong as the tooth structure it replaces (although there have been great improvements in the last few years in resin strength), it may not stand up to biting pressures over time if there isn’t enough remaining tooth structure available to support it. They material can also dull and stain with use.
Still, for moderate imperfections or as an interim solution until another restoration can be undertaken, composite resins are a good choice.
If you would like more information on restorations with composite resin, 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 “Artistic Repair of Front Teeth with Composite Resin.”
Advanced periodontal (gum) disease is a chronic, progressive condition characterized by bacterial infection and inflammation. Without proactive treatment, gum disease can cause extensive damage to the various tissues that hold teeth in place, and lead eventually to tooth loss.
As every war has its tactics, so the war against advanced gum disease is no different. Here’s a few of the approaches and treatments we use to stop the disease and promote healing to damaged tissues.
A Change in Behavior. Regardless of other risk factors, a film of bacterial plaque on tooth surfaces caused by a neglect of proper oral hygiene is the main culprit behind progressive gum disease. Your first step is to form new hygiene habits — brushing and flossing — that will need to be performed daily to be effective. It’s also time to end some old habits like smoking that are contributing to your gum disease.
Total Plaque Removal. Although your renewed efforts at oral hygiene are essential, it’s just as important for us to use our expertise to remove the hard deposits of plaque (known as calculus) you can’t reach with brushing and flossing. Clinging stubbornly below the gum line, these deposits will continue to be sources of infection until they’re removed. Using techniques known as scaling or root planing, we employ ultrasonic or manual instruments to access and remove as much of the offending deposits as possible. This essential step may require more than one visit to give time for inflammation to subside, and may be followed with antibiotic therapy as well.
Surgical Treatments. Although quite effective in most cases of gum disease, scaling or root planing may not be adequate in more severe cases. We still have other weapons in our arsenal, though — there are a number of surgical procedures we can use to eliminate hidden pockets of infection, or repair and regenerate damaged tissues and bone. These procedures not only help restore you to better oral health and function, but also establish a more conducive environment for maintaining future care.
Using these and other techniques, we can reduce the infection and inflammation associated with gum disease. This sets the stage for healing and renewed health, both for your mouth and your entire body.
If you would like more information on treatment for periodontal gum disease, 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 “Understanding Periodontal Disease.”
In a recent study, 92% of dental implants were found to have survived the twenty-year mark — an impressive track record for any dental restoration.
Still, implants do fail, although rarely. Of those failures, tobacco smokers experience them twice as often as non-smokers. The incidence of early failure (within the first few months after implantation) is even higher for smokers.
Early implant failure typically happens because the titanium implant and the surrounding bone fail to integrate properly. Titanium has a natural affinity with bone — the surrounding bone will attach and grow to the titanium in the weeks after surgery, forming a strong bond. An infection around the implant site, however, can inhibit this integration and result in a weaker attachment between bone and implant. This weakness increases the chance the implant will be lost once it encounters the normal biting forces in the mouth.
Smokers have a higher risk of this kind of infection because of the way tobacco smoke alters the environment of the mouth. Inhaled smoke burns the mouth’s top skin layers and creates a thick layer of skin called keratosis in its place. Smoke also damages salivary glands so that they don’t produce enough saliva to neutralize the acid from food that’s left in the mouth after eating. This creates an environment conducive to the growth of infection-causing bacteria. At the same time, the nicotine in tobacco can constrict the mouth’s blood vessels inhibiting blood flow. The body’s abilities to heal and fight infection are adversely affected by this reduced blood flow.
The best way for a smoker to reduce this early failure risk is to quit smoking altogether a few weeks before you undergo implant surgery. If you’re unable to quit, then you should stop smoking a week before your implant surgery and continue to abstain from smoking for two weeks after. It’s also important for you to maintain good brushing and flossing habits, and semi-annual dental cleanings and checkups.
Although smoking only slightly raises the chances of implant failure, the habit should be factored into your decision to undergo implant surgery. Quitting smoking, on the other hand, can improve your chances of a successful outcome with your implants — and benefit your life and health as well.
As we continue to learn about the delicate balance between the body’s various organ systems, we’re discovering what affects one part of the body may affect other parts. This is particularly true for patients with periodontal (gum) disease and one or more other systemic diseases — researchers have identified a number of possible links between them.
Here’s a snapshot of three such diseases and how patients who suffer from them and gum disease may be affected.
Diabetes. Both diabetes (caused by the body’s inability to produce insulin that regulates blood sugar levels) and gum disease can trigger chronic tissue inflammation. Because of inflammation, diabetics are more prone to infectious diseases like gum disease. From the other perspective, uncontrolled gum disease and its resultant inflammation can worsen blood sugar levels. Some research has shown treatments that reduce oral tissue inflammation in diabetics with gum disease may also help bring their blood sugar levels into normal range.
Cardiovascular Disease. Diseases of the heart and blood vessels can eventually lead to heart attacks and strokes, the world’s leading causes of death. There’s evidence that some types of bacteria that cause gum disease may also contribute to higher risks for cardiovascular disease. Reducing the levels of these bacteria in the mouth through periodontal treatment can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Osteoporosis. Like gum disease, osteoporosis causes acute bone loss, although from a hormonal imbalance rather than as the result of bacterial infection. The major link between the two conditions, though, relates to their treatments. On the positive side, the antibiotic doxycycline has displayed positive effects on both conditions when administered in low doses. On the other hand, a class of drugs known as bisphosphonates used to treat osteoporosis may limit bone regeneration after tooth extraction and could have implications for using dental implants to replace extracted teeth.
There’s still more research needed on the relationship between gum disease and these and other systemic conditions. There’s widespread optimism, though, that such research could yield new treatment approaches and procedures that bring better healing to the mouth as well as the rest of the body.
If you would like more information on the connection between oral and general health, 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 “Good Oral Health Leads to Better Health Overall.”