Posts for: November, 2013
Maybe you've seen some marketing material for dental implants featuring smiling, silver-haired seniors. Perhaps this made you think that implants are a tooth replacement system that's primarily intended for older adults. If so, let's change that impression right now: Dental implants are suitable for almost all adults, not just older folks!
Today's best option for tooth replacement, implants can help most people who suffer from the problem of missing or failing permanent teeth. (In children, however, where the jaw is still growing, implants aren't generally used.) Of course, it is our goal as dentists to preserve as many of the natural teeth as possible. But when that isn't possible, implants offer the best option for tooth replacement.
The Implant System
What makes the dental implant system such a great option for replacing lost teeth? Let's start with the implant itself. This small, screw-shaped device is made of titanium metal, which has a unique property: When placed in the jaw, in a minor surgical procedure, it becomes fused with the living bone tissue. This provides a solid anchor for the visible part of the replacement tooth, the crown, which is attached to the implant by a connecting piece called an abutment.
Because the implant is securely fixed in the jaw, it provides the replacement tooth with a firm foundation that won't come loose — and it doesn't depend on other teeth for support, like bridges do. It also stops the process of bone loss, which occurs in the area of the jaw where a missing tooth was formerly located. The erosion of bone, which begins as soon as a tooth is lost, can create the appearance of premature aging, and may eventually lead to further dental problems.
Why You May Need Implants
Older folks aren't the only ones who experience tooth loss; younger people suffer from this problem too. Accidents and injuries are one cause, whether they are sports-related, or result from habits like biting pencils or grinding teeth. Lifestyle may be another factor. Poor nutrition, excessive consumption of sugary substances (including certain “sports” and “energy” drinks), and the lack of proper dental hygiene and professional care can allow moderate problems to get much worse.
A major cause of tooth loss is disease, such as tooth decay or periodontal disease. These can be a problem at any age. But a few conditions may cause serious dental problems in younger people — bulimia, for example. When stomach acids enter the mouth, they can rapidly erode the tooth enamel. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can create similar problems.
When Should You Get Implants?
Preserving your natural teeth whenever possible is a major goal of modern dentistry. But when teeth can't be saved, it's time to consider implants. While they are initially more expensive than more traditional tooth replacement methods (like bridges or removable dentures), they can last for the rest of your life with only routine care. That's something no other method can claim, and it makes them a great value, especially for younger people. Plus, they feel completely natural and look great.
If you have certain health conditions, your medical doctor may prescribe an antibiotic for you to take prior to a dental visit. The reason why is a story that dates back to the mid-20th Century.
In the early part of the last century, a theory became popular that bacteria in the mouth could migrate to other parts of the body and cause systemic illness or disease. During the 1930s and 1940s evidence arose that indicated a connection between dental procedures that caused bleeding and two serious health conditions: bacteremia (the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream) and infective endocartitis. The latter is the inflammation of inner tissues of the heart (including the valves) caused by infectious agents, most notably bacteria. It became common then to prescribe antibiotics to patients susceptible to these conditions as a preventive measure. Later, patients with prosthetic joints or poor immune systems were added for this kind of treatment.
For many years, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommended pre-visit antibiotic treatment for a wide array of heart patients. After several years of research that indicated the treatment wasn't necessary for most people and might even be detrimental, they updated their guidelines in 2007 and reduced their recommendation list to just a few conditions. They now recommend the antibiotic treatment for patients with artificial heart valves, a history of infective endocartitis, heart transplant recipients with valve problems, and certain congenital (inherited) heart conditions.
If you have a condition that calls for a pre-visit antibiotic treatment, all the providers involved with your care will need to communicate. Your medical doctor will most likely prescribe two grams of amoxicillin (or a similar antibiotic if you are allergic to amoxicillin) that you would take an hour before the dental procedure. We in turn would communicate with your medical doctor concerning the dental procedures you're scheduled to undergo (including regular cleanings), in case your doctor would like to make adjustments in your medication.
Your health and well-being is of utmost importance to all your healthcare providers, medical and dental. Working together, we can ensure the dental procedures you need for oral health won't have an adverse impact your general health.
If you would like more information on antibiotic treatment before a dental visit, 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 “Antibiotics for Dental Visits.”
Many people view a tooth extraction (removal) as a major ordeal; but from a dentist’s standpoint it’s a routine procedure. That’s not to say, though, that all extractions are alike — there are varying levels of complexity depending on the type, size and location of the tooth.
Teeth are held in place to the jawbone by a tissue known as the periodontal ligament, whose collagen fibers attach the tooth to the bone of the jaws. By gently manipulating the tooth, we can release the hold that these fibers have on the tooth. This takes not only skill but also a kind of “feel” that comes with experience.
From that point, removing the tooth will depend on its root structure and how it’s positioned in the jaw. Upper front teeth have a single, straight root usually shaped like a cone; their path of removal is relatively straight and uncomplicated. Many teeth in the back, however, have more than one root, and not as straight in shape as an upper front tooth, that complicates the path of removal. Depending on the level of complication, the extraction may require an oral surgeon, a dental specialist.
After the tooth is extracted, it may be necessary to fill the socket (the area of the bone once occupied by the tooth) with some form of grafting material that will encourage bone growth. This new growth will aid with any future plans for dental implants.
After the procedure, we will give you instructions for cleaning and caring for the extraction site as you recover over the next few days. We may also prescribe medications to help you cope with discomfort and swelling, as well as antibiotics and antibacterial mouth rinses.
Before undertaking any extraction, we would first conduct a thorough examination and provide you with your options and our recommendations for treatment. We would also discuss your options for replacing the teeth after theyâ??ve been extracted.
The thought of having an extraction may fill you with anxiety. But in the hands of an experienced professional, removing a tooth is a routine and safe procedure.
If you would like more information on tooth 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 “Simple Tooth Extraction?”
If your infant is extra cranky and seems to want to chew everything in sight, it's a good bet that the first tooth is on the way! For parents, this is cause for both celebration and concern. After all, no parent wants to see a child suffer even a little bit. Decades ago, when a teething infant showed signs of discomfort, a parent might have rubbed some whisky or other strong liquor on the child's gums — a misguided and dangerous practice. There are far safer, more effective ways to help your child through this exciting yet sometimes uncomfortable phase of development. Here are our top five teething remedies:
Chilled rubber teething rings or pacifiers. Cold can be very soothing, but be careful not to freeze teething rings or pacifiers; ice can actually burn the sensitive tissues of the mouth if left in place too long.
Cold, wet washcloths. These are great for gnawing on. Make sure the washcloth is clean and that you leave part of it dry to make it more comfortable to hold.
Cold foods. When your child is old enough, cold foods such as popsicles may soothe sore gums. However, make sure you confine them to mealtimes because sugars can cause tooth decay — even in very young children.
Gum massage. Massaging inflamed gums with your clean finger can help counteract the pressure from an erupting tooth.
Over-the-counter medicine. If teething pain persists, you can give your baby acetaminophen or ibuprofen, but check with a pharmacist or this office for the correct dosage. The medicine should be swallowed and not massaged into the sore areas, as this, too, can burn.
So when does it all begin? Some babies start teething as early as three months or as late as twelve months, but the typical time frame is between six and nine months. Usually the two lower front teeth erupt first, followed by the two upper front teeth. The first molars come in next, followed by the canines (eyeteeth). Most children have all 20 of their baby teeth by age 3.
If you have any questions about teething or the development of your child's teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Teething Troubles.”