Posts for: April, 2014
Regardless of culture, the smile is a universal gesture of friendship and openness, and an important communication tool in your social and career relationships. But what if you’re not comfortable with your smile because of misaligned, damaged or missing teeth? That could have a dampening effect on your interactions with people and your own self-confidence.
Cosmetic dentistry can change all that — we have an arsenal of treatments that can rejuvenate your smile. We must first, though, develop a design plan, often involving multiple dental disciplines. It will definitely involve you — your desires, expectations and choices.
It begins with a thought-provoking discussion with our office. Generalities — “I want a beautiful smile” — aren’t enough. Effective planning begins with a clear perspective about your teeth: What do you like or dislike about them? If you could change anything, what would it be? These initial discussions help us specify your expectations.
While the initial discussion envisions the future, the next step focuses on the present — the current condition of your teeth, mouth and entire facial structure. This requires a comprehensive examination to identify any health issues like tooth decay, periodontal gum disease or bone loss. We must also take in the “big picture,” like the shape of your face, out-of-balance features (asymmetries), skin complexion, eye shape and color, or the form and posture of your lips.
Considering all these factors, we then develop a treatment plan with specifics on how to achieve the desired transformation. We will offer our prognosis for what we believe is achievable and maintainable for your specific situation. Here we provide various models, perhaps even including computer simulation, to depict your future smile. In the end, we create a workable plan that meets both reality and your expectations.
With the design plan completed, we can then harness all the techniques and materials available to achieve it. These range from less invasive procedures like whitening, tooth reshaping, cosmetic bonding or porcelain veneers, to more involved restorations like crowns, bridgework or dental implants. In some cases, orthodontics may be necessary to correct bad bites or other malformations of your oral structures.
Smile design ensures we’re employing the right techniques for your particular situation. It all serves the end goal — a new smile that can transform your life.
If you would like more information on smile design, 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 “Beautiful Smiles by Design.”
Does anyone truly enjoy flossing their teeth? We can’t rule it out — but for most of us, flossing is something we do because we understand how very important it is to our oral hygiene. Yet there are some for whom flossing is a much greater challenge — for example, people with limited mobility, or those who are wearing braces. Is there any alternative to flossing that offers these people the same health benefits?
Perhaps — but before we discuss the options, let’s remember why flossing is so important. The number one enemy of your oral health is plaque: a sticky, bacteria-rich film that builds up on the surface of your teeth every day. Flossing is an effective means of removing plaque from the tiny spaces in between the teeth — the places a regular brush can’t reach. Left alone, plaque builds up into a hardened layer called tartar or calculus, which generally requires a professional cleaning with special dental tools to remove. Both plaque and tartar are the major causes of tooth decay and gum disease.
If you are unable to remove plaque via regular flossing, a tool called an oral irrigator may help. Sometimes called a “water flosser” or “pick,” this device is designed to squirt a pulsing jet of high-pressure water through a hand-held wand. Special tips may be also available for use with braces or dental implants.
Since these devices first became widely available in the 1960s, they have been the subject of many studies. The general conclusion from the research has been that water irrigators can be helpful in controlling plaque — particularly in people who would otherwise have trouble doing so. For example, a 2008 study showed that orthodontic patients who used an irrigator with a special tip after brushing normally were able to remove five times as much plaque as those who used brushing alone.
Oral irrigators aren’t just for use in the home. Many dental offices use similar devices for special treatments that can help control gum disease. Of course, in that case, the professional-grade tool is handled by a specially trained dental hygienist, dentist, or periodontist — and it’s part of a procedure that may also involve other manual or power instruments, plus special cleaning solutions.
So does it make sense to use an oral irrigator instead of flossing? For most people, flossing is probably the best way to ensure that you remove as much plaque as possible. But if for some reason you aren’t able to floss effectively, using an oral irrigator offers some well-documented benefits. Why not ask us the next time you come in? We can help you decide which method is right for you, and even demonstrate the most effective techniques for plaque removal.
If you would like more information about oral irrigators, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cleaning Between Your Teeth: How Water Flossing Can Help.”
In a healthy tooth, a coating of enamel protects the crown — the part above the gum line — and a layer of cementum protects the tooth root below the gum line. Enamel and cementum are inert (nonliving) substances that do not respond to stimuli such as heat or cold; however, dentin, the living tissue below them, does. Dentin contains numerous microscopic tubules that readily transmit stimuli toward the nerve-filled center of the tooth (pulp tissue). Loss of protective enamel or cementum leaves dentin exposed to all sorts of stimuli in the oral environment, which can trigger “dentinal hypersensitivity” — anything from a mild twinge to shooting pain.
Fortunately, there are many options for treating hypersensitivity. The key to selecting the most appropriate one(s) is determining the cause(s). Some of the more common reasons for sensitivity due to dentin exposure include:
- Enamel erosion caused by an “acid attack” related to external (extrinsic) causes — i.e., consumption of acidic beverages/food — or internal causes — i.e., regurgitation of stomach acids due to gastroesophageal reflux disease [GERD] or the eating disorder bulimia
- Using an overly abrasive brush or toothpaste, brushing incorrectly or too frequently, or brushing too soon after an “acid attack” — all of which can result in a loss of enamel
- Tooth decay (dental caries or cavities)
- Tooth fracture or chipping: tooth grinding (bruxism) is a common cause
- Worn fillings
- Gum recession, due to age or improper tooth brushing, that exposes the tooth root
- Gum disease, which can result in gum recession
Sensitivity can also occur following a procedure like treating a cavity. Normally it subsides within a couple of weeks or so but if it continues there may be another underlying cause.
Whatever the source(s) of your discomfort, our office can get to the bottom of it and recommend an effective course of treatment that meets your personal needs!
If you would like more information about tooth sensitivity, 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 “Sensitive Teeth.”
No one wants to hear the word “cancer.” But thanks to advances in detection and treatment, the disease increasingly can be stopped in its earliest stages when it's most treatable and outcomes are most favorable. Oral cancer accounts for a relatively small 3% of cancers in men and 2% in women, but early detection rates are lagging. Our office screens for oral cancer as part of your regular checkups. Knowing some of the signs and symptoms can help you monitor as well.
The main areas where oral carcinomas (cancers) occur are:
- the tongue (most common location, particularly the sides and on the floor of the mouth),
- the lip (especially the lower one),
- the oral cavity (the mouth), and
- the pharynx (back of mouth and throat).
Most oral cancers are preceded by surface changes (lesions) of the oral membranes. In the “precancerous” stage, white or red patches start forming and a non-healing ulcer may appear. The most common locations on the tongue for this to occur are on the sides and underneath on the floor of the mouth. Lip cancers typically develop on the lower lip, usually in people with a history of sun exposure. There has often been prior damage at the site such as scaling and crusting.
Be aware that oral cancers can be mistaken for cold and canker sores, ulcers, minor infections, and even irritations caused by biting or certain types of food. If lesions don't heal within two or three weeks, there's a higher likelihood that they are cancerous.
An in-office examination includes the following:
- visual inspection of face, lips, neck and mouth;
- inspection of sides and underneath of tongue and floor of mouth using gauze to gently manipulate the tongue;
- palpation of the floor of the mouth, sides of neck and glands to detect unusual lumps; and
- an “open wide and say ‘Aah’” examination of the back of your throat.
There are some risk factors for oral cancer that can't be controlled, such as a family history, age and race. But awareness, monitoring for potential signs and seeking prompt attention are always key ingredients in protecting your oral health!
If you would like more information about oral cancer detection, 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 “Oral Cancer.”