Posts for: December, 2013
If you are at all uncomfortable at the thought of getting a dental implant, you might be pleasantly surprised to learn the truth about these marvelous state-of-the-art tooth-replacement systems — and the special role of a relatively new device, the mini-implant. So, first, let's go over some basic facts.
What's a dental implant? Basically, it's just a replacement for the root part of the tooth, the part that lies beneath the gum line. It attaches to a crown, which is a replacement for the visible portion of the tooth. But instead of ceramics or metals, implants are made of titanium, which becomes fused to the surrounding bone. When complete, implants are much stronger and longer-lasting than other methods of tooth replacement, like bridgework and dentures.
Implants are presently regarded as the best way to replace missing teeth, with a success rate of over 95%. They also help prevent bone loss in the jaw, a major goal of modern dentistry. Having one put in is an office procedure that's generally accomplished with local anesthesia, and most patients experience only minor discomfort. Standard dental implants can be used to replace a single tooth, or multiple teeth. The mini-implant, which is just a miniature version of the same technology, is now playing an increasing role in many other phases of dentistry.
Why mini-implants? Because in several situations, this smaller and less expensive alternative offers a solution that's just as good — or better — than any other dental treatment. One area where mini-implants excel is in supporting lower jaw overdentures.
Many people find that lower dentures are far more troublesome than upper dentures. The movement of the tongue muscle, and the smaller area of surface contact (compared to the upper denture, which is supported by the palate) often results in a poor, loose fit, which leads to problems when eating or speaking. These problems can be solved by affixing a lower overdenture (an implant-retained denture) with just two mini-implants.
Not only do mini-implants help prevent bone loss, they also give the denture wearer increased stability, comfort, and confidence. And they do so at a price that's more economical than you might think. In some cases, the mini-implants can be placed in a single one-hour office visit, and your own denture can be modified to fit them — so you can go home and eat a steak that night!
Another area where mini-implants are finding increasing use is in orthodontics. Orthodontic appliances (commonly called braces) move teeth by exerting a light force on them, using a wire which is fixed to a solid anchor point. Traditionally, other teeth are used as anchors — but sometimes these teeth move as well! By using immovable mini-implants as the anchor points, the process is greatly simplified. Strategically placed mini-implants called TADS (temporary anchorage devices) can be used to correct both skeletal (jaw) position and dental (tooth) position problems.
Mini-implants may also be used in upper dentures and temporary bridgework.
If you would like more information about mini-implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Implant Overdentures for the Lower Jaw,” “The Great Mini-Implant,” and “What are TADS?”
Young children are like sponges, soaking up patterns of behavior they will later apply in many circumstances throughout life. In this learning process, they often look to family members for guidance. Some good habits, like saying “please” and “thank you,” can be taught verbally. Others are best learned by example.
Developing good habits early will benefit your children for a lifetime — especially where their health is concerned. Fortunately, it isn't hard to instill good oral hygiene behavior in a young child; for example, most all children are successfully taught to brush their teeth at an early age. What follows are some tips that might not be as obvious, but will help your children build healthy routines for maintaining optimum oral hygiene.
1) Teach your children how to check the cleanliness of their own teeth.
How? By running their tongue over the tooth surfaces! If the teeth feel nice and smooth, they're likely to be clean, too. Remember to give kids a soft brush, and tell them to use gentle strokes in brushing.
2) Avoid transferring your own oral bacteria to your children.
Children aren't born with decay-producing bacteria — they get them from others! That's why sharing baby's spoon or licking a pacifier clean aren't really good ideas. (Neither is pre-chewing a baby's food, despite what some birds and celebrities do. Trust us on this.)
3) Set an example of healthy eating habits for your children.
Follow common-sense guidelines (like those in www.choosemyplate.gov) for maintaining a balanced diet, eating plenty of vegetables and whole grains, drinking lots of water and getting moderate exercise.
4) Limit sugary treats to mealtimes, not snack times — if you allow them at all.
Oral bacteria utilize sugar for energy and when they metabolize it, they produce harmful acids. These acids attack the teeth and cause decay. The more sugar, the higher potential for stronger acids. Saliva helps neutralize these acids — but not if sugar is constantly present in the mouth. Try to limit sugary treats to mealtimes, and serve a healthier snack between meals.
5) Encourage your children to stop sucking thumbs and pacifiers by age 3.
Thumb sucking is a normal, comforting habit that may begin in the womb. Most kids stop on their own between ages 2 and 4. But long-term sucking on fingers or a pacifier can lead to tooth and jaw-development problems. We can help you find ways to gently encourage children to stop when it's time.
If you would like more information about instilling good oral hygiene habits in children, 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 “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”
Your teeth are under constant attack from bacteria that normally live in your mouth. When these bacteria thrive, they create acid that begins to dissolve the minerals in your enamel (the outer layer of your teeth). In your defense, your saliva protects against these bacteria and adds minerals back to your enamel. Let's take a look at this ongoing battle, and what you can do to sway it in a positive direction.
The outer covering of your teeth, the enamel, is made mainly of the minerals calcium and phosphate. The enamel protects the interior layer of your teeth, the dentin, which is similar in composition to bone. Although it is the hardest substance in your body, the enamel is still vulnerable to attack.
Your mouth is normally full of saliva, which washes over your teeth and maintains a balance between acids and bases. The terms “acids” and “bases” refer to a scientific measurement, the pH scale. Your mouth's pH is usually in the middle of the scale — neither acidic nor basic, but neutral. This is important in controlling the bacteria in your mouth.
You may be surprised to know how many bacteria live in everyone's mouth. More bacteria live in a single mouth than the number of people who have ever lived on earth. Some of these bacteria can cause tooth decay. Let's call them “bad bacteria.”
When the bad bacteria attach themselves to dental plaque — a film that builds up on your teeth every day — they begin to consume sugars that are in your mouth from foods that you have eaten. As the bacteria break down these sugars and turn them into energy, acid is produced as a by-product. This turns the saliva from neutral to acidic.
At a certain level of acidity, minerals in your enamel start to dissolve. This is called “de-mineralization.” It means that more calcium and phosphate are leaving the tooth's surface than are entering it. Early de-mineralization of the enamel shows up as white spots on a tooth.
Fortunately, healthy saliva can return calcium and phosphate to the enamel, or re-mineralize it. De-mineralization and opposing re-mineralization are constantly battling in your mouth. However, if too much enamel is de-mineralized, bacterial acid can go on to attack the next layer of your teeth, the dentin. As this process continues, you develop a dental cavity.
How can you protect your teeth? The first level of defense is regular removal of plaque, so that the bad bacteria do not get a foothold. In an office visit we may also recommend products such as sealants, antibacterial agents, topical fluoride, calcium and phosphate supplements, pH neutralizers, special toothpaste and rinses, which may help your particular situation.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about tooth decay. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay — The World's Oldest & Widespread Disease.”
There’s no dispute in most cases that dental implants are superior to removable dentures as a restoration for missing teeth. One area in particular is the effect a removable denture can have on remaining bone and other structures of the mouth, especially if their fit becomes loose.
If you’re a denture wearer, you probably know that loose dentures are a major problem, one that can worsen the longer you wear them. The denture compresses the gum tissue it rests upon to produce forces that are more detrimental than what the jaw normally receives from natural teeth. The underlying bone will begin to dissolve (resorb) under these compressive forces. This in turn changes the dynamic of the denture’s fit in the mouth, and you’ll begin to notice the fit becoming looser over time.
The loose fit can be remedied with either the production of a new denture that updates the fit to the current structure of your jawbone or by relining the existing denture with new material. Relining can be done as a temporary measure with material added to the denture during your visit to the office, or as a more permanent solution in which the material is added at a dental laboratory. With the latter option, you would be without your dentures for at least a day or more.
Even if dental implants for multiple teeth aren’t feasible for you financially, you do have other options. With one particular option, the removable lower denture can be held in place and supported by two strategically placed implants. Not only can this lessen the risk of developing a loose fitting denture, it may also alleviate most of the compression on the gum tissue and reduce the rate of bone resorption. The result is better function for eating and speaking and often a boost in self-confidence, as well as many more years of effective wear from your dentures by limiting bone loss.
If you would like more information on the effects and treatment of loose dentures, 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 “Loose Dentures.”