Posts for: August, 2014
Nothing says confidence like a bright, beautiful smile. But problems with your teeth’s appearance — discoloration, abnormal shapes, or gaps — may be giving you reasons not to smile. If so, you may be a candidate for porcelain veneers.
A veneer is a thin covering of porcelain or other dental material permanently attached to the face of a tooth to improve its appearance. Veneers help resolve a variety of aesthetic issues: their life-like color can brighten dull, stained teeth; they can “lengthen” shortened teeth caused by wear or normalize congenitally misshapen teeth; they’re also helpful in reducing small gaps or used in conjunction with orthodontics for more serious misalignments.
The first step to a better smile with veneers is to assess your teeth’s current condition and develop a treatment plan. Your input is extremely important at this stage — what changes you believe would improve your smile. We would also offer valuable insight, based on our knowledge and experience, into what is realistically possible and aesthetically appealing regarding porcelain veneers.
Once you have decided to go forward, the next step is to prepare the teeth for attaching the veneers. Depending on their size and location, this preparation can range from no tooth structure removal to a relatively small amount of structure. If the latter is needed, we remove only what’s necessary to achieve the aesthetic result since structural reduction isn’t reversible.
After preparing an impression of your teeth, we would send it and other instructions to a dental technician to create the permanent veneers. In the meantime, we’ll install a temporary set for you to wear while the permanent set is under construction.
Once we attach the permanent veneers, they will adhere so securely a drill or laser would be needed to remove them. We achieve this attachment by creating microscopic pores on the face of the teeth and the inside of the veneer with a mild acid solution. The bonding cement seeps into these pores and creates a strong bond that virtually unites the tooth and veneer into one.
Although your new veneers are made to last, you’ll need to maintain them like your other teeth, with a little added caution when biting and chewing. All in all, though, you’ll be able to smile again with confidence — for many years to come.
If you would like more information on porcelain veneers, 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 “Porcelain Veneers.”
Think of New Orleans, Louisiana, and what comes to mind? The sound of jazz pouring out from a nightclub in the French Quarter… the smell of shrimp boiling in a spicy gumbo… the fresh feeling you get after you’ve cleaned between your teeth with dental floss?
You may not know it, but besides its culinary charms and musical mojo, New Orleans has another claim to fame: It’s the historical home of dental floss. In the early 1800’s, a pioneering dentist by the name of Dr. Levi Spear Parmly recommended that his patients clean between their teeth with a silken thread. Long before the role of oral bacteria was recognized, it was Dr. Parmly’s belief that cavities were caused by foreign material on the tooth surfaces. But it took until nearly the end of the century for his invention to become available in handy dispensers. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, of course, we know much more about the causes and treatment of tooth decay. For example, we know that harmful bacteria in plaque — the sticky biofilm that builds up on your teeth in the absence of effective cleaning — release chemical substances that erode tooth enamel; this causes cavities (tiny holes in the tooth) to begin forming. We also know that while brushing alone helps remove plaque, it’s far and away more effective when combined with flossing.
Yet there’s one thing we’re still not sure of: Why don’t more people use dental floss regularly? Did you know that with careful attention to your oral hygiene, tooth decay is almost completely preventable? Plus, dental floss is now available in many different varieties: It’s no longer made of silk, but can consist of nylon or gore-tex thread; it comes waxed or unwaxed, round or flat… even flavored like mint or bubble gum!
So here’s our suggestion: Find a style of dental floss you like, picture yourself on Bourbon Street… and spend a few minutes flossing every day. Your teeth will say “merci beaucoup.”
A crown is an effective way to save a tooth and restore its form and function. These life-like “caps” that fit over and are permanently attached to teeth have been used for decades with good results.
For this type of restoration to be effective, though, there must be enough of the natural tooth remaining above the gum line for the crown to “grab on to.” This poses a problem if the tooth has broken or decayed too close to the gum tissue.
Fortunately, there is a way to expose more of the remaining tooth for applying a crown. Known as crown lengthening, this surgical procedure is also used for “gummy” smiles, where normal tooth length is obscured by excess gum tissue that makes the teeth appear shorter.
We begin the procedure by first numbing the tooth and gum area with a local anesthetic. We then make tiny incisions inside the gum line on both the tongue and cheek side of the tooth to create a small flap. With this area below the gum line now open to view, we then determine whether we need to remove excess gum tissue or a small amount of bone around the tooth to expose more of the tooth itself. We then position the opened gum tissue against the bone and tooth at the appropriate height to create an aesthetic result.
You shouldn’t experience any discomfort during the procedure, which usually takes about sixty minutes for a single tooth area (which needs to involve at least three teeth for proper blending of the tissues). The pressures and vibrations from equipment, as well as any post-procedure discomfort, are similar to what you would encounter with a tooth filling. After the gum tissue has healed (about six to eight weeks), we are then able to fit and attach a crown onto the extended area.
Crown lengthening a small area may result in an uneven appearance if you’re dealing within the aesthetic zone. One option in this case is to consider undergoing orthodontic treatment first to correct the potential discrepancy that may result from surgery. After orthodontics, we can perform crown lengthening on just the affected tooth and still achieve an even smile.
Crown lengthening is just one of many tools we have to achieve tooth restorations for difficult situations. Using this technique, we can increase your chances of achieving both renewed tooth function and a more beautiful smile.
If you would like more information on crown lengthening, 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 “Saving Broken Teeth.”
Chewing gum, so much a part of modern culture, actually has ancient roots — humans have been chewing some form of it for thousands of years. While gum chewing is a benign habit for the most part, it does raise some dental health concerns.
The good news for jaw function is that chewing gum is unlikely to cause any long-term problems for your joints if you respond to your body’s warning signals. Our joints, muscles and associated nerves have a built-in mechanism of fatigue and pain signaling to help us avoid overuse. Furthermore, the action of chewing stimulates the production and release of saliva. Among saliva’s many beneficial properties is its ability to neutralize acid, which can soften and erode tooth enamel. It also strengthens enamel by restoring some of the calcium and other minerals lost from acid.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the physical act of chewing gum isn’t without risks. Chewing gum “exercises” your jaw muscles and makes them stronger, so they’re able to deliver more force to your teeth. This could lead to future tooth mobility and excessive wear. It’s important then that you don’t chew gum excessively to avoid this kind of damage to your teeth.
Unfortunately, there’s more bad news involving a key ingredient in many brands. Many manufacturers use sugar (sucrose) to sweeten their product, which is a major part of its appeal. Sugar, however, is a prime food source for oral bacteria responsible for tooth decay. The prolonged presence of sugar in the mouth when we chew gum can negate the beneficial effects of increased saliva.
A sweetener called xylitol, though, could be the answer to “having your gum and chewing it too.” This alcohol-based sugar (which, by the way, has almost half the calories of table sugar) has the opposite effect on bacteria — rather than becoming a food source it actually inhibits bacterial growth. Studies have even shown that products like chewing gum, mints or candy sweetened with xylitol can contribute significantly to a reduction in dental caries (cavities) caused by decay.
The better news: you don’t have to give up chewing gum for the sake of your teeth — just be sure to choose products with dental-friendly ingredients and don’t chew excessively. You’ll not only reduce the risks of tooth decay and damage, you’ll also promote a healthier environment in your mouth.
If you would like more information on chewing gum and its effects on dental 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 articles “Chewing Gum” and “Xylitol in Chewing Gum.”
The preferred outcome when treating a tooth for decay is to preserve it. If the disease is still in its early stages, we can accomplish this effectively by removing diseased tissue and then restoring the remaining tooth with filling material.
There comes a point, however, when filling a tooth isn’t the best option. If it has already received several fillings, the tooth may have become too weak to receive another. Additionally, a filling may not be enough protection from further fracture or infection for teeth weakened from trauma or abnormal tooth wear or in the event a root canal treatment is necessary.
While a diseased tooth can be extracted and replaced with a durable and aesthetically pleasing dental implant, there may be another option to consider — installing a crown. Like a filling, a crown preserves what remains of a natural tooth, but with better protection, life expectancy and appearance than a filling.
Known also as a cap, a crown completely covers or “caps” a natural tooth. They’re produced in a variety of styles and materials to match the function and appearance of the capped tooth and adjacent teeth. Crowns made of porcelain are ideally suited for visible teeth because of their resemblance to tooth enamel. A less visible tooth that endures more biting force (like a back molar) may need the strength of a precious metal like gold or new-age porcelains that can also withstand significant biting forces. There are also hybrid crowns available that combine the strength of metal for biting surfaces and the life-like appearance of porcelain for the more visible areas of a tooth.
To prepare a tooth for a crown, we first remove any decayed structure and add bonding material to strengthen what remains. We then make a mold of the tooth and bite, which is typically sent to a dental technician as a guide for creating the permanent crown. Recent advances with digital technology have also made it possible to mill the permanent crown out of porcelain in the dental office while you wait.
After the permanent crown is received and permanently bonded to the tooth, you will have a protected and fully functional tooth. From this point on it’s important for you to clean and care for it as you would any other tooth since the underlying tooth is still at risk for decay. The good news is your tooth has been saved with a bonus — a long-term solution that’s also smile-transforming.
If you would like more information on crowns and other tooth restorations, 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 “Crowns & Bridgework.”