Posts for: April, 2012
“Smile, and the world smiles with you,” the old saying goes. For people who are afraid to smile because they don't like how their smile looks, the twenty-first century offers a myriad of solutions. Smiling shows your teeth in their various shapes, colors, and sizes, your gums and gum line, your tooth alignment, spacing, and bite all in relation to the rest of your face. Any of these can now be improved.
Through the knowledge, skills, and combined experience of our dental team, it is now possible to make teeth whiter, brighter, and more evenly aligned, to alter tooth shape and size, and to make the teeth and gum line more proportionally balanced. Here are some options for cosmetic dentistry:
- Polish. Remove unwanted stains on outside tooth surfaces by having your teeth polished.
- Teeth Whitening. If teeth are stained or have just lost their luster, whitening is a safe and effective way to lighten a smile.
- Porcelain veneers. Applying a thin layer of dental porcelain restorative material to replace stained or damaged tooth enamel can truly change a smile.
- Porcelain crowns. If teeth are damaged by decay or trauma, porcelain crowns can replace the parts of the teeth that show above the gum line.
- Orthodontics. For teeth that are not in their correct and functional position, a variety of orthodontic techniques can be used including traditional braces, clear aligners and moreÃ¢Â€Â”to improve crooked teeth or a malaligned bite.
- Dental implants. Nothing ruins a smile more than missing teeth. Entire teeth can be replaced, including the roots and the crowns, using dental implants. These are exact replicas of the natural teeth and can be made to match their neighbors exactly.
CAT scans or Computer Assisted Tomograph scans have been around for years. However, it is quickly becoming the new standard in dentistry. The reasons are clear both literally and figuratively, as they provide our office with millions of pictures so that we can combine them together to create 3-dimensional (3-D) images. Prior to this technology, we could only image the body in 2-dimensions with x-rays (radiographs) — a technology first developed by Roentgen.
One of the best features of CAT scans and CBCT (Cone Beam Computed Tomography) scanning is that they enable us to see and experience the body from the inside. Having this ability changes (and many times) improves upon the way we diagnose. Here's how they work in very simplistic terms. Picture your favorite multi-layered cake with each layer representing an image. A three-layer cake requires just three images. For us to build a 3-D image similar to the cake, we require millions of very thin layers (images) that we put together, one on top of another, until our results, one 3-D image. And by having so many thin layers, we are best able to diagnose. For example, in our cake analogy, it is easier to determine if the cake contains finely chopped nuts, berries or other ingredients when you cut numerous very thin slices of cake to examine versus having one large chunk of cake.
It is important to note that in our office we may not recommend using this technology in all cases, as it may not be necessary for your particular diagnosis and/or treatment. While the technology can prove invaluable, it is quite expensive and a simple 2-D x-ray may provide everything we need. However, some dental specialty areas where CAT scans are currently used include:
- Orthodontists and pediatric dentists
- Cosmetic dentists and tooth replacement specialists (prosthodontists)
- Oral surgeons
- Root canal specialists (endodontists)
- Gum specialist (periodontists)
To learn more about CAT scans and how they are used in the various specialty areas, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “CAT Scans in Dentistry.” Or you can contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your specific questions.
If you believe you need a crown or if we have already confirmed this fact, you need to understand that there are several options. The most common are gold crowns, porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns and all porcelain crowns. Each has both pros and cons; thus we will work with you to determine which will work best for your specific needs. However, to help you learn more now, here are some facts.
Made from cast gold, this type of crown has been around for over 100 years and is the most successful type of crown. It can last more than 50 years and thus many dentists prefer gold restorations for their own teeth, where cosmetics is not a concern.
All Porcelain Crowns
All porcelain crowns can produce an incredible, life-like appearance. However, because they are made purely from dental porcelain (a type of glass), they tend to be more fragile than gold crowns and may be more at risk with certain high biting forces. Thus they may not be as durable. Porcelain can also cause wear to the natural teeth they bite against. Therefore they are typically preferred for front teeth, rather than back teeth. They have an aesthetic longevity of about 10 years and a functional longevity of about 20 years.
As the name states, porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns provide the best of both worlds. They are made of natural tooth-colored dental porcelain that is fused on top of a precious or noble metal (usually gold or platinum). They are stronger than porcelain alone and are a good option for back teeth because they offer a better cosmetic result than gold crowns. This is also true for front teeth, however the gold support beneath the porcelain can compromise its life-like qualities. These crowns also have a proven track record and have been used with excellent results for over 40 years.
Most people think of bone as rock-solid, but it's actually a living tissue that's constantly changing. This has significant implications for your oral health, general health, and appearance — if you are one of the 70% of Americans missing at least one tooth.
Throughout the day, your top and bottom teeth make hundreds of fleeting contacts with each other. These small stresses are transmitted though the periodontal ligament (“peri” – around; “odont” – tooth) that supports each tooth in its socket like a hammock. Think of it as a gentle push on the hammock, which causes the tooth to gently bump the underlying bone. The bone then builds up in the spot that's receiving stress to counteract it. This constant remodeling of bone is what allows bone to stay healthy and strong.
When a tooth is lost, the bone does not receive that gentle stress. It reacts by literally melting away. Sometimes this happens fairly quickly — in a matter of months. After the tooth-supporting bone is lost, the jawbone itself begins the same process of deterioration. This could eventually change the shape of the face, as the distance from nose to chin can decrease — even if only a few back teeth are missing. The results aren't pretty. But the good news is, there's a way to prevent all this.
Dental implants, which function as substitute tooth roots, actually save underlying bone when teeth are lost. They do this because they are made of titanium, which fuses to the bone in which it's set, stabilizing it. The implant is topped by a realistic-looking crown, which replaces the part of the missing tooth that was visible in the mouth. Together, they look and function just as your natural tooth did.
If you are missing a lot of teeth, implants can also be used to anchor bridges or even removable dentures while providing that same bone-saving benefit. And when you consider that they are so durable they should never need replacement, implants are a great investment.
You can read more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”