Here's the bad news on the overall state of dental health in the United States: Over 120 million people have one or more missing teeth—roughly one American in three. But there's also good news: We can replace missing teeth with a number of effective restorative methods. At the top of the list are dental implants, highly regarded by dentists and patients alike as the most lifelike and functional tooth replacement system available.
Dental implants have been growing in popularity since their introduction in the 1980s. Their structural design and construction have continued to improve, giving patients even more options for implant-based tooth replacement.
To bring greater attention to the benefits of this popular restoration, the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID) designated August as Dental Implant Month in 2016. In recognition, here are 3 of those benefits you might gain from choosing dental implants to replace your missing teeth.
Durability. Unlike other restorations such as conventional dentures or bridges, implants replace the entire root structure of the tooth. To be more precise, implants are a tooth root replacement in the form of a post imbedded securely in the jawbone. As the bone grows around and attaches to the implant, it develops a durable and highly functional hold that can last for decades.
Adaptability. Many people assume dental implants are used only to replace individual teeth, but implants can also support multi-tooth restorations. A few strategically placed implants can securely attach a partial or total bridge to the jaw, or provide added support for a removable denture.
Affordability. At first glance, an implant's initial cost places it at the high end of the scale for tooth replacement options. But because of their long-term durability and high success rate (greater than 95% still in place after ten years), implants may cost less in the long run than lower-priced restorations that may require repair or replacement sooner.
Although they have a wide range of applications, implants aren't suited for some dental situations. Because implants require a minimum amount of bone present in the jaw, for example, extensive bone loss might nullify them as a current option. Even in this case, though, grafting therapy to rebuild the bone could make it possible to place dental implants at some point in the future.
If you've recently lost a tooth or you have an older restoration you'd like to replace, dental implants might be a great option for you. Your first step is an initial exam and consultation to find out if this premier dental restoration is right for you.
If you would like more information about dental implants, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants: Your Third Set of Teeth.”
So…you faithfully brush and floss your teeth every day. Kudos to you! Along with regular dental visits, daily hygiene is the best thing you can do to keep your teeth and gums disease-free.
Dental plaque, that thin film of bacteria and food particles that builds up on teeth, is the number one cause for tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. Thoroughly removing it daily through brushing and flossing drastically reduces your chances for disease.
But just the acts of brushing and flossing aren’t enough—both are skills requiring some level of mastery for truly effective plaque removal. Otherwise, any leftover plaque could be an invitation for infection.
So, how can you tell if you’re getting the job done? One way is a quick swipe of the tongue across your teeth after brushing: If they still feel gritty rather than smooth, chances are you left some plaque behind.
A more comprehensive method, though, is with a plaque disclosing agent, a product found in stores that sell dental care items. These kits contain liquids, tablets or swabs that when applied to the teeth right after brushing or flossing temporarily dye any leftover plaque a particular color. You’ll be able to see the results for yourself in the mirror.
A plaque disclosing agent can also reveal patterns of remaining plaque that indicate where you need to improve your hygiene efforts. For example, a scalloping effect along the gum line could mean you’re not adequately reaching high enough in these areas with your brush as well as your floss.
The dye effect is temporary, but it might take a few hours for the staining to fade away. You should also avoid swallowing any solution and avoid getting it on your clothes. And while disclosing agents can help improve your hygiene skills, your dentist or hygienist is still your best resource for dental care advice—so keep up those regular dental visits.
If you would like more information on best hygiene practices, 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 “Plaque Disclosing Agents.”
Looking in the mirror, you probably focus on your teeth and gums—i.e., your smile. Your dentist, though, will take the time to look deeper into your mouth, searching for anything out of the ordinary. That could be a type of mouth sore known as lichen planus.
Lichen planus are lesions that can appear on skin or mucus membranes, including inside the mouth. The name comes from their resemblance to lichens, a fungus found on trees or rocks (although the sore itself isn't fungi). As such, they often have a lacy pattern of lines emanating from purplish bumps.
Again, the first indication you have such a condition may come from your dentist. Sometimes, though, you may notice greater sensitivity to spicy or acidic foods and, if the gums are affected, irritation when you eat or brush.
If you find out you have lichen planus, don't be alarmed—it usually doesn't pose harm to your health and it's not contagious. Its appearance, though, could be mimicked by more harmful medical conditions, so your dentist will want to confirm the lesion observed is truly lichen planus.
It's routine, then, for your dentist to excise a small sample of the sore's tissue and send it to a pathology lab for biopsy. Although results will more than likely confirm lichen planus or some other benign lesion, it's better to err on the side of caution and ensure you're not dealing with something more serious.
If you are diagnosed with lichen planus, you may need to take steps to manage symptoms. In most people, the sore will go away on its own, although there's no guarantee it won't reappear sometime later. In the event it lingers, your dentist may prescribe a topical steroid to help ease any discomfort.
You can also minimize a future outbreak by practicing effective daily oral hygiene to reduce the bacterial populations that may contribute to the condition. And when you're symptomatic, try avoiding spicy or acidic foods like citrus, peppers or caffeinated beverages.
Lichen planus is more bothersome than harmful. Taking the above steps can help you avoid it or deal with it more effectively when it occurs.
If you would like more information on lichen planus, 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 “Lichen Planus: Mouth Lesions That are Usually benign.”
The monarchs of the world experience the same health issues as their subjects—but they often tend to be hush-hush about it. Recently, though, the normally reticent Queen Elizabeth II let some young dental patients in on a lesser known fact about Her Majesty's teeth.
While touring a new dental hospital, the queen told some children being fitted for braces that she too “had wires” once upon a time. She also said, “I think it's worth it in the end.”
The queen isn't the only member of the House of Windsor to need help with a poor bite. Both Princes William and Harry have worn braces, as have other members of the royal family. A propensity for overbites, underbites and other malocclusions (poor bites) can indeed pass down through families, whether of noble or common lineage.
Fortunately, there are many ways to correct congenital malocclusions, depending on their type and severity. Here are 3 of them.
Braces and clear aligners. Braces are the tried and true way to straighten misaligned teeth, while the clear aligner method—removable plastic mouth trays—is the relative “new kid on the block.” Braces are indeed effective for a wide range of malocclusions, but their wires and brackets make it difficult to brush and floss, and they're not particularly attractive. Clear aligners solve both of these issues, though they may not handle more complex malocclusions as well as braces.
Palatal expanders. When the upper jaw develops too narrowly, a malocclusion may result from teeth crowding into too small a space. But before the upper jaw bones fuse together in late childhood, orthodontists can fit a device called a palatal expander inside the upper teeth, which exerts gentle outward pressure on the teeth. This encourages more bone growth in the center to widen the jaw and help prevent a difficult malocclusion from forming.
Specialized braces for impacted teeth. An impacted tooth, which remains partially or completely hidden in the gums, can impede dental health, function and appearance. But we may be able to coax some impacted teeth like the front canines into full eruption. This requires a special orthodontic technique in which a bracket is surgically attached to the impacted tooth's crown. A chain connected to the bracket is then looped over other orthodontic hardware to gradually pull the tooth down where it should be.
Although some techniques like palatal expanders are best undertaken in early dental development, people of any age and reasonably good health can have a problem bite corrected with other methods. If you are among those who benefit from orthodontics, you'll have something in common with the Sovereign of the British Isles: a healthy, attractive and straighter smile.
As we get older, we become more susceptible to chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease or arthritis. We can also begin to see more problems with our teeth and gums.
Whether it's ourselves or an older loved one, oral health deserves a heightened focus as we age on prevention and prompt treatment. Here's what you can do to protect you or a family member's teeth and gums during the aging process.
Make accommodations for oral hygiene. Keeping your mouth clean of disease-causing plaque is important at any age. But it may become harder for someone getting older: Manual dexterity can falter due to conditions like arthritis or Parkinson's Disease. Older adults with decreased physical ability may benefit from larger gripped toothbrushes or those modified with a bicycle handle. Electric power brushes are another option, as are water irrigators that can do as effective a job of flossing as threaded floss.
Watch out for “dry mouth.” Older adults often develop chronic dry mouth due to saliva-reducing medications they might be taking. It's not just an unpleasant feeling: Inadequate saliva deprives the mouth of acid neutralization. As a result, someone with chronic dry mouth has a higher risk for tooth decay. You can reduce dry mouth by talking with your doctor about prescriptions for you or a family member, drinking more water or using saliva boosting products.
Maintain regular dental visits. Regular trips to the dentist are especially important for older adults. Besides professional cleanings, dentists also check for problems that increase with aging, such as oral cancer. An older adult wearing dentures or other oral appliances also needs to have them checked periodically for any adverse changes to fit or wear.
Monitor self-care. As long as they're able, older adults should be encouraged to care daily for their own teeth. But they should also be monitored in these areas, especially if they begin to show signs of decreased mental or physical abilities. So, evaluate how they're doing with brushing and flossing, and look for signs of tooth decay or gum disease.
Aging brings its own set of challenges for maintaining optimum dental health. But taking proactive steps and acting quickly when problems arise will help meet those challenges as they come.
If you would like more information on dental care for older adults, 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 “Aging & Dental Health.”
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