Posts for: May, 2014
Tooth wear, especially on biting surfaces, is a normal part of aging — we all lose some of our tooth enamel as we grow older. Even primary (“baby”) teeth may show some wear before they’re lost. But there’s also excessive, premature tooth wear caused by disease or abnormal biting habits. This type of wear is cause for concern and action before it leads to tooth loss.
Normal tooth wear occurs because of what teeth naturally do — bite and chew. When teeth come together as we eat they generate a modest amount of force: between 13 and 23 pounds. Our teeth also make brief contacts hundreds to thousands times a day. Again, this produces force, though not to the extent we see with biting and chewing: somewhere between 0.75 and 7.5 pounds. These glancing contacts are actually good for dental health because they provide needed stimulation to the teeth and jaws that help the body maintain healthy bone and tooth attachments.
But parafunctional (outside the normal function) habits like teeth grinding or foreign object chewing can greatly increase the generated force, up to 230 pounds. These may result in noticeable symptoms like fractures or loose teeth, but not always — the damage may not be noticeable until much later in the form of excessive tooth wear.
These parafunctional habits aren’t the only cause for excessive tooth wear; tooth decay can weaken the tooth structure, making it more susceptible to wear. And, some restorative materials used for fillings may also affect the rate of wear.
Because excessive tooth wear may or may not present with immediate symptoms, it’s important to maintain regular dental checkups to monitor the condition of your teeth. Our training and experience helps us identify signs of excessive tooth wear and, depending on the extent of damage, work with you on a treatment plan. You should also keep us informed about oral habits, especially teeth grinding, thumb sucking or foreign object chewing (toys, nails, pencils, etc.).
Your teeth will wear as you grow older. By keeping a close eye on your teeth, we’ll help you keep that wear at a normal rate.
If you would like more information on preventing excessive tooth wear, 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 “When Children Grind Their Teeth.”
Are tooth-colored fillings safer than silver fillings?
No. Both are considered safe based on the most reliable and up-to-date scientific evidence. Still, tooth-colored fillings do have some definite advantages. Not only do they blend in with your smile far better than “silver” (dental amalgam) fillings, but they often require less removal of healthy tooth structure. That’s because in order to fill a tooth with amalgam, it is necessary to create indentations in the tooth called “undercuts” to hold the amalgam in; this requires the removal of some healthy tooth material. With a tooth-colored filling, we need only remove the decayed part of the tooth to place the filling.
Are there any disadvantages?
Yes, tooth-colored fillings don’t always wear as well as metal fillings — particularly on back molars where they are subjected to the most stress from chewing. They are also more expensive and less likely to be fully reimbursed under dental insurance plans.
Are there different types of tooth-colored fillings?
Yes, three different choices of tooth-colored fillings are available:
- Composite — This mixture of plastic and glass is the most common type of tooth-colored filling. Newer materials can hold up almost as long as amalgam fillings and look very natural, though they can stain over time just as natural teeth do.
- Porcelain — High-tech dental ceramics are considered the most aesthetic choice of filling material. They don’t stain as composites can, but their relatively high glass content can make them more brittle and prone to breakage. They may be more expensive than composites.
- Glass Ionomer — Made of acrylic and glass powders, these inexpensive, translucent fillings blend in acceptably well with natural teeth and have the advantage of releasing small amounts of fluoride to help prevent decay. However, they generally don’t last as long as other restorative materials.
We would be happy to offer guidance on which choice would be best in your own unique situation.
If you have any questions about tooth-colored fillings, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Natural Beauty of Tooth-Colored Fillings.”
At one time people who had lost all their teeth faced a grim future. With no feasible alternative, their tooth loss severely limited their ability to eat or speak. Their appearance suffered too, not only from the missing teeth but from bone loss in their facial structure.
We’ve come a long way since then — today, it’s possible to restore complete tooth loss with a permanent set of implant-supported teeth. Unlike other options like removable dentures, implantation can stop and even reverse bone loss caused by missing teeth. And because it now only takes a few strategically-placed implants to support an entire fixed bridge of teeth, the implant option is more affordable than ever.
In essence, implants are tooth root replacement systems. The titanium post that is surgically placed within the jawbone is osseophilic (“bone-loving”), which means bone will grow and adhere to it in a few weeks to further secure it in place. A dental restoration — a single crown (the visible portion of the tooth) or an entire bridge or arch — is then cemented or screwed to the implant.
While dental implants for single teeth normally require full bone integration before the permanent crown is set, it’s often possible for an implant-supported bridge of many teeth to be set at the same time as implantation. The bridge is attached to four or more implants that support the bridge like the legs of a stool; the teeth within the bridge also act to support each other. Both of these factors help to evenly distribute the biting force, which reduces the risk of crown failure before complete bone integration. You would still need to limit yourself to a soft food diet for 6-8 weeks while the bone integration takes place, but the procedure is essentially completed when you leave the dentist’s office.
As marvelous as the possibilities are with implant restorations, it still requires a great deal of planning and artistry from a team of dental professionals to realize a successful outcome. But working together, you and your team can achieve what wasn’t possible even a few years ago: a complete set of life-like, fully functional implant-supported teeth — and a new smile to boot!
If you would like more information on implant-supported teeth, 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 “New Teeth in One Day.”
Next to brushing and flossing, a regular dental checkup is the single most important thing you can do for a healthy mouth. It’s also one of the best lifetime habits you can instill in your child, a task that’s a lot easier if your child sees visiting the dentist as a normal, even enjoyable part of life. Here are some things you can do to help make that happen.
First, if you’re not in the habit of taking your child for regular dental checkups, the sooner you start the better. We recommend you schedule your child’s first checkup around their first birthday. This will help your child become better accustomed to visiting the dentist, and get both of you on the right track with proper hygiene techniques. And by identifying and treating dental problems early, you may be able to avoid more stress-prone treatments in the future.
Who you see is just as important as making the visit. It’s important to find a practice that strives to create a comfortable, home-like atmosphere for their patients, especially children. Pediatric dentists (and many general dentists) are trained in child behavior and understand the importance of relating to a child first (pleasant chatting and upbeat explanations of what they’re going to do) to put them at ease before beginning examination or treatment.
Perhaps the most important factor in getting your child accustomed to dental care is you — your attitude toward not only visiting the dentist, but caring for your own teeth. Children tend to follow the lead of their parents: if you have developed healthy habits regarding oral hygiene and a nutritious, “tooth-friendly” diet, your children are more likely to follow suit. As for dental visits, if you’re calm and pleasant in the dentist’s office, your child will then see there’s nothing for them to be nervous about.
Going to the dentist at any age shouldn’t be an ordeal. Following these steps will go a long way in making dental visits something your child looks forward to.
If you would like more information on dental treatment for 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 “Taking the Stress Out of Dentistry for Kids.”