The worst outcome of periodontal (gum) disease is tooth loss—but it isn't the only form of misery you might suffer. One of the more troublesome results associated with gum disease is gum recession.
Normal gum tissue covers teeth from just above the visible crown to the roots, providing protection against bacteria and oral acid similar to the enamel on the crown. But advanced gum disease can weaken these tissues, causing them to pull away or recede from the teeth.
Not only can this diminish your smile appearance, but the exposed areas are more susceptible to further disease and painful sensitivity. And it certainly can accelerate tooth loss.
But there are some things we can do to reduce the harm caused by gum recession. If we're able to diagnose and treat a gum infection early while the gums have only mildly receded, the tissues could stabilize and not get worse.
The chances for natural regrowth are unlikely, especially the more extensive the recession. In such cases, the gums may need some assistance via plastic periodontal surgery. Surgeons reconstruct gum tissues by grafting like tissues to the area of recession. These grafts serve as a scaffold for new tissues to gradually grow upon.
There are two general types of grafting procedures. One is called free gingival grafting. The surgeon completely removes a thin layer of skin from elsewhere in the mouth (such as the palate), then shapes and attaches it to the recession site. Both the donor and recession sites heal at approximately the same rate, usually within 14-21 days. This procedure replaces missing gum tissue, but doesn't cover exposed tooth roots to any great extent.
In cases of root exposure, dentists usually prefer another type of procedure, known as connective tissue grafting. The donor tissue is usually taken again from the palate, but the design of the surgery is different. A flap of tissue at the recipient site is opened so that after the connective tissue from the palate is placed at the recipient site to cover the exposed roots, the flap of tissue covers the graft to provide blood circulation to the graft as it heals.
Both kinds of procedures, particularly the latter, require detailed precision by a skilled and experienced surgeon. Although they can successfully reverse gum recession, it's much better to avoid a gum infection in the first place with daily oral hygiene and regular dental care.
If you would like more information on treating gum recession, 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 “Periodontal Plastic Surgery.”
Dentists extract millions of teeth each year, mostly because of disease. But sometimes a healthy tooth is removed to gain a more favorable, long-term dental health outcome.
An example of this is extracting teeth for the sake of orthodontic treatment. This is often beneficial when treating bite problems caused by crowding, a condition in which not enough space on the jaw exists to accommodate all of the teeth coming in. When this happens, the limited space can force teeth out of their proper alignment.
Crowding also complicates correcting the bite problem with braces: As with the eruption phase, there's no available room for orthodontic movement. One solution that may arise after a detailed examination is to open up space on the jaw by removing some of the teeth.
Planning this kind of tooth extrication requires careful forethought with the end in mind—ultimately, the dental providers involved want the resulting appearance after braces to look as natural as possible. For that reason, dentists usually choose teeth for extraction that are outside of the "smile zone" (the teeth visible while smiling) like premolars and molars.
Additionally, dentists are concerned about bone loss after extracting the teeth. Bone often diminishes around empty tooth sockets, especially if those sockets were damaged during extraction. This loss in bone can weaken the jaw structure and cause significant problems while moving teeth with braces.
To avoid this, dentists take great care during tooth removal not to damage the socket. Additionally, they may place a bone graft within the socket immediately after removing the tooth, especially if the space will remain vacant for a significant period of time. A bone graft serves as a scaffold upon which new bone cells can form and accumulate.
After the extractions, the orthodontist may then proceed with correcting the bite. Patients may also need some form of prosthetic teeth to fill in the spaces while wearing braces. Often prosthetic teeth can be incorporated with the braces for a more natural look. After braces, any remaining gaps may require further restoration, either with dentures, bridges or, later in adulthood, dental implants.
Complex bite problems like crowding pose unique challenges in correcting them. But using techniques like tooth extraction can help achieve a successful and satisfactory outcome.
If you would like more information on treatments for bite problems, 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 “Tooth Removal for Orthodontic Reasons.”
It's not unusual for serious actors to go above and beyond for their roles. They gain weight (or lose it, like Matthew McConaughey for True Detective). They grow hair—or they shave it off. But perhaps nothing tops what Brad Pitt did to assume the character of Tyler Durden in the movie Fight Club—he had his dentist chip his teeth.
While a testament to his dedication to the acting craft, Pitt's move definitely falls into the category of "Kids, don't do this at home." Fortunately, people deliberately chipping their teeth isn't a big problem. On the other hand, accidentally chipping a tooth is.
Chipping a tooth can happen in various ways, like a hard blow to the jaw or biting down on something too hard. Chipping won't necessarily endanger a tooth, but the missing dental structure can put a damper on your smile.
But here's the good news: you don't have to live with a chipped tooth. We have ways to cosmetically repair the damage and upgrade your smile.
One way is to fit a chipped or otherwise flawed tooth with a dental veneer, a thin wafer of dental porcelain bonded to the front of a tooth to mask chips, discolorations, gaps or other defects. They're custom-made by a dental lab to closely match an individual tooth's shape and color.
Gaining a new smile via dental veneers can take a few weeks, as well as two or more dental visits. But if you only have slight to moderate chipping, there's another way that might only take one session in the dentist's chair. Known as composite bonding, it utilizes plastic-based materials known as composite resins that are intermixed with a form of glass.
The initial mixture, color-matched for your tooth, has a putty-like consistency that can be easily applied to the tooth surface. We apply the composite resin to the tooth layer by layer, allowing a bonding agent in the mixture to cure each layer before beginning the next one. After sculpting the composite layers into a life-like appearance, the end result is a "perfect" tooth without visible flaws.
Unlike Brad Pitt, it's pretty unlikely you'll ever find yourself in a situation requiring you to purposely damage your teeth. But chips do happen—and if it happens to you, we have more than one way to make your teeth as good as new.
If you would like more information about repairing dental flaws with veneers or composite bonding, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Artistic Repair of Front Teeth With Composite Resin.”
Advances in technology often lead to greater choices for things like automobiles or smartphones. In recent decades, advances in orthodontics have given families another choice besides braces for straightening teeth: clear aligners.
Clear aligners are a series of computer-generated mouth trays of clear plastic that are custom made for an individual patient's teeth. Like braces, these trays worn in the mouth put pressure on the teeth to move in a desired direction. Patients wear an individual tray for about two weeks and then change it out for the next tray in the series. Each subsequent tray is designed to pick up where the former tray left off in the progress of tooth movement.
Although treatment takes about as along as braces, clear aligners have some distinct advantages. First and foremost, their clear plastic construction makes them nearly invisible to outside observers. This makes them ideal for appearance-conscious teens (or adults) who may be embarrassed by the look of metallic braces.
And unlike their fixed counterpart, clear aligners can be removed by the wearer for meals, hygiene and the rare special occasion. As a result, patients with aligners aren't as restricted with food items and have an easier time keeping their teeth clean and avoiding dental disease than braces wearers.
But although definitely a benefit, removability can be potentially problematic depending on the maturity level of the patient. To be effective, an aligner tray must remain in the mouth for the majority of the time—too much time out negates the effect. Patients, then, must be responsible with wearing aligners as directed.
Clear aligners may also not work for treating difficult bites, especially those that require targeted movement (or non-movement) of select teeth. In those cases, braces may be the necessary treatment. But this situation has changed in recent years with the development of new devices and techniques that increase the range of bite problems clear aligners can treat.
Depending then on the bite problem and a patient's level of personal responsibility, clear aligners can be a viable orthodontic choice. And just like braces, they too can improve both dental function and appearance.
If you would like more information on orthodontic options for teens, 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 “Clear Aligners for Teens.”
Our primary aim as dentists is to preserve teeth. There are times, however, when preserving a tooth is no longer worth the effort and we must recommend removing it. Fortunately, extracted teeth can be replaced with a functional and attractive restoration.
Today's top tooth-replacement option is the dental implant. Composed of a titanium metal post imbedded into the jawbone, a single dental implant can replace an individual tooth or a series of implants can support other restorations for multiple teeth. Besides being incredibly life-like, dental implants are highly durable and can last for decades.
But dental implants aren't an optimal choice for everyone. Their cost often matches their status as the premier tooth replacement method. And because they require a minimum amount of bone for proper implantation, they're not always feasible for patients with extensive bone loss.
But even if dental implants aren't right for you, and you want a fixed restoration rather than dentures, you still have options. What's more, they've been around for decades!
One is a bonded crown, which works particularly well for a tooth excessively damaged by decay, excessive wear or fractures. After removing all of the damaged portions and shaping the remaining tooth, we cement a life-like crown, custom created for that particular tooth, over the remaining structure.
Besides improving appearance, a crown also protects the tooth and restores its function. One thing to remember, though, is although the crown itself is impervious to disease, the remainder of the natural tooth isn't. It's important then to brush and floss around crowned teeth like any other tooth and see a dentist regularly for cleanings.
Dental bridges are a fixed solution for extracted teeth. It's composed of prosthetic teeth to replace those missing bonded together with supporting crowns on both ends. These crowned teeth are known as abutments, and, depending on how many teeth are being replaced, we may need to increase the number of abutments to support the bridge.
Although durable, crowns or bridges typically don't match the longevity of an implant. And, implants don't require the permanent alteration of support teeth as is necessary with a bridge. But when the choice of implants isn't on the table, these traditional restorations can be an effective dental solution.
If you would like more information on crown or bridge 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.”
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