Posts for: August, 2011
When a device meant to make your life easier doesn't function properly, it can be extremely frustrating. This is sometimes the case for people who wear lower dentures, which loosen over time. These removable replacement teeth can become less reliable and more uncomfortable. Why does this happen?
The answer is bone loss. When a tooth is lost, the bone surrounding it deteriorates and this will change the shape of the jawbone in your mouth. You may find that a lower denture that once had a snug fit on your lower jaw is now sliding around. This happens more often on the bottom because your muscular tongue pushes against the denture. Also, a top denture has more surface area due to an artificial palate to help create suction to the roof of the mouth and keep it in place.
Dental implants, which permanently replace the roots of teeth, do not loosen and they also prevent bone loss. But replacing a whole set of bottom teeth with dental implants and crowns is expensive. What to do?
There's a relatively new solution that combines the security of implants with the affordability of a removable denture. It's called an overdenture, and it may be something you want to consider. An overdenture is a lot like the removable lower denture you already have, only it fits over two implants strategically placed in your lower jaw. While the lower denture is still removable, its stability is greatly improved.
Studies have shown that people with two-implant overdentures have a higher quality of life, and receive better nutrition, than those wearing conventional dentures. It's not hard to figure out why: A more stable denture makes it easier to eat healthy foods such as vegetables — or, really, any foods — and prevents embarrassing slippage of false teeth.
You can read more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Implant Overdentures for the Lower Jaw.”
Gum disease, also called periodontal disease (from the roots for “around” and “tooth”) starts with redness and inflammation, progresses to infection, and can lead to progressive loss of attachment between the fibers that connect the bone and gum tissues to your teeth, ultimately causing loss of teeth. Here are some ways to assess your risk for gum disease.
Your risk for developing periodontal disease is higher if:
- You are over 40.
Studies have shown that periodontal disease and tooth loss correlate with aging. The longer plaque (a film of bacteria that collects on your teeth and gums) is allowed to stay in contact with your gums, the more you are at risk for periodontal disease. This means that brushing and flossing to remove plaque is important throughout your lifetime. To make sure you are removing plaque effectively, come into our office for an evaluation of your brushing and flossing techniques.
- You have a family history of gum disease.
If gum disease seems to “run in your family,” you may be genetically predisposed to having this disease. Your vulnerability or resistance to gum disease is influenced by genetics. The problem with this assessment is that if your parents were never treated for gum disease or lacked proper instruction in preventative strategies and care, their susceptibility to the disease is difficult to accurately quantify.
- You smoke or chew tobacco.
Here's more bad news for smokers. If you smoke or chew tobacco you are at much greater risk for the development and progression of periodontal disease. Smokers' teeth tend to have more plaque and tartar while also having them form more quickly.
- You are a woman.
Hormonal fluctuations during a woman's lifetime tend to make her more susceptible to gum disease than men, even if she takes good care of her teeth.
- You have ongoing health conditions such as heart disease, respiratory disease, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, high stress, or diabetes.
Research has shown a connection between these conditions and periodontal disease. The bacteria can pass into the blood stream and move to other parts of the body. Gum disease has also been connected with premature birth and low birth weight in babies.
- Your gums bleed when you brush or floss.
Healthy gums do not bleed. If yours do, you may already have the beginnings of gum disease.
- You are getting “long in the tooth.”
If your teeth appear longer, you may have advancing gum disease. This means that infection has caused your gum tissue to recede away from your teeth.
- Your teeth have been getting loose.
Advancing gum disease results in greater bone loss that is needed to support and hold your teeth in place. Loose teeth are a sign that you have a serious problem with periodontal disease.
Even with indications of serious periodontal disease, it can still be stopped. Make an appointment with us today to assess your risks. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Assessing Risk for Gum Disease.”
Time to tune up the brightness on your teeth? Here are six modern methods of whitening and brightening your smile.
- In-office “power” bleaching under the supervision of my staff and me is recommended if your teeth are badly stained, or if you are about to have veneers or crowns made. It's quick, safe, and effective. Gels containing high concentrations of bleach are applied to your teeth in our office, often with the enhancement by heat and light to make them act faster. Results show teeth becoming up to ten shades lighter in about an hour.
- “Take home” whitening solutions and trays are designed to fit your mouth and can also be provided by my office. The technique is easy to perform and is less expensive than in-office power whitening system, although it takes longer to see the same results. General recommendations are for 30 minute applications twice a day. You can usually see a change after two to four sessions. This requires patience, because it is important not to exceed recommended exposure in order to avoid damage to your teeth, gums, and the inside skin of your mouth. After two weeks of use, teeth can be expected to be about eight shades lighter.
- Whitening strips look like clear Band-Aids that are applied to the tooth surfaces. They should be worn twice a day for 30 minutes each time, for seven days. On average, they claim to lighten teeth more than three shades. They take about two weeks to work at 30 minutes per day.
- “Paint on” or “Brush on” whitening formulas are also available. These are gels that are painted onto the teeth every night at bedtime, for two weeks. Some claim that this line of home whitening can whiten teeth two to five shades. These gels may make your mouth feel goopy, but they are relatively inexpensive. Some gels come with a small brush to scrub them onto the teeth.
- Over-the-counter “mouth-tray” whiteners use mouth trays that are not designed for your particular mouth, so they may not fit well and may be messy or uncomfortable. They are filled with gel and worn 45 minutes a day for one week. On average, teeth become two shades whiter.
- Whitening gum is a relatively new product. It requires chewing two pieces for at least 20 minutes, four times a day, to see an effect.
Lost teeth can cause a host of problems, including a loss of your jaw bone and a collapsing appearance of your face, along with difficulty chewing and speaking.
Clearly, it is important to replace missing teeth as soon as possible. Options for replacement include the more traditional methods and the newest technique — dental implants. We believe that implants are your best choice for the following reasons.
Implants prevent bone loss.
Dental implants are substitute tooth roots. Like the roots of your original teeth, they stabilize the bone into which they extend — but in a different way.
The part of the bone that encases the teeth is called alveolar bone, from the word root meaning “sac.” This bone has a special relationship with the teeth it surrounds. It develops as they first erupt into the mouth. If they are lost, the alveolar bone goes, too. It resorbs, or melts away, giving an impression that the bone, gums, and sometimes the lips are collapsing.
Implants are made of titanium, which has the ability to join biochemically to bone. It takes the place of the original tooth root and prevents resorption.
Implants support adjacent teeth.
Your teeth work in harmony, an all for one, one for all relationship with each other. If one is missing, the remaining teeth will slowly move and shift causing them to receive forces that may not be well received. Losing any tooth increases the pressure on the remaining teeth. Losing a back (posterior) tooth can put pressure on the front teeth and they can be forced out of position. All these movements can change a person's appearance as well as in their ability to speak, bite and chew.
They are easier to clean than “traditional” options.
Fixed bridges are non-removable tooth replacements that attach to adjacent natural teeth. These teeth that are adjacent to the missing tooth have to be cut into small peg shapes on which the bridge is attached. The removal of their enamel may make them more prone to tooth decay and gum disease.
Older replacement methods include removable options such as plastic “flippers” and partial dentures. These replacements rest on the teeth and gums, making the teeth they attach to receive greater pressure causing more mobility. In addition, they exert pressure on the gums, causing additional bone loss and increasing the potential for bone loss on the neighboring teeth.
Full dentures, in cases where all teeth are missing, are kept in place by pressing on the gum tissues. This causes even more pressure on the bone, leading to bone loss and changing facial structures.
They are longer lasting.
Studies have shown that removable partial dentures are replaced about every five years; bridges are only 67% successful at 15 years; and implants are over 95% successful for 20 or more years.
- They are cost effective in the long term.
Because implants last longer than other alternative tooth replacements, they may seem more expensive at first; but they will be cost effective over the long term.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about dental implants. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants. Evaluating Your Options.”