Posts for: April, 2013
Getting a new crown for a front tooth is a standard procedure performed in thousands of dental offices around the country. But dental patients are sometimes surprised to find that the price of this routine treatment can vary by a substantial amount. What accounts for the difference? The answer tells us a lot about how crowns are made, and the value of aesthetics in dentistry.
Crowns may be made of several different materials. Gold, the most traditional restoration material, makes for a time-tested, functional and durable crown, lasting as long as 50 years. Gold is a precious (and expensive) metal, but considered over the lifetime of the restoration, it's an economical choice. Yet, even for back teeth, it's losing out in popularity to more aesthetically pleasing alternatives.
Porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns and all-porcelain crowns replicate the look of natural teeth more accurately. The kind of porcelain used in restorations must have special strengtheners added, which enable it to stand up to wear and tear in the mouth. There are different porcelain materials used in dental restoration, each with a different look, quality and longevity. There are also new, high-tech ceramic materials. Each one has advantages and drawbacks, and each one's cost is different.
Besides the material, another large part of a crown's cost is the custom-fabrication of every piece. Since it must match the other teeth in form and function — and often in looks as well — every crown must be made to an individual's exact requirements. This includes the tooth's exact size and shape, its spacing, and (often) its particular color.
Making this happen is a multi-step process. First, a dentist carefully prepares a model of the affected tooth and its neighbors. Then, the fabrication work is normally performed by a highly skilled laboratory technician, at the dentist's direction. Finally, the dentist prepares the tooth for the restoration, performs final adjustments, and attaches the finished crown. When it's done, the restored tooth can be difficult to tell apart from any other.
The level of craftsmanship involved at the dental laboratory can vary — and along with it, the price. Dentists may even choose different technicians based on the quality level they're striving for. All of these factors affect the final cost of the crown, and its value to the patient.
It has been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and this is certainly true in the case of dental restorations. The choice of a “best” crown is different for every person — more than one alternative may be available, and each comes with its own price. If you have more questions about your options for a crown restoration, don't hesitate to ask us!
If you would like more information about crowns, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Value of Quality Care,” “Porcelain Crowns & Veneers,” and “Gold or Porcelain Crowns.”
Everyone's heard the jokes about root canals. Now, let's go beyond the myths and get to the “root” of the matter. Here are a few things everyone should know about this relatively painless and beneficial procedure.
1) If you experience discomfort after eating hot or cold foods, sharp pain when biting down, swelling of the gum tissue, or acute tooth pain, you may need root canal treatment.
All of the above are symptoms of disease in the pulp tissue, which lies deep within the roots of teeth, inside tiny canals that go from one end of the root to the other. Pulp tissue can become infected or inflamed for a variety of reasons, such as trauma or deep tooth decay, causing pain and leading to further complications.
2) Diseased pulp tissue in the root canal must be removed to prevent more problems.
The acute pain may go away — but without treatment, the infection in the pulp tissue won't. It will eventually travel through the ends of the tooth's roots and into surrounding areas. This can lead to dental abscesses, and may even cause systemic problems and diseases in other parts of the body.
3) Root canal treatment is effective.
Removing the diseased pulp tissue removes the infection. Pulp tissue itself is a remnant of tooth development which the tooth no longer needs. After the tissue is removed, the root canal is filled with a biocompatible material, and then it is sealed. A crown or other restoration is usually done after root canal treatment to restore the tooth to its full function.
4) Root canal treatment is generally pain-free.
Just like having an ordinary filling, the process begins with an anesthetic administered to numb the tooth and the nearby area. A tiny hole in the tooth's biting surface provides access to the canal, and minute instruments are used for the procedure. Afterwards, over-the-counter pain relievers are typically all that's needed to relieve the sensitivity that may persist for a day or two following the treatment.
5) A properly done root canal preserves your natural teeth.
A tooth that has had appropriate root canal treatment and restoration can last just as long as a natural tooth. That's important, because the other option — removal of the tooth — can lead to issues like unwanted tooth movement and bite problems. Saving your natural teeth should be the first priority in proper dental care.
If you would like more information about root canals, please contact us to schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Common Concerns About Root Canal Treatment” and “Signs and Symptoms of a Future Root Canal.”
Modern dental implants, sometimes called “your third set of teeth,” have revolutionized the practice of dentistry. As permanent replacements for missing teeth, dental implants are highly successful.
A dental implant is composed of two parts. The implant actually replaces the tooth root (like the root of your original tooth). It is usually made of commercially pure titanium, which has the capacity to fuse with the bone of your jaw. This fusion is called osseo-integration, meaning “becoming part of the bone.” When this happens, living bone cells actually fuse with the surface layer of the titanium implant, which stabilizes the bone as well. A crown (the part of the tooth that is visible above the gum line) is attached to the implant and can be made of ceramic material that exactly matches the appearance of your natural teeth.
Studies have shown that the success rate of dental implants is greater than 95%. Here's what we need to know to make sure dental implants succeed:
- We need to know about your general health. Do you smoke? What medications are you taking? Do you have osteoporosis or a compromised immune (resistance) system?
- We will also perform a detailed assessment of the health of your teeth, gums, and jaws to ensure you are a candidate for dental implants.
- Do you have sufficient bone to anchor the implants? Is the bone quality adequate? Tooth-supporting bone tends to melt away or resorb when a tooth is lost, so it is important to ensure that it is maintained when a tooth is lost or extracted. We can perform bone grafting to minimize resorption and build up bone tissue if necessary. We will consider the quality and quantity of your bone as part of your assessment.
- After the implants have been placed, good dental habits are important. As with your natural teeth, carefully cleaning your new implant crowns and their surrounding gums every day is a necessity.
- Continue to visit us on a regular basis. Regular checkups and maintenance can avoid breakdown of the surrounding bone and gum tissues.
- If you grind your teeth, we can provide you with a night guard to help to protect your implants from wear and undue stress, which can affect the integration with the bone.
Implants are an excellent choice to replace missing teeth. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about dental implants. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dental Implant Success Rate” and “Dental Implants: Your Third Set of Teeth.”
Participating in athletic activities offers numerous well-documented health benefits — not to mention instilling the intangible values of discipline, teamwork and goal-setting. Of course, in nearly every sport, the possibility of injury exists as well. But don't let that stop you or someone you love from playing! Instead, you can learn about the potential hazards of dental injury, and take some practical steps to minimize the risk.
It should come as no surprise that injury to the mouth is an ever-present possibility in so-called “collision” sports like football and ice hockey. But did you know that the greatest number of dental injuries result from the games of baseball and basketball, which are often played informally? Even non-contact sports like skiing, bicycling and skateboarding carry a real risk of injury.
Who suffers dental injury? Men are slightly more likely than women — but only by a small percentage. Injury peaks in the teenage years, and seems to decrease afterward — but older athletes tend to have more severe problems. In short, most anyone who participates in sports is subject to possible dental injury.
Besides the obvious aesthetic imperfections, a damaged or missing tooth can also result in functional problems with the bite — a potentially serious condition. If a tooth can't be immediately replanted, restoring it can be expensive: The total cost of each tooth replacement is estimated at $10,000-$20,000 over a lifetime. So tooth damage or loss can cause a multitude of troubles.
The American Dental Association (ADA) has recommended that participants in all of the sports mentioned above — as well as two dozen others — should wear a custom-fitted mouthguard. Why? Because when it comes to dental injury, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.
Numerous studies have shown that wearing a custom-fitted mouthguard is an effective way to prevent dental injury. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, mouthguards prevent some 200,000 injuries each year. And the ADA says that athletes who don't wear mouthguards are 60 times more likely to sustain harm to the teeth than those who do wear them.
Off-the-shelf mouthguards in a limited range of sizes are available at many sporting-goods stores. But these can't compare to the superior protection and durability offered by a mouthguard that's custom-made just for you. Using an exact model of your teeth, we can individually fabricate a piece of protective gear that fits correctly and feels comfortable in your mouth. A custom mouthguard may be more economical than you think — yet its real payoff comes in preventing dental injury.
If you have questions about mouthguards or sports-related dental injuries, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Athletic Mouthguards” and “An Introduction to Sports Injuries & Dentistry.”