Your mouth is a lot like the Wild West — home to millions of bacteria and other microbes, some of which are definitely not “the good guys.” But your teeth are well-protected from these hostile forces and their acidic waste products: with enamel shielding the visible part of your tooth, your gums protect the parts you can’t see.
As effective as they are, though, your gums aren’t invincible: their greatest threat is periodontal (gum) disease. This bacterial infection arises from plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles accumulating on teeth due to inadequate brushing and flossing.
The infected tissues soon become inflamed (red and swollen), a natural defensive response from the immune system. The longer they’re inflamed, however, the more likely they’ll begin detaching from the teeth. The gums may eventually shrink back or recede from the teeth, often causing them to appear “longer” because more of the tooth is now exposed to view.
Gum recession doesn’t bode well for your teeth’s survival: the exposed tooth and underlying bone can become even more susceptible to infection and damage. In the end, you could lose your tooth and portions of the supporting bone.
Treatment depends on the severity of the gum recession. In mild to moderate cases, we may only need to perform the standard gum disease treatment of removing plaque and calculus from all gum and tooth surfaces (including below the gum line) with special instruments. This helps reduce the infection and allow the gums to heal and re-establish attachment with the tooth. In more advanced cases, though, the recession may be so extensive we’ll need to graft donor tissue to the area using one of a variety of surgical techniques.
Although the right treatment plan can help restore your gum health, there’s another approach that’s even better — preventing gum disease in the first place. You can reduce your disease risk by practicing daily brushing and flossing and visiting your dentist regularly or when you see symptoms like gum swelling or bleeding. Taking care of your gums won’t just save your smile — it might also save your teeth.
If you would like more information on diagnosing and treating gum disease, 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 “Gum Recession.”
It’s something you think about often—especially when you look in a mirror or at a photo of yourself. You wish something could have been done about it a long time ago. But now you think you’re too old to correct your misaligned teeth—your “crooked” smile.
Actually, you can transform your smile through orthodontics, whatever your age. Millions of your peers have done just that—currently, an estimated one in five orthodontic patients is an adult.
If orthodontics isn’t right for you it won’t be because of age, but most likely the condition of your gums and underlying bone or your overall health. That first factor is extremely important: if you’ve lost a significant amount of bone due to periodontal (gum) disease, there may not be enough to support the force of moving the teeth during orthodontics.
Health conditions like severe heart-valve disease, uncontrolled diabetes or drugs to treat arthritis or osteoporosis can also make tooth movement difficult. And, if you have restricted saliva flow (dry mouth), wearing orthodontic devices could be uncomfortable and increase your risk of tooth decay.
If, however, your mouth and body are reasonably healthy (and you don’t have a difficult bite problem to correct), there’s no reason why you can’t undergo orthodontic treatment. The only other thing that might hold you back is concern over your appearance during treatment. Many adults balk at the possible embarrassment of wearing metal braces “at their age.”
If this is a concern, you may have an alternative: clear aligners. These are a series of computer-generated clear plastic trays that conform to the individual contours of your teeth. Each tray is slightly different—you wear one for a short period of time (usually two weeks) before moving on to the next tray to successively and gradually move your teeth. They’re nearly invisible to others and, unlike fixed metal braces, you can take them out for a rare special occasion.
The only way you’ll know whether correcting your misaligned teeth is a viable option is to undergo a full orthodontic evaluation. From there we can help you decide if and how you want to gain a straighter, more attractive smile.
If you would like more information on adult orthodontics, 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 “Orthodontics for the Older Adult.”
What makes an attractive smile? Of course, shiny, straight and defect-free teeth are a big factor. But there’s another equally important element: all your teeth have come in.
Sometimes, though, they don’t: one or more teeth may remain up in the gums, a condition known as impaction. And if they’re in the front like the upper canines (the pointed teeth on either side of the front four incisors) your smile’s natural balance and symmetry can suffer.
Impaction usually happens due to lack of space on a small jaw. Previously erupted teeth crowd into the space of teeth yet to come in, preventing them from doing so. As a result the latter remain hidden within the gums.
While impaction can interfere with the smile appearance, it can cause health problems too. Impacted teeth are at higher risk for abscesses (localized areas of infection) and can damage the roots of other teeth they may be pressing against. That’s why it’s desirable for both form and function to treat them.
We begin first with an orthodontic examination to fully assess the situation. At some point we’ll want to pinpoint the impacted teeth’s precise location and position. While x-rays are useful for locating impacted teeth, many specialists use cone beam CT (CBCT) technology that produces highly detailed three-dimensional images viewable from different vantage points.
If the tooth is in too extreme a position, it might be best to remove it and later replace it with a dental impact or similar restoration once we’ve completed other necessary orthodontic treatment. But if the tooth is in a reasonable position, we might be able to “move” the tooth into its proper place in the jaw in coordination with these other tooth-movement efforts to make room for it.
To begin this process, an oral surgeon or periodontist surgically exposes the tooth crown (the normally visible portion) through the gums. They then bond a small bracket to the crown and attach a small gold chain. An orthodontist will attach the other end to orthodontic hardware that will exert downward pressure on the tooth to gradually bring it into normal position.
Dealing with impacted teeth of this nature is often part of a comprehensive effort to correct the bite. If we’re successful, it could permanently transform both the smile and overall dental health.
If you would like more information on treating impacted 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 “Exposing Impacted Canines.”
Are you tired of those stained, chipped, slightly crooked or—in a word—unattractive teeth? We have an effective solution for you: cover them with life-like porcelain veneers.
As the name implies, a veneer is a thin layer of dental porcelain custom-made to match your tooth’s shape and color and permanently bonded to the outside enamel. With its translucent, light-reflective quality similar to tooth enamel, dental porcelain looks completely natural. Veneers are well suited for minor to moderate imperfections, and can even be used to correct slight gaps between teeth.
We begin the process by performing a comprehensive dental exam to begin planning the exact shape and color of your new veneers. We can now do much of this planning with computer imaging, which may also give you the chance to see how your veneers will look on you after treatment.
We often will also need to prepare the teeth to accommodate the veneers when we bond them. Although the alterations shouldn’t be anywhere near as extensive as with a porcelain crown, we will still often need to remove some of the enamel layer so the veneer won’t look bulky. Even though we’ll remove as little as possible, if needed it will still permanently alter your teeth—so they’ll require some form of restoration from then on.
Once we’ve prepared the teeth, it’s then time to create the veneers. This is typically done by a dental laboratory technician through a manual process that may take several weeks. Increasingly, though, equipped dental offices are now able to generate their veneers in-house with computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacture (CAD/CAM) milling technology.
Once the veneers are ready, they’re bonded securely to the teeth with a detailed process that helps ensure they’ll endure biting and chewing forces for a long time. Still, you’ll need to avoid biting into hard objects or using your teeth for such things as cracking nuts. If you have a clenching or grinding habit, we may also recommend you wear a night guard to prevent excessive forces against not just your veneers but your teeth as well.
By taking good care of them, your new veneers can give you many years of service. Most of all, they can transform your embarrassing appearance into a smile you’re proud to show.
If you would like more information on porcelain veneers, 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 “Porcelain Veneers.”
Congratulations—you’re engaged! It’s a stupendous (and hectic) time in your life as you plan your upcoming wedding.
You want to look your best for the big day—which means you may be dieting, exercising or making changes to your hairstyle and makeup. Be sure, though, to consider another important part of your appearance—your teeth and gums. Here are a few options that could help your wedding day smile shine even more.
Cleanings and whitening. While dental cleanings are primarily about removing disease-causing plaque and tartar they can also give your teeth that clean and polished look. And if you want an extra boost in brightness, consider whitening—we may be able to lighten up your teeth’s stain-induced dullness.
Bonding. If your teeth have slight imperfections—chipping, slight gaps or staining that doesn’t respond well to whitening, consider bonding techniques to repair or cover these defects. Composite resin is a dental material that can be shaped and bonded to teeth to reform a deformed tooth—and with color matching as well. For more extensive defects you can cover the front of imperfect teeth with bonded porcelain veneers or completely cap a tooth with a custom crown.
Tooth restorations. If you have missing teeth marring your smile, you have several options. The top choice: dental implants, which replaces the root of the tooth and will be able to have a crown attached to it. An implant can thus restore both better function and appearance. For more affordable options, you can also turn to fixed bridges or removable dentures. The latter can be custom designed to replace all the teeth on a jaw arch or just a few in different locations.
Gum enhancements. Teeth aren’t the only part of your smile that might need a helpful touch—your gums’ appearance might also be a problem. There are cosmetic procedures including plastic surgery and tissue grafting that can help correct overly prominent “gummy” smiles or, at the other end of the spectrum, longer appearing teeth because of gum recession.
Orthodontics. If you have extended time before the wedding date, we may be able to correct crooked teeth or a poor bite (malocclusion) that’s adversely impacting your smile. In some cases, you may be able to choose clear aligners, removable plastic trays that are hardly noticeable to others, over more visible braces to correct your bite.
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