Posts for: December, 2013
Metal amalgam fillings for dental caries have been used since the mid 19th Century. Although newer, “natural color” filling materials have become available, amalgam remains a standard choice among dentists.
Dental amalgam is a metal alloy created by carefully combining exact proportions of mercury, silver, tin and copper. Though quite pliable when first mixed, the alloy eventually sets into a very hard substance that stands up well against the forces produced by the mouth’s natural chewing function. The presence of mercury, however, has raised concerns for some that the metal’s toxic properties pose a risk to the patient’s health.
But after decades of research, the American Dental Association and other health organizations have concluded that dental amalgam “is a safe, reliable and effective restorative material.” Studies have determined that any free molecules of mercury that could potentially enter the bloodstream are trapped in the set amalgam. And although the amalgam can release mercury vapor during chewing, the amounts are well below the levels considered harmful.
Dental amalgam has proven to be versatile, effective and economical. It doesn’t create an allergic reaction, is quite durable, and doesn’t interfere with normal chewing function. It does, however, have its drawbacks. Its use can require more tooth material to be removed to keep the fillings in place, and they can increase temperature sensitivity during the initial four to six weeks. And, of course, their metallic appearance, especially when used in more visible front teeth, reduces their aesthetic appeal.
Other, more cosmetically appealing types of filling material have been developed over the years. These include composite resin fillings, a mixture of glass or quartz in a resin medium; glass ionomers, made of acrylic acids and fine glass powders and best used in areas not subject to heavy chewing; and resin ionomers, similar to glass ionomers but with the addition of acrylic resin. Each of these has their advantages and disadvantages (as well as cost considerations), but they’re main advantage over amalgam is their mimicry of natural tooth color.
The choice of either dental amalgam filling or one of the tooth-color alternatives depends on what you may need and can afford. Rest assured, though, that if the choice is dental amalgam, this restoration workhorse can provide you years of safe and effective service.
If you would like more information on your options for tooth fillings, 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 “Silver Fillings.”
If you have lost your natural teeth, you may already have heard that dental implants are the best option for tooth replacement. Unlike removable dentures or bridgework, implants actually fuse to your jawbone — providing lifetime support for a full set of great-looking replacement teeth. But you may not know that for many people without teeth, it’s possible to receive an entire set of new implant teeth in just one surgical appointment!
Here are the steps:
Initial Consultation — We will assess your existing condition with the help of x-ray imaging. CT scans allow us to see the jawbone in three dimensions, which is particularly helpful for planning implant treatment. These scans provide critical information about anatomical structures such as bone, sinuses and nerves, and help us determine the ideal location for the implants as we design your new smile.
Implant Surgery — The surgery to place implants is actually minor and routine. If you need to have any failing teeth removed, we will do that first. Depending on the quality of your tooth-supporting bone, you may need as few as four or, at most, eight implants in each jaw (upper and lower) to replace all of your teeth.
Temporary Teeth — If the bone in your jaw is healthy and strong enough, we can immediately attach temporary acrylic replacement teeth to the implants so that you can leave the office with teeth the same day as your implant surgery! Once you have fully healed, we will replace your temporary teeth with permanent ones.
Healing — During the first 6-8 weeks after surgery, you”ll need to go easy on the new teeth, avoiding chewy or tough foods so that the implants remain stationary as they complete the process of fusing to your jawbone. People generally have little postoperative discomfort after surgery and begin functioning with their new temporary teeth almost immediately.
A Revitalized Smile — When we are satisfied that your implants have successfully fused to the jawbone, we will remove your temporary teeth and replace them with your permanent ones. These are generally made of stronger, more durable materials and fit the healed gum tissues more precisely. They should feel just like your own teeth. In fact, neither you nor anyone else should be able to tell that they are replacement teeth!
If you would like to learn more about replacing all of your missing teeth with dental implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “New Teeth in One Day.”
Even after decades of health warnings, approximately 45 million Americans smoke cigarettes. Although three-quarters will attempt to quit at some time in their life, most won’t be successful because smoking is both pleasurable and highly addictive.
Still, it’s in your best health interest to quit, and not just for your general health. Besides bad breath, reduced taste perception and dry mouth, smokers also face higher risk for tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease.
Quitting is difficult because of the addictive nature of nicotine, one of tobacco’s main ingredients. Nicotine causes the brain to release dopamine, a chemical that regulates our sense of pleasure and reward. In time, this effect transcends the physical sensation — smokers soon rearrange their social, work and family life to accommodate it. For those attempting to quit, the physical and emotional effects of withdrawal are daunting.
Yet, there are a number of effective quitting strategies. Smoking is a behavior you’ve learned and reinforced over time that you must now “unlearn.” You should begin by analyzing your own particular smoking habit — when you smoke, what prompts you to smoke, what activities do you associate with smoking, etc.
Most people will find an abrupt halt to cigarette smoking all but impossible. Instead, gradually reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke each day over several weeks; a weekly 20% reduction over the previous week is a good norm. As you reduce to just a few cigarettes, you’ll be forced to choose when to smoke those “precious” few. You can also use “brand fading,” in which you switch week by week to brands with increasingly lower amounts of nicotine.
You should also attempt to replace the smoking habit with more positive habits. Keep your hands busy holding items like pencils, straws or stress balls. Snack on healthy foods, chew sugarless gum with Xylitol, and drink plenty of water. You might also join a support group of other smokers trying to quit so you don’t have to face the habit alone.
It may take several weeks to break the smoking habit. The results, though, are worth it — you may extend not only your life but the life of your teeth too.
If you would like more information on how to stop smoking, 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 “Strategies to Stop Smoking.”
There’s no dispute in most cases that dental implants are superior to removable dentures as a restoration for missing teeth. One area in particular is the effect a removable denture can have on remaining bone and other structures of the mouth, especially if their fit becomes loose.
If you’re a denture wearer, you probably know that loose dentures are a major problem, one that can worsen the longer you wear them. The denture compresses the gum tissue it rests upon to produce forces that are more detrimental than what the jaw normally receives from natural teeth. The underlying bone will begin to dissolve (resorb) under these compressive forces. This in turn changes the dynamic of the denture’s fit in the mouth, and you’ll begin to notice the fit becoming looser over time.
The loose fit can be remedied with either the production of a new denture that updates the fit to the current structure of your jawbone or by relining the existing denture with new material. Relining can be done as a temporary measure with material added to the denture during your visit to the office, or as a more permanent solution in which the material is added at a dental laboratory. With the latter option, you would be without your dentures for at least a day or more.
Even if dental implants for multiple teeth aren’t feasible for you financially, you do have other options. With one particular option, the removable lower denture can be held in place and supported by two strategically placed implants. Not only can this lessen the risk of developing a loose fitting denture, it may also alleviate most of the compression on the gum tissue and reduce the rate of bone resorption. The result is better function for eating and speaking and often a boost in self-confidence, as well as many more years of effective wear from your dentures by limiting bone loss.
If you would like more information on the effects and treatment of loose dentures, 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 “Loose Dentures.”