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Posts for category: Dental Procedures

By Thomas Leatherman, DDS
December 11, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: x-ray  
BitewingX-RaysSafelyRevealallAboutBackTeethtoPreventToothDecay

Modern dental care wouldn’t be the same without x-rays. Since dentists began capturing x-ray images a century ago to detect beginning tooth decay, billions of teeth have been preserved.

“Catching it early” is the key to staying ahead of this aggressive bacterial infection. Once it breaks through the protective defenses of tooth enamel, it can advance toward the center of the tooth, the pulp, damaging dentin as it goes. While we can effectively stop it at this point with a root canal treatment, it’s better for the tooth’s long-term health to detect and treat any decay early on with a less-invasive filling or other treatment method.

X-ray imaging helps make that possible, revealing decay much easier than we can see with the unaided eye. And while we can often detect decay in front teeth by visual examination or by using very bright lighting, that’s not as easy with the less accessible back teeth. For those teeth we use a special x-ray technique known as the bitewing.

The name comes from the small frame used to hold the film. It’s held in place in the mouth by the patient biting down on small tabs or “wings” extending from the frame. The x-ray beam travels through the outer cheek and teeth to the film being held in the frame on the back side of the teeth. When exposed, we’ll be able to view the interior of these back teeth: a set of four bitewings gives us a full view of all the upper and lower molars and pre-molars on each side of the jaws.

Like other forms of radiation energy, too much or too frequent exposures to x-rays can lead to serious health problems. But bitewing x-rays carry little risk to health. That’s because they fit well with the ALARA principle, meaning “As Low As Reasonably Achievable,” which helps guide our use of x-rays. Patients receive a fraction of the radiation exposure from routine bitewing x-rays than they receive annually from the natural environment.

Without bitewing x-rays and other diagnostic methods, the chances are high that tooth decay or other dental problems can go undetected in their early stages. Using this important tool can help us head off major damage before it occurs.

If you would like more information on the role of x-rays in dental care, 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 “Bitewing X-Rays: A Routine Part of Your Dental Exam.”

By Thomas Leatherman, DDS
November 11, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dentures  
DenturesareStillaViableChoiceforToothReplacement

Edentulism, the loss of all of a person’s teeth, is more than an appearance problem. As one in four Americans over 65 can attest, total tooth loss can lead to emotional suffering, social embarrassment and a lack of nutrition caused by limited food choices.

But there are solutions like the removable denture, an effective dental restoration for more than a century. In its current advanced form, the removable denture is truly a functional, affordable and attractive way to restore lost teeth.

Creating an effective denture begins first by taking detailed impressions of a patient’s gum ridges. We use the measurements obtained from this process to create a plastic resin base colored to resemble the natural gums.  Using old photos and other resources documenting how the patient looked with teeth, we choose the best size and shape of porcelain teeth and then position them onto the base.

Finally, we fine-tune the dentures the first time they’re in the patient’s mouth to make sure they have a secure fit and a balanced bite when the jaws come together. We also want to be sure the dentures are attractive and blend well with other facial features. The result:  a new set of teeth that can do the job of the old ones and look nearly as real and attractive.

Dentures, though, do have one major drawback: they can’t stop bone loss, a common consequence of missing teeth. In fact, they may even accelerate bone loss due to the pressure they bring to bear on the gum ridges. Continuing bone loss could eventually cause their once secure fit to slacken, making them less functional and much more uncomfortable to wear.

But a recent innovation could put the brakes on bone loss for a denture wearer. By incorporating small implants imbedded at various places along the gums, a denture with compatible fittings connects securely with the implants to support the denture rather than the gum ridges. This not only relieves pressure on the gums, but the titanium within the implants attracts bone cells and stimulates their growth.

Thanks to this and other modern advances, dentures continue to be a solid choice for tooth replacement. Not only can they restore a lost smile, they can improve overall health and well-being too.

If you would like more information on dental restorations for missing 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 “Removable Full Dentures.”

By Thomas Leatherman, DDS
September 22, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants  
CouldaMetalAllergyKeepYouFromGettingaDentalImplant

The dental implant is the closest thing in modern dentistry to a natural tooth. This is because an implant replaces more than the visible crown — it also replaces the root, thanks to a metal post imbedded in the bone.

But what if you have a metal allergy — are you out of luck replacing a tooth with an implant? Before answering this question, let's take a closer look at metal allergies.

An allergy is an overreaction of the body's immune system to a particular foreign substance. This response can be as inconsequential as a minor rash or as life-threatening as a shutdown of the body's organ systems. You can be allergic to anything, including metals.

Usually, these allergies are to specific kinds of metals. For example, about 17% of women and 3% of men are allergic to nickel, while smaller percentages are allergic to cobalt or chromium. Most allergic reactions to metal occur from external contact with jewelry or similar metal items that create rashes or other anomalies on the skin. On a more serious note, an allergy to metal in a body replacement part could result in the body rejecting it.

Metals have also played an important role in dental care, particularly dental amalgam used for tooth fillings. Dental amalgam is a mixture of a precious metal like gold or silver with other metals like copper, tin and, in small amounts, mercury. While dental amalgam has been used safely for decades, there have been rare cases of inflammation or rashes.

This brings us to dental implants and the most common metal used in them, titanium. The commercial version of this metal is highly prized in medical and dental applications because it has a special affinity with bone. Bone cells readily grow and adhere to the metal, which strengthens the bond between the implant and the jawbone.

Even if you have a rare allergy to certain metals, it's even rarer that would include titanium. In one particular study of 1,500 implant patients less than 1% reported any reaction at all.

If you're concerned, you can undergo testing to see if you react to titanium. More than likely, though, you'll be able to join the millions of other patients who have successfully restored their smiles with dental implants.

If you would like more information on dental implants as a tooth replacement option, 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 “Metal Allergies to Dental implants.”

By Thomas Leatherman, DDS
September 02, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: celebrity smiles   veneers  
VivicasVeneerstheMakingofaHollywoodSmile

What's an actor's most important feature? According to Vivica A. Fox, whose most recent big-screen role was in Independence Day: Resurgence, it's what you see right up front.

"On screen, your smile and your eyes are the most inviting things that bring the audience in" she said. "Especially if you play the hot chick."

But like lots of people, Vivica reached a point where she felt her smile needed a little help in order to look its best. That's when she turned to a popular cosmetic dental treatment.

"I got veneers years ago," Ms. Fox told Dear Doctor magazine in a recent interview, "just because I had some gapping that probably only I noticed."

What exactly are dental veneers? Essentially, they are thin shells of lustrous porcelain that are permanently attached to the front surfaces of the teeth. Tough, lifelike and stain-resistant, they can cover up a number of defects in your smile — including stains, chips, cracks, and even minor spacing irregularities like the ones Vivica had.

Veneers have become the treatment of choice for Hollywood celebs — and lots of regular folks too — for many reasons. Unlike some treatments that can take many months, it takes just a few appointments to have veneers placed on your teeth. Because they are custom made just for you, they allow you to decide how bright you want your smile to be: anywhere from a natural pearly hue to a brilliant "Hollywood white." Best of all, they are easy to maintain, and can last for many years with only routine care.

To place traditional veneers, it's necessary to prepare the tooth by removing a small amount (a millimeter or two) of its enamel surface. This keeps it from feeling too big — but it also means the treatment can't be reversed, so once you get veneers, you'll always have them. In certain situations, "no-prep" or minimal-prep veneers, which require little or no removal of tooth enamel, may be an option for some people.

Veneers aren't the only way to create a better smile: Teeth whitening, crowns or orthodontic work may also be an alternative. But for many, veneers are the preferred option. What does Vivica think of hers?

"I love my veneers!" she declared, noting that they have held up well for over a decade.

For more information about veneers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By Thomas Leatherman, DDS
August 23, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental care  
4AreasWeMayCheckDuringYourOlderLovedOnesRegularDentalVisit

While some aspects of regular dental visits are much the same for everyone, they can be more involved for an older adult. That’s because people later in life face an increased risk of dental disease and other age-related issues.

If you’re a caregiver for an older adult, you’ll want to be aware of these heightened risks. Here are 4 areas of concern we may check during their next regular dental visit.

Oral cancer. While it can occur at any age, cancer is more prevalent among older adults. Although rarer than other cancers, oral cancer’s survival rate is a dismal 50% after five years. This is because the disease is difficult to detect early or is misidentified as other conditions. To increase the odds of early detection (and better survival chances) we may perform a cancer screening during the visit.

Dental disease. The risks for tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease also increase with age. A primary risk factor for older people is a lack of adequate saliva (the mouth’s natural disease fighter) often caused by medications or systemic conditions. We’ll watch carefully for any signs of disease, as well as assess their individual risk factors (including medications) for decreased oral health.

Dentures. If they wear dentures, we’ll check the appliance’s fit. While dentures can wear with use, the fit may also grow loose due to continuing bone loss in the jaw, a downside of denture wearing. We’ll make sure they still fit comfortably and aren’t stressing the gums or supporting teeth. It may be necessary to reline them or consider replacing them with a new set.

Oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing are just as important for older adults as for younger people for preventing dental disease, but often more difficult due to mental or physical impairment. We can note areas of bacterial plaque buildup and recommend ways to improve their hygiene efforts.

Depending on how well your older adult can care for themselves, it may be advisable for you to come with them when they visit us. Our dental team can provide valuable information and advice to help you help them have a healthier mouth.

If you would like more information on dental care for older adults, 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 “Aging & Dental Health.”