Posts for: December, 2013
Once upon a time, when you had a cavity, you went to the dentist and came back with a tooth filled with metal: the common silver (or, technically speaking, “dental amalgam”) filling. But today — driven by dental researchers' quest to find a better filling material, and by the desire of many people to avoid a mouth full of dull gray metal — there are other choices.
In recent years, metal-free, tooth-colored fillings have evolved into a well-established treatment method that's finding increasing use — not just in the front of the mouth, where it's most visible, but in the back too. To help understand the benefits of these new materials, let's start by looking at the structure of the tooth.
We usually think of teeth as being hard, sturdy and durable. But did you know that their crowns, or top surfaces above the gums, actually flex under the force of the bite? Understanding the composition and behavior of teeth has led researchers to develop newer and better materials for restoration. These include improved dental porcelains and composite resins which more closely mimic the natural teeth in both function and form: That is, they're strong and good-looking too.
What's more, using these materials for fillings may mean that you can get the same result with a more conservative treatment. How? It all comes down to tooth structure. To secure a traditional amalgam (silver) filling, a tooth often had to be shaped with “undercuts,” which helped hold the material in place. This meant the removal of a greater amount of tooth structure, potentially leading to chipping or cracking of the tooth down the road.
Enter composite resins. Bonding these materials to the underlying tooth doesn't require undercutting, so less of the healthy tooth is removed. That makes for a more robust tooth structure, with potentially greater longevity. Combine that advantage with the aesthetic appeal of a restoration that's hard to tell apart from natural teeth, and you've got a winning combination.
There are different options available for restorations with tooth-colored materials. These range from quick, single-visit fillings for small cavities, to the fabrication of more extensive replicas of the tooth for complicated restorations. Exactly which treatment is needed will depend on an individual's particular dental issue and the kind of results they desire. Whatever the case may be, we can listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and offer the best advice regarding your treatment options.
If you would like more information about tooth-colored 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 “The Natural Beauty of Tooth-Colored Fillings.”
When asked about her dazzling white smile, Cat Cora, the first female iron chef on the hit television series Iron Chef America, freely admits to maintaining the brightness of her smile with professional whitening sessions.
“With what I do, whitening your teeth is like getting your hair done, your nails done and everything else you have to do to be on television,” Cat recently told Dear Doctor magazine. However, she does have her limits. “I want my teeth to be white and healthy looking — but not stark white or looking like they could glow in the dark,” she said with a laugh.
Cat's perceptions and experiences with tooth whitening may accurately describe Hollywood, but through the power of media, celebrities and their respective fan bases, having attractive white teeth has become a goal for most people. This is because white teeth are subconsciously associated with youth and virility.
Here in the dental office, we can use professional-strength “power bleaching” to whiten teeth several shades in a single visit. To prevent irritation to the area surrounding the teeth being treated, we isolate the gums and skin of the mouth with a protective gel or a rubber barrier known as a dental dam. After the whitening solution is placed on the teeth, the process may be supplemented by heat or a light source to activate or enhance peroxide release.
For bleaching teeth at home, our office can make custom-fitted bleaching trays that you fill with a gel form of carbamide peroxide. Sometimes this whitening gel can cause a temporary tooth sensitivity to hot and cold, but this normally lasts for no more than four days after you stop bleaching your teeth.
To learn more about tooth whitening, you can continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Teeth Whitening.” Or you can contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can conduct a thorough examination and discuss what treatment options will be best for you. And to read the entire interview with Cat Cora, please see the article “Cat Cora.”
There’s more to tooth loss than you might think. Because teeth are part of a larger system that facilitates speaking, eating and digestion, a lost tooth could eventually affect your overall health.
Tooth loss is actually about bone loss. As living tissue, bone continually reforms in response to stimuli it receives from the body. The alveolar bone (which surrounds and supports the teeth) receives such stimuli as the teeth chew and bite, as well as when they contact each other. All these stresses — hundreds a day — transmit through the periodontal ligament to the bone, stimulating it to grow and remodel.
A lost tooth reduces this stimulation and causes the alveolar bone to resorb (dissolve) — as much as 25% of its width the first year alone. Unless the process is stopped, the underlying basal bone and the periodontal (gum) tissue will begin to resorb too. Without this structural support the facial height shrinks and the front teeth begin to push forward, making chewing and speaking more difficult. These teeth begin performing functions outside their normal range, leading to damage and possible loss.
The primary goal of oral hygiene and dental care is to prevent tooth loss. When tooth loss does occur, however, it’s then important to restore the lost tooth with an artificial replacement if at all possible — not only to regain form and function, but to also stop further bone loss.
While the fixed partial denture (FPD), also known as a fixed bridge, has been the restoration of choice for many decades, dental implants may be the better long-term option. Although more expensive initially, implants can achieve a life-like restoration without involving or altering adjacent teeth as with FPDs. Plaque retention and tartar accumulations are much less likely with an implant, and the bone-loving quality of titanium, the metal used for implants, actually encourages bone growth. As a result, implants have a much higher longevity rate than FPDs.
Taking care of your teeth through effective hygiene practices and regular checkups may help you avoid tooth loss altogether. But if it can’t be avoided, restoring lost teeth is the single most important thing you can do to prevent even greater problems down the road.
If you would like more information on dental implants, 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 “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”