Historically speaking, implants are a recent blip on the centuries-long march of dental progress. But few innovations in dentistry can match the impact of implants in its short history on dental function and appearance.
Dental implant therapy has already established itself as a restoration game-changer. But it also continues to improve, thanks to a number of emerging technologies. As a result, implant restorations are far more secure and life-like than ever before.
Here are 3 examples of state-of-the-art technologies that continue to improve this premier dental restoration.
CT/CBCT scanning. Functional and attractive implants depend on precise placement. But various anatomical structures like nerves or sinuses often interfere with placement, so it's important to locate these potential obstructions during the planning phase. To do so, we're increasingly turning to computed tomography (CT). This form of x-ray diagnostics is the assembly of hundreds of images of a jaw location into a three-dimensional model. This gives us a much better view of what lies beneath the gums.
Digital-enhanced planning. Implant success also depends on careful planning. And, it isn't a one-sided affair: The patient's input is just as important as the dentist's expertise. To aid in that process, many dentists are using digital technology to produce a virtual image of a patient's current dental state and what their teeth may look like after dental implants. This type of imaging also allows consideration of a variety of options, including different sized implants and positions, before finalizing the final surgical plan.
Custom surgical guides. To transfer the final plan details to the actual implant procedure, we often create a physical surgical guide placed in the mouth that marks the precise locations for drilling. We can now produce these guides with 3-D printing, a process that uses computer software to produce or "print" a physical object. In this case, the 3-D printer creates a more accurate surgical guide based on the exact contours of a patient's dental arch that's more precise than conventional guides.
Obtaining a dental implant is a highly refined process. And, with the aid of other advances in dental technology, it continues to provide increasing value to patients.
If you would like more information on restoring teeth with 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 “How Technology Aids Dental Implant Therapy.”
In the realm of dental restorations, not all crowns are alike. And, one type isn't necessarily superior to the others. One type of crown may work better for a particular tooth, while a different crown is better suited to another.
Therefore, knowing your options can help you make a more informed choice with your dentist regarding the best crown for your needs. Here, then, is a quick primer on the main types of dental crowns used today.
Metal crowns. Early in the last century, crowns made of gold, silver or other metals were the go-to dental restoration. Because of their strength and durability, metal crowns are still used today, mainly in back teeth that encounter heavy biting forces. Their drawback: They're decidedly not the color of natural teeth and so can stand out if they're placed in the visible "smile zone."
PFM crowns. The first crowns made with dental porcelain solved the appearance problem, but couldn't adequately handle biting forces as well as metal. Out of this came the porcelain fused to metal (PFM) crown, which contains an inner core of metal overlaid with tooth-colored porcelain. Providing both strength and life-likeness, PFM crowns were immensely popular until the mid-2000s.
All-Ceramic crowns. The development of porcelains more durable than earlier versions eventually dethroned the PFM (although the latter is still used today). Sixty percent of the crowns installed in recent years are all-ceramic, many reinforced with a strength material known as Lucite. Many all-ceramic crowns reaching the 15-year mark are still in place and functioning.
All of these crowns continue to be viable options for dental patients. The biggest factor in choosing one particular crown over another is the type of tooth involved and its location. As mentioned before, metal or PFM crowns are usually better for back teeth where durability is a higher priority than aesthetics. All-ceramics work well in high-visibility front teeth that normally encounter lighter biting forces than back teeth.
Regardless of which kind eventually caps your tooth, any of today's modern crowns will function as intended. But the best crown for you will be the one that both protects your tooth and enhances your smile.
If you would like more information on dental crown restorations, 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 Dental Crowns.”
Until recently, the standard treatment for tooth decay remained essentially the same for nearly a century: Remove any decayed structure, then prepare and fill the cavity. But that singular protocol has begun to change recently.
Although "drilling and filling" saves teeth, it doesn't fully address the causes of decay. In response, dentists have broadened their approach to the disease—the focus now is on an individual patient's particular set of risk factors for decay and how to reduce those.
At the heart of this new approach is a better understanding of oral bacteria, the true cause of decay. Bacteria produce acid, which can erode tooth enamel and create a gateway into the tooth for decay to advance. We therefore want to lower those risk factors that may lead to bacterial growth and elevated acidity.
One of our major objectives in this newer approach is to reduce plaque, a thin film of food particles used by bacteria for food and habitation. Removing plaque, principally through better oral hygiene, in turn reduces decay-causing bacteria.
Plaque isn't the only mechanism for bacterial growth and acidity. Appliances like dentures or retainers accumulate bacteria if not regularly cleaned. Reduced saliva flow, often due to certain medications or smoking, limits this fluid's ability to buffer acid and acid reflux or acidic beverages like sodas, sports or energy drinks can disrupt the mouth's normal pH and increase the risk for enamel erosion.
Our aim, then, is to develop a long-term strategy based on the patient's individual set of oral disease risk factors. To determine those, we'll need to examine their medical history (including family), current health status and lifestyle habits. From there, we can create a specific plan targeting the identified risk factors for decay.
Some of the elements of such a strategy might include:
- Daily brushing and flossing, along with regular dental cleanings;
- Fluoride dental products or treatments to strengthen enamel;
- Changes in diet and excess snacking, and ceasing from any tobacco use;
- Cleaning and maintaining appliances, as well as monitoring past dental work.
Improving the mouth environment by limiting the presence of oral bacteria and acid can reduce the occurrence of tooth decay and the extent of treatment that might be needed. It's a more nuanced approach that can improve dental health.
If you would like more information on tooth decay prevention and treatment, 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 “Tooth Decay: How to Assess Your Risk.”
If you're a fan of former NFL player and current host of Good Morning America Michael Strahan, then you're well aware of his unique smile feature—a noticeable gap between his front teeth. So far, Strahan has nixed any dental work to correct the gap, often saying it was part of "who I am."
But if you follow him on Twitter, you may have been shocked by a video he posted on March 30th of him sitting in a dentist's chair. Calling it a "moment fifty years in the making," Strahan said, "Let's do it." After some brief video shots of a dental procedure, Strahan revealed a new gapless smile.
But some of his Twitter fans weren't buying it—given the timing, they sniffed an elaborate April Fool's Day ruse. It turns out their spider senses were on target: Strahan appeared once again after the video with his signature gap still intact, grinning over the reaction to his successful prank.
The uproar from his practical joke is all the more hilarious because Strahan has let it be known he's truly comfortable with his smile "imperfection." But it also took him awhile to reach that point of acceptance, a well-known struggle for many people. On the one hand, they want to fix their dental flaws and improve their smile. But then again, they're hesitant to part with the little "imperfections" that make them unique.
If that's you, here are some tips to help you better navigate what best to do about improving your smile.
See a cosmetic dentist. A cosmetic dentist is singularly focused on smile enhancement, and particularly in helping patients decide what changes they want or need. If you're looking for such a dentist, seek recommendations from friends and family who've changed their smiles in ways you find appealing.
Get a "smile analysis." Before considering specific cosmetic measures, it's best to first get the bigger picture through an examination called a "smile analysis." Besides identifying the defects in your smile, a cosmetic dentist will use the analysis to gauge the effect any proposed improvements may have on your overall facial appearance.
Embrace reality. A skilled cosmetic dentist will also evaluate your overall oral health and assess how any cosmetic procedures might impact it. This might change your expectations if it whittles down the list of enhancement possibilities, but it may help determine what you can do to get the best improved smile possible.
A great cosmetic dentist will work diligently with you to achieve a new smile that's uniquely you. Even if, like Michael Strahan, you decide to keep a trademark "imperfection," there may still be room for other enhancements that will change your appearance for the better.
We like to think we're more prone to stress in our modern, fast-paced world than those who lived in "simpler" times, but a finding from the recent discovery of Richard the III's remains in England suggests differently. Investigators noted the king had well-worn teeth, perhaps from grinding them out of stress.
We can't be sure this was the cause for the king's dental problems, or if teeth grinding was common in the 15th Century. But we are sure the problem exists today among adults.
Tooth grinding is the grinding, gnashing or clenching of teeth involuntarily when not engaged in regular dental functions like eating or speaking. It can occur while a person is awake, but most often while they're asleep.
The habit regularly occurs in children, but is not considered a major problem as most outgrow it by adolescence, usually with no lingering damage. Not so with adults: Because the habit generates abnormally high biting forces, teeth grinding can lead to accelerated tooth wear. It can also weaken teeth, making them more susceptible to fracture or disease.
People who grind their teeth will typically awaken with sore jaws or the complaints of family members about the loud chattering noise emitted during an episode. If you suspect a problem, you should see your dentist for a definitive diagnosis, and to learn how to reduce its occurrence and effects.
Treatments for the habit vary depending on underlying causes. They may involve lifestyle changes like quitting tobacco, limiting alcohol or altering your use of certain drugs or medications. Because stress is often a major factor, learning better relaxation techniques through meditation, group therapy or biofeedback may also help reduce teeth grinding.
These treatments, though, can take time, so you may also need ways to minimize the effects of the habit in the meantime. One of those ways is for your dentist to create an occlusal guard that you wear while you sleep. The guard prevents the teeth from making solid contact, thus reducing the potential biting forces.
It's important, then, to see your dentist as soon as possible if you suspect you're grinding your teeth. Finding out as early as possible and then taking positive steps to stop or reduce its effect can save your teeth from a good deal of harm.
If you would like more information on teeth grinding, 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 “Teeth Grinding.”
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