Put teeth in contact with acid from oral bacteria and you've created the conditions for tooth decay. Also known as caries, tooth decay is the most common human disease on the planet, responsible for destroying countless teeth.
We fortunately have effective treatments for arresting decay and minimizing its damage. But it's a far better strategy to prevent it in the first place—a strategy well within your reach if you and your dentist can reduce your individual risk factors for the disease.
Of these risk factors, there's one in particular we can't control—the genes we inherit from our parents. Researchers estimate up to 50 possible genes can influence whether or not a person develops cavities. Fortunately, though, most think the overall genetic influence has minimal impact on a person's oral health.
And although there's not much about your genetic makeup regarding cavity development that you can change, there are other factors you can definitely do something about. Here are 3 of the most important that deserve your attention if you want to prevent tooth decay.
Dental plaque. The main trigger for tooth decay and other dental diseases is a thin film of food particles on tooth surfaces called dental plaque, the main food source for the bacteria that cause disease. You can reduce this risk by removing plaque daily with brushing and flossing, along with a professional cleaning every six months.
Saliva. This essential bodily fluid helps prevent tooth decay by neutralizing acid. Problems can arise, though, if you have insufficient saliva. If you suffer from "dry mouth," you can improve saliva flow by talking to your dentist or doctor about changing medications, drinking more water or using saliva enhancement products.
Diet. Bacteria feed mainly on sugar and other refined carbohydrates. So, the more sweets, pastries and processed foods you eat, the more bacterial growth you can expect to occur. By changing your diet to more whole foods like fresh vegetables, protein and dairy, you may be able to reduce bacterial growth and your risk for decay.
Tooth decay always happens for a reason. By addressing these and other controllable risk factors, you may be able to stop decay from forming.
If you would like more information on preventing and treating tooth decay, 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 “What Everyone Should Know About Tooth Decay.”
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.”
For over three decades, Celine Dion has amazed audiences and fans with her powerful singing voice. Best known for her recording of "My Heart Will Go On," the theme song for the movie Titanic, Dion has amassed global record sales topping 200 million. In her early singing days, though, she struggled with one particular career obstacle: an unattractive smile.
The Canadian-born performer had a number of dental defects including crooked and discolored teeth, and—most prominent of all—abnormally large cuspid or "canine" teeth (located on either side of the four front incisors). They were so noticeable that one Quebec celebrity magazine gave her the unflattering nickname "Canine Dion."
This isn't an unusual problem. Since human canines are already the longest teeth in the mouth, it doesn't take much for them to stand out. Our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors needed these large, pointed teeth to survive. But with the evolution of agriculture and industry, canine teeth have become gradually smaller—so much so that when they're abnormally large, they don't look right in a smile.
So, what can be done if your canines embarrassingly stand out from the rest? Here are some of the options to consider.
Reduce their size. If your canines are just a tad too long, it may be possible to remove some of the enamel layer in a procedure called contouring. Using this technique, we can reduce a tooth's overall size, which we then re-shape by bonding composite resin to the tooth. It's only a good option, though, if your canines have an ample and healthy layer of enamel.
Repair other teeth. The problem of prominent canine teeth may actually be caused by neighboring teeth. When the teeth next to the canines are crooked, the canines can appear more prominent. Alternatively, other teeth around the canines may be abnormally small. Braces or clear aligners can correct crooked incisors, and applying porcelain veneers to smaller teeth could help normalize their length.
Apply dental crowns. In some instances, we can reduce the canines in size and then bond porcelain crowns to them. This is the option that Dion ultimately chose. The natural teeth are still intact, but the crowning process transforms them into properly proportioned, life-like teeth. There is, however, one caveat: The alteration to these teeth will be permanent, so they will need a crown from then on.
Besides crowning her canine teeth, Dion also underwent other dental work to straighten and whiten her other teeth. As a result, this superstar performer now has a superstar smile to match and so can you if your teeth are less than perfect. These or other cosmetic enhancements can give you the look you truly desire. All it takes is an initial visit with us to start you on the road to a transformed smile.
If you would like more information about various cosmetic solutions for your smile, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Porcelain Dental Crowns.”
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.”
This website includes materials that are protected by copyright, or other proprietary rights. Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use, as defined in the copyright laws, requires the written permission of the copyright owners.