Our smiles are our “calling cards” for first impressions. When our front teeth are missing, chipped or otherwise damaged, it will certainly make an impression — and not a positive one.
The good news is many aesthetic problems with front teeth can be remedied with the use of composite resins. This cost-effective treatment choice not only minimizes a negative appearance, but can actually create a positive smile transformation.
Composite resins are tooth-colored materials made up of two or more polymer substances. We call materials like these biomimetic, meaning something non-living that’s fashioned to appear or “mimic” something living. Composite resins are made of substances that aren’t teeth, but fashioned to look and function like teeth.
Composite resin restorations are bonded to the outside of the tooth with dental adhesive, with little to no preparation of the enamel surface of the tooth. They’re best suited for teeth with minor to moderate damage from decay or trauma, but where the majority of the structure is still viable and intact.
These restorations require skill and an artistic eye to achieve the most life-like result. One of the most important considerations is tooth color. The natural color of your teeth is actually a combination of color from the inner core of the tooth, the dentin, and the outer enamel layer. Much of the color comes from the dentin as it shows through the translucence of the enamel. The intensity and hue also changes along the length of the tooth — there are subtle zones of color that run vertically along the length of the crown (the visible portion of the tooth). Our aim is to replicate this variety of color in the restoration and affix it in such a way that it blends with the natural color of surrounding teeth.
Composite resins aren’t the best option for all situations; depending on the tooth’s condition and location, a porcelain veneer may be the better choice. After a thorough dental examination, we can make the best recommendation for your situation. If conditions are right, a composite resin restoration could transform your smile and your life.
If you would like more information on front teeth repair options, 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 “Artistic Repair of Front Teeth With Composite Resin.”
It is sometimes hard to believe all of the features and characteristics that we inherit from our parents. Whether you're tall, short, blue-eyed or blonde, you can usually attribute some of these features to your mother and father. Of course, the downside of genetics is that diseases and disorders are also linked to genes.
Well, you can add gum tissue to that list as well! Genetics actually determines whether you have what we call “thin” or “thick” gum tissue. How does this work? Well, the type of gum tissue you have relies heavily on the shape of your tooth, which indeed is genetically-coded. If you have a triangular tooth shape, you'll likely have thin gums. If you have a squarer tooth shape, you'll usually have thick gums.
So, what can you expect from each tissue type?
If you have a thin gum tissue type, you are more likely to have gum recession. Watch out for the following signs of gum recession:
- Sensitivity to hot or cold, even without the presence of dental decay
- If you have crowns on your teeth, you may see a dark gray line at the gum line from the metal casting beneath the crown
- Small dark triangular spaces between teeth
On the other hand, if you have a thicker tissue type, your gums are more vulnerable to dental disease through a condition called “pocketing.” This happens when bacterial plaque causes your tissue to become inflamed, lose its attachment to the teeth and develop a pocket. Pocketing can result in bone loss, and, in worst-case scenarios, tooth loss.
It's important to note that while we use these terms to categorize different tissue types for treatment decisions, your tissue may also fall somewhere in between the two varieties.
So, how can you prevent gum disease? Daily oral hygiene is the best way to ensure proper care of your gums, no matter what type you have. Be sure to brush twice daily (use a soft toothbrush) and floss regularly at night. Floss gently until you hear a squeak, but watch out for your gum line. And of course, continue to visit us two times a year, so that we can assess whether you are in danger of developing gum disease.
If you would like more information about genetics and gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Genetics and Gum Tissue Types.”
When you or a family member takes a traumatic hit to the mouth, what should you do? Besides immediate first aid, your next action will depend on the extent of damage to any teeth. What you do and when you do it may even determine whether an injured tooth is eventually saved or lost.
If a tooth has been completely knocked out, you have about five minutes to replace the tooth in the socket to give it the best chance of reattachment and long-term survival. While we can certainly perform this action in our office, getting to us within five minutes may not be possible. Fortunately, any person can perform this action on site (see the article linked below for basic instructions on replantation). If for some that's not possible, you should control bleeding at the tooth site with direct pressure, place the recovered tooth in milk or the patient's saliva, and see us as soon as possible.
If, however, the injured tooth has been obviously knocked out of line but not completely detached from its socket, you have a small cushion of time to seek dental treatment — but not much. For this degree of injury, you should see us within six hours of the incident. We will be able to determine the exact nature of the injury, and treat the condition by moving the teeth back into proper position and splinting them.
You have up to twelve hours for broken or chipped teeth still in their normal position. Try to locate and save any broken-off fragments — it may be possible to re-bond them to the teeth. Although it may not be as urgent as other situations, you should still seek treatment as soon as possible. A broken tooth could leave the inner pulp exposed — a situation that left untreated could lead to eventual tooth loss.
Traumatic injuries to the mouth can have serious consequences for your long-term dental health. With our consultation and treatment efforts, we can help you save an injured tooth.
If you would like more information on caring for dental injuries, 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 Field-Side Guide to Dental Injuries.”
Smiling feels great and makes others feel good as well. But if you are self-conscious about exposing teeth that are showing imperfections or excessive wear, you may not be smiling as broadly as you should be. Fortunately, there are ways to correct the esthetic issues that might be holding you back. One involves covering the natural tooth partly or completely with a natural-looking but flawless “facade.”
Perhaps you've heard about dental veneers and crowns? Both can achieve similar, eye-pleasing results by changing the shape and color of your teeth and even helping to compensate for uneven spacing or alignment. And both are custom-designed for your teeth. So what's the difference and which is right for you?
One distinguishing feature is the amount of tooth each covers. A veneer is a wafer-thin layer of dental porcelain that bonds to the front of your tooth. A crown, also fashioned from dental porcelain, fits over and covers the entire existing tooth, like a hood, right down to the gum. With either approach, to ensure the best, most natural fit, some of the natural tooth structure must be reduced by a minimal amount. In the case of veneers, up to 1 mm of tooth enamel — about the thinness of a fingernail — is removed. Crowns are generally thicker than veneers, so in their case the removal of at least 2 mm of tooth is needed.
Another difference between veneers and crowns is the situations in which one might be more suitable than the other to achieve the desired results. For example, a crown may be necessary when too much tooth structure has been lost to decay or other problems, or for use on back teeth that have to withstand greater impact from biting and chewing. A dental professional can make a recommendation based on your goals, the condition of the tooth or teeth in question, and other factors.
Either way, both veneers and crowns are an excellent solution for a range of esthetic concerns — from poor tooth color/staining, chips and cracks, and excessive wear at the bottom of teeth (from bruxism, a term for teeth grinding) to making small teeth look larger, closing minor gaps between teeth, and making slight corrections in alignment.
If you would like more information about veneers and crowns, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Porcelain Crowns & Veneers” and “Porcelain Veneers: Strength & Beauty As Never Before.”
For well over a century, removable dentures have been the main treatment option for patients suffering from severe or total edentulism (loss of teeth). In recent years, however, the dental implant has been recognized as the best option because it can provide patients with permanent tooth replacement, and even more so as implant technology continues to advance.
But while permanent tooth replacement using implants offer more comfort and a better fit than dentures, they are more expensive, sometimes out of the financial reach of many patients. There is, however, one alternative for the lower jaw that blends the two options for tooth replacement into one. This alternative is known as an implant overdenture.
The implant overdenture begins just as a fixed dental implant would: we surgically implant two titanium posts into the lower jaw and allow them to fuse with the bone over time (thanks to the unique way that bone interacts with titanium). But rather than next affixing a porcelain crown to the post as we would with a dental implant, we would instead fashion a denture that fits over the two posts (hence the term overdenture). The overdenture has receiver sites that connect securely with the titanium posts to hold the overdenture in place. This ensures a snug fit with no slippage — resulting in better ability for the wearer to chew food and speak — and without the continuous need for dental adhesive. And just as with traditional dentures, you can remove the overdenture for cleaning.
It might also be an optimal solution for patients with severe issues involving bone loss or compromised teeth that make it difficult for them to support either a fixed prosthesis or a traditional removable denture.
This option does have some drawbacks: since it's still a removable denture, it can still move during meals and food can sometimes get underneath it, which can be annoying. Also, overdentures for the upper jaw require more than two implants because the upper bone is less dense; thus because of a greater number of implants, an upper overdenture is more costly than a lower one.
In the end, an implant overdenture to the lower jaw might be an optimal solution for you — financially and practically — to restore function from severe or total edentulism.
If you would like more information on implant overdentures, 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 “Implant Overdentures for the Lower Jaw.”
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