Posts for: May, 2012
Of all the of amazing procedures in today's dentistry, surgery that causes new bone to grow — in places where it had previously been lost — is high on the list of the most extraordinary. (When bone is lost or resorbed, it is broken down into its mineral components, which are dissolved into the bloodstream. Resorption of tooth-supporting bone often takes place after teeth are lost.) Dental techniques that cause new bone growth are important because a certain amount of bone is needed to replace lost teeth with dental implants.
Today's dental implants themselves are an amazing innovation. Implants consist of a replacement for the tooth's root, usually made of a metal called titanium. A replacement for the crown, the part of the tooth that is visible above the gums, is attached to the titanium root. Titanium has the remarkable quality of being able to fuse with the bone in which it is anchored. This process, first discovered in the 1950s, is called osseointegration.
In the case of missing upper back teeth, many people who wanted dental implants in the past were told that they did not have enough bone to anchor the implants and that they had to get removable dentures instead.
But now a new surgery called maxillary sinus augmentation can cause your body to regenerate bone where it was lost and is needed to anchor dental implants.
Bone in the upper jaw or maxilla usually supports your upper back teeth. Inside the maxilla, on either side of your upper jaw, are air spaces in the bone, which are lined with a membrane. These spaces, called the maxillary sinuses, are generally shaped like pyramids; but their shape and size is different in each person. The new surgical procedures involve lifting up the sinus membrane in the area where bone is needed and filling the space thus created with a bone grafting material. Your body then creates new bone to fill the space. This usually takes about six months. If you have almost enough bone to stabilize the implants, they can be placed simultaneously with the graft, thus saving time and avoiding a second surgical procedure.
All grafting materials used today are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and must be prepared according to their guidelines. They are specially treated to render them completely safe for human use.
After the surgery there is usually no more than mild to moderate swelling and some discomfort, about the same as having a tooth removed.
If you are missing upper back teeth, contact us to schedule an appointment to evaluate your upper jaw. You can also learn more about this procedure by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sinus Surgery.”
Why is it important to replace missing teeth with restorations such as dental implants? You might be surprised to find that the damage caused by missing teeth is much greater than the simple gaps left in your smile.
As the years go by, teeth lost early in adulthood cause structural changes in a person's face. By age 45 changes in facial structure are already visible in the form of sunken cheeks. By 60, cheeks and lips lose their support, resulting in an aging look. This process continues and if the teeth are not replaced, much of the structural support of the person's face is lost.
These changes are caused by loss of bone. Although it may seem static, bone is actually living tissue that needs constant stimulation to maintain its form and density. With normal stimulation it is in a constant state of resorption (breaking down) and deposition (building up). Teeth provide the needed stimulation for the bone that surrounds them (called alveolar bone) as they meet each other during biting, chewing, and speech. When the stimulation continues, the bone continues to rebuild itself. Without this stimulation, the bone resorbs, does not build up again, and loses substance.
Without stimulation, alveolar bone loses width, height, and volume. Since your teeth and their surrounding bone support your chin, cheeks, and lips, this has a powerful effect on your appearance. It may also affect your ability to chew and to speak.
As alveolar bone diminishes, the next layer of bone also begins to resorb. This is the bone of the jaw itself. The lower part of the face begins to collapse, and the cheeks become hollow. This effect is especially noticeable for people with no teeth (edentulous).
Usually the first tooth to be lost, due to infection and decay, is a molar (back tooth). In the past, a missing single back tooth was frequently replaced by a fixed partial denture (FPD). A crown is provided for each of the two teeth on the sides of the gap, called abutment teeth, to support a false tooth in the middle. However, if they are not well cared for, the abutment teeth may be the next to succumb to decay.
Today the treatment of choice is an implant. A dental implant is a tooth-root replacement made of titanium, which fuses with the bone — making it very stable. Above the gums it is covered by a crown that looks like a natural tooth. The benefit of the implant is that it continues to provide stimulation to the alveolar bone, preventing bone loss.
Implants are also a good choice in the case of multiple missing teeth. They can be used to support bridges or false teeth (dentures). The results are an improved, younger appearance and better functionality.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about missing teeth. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”
Until recently anyone who needed to repair cavities in his or her teeth ended up with a mouth full of “silver” fillings. Dental amalgam, which has a silver appearance, was the tooth restoration material of choice. Amalgam, a combination of metals including silver, mercury, and other metals, is still used — but today there are other options that mimic the original teeth they are restoring.
You may have read about some people's concerns about the mercury used in dental amalgam. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), scientific studies have found no ill effects arising from using dental amalgam in fillings for adults or children: “While questions have arisen about the safety of dental amalgam relating to its mercury content, the major US and international scientific and health bodies, including the National Institutes of Health, the US Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization, among others have been satisfied that dental amalgam is a safe, reliable and effective restorative material.” Dental amalgam is still used for molars (back teeth) that must withstand heavy pressure from chewing.
For teeth that are more visible, materials that look and perform more like the original teeth — and are thus more pleasing in appearance — are now available. Dentistry is now taking a “biomimetic approach” (from words meaning “life mimicking”). The new materials — composite resins and porcelains — look like teeth because in many ways their structure imitates the biologic structure of teeth.
Composite resins are made of a plastic material (methacrylate) combined with fillers made of silica, a form of glass. They are able to bond to natural tooth structure and resemble the dentin, the inner layer of the tooth, which has a porous structure similar to bone.
Dental porcelains are a form of ceramic. They are non-metallic materials formed by the action of heat, like the ceramics used in porcelain cups and bowls. They come in a powder form that is mixed with water, shaped, and then placed in an oven until they reach the proper hardness. The end product is translucent and very hard, resembling the densely packed crystals of calcium that make up a tooth's normal outer layer, the enamel.
The old amalgam fillings required removal of tooth material to prepare a site in which they could be placed. Composite resins and porcelains can be used to treat teeth that have small or large amounts of damage to their natural substance because the materials bond directly to the remaining dentin and enamel. Thus they end up stabilizing and strengthening the restored tooth, as well as providing a natural-looking appearance.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about tooth colored fillings. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Natural Beauty of Tooth Colored Fillings.”
Modern dental implants not only help you maintain your normal chewing ability and speech patterns after you have lost a tooth or teeth — they also keep you looking younger. How do they do this? Read on.
Do lost teeth cause tooth-supporting bone to “melt” away? Yes. Of course, the bone does not actually melt. Bone is a living tissue, and under normal conditions it constantly dissolves and rebuilds. Stimulation by the small stresses from the contact of upper and lower teeth — something that normally happens hundreds of times each day — keeps these two forces in balance. When a tooth is missing, the bone that normally surrounds and supports the tooth (called alveolar bone) no longer receives the stimulation that causes it to rebuild, and it begins to diminish over time.
What happens if you don't replace missing teeth? The first year after a tooth is lost, the width of the bone that once surrounded the tooth decreases by 25 percent. Over the years, gradually increasing bone loss results in sunken cheeks and lips, making you look older. Gum tissue also decreases, affecting your ability to chew and speak.
What happens if you lose all your teeth? For people who have lost all their teeth, called edentulous, the effects are severe. After the alveolar bone is lost, the bone beneath it, called basal bone, also begins to be resorbed, eventually causing the lower part of the face to partially collapse.
Do partial or full dentures prevent bone loss? Unfortunately, just the contrary is true. A removable denture pressing on a person's gum increases bone loss because the pressures from biting are not transferred into the internal structure of the bone but instead are compressive, which damages the bone over time. This is why dentures begin to fit poorly after they have been worn for a while. This problem can be reduced by anchoring dentures with strategically placed dental implants.
What is a dental implant? A dental implant is a tooth-root replacement that is made of titanium. This metal is able to osseointegrate, or fuse with the bone. For a single tooth replacement, a crown that looks and functions like natural tooth is attached to the titanium implant. As mentioned above, implants can also be used to anchor dentures.
Does an implant prevent bone loss? Yes. When dental implants fuse to the jaw bone, they stabilize the bone. They also provide tooth-to-tooth stimulation that was formerly supplied by the natural tooth.
How long do dental implants last? Dental implants have been shown to last at least 10 years. For most people, implants will last the rest of their lives.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about tooth loss and dental implants. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”
Dentist - Charlotte
7920 Moores Chapel Rd #A
Charlotte, NC 28214
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