Posts for: February, 2018
There are usually two moments when primary (“baby”) teeth generate excitement in your family: when you first notice them in your child’s mouth, and when they come out (and are headed for a rendezvous with the “tooth fairy”!).
Between these two moments, you might not give them much thought. But you should—although primary teeth don’t last long, they play a pivotal role in the replacing permanent teeth’s long-term health.
This is because a primary tooth is a kind of guide for the permanent one under development in the gums. It serves first as a “space saver,” preventing nearby teeth from drifting into where the permanent tooth would properly erupt; and, it provides a pathway for the permanent tooth to travel during eruption. If it’s lost prematurely (from injury or, more likely, disease) the permanent tooth may erupt out of position because the other teeth have crowded the space.
That’s why we try to make every reasonable effort to save a problem primary tooth. If decay, for example, has advanced deep within the tooth pulp, we may perform a modified root canal treatment to remove the diseased tissue and seal the remaining pulp from further infection. In some circumstances we may cap the tooth with a stainless steel crown (or possibly a white crown alternative) to protect the remaining structure of the tooth.
Of course, even the best efforts can fall short. If the tooth must be removed, we would then consider preserving the empty space with a space maintainer. This orthodontic device usually takes the form of a metal band that’s cemented to a tooth on one side of the empty space with a stiff wire loop soldered to it that crosses the space to rest against the tooth on the other side. The wire loop prevents other teeth from crowding in, effectively “maintaining” the space for the permanent tooth.
Regular dental visits, plus your child’s daily brushing and flossing, are also crucial in preventing primary teeth from an “early departure.” Keeping them for their full lifespan will help prevent problems that could impact your child’s dental health future.
If you would like more information on the right care approach for primary teeth, 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 “Importance of Baby Teeth.”
Due to financial circumstances, people often have a lost tooth restored with a removable partial denture, an effective appliance that restores function and a degree of aesthetic appearance. Later, though, they may want to improve both function and appearance with a dental implant.
If this describes you, you’re making a great choice. Dental implants are the closest technology we have to a natural tooth. But there may be a roadblock to your implant, especially if a long time has passed since your tooth loss—there may not be enough bone at the site to place an implant.
The heart of an implant is a titanium metal post surgically imbedded in the jawbone. The titanium naturally attracts bone cells, which grow and adhere to it to form a solid hold that can support a porcelain crown or other restorations like bridges or dentures. But to achieve a natural appearance it’s important that the implant is placed in the right location. To achieve that requires adequate bone.
But there may not be adequate bone if the tooth has been missing for a while. The forces generated when we chew travel through the teeth to the jawbone, which stimulates bone growth. If that stimulus is absent because of a missing tooth, new bone cells may not replace older ones at a healthy rate and the total bone volume begins to diminish. A denture can’t compensate and, in fact, accelerates bone loss.
But there may be a solution: bone grafting. With this procedure we place a donor bone graft into the area of bone deficiency some time before implant surgery. The graft serves as a scaffold for new bone cells to grow upon. Hopefully, this will produce enough healthy bone to support an implant. If the bone deficiency is minor, we may place the implant and the bone graft at the same time.
If you have experienced bone loss, we must first determine the amount of bone at the missing tooth site and whether grafting is a viable option. Bone grafting postpones your implant, but the delay will be worth the wait if we’re successful. With increased bone volume you’ll be able to obtain a new tooth that’s superior to your current restoration.
The mark of a great dental restoration is that you can’t see it. It’s there in plain sight, but others observing your new and improved smile can’t tell the difference between the restoration and your natural teeth. Everything looks, well, natural.
That’s the great advantage of dental porcelain. A dental technician with technical skill and artistic flair can form this inorganic, ceramic material into a life-like replica of your tooth, with a shape and color that blends in with the rest of your teeth. And because of its strength properties, porcelain restorations can hold up to the normal chewing and biting forces in your mouth, as long as you use prudence when biting down on hard substances.
Porcelain is also highly adaptable to different kinds of restorations. For natural teeth still viable but no longer attractive, porcelain can be the main ingredient in two very popular and effective restorations, the veneer and the crown. Although the porcelain material is the same for both, their construction and application are quite different.
Veneers are very thin laminated layers of dental porcelain custom-colored and shaped for bonding to the outer visible portion of a tooth. They’re a great solution for relatively decay-free teeth that have minor to moderate defects like chipping, slight misalignment or heavy staining. They often require some permanent removal of tooth enamel to ensure their appearance isn’t too bulky, but causes minimal impact to the tooth.
Crowns, on the other hand, are complete tooth replicas that are bonded in place over an existing tooth like a cap. They’re a good choice for teeth in which the root and inner layers are still viable, but the tooth has been significantly damaged by decay or trauma. They’re also useful as a protective cover for teeth that have undergone root canal treatment. But unlike the minimal impact of veneers, crowns require significant tooth alterations to accommodate them.
In either case, though, the end result is much the same: both crowns and veneers can be fashioned to precisely mimic the shape, color and texture of natural teeth. In skillful hands, these porcelain restorations can transform your smile for the better and no one but you and your dentist will ever need to know.
If you would like more information on porcelain 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 Crowns & Veneers.”