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If an adult has lost his or her teeth (a condition called “edentulism”), full removable dentures (false teeth) can restore the person's appearance and ability to bite, chew, and talk properly. Even with our current extensive knowledge about tooth care and restoration, over 25 percent of Americans have lost all their teeth by the time they are 65.
How much do you know about dentures? Test yourself below.
How does tooth loss affect your bones?
Bone is a living substance that is constantly changing and rebuilding itself, depending on signals it receives from surrounding tissues. The bone that surrounds your teeth is called alveolar bone (from “alveolus,” meaning sac-like). To keep healthy, alveolar bone needs stimulation or function such as chewing and your teeth touching your opposing teeth. If you lose your teeth, bone begins to melt away (resorb).
How can we minimize bone loss during tooth extraction?
We can maintain bone volume by using bone grafting techniques. While this sounds scary, it is a relatively easy procedure. The principle of bone grafting is to build a sort of scaffolding on which your body begins to build and maintain its own bone. Bone loss can be prevented by the placement of a few dental implants.
How are dentures designed and created?
The dentures that look best and work best for you are based on your original teeth. We often utilize photographs of how you looked with your natural teeth, along with your input about possible changes you would like to see. First we take detailed impressions (molds) of the residual ridges in which your teeth once rested. From these we make denture bases of a light cured plastic resin. We attach horseshoe-shaped rims made of wax to the bases, to simulate the position of the teeth as we work out their design and spacing, based on both appearance and function. The prosthetic teeth are then tried out in your mouth, adjustments are made, and the dentures are processed in a dental laboratory. The final product substitutes a pink colored plastic (methyl methacrylate) to represent the gums and white plastic material as the teeth, created to make them look as natural as possible.
What is your part in the denture fitting process?
As a patient with new dentures, you must learn to use your jaw joints, ligaments, nerves, and muscles in new ways to help stabilize your dentures and to relearn to speak, bite, chew, smile, and laugh with these new structures. It takes a little practice, but with your removable dentures you can once again enjoy a complete and normal life.
If your teeth have a worn appearance, it's possible you have a habit you're not even aware of: clenching or grinding your teeth. Also called “bruxism,” this destructive action causes your top and bottom teeth to come together or scrape past each other with a force that's many times what is normal for biting and chewing.
So what's normal? This can be expressed in terms of pounds. An adult usually exerts a force of 13-23 pounds to bite or chew food. But we have the potential to generate as much as 230 pounds of force, or 10 times what's normal. A “parafunctional” force of this magnitude applied repeatedly is bound to stress your teeth and other areas of your oral system. Besides wearing away the enamel of your teeth — and maybe even some of the softer dentin layer underneath — you may experience muscle spasms or pain in your jaw joints. Serious cases of wear can lead to “bite collapse” in which your face actually changes shape as your cheeks and lips lose support. This can make you look prematurely aged.
What can be done? To prevent further wear, we can fabricate for you a thin, plastic mouthguard that will protect your teeth at night or during times of intense stress. We can also recommend ways to temporarily relieve the discomfort that your grinding/clenching habits can cause. Heat and/or anti-inflammatory medication, for example, can be helpful.
If your tooth wear is minor (raggedness along the biting edge of a tooth or teeth) you may not need any restorative work. However, if tooth wear has already caused changes to your teeth and bite that you find aesthetically or functionally unacceptable, we can restore lost tooth structure in a variety of ways. Veneers and crowns are two examples.
If you have any questions about tooth wear or grinding habits, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How And Why Teeth Wear.”
Scientists don't know much about sleep even though it has been extensively studied. We do know that several hours of deep, restful sleep per night are essential for a healthy life.
Many people remain tired and unrefreshed, even after a full night's sleep. About a third of them are affected by sleep related breathing disorders (SRBD). Dentists can play a significant role in helping patients overcome these disorders, which range from frequent snoring to severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). If you think you may have such a disorder, read on.
Under normal conditions, your upper airway is open, allowing air to flow from your nose, through your throat, and into your lungs. If you suffer from SRBD, you experience frequent reductions in the flow of air to your lungs during sleep. You may not be aware of it, but sometimes your breathing may even stop for brief periods. These reductions happen when your tongue and other soft tissues in the back of your throat collapse backwards and block your upper airway or windpipe. You may briefly awaken as many as 50 times per night because of these breathing lapses. These brief awakenings, called micro-arousals, keep you from reaching the deep stages of sleep your body needs.
The resulting reduced oxygen flow to your heart and to your brain can cause serious damage. You will also be tired during the day and experience a lack of energy, even if you sleep for seven or eight hours per night. This constant drowsiness puts you at greater risk for accidents.
Because dentists generally see their patients at six-month or other regular intervals, we are in a good position to screen and refer patients with suspected SRBD to physicians for diagnosis and treatment. Dentists can also treat SRBD in a number of ways.
Medical insurance usually covers the cost of much of these treatments.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about sleep disorders and their treatments. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sleep Disorders and Dentistry.”
Yes, dental x-rays are a safe and vital tool we use for measuring and monitoring your oral health. We feel it is imperative to ensure that our patients have the facts — especially when it comes to their oral healthcare. This is why we want to respond to this important question about the safety of dental x-rays.
We want you to know what they are, how they are used, what makes them a safe and effective tool, and why they are so important to dentistry and your health. X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation, in fact, just like natural daylight, except they have a much shorter wavelength. And because they are a form of ionizing radiation, they can easily penetrate bodily tissues without causing any harm when used properly. The reasons we use them are obvious; they help us literally see what is unseen. For example, they enable us to see bone structure and roots of teeth among other things, and are commonly used for diagnosing tooth decay. Furthermore, today's x-ray machines and other image capturing techniques are so sophisticated and sensitive that the amount of radiation required for diagnosis is almost nothing when compared to what you get from the background radiation present in everyday living. In fact, the average single digital periapical (“peri” – around; “apical” – root end of a tooth) film is equal to 1/10 the amount of everyday natural environmental exposure. These facts make it clear that dental x-rays are completely safe and, thus, are nothing you need to be concerned about.
If you cringe at the appearance of your less than pearly whites when you look in the mirror, you are not alone. A frequently requested cosmetic procedure, teeth whitening is a very successful and relatively inexpensive way to enhance your smile. We can determine which whitening treatment will work best for you after performing a basic oral examination in our office. When will it work and when won't it? Here's some background:
Teeth most commonly become stained or discolored due to surface (extrinsic) changes, the most common of which are dietary and smoking. Foods including red wine, coffee, and tea can cause extrinsic staining. Teeth can also commonly become discolored or stained due to intrinsic (internal) reasons, such as changes in the structure of enamel or dentin or by incorporation of chromogenic (color generating) material into tooth tissue during formation or after eruption.
If you would like to discuss whitening your teeth with us, call today to make an appointment. To learn more about the various teeth whitening procedures, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Teeth Whitening: Brighter, Lighter, Whiterâ¦”