Posts for: September, 2013
You've taken good care of your teeth all your life, with brushing, flossing and regular visits to the dentist. But chances are that someday (or maybe even now) you may be told that you need a restoration on one or more of your teeth. Oftentimes, that means a crown.
But what exactly is a crown, and why is it used? We're glad you asked!
In the course of time, natural teeth may need to be restored for a variety of reasons. As we age, our teeth may eventually become chipped or discolored. They can become weak and prone to cracking, or actually break due to tooth decay or trauma. Treating tooth decay may require a filling so large that there isn't much tooth surface left. Or, getting a dental implant (which replaces the roots of the tooth) means that you will need a replacement for the visible part of the tooth as well.
A crown (sometimes called a cap) is a common type of dental restoration. It's a way of replacing the tooth structure, in part or in full. A crown can cover the whole visible portion of the tooth, right down to the gum line. Since it's custom-made just for you, it is designed to fit in and function just like the rest of your teeth. And because it's composed of an extremely hard substance (gold, porcelain, ceramic, or some combination of these materials) it's made to last for a long time.
If a dental examination shows that you need a crown, here's how the process works: First, any decay is removed from the affected tooth, and it is prepared for restoration. Then, a 3-D replica of the tooth (and adjacent teeth) is made. This model is used to create a crown that matches your natural teeth. If you're getting a tooth-colored crown, the exact shade of the adjacent teeth will be duplicated as closely as possible.
After the crown has been fabricated, the tooth is made ready to receive the restoration. The crown is adjusted to mesh perfectly with the prepared tooth, and to function with the whole bite. Then, it is cemented or bonded into place. When it's all done, it can be hard to tell that you had any dental work done at all.
If you're thinking that it's a challenge to make an “artificial” tooth fit in with your natural teeth, you're right — but we do it all the time! Creating a superb-looking restoration is a blend of science and art. It takes a careful eye to match tooth colors and to adjust biting surfaces and spacing for a perfect fit. But when experienced dental professionals and patients work together, the results can make us both proud of the achievement.
If you would like more information about 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 “Gold or Porcelain Crowns.”
If you haven't seen a recent picture of Matthew Lewis, the actor who played Neville Longbottom in all eight Harry Potter movies, you may be in for a surprise: It seems the plump, awkward teenager from Gryffindor has been magically transformed into a post-Hogwarts hunk. What kind of wizardry did it take to change his memorably snarled teeth into a leading man's sparkly smile? The kind skilled cosmetic dentists perform every day!
While special effects created some of the character's dental disarray, the actor's own teeth were far from perfect. And, as Lewis recently noted, the film studio urged him to postpone cosmetic dental work until the movies were all done. “It was something I'd always wanted to do, but it would have meant me wearing a brace for two years,” he told an interviewer with the Yorkshire Evening Post. “Warner Brothers said if I put it off until we'd finished filming they'd pay for it — and they did.”
There are plenty of people, like the twenty-something actor, who put off orthodontic treatment until after their teen years. If you're wondering whether there's still time to get orthodontic work done, then take heart — it's never too late to straighten your teeth!
Today, an estimated twenty percent of orthodontic patients are adults. Compliance with the orthodontic program (meaning thorough regular brushing and flossing, wearing elastics, etc.) is often less of an issue with adults than with teens. Plus, there are some options that can help ensure your orthodontic appliances will fit in with a more mature image.
One is colorless braces. In this system, the brackets (the parts that are bonded to the front teeth and hold the archwire) are made of a clear ceramic material that blends in with the tooth's natural color. This makes them hard to see unless you look closely. Inconspicuous yet effective, clear braces have been the first choice of many celebrities, such as Tom Cruise and Faith Hill... and lots of “regular” adults too.
Another option is lingual braces. These are truly invisible, because they attach behind the teeth (on the tongue side) instead of in front. They work just like the standard braces, and they're appropriate in many situations. However their cost is higher, and the space they occupy in the mouth may take the wearer a bit of time to get used to.
A third option is clear aligners. Unlike braces, which aren't normally removed until orthodontic treatment is nearly complete, clear aligners are easily removable. They consist of a series of transparent trays made of special plastic, which are worn over the teeth 22 hours per day. Each tray in the series is worn for a few weeks, and each moves the teeth a small amount; all together, they can accomplish a big change.
Aligners work well for correcting mild to moderate malocclusion (bite problems). Plus, you can temporarily remove them for important social occasions. But best of all, they're virtually undetectable — so whether or not you play the role of a wizard in the movies, you won't need a magic spell to make them invisible!
Which option is right for you? That's something we would be happy to discuss. If you would like more information about adult orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Orthodontics for the Older Adult.”
You use toothpaste every day — don't you? But how much do you really know about what's inside the tube: namely, the white, sticky stuff that keeps your teeth clean and your breath fresh? Take this True/False quiz and find out!
True of false: Powdered charcoal, brick dust and crushed bones were once ingredients in toothpaste. TRUE
Many years ago, these gritty abrasive materials were used to make toothpaste. Today, abrasives are still used — but they're much gentler. Compounds like hydrated silica or alumina, calcium carbonate, and dicalcium phosphate have proven effective at cleaning and polishing tooth surfaces without damaging the enamel.
True of false: Fluoride was first introduced into toothpaste in 1955. FALSE
Arguably toothpaste's most important ingredient, fluoride was used as early as 1914. But its mass-marketing debut came with the Crest brand in the mid-1950s. Today, no toothpaste without fluoride can receive the American Dental Association's Seal of Approval. That's because it has been shown to strengthen tooth enamel and help prevent tooth decay.
True of false: Detergent is a common ingredient of toothpaste. TRUE
But it isn't the same kind you do laundry with. Detergents — also called surfactants, because they act on the surfaces of liquids — help to loosen and break down deposits on your teeth, which can then be rinsed away. Like other health and beauty products, many toothpastes use a gentle detergent, derived from coconut or palm kernel oil, called sodium lauryl sulfate.
True of false: Whitening toothpastes work, to some degree, on all stains. FALSE
Whether the whitening agents in toothpaste will work for you depends on why your teeth don't look white in the first place. The abrasives and enzymes in these toothpastes can help remove “extrinsic” stains: those on the surface of your teeth. But for “intrinsic” stains — that is, internal discoloration — they probably won't help. In that case, you may need to get professional bleaching treatments.
True of false: Toothpastes made for sensitive teeth have substances that block pain transmission. TRUE
Potassium nitrate and strontium chloride can block the sensation of pain that may occur when dentin — the material that makes up most of the inside of teeth, and is normally covered by enamel — becomes exposed. Fluoride, too, helps reduce sensitivity. But the benefits of reduced tooth sensitivity may take a few weeks to really be felt.
If you have questions about toothpastes or oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Toothpaste — What's In It?”
Tooth-colored fillings are just one of the many ways that cosmetic dentistry has evolved over the past few decades. There was once a time where having a cavity treated meant that you would be left with a noticeable metal filling. However, today we have an array of tools and materials available that help make tooth repair more like creating a fine piece of art.
Tooth-colored fillings are made of composite resin, which is a mixture of plastic and glass. Composite resin is not only more aesthetically pleasing, but also better for your teeth than metal fillings. Metal fillings can require your dentist to remove healthy parts of your tooth to create a ledge (undercut) that locks the filling in place. Tooth-colored fillings do not need this undercut to stay in place. In fact, they physically attach, or bond, to natural tooth structure. The procedure is also very simple. We'll apply the composite resin directly to your teeth, sculpt it and then finally harden it with a special light. When you see the results, you will be amazed at how natural and lifelike the restoration appears.
Another advantage of tooth-colored fillings is that they are strong and flexible. When you bite or chew, they will absorb and transfer the forces, just like your natural teeth. Metal fillings are strong, but they are also stiff, which can stress your teeth and make them more susceptible to cracking.
During your examination, we will evaluate if tooth-colored fillings are the best tooth repair option. If your cavity is too large for composite resin, we may recommend a porcelain filling. This procedure may require two appointments: the porcelain filling will be crafted in a dental laboratory, and we will then place this filling at your next visit.
If you would like more information about tooth-colored fillings, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Natural Beauty of Tooth-Colored Fillings.”