Posts for: October, 2013
Getting a new crown for a front tooth is a standard procedure performed in thousands of dental offices around the country. But dental patients are sometimes surprised to find that the price of this routine treatment can vary by a substantial amount. What accounts for the difference? The answer tells us a lot about how crowns are made, and the value of aesthetics in dentistry.
Crowns may be made of several different materials. Gold, the most traditional restoration material, makes for a time-tested, functional and durable crown, lasting as long as 50 years. Gold is a precious (and expensive) metal, but considered over the lifetime of the restoration, it's an economical choice. Yet, even for back teeth, it's losing out in popularity to more aesthetically pleasing alternatives.
Porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns and all-porcelain crowns replicate the look of natural teeth more accurately. The kind of porcelain used in restorations must have special strengtheners added, which enable it to stand up to wear and tear in the mouth. There are different porcelain materials used in dental restoration, each with a different look, quality and longevity. There are also new, high-tech ceramic materials. Each one has advantages and drawbacks, and each one's cost is different.
Besides the material, another large part of a crown's cost is the custom-fabrication of every piece. Since it must match the other teeth in form and function — and often in looks as well — every crown must be made to an individual's exact requirements. This includes the tooth's exact size and shape, its spacing, and (often) its particular color.
Making this happen is a multi-step process. First, a dentist carefully prepares a model of the affected tooth and its neighbors. Then, the fabrication work is normally performed by a highly skilled laboratory technician, at the dentist's direction. Finally, the dentist prepares the tooth for the restoration, performs final adjustments, and attaches the finished crown. When it's done, the restored tooth can be difficult to tell apart from any other.
The level of craftsmanship involved at the dental laboratory can vary — and along with it, the price. Dentists may even choose different technicians based on the quality level they're striving for. All of these factors affect the final cost of the crown, and its value to the patient.
It has been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and this is certainly true in the case of dental restorations. The choice of a “best” crown is different for every person — more than one alternative may be available, and each comes with its own price. If you have more questions about your options for a crown restoration, don't hesitate to ask us!
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 “Value of Quality Care,” “Porcelain Crowns & Veneers,” and “Gold or Porcelain Crowns.”
You have a beautiful smile, but you hesitate to show it because of your stained teeth. Fortunately, whitening techniques could take away that embarrassment.
There are two basic types of tooth staining or discoloration: extrinsic, in which the stain is on the surface of the teeth and mostly caused by substances like coffee, wine or tobacco; and intrinsic, which occurs deep within the tooth, caused by such factors as aging, previous dental treatments and fillings, the use of antibiotics (tetracycline, predominantly), or over-exposure to fluoride.
Whitening or bleaching is an effective and relatively affordable solution for many instances of both intrinsic and extrinsic staining. Bleaching solutions are available in over-the-counter (OTC) home kits or as a professional application in the dental office.
Most bleaching solutions use carbamide peroxide, a chemical compound that is effective in removing most stains. OTC home applications contain carbamide peroxide (or an equivalent) in concentrations of about 10% as opposed to 15-35% found in professional solutions. Though less costly than a professional application, OTC products take longer (usually up to three weeks) to achieve desired results. With its stronger solution, a professional application in our office can achieve the same level of brightness in only one or two visits. We may also use special lighting to accelerate the chemical process, as well as rubber dams or gels to protect gums and soft tissues from solution irritation during the procedure.
Although effective, whitening isn't a permanent solution — over time the effect will fade, usually six months to a year depending on how you care for your teeth. Matching tooth color can also be difficult in some cases, especially if you have a mix of natural teeth and artificial crowns or bridges. And, whitening may not be adequate for some types of staining.
Regardless of which application you wish to use — OTC or professional — it's a good idea to visit us first for a professional consultation. We can recommend whether whitening is a good choice for your particular type and level of staining, or if some other option like porcelain veneers might be the better choice. Regardless, there are solutions to the problem of staining, and a way to gain a brighter smile.
If you would like more information on bleaching, 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 “Teeth Whitening.”
Many adults these days are opting for clear aligners to correct orthodontic problems that have long bothered them. Katherine Heigl is a perfect example. She had one tooth that was out of alignment, and wanted to have it fixed before her wedding day.
“I got them [clear aligners] because of this wonky tooth,” Heigl told In Style magazine not long ago. “It's awesome because every two weeks you switch to a new retainer. Pretty much the perfect way to describe Invisalign is Netflix for your teeth.”
That's actually a pretty good way to describe this highly user-friendly form of orthodontic treatment. Clear aligners are transparent, plastic oral appliances that are changed every two weeks so that your teeth can be moved a little bit at a time, according to a carefully staged sequence. Though they cover your teeth completely, clear aligners are barely noticeable.
In fact, when Heigl excused herself before taking out her aligners to eat, her In Style interviewer said, “Who knew you wore them? I guess that's the point of Invisalign.”
Being able to remove the aligners for eating and, more importantly, teeth-cleaning, is another major advantage of this method of straightening teeth. Successful orthodontic treatment for adults depends on good periodontal health (“peri” – around; “odont” – tooth), and the best way to keep your gums and the underlying bone that supports your teeth healthy is to keep up an effective daily oral hygiene routine.
Clear aligners have been improved in recent years to correct more complicated malocclusions (“mal” – bad; “occlusion” – bite) than previously; they can even work well for teenagers. But there are still some cases that call for traditional braces. We would be happy to explore all the different options for orthodontic treatment with you, whether you have crowded teeth, an overbite or underbite, or just one “wonky tooth.”
If you would like more information about clear aligners, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about clear aligners in general by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Clear Aligners For Teenagers.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Wedding Day Smiles.”
Penny Creek Family & Cosmetic Dentistry Offers Botox
So What Does Botox Have to Do with Dentistry?
Call us today at (425) 337-7300 to schedule an appointment for Botox treatment or to learn more about this unique addition to Penny Creek Family & Cosmetic Dentistry.
You've probably never thought of the saliva swishing around in your mouth as amazing. The fact is, though, life would be a lot harder without it. Digestion would be quite unpleasant without its enzymes breaking down food during chewing; the soft tissues of our mouth would suffer more environmental abuse without its protective wash; and without its ability to neutralize acid, our tooth enamel would erode.
What's also amazing is what saliva can reveal about our health. As researchers discover more about this phenomenon, it's leading to better and less invasive ways to diagnose disease.
Similar to blood, saliva is composed of proteins containing RNA and DNA molecules which together hold the genetic instructions the human body needs to reproduce cells. We can therefore test saliva for health conditions as we do with blood, but with less invasive collection techniques and far less hazard to healthcare workers from blood-borne diseases. For example, doctors now have a saliva test that can detect the presence of HIV viruses that cause Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Another saliva test will soon be available that can test for hepatitis.
Unfortunately, only a few such tests now exist. Researchers must first identify and then catalog saliva's biomarkers, protein molecules that correspond to specific health conditions — a daunting task since most are marked not by one but hundreds of proteins. Then it's a matter of developing diagnostic devices that can detect these biomarkers.
Although that too is a huge task, existing technology like mass spectrometry (already used to help detect early stages of oral cancer) could be a promising starting point. This process measures the portion of the light spectrum emitted by a molecule, a feature that could help identify a saliva protein by its emitted light signature.
Thanks to the work of these researchers, many of them in the dental profession, information about our bodies contained in saliva may soon be accessible. That accessibility may lead to earlier diagnoses and more successful treatment outcomes.
If you would like more information on saliva and your oral health, 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 “Secrets of Saliva.”
If you were recently in an accident or received a hard hit while playing sports and you have been feeling jaw pain ever since, you may be suffering from a serious injury. It is important that you make an appointment with us immediately, so that we can conduct a proper examination, make a diagnosis and prescribe a suitable treatment. Even if the pain is lessening, you should still make an appointment.
Without seeing you, we have no way of definitively diagnosing the cause of your pain. However, here are a few possibilities:
- You displaced a tooth or teeth.
- You indirectly traumatized or injured the jaw joint (TMJ — temporomandibular joint). This trauma will cause swelling in the joint space, and the ball of the jaw joint will not fully seat into the joint space. If this is the issue, it is likely that your back teeth on the affected side will not be able to touch. Over time, the swelling should subside, allowing the teeth to fit together normally.
- You may have a minor fracture of your lower jaw. The most common is a “sub-condylar” fracture (just below the head of the joint), which will persist in symptoms that are more severe than simply bruising and swelling.
- You may have dislocated the joint, which means the condyle or joint head has been moved out of the joint space.
All of the above injuries can also cause muscle spasms, meaning that the inflammation from the injury results in the muscles on both sides of the jaw locking it in position to stop further movement and damage.
The most critical step is for you to make an appointment with our office, so we can conduct a physical examination, using x-rays to reveal the extent of your injury. We'll also be able to see whether the injury is to the soft tissue or bone.
Treatment may involve a variety of things, including anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant medications. If your teeth have been damaged, we'll recommend a way to fix this issue. If you have dislocated your jaw, we may be able to place it back through gentle manipulation. If you have fractured your jaw, we'll need to reposition the broken parts and splint them to keep them still, so that they can heal.