Posts for: May, 2012

By Sarah J. Morris, DDS, PLLC
May 30, 2012
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants  
HowDoDentalImplantsHelpPreserveYourYouthfulAppearance

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.”


By Sarah J. Morris, DDS, PLLC
May 22, 2012
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   dry mouth  
UnderstandingDryMouth

The medical term for dry mouth is xerostomia (“xero” – dry; “stomia” – mouth), something that many of us have experienced at some point in life. However, for some people it can be a chronic condition that is ideal for promoting tooth decay. It can also be a warning sign of a more serious health condition.

Dry mouth occurs when there is an insufficient flow of saliva, the fluid secreted by the salivary glands. Your major salivary glands are located in two places: inside the checks by the back top molars and in the floor of the mouth, with about six hundred tiny glands scattered throughout your mouth. And many people are surprised to learn that when they are functioning normally, saliva glands secret between two and four pints of saliva per day! While this may sound like a lot (and it is), saliva is key for buffering or neutralizing acids in the mouth. Without this powerful protection, tooth decay can increase quickly. This is especially true for older individuals who have exposed tooth root surfaces.

It is also important to note that there are times when mouth dryness is perfectly normal. For example, when you wake, you will probably have a slightly dry mouth because saliva flow slows at night. Another example is if you are dehydrated when it is simply a warning sign that you need to drink more fluids (especially water). Other causes for temporary dry mouth include stress as well as what you consume: coffee, alcohol, onions, and certain spices.

You can also have a dry mouth due to a side effect from an over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medication. If it turns out that this is the cause in your case, you need to talk to the prescribing physician to see if there is something else you can take to avoid this side effect. If there are no substitutes, one tip you can try is to take several sips of water before taking the medication followed by a full glass of water, or chew gum containing xylitol, which moistens your mouth and decreases the risk of tooth decay.

Another cause of dry mouth is radiation treatment for cancer in the head and neck region. Yes, these treatments are crucial for fighting cancer; however, they can inflame, damage or destroy salivary glands. You can also have dry mouth from certain systemic (general body) or autoimmune (“auto” – self; “immune” – resistance system) diseases, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, cystic fibrosis and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

To learn more, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dry Mouth.” Or, you can contact us today to ask your questions, discuss your circumstances or schedule an appointment.


By Sarah J. Morris, DDS, PLLC
May 14, 2012
Category: Dental Procedures
HowModernDentalFillingsMimicRealTeeth

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.”


AreClearAlignersMyBestSolutionforAchievingaBetterSmile

If you are dissatisfied with the way your smile looks, and your dentist is unhappy with the way your teeth fit together — but you don't like the idea of wearing braces — clear aligners may be your best solution. How much do you know about this teeth-straightening alternative? Below are some FAQs on the subject.

What do we mean by clear aligners? Clear aligners are a system for straightening teeth that uses clear plastic removable “trays” that fit over your teeth. As the teeth move to fit the trays, new trays are substituted that are designed to continue to move your teeth into the desired position. This system is an alternative to the traditional system of brackets and wires known as braces.

How can teeth be moved to new positions? The connection that holds a tooth in place in your jaws — the periodontal ligament — is not immobile. It constantly changes its position based on the normal forces of your bite. As the ligament is pushed on one side and pulled on the other, the living cells of your mouth respond by depositing bone and cementum (the protective covering of the tooth's root) on one side and dissolving it on the other. Normally this happens in a balance, maintaining your teeth in their position. We can manage these slight changes by applying constant light forces to move teeth in a predictable way.

How long does it take to move teeth to their optimum position using clear aligners? As with braces, the process is gradual. Total treatment time can range from six months to two years.

Do the trays have to be worn all the time? As you move through the sequence of trays, each is worn for 20 hours per day for two weeks. They may occasionally be removed for important social occasions.

How does an orthodontist design the sequential trays that are used? The trays are designed using a computer, based on an assessment and images of your mouth, teeth and jaws.

What kinds of problems can clear aligners correct? This method works well to correct mild to moderate crowding or spacing. If your back teeth already fit together as they should, the system may be ideal. If you have an extreme overbite or underbite, braces might work better.

Are clear aligners an alternative for everyone? Clear aligners are recommended for adults and recently, teenagers. They are not usually recommended for young children.

Why is it important to have your teeth straightened? Besides the obvious benefit of feeling better about yourself and your appearance, straight and well-aligned teeth work better. You will experience a better-functioning bite and can improve your oral health.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about orthodontics and clear aligners. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Clear Orthodontic Aligners” and “Moving Teeth With Orthodontics.”




Dentist - Fort Worth
2551 River Park Plaza
Fort Worth, TX 76116
817-732-4419

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