Posts for: December, 2014

By Sarah J. Morris, DDS, PLLC
December 30, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
TestYourKnowledgeDentures

Think you already know all about dentures? Answer the following questions, and see whether your understanding of false teeth is more true than false.

True or False: About one-quarter of the U.S. population has none of their own teeth left by the age of 65.

Answer: True

The technical term for the complete loss of all permanent teeth is edentulism, and it's a big issue, affecting 26% of adults between 65 and 74 years of age. Without treatment, many individuals not only suffer a reduced quality of life, but also risk nutritional problems and systemic health disorders. Dentures are a reliable and affordable way to replace their missing teeth.

True or False: Tooth loss has nothing to do with bone loss.

Answer: False

Far from being a fixed, rigid substance, bone is actually growing and changing constantly. In order for it to stay healthy, bone needs constant stimulus. For the alveolar bones of the jaw, this stimulus comes from the teeth; when they are gone, the stimulus goes too, and the bone resorbs or melts away. The missing bone mass can cause changes in facial features, difficulties with eating, speech problems and other undesirable effects.

True or False: Once the teeth are gone, there is little that can be done to mitigate bone loss.

Answer: False

While a certain amount of bone loss is unavoidable, it can be minimized. The techniques of bone grafting may be used to create a “scaffold” on which the body can restore its own bone tissue. Bone loss can also be limited by retaining the roots of teeth that had previous root canal treatment, even when the crowns must be removed. Perhaps the best way to limit long-term bone loss is the use of dental implants, which restores function and prevents excessive resorption from tooth loss. When tooth loss is inevitable, a pre-planned transition to dentures offers the opportunity to retain as much bone as possible, and avoid future problems.

True or False: There are many options available to make wearing dentures a fully functional and comfortable experience.

Answer: True

Fabricating prosthetic teeth is a blend of science and art. Not only must the appearance of the teeth and gums be made to look natural, but the fit has to be exact and the bite must be balanced. After a little practice, most people subconsciously adapt to the slightly different muscular movements required when wearing dentures. For those few who have difficulty, hybrid forms of implant-supported dentures may offer an alternative. In all cases, developing a partnership of trust between a skilled clinician and an informed patient is the best way to ensure that the experience will be a success.

If you would like more information about dentures, 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 “Removable Full Dentures.”


By Sarah J. Morris, DDS, PLLC
December 22, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: teeth whitening  
DeterminingtheRightWhiteningApproachisKeytoBrighteningaDullSmile

Bright, naturally white teeth are a key component in a beautiful smile. But the opposite is also true: nothing diminishes an otherwise attractive smile more than stained or discolored teeth.

There is good news, however, about tooth staining: it can be greatly reduced with the right whitening technique. But before taking action we need to first uncover the cause for the staining — whether from the outside or inside of the tooth, or a combination of both.

If it’s an external cause — known as extrinsic staining — our diet is usually the source. Foods and beverages that contain tannins, like red wine, coffee or tea fall in this category, as do foods with pigments called carotenes as found in carrots and oranges. Besides limiting consumption of stain-causing foods and maintaining daily oral hygiene, you can also diminish extrinsic staining with a bleaching application.

There are two basic ways to approach this: with either a professional application at our office or with a home kit purchased at a pharmacy or retail store. Although both types use similar chemicals, the professional application is usually stronger and the whitening effect is obtained quicker and may last longer.

Discoloration can also occur within a tooth, known as intrinsic staining, and for various reasons. It can occur during tooth development, as with childhood overexposure to fluoride or from the antibiotic tetracycline. Poor development of enamel or dentin (the main sources of natural tooth color), tooth decay, root canal treatments or trauma are also common causes of intrinsic discoloration.

There are techniques to reduce the effects of intrinsic staining, such as placing a bleaching agent inside the tooth following a root canal treatment. In some cases, the best approach may be to restore the tooth with a crown or porcelain veneer. The latter choice is a thin layer of dental material that is permanently bonded to the outer, visible portion of the tooth: it’s life-like color and appearance covers the discoloration, effectively renewing the person’s smile.

If you’ve been embarrassed by stained teeth, visit us for a complete examination. We’ll recommend the right course of action to turn your dull smile into a bright, attractive one.

If you would like more information on treatments for teeth staining, 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.”


By Sarah J. Morris, DDS, PLLC
December 19, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   bacteria  
FiveFactsaboutBacteria

Bacteria are bad… right? They can cause diseases like pneumonia, strep throat, and tooth decay. They are the reason we wash our hands with soap (or antibacterial gels) and cook (or refrigerate) our food. Yet it turns out that bacteria are also necessary to keep our bodies healthy — and new research is showing just how important these tiny microorganisms are to our well-being. Here are five facts you should know about bacteria.

The bacteria in our bodies outnumber our cells by a factor of 10 to 1. An estimated 100 trillion bacteria live inside the average human — but because they’re so small, they make up only 1-3 percent of our body mass.

The collection of bacteria we harbor is called our “microbiome.” Like the groundbreaking study of human DNA called the Human Genome Project, recent research is leading to a “map” of our bacterial makeup. This revolutionary study is called — you guessed it — the Human Microbiome Project.

No two people have exactly the same microbiome. But in general, the bacteria that live in a particular spot on the body (the mouth, for example) play the same roles in different individuals. Research has also shown that a healthy microbiome looks very different from a diseased microbiome.

In terms of bacteria, the mouth is one of the best-understood areas of the body. It has long been known that tooth decay can result when “bad” oral bacteria begin to outnumber their “good” counterparts. Now we are gaining a better understanding of how certain lifestyle factors — like cigarette smoking — may influence the bacterial balance in the mouth.

Understanding the microbiome may lead to new treatments for disease. Researchers hope that one day, certain serious diseases could be controlled by bacterial “transplants” that re-balance an individual’s microbiome. Maintaining a healthy microbiome could also help prevent many diseases.

So by all means, don’t stop brushing your teeth or washing your hands — this helps control bacteria that could harm you — but do remember that not all bacteria are harmful. One day, an infusion of bacteria might just cure your illness.


By Sarah J. Morris, DDS, PLLC
December 11, 2014
Category: Oral Health
RedWineandToothStaining

Have you heard the news about red wine? Every so often, the fruit of the vine is touted for some potential health benefit. Several studies over the past few years have suggested that it could help prevent heart disease and even certain types of cancer — only to have their conclusions called into question by new research. Just recently, newspapers trumpeted a new study from the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry suggesting that certain chemicals in the vino might one day be used to help prevent cavities!

So is red wine good for your health, or isn’t it?

The jury’s still out. But there’s one thing we do know: Regardless of whether it has any affect on cavities, red wine is one of the major culprits in tooth staining.

Of course, it’s not the only offender: Coffee and tea, tobacco in any form, certain foods and some types of medications can all cause extrinsic stains on teeth — that is, stains that affect the exterior surface of the tooth. In addition, intrinsic stainsâ??those that arise from the interior of the tooth — may be caused by root canal problems, or by certain dental filling materials.

If you have stained teeth — whether from red wine or another cause — can you do anything to make them whiter?

Oftentimes, the answer is yes — but finding the best way to do so can be challenging. You can begin by identifying habits and dietary factors that could cause staining. Then, reduce or eliminate the stain-causing factors, and enhance the beneficial ones. For example: stop smoking, modify your diet, practice regular, effective oral hygiene… and come in to the dental office twice a year for a professional cleaning and check-up. In addition, check whether any of your medications could cause staining or reduced saliva flow — a major contributor to the problem.

If making these changes isn’t enough to control teeth staining, the good news is that a number of treatments are available that can help bring your teeth back to a pearly shine — or even give you the “Hollywood white” smile you’ve always wished for. Depending on the cause of your teeth staining, and your desired level of brightening, these treatments can range from professional bleaching to porcelain veneers.

If your smile needs a little help to look its brightest, contact us or schedule an appointment to find out what we can do. For more information, see the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Staining” and “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”


DidYouKnowMinorToothContouringandReshapingCanEnhanceYourSmile

Some dental procedures that can beautify a smile — orthodontics or implants, for example — take months. Others take only minutes! Tooth contouring and reshaping is one of them. So just what is this remedy, and why would you need it?

Tooth contouring involves removing a tiny amount of enamel (the tooth’s outer covering) with a dental drill to sculpt a more pleasing shape and make the tooth fit in better with its neighbors. It is most often used on highly visible teeth that have minor yet noticeable cosmetic flaws.

For example, you may have a tiny chip in a front tooth, a slight size discrepancy among adjacent teeth, or extra-pointy canines. None of these issues are as serious as, say, a misaligned bite or a tooth that’s missing altogether — but they can be annoying nonetheless. If you find yourself staring in the mirror at any of these subtle yet distracting imperfections in your own smile, you may want to consider having us reshape a specific tooth or teeth.

Contouring can correct small chips, uneven tooth length, slight overlaps, and tooth edges that are too flat or pointy. We can also give teeth a more “feminine” or “masculine” appearance, simply by rounding or squaring the edges. Contouring also has a non-cosmetic use: It can be employed to adjust the bite so that the teeth come together more evenly. For example, if one tooth is just a little higher than the others, it might be subjected to more than its share of stress during chewing. This brings up another important point: We would not recommend tooth contouring if any bite imbalances could result from the procedure. And if we do determine that tooth contouring would not be the best way to go in your particular case, don’t worry — we can come up with a solution for any cosmetic issues that are of concern to you.

If you have any questions about tooth contouring and reshaping — or any other cosmetic dentistry procedures — please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How and Why Teeth Wear.”




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

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