My Blog

Posts for category: Dental Procedures

CTImagingTechnologyCanImproveOutcomesforComplexDentalProblems

The mouth is a crowded place with nerves, blood vessels and sinus cavities sharing common space with the teeth and gums. Although important in their own right, these structures can also hinder treatment for complex dental situations like dental implant surgery or impacted teeth.

Treating these and similar situations depends on getting an accurate depiction of “what lies beneath.” Conventional x-rays help, but their two-dimensional images don't always give the full picture. There's another way—cone beam computed tomography (CBCT).

Similar to CT scanning, CBCT uses x-ray energy to take hundreds of “sliced” images that are then re-assembled with special software to create a three-dimensional model viewable on a computer screen. CBCT is different, though, in that it employs a scanning device that revolves around a patient's head, which emits a cone-shaped beam of x-rays to capture the images.

A dentist can manipulate the resulting 3-D model on screen to study revealed oral structures from various angles to pinpoint potential obstacles like nerves or blood vessels. The detailed model may also aid in uncovering the underlying causes of a jaw joint disorder or sleep apnea.

CT technology isn't the only advanced imaging system used in healthcare. Another is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which excites hydrogen atoms in water molecules. This produces different vibration rates in individual tissue structures, which are then translated into detailed images of these structures. Unlike CT or CBCT, MRI doesn't use x-ray energy, but rather a magnetic field and radio waves to produce the atomic vibrations.

But while providing good detail of soft tissues, MRI imaging doesn't perform as well as CBCT with harder tissues like bone or teeth. As to the potential risks of CBCT involving x-ray radiation exposure, dentists follow much the same safety protocols as they do with conventional x-rays. As such, they utilize CBCT only when the benefits far outweigh the potential x-ray exposure risks.

And, CBCT won't be replacing conventional x-rays any time soon—the older technology is often the more practical diagnostic tool for less invasive dental situations. But when a situation requires the most detailed and comprehensive image possible, CBCT can make a big difference.

If you would like more information on advanced dental diagnostics, 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 “Getting the Full Picture With Cone Beam Dental Scans.”

DentalImplantsAreEvenMoreAdvancedThanksToTheseOtherTechnologies

When dental implants hit the scene in the 1980s, they revolutionized the field of dental restorations. But as groundbreaking as they were then, they're even more advanced now.

Some of the advancements have to do with improvements in implant design and manufacturing. Implant sizes and shapes were once quite limited, but today they come in a variety of forms to better match the types of teeth they replace.

But there has also been important progress in complementary technologies that help us realize better outcomes. Many of these other advances have had a positive impact on the planning and surgical stages of implant installation.

CT/CBCT scanning. For the best outcome, it's critical to install an implant at the most appropriate location on the jaw. This can be difficult to determine, however, because of the location of oral and facial structures like nerves or sinuses that might interfere with implant placement. But using a type of computer tomography (CT) scanning called cone beam CT, we can produce a 3-D computer graphic image that helps us navigate possible obstructions as we pinpoint the ideal location for an implant.

Digital smile displays. We're now able to produce digital models of the mouth, which can assist with more than implant placement—we can also use them to visualize what a new smile with implants will look like before we install them. This is especially helpful in situations where only a few teeth need to be replaced: We want to ensure that the new implant crowns blend seamlessly with the remaining teeth for the most natural appearance.

Custom-made surgical guides. We've been using surgical guides to mark the exact drilling locations during implant surgery for many years. But 3-D printing technology can now help us produce surgical guides that are even more useful and precise. Using a 3-D printer, we can produce oral devices based on the patient's individual dental dimensions captured through digital scanning. That produces a better fit for the guide on the teeth and more accurate implant placement.

Together, these and other technological advances are helping us achieve even more successful results. Not only can they help us produce implant outcomes that can last for years or even decades, but also the most beautiful smiles possible.

If you would like more information on dental implant restorations, 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 “How Technology Aids Dental Implant Therapy.”

By Laura Elliff, DMD
April 07, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: veneers  
YourTeensTeethMayNotBeReadyforVeneers

Teenagers can have the same smile-disrupting tooth flaws as adults. But not all cosmetic treatments available to adults are appropriate for teenagers—at least not until they get a little older. Dental veneers fall into that category.

A veneer is a thin porcelain shell custom-made by a dental lab, and bonded by a dentist to the face of a tooth to mask chips, stains, gaps or other imperfections. Because they're less invasive than other measures, veneers are highly popular as a cosmetic dental solution. They do, however, usually require some enamel removal so that they'll appear more natural.

This enamel removal typically won't impact an adult tooth other than it permanently requires it to have veneers or other restorations after alteration. But there is a risk of damage to a teenager's tooth, which hasn't fully developed.

Adolescent teeth usually have a larger pulp chamber (filled with an intricate network of nerves and blood vessels) than adult teeth. And because the enamel and dentin layers may not yet be fully developed, the pulp is much nearer to the tooth's surface.

We must be very careful then in removing enamel and dentin for veneers or we may penetrate the pulp and risk damaging it. Alternatively, there is the possibility of no-prep veneers which are very conservative but often are unable to be done because of the need to often remove tooth structure to make the veneers look natural.

Another cosmetic problem can occur if we place veneers on a patient's teeth whose jaws and mouth structures are still growing. Eventually, the gums could recede and an unsightly gap form between the veneer and the adjacent natural tooth.

Fortunately, there are other techniques we can use to improve a tooth's appearance. Mild chipping can be repaired by bonding composite resin material to the tooth. Some forms of staining may be overcome with teeth whitening. These and other methods can address a teenager's smile appearance until their teeth are mature enough for veneers.

Whether or not a tooth is ready for veneers will depend on its level of development, something that can often be ascertained with x-rays or other diagnostic methods. And if a tooth has already undergone a root canal treatment, there isn't as much concern. In the meantime, though, it may be better for your teen to wait on veneers and try other techniques to enhance their smile.

If you would like more information on dental restoration for teenagers, 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 “Veneers for Teenagers.”

By Laura Elliff, DMD
February 16, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: cosmetic dentistry  
AWinterPick-Me-UpDental-Style

Now that the holidays are behind us and spring is ahead of us, winter doldrums may be setting in. If you are feeling a little blah, it might be time for a pick-me-up—and what better way to lift the spirits than by giving your smile a boost?

There are several ways to achieve a more attractive, confident smile, depending on your individual dental situation. Here are some possibilities:

Teeth Cleaning. If it sounds simple, it is! During your regular cleaning appointment, in addition to getting rid of plaque and tartar that cause dental disease, we use a polishing paste that removes surface stains.Not only will your teeth feel smoother, they'll look brighter.

Teeth whitening. If your teeth are yellowed, they can take the pizzazz out of your smile and make you look older. Professional teeth whitening is an easy way to upgrade a smile, and we can control the level of whitening—whether you want dazzling Hollywood white or a more subtle shade.

Dental bonding or veneers. If your teeth have gaps, chips, discoloration or a poor shape, dental bonding or veneers may be in order. Bonding is a way to repair minor defects in a single visit by applying tooth-colored material to the tooth. Veneers, which can be applied in as little as two visits, are thin porcelain shells that cover the entire front surface of your tooth. With both bonding and veneers, we custom color-match the materials so your smile looks completely natural, only better.

Crowns, bridges or dental implants. If you have a tooth that is not sustainable on its own, a lifelike crown can replace the visible part of the tooth, making it look good as new. If you have one or more missing teeth, a crown or bridge supported by dental implants can look and function like natural teeth.

Orthodontic treatment. If your teeth are not as straight as you'd like, orthodontic treatment can dramatically improve the appearance of your smile and give you newfound confidence. This original “smile makeover” is not just for teens; people of all ages undergo orthodontic treatment. ┬áNot a fan of traditional metal braces? Not to worry—you may be a candidate for clear orthodontic aligners, which are nearly invisible and can be removed for meals and special occasions.

Gum surgery. If your teeth seem small or you think your gums show too much when you smile, changing the contour of the gums through periodontal plastic surgery can have a big impact on the look of a smile. Reshaping the gums also helps the teeth appear more prominent.

As you see, there is an array of options for enhancing your smile, and we're more than happy to help you develop a treatment plan that is right for you. So consider sprucing up your smile and boosting your spirits with a tip or two from this list.

If you would like more information about enhancing your smile, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cosmetic Dentistry.”

HowLongIstheImplantProcessItDependsonYourBoneHealth

If you're thinking about getting dental implants, you may be curious about how long it might take. The answer depends on the health of your supporting bone.

Bone is an integral part of implant functionality as bone cells gradually grow and adhere to the newly placed implant to give it its characteristic strength. The implant also requires an adequate amount of bone to accurately position it for the best appearance outcome.

If the bone is sufficient and healthy, we can proceed with the surgical placement of the implant. The most common practice following surgery is to allow a few weeks for the bone integration described previously to take place before finally attaching the crown. With an alternative known as a “tooth in one day” procedure, we install a crown right after surgery, which gives you a full smile when you leave.

There's one caveat to this latter method, though—because the implant still requires bone integration, this immediate crown is temporary. It's designed to receive no pressure from biting or chewing, which could damage the still integrating implant. We'll install the permanent crown after the implant and bone have had time to fully mesh.

So, if your supporting bone is sound, the complete implant process may only take a few weeks. But what if it's not—what if you've lost bone and don't have enough to support an implant? In that case, the length of process time depends on the severity of the bone loss and if we're able to overcome it. In some cases, we can't, which means we'll need to consider a different restoration.

But it's often possible to regenerate lost bone by grafting bone material at the implant site. If the bone loss is moderate, it may take 2 to 4 months of regrowth after grafting before we can perform implant surgery. If it's more significant or there's disease damage to the socket, it may take longer, usually 4 to 6 months. It largely depends on the rate of bone regeneration.

In a nutshell, then, the health of your jaw's supporting bone has a lot to do with whether the implant process will take a few weeks or a few months. Regardless of the time, though, you'll gain the same result—new, functional teeth and a more attractive smile.

If you would like more information on dental implant restorations, 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 “Implant Timelines for Replacing Missing Teeth.”