Posts for: February, 2015
Remember Matthew Lewis? You've seen him in all of the Harry Potter movies, where he played the bumbling Neville Longbottom: a pudgy, teenage wizard-in-training whose teeth could best be described as... dodgy. We won't spoil the movie by telling you what happens to him in the end — but in real life, let's just say his awkward phase is over. Today, he looks more like a young Ryan Gosling. How did this transformation happen?
Well, in part it was some “Hollywood magic” that made his teeth look worse in the films than they really were. But Lewis acknowledges that he also had cosmetic dental work performed. If you've ever considered getting a smile makeover yourself, you may wonder: What kinds of “dental magic” might it take to change an awkward grin into a red-carpet smile? Here are a few of the treatments we might utilize.
It's possible to correct tooth crowding, protrusion, gaps between teeth, and many other bite problems with orthodontic appliances like braces or clear aligners. While some may think orthodontics is just for teens, that isn't so — you're never too old to get the smile you've always wanted! In fact, right now about one in five orthodontic patients is an adult.
This is a popular (and surprisingly affordable) option that can effectively lighten your teeth by six shades or more. We can do in-office whitening for the fastest results, or prepare a take-home whitening kit with a custom-made tray to fit your teeth perfectly and a supply of the proper bleaching solution. How well it will work for you (and how long it will last) depends on various factors, including the original cause of the discoloration, and your preferences for foods and beverages (such as coffee or red wine) that may cause stains.
Sometimes, even professional bleaching isn't enough to get the kind of permanent, “Hollywood white” smile you'd like; that's where porcelain veneers come in. By placing a fingernail-thin layer of ceramic over the tooth's enamel, veneers offer a permanent, pearly white finish that looks just like your natural teeth — only more dazzling! Veneers, long the first choice of celebrities, are gaining popularity with plenty of “regular” folks.
This category covers a wide variety of different methods and materials — like cosmetic bonding, crowns, bridges, and dental implants — which we use to repair or replace teeth that are damaged or missing. Beginning with the simple repair of small chips or cracks with tooth-colored resins, we can progress to more permanent crown restorations when more of the tooth structure needs replacement. To restore missing teeth, we have the option of using the tried-and-true bridge — or, the current gold standard in tooth replacement: the lifelike, permanent dental implant.
Of course, this is just a bare outline of the many tools and techniques cosmetic dentistry offers. We would be happy to talk with you about which ones are right in your individual situation. Will a smile makeover land you a red-carpet role? Maybe... but one thing is for sure: It will help you get the smile you've always wanted.
If you would like more information about smile makeovers and options in cosmetic dentistry, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Cosmetic Dentistry,” “Porcelain Crowns & Veneers,” and “Dental Implants.”
Among the “to-do” items on your pre-dive checklist like “Pack wetsuit” or “Fill scuba tanks,” be sure to add one other: “Check my dental health status.”
While that may seem like an odd concern, the changes in atmospheric pressure you encounter while diving (or flying, for that matter) could amplify oral sensitivity and intensify pain if you have pre-existing teeth or jaw problems.
The reason for this is the effect of basic physics on the body. All anatomical structures, including organs, bones and muscles, equalize external pressures the body encounters. We don’t notice this at normal atmospheric pressure, but when we encounter an extreme — either lower pressure during air flight or higher pressure during a scuba dive — we may feel the effects of the pressure on any structure with a rigid-walled surface filled with either air or fluid. These structures can’t equalize the pressure as fast as other areas, resulting in pain or discomfort. This is known medically as “barotrauma,” or more commonly as a “squeeze.”
One structure in particular could have an effect on your upper teeth and jaws: the sinus cavities of the skull, particularly the maxillary sinuses just below the eyes. Their lower walls are right next to the back teeth of the upper jaw and, more importantly, share the same nerve pathways. It’s quite possible, then, for pain from one area to be felt in the other, commonly known as “referred pain.” A toothache could then be felt in the sinus region, and vice-versa.
During a squeeze, then, pain levels from existing problems in the teeth and jaws that were previously tolerable (or even unnoticed) may well become amplified as the pressure from the sinus cavity impinges upon the jaw. That dull toothache you’ve been having may suddenly become excruciating at 30,000 feet — or 30 meters under the surface.
That’s why it’s important to see us if you’ve experienced any signs of tooth decay, gum disease or TMD, including pain, before your next dive or air flight. And, if you encounter any significant pain while flying or diving, be sure you consult with us as soon as possible when you return. Taking action now could help you avoid a miserable, and potentially dangerous, flying or diving experience in the future.
If you would like more information on pressure changes and dental 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 “Pressure Changes can Cause Tooth and Sinus Pain.”
As our profession advances, we dental professionals continue to find the biggest factor for successful outcomes is an informed patient. The more you know about your own teeth and gums, the greater your chance for a healthy outcome.
Regular dental care is fundamental to becoming informed. Your regular office visits and cleanings are an opportunity for us to “get real” — for you to learn the unvarnished truth about your dental issues and the reasons why you need to consider some options regarding your oral health. We also need to be just as realistic about what can or can’t be done to improve your situation and the cost involved.
The best way to approach this is to develop a plan based on managing risk. Risk is essentially weighing anything we may potentially lose against the solutions for not losing it. In dentistry, we look at risk in four basic areas: periodontal, the threats to structures like gums, ligaments and bone that support the teeth; biomechanical, the threats to the structural integrity of teeth such as decay, enamel erosion or fracture; functional, problems that can arise with how the teeth, muscles and jaw joints work together; and aesthetic, the impact of all these threats to the outward appearance of your smile.
Once we know the risks you’re facing, we then determine the best treatment approach for managing the risk based on costs and potential outcomes. For example, if you’re diagnosed with gum disease, you’re at risk for losing supporting bone and, ultimately, the affected teeth. Our primary goal is to prevent that loss from occurring through plaque and calculus removal that slow or stop the disease and allow affected tissues to heal. But if the disease has advanced and you’ve already experienced bone or even tooth loss, we may then need to modify our treatment goal by including gum surgery or tooth replacement options like dental implants.
Using a risk management approach helps us identify what needs to be treated and the most reasonable and achievable options for treating it. The foundation for this approach is prevention — stopping problems before they start or progress. Developing and maintaining this kind of action plan will help reduce your ultimate costs — emotional, social and financial.
If you would like more information on dental treatment planning, 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 “Successful Dental Treatment.”
If you’ve come in to our office lately, chances are you’ve been asked to fill out a form or answer a question about what medications — both prescription and non-prescription — you are currently using. Of course, if you’re taking a blood-pressure drug or a pill to help control your cholesterol, you wouldn’t hesitate to put it on the list. But how about those vitamins and herbal supplements you take — do you really have to list those too?
The answer is a definite yes — and some of the reasons why may surprise you. Did you know that many “natural” dietary supplements can have potentially serious interactions with other drugs you may be prescribed? For example, herbal preparations made from the plant called St. John’s Wort are often used by people seeking relief from depression or anxiety. However, the active chemical compounds in this herb can interfere with some anesthetic drugs, and may make it harder for you to recover from the effects of anesthesia. Ginkgo biloba and some other commonly used herbs have a similar effect.
Even some vitamins have the potential to cause negative interactions. Large doses of Vitamin E, for example, can increase the risk of internal bleeding in people who are taking blood thinners or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS), such as aspirin and ibuprofen. These medications are commonly prescribed for pain relief after minor dental procedures.
Does that mean you have to stop taking vitamins and herbal supplements if you may need a dental or medical procedure? Not necessarily. Vitamins are indeed vital to your health, and a deficiency in one or more of these important substances can result in serious diseases — like scurvy, which formerly plagued sailors lacking access to fresh fruits and vegetables. If you’ve been told you have a vitamin deficiency, taking vitamin pills is a must.
But the best way to get the proper amount of vitamins is through a healthy, well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Not only does consuming these foods give you the most “natural” source of vitamins — it also provides you with other essential micronutrients and fiber, and it is low in fat and cholesterol.
No nutritional supplement is a substitute for a healthy diet — and that’s something we’d like everyone to remember. We’d also like to remind you to tell us about ALL the medications and supplements you’re taking, especially if you’re going to have a procedure. Giving us complete information will help ensure that you’ll remain as healthy and safe as possible.
If you have questions about dietary supplements, nutrition and your teeth, please call our office to arrange a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Vitamins & Dietary Supplements: What Every Consumer Should Know.”