My Blog
By Gary Belenski, DDS
March 17, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants  
ImplantsCouldHelpYouKeepRemainingTeethLonger

It's a common practice among people slowly losing their teeth to have their remaining teeth removed. They find dentures to be less costly than replacing one tooth at a time or caring for those that remain. On the other hand, it's usually healthier for the mouth to preserve remaining teeth as long as possible, replacing them only as necessary.

This latter strategy has up to now been difficult and expensive to achieve. But dental implants are changing that—using these imbedded titanium metal devices with a variety of restorations, we're able to better plan and implement staged tooth replacement.

Most people associate implants with single tooth replacements of a life-like crown cemented or screwed into an abutment attached to the implant post. This can play an early role in a staged replacement plan, but at some point, multiple single-tooth implants can become quite expensive.

Implants, however, have a much broader range of use. A few strategically placed implants can support a variety of restorations, including bridges and removable or fixed dentures. Four to eight implants, for example, can secure a fixed denture replacing all teeth on a jaw, far fewer than the number needed to replace the teeth individually.

Implants may also improve the function of traditional restorations. For instance, dentures can't stop the bone loss that often results from tooth loss—in fact, they will accelerate it as they rub and irritate the bony ridges of the jaw. By contrast, implants stimulate bone growth, slowing or even stopping the process of bone loss.

In a traditional bridge, the outer crowns of the restoration are bonded to the teeth on either side of the missing tooth gap (the middle crowns fill the gap). These support teeth must be permanently altered to accommodate the crowns. But an implant-supported bridge doesn't depend on other teeth for support, thus eliminating the need to permanently alter any teeth.

More importantly, previously placed implants often become part of the next stages of tooth replacement, like building on an addition onto an existing house. All in all, including implants in your ongoing dental restoration can help you enjoy the benefits of preserving your natural teeth for much longer.

If you would like more information on dental restoration options, 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 “Replacing All Teeth but Not All at Once.”

By Gary Belenski, DDS
March 07, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
AcidRefluxCouldBeDamagingYourTeeth

Your tooth enamel is often under assault from oral acid produced by bacteria and certain foods. Unless neutralized, acid can erode your enamel, and lead to destructive tooth decay.

But there's another type of acid that may be even more destructive—the acid produced in your stomach. Although important for food digestion, stomach acid outside of its normal environment can be destructive. That includes your teeth, if stomach acid finds its way into your mouth. And that can happen if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

GERD, a chronic condition affecting 1 in 5 adults, is caused by the weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter, a ring of muscle at the intersection of the esophagus and the stomach that prevents stomach acid from traveling back into the digestive tract and damaging the esophageal liner.

It's also possible for stomach acid to travel as far up as the mouth. With a pH of 2.0 or less, stomach acid can lower the mouth's normal pH level of 7.0 well below the 5.5 pH threshold for enamel softening and erosion. This can cause your teeth, primarily the inside surfaces of the upper teeth, to become thin, pitted or yellowed. Your teeth's sensitivity may also increase.

If you have GERD, you can take precautions to avoid tooth damage and the extensive dental work that may follow.

  • Boost acid buffering by rinsing with water (or a cup of water mixed with a ½ teaspoon of baking soda) or chewing on an antacid tablet.
  • Wait about an hour to brush your teeth following a reflux episode so that your saliva has time to neutralize acid and re-mineralize enamel.
  • If you have chronic dry mouth, stimulate saliva production by drinking more water, chewing xylitol gum or using a saliva supplement.

You can also seek to minimize GERD by avoiding tobacco and limiting your consumption of alcohol, caffeine or spicy and acidic foods. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to control your GERD symptoms.

Preventing tooth decay or gum disease from the normal occurrences of oral acid is a daily hygiene battle. Don't let GERD-related acid add to the burden.

If you would like more information on protecting your teeth from acid reflux, 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 “GERD and Oral Health.”

WisdomTeethCanStillbeaProblemfortheWorldsYoungestBillionaire

According to Forbes Magazine, Kylie Jenner is the world's youngest billionaire at age 22. Daughter of Caitlyn (Bruce) Jenner and Kris Jenner, Kylie is the founder and owner of the highly successful Kylie Cosmetics, and a rising celebrity in her own right. But even this busy CEO couldn't avoid an experience many young people her age go through each year: having her wisdom teeth removed.

At around 10 million removals each year, wisdom teeth extraction is the most common surgical procedure performed by oral surgeons. Also called the third molars, the wisdom teeth are in the back corners of the jaws, top and bottom. Most people have four of them, but some have more, some have fewer, and some never have any. They're typically the last permanent teeth to come in, usually between ages 17 and 25.

And therein lies the problem with wisdom teeth: Many times, they're coming in late on a jaw already crowded with teeth. Their eruption can cause these other teeth to move out of normal alignment, or the wisdom teeth themselves may not fully erupt and remain fully or partially within the gums (a condition called impaction). All of this can have a ripple effect, decreasing dental function and increasing disease risk.

As Kylie Jenner has just experienced, they're often removed when problems with bite or instances of diseases like tooth decay or gum disease begin to show. But not just when problems show: It's also been a common practice to remove them earlier in a kind of “preemptive strike” against dental dysfunction. But this practice of early wisdom teeth extraction has its critics. The main contention is that early extractions aren't really necessary from a medical or dental standpoint, and so patients are unduly exposed to surgical risks. Although negative outcomes are very rare, any surgical procedure carries some risk.

Over the last few years, a kind of middle ground consensus has developed among dentists on how to deal with wisdom teeth in younger patients. What has emerged is a “watch and wait” approach: Don't advise extraction unless there is clear evidence of developing problems. Instead, continue to monitor a young patient's dental development to see that it's progressing normally.

Taking this approach can lead to fewer early wisdom teeth extractions, which are postponed to a later time or even indefinitely. The key is to always do what's best for a patient's current development and future dental health.

Still, removing wisdom teeth remains a sound practice when necessary. Whether for a high school or college student or the CEO of a large company, wisdom teeth extraction can boost overall dental health and development.

If you would like more information about wisdom teeth and their impact on dental health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Wisdom Teeth: To Be or Not to Be?

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 Gary Belenski, DDS
February 05, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: crowns  
HeresWhatYouNeedToKnowAboutDentalInsuranceandChoosingaCrown

Millions of Americans rely on dental insurance to help them better afford dental care. Depending on the benefit package, an insurance policy can be useful in restoring dental health compromised by disease or injury.

But how life-like that restoration may appear is often a secondary concern with many insurance plans. For example, dental insurance will pay for a crown restoration that restores function to a tooth, but not necessarily of the highest aesthetic quality for achieving a truly life-like appearance.

To be sure, not all dental crowns are the same. Some are all metal, usually gold or silver. Some are “hybrids,” made of an interior metal shell with an outer fused porcelain shell (porcelain-fused-to-metal or PFM). In recent years all -ceramic crowns made of stronger life-like ceramics have become the most popular.

The type of crown used will depend a great deal on the type and location of the tooth. Teeth on the back of the jaw that encounter greater biting forces and are not as noticeable in the smile may do better with a metal or PFM crown. Visible side and front teeth are more likely candidates for all-ceramic. Your dentist will give you your best options as it pertains to your dental needs and appearance.

There's also a difference in crown workmanship. Dental laboratories now use milling machinery that sculpts a crown from a single block of material. Although some final handwork by skilled technicians is still necessary, milling has streamlined the process—and the cost—for producing a crown of high functioning quality.

But crowns that achieve the most natural smile appearance require more in the way of artistic craftsmanship. This in turn can increase the crown's price—beyond what many dental policies agree to cover. You may then be faced with a decision: an insurance-covered functional crown with an acceptable level of life-likeness or a more life-like crown for which you may have to pay more out-of-pocket.

Your dentist can advise you on your best options for a crown restoration, also factoring in what your insurance will cover. Ultimately, though, you'll have to weigh the kind of smile you desire with your dental situation and finances.

If you would like more information on dental crown 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 “Porcelain Dental Crowns.”





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