Posts for: February, 2015
Let’s say you’re traveling to Italy to surprise your girlfriend, who is competing in an alpine ski race… and when you lower the scarf that’s covering your face, you reveal to the assembled paparazzi that one of your front teeth is missing. What will you do about this dental dilemma?
Sound far-fetched? It recently happened to one of the most recognized figures in sports — Tiger Woods. There’s still some uncertainty about exactly how this tooth was taken out: Was it a collision with a cameraman, as Woods’ agent reported… or did Woods already have some problems with the tooth, as others have speculated? We still don’t know for sure, but the big question is: What happens next?
Fortunately, contemporary dentistry offers several good solutions for the problem of missing teeth. Which one is best? It depends on each individual’s particular situation.
Let’s say that the visible part of the tooth (the crown) has been damaged by a dental trauma (such as a collision or a blow to the face), but the tooth still has healthy roots. In this case, it’s often possible to keep the roots and replace the tooth above the gum line with a crown restoration (also called a cap). Crowns are generally made to order in a dental lab, and are placed on a prepared tooth in a procedure that requires two office visits: one to prepare the tooth for restoration and to make a model of the mouth and the second to place the custom-manufactured crown and complete the restoration. However, in some cases, crowns can be made on special machinery right in the dental office, and placed during the same visit.
But what happens if the root isn’t viable — for example, if the tooth is deeply fractured, or completely knocked out and unable to be successfully re-implanted?
In that case, a dental implant is probably the best option for tooth replacement. An implant consists of a screw-like post of titanium metal that is inserted into the jawbone during a minor surgical procedure. Titanium has a unique property: It can fuse with living bone tissue, allowing it to act as a secure anchor for the replacement tooth system. The crown of the implant is similar to the one mentioned above, except that it’s made to attach to the titanium implant instead of the natural tooth.
Dental implants look, function and “feel” just like natural teeth — and with proper care, they can last a lifetime. Although they may be initially expensive, their quality and longevity makes them a good value over the long term. A less-costly alternative is traditional bridgework — but this method requires some dental work on the adjacent, healthy teeth; plus, it isn’t expected to last as long as an implant, and it may make the teeth more prone to problems down the road.
What will the acclaimed golfer do? No doubt Tiger’s dentist will help him make the right tooth-replacement decision.
If you have a gap in your grin — whatever the cause — contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation, and find out which tooth-replacement system is right for you. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dental Implant Surgery” and “Crowns & Bridgework.”
One of the many reasons for dental implant popularity is their reliability — studies have shown 95% of implants still function well after ten years. Still, on rare occasions an implant will fail. We can minimize this risk by taking precautions before, during and after installation.
Long-term success begins with careful planning before surgery. We thoroughly examine your teeth and jaws, using x-rays or CT scanning to map out the exact location of nerves, sinus cavities and other anatomical structures. Along with your medical history, this data will help us develop a precise guide to use during implant surgery.
We’ll also assess bone quality at the intended implant site. The implant needs an adequate amount of bone for support — without it the implant will not be able to withstand the biting force of normal chewing. It may be possible in some cases to use bone grafting or similar techniques to stimulate growth at the site, but sometimes other restoration options may need to be considered.
The surgery can also impact future reliability. By precisely following the surgical guide developed during the planning stage, the oral surgeon can increase the chances of success. Still, there may be an unseen variable in play — a pre-existing or post-operative infection, for example, that interferes with the integration of the implant with the bone. By carefully monitoring the healing process, we can detect if this has taken place; if so, the implant is removed, the area cleansed and the implant (or a wider implant) re-installed.
Even if all goes well with the implantation, there’s still a chance of future failure due to gum disease. Caused mainly by bacterial plaque, gum disease infects and inflames the supporting tissues around the teeth; in the case of implants it could eventually infect and weaken the surrounding bone, a condition known as peri-implantitis. This calls for aggressive treatment, including plaque and infected tissue removal, and possible surgery to repair the bone’s attachment to the implant. Without treatment, the implant could eventually detach from the weakened bone.
Maintaining your implants with good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups is the best insurance for long-term reliability. Taking care of them as you would natural teeth will help ensure a long, happy life for your “third set” of teeth.
If you would like more information on dental implants, 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 “Dental Implants.”