Graef Dental

Bone Loss: the Hidden Consequence of Your Missing Teeth

bone loss.Losing teeth will certainly disrupt your otherwise beautiful smile. It could also potentially affect your food choices and whether or not you receive proper nutrition.

But something else just as consequential could be happening beneath the surface of your gums—you could be losing bone. Significant bone loss in the jaw could adversely affect remaining teeth and facial structure, as well as limit your future restoration choices.

To understand why this occurs we must first consider what bone is: living, cellular tissue. Like the body’s other cells, bone has a life cycle: cells form, live and eventually dissolve (or resorb), and are then replaced by new cells. Stimulation from forces generated during chewing traveling up through the tooth roots to the jawbone keep this cycle going at a healthy pace.

But when a tooth is missing, so is this stimulation. This could slow the replacement rate and cause bone volume to gradually decrease. The jawbone width could decrease by as much as 25% the first year alone and several millimeters in height after just a few years.

Although dentures (a popular and affordable choice) can restore lost function and appearance, they can’t duplicate this needed stimulation. They even accelerate bone loss by irritating and creating compressive forces on the bony ridges and the gums they rest upon.

One restoration, however, can actually help stop bone loss and may even reverse it: dental implants. This happens because an implant’s metal titanium post imbedded in the jawbone attracts bone cells to grow and adhere to its surface. This could actually increase bone density at the site.

To gain this advantage, it’s best to obtain implants as soon as possible after tooth loss. If you allow bone loss to occur by waiting too long, there may not be enough to properly support an implant. Even then it might be possible to build up the diminished bone through grafting. But if that’s not possible, we’ll have to consider a different restoration.

To determine the condition of your bone after losing teeth, visit us for a complete examination. Afterward, we’ll be able to discuss with you the best way to address both your overall dental health and your smile.

If you would like more information on treating missing teeth, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”

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3 Tips for Helping Your Kids Develop Great Tooth-Friendly Habits

kid healthy eating.Want to give your kids the best start possible for a lifetime of good dental health? The most important thing you can do is train them in effective brushing and flossing. It’s more than having a nice smile and fresh breath: these hygiene tasks remove the daily buildup of bacterial plaque, the primary cause for both tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease, which are most responsible for poor oral health.

But those aren’t the only habits they should be cultivating. Here are 3 tips for helping your child develop great dental health habits.

Encourage healthy eating. Teeth and gums are like other parts of the body: they need the “building blocks” found in nutritious foods to help grow strong, healthy tissues. By focusing on a diet leaner on processed items and richer in whole, less-processed vegetables, meats and dairy products, you’ll be helping your child build strong defenses against dental disease.

Keep sugary snacks under control. Of all the items in your child’s diet, sugar could have the greatest impact on their teeth. Disease-causing bacteria thrive on this particular carbohydrate, multiplying and producing mouth acid—the main enemy of tooth enamel—as a byproduct. So, limit sugary snacks as much as possible, opting instead for more nutritional between-meal treats. In fact, try to make sure they only consume sugary treats at mealtime, not in between.

Encourage an end to thumb-sucking or pacifiers by age 3. Most infants and very young children suck their thumbs or, alternatively, a pacifier. There’s no harm in this habit unless it extends into later childhood where it could affect their bite. You can avoid this outcome by encouraging your child with mainly positive reinforcement to stop sucking their thumbs or other objects before their third birthday. Your dentist can also help with tips and support in those efforts.

If you would like more information on dental care for your child, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Help your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”

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Baseball, Tobacco and Oral Cancer

baseball tobacco.Spring means different things to different people—but to baseball fans, it means just one thing: the start of another thrilling season. All 30 Major League Baseball teams begin play this month, delighting fans from Toronto to Texas and everywhere in between.

The boys of spring carry on an age-old tradition—yet baseball is also changing with the times. Cigarette smoking has been banned at most ballparks for years; smokeless tobacco is next. About half of the MLB venues now prohibit tobacco of any kind, including “snuff” and “dip.” What’s more, a recent contract agreement bars new Major League players from using smokeless tobacco anywhere.

Why all the fuss? Because tobacco isn’t safe to use in any form. People who use smokeless tobacco get just as much highly addictive nicotine as cigarette smokers. Plus, they get a mouthful of chemicals that are known to cause cancer. This puts them at higher risk for oral cancer, cancer of the esophagus, pancreatic cancer and other diseases.

A number of renowned ballplayers like Babe Ruth, Curt Flood and Bill Tuttle died of oral cancer. The death of Hall of Famer Tony Gwinn in 2014 focused attention on tobacco use in baseball, and helped lead to the ban. Gwynn was convinced that his addiction to smokeless tobacco led to his getting oral cancer.

Yet tobacco isn’t the only cause of oral cancer. In fact, the disease is becoming more common in young people who do not smoke. That’s one more reason why it’s so important for people of all ages to keep to a regular schedule of routine dental exams. These visits offer a great opportunity to detect oral cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages.

So as you watch your favorite team, take a tip from the professional athletes’ playbook. If you don’t use tobacco, don’t start. If you do, now is a good time to quit. For help and support, call an expert at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit smokefree.gov.

If you have any questions about oral cancer, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Diet and Prevention of Oral Cancer.”

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Keep Your Smile Beautiful…in April and Beyond

smile.There are well-known holidays on the calendar this month, but here’s one that might have escaped your notice: “Keep America Beautiful Month,” which is observed throughout April! At this time, people from coast to coast are encouraged to clean and beautify their communities. So why not think of it as an occasion to spiff up your smile? Here are five ways to do exactly that:

Have your teeth professionally cleaned. A routine dental visit, which includes a professional cleaning and exam, is one of the best preventive healthcare values there is. It’s a chance to catch dental problems (including potentially serious ones like oral cancer) before they become more difficult to treat. A dental professional can remove built-up deposits of tartar from your teeth using specialized instruments—something you can’t do at home. Plus, you’ll leave the office with a freshly polished smile that looks and feels great.

Get a professional teeth whitening. Having whiter teeth often makes people look more youthful. And one of the best ways to brighten dull teeth is with professional teeth whitening. You can achieve the fastest, most dramatic results with an in-office treatment—up to ten shades in just one visit! We can also make you a custom take-home kit to achieve similar results over time.

Repair chipped teeth. If you feel self-conscious about a chipped tooth, consider cosmetic bonding. In this relatively inexpensive procedure, which often takes just one office visit, tooth-colored resin material is applied to the chipped area and hardened under a special light. The translucent resin is built up layer by layer, bringing teeth with minor flaws back to a great, natural-looking appearance.

Replace old dental work. Sometimes old dental work can stand out more than we’d like it to. This is especially true of amalgam (silver) fillings—but even white fillings can absorb stain after many years. If you feel old dental work is detracting from your smile, it may be time to replace it with up-to-date dental materials.

Straighten your smile. Did you know that there is no maximum age for successful orthodontic treatment? It’s true: Healthy teeth can be moved at any age. And if you think metal braces wouldn’t fit in with your look or lifestyle, consider one of the less-visible alternatives to traditional orthodontic hardware—such as ceramic braces and clear aligners.

Having the smile you want can make you feel more confident in any month of the year. If you’d like more information on cosmetic dentistry, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “How Your Dentist Can Help You Look Younger” and “Orthodontics for the Older Adult.”

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February Focuses on Children’s Dental Health

child smiling.The month of February gets its name from the ancient spring cleansing ritual called “Februa.” So perhaps it’s appropriate that February is now celebrated as National Children’s Dental Health Month. Having a healthy mouth starts with good oral hygiene—a practice that’s important for everyone, but especially for kids, because the healthy habits they develop in childhood can keep their teeth and gums in good condition for life. How can you help your kids achieve the best oral health? We’re glad you asked. Here are five tips:

Brush and floss daily
Sure, you knew that already. But did you know that for effective cleaning, your kids should brush for two full minutes, twice a day? And despite reports you may have heard, the American Dental Association maintains that using an interdental cleaner (like floss) is essential part of good oral hygiene: It’s the best way to clean decay-causing bacteria from tooth surfaces that your brush just can’t reach.

Limit snacking to around mealtimes
If you allow kids to have sugary snacks, limit them to around mealtimes. That way, the teeth aren’t constantly bathed in substances that can feed harmful bacteria. It also gives the healthful saliva a chance to neutralize acids that can attack the tooth’s protective enamel coating.

Avoid soda and other sugary, acidic drinks
That includes so-called “sports” and “energy” drinks, which often contain extremely high levels of sugar. These beverages, along with diet sodas and some fruit juices, may also be highly acidic, and can damage teeth. What’s the best drink for your kids’ health? Plain old refreshing water!

Pay attention to baby teeth
Sure, in a few years, those teeth will be gone. But in the mean time, they have an important job to do: They not only contribute to proper speech, eating and appearance, but also hold a space for the permanent teeth that will follow them. If they are lost too early, problems with permanent teeth may follow.

Get regular checkups
Routine office visits are the best way to monitor your child’s dental health and development, prevent disease, and solve minor problems before they get bigger.  Plus, we can address any questions you may have about oral hygiene and a range of other topics. So if we haven’t seen your child lately, maybe February is a good time for a visit.

If you have questions about your child’s oral health, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health” and “Importance of Baby Teeth.”

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Get A Better Smile for Valentine’s Day

teeth whitening.The most romantic holiday of the year, Valentine’s Day is celebrated each February 14th. It’s a time when many look forward to giving (and receiving) cards, flowers, and other tokens of love. On special days like this, it’s natural to want to look your best—and many surveys rank a person’s smile as his or her most noticeable (and appealing) physical feature. But what if you are unsatisfied with your smile?

Don’t worry! Today, cosmetic dentistry can resolve smile problems as never before. Here are some popular and effective dental treatments that can quickly brighten up your smile.

Tooth Whitening
In just one visit, dull or stained teeth can often be lightened by up to 10 shades! How? We use special bleaching solutions that are applied safely, under our careful supervision, in the dental office. You can’t use these concentrated solutions at home. But if you‘re not in a rush, we can prepare custom-made take-home bleaching trays and whiteners that are safe for home use. The same results can be achieved, but the process may take weeks instead of hours. After months or years, depending on lifestyle factors (like whether you smoke or drink coffee, red wine, etc.) your teeth can have whitening treatment again.

Cosmetic Bonding
Small chips, cracks, or other minor irregularities can be quite noticeable in an otherwise flawless smile. Fortunately, these problems can often be resolved with a treatment called cosmetic bonding. In a relatively simple in-office procedure, we can apply tooth-colored bonding material to restore teeth to better appearance. Layers of high-tech bonding material are built up and cured with a special light to form a tough, natural-looking tooth surface. Bonding isn’t as long-lasting as some other types of restoration, like veneers or crowns, but it’s an easy and inexpensive way to resolve some smile problems.

Professional In-Office Cleaning
Remember that feeling you get after your regular checkup? Your mouth feels squeaky-clean, your breath is fresh and you’re ready to show that sparkly smile. So why wait until your next routine appointment? You can schedule a hygiene visit any time. We will remove plaque from your teeth, check your gums for signs of periodontal (gum) disease, and make sure you’re on track for good oral health. If any problems are found, we’ll take care of them right away. And if you have questions about cosmetic procedures, it’s the perfect time to ask. A professional cleaning can help your smile look (and feel) great.

If you have questions about brightening up your smile, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Artistic Repair of Front Teeth with Composite Resin” and “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”

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Dentures Require Planning and Attention to Detail to Look Natural

dentures.Twenty-six percent of American adults between 65 and 74 have lost all their teeth to dental disease. This isn’t an appearance problem only—lack of teeth can also harm nutrition and physical well-being.

Fortunately, we have advanced restorative options that can effectively replace missing teeth. Of these, there’s a tried and true one that’s both affordable and effective: removable dentures.

Dentures are simple in design: a plastic or resin base, colored with a pinkish-red hue to resemble gums to which we attach prosthetic (false) teeth. But while the design concept isn’t complicated, the process for creating and fitting them can be quite involved: they must conform to an individual patient’s jaws and facial structure if they’re going to appear natural.

If you’re considering dentures, here’s some of what it will take to achieve a successful outcome.

Positioning the teeth. The position of the prosthetic teeth on the base greatly determines how natural they’ll appear and how well they’ll function. So, we’ll need to plan tooth placement beforehand based on your facial and jaw structures, as well as photos taken of you before tooth loss. We’ll also consider how large the teeth should be, how far to place them forward or back from the lips, and whether to include “imperfections” from your old look that you see as part of your appearance.

Simulating the gums. While the teeth are your smile’s stars, the gums are the supporting cast. It’s important that we create a denture base that attractively frames the teeth by determining how much of the gums show when you smile, or adding color and even textures to better resemble gum tissue. We can also add ridges behind the upper teeth to support speech.

Balancing the bite. Upper and lower dentures don’t operate in and of themselves—they must work cooperatively and efficiently with each other during eating or speaking. So while appearance matters, the bite’s bite adjustment or balance might matter more. That’s why we place a lot of attention into balancing and adjusting the bite after you receive your dentures to make sure you’re comfortable.

This is a detailed process that we may need to revisit from time to time to make sure your dentures’ fit remains tight and comfortable. Even so, modern advances in this traditional restoration continue to make them a solid choice for total tooth loss.

If you would like more information on denture restorations, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor article “Removable Dentures.”

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New Year’s Resolutions for Better Oral Health

colbert.Laying out goals for the New Year is a great way to inspire yourself to make positive changes that can improve your health. For example, many habits—both good and bad—affect the health of your teeth and gums. Here’s a list of risky habits to kick, and mouth-healthy habits to adopt:

Habits That Risk Oral Health

Smoking. As if oral cancer weren’t enough to worry about, smoking also promotes gum disease and tooth loss. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, smokers have double the risk of gum disease compared to nonsmokers. And according to the Academy of General Dentistry, Smokers are about twice as likely to lose their teeth as nonsmokers. For help quitting, visit smokefree.gov.

Snacking. Nibbling all day can create the perfect conditions for tooth decay—especially if your snacks contain sugar and other carbohydrates. Sticky snacks like cookies, crackers, chips and candy bars that cling to teeth tend to remain in the mouth and attract decay-causing oral bacteria. The acid these bacteria produce can penetrate the enamel of your teeth, causing cavities.

Soft Drinks. Speaking of tooth-eroding acid, soft drinks have plenty of it. And this includes both regular and diet varieties of soda, sweetened iced tea, sports drinks and so-called energy drinks. The healthiest drink for your teeth is water!

Mouth-Healthy Habits

Brushing. You probably brush your teeth every day already, but are you doing it correctly? To get the most benefit from this healthy habit, brush twice each day for a full two minutes each time. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush with toothpaste that contains fluoride, and don’t scrub too harshly!

Flossing. Yes, it’s worth the effort! If you don’t floss, you’ll miss cleaning about 40% of your tooth surfaces. A toothbrush just can’t reach in between teeth, where decay-causing dental plaque can hide. If you find dental floss difficult to work with, try using disposable floss holders.

Regular Dental Checkups. Keep up a regular schedule of professional teeth cleanings and exams! This allows us to remove any hardened dental plaque (tartar) that has built up on your teeth, screen you for oral cancer, and treat minor dental problems before they become major ones. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to review your at-home oral hygiene.

If you have any questions about how to improve your oral health, please contact our office or schedule a consultation.

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Give Yourself the Gift of a New Smile

smile.The holidays are a season for giving. At this time of year, lots of us spend hours rushing around, looking for the perfect gifts for people we care about. But sometimes, amidst all the hustle and bustle, it doesn’t hurt to step back and think about yourself a little. If a better-looking smile has been on your list but you haven’t taken the first steps, the holiday season might be the right time to give yourself a gift.

Many smile problems, like discolored, chipped or uneven teeth, can be resolved with veneers—wafer-thin porcelain shells that cover the front surfaces of teeth. Veneers are custom-made just for you: They can have a pearly luster to match your existing teeth, or be Hollywood-white for a dazzling red-carpet smile. In just a few visits to the dental office, you can have the smile you’ve always wanted—and a whole new look for the New Year.

If damaged or missing teeth are what’s bothering you, you’ll be happy to know that there are lots of good options for replacing them. If the tooth’s roots are still in good shape, a crown or cap could be the answer. This is a sturdy replacement for the entire visible part of the tooth that not only looks great, but also functions well in your bite—and can last for years to come.

If teeth are missing or can’t be saved, we offer several options for replacement, including fixed (non-removable) bridgework and dental implants. A tried-and-true method for replacing one or more missing teeth, bridges are firmly supported by healthy teeth next to the gap in your smile. These teeth must be prepared to receive the bridge by having some of the tooth’s surface removed.

Dental implants are today’s premier option for tooth replacement. In this high-tech system, a root-like titanium insert, placed directly into the bone beneath the gum, forms a solid anchorage for the visible part of the replacement tooth. Implants look and feel completely natural, and can last for many years. Plus, they don’t require any work to be done on nearby teeth.

What kind of smile makeover is right for you? Just ask us! We will be happy to take a look at your smile and recommend a treatment plan. And in this season of generosity, there’s no better gift you can give yourself than a bright new smile.

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Stephen Colbert Shares Throwback Braces Photo for a Good Cause

colbert.When we look at those glamorous faces on TV, it’s easy to forget that celebrities—like the rest of us—often went through an awkward stage in adolescence.  But once in a while, something comes along to remind us that flawless Hollywood smiles didn’t always start out that way. Right now, that something is the hashtag #PuberMe: an invitation from late-night TV host Stephen Colbert for fellow celebs to post awkward photos from their youth.

In exchange for posting the embarrassing images, Colbert’s charity is donating to the hurricane relief effort for Puerto Rico; so far about $1 million has been raised. Also raised: many eyebrows, by the adorably dorky pictures—such as the one of Colbert himself, with a smile full of metal braces!

Like many kids, Colbert had teeth that didn’t align properly in his bite. The picture shows that several of his top teeth are in less-than-perfect positions, with noticeable gaps in between. Yet to look at that same smile today, you’d never suspect there had been a problem. That’s the magic of orthodontics.

Time-tested and effective, metal braces like the ones in Colbert’s picture remain among the most widely used appliances today. But orthodontics has come a long way since the late 1970’s, and now there are several other methods for correcting misaligned teeth, including ceramic braces, clear plastic aligners, and invisible lingual braces. The main advantage of the newer methods is that are they are harder to notice (and maybe a bit less awkward).

Ceramic braces, for example, have brackets that match the color of the teeth; with only the thin archwire visible, they’re much more unobtrusive. Clear aligners are transparent plastic trays that completely cover the teeth. Almost impossible to spot, they are worn 22 hours per day, but may be removed for eating or important events. Lingual braces are literally invisible, since they are placed on the tongue side of teeth rather than the lip side. In many situations, they are at least as effective as traditional braces.

Which appliance is best for you? It depends on each person’s individual situation—but many orthodontic patients now have choices that weren’t available in the past. And that goes for both kids and adults, who often appreciate a more “grown-up” image while improving their smiles with orthodontic treatment.

If you have questions about orthodontic treatment, please contact our office or schedule a consultation.

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