Graef Dental

New Season, New Toothbrush

toothbrush.October brings fall leaves, pumpkins — and National Dental Hygiene Month. As you change your summer clothes for a fall wardrobe, it may also be time to change your toothbrush for a new one. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends replacing your toothbrush every three to four months. If that sounds like a lot, just think: This small but very important tool gets a lot of use!

If you brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time as recommended by the ADA, that’s two hours of brushing action in one month. Three to four months of twice-daily brushing makes for six to eight hours of brushing time, or a couple hundred uses. This is all an average toothbrush can take before it stops doing its job effectively.

Toothbrush bristles are manufactured to have the right amount of give, tapering, and end-rounding for optimal cleaning. When new, a toothbrush can work its way around corners and between teeth to remove dental plaque. Old bristles, however, lose the flexibility needed to reach into nooks and crannies for a thorough cleaning. Worn bristles may curl, fray or break — and can scratch your gums or tooth enamel. A toothbrush with stiff, curled bristles does not leave your mouth feeling as clean. This may lead to brushing too often or too hard, which is bad for your gums.

A good rule of thumb is to replace your toothbrush every season — unless you see signs that you need a new one sooner. For example, if you wear braces, you may have to replace your toothbrush more frequently since brushing around braces puts more wear and tear on the brush.

For healthy teeth and gums, make sure your primary oral hygiene tool is in tip-top shape. Taking care of the little things now can avoid inconvenient and expensive dental problems later. Don’t forget to schedule regular professional dental cleanings, and be sure to ask if you have any questions about your dental hygiene routine at home. To learn more about the importance of good oral hygiene, read “Daily Oral Hygiene: Easy Habits for Maintaining Oral Health” and “Dental Hygiene Visit: A True Value in Dental Healthcare” in Dear Doctor magazine.

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Risk Factors for Gum Disease

gum disease.September is National Gum Care Month. Did you know that advanced periodontal disease is the number one cause of tooth loss among adults? Periodontal disease refers to any disease that affects the structures that hold the teeth in place, including gums, ligaments and bone. In its earliest stage, called gingivitis, the gums become inflamed. When it progresses to periodontitis, both soft and hard tissues that hold the teeth in place are affected, threatening the integrity of the teeth. Some people are more susceptible to periodontal disease than others. Here are some common risk factors:

Poor oral hygiene. Plaque buildup is the primary cause of gum disease. When life gets busy, we may be less diligent about our oral care. This allows bacteria in the mouth to form a biofilm (plaque), which causes inflammation of the gums.

Heredity: Some people are genetically more predisposed to gum disease. Look at your family history. Have any of your relatives had gum disease or lost their teeth?

Pregnancy. Gums are sensitive to hormone fluctuations, and it is not uncommon for pregnant women to experience an inflammation of the gums known as “pregnancy gingivitis.” Gingivitis — characterized by red, swollen gums that bleed easily — is the beginning stage of gum disease.

Age: The chance of developing gum disease increases with age. Over 70% of Americans 65 and older have periodontitis, an advanced form of gum disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This may be influenced by other diseases, medications that cause dry mouth, or other causes of plaque buildup.

Diet: Eating too many simple carbohydrates (those found in sugar, white bread, white rice and mashed potatoes, for example) is linked to chronic inflammation in the body, which increases the risk of gum disease.

Smoking: Smoking is a significant risk factor for the development and progression of gum disease. Since nicotine constricts blood vessels, smokers may not see the typical symptoms such as red, puffy, bleeding gums, so the disease may cause damage before smokers realize there is a problem with their gums.

Diabetes: Uncontrolled diabetes puts you at higher risk of periodontal disease. Not only can diabetes make gum disease worse, gum disease can make diabetes symptoms worse.

Our aim is not to scare you but to help you become aware of factors that can increase your risk of gum disease. Many of these factors are not under your control. However, you can do your part to prevent gum disease by staying on top of the things you can control. Let us know about any new medications you are taking, eat a balanced diet rich in complex carbohydrates and other nutrients and, if relevant, manage your diabetes and explore programs that will help you quit smoking.

Fortunately, good oral hygiene and regular professional cleanings can turn early gum disease around, so if you have any of the risk factors that contribute to periodontal disease, be extra diligent about your oral hygiene routine. And make sure you come in for regular dental checkups and cleanings. If you show signs of gum disease, we may recommend that you come in for more frequent cleanings.

To learn more about risk factors for gum disease, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Assessing Risk for Gum Disease” and “Pregnancy and Oral Health.”

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Charlize Theron Back in Action After Dental Surgery

implant.When they’re introducing a new movie, actors often take a moment to pay tribute to the people who helped make it happen — like, you know, their dentists. At least that’s what Charlize Theron did at the premiere of her new spy thriller, Atomic Blonde.

"I just want to take a quick moment to thank my dentists," she told a Los Angeles audience as they waited for the film to roll. "I don’t even know if they’re here, but I just want to say thank you."

Why did the starring actress/producer give a shout-out to her dental team? It seems she trained and fought so hard in the action sequences that she actually cracked two teeth!

“I had severe tooth pain, which I never had in my entire life,” Theron told an interviewer from Variety. At first, she thought it was a cavity — but later, she found out it was more serious: One tooth needed a root canal, and the other had to be extracted and replaced with a dental implant — but first, a bone grafting procedure was needed. “I had to put a donor bone in [the jaw] to heal,” she noted, “and then I had another surgery to put a metal screw in there.”

Although it might sound like the kind of treatment only an action hero would need, bone grafting is now a routine part of many dental implant procedures. The reason is that without a sufficient volume of good-quality bone, implant placement is difficult or impossible. That’s because the screw-like implant must be firmly joined with the jawbone, so it can support the replacement tooth.

Fortunately, dentists have a way to help your body build new bone: A relatively small amount of bone material can be placed in the missing tooth’s socket in a procedure called bone grafting. This may come from your own body or, more likely, it may be processed bone material from a laboratory. The donor material can be from a human, animal or synthetic source, but because of stringent processing techniques, the material is safe for human use. Once it is put in place your body takes over, using the grafted material as a scaffold on which to build new bone cells. If jawbone volume is insufficient for implants, it can often be restored to a viable point in a few months.

Better yet, when grafting material is placed in the tooth socket immediately after extraction, it can keep most of the bone loss from occurring in the first place, enabling an implant to be placed as soon as possible — even before the end of a movie’s shooting schedule.

Will Atomic Blonde prove to be an action-movie classic? Only time will tell. But one thing’s for sure: When Charlize Theron walks down the red carpet, she won’t have to worry about a gap in her smile.

If you have questions about bone grafting or dental implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dental Implant Surgery and “Immediate Dental Implant.”

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Professional Whitening Offers an Effective Way to Restore Your Smile’s Luster

whitening.

Your teeth were meant to shine! Tooth enamel’s polished translucence, framed by the dentin layer beneath it, has a way of vibrantly catching the light when you smile. But tooth wear and structural changes as you age can dim that shine. Add to that staining caused by foods and beverages or disease and your smile could further lose its luster.

On your supermarket or pharmacy oral hygiene aisle you’ll find dozens of products promising to restore that lost luster, including toothpastes, whitening kits or even chewing gum. While such products work to some degree, our dental office may have the right solution for you: a safe and effective treatment for whitening teeth.

Why see us for teeth whitening? For one, professional whitening solutions contain a higher concentration of bleaching agent (usually 35-45% hydrogen peroxide) than home kits. We usually apply it in a gel form directly to the teeth while using barrier devices like dams to protect the lips and other soft tissue from irritation. We may then apply heat or light to the applied gel to enhance the release of peroxide into your enamel.

This professional procedure can often give you a brighter smile in fewer sessions than a home whitening kit — and it may last longer. What’s more, we can control the level of brightness to produce only a subtle change or a dazzling “Hollywood” smile — whatever your preference.

Like a home kit, this procedure bleaches staining on the outer surface of enamel, known as extrinsic staining. But you can also have discoloration deep within a tooth, known as intrinsic staining, caused by a variety of reasons like tetracycline use early in life or complications from a root canal treatment. Home kits or even the professional treatment described above can’t whiten intrinsic staining.

For intrinsic staining you’ll need a special procedure that places a bleaching agent inside the tooth. Depending on the extent of staining the procedure could require more than one session.

To find out what kind of discoloration you have, visit us for a full examination. We’ll then be able to give you your options for putting the shine back in your smile.

If you would like more information on teeth whitening, 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 “Teeth Whitening.”

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You’ll Experience Little to No Discomfort During and After Implant Surgery

implant.You’ve decided to obtain dental implants for your missing teeth. It’s a good choice — they provide the closest restoration to the function and appearance of natural teeth. You will, however, need to undergo a surgical procedure to imbed the implants’ threaded titanium posts into supporting bone.

It’s understandable if you’re a little apprehensive about undergoing surgery. We’re here, though, to set your mind at ease: implantation is a relatively minor procedure carefully planned in advance. Most patients experience no discomfort during the procedure and very little afterward.

We begin by completely numbing the surgical site with a local anesthetic. If you have a high level of anxiety, we can also administer a sedative or similar medication to help you relax. We then access the underlying bone through a series of incisions that create a flap in the gum tissue that we’ll later suture closed.

It’s quite common to have prepared a surgical guide or template beforehand. The template placed in the mouth marks the exact site for a small channel (or hole) we create in the bone. We then incrementally increase the size of the hole by drilling until it matches precisely the implant’s size and shape. This takes time to avoid overheating and damaging the bone.

We then remove the implant from its sterile packaging and insert it into the opening. We’ll also take x-rays to ensure correct positioning, which is critical for achieving an attractive result. We then suture the gum flap in place using stitches that will eventually dissolve. The implant will then integrate with the bone for a few weeks to create a strong, durable hold before we continue with the restoration.

Most patients can manage any post-surgical discomfort with mild anti-inflammatory pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen, although we can prescribe something stronger if you need it. We may also prescribe a mouthrinse with an anti-bacterial agent like chlorhexidine for you to use while the gums are healing to reduce the risk of infection.

Implant surgery is part of a long process that will eventually result in regaining the function of your lost teeth. What’s more, undergoing this minor procedure will also help you regain something just as important — a beautiful smile.

If you would like more information on dental implant restoration, 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 Implant Surgery.”

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A Smile Makeover Depends on Balancing Technique with Beauty

smile makeover.“Redesigning” a smile is a lot like remodeling a house: the technicalities of construction must blend seamlessly with what is perceived as elegant and beautiful. The first aspect — the proper materials and techniques to achieve a sound restoration — is absolutely crucial. But the aesthetic is just as important for assuring the final restoration evokes beauty and style.

Balancing these two aspects of a smile makeover requires thoughtful intent and planning. What may be pleasing aesthetically may not be technically feasible; but what may be technically sound may not have that sought-after “curb appeal.”

You and your dentist must work together to achieve the successful blending of these two aspects. That’s why it’s important for you to have full confidence in your dentist: that he or she is both technically skilled and experienced in cosmetic procedures and artistically aware of what will look best aesthetically.

The first step in your makeover is a thorough dental examination to determine the overall state of your oral health. With this “bigger picture,” your dentist will have a better understanding of what’s possible and practical for you and your situation. The exam may also reveal problems that should be treated first before any cosmetic work.

From there, you must communicate clearly to your dentist what you perceive as wrong with your smile and what you would like to have changed. While there are general principles of beauty best followed, your dental work could hypothetically take different paths depending on your desires and expectations. You might prefer a more “sexy” look or one that’s “sophisticated.” Or perhaps you only want subtle changes that still retain features expressing your individuality.

Ultimately, though, your expectations must line up with reality. Much like your house contractor, your dentist will advise you on what’s both practical and possible. And with their experience in smile enhancement, they can also help you determine what will look most attractive given your facial structure and features.

With this preliminary planning, you can be confident as the work proceeds that the end of the project will be both exciting and satisfying. And just as with your newly renovated home, you’ll be more than happy to share your smile with others.

If you would like more information on enhancing your smile through cosmetic dentistry, 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 “Beautiful Smiles by Design.”

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A Mouthguard for NBA Star Isaiah Thomas

sports.Even after losing a tooth in an on-court collision with an opposing player, Isaiah Thomas didn’t slow down. The Boston Celtics point guard completed the play…and the rest of the game. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of his dental problems — it was just the beginning.

Over the next few days, Thomas had a total of ten hours of oral surgery to treat problems with multiple teeth. He got a temporary bridge, and will receive a permanent one at a later date. He also got fitted for a custom-made mouthguard to prevent re-injury.

We’re pleased to see that Thomas is getting appropriate dental treatment. But it’s unfortunate that he didn’t get the mouthguard sooner; this one piece of inexpensive safety gear could have saved him a lot of pain and trouble. If you think mouthguards are strictly for full-contact sports, Thomas’ troubles should make you think again. In fact, according to a 2015 study in the journal Sports Health, the five sports with the highest overall risk of tooth loss are basketball, football, hockey, martial arts, and boxing. Plenty of other also involve the risk of dental injury.

The study also notes that some 5 million teeth are avulsed (knocked out) each year in the U.S. alone. Countless others are loosened, fractured or chipped. What’s more, it is estimated that the lifetime cost of treating an avulsed tooth is between $5,000 and $20,000. The cost of a custom-made mouthguard is just a small fraction of that.

Where can you or your child get a custom-made mouthguard? Right here at the dental office! These high-quality items are professionally fabricated from a model of your actual teeth, so they fit much better than an off-the-shelf one ever could. They offer superior protection, durability and comfort — because, after all, no mouthguard can protect you if it’s too uncomfortable to wear.

Thomas’ season is now over due to a hip injury, but at least he will now have time to rest and get his dental problems taken care of. Let’s hope his story will inspire more athletes — both professional and amateur — to prevent similar problems by wearing custom-made mouthguards. Whether you compete on a school team, enjoy a pick-up game after work, or play in the big leagues, a dental injury is one problem that you don’t need.

If you have questions about custom-made mouthguards, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

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Only a Dental Exam can Identify the Root Cause of Your Tooth Pain

tooth pain.A toothache means you have tooth decay, right? Not necessarily — your pain could be signaling a number of potential causes. Determining where, how much and how often it hurts will help us find out the cause and apply the appropriate treatment.

A single symptom, for example, can mean many things. A twinge of tooth pain as you consume hot or cold foods might indicate localized tooth decay easily repaired by a filling. But it could also mean the tooth’s root surface has been exposed as a result of periodontal (gum) disease — aggressive plaque removal and maybe even gum surgery might be necessary. Or it could be a sign of inner pulp decay: in this case you’ll likely need a root canal treatment to save the tooth.

Pulp decay can also announce itself with a very sharp and constant pain radiating from one or more teeth. You shouldn’t hesitate to see us for an examination — even if the pain goes away. Pain cessation most likely means the nerves in the pulp have died. The infection, however, still exists, so you’ll still probably need a root canal treatment.

If you notice severe, continuous pain and pressure around a tooth, particularly about the gums, you may have a localized, inflamed area of infection called an abscess. An abscess can be the result of gum disease, but it might also stem from a foreign body like a popcorn husk, getting stuck below the gums. We’ll need to conduct a complete dental examination to determine the cause and how to treat it.

Finally, a sharp pain when you bite down could mean many things such as a loose filling or a fractured (cracked) tooth. The latter especially requires immediate attention to save the tooth.

These are just a few of the possible causes behind mouth or facial pain. Although all of them are serious, a few are true dental emergencies and can’t wait if we’re going to save a tooth. The sooner you see us, the sooner we can help relieve the pain, minimize any damage and avert disaster.

If you would like more information on treating tooth pain, 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 “Tooth Pain? Don’t Wait!

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No- or Minimal-Prep Veneers Reduce Permanent Alterations to Your Teeth

veneers.Porcelain veneers are positive proof that unattractive teeth don’t always require an intensive restoration to regain their beauty. These thin layers of translucent porcelain — custom-designed and color-matched to blend with your other teeth — are permanently bonded to the visible side of your front teeth.

Although they can’t remedy every tooth defect, they’re well suited for mild to moderate disfigurements like chipping, staining or gaps. There are now two types of porcelain veneers: the traditional veneer and the “no-prep” veneer.

The standard veneers require some tooth structure removal, referred to as “tooth preparation.” This is because although they’re a millimeter or less in thickness, they can still appear bulky if bonded to an unprepared tooth. To accommodate their width, it’s necessary to remove some of the tooth enamel. This permanently alters the tooth so that it will need some form of restoration from that time on.

In recent years, however, other veneer options have emerged that reduces — or even eliminates — this tooth alteration. No-prep veneers are so thin they can be applied to a tooth with virtually no preparation. A more common option, minimal-prep, requires only a minor reshaping with an abrasive tool to ensure the fitted veneer looks as natural as possible. Because of their thinness, these veneers also don’t have to fit under the gum line like standard veneers.

To obtain no- or minimal-prep veneers, your tooth enamel needs to be in good, healthy shape. They’re also best suited for people with small or worn teeth, narrow smiles (the side teeth can’t be seen from the front), or slightly stained or misshapen teeth.

Because there’s little invasiveness, these low preparation veneers won’t typically create tooth sensitivity and they can often be applied without any form of anesthesia. And because tooth structure isn’t removed, they can be “uninstalled” to return to your natural look. Of course, that’s not always an easy process since the bonding between veneer and the enamel is quite strong, although today’s lasers can be used to detach the veneer quite easily.

If you’d like to consider these minimally invasive veneers, talk with your dentist. If you’re a good candidate, you may be able to gain a new smile without much change to your natural teeth.

If you would like more information on how veneers can change your smile, 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 “No-Prep Porcelain Veneers.”

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Don’t let Periodontal Disease Cause Your Gums to Recede

gum recession.Although your smile wouldn’t be the same without them, there’s more to your gums than their looks. Besides helping to hold your teeth in place, they’re also an important protective barrier for their roots.

Unfortunately, gums aren’t immune to disease, especially periodontal (gum) disease. This bacterial infection, triggered by built-up dental plaque on teeth due to insufficient oral hygiene, can cause the gum tissues to detach from teeth and shrink back (recede). This can make your teeth more sensitive to hot or cold foods and beverages, as well as put them at even greater risk for tooth decay.

To treat gum recession, our first priority is to stop any ongoing gum disease through aggressive plaque removal. Depending on severity, this could require clinical procedures like scaling or root planing to remove plaque and tartar (hardened plaque deposits) at or below the gum line. This is especially crucial for improving gum tissue healing and stimulating potential reattachment.

Revitalizing gum tissues this way naturally has a better chance of occurring if we’re able to prevent recession before it reaches the roots. If that does happen and we have sufficient gum tissue attachment remaining, we may need to give the gum tissue a helping hand through gum grafting surgery. There are a number of techniques depending on the circumstances, but they all use either tissue from another location in the patient’s mouth or prepared tissue from another human donor. This type of surgery requires great skill and expertise, not to mention an aesthetic sense, to achieve a result that’s both functional and attractive.

Other than daily brushing and flossing, the most important thing you can do for gum health is to see us as soon as you notice any signs of gum problems like swelling, bleeding or tooth sensitivity. The sooner we can diagnose and begin treating the problem, the less likely any gum recession will have a long-term impact on your health.

If you would like more information on gum 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 “Gum Recession.”

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