Posts for: September, 2011
Dental crowns are excellent tools that we use to restore functionality, color and/or beauty to teeth and your smile. And while many people may have heard of them, often times there are many questions surrounding the process, costs and their maintenance. This is why we have put together this list of some of the questions we are commonly asked on this subject. Our goal is to provide you with straightforward answers so that you have a clearer understanding of the treatment and are comfortable making the decision to go forward with these excellent tooth restorations should they ever be required.
What Is A Crown?
A dental crown is a tooth-shaped “cap” or cover that a dentist places over a tooth that is badly damaged from trauma or decay in order to restore its color, strength, size and functionality. They are also used for cosmetic reasons to improve discolored or misshapen teeth.
Why Can The Cost Of Crowns Vary?
The reason the cost of a crown can vary greatly, even from dentist to dentist is quite simple. The most beautiful crowns require the artistry and years of experience of a team of dental professionals; your dentist and the laboratory technicians that handcraft crowns. To meet higher expectations of some individuals requires more experience, artistry and skill. And great art just tends to cost more. A customized temporary crown may even be used as a preview to see what a final crown will look like. Another critical factor is the choice of materials used. For example, while all porcelain crowns are made from high-quality ceramic (glass) material, they are not equal. It is therefore more expensive in terms of time, skill and expertise to produce the most natural looking results.
How Long Will A Crown Last?
Most dentists expect a crown to last at least 7-10 years with normal wear and proper maintenance. However, depending on the materials used and location of the tooth, they can last upwards of 50 years or more. For example, a gold crown has the longest lifespan because gold is such a durable material that has little to no negative impact on surrounding teeth. On the other hand, porcelain produces a completely natural look but can cause wear to adjacent teeth.
What Materials Are Most Often Used For Crowns?
The three most common materials used to make crowns are as follows:
- Porcelain-Fused-to Metal (PFM)
- All porcelain
What does it mean when your dental hygienist recommends root planing? To put it simply, root planing is a method of cleaning the roots of your teeth in order to avoid periodontal (“peri” – around, “odont” – tooth) disease.
Periodontal disease happens when dental plaque, a biofilm of bacteria, is not regularly removed and begins to build up on teeth near the gum line. The bacteria cause inflammation, and this in turn causes the gum tissue to detach from the teeth. The widening spaces between the gum tissue and the teeth, called pockets, are environments in which bacteria can continue to collect and cause further inflammation and infection. Ultimately, this can lead to infection, bone loss, and loss of teeth.
Root planing is a technique designed to avoid such dire results. The bacteria, along with products they manufacture as part of their metabolism, can become ingrained in the surfaces of the tooth's root (the part of the tooth that is below the enamel). These bacterial products will form hard deposits called tartar or calculus.
Deep Cleaning Your Teeth
Of course, the best idea is to brush and floss away the plaque before the bacteria begin to build up on your teeth. If this is not done and pockets begin to form, the bacteria and toxic products are more difficult to remove in order to deep clean your teeth.
The first step is scaling. My hygienist or I will remove superficial collections of calculus. If material still remains within deep pockets, root planing is the next step. It involves actually planing the surface of the root, smoothing the surface free of calculus, bacteria, and toxins that have ingrained into the root surfaces.
Root planing is most often done under local anesthesia so that you remain comfortable while the cleaning procedures are done. The initial cleaning may be done by an ultrasonic instrument that vibrates particles off the root surfaces and flushes the pockets with water. Small hand instruments called curettes are used to finish the process. Antibacterial medication may then be used to help clear away infection from the pockets. Sometimes you may experience some tooth sensitivity to hot and cold after the root planing. If needed, this can be treated by applying fluoride to the root surfaces.
Depending on the extent of your gum disease, it may not be possible to remove all the deposits at one appointment, and it may be necessary to have multiple appointments over a few weeks to remove the remaining deposits. Often after three to four weeks the inflamed tissues have healed, leaving you with healthy gums once again.
CAT scans or Computer Assisted Tomograph scans have been around for years. However, it is quickly becoming the new standard in dentistry. The reasons are clear both literally and figuratively, as they provide our office with millions of pictures so that we can combine them together to create 3-dimensional (3-D) images. Prior to this technology, we could only image the body in 2-dimensions with x-rays (radiographs) — a technology first developed by Roentgen.
One of the best features of CAT scans and CBCT (Cone Beam Computed Tomography) scanning is that they enable us to see and experience the body from the inside. Having this ability changes (and many times) improves upon the way we diagnose. Here's how they work in very simplistic terms. Picture your favorite multi-layered cake with each layer representing an image. A three-layer cake requires just three images. For us to build a 3-D image similar to the cake, we require millions of very thin layers (images) that we put together, one on top of another, until our results, one 3-D image. And by having so many thin layers, we are best able to diagnose. For example, in our cake analogy, it is easier to determine if the cake contains finely chopped nuts, berries or other ingredients when you cut numerous very thin slices of cake to examine versus having one large chunk of cake.
It is important to note that in our office we may not recommend using this technology in all cases, as it may not be necessary for your particular diagnosis and/or treatment. While the technology can prove invaluable, it is quite expensive and a simple 2-D x-ray may provide everything we need. However, some dental specialty areas where CAT scans are currently used include:
- Orthodontists and pediatric dentists
- Cosmetic dentists and tooth replacement specialists (prosthodontists)
- Oral surgeons
- Root canal specialists (endodontists)
- Gum specialist (periodontists)
To learn more about CAT scans and how they are used in the various specialty areas, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “CAT Scans in Dentistry.” Or you can contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your specific questions.
What does the term “two-implant overdentures” mean?
For more than a century, complete dentures were the only care option for edentulous (toothless) people. As a solution, these left a lot to be desired, particularly for the lower jaw. Now dental technology has developed a better alternative that combines two strategically placed dental implants and a traditional lower denture that has been modified to fit over the two implants — thus the term.
What are the problems with traditional dentures?
The problem is that when you lose teeth, the bone that supported the missing teeth begins to shrink away. This is known as resorption, and it is the reason that dentures fitted too soon after teeth are lost quickly become loose. Bone loss happens most rapidly during the first year and is four times greater in the lower jaw than in the upper.
Why not just use dental adhesives to hold dentures tightly to the lower jaw?
Zinc, a major ingredient in most dental adhesives, has been associated with neurological disorders and may be unsafe. In addition, dental adhesives are expensive and the cost of frequent usage adds up.
Besides dental adhesives, are other health problems associated with dentures?
Yes, edentulism has been related to poor nutrition. Many edentulous people switch to soft foods with high fat content because they find healthier foods like vegetables and proteins difficult to chew.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are replacements for the roots of teeth, the parts that are below the gumline and anchored in bone. They are usually covered with a crown that shows above the line of the gums.
What are the benefits of implants?
Most importantly, implants reduce the amount of bone resorption. Studies have shown about 75% less resorption in parts of the jaw with implants compared to areas without them. Since most of the bone loss occurs within the first year after tooth loss, it is important to place implants within this time period.
Is a complete set of dental implants a good solution for edentulism?
Yes, it can be a good solution, but it is not for everyone. Some patients, who have lost a great deal of bone support, need another solution for cosmetic reasons that offer more facial support like an implant overdenture. In addition, depending on their resources and insurance, some people require a less expensive solution.
Why does the two-implant overdenture work better for the lower jaw?
Based on differences in bone volume, density and other factors, we think that four to six implants are needed to retain an upper implant overdenture. Thus a two-implant overdenture is a good solution to consider for a lower jaw, but other options might be preferred for an upper jaw.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about dentures and implants. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Implant Overdentures for the Lower Jaw.”