Posts for: April, 2014
When a natural tooth can’t be preserved, it is important to have it replaced as soon as possible. Presently, there are two excellent tooth-replacement systems in wide use: traditional bridgework and high-tech dental implants. What’s the difference between the two methods?
Essentially, it comes down to how the replacement tooth is secured in the mouth. In the dental implant system, a natural looking prosthetic tooth is solidly anchored in place by a screw-like titanium implant. This is inserted directly into the bone of the jaw in a minor surgical procedure, and over a short period of time (usually 6 – 12 weeks) its titanium metal structure will actually become fused with the living bone.
With bridgework, however, the support for the prosthetic tooth (or teeth) comes from the healthy teeth adjacent to it. These teeth must be prepared (shaped) by carefully removing some of the outer tooth material (enamel and some dentin), which enables them to be fitted with coverings called crowns or caps. Crowns are often used on their own, to restore teeth that are missing too much of their structure to be treated effectively with standard fillings. But the bridgework system goes one step further.
Instead of making individual crowns for each tooth, a dental lab will fabricate a bridge — a single unit consisting of crowns for the prepared teeth, plus complete prosthetics to replace the missing tooth (or teeth). A three-unit bridge, for example, consists of one complete prosthetic tooth to replace the one that’s missing, plus two crowns for the adjacent “abutment” teeth. It’s possible to have larger bridges as well: For example, a six-unit bridge might consist of two complete prosthetic teeth in the center, with two crowns for abutment teeth on each end, all linked together in one piece.
While bridgework has been used effectively for decades, it is now being gradually supplanted by dental implants. Implants don’t require the removal of healthy tooth material from abutment teeth, and they don’t place extra stress on those teeth; plus, they generally last much longer than natural tooth bridges. However, the dental bridge remains a viable alternative for tooth replacement in many circumstances.
One’s a singer who made her name playing New York clubs in the 1980’s before catapulting to international pop stardom; the other’s an actress from New Zealand who, in 1994, at the age of 11, became the second-youngest person ever to win an Academy Award. Both remain at the top of the A-list today. What other feature do Madonna and Anna Paquin have in common?
You guessed it — it’s their teeth. Both have a small but noticeable gap between their two front teeth, known as a diastema. This condition is relatively common, and it’s normally easy to treat — if that’s something you’d like to do. But wait a moment… In certain African countries, this kind of smile is considered a sign of fertility; in France, they call it “dents du bonheur” (lucky teeth); some other cultures consider the gap a predictor of future wealth. So if you’ve already made this look work for you, there’s no need to change it — even if you might need other cosmetic dental work.
The “perfectly imperfect” smile has become an increasingly popular option for people having veneers, cosmetic bonding, or even dental implants. Some trend-watchers have even noted a pushback against the ideal of a completely even, flawless, Hollywood-white smile. Does that create a problem at the dentist’s office?
Absolutely not! We call the process of figuring out how your teeth should look “smile design” — and it’s as much an art as a science. When we’re just beginning to design your smile, we look at a number of features — including the size, shape, color and alignment of your teeth, the position of your lips, the amount of gums exposed, and the relationship between your smile and your other facial features. We’re also listening carefully to you: what you like and don’t like about your smile, how you think it could be improved… and what should stay just the way it is.
Of course, before doing any cosmetic work, we will always perform a complete dental exam to detect any underlying condition and determine what treatments are best. Then, we will work with you to help you get the smile you’ve always wanted. Not sure exactly how it will look when it’s all done? Ask us for a preview — from computer-generated pictures to actual 3-D models, we can show you how your new smile will enhance your appearance.
So if your smile needs a little help to look its best — but you still want it to be uniquely yours — maybe now is the time to come in and see us. If you would like more information on smile design, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor articles “The Impact of a Smile Makeover” and “Beautiful Smiles by Design.”