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Posts for category: Dental Procedures

DecidingtheFateofWisdomTeethMoreNuancedThaninthePast

If you're of a certain age, there's a good chance you've had your third molars—wisdom teeth—removed. At one time, extracting these particular teeth was a common practice, even if they hadn't shown any signs or symptoms of disease or dysfunction. But now, if you have a son or daughter coming of age, your dentist may recommend leaving theirs right where they are.

So, what's changed?

Wisdom teeth have longed been viewed as problematic. As the last of the permanent teeth, they often erupt on a jaw already crowded with other teeth. This can cause them to come in out of position—or not at all, remaining partially or totally submerged (impacted) beneath the gums.

Misaligned teeth are more difficult to keep clean of bacterial plaque, which in turn raises the risk of tooth decay or gum disease. Impacted teeth can put pressure on the roots of neighboring teeth, which further increases the risk for disease or bite problems.

To avoid these common problems associated with wisdom teeth, dentists often remove them as a preemptive measure. Given their size and possible root complexity, this is no small matter: Removing them usually requires oral surgery, making wisdom teeth extraction one of the top oral surgical procedures performed each year.

Today, however, many dentists are taking a more nuanced approach to wisdom teeth. While they still recommend removal for those displaying signs of disease or other problems, they may advise leaving them in place if the teeth are healthy, not interfering with their neighbors, and not affecting bite development.

That's not necessarily a final decision, especially with younger patients. The dentist will continue to monitor the wisdom teeth for any emerging disease or problems, and may put extraction back on the table if the situation merits it.

The key is to consider each patient and their dental needs regarding wisdom teeth on an individual basis. If warranted, removing the wisdom teeth may still be warranted if will help prevent disease, keep bite development on track and optimize oral health overall.

If you would like more information on wisdom teeth, 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 “Wisdom Teeth: Coming of Age May Come With a Dilemma.”

By Dr. Griffith
October 21, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: crowns  
WhatYouNeedToKnowToChoosetheRightDentalCrown

In the realm of dental restorations, not all crowns are alike. And, one type isn't necessarily superior to the others. One type of crown may work better for a particular tooth, while a different crown is better suited to another.

Therefore, knowing your options can help you make a more informed choice with your dentist regarding the best crown for your needs. Here, then, is a quick primer on the main types of dental crowns used today.

Metal crowns. Early in the last century, crowns made of gold, silver or other metals were the go-to dental restoration. Because of their strength and durability, metal crowns are still used today, mainly in back teeth that encounter heavy biting forces. Their drawback: They're decidedly not the color of natural teeth and so can stand out if they're placed in the visible "smile zone."

PFM crowns. The first crowns made with dental porcelain solved the appearance problem, but couldn't adequately handle biting forces as well as metal. Out of this came the porcelain fused to metal (PFM) crown, which contains an inner core of metal overlaid with tooth-colored porcelain. Providing both strength and life-likeness, PFM crowns were immensely popular until the mid-2000s.

All-Ceramic crowns. The development of porcelains more durable than earlier versions eventually dethroned the PFM (although the latter is still used today). Sixty percent of the crowns installed in recent years are all-ceramic, many reinforced with a strength material known as Lucite. Many all-ceramic crowns reaching the 15-year mark are still in place and functioning.

All of these crowns continue to be viable options for dental patients. The biggest factor in choosing one particular crown over another is the type of tooth involved and its location. As mentioned before, metal or PFM crowns are usually better for back teeth where durability is a higher priority than aesthetics. All-ceramics work well in high-visibility front teeth that normally encounter lighter biting forces than back teeth.

Regardless of which kind eventually caps your tooth, any of today's modern crowns will function as intended. But the best crown for you will be the one that both protects your tooth and enhances your smile.

If you would like more information on dental crown restorations, 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 “Porcelain Dental Crowns.”

By Dr. Griffith
October 11, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: tooth decay  
WereImprovingOurEffectivenessinTreatingToothDecay

For several decades, dentists have been saving teeth from tooth decay following a few basic guidelines: 1) Identify decay as soon as possible; 2) Thoroughly remove decayed tooth structure; and 3) Fill any cavities. With millions of diseased teeth rescued, observing these simple steps have proven a rousing success.

But as with most things, even this successful protocol isn't perfect. For one, some healthy tissue gets removed along with the diseased portions. The average percentage of "collateral damage" has dropped over the years, but it still happens—and a reduction in healthy tissue can make a tooth less structurally sound.

Another drawback, at least from the patient's perspective, is the dental drill used for removing decay and preparing cavities for filling. Many people find drilling unpleasant, whether from its vibrations in the mouth or its high-pitched whine. The drill's burr head design also contributes to greater healthy tissue loss.

But those weaknesses have lessened over the last few years, thanks to innovations on a number of fronts.

Better risk management. Tooth decay doesn't occur out of thin air—it arises out of risk factors unique to an individual patient like personal hygiene, bacterial load, saliva production or even genetics. Taking the time to identify a patient's "tooth decay risk score" can lead to customized treatments and practices that can minimize the occurrence of decay.

Earlier detection. Like other aspects of dental health, the sooner we detect decay, the less damage it causes and the more successful our treatment. X-rays remain the workhorse for detecting decay, but now with improvements like digital film and better equipment. We're also using newer technologies like laser fluorescence and infrared technology that can "see" decay that might otherwise go undetected.

Less invasive treatment. The dental drill is now being used less with the advent of air abrasion technology. Air abrasion utilizes a concentrated spray of particles to remove diseased tooth structure more precisely than drilling. That means less healthy tissue loss—and a more pleasant (and quieter!) experience for the patient.

In effect, "less is more" could describe these improvements to traditional decay treatment. They and other methods promise healthier teeth and happier patients.

If you would like more information on current treatments for tooth decay, 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 “Minimally Invasive Dentistry: When Less Care is More.”

TakeItFromTaylorSwift-LosingYourOrthodonticRetainerisNoFun

For nearly two decades, singer-songwriter Taylor Swift has dominated the pop and country charts. In December she launched her ninth studio album, called evermore, and in January she delighted fans by releasing two bonus tracks. And although her immense fame earns her plenty of celebrity gossip coverage, she's managed to avoid scandals that plague other superstars. She did, however, run into a bit of trouble a few years ago—and there's video to prove it. It seems Taylor once had a bad habit of losing her orthodontic retainer on the road.

She's not alone! Anyone who's had to wear a retainer knows how easy it is to misplace one. No, you won't need rehab—although you might get a mild scolding from your dentist like Taylor did in her tongue-in-cheek YouTube video. You do, though, face a bigger problem if you don't replace it: Not wearing a retainer could undo all the time and effort it took to acquire that straight, beautiful smile. That's because the same natural mechanism that makes moving teeth orthodontically possible can also work in reverse once the braces or clear aligners are removed and no longer exerting pressure on the teeth. Without that pressure, the ligaments that hold your teeth in place can “remember” where the teeth were originally and gradually move them back.

A retainer prevents this by applying just enough pressure to keep or “retain” the teeth in their new position. And it's really not the end of the world if you lose or break your retainer. You can have it replaced with a new one, but that's an unwelcome, added expense.

You do have another option other than the removable (and easily misplaced) kind: a bonded retainer, a thin wire bonded to the back of the teeth. You can't lose it because it's always with you—fixed in place until the orthodontist removes it. And because it's hidden behind the teeth, no one but you and your orthodontist need to know you're wearing it—something you can't always say about a removable one.

Bonded retainers do have a few disadvantages. The wire can feel odd to your tongue and may take a little time to get used to it. It can make flossing difficult, which can increase the risk of dental disease. However, interdental floss picks can help here. ¬†And although you can't lose it, a bonded retainer can break if it encounters too much biting force—although that's rare.

Your choice of bonded or removable retainer depends mainly on your individual situation and what your orthodontist recommends. But, if losing a retainer is a concern, a bonded retainer may be the way to go. And take if from Taylor: It's better to keep your retainer than to lose it.

If you would like more information about protecting your smile after orthodontics, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Importance of Orthodontic Retainers.”

By Dr. Griffith
September 11, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: braces  
CorrectingaPoorBiteWithBraces-aTrueWonder

Braces are so common that we often view them as "ho-hum." But there are aspects about braces that make them remarkable. For one, the fact that we can move teeth at all is a wonder of nature.

We normally experience our teeth as firmly set in the jaw, which can easily lead to assuming they're permanently fixed to the bone. They're not. Teeth are actually held in place by a fibrous gum tissue called the periodontal ligament that lies between them and the jawbone. The ligament anchors to both with tiny fibers, which on the tooth side affixes within a thin substance called cementum deposited on the tooth root.

As we said, we don't normally notice teeth moving. But the periodontal ligament does allow movement on a miniscule scale as a response to normal pressures that accompany biting and chewing. Although we're unaware of it, this movement takes place as the bone and cementum ahead of the direction of movement begin to dissolve. Simultaneously, new bone and cementum develops on the other side of the tooth to stabilize the movement.

Orthodontic treatment takes advantage of this natural process. The anchored wires of braces through attached brackets place pressure on the teeth in the intended direction for tooth movement. The natural mechanism described earlier does the rest. Over time, orthodontists have developed an amazing amount of precision working within this mechanism.

Another aspect about braces and other methods we may take for granted is our motive for even trying to move teeth in the first place. It may seem we're only realigning teeth to produce a more attractive smile—which they can do and why we often refer to braces as the "original smile makeover." But there's an even greater desire—straightening teeth can improve dental health.

Poor bites in turn cause other problems. Misaligned teeth are more difficult to keep clean of bacterial plaque, which increases the risk of disease. A poor bite can also accelerate teeth wear and contribute to gum problems like recession. We can eliminate or minimize these problems through bite correction.

Whatever your age, braces or other means can vastly benefit your health and your appearance. They may not always seem so, but braces are one of the true wonders of dental care.

If you would like more information on bite correction through orthodontics, 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 “Moving Teeth With Orthodontics.”



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