Even though tooth loss due to gum disease and tooth decay is preventable, hundreds of millions of Americans are missing one or more teeth and ten percent of Americans have lost all of their natural teeth. For these Americans it is important for their overall health and self-esteem to replace missing teeth.
It is well established that a person’s diet is adversely affected by tooth loss and the more teeth that are missing, the worse the problem becomes. In addition to leading to poor diet and health, tooth loss causes loss of jawbone density and can cause problems with speaking. People with missing teeth are also more inclined to avoid social interaction because they feel self-conscious about their appearance and have problems speaking and chewing.
Fortunately, there are a variety of tooth replacement options. Removable dentures are a very common alternative due to their relative low cost and the fact that they can usually be fitted without extensive treatment. However, they take some getting used to and denture wearers have to learn to chew and speak with their new teeth. They can also slip and require occasional adjustments for a good fit.
A fixed bridge is a more permanent solution that provides sturdier replacement teeth. A fixed bridge is one or more prosthetic teeth that are permanently attached to adjacent healthy teeth. They look and feel like natural teeth, but are only appropriate if the patient has sufficient remaining healthy teeth.
Dental implants require more invasive treatment, but they result in a replacement tooth or teeth that look and feel almost exactly like natural teeth. Implants have a higher initial cost than other alternatives, but they last much longer. A dental implant can be used to replace a single tooth or to anchor numerous teeth.
A smile makeover is an integrated plan of cosmetic dental procedures specifically developed for each patient to enhance the appearance of the patient’s smile. A smile makeover usually incorporates several cosmetic dental procedures to achieve the desired results. Depending on the needs of the patient, these procedures can include dental veneers, whitening or bleaching, crowns, implants, orthodontics, and bonding.
A proper smile makeover is more than just choosing a few cosmetic dental procedures. It involves a comprehensive treatment plan developed after consultation and evaluation by a dentist who specializes in cosmetic dentistry. Your cosmetic dentist will take into account your facial characteristics to develop a plan that complements and enhances your features.
The evaluation will include the attributes of your teeth. In addition to whitening and straightening your teeth, if your teeth are short or if you have a gummy smile your dentist may recommend reshaping or lengthening your front teeth with veneers, bonding, or caps to provide a more youthful appearance. Gummy smiles can be addressed by modifying the gum line which also makes your teeth appear longer.
Your smile line is the bottom edge of your front upper teeth from side to side. This line should be an even, smooth curve that coincides with the curve of your lower lip when you smile. Your cosmetic dentist will take your smile line into account when determining your tooth length.
Tooth proportion is another important consideration for an attractive smile. Your teeth should have a pleasing height to width ratio and your front teeth should be properly proportioned in relation to the neighboring teeth. Tooth shaping, bonding or veneers may be necessary to achieve the ideal proportion.
Missing teeth are a problem for hundreds of millions of Americans and the problem is particularly a concern for older Americans. The majority of Americans over the age of 65 have lost six or more of their natural teeth and about 20 percent have no natural teeth left at all. Replacing missing teeth is very important because studies have shown that missing teeth lead to poor diet and lower overall health.
A fixed bridge has long been one of the primary methods of replacing one or more missing teeth, but in recent years dental implants have become the preferred method for replacing missing teeth. Dental implants are permanently implanted in the patient’s jaw bone and provide support for a single prosthetic tooth or to replace several adjacent missing teeth.
Dental implants look, feel, and act just like natural teeth. They can last a lifetime and also stimulate bone growth and eliminate problems with bone loss in the jaw associated with other tooth replacement options such as a fixed bridge
Another problem with a fixed bridge is that it must be supported by two adjacent healthy teeth. A bridge is essentially two caps or crowns attached to either side of one or more prosthetic teeth. The healthy teeth on either side of the missing teeth have to be ground down to allow the bridge to be placed on them. This process weakens the two otherwise healthy teeth to provide the support needed for the bridge.
With dental implants, no healthy teeth are compromised. The implants are placed in the bone at the site of the missing teeth and the replacement teeth are attached to the implants instead of adjacent healthy teeth. Finally a bridge usually has to be replaced after 5 to 10 years while a dental implant can last for a lifetime.
The majority of Americans will lose one or more of their natural teeth at some point in their life. Missing teeth can have a negative impact on a person’s appearance and many patients choose to replace missing teeth to restore their smile and boost their self-confidence. Even if you are not bothered by the appearance of one or more missing teeth, replacing missing teeth with dental implants or another tooth replacement alternative is important to preserve your both your oral health and your overall health.
Missing teeth impact oral health in several ways. First, other teeth will tend to migrate and shift into the space left by the missing teeth. This can affect your bite which can lead to problems with your jaw including TMJ (pain in the jaw joint).
Missing teeth can also lead to bone loss in the jaw. Chewing action naturally stimulates bone production in the jaw and when a tooth is missing, bone loss can occur in the area of the missing tooth. The jaw bone will continue to deteriorate and over time, the person’s jaw will become noticeable smaller. Adjacent teeth can also become compromises by the weakened jaw bone.
In addition to oral health, missing teeth can compromise your overall health. Missing teeth make it more difficult to chew and to eat certain food. Studies of denture wearers have shown a significantly lower level of overall health that is usually attributed to avoiding certain types of hard to eat foods and eating only soft or mashed foods.
There are many excellent alternatives for replacing missing teeth. Dental implants are an outstanding option that look and function just like natural teeth. If you are missing one or more teeth, talk to you dentist about the best tooth replacement alternative for your situation.
Becoming a dentist requires years of dedicated study followed by a rigorous licensing examination administered by a state licensing board. In order to apply for a license to practice dentistry, the applicant must have first graduated from an accredited dental school. A licensed dentist can practice general dentistry or, with additional training, they can practice in one of nine recognized specialty practice areas.
Most dental schools require that applicants have at least a bachelor’s degree and have completed certain science courses during their undergraduate education. These courses typically include biology, chemistry, and other science courses. The application process is highly competitive and only applicants with good scores on the Dental Acceptance Test and high grade point averages in their undergraduate work are likely to be accepted into dental school.
Dental school is four years long with a combination of classroom work and clinical practice under the supervision of a licensed dentist. Upon graduation, the student earns a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM) degree. The same education is required for both of these degrees. An additional two to four years of education and a residency is required for those who wish to practice in one of the specialty areas.
Specialty areas include oral surgeons whose practice may include wisdom teeth removal and surgical placement of dental implants, pediatric dentists who specialize in children, endodontists who are specially trained in root canal procedures. Orthodontists focus on correction of irregular bites and straightening crooked teeth, periodontists who treat gum disease, oral pathologists who diagnose and treat diseases of the mouth, teeth and gums.
If you are missing some or all of your teeth, you are in good company. About two thirds of Americans are missing at least one tooth and ten percent are missing all of their teeth. Among older Americans, the numbers increase drastically with 20 percent of Americans over age 65 missing all of their teeth and over 40 percent over the age of 75 have lost all of their natural teeth.
One of the most common tooth replacement alternatives are full or partial dentures. Dentures are removable prosthetic teeth that replace missing teeth. They are popular due to the relatively low cost compared to other alternatives such as dental implants. Dentures are relatively durable and are made using replacement teeth attached to a resin or acrylic material.
Partial dentures are held in place by anchoring them to adjacent healthy teeth using wire clips. Full upper dentures are held in place by suction, lower dentures by a combination of gravity, suction, and the patient’s tongue. Some denture wearers also use an adhesive or fixative to help hold the denture in place. Dentures are removed nightly for cleaning.
Problems with dentures include loose or slipping dentures and irritation or discomfort. Because they tend to slip, dentures can affect the way the wearer eats or speaks and they are not as natural looking as implants or other tooth replacement alternatives. Seeing your dentist and having your dentures adjusted can often minimize these problems.
Fitting dentures takes four to six weeks. The process starts by taking impressions of the patient’s mouth and gums which are used to create a wax model or pattern in the shape of the denture. The patient tries the wax model and it is sent back to the lab for adjustments as needed. This process is repeated until a good fit is obtained and the model is used to create the final denture.
Modern dentistry is much more than just preventative dentistry such as regular checkups, cleanings, and fillings. Cosmetic dentistry offers a wide range of procedures to enhance the appearance of your smile. When one or more of these procedures are combined as part of an integrated plan to improve the appearance of your smile, it is often referred to as a smile makeover.
If you are unhappy with the appearance of your smile, talk to a cosmetic dentist about developing a smile makeover treatment plan. Your cosmetic dentist will work with you to create a treatment plan that best achieves the look you desire within your budget. Depending on your individual needs, your cosmetic dentist may recommend one or more of the many cosmetic procedures such as teeth whitening, dental implants, dental veneers, bonding, caps, orthodontics, and replacing silver fillings.
When developing your smile makeover plan, your cosmetic dentist will take into consideration more than just your teeth, but also your facial appearance including skin tone, lips and hair to create a pleasing smile. Among the aspects of your smile that may need to be improved include tooth color, alignment, spacing, height, and missing teeth. Chipped or damaged teeth may need to be repaired and a gummy smile may need to be addressed.
Depending on your unique treatment plan, a smile makeover can be completed in a few months or it can take as long as a year or more to complete, especially if orthodontics or implants are part of the treatment plan. Your cosmetic dentist will also review any maintenance that may be required to preserve your dazzling new smile. Teeth whitening may need to be periodically renewed and orthodontic treatments may require use of a retainer to maintain tooth alignment.
Though studies have found mixed results when comparing electric toothbrushes with manual toothbrushes, most dentists recommend them for keeping teeth clean and removing plaque. If your dentist has recommended that you use an electric toothbrush or you are just sold on the benefits of an electric toothbrush, you should know that the most effective electric toothbrushes are the rechargeable toothbrushes that plug into the wall.
There are also some battery powered toothbrushes on the market that are little more than manual toothbrushes with bristles that vibrate a little. Don’t confuse these battery powered toothbrushes with a true electric toothbrush.
Electric toothbrushes are beneficial for your oral health for a number of reasons. For one, most electric toothbrush users report cleaner teeth from using an electric toothbrush. For another, electric toothbrushes can stop you from brushing your teeth too hard and damaging your teeth and gums.
Overly aggressive tooth brushing can result in receding gums or a loss to tooth enamel. With an electric toothbrush, the brush does all the work and all you do is hold the toothbrush in the right area. Since the user does not apply any pressure, brushing too hard becomes a thing of the past. Some electric toothbrushes even have sensors to prevent brushing too hard.
An electric toothbrush has a timer that makes sure that you are brushing long enough. A thorough tooth brushing should take at least two minutes, but most Americans brush their teeth for less than half that much time. An electric toothbrush will let you know when you have brushed long enough. Some even signal when it is time to move the toothbrush to another area of your mouth. When used in conjunction with regular dental cleanings and checkups, an electric toothbrush can play a valuable role in maintaining your oral health.
Gingivitis is a type of gum disease (or periodontal disease) caused by the normal bacteria found in the mouth. Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease and also the most easily treated. However, if left untreated, gingivitis can develop into much more serious gum disease that can ultimately result in the loss of the patient’s teeth.
The mouth is full of naturally occurring bacteria. These bacteria collect on our teeth and form a sticky substance called plaque. Brushing our teeth and flossing helps to remove plaque, but any plaque that is not removed will harden into tartar that cannot be removed by brushing. Tartar can be removed only by a professional dental cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist.
The bacteria in plaque and tartar can irritate the gums, especially if the tartar and plaque are below the gum line, causing the gums to be sore, red, and inflamed. This inflammation is called gingivitis. The classic symptoms of gingivitis include red, irritated gums that may bleed easily during brushing. Bad breath is sometimes associated with gingivitis.
Although anyone can get gingivitis, smokers are more likely to develop the disease. Other factors that increase the risk of gingivitis include diabetes and diseases or medications that compromise or suppress the immune system.
Gingivitis can usually be treated by a professional dental cleaning. Gingivitis that is not treated promptly will often develop into much more serious gum disease. Gingivitis can be prevented by following good oral health habits including regular dental cleanings and checkups, brushing and flossing, and avoiding tobacco products.
Dental implants have become a very popular alternative for replacing one or more missing teeth. Dental implants are generally much superior to other tooth replacement options such as a bridge or dentures. Dental implants replicate the look and feel of natural teeth. They are more durable, stronger, and present a much more natural look than dentures or bridges. Also, unlike dentures or bridges, dental implants stimulate bone growth and avoid the bone loss common with dentures or bridges.
Dental implants are surgically implanted in the patient’s bone. Once the site has healed, a prosthetic tooth is permanently attached to the implant. Most patients are candidates for implants, but there must be sufficient bone where the implant is to be placed.
If the tooth to be replaced has been missing for a long time, there may not be sufficient bone for the implant. Bone loss is normally experienced when a tooth has been lost. Everyday biting and chewing stimulates bone growth, but when a tooth is lost, the stimulation stops and bone loss in that area is common.
If there has been too much bone loss for an implant to be placed, an oral surgeon may elect to use bone grafting to build up enough bone for the implant to be placed. Bone is taken from another area of your jaw and grafted to the affected area. The graft is held in place with tiny screws and will fully fuse to the patient’s jaw bone in about four months. The dental implant can then be placed in the built up area of bone.
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