Dental Tips Blog


Porcelain Veneers

One of the most publicized cosmetic dental procedures available today is that of porcelain veneers. Dental veneers allow smiles to be completely made over like the Hollywood movie stars that you see on television. There is no need for other treatments like braces or crowns. The veneer actually creates the appearance of whiter, straighter teeth.

Placed on the front surface of the tooth similar to an artificial nail, the shape and shade of the veneer transforms the entire appearance of the tooth. Normally several veneers are used in order to improve the overall smile, but single veneers may be used when there is just one tooth that may need cosmetic improvement. An example may be a rotated or discolored tooth.

Veneers often require little to no tooth preparation for them to be placed. Other types of treatment like crowns require tremendous amounts of tooth preparation. Porcelain veneers are minimally invasive so that if one were to ever come off there would not be a noticeable change in the tooth below it.

There is no need to whiten when you have veneers, because the all porcelain material holds the same shade for the entire life of the veneer. While it can gather some surface stain, your hygienist or dentist can easily polish this off.  Also, there is no metal base used in a veneer so that means there is no risk of a thin silver line around the gumline as is sometimes seen with certain types of crowns.

Not everyone is a candidate for veneers. If you have been thinking of a smile makeover but don’t want to endure lengthy orthodontic work, contact your dentist for a consultation about how dental veneers can change your smile completely.


Help For Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia

Very few people actually look forward to a visit to the dentist (except maybe to get those braces off).  In fact, the percentage of American adults who experience some anxiety or fear of the dentist has been estimated as high as 75%.  Most dental patients are able to deal with their anxiety and tolerate dental most procedures with local numbing agents in relative comfort.

Some patients have a stronger reaction to dental care and are uncomfortable throughout the procedure.  Not only does the patient suffer, but the procedure will be more difficult when the patient is noticeably uncomfortable.

Finally there are patients that who are so adverse to dental care that they avoid it at all costs.  These patients are said to have dental phobia.  By avoiding dental care, these patients end up exactly where they don’t want to be – in the dentist’s chair.  Because they have been avoiding dental care for so long, their oral health is poor and they are prone to needing extensive dental care which is what they were avoiding in the first place.

Fortunately, there is relief available for all types of patients.  Most dentists offer mild sedation in the form of nitrous oxide or “laughing gas.”  For patients with mild anxiety, nitrous oxide will put them in a relaxed state similar to being intoxicated.

Patients with a stronger aversion to dentistry may need to seek out a dentist with additional training in conscious sedation techniques.  This usually involves oral sedatives that are stronger than nitrous oxide, but the patient is still conscious.

Finally, patients with severe dental anxiety or dental phobia should consult with a dentist specially trained in sleep sedation dentistry.  These dentists have extensive training in conscious sedation using intravenous sedatives and fully unconscious sedation.

No matter what level of dental anxiety or dental fear you have, there are dentists specially trained in various sedation options who can help you get the dental care you need.


Indirect Restoration Alternatives

Restorative dentistry includes direct restorations such as filling and indirect restorations which refers to dental treatments for decayed, damaged, or missing teeth that require more than a filling.  Indirect restorations include crowns, caps, inlays and onlays and made in a dental laboratory.  Modern dentistry has developed a variety of materials for indirect restorations that provide patients and dentists with alternative to traditional dental materials.

Each type of material has its strengths and weaknesses and the choosing the right material involves consultation between the dentist and patient.  Various factors affect the choice of material including the cost, patient’s oral health, the load the tooth will bear, and aesthetics.

Porcelain (or ceramic) are popular materials for indirect restorations because their color and translucence is similar to that of natural teeth.  Porcelain has a high resistance to wear, but tends to wear the teeth opposite of the restored tooth.  In addition, porcelain is more prone to fracturing under pressure than other dental materials.

Porcelain fused to metal provides a stronger restoration that is less prone to fracture and has the aesthetic qualities of porcelain, but they can be sensitive to hot and cold.  Like all-porcelain, they can cause the opposing teeth to wear.

Composites don’t wear opposing teeth like porcelain.  They are also tooth colored, but lack the translucence of porcelain.  They are also not as strong as porcelain or metal restorations and tend to wear and discolor.

Metal alloys such as gold alloys and base metal (silver colored) alloys are strong, durable restorations that resist fracturing and wear while not causing excessive wear on opposing teeth.  Their primary drawback is that their color does not look like natural teeth.  Also, some patient experience sensitivity to hot and cold.



Misconceptions About Braces

Posted in Braces

Braces have come a long way in recent years, but there are many misconceptions about braces that make patients hesitant about getting braces.  This is very unfortunate because braces not only improve a patient’s smile, but they can also improve a patient’s overall health.

First up is the discomfort issue.  There is no question that having braces is less comfortable than not having braces, but modern braces are far more comfortable than those used 15 to 20 years ago.  Smaller brackets, more precise adjustments, and shorter treatment times mean that patient discomfort is minimized.

Next, it used to take years for braces to do their work but these days braces are usually worn about one to two years.  Improved techniques and more precise adjustments minimize the time it takes to complete the process.  For patients without bite issues, the procedure can be completed in as little as six months.

Recent innovations in orthodontics have made the “metal mouth” look a thing of the past.  There are many different alternatives to traditional metal braces that are much less noticeable.  These include invisible braces such as clear or tooth colored braces, inside braces that attach to the back of the patient’s teeth, and invisible aligners which work like braces but use a clear plastic tray or guard to move the teeth.

Finally, to prevent the patient’s teeth from shifting after treatment a retainer was traditionally worn for a year or two after the braces come off.  We now understand that teeth can shift at any time and maintaining tooth alignment may require wearing the retainer indefinitely, at least at night.


Replacing Fillings

Posted in Fillings

Regular dental cleaning and checkups are very important for maintaining good oral health.  If tooth decay is identified during a check-up, your dentist will repair the tooth by removing the decay and placing a dental filling.  Dental fillings normally last for many years.  The length of time varies depending on the patients’ oral hygiene habits, how well the placement was done, and other variables but in general an amalgam (silver) filling can be expected to last 10 to 15 years.  Composite (white or tooth colored) fillings don’t last quite as long – about 5 to 7 years.

Dental fillings are under a lot of stress from chewing, grinding teeth, and clenching.  Over time, a filling can wear away or it can chip, crack, or fall out of the tooth.  Fillings can wear around the edges and leave a small space between the filling and the tooth enamel.  Bacteria can enter this space and cause tooth decay around the filling.

Good oral hygiene including good brushing habits will help reduce the incidence of tooth decay around fillings.  Brushing twice a day and daily flossing will reduce the amount of decay causing bacteria and help prevent tooth decay.  Regular dental check-ups can identify a damaged filling or tooth decay around a filling before extensive damage occurs.

Worn, chipped, and cracked fillings should be replaced promptly.  In most cases, the filling can be replaced but if the patient waits until the tooth hurts or the filling falls out, the tooth may have too much damage to repair.  In this case, your dentist will need to install a crown instead of replacing the filling.


Types of Restorations

Posted in Crowns

There are a range of different types of restorations for restoring damaged or decayed teeth.  These include fillings, inlays, onlays, and crowns.  Which type of restoration is best depends on  the extent of the damage, the health of the remaining tooth, and the chewing load the tooth is expected to bear.

Dental fillings are referred to as direct restorations because they are formed and placed by the dentist in the office during a single visit.  Crowns, inlays, and onlays are called indirect restorations because they are made in a dental laboratory and require at least two visits to the dentist’s office.  During the first visit the tooth will be prepared and a mold will be made and sent to the lab.  During the second visit the dentist will cement the restoration in place.

Fillings are the restoration used for the most minor damage.  The dentist removes the decay from the tooth and fills the cavity with amalgam (silver color) or composite (tooth colored) filling material.  Fillings are only effective when there is sufficient healthy tooth to support the filling.  A filling that is too large will leave the tooth weak which could cause it to break or crack.

For much more extensive damage to the tooth, the dentist removes the decay and damaged material and will also remove enough additional tooth material to allow a crown to be placed over the tooth.  A crown (also called a cap) is made in a dental laboratory and cemented in place by your dentist.  The crown completely encircles or “caps” the tooth and provides a strong restoration for a seriously damaged tooth.

Dental inlays and onlays are used to repair damage that is too much for a filling, but not enough for a crown.  Inlays and onlays are indirect restorations similar to crowns, but cover less area of the tooth.  An inlay fits in between the cusps or rounded edges of the tooth while an onlay covers one or more of the cusps or even the entire biting surface.


Don’t Put Off Regular Dental Checkups

Few people look forward to visiting the dentist, but regular dental cleanings and check-ups can protect your oral health and protect your wallet!  Avoiding the dentist might save a little money and inconvenience in the short run, but in the long run you will spend far more money on expensive dental restorations and you will end up facing exactly what you were trying to avoid in the first place:  a long, uncomfortable session in the dental chair.

The irony to all this is that regular dental check-ups and cleanings are the most important and effective way to avoid expensive and uncomfortable dental procedures.  Most dental issues start out as small problems such as some minor tooth decay that causes a small cavity to form.  Most people will not even notice it, but your dentist will see it during a check-up and can place a filling during a relatively short, comfortable and affordable procedure.

However, if you avoid regular dental check-ups, the decay will go unnoticed until it starts to cause you some pain and discomfort.  By this time, the decay has caused a large cavity and extends all the way to the tooth’s pulp which is why it has become painful.  Repairing this extensive tooth damage will require much more extensive and uncomfortable dental work.

A root canal may be needed and it’s likely that a cap will need to be placed instead of a filling.  You may even need a bridge or an implant.  All of these procedures are far more expensive than a filling and typically require multiple visits to the dentist.

The lesson to be learned here is don’t wait until your teeth hurt to go to the dentist.  Have regular dental check-ups and cleanings and get those cavities filled promptly.


Direct Dental Restoration Alternatives

Posted in Fillings

Direct restorations refers to fillings that are placed in your teeth during a single visit such as amalgam (silver colored) fillings and composite (tooth colored) fillings.  Indirect restorations usually take more than a single visit because the restoration is made in a dental laboratory and include crowns, caps, inlays, and onlays.

Advances in dental materials and techniques have given you and your dentist more options for direct dental restorations of damaged or decayed teeth.  Most traditional materials such as amalgam and gold still have a place in modern dentistry due to their lower cost, strength, and durability.  Future developments will likely result in even better materials with attributes that rival their traditional counterparts.

Choosing the right material for dental fillings depends on various factors including the patient’s oral health, the strength of the tooth after the decayed material has been removed, where the filling will be placed, and the chewing load that will be placed on the tooth.

Amalgam is the silver colored material that has been used for dental fillings by dentists for over 100 years.  It’s durability and relatively low cost assures that it will continue to be a popular material for restorations, especially in back teeth where the silver color will not be as obvious.  Amalgam is strong and can tolerate high chewing loads which makes it a great choice for molars.  The silver color can be a negative for many patients, especially for front teeth that will show when the patient smiles or talks.  Amalgam can also be sensitive to hot or cold.

Composite fillings are made from a resin mixture and are dyed to match your tooth color.  They are not as strong or as durable as amalgam, but they are an attractive option for front teeth that are visible when a patient speaks or smiles.  These teeth have lower chewing loads which makes composite fillings ideal.  Composite fillings take a little longer to place and are usually a little more expensive than amalgam.


Adult Braces

Posted in Braces

If you are an adult and are unhappy with your smile, consider joining the millions of American adults who are using braces to get the smile they have always wanted.  Braces aren’t just for adolescents anymore.  In fact, almost half of orthodontic patients are adults and experts say age does not matter when it comes to using braces to get straighter teeth and a more attractive smile.

If concerns about that “metal mouth” look have been holding you back, you will be pleased to know that in the past 15 years braces have improved considerably.  These days there are many options available that are far less obtrusive than traditional full banded metal braces.

Ceramic braces are similar to traditional braces except that they are made from tooth colored ceramic material that blends in with your teeth.  Since they are not shiny metal, they are much less noticeable than traditional braces.

Another option is inside braces that attach to the back of the patient’s teeth instead of the front.  These are almost unnoticeable, but some patients have difficulty getting used to them.

Invisible braces are a great option for adults.  Instead of using brackets and bands affixed to the teeth, invisible braces use a series of clear removable “trays”  called aligners that fit over the patient’s teeth.  The aligners are computed designed so that each aligner applies gentle pressure to move the teeth a little further than the previous aligner.  An aligner is worn for two to three weeks and then replaced with the next one.  These are nearly invisible and can be removed for eating and cleaning.

Finally, consider six months braces.  This procedure uses clear or tooth colored braces and focuses on aligning just the patient’s front teeth.  Since the procedure does not attempt to address bite problems or severe misalignments, it is usually completed in six months.



Affordable Dental Care

Finding affordable dental care can be a challenge, but don’t be one of the millions of Americans who simply don’t get much needed dental care because they think they can’t afford it.  Neglecting your dental health might save some money in the short run, but in the long run you will end up spending much more for extensive dental work.  The most cost-effective solution is to take good care of your teeth and that includes regular dental cleanings and check-ups and taking care of small dental problems before they can become large problems.

Over half of Americans these days do not have dental care insurance.  Dental insurance is expensive, especially if you have to buy your own policy, but having insurance is a great way to manage your dental care costs.  When you have dental insurance, you can be confident that you won’t be hit with large dental bills at a time when you can least afford it.  You will be more likely to get the dental care you need and you will avoid expensive dental work due to neglect.

If you don’t want to buy insurance, there are ways to manage costs.  One option is to enroll in a dental discount plan or prepaid dental plan.  These plans are not insurance, but instead provide members with steep discounts on dental care as long as you go to a dentist who participates in the plan.

If there is a dental school in your area, they usually offer dental care at significantly reduced prices.  You will receive care from a dental student without much experience, but all students are under the supervision of a licensed dentist.

Finally, see if your dentist offers a discount for payment in advance.  Many dentists offer a discount to patients who pay in full up front.  It’s worth it to them to avoid billing hassles and the risk of non-payment and it’s a nice incentive for the patient.


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