What Causes Alveolar Bone Loss?

alveolar bone lossTeeth are anchored to the jaw by the alveolar bone, otherwise known as the tooth socket. This anchoring gives teeth the strength to support the pressure of chewing. The alveolus is the part of the alveolar bone that encases the root. A tissue called cementum at the base of the root holds a tooth to the alveolar bone. The upper jaw (maxilla) and lower jaw (mandible) both contain alveolar bone. A ligament holds the teeth in place and provides additional support.

Dental problems and habits can lead to the loss of alveolar bone over time. This can cause the bone to resorb, or dissolve, and can eventually lead to tooth loss if it is not treated.

If a tooth is extracted and not replaced, the jawbone can deteriorate. Natural teeth stimulate the jawbone through chewing and biting. If a tooth is missing, the alveolar bone no longer receives stimulation in that area, which can cause the jawbone to resorb. The rate and amount of deterioration varies from person to person. It is worst in the first 18 months and continues throughout life.

Gingivitis and periodontitis are gum diseases caused by plaque, a sticky, colorless film caused by food particles and bacteria that adhere to teeth at and below the gum line. Untreated gum disease can lead to pockets, or spaces, where the gums separate from the teeth. If gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, the gum tissue and alveolar bone can deteriorate, which can lead to tooth loss.

Unanchored dentures are placed on top of the gums and do not stimulate the alveolar bone. This lack of stimulation can cause the bone to resorb over time, which can lead to loosening of the dentures and problems eating and speaking. It may become impossible to hold dentures in place, even with strong adhesives, and a new set may be needed. Some dentures are supported by anchors that stimulate and preserve alveolar bone.

With a bridge, the area without a natural tooth does not receive stimulation in the alveolar bone. This can be corrected with a bone graft procedure.

If a tooth is knocked out or broken, that can lead to bone deterioration. A bone grafting procedure can restore function and promote new bone growth.

If teeth are misaligned, a tooth without an opposing tooth structure can over-erupt and cause deterioration of the alveolar bone. TMJ problems, normal wear and tear, and lack of treatment can also contribute to bone deterioration.

Osteomyelitis is a bacterial infection that affects the jawbone and bone marrow. It can lead to inflammation and a reduction in blood flow to the bone. The condition usually requires antibiotics, removal of the affected bone, and a bone graft.

Both benign and malignant facial tumors generally require removal of a section of the jawbone and reconstructive bone grafting.

Some birth defects cause missing portions of teeth, facial bones, jawbone, or skull. A bone graft can be used to treat these conditions.

If the upper molars are removed, air pressure from the maxillary sinus can cause resorption of bone. This can lead to enlargement of the sinuses, or hyperneumatized sinus, a condition that can be treated with a procedure called a sinus life.

Why Do Some People Get More Cavities Than Others?

cavities oral healthA new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one-quarter of Americans have at least one untreated cavity and that almost all adults will have tooth decay at some time in their lives. Adults get cavities just as often as children.

The study found that some people are more prone to cavities than others. According to the CDC, African Americans and Hispanics have more untreated cavities than Caucasians and Asians, although tooth decay was noted in significant percentages of all populations. The researchers noted several reasons why some individuals and groups are more likely to get cavities than others.

Biology can affect the prevalence of cavities. Some people have teeth that are naturally better able to absorb fluoride, which contributes to strong enamel. Some people naturally produce more saliva than others, which allows healthy bacteria to thrive, bathes teeth in calcium and phosphates, and neutralizes acid. A healthy immune system can reduce the risk of developing infections. The shape of the mouth and problems like crowding can also affect the rate of cavities. Some people may have dental problems that run in their families.

At-home care and nutrition also play important roles. Eating a diet high in sugar and smoking can contribute to oral health problems, while regular brushing and flossing can reduce the risk of getting cavities. Good oral health care can overcome genetic factors that could contribute to dental problems.

Other factors that seem unrelated can contribute to cavities. Drinking non-fluoridated bottled water can make teeth more susceptible to cavities. People who snore tend to have dry mouths, which allows bacteria to thrive. People who grind their teeth wear down their enamel and are more susceptible to tooth decay. Those who snack throughout the day are constantly exposing their teeth to sugars. Acidic foods and beverages like soda can cause demineralization. Sticky foods can get caught between teeth and lead to cavities.

Routine dental care is necessary to maintain good oral health, but some people put off visiting the dentist until they are in pain. One reason is that insurance plans vary widely in terms of coverage for dental care. Many people also have fear and anxiety related to visiting the dentist.

Routine oral care is essential to prevent cavities and other problems, such as gum disease. By the time a person experiences pain, a problem is often serious, which can mean that more extensive and more expensive treatment will often be needed to correct it. Poor oral health can also contribute to many other serious health problems.

CEREC Tooth Restorations in One Visit

CEREC restorationTooth decay is a problem that affects millions of people. An older metal filling can become damaged, weaken a tooth, or get additional decay under or around it. In that case, the filling needs to be replaced. In some cases, it might not be possible to fill a cavity, and a crown or veneer might be needed.

CEREC (Chairside, Economical, Restorations, Esthetic, Ceramic) is a restoration method that has been used by thousands of dentists around the world since 1987. The method can be used to replace a damaged filling or to restore any tooth that is damaged, weakened, or broken. It can restore a tooth to its former strength and beauty in just one appointment.

Your dentist will examine your tooth and decide if you need a filling, full crown, or veneer. Then he or she will administer an anesthetic and remove decayed or weakened tissue to prepare your tooth for the restoration. This is the same type of preparation that would be done for many other restorative procedures.

Instead of filling a tray with a substance for you to bite into to take an impression, your dentist will take an optical impression of your tooth. He or she will coat your tooth with a non-toxic, tasteless powder and use a camera to take a digital picture. This process only takes one or two minutes.

A machine using CEREC 3D software converts the digital picture to a 3-dimensional virtual model. Your dentist can then use the software to design your restoration. The design data is sent to a milling machine, which is also located in the office. The dentist will place a ceramic block that matches the shade of your tooth in the machine, and in 10 to 20 minutes it will create an all-ceramic, tooth-colored restoration.

Your dentist will check to make sure the restoration fits on your tooth and will polish and bond it to your prepared tooth. There is no need for a temporary restoration or a return appointment.

Dental Sedation and Pain Relief

dental sedation pain reliefDentists have several types of medications available that can be used to make patients more comfortable during procedures. Your dentist can use drugs to control pain, help you relax, and possibly put you into a deep sleep while you are having a dental procedure done. The medication chosen will depend on the type of procedure being performed, your overall health, your level of anxiety, and any allergies you might have.

Local anesthesia prevents pain in a specific area of the mouth by numbing those tissues. Your dentist may apply a topical anesthetic first, followed by an injectable local anesthetic. A topical anesthetic can also soothe pain caused by a mouth sore. Injectable anesthetics are used for procedures such as filling cavities, preparing teeth for crowns, and treating gum disease.

Your dentist might decide to sedate you for your procedure. A sedative can be administered before or during your procedure. A sedative such as nitrous oxide can be inhaled. Your dentist might also give you an oral sedative in the form of a pill or an injection. For a complex procedure, your dentist might use deep sedation to relieve your pain and anxiety. In some cases, general anesthesia might be necessary.

You might need an analgesic, or pain reliever, after your dental procedure is completed. Pain relievers fall into two groups: non-narcotic and narcotic. Non-narcotic pain relievers include aspirin, acetaminophen, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen. Narcotic analgesics, such as opiods, are used for more severe pain. They work by acting on the central nervous system.

Ask your dentist how to secure and dispose of any unused, unwanted, or expired pain medications, especially if you have children. Talk to your children about the risks associated with using prescription medications for non-medical purposes.

Dentists safely use sedation and pain medication to treat millions of patients every year, but every medication carries with it some risks. Talk to your dentist about your procedure, medications, overall health, and level of anxiety to decide what types of sedation and pain relief are best for you.

Oral Cancer Awareness Month

oral cancer screeningApril has been designated as Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Oral cancer is the largest group of cancers affecting the head and neck. It includes cancers of the mouth, tongue, tonsils, and throat.

The Oral Cancer Foundation predicts that 45,750 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer in the United States in 2015. This includes cancers in the mouth, oropharyngeal cancer in the back of the mouth, and cancer on the exterior of the lip. The rate of oral and oropharyngeal cancers has been rising for over a decade. Over 450,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed worldwide each year.

Oral cancer has two main causes. One common cause is the longterm use of tobacco and alcohol. Another common cause is exposure to the human papilloma virus version 16 (HPV-16), which is also responsible for most cervical cancer diagnoses. Less than 7 percent of people who develop oral cancer do not get it from any of these causes. It is believed that those individuals are genetically predisposed to the condition.

A person dies from oral cancer every hour. The death rate is 43 percent five years after diagnosis. About 12,000 new cases of laryngeal cancers are diagnosed every year, and death rates are significantly higher.

Oral cancer can usually be treated effectively if it is detected early. The survival rate is 80 to 90 percent if the cancer is detected in its early stages. Unfortunately, in most cases the cancer is detected later, which is largely due to a lack of awareness about oral cancer and screenings that can catch the disease early.

Your dentist can conduct an oral cancer screening at a routine exam and check for early signs of disease. If it is caught early, your chance of surviving oral cancer increases dramatically. If you are due for your routine dental checkup, schedule an appointment and ask your dentist to screen you for oral cancer.

BruxZir® Solid Zirconia Restorations

BruxZir restorationsBruxZir® Solid Zirconia is the brand of full-contour zirconia most commonly used for dental restorations in North America. It is stronger and more durable than other commonly used materials and is more aesthetically desirable than cast gold and porcelain fused to metal.

BruxZir® Solid Zirconia can be used for a variety of dental treatments, including crowns, bridges, screw-retained implant crowns, full-arch fixed implants, and inlays or onlays without porcelain overlay. It can be used for problems such as bruxism (teeth grinding), missing teeth, and limited space.

BruxZir® now has a shaded formulation that improves its transparency and makes its color similar to that of natural teeth. The color penetrates completely through the restoration to create a consistent shade and to prevent the color from changing after the restoration is inserted. Since they are more natural looking, BruxZir® Solid Zirconia restorations can also be used in front teeth.

BruxZir® Solid Zirconia restorations are better than the alternatives for several reasons. Full-cast gold crowns and bridges are strong and durable, but they don’t look like natural teeth. Porcelain metal restorations look more natural, but they can become cracked and chipped. Since zirconia is nearly indestructible, BruxZir® restorations are a good choice for people who have broken their natural teeth or porcelain restorations by grinding their teeth.

The restorations are designed and milled with CAD/CAM technology for extreme durability. The final restoration is glazed to create a smooth surface that prevents plaque from accumulating. Glidewell Dental Lab, which manufactures BruxZir® restorations, provides a seven-year free replacement warranty.

DentalVibe Eliminates Injection Pain

DentalVibeMany people dread going to the dentist’s office because they are afraid of getting a painful injection. Some people with dental anxiety choose to have procedures performed while they are sedated, either by oral medication or intravenous solutions. This can eliminate pain, but it also requires the patient to take time to rest after the procedure and allow the drugs to leave the body.

Some products, such as a topical anesthetic or controlled-release pump, can make injections less painful, but new technology called DentalVibe completely eliminates the pain commonly associated with receiving an injection. With DentalVibe, there are no side effects and no downtime. The technology can be used to make injections more comfortable so that the dentist can perform a variety of common dental procedures, such as fillings, crowns, and extractions.

DentalVibe is a cordless, handheld device that can be used with a needle and syringe to make injections in any part of the mouth painfree. Its tip is placed against the inside of the mouth and uses VibraPulse technology to deliver a vibrating pulse to the area for 10 seconds. The tip produces a pleasant tickling sensation, and then the dentist administers the injection.

The vibration distracts the nerves in the area so that when the dentist gives the injection, the patient does not feel any pain from the needle. Most patients do not feel the injection at all. The vibration also stimulates the surrounding nerves and tissues, which makes the liquid numbing agent take effect more quickly.

National Facial Protection Month

National Facial Protection MonthDental professionals have designated April as National Facial Protection Month. The American Dental Association, the Academy for Sports Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, and the American Association of Orthodontists encourage people participating in sports, both children and adults, to take precautions to protect themselves from facial injuries.

It is estimated that 12 million people between the ages of 5 and 22 suffer sports-related injuries every year. These injuries lead to 20 million lost school days and cost $33 billion in healthcare bills. Many of these injuries could be prevented by using protective equipment.

Mouthguards, helmets, protective eyewear, and face shields are useful in a variety of recreational and organized sports, including baseball, basketball, football, hockey, volleyball, gymnastics, martial arts, and biking. Dentists encourage children to get used to wearing mouthguards whenever they participate in sports or recreational activities where there is a risk of contact or injury to the mouth or face and to wear other protective gear when appropriate.

The ADA offers dentists a variety of brochures and educational tools to explain the need and benefits of using protective equipment when participating in sports. They cover topics such as how mouthguards can prevent mouth and jaw injuries, how to find a mouthguard that fits well (the best type is custom-made by a dentist), how to care for a mouthguard, and special considerations for patients who are currently undergoing orthodontic treatment.

The ADA also offers parents brochures about how to handle common children’s dental emergencies, such as a knocked-out tooth, an object caught between teeth, a toothache, and a broken jaw. The ADA’s consumer-friendly website, MouthHealthy.org, has additional information and resources related to facial protection.

Tips to Help You Overcome Dental Anxiety

dental anxietyFear and anxiety keep many people from seeking dental care. Some people go many years without seeing a dentist and later find themselves with severe pain, tooth decay, or gum disease. Studies have also linked poor oral health to heart disease, stroke, and a host of other medical conditions. It is therefore essential to seek routine dental care.

People experience dental anxiety for many reasons. Some had a painful or frightening experience in the past that affects their perception of dentists in general. Others may have heard stories about other people’s negative experiences and fear that something similar could happen to them. Many people are afraid of procedures that they don’t understand or are nervous about giving up control. Some people have a fear of doctors or hospitals that also applies to their view of dentists.

In many cases, anxiety about dental procedures is unfounded. Dental care has advanced a great deal in recent years. Many procedures that used to be painful and stressful are now easier and produce little or no pain.

If you are nervous about the idea of visiting a dentist, look for one who has experience treating patients with dental anxiety. Talk to the dentist and staff about your fears and ask how they can help you deal with your apprehensions. They may recommend sedation dentistry.

If you tend to be more anxious at a particular time of day, schedule your appointment for a time when you will be less nervous.

Ask your dentist if you can take a friend or family member with you to the office when you are having your procedure done.

If it has been a long time since your last visit to a dentist, schedule your first appointment for a simple checkup and have any procedures done at a later date.

If you are having a treatment, ask your dentist or hygienist if you can use a signal to indicate that you are feeling anxious and need to take a break. This will give you control and a way of communicating with the person performing your dental treatment.

Seeing the dentist on a regular basis will help you better manage your anxiety.

Air Abrasion Eliminates the Noise of the Dentist’s Drill

air abrasionFor many years, dentists have used drills to prepare teeth for dental crowns, treat cavities, and perform root canals. Many people feel anxious when they hear the sound of a drill. Fortunately, dentists have another method that they can use for many common dental procedures without the unnerving noise, heat, and vibrations of a drill.

Air abrasion is an alternative treatment that can be used to remove tooth decay. It uses tiny particles of aluminum oxide or silica to gently remove decayed material. Compressed air sprays sand-like particles at the teeth being treated, and an assistant suctions away excess material. Air abrasion does not cause the type of friction that is common with a drill. Air abrasion is also referred to as microabrasion or kinetic cavity preparation.

Air abrasion can be used to treat cavities or to prepare a tooth for sealants or bonding. The technique can also be used to remove old composite resin fillings and to remove surface stains from teeth.

Less tooth material is removed with air abrasion than with drilling. This can reduce discomfort and the need for anesthesia. More than one section of the mouth can be treated in one session, which can reduce the number of appointments required.

If you are treated with air abrasion, your dentist will probably provide you with goggles to protect your eyes from particles being sprayed. He or she will use a rubber dam or resin to protect other teeth from the particles.

A traditional drill is still needed for certain dental procedures. A drill is required to prepare a tooth for a crown, remove deep decay, or perform a root canal. Air abrasion can only be used with composite resin fillings because it smoothes the surface of a tooth. Amalgam fillings need a rough surface to adhere correctly, which means a drill needs to be used.

Air abrasion is a better choice than a drill for children and people who experience dental anxiety because it eliminates the sound, heat, and vibrations caused by a traditional drill. It may be more costly than using a drill, but for some patients, the extra cost is worth it.