A Small Bite of History About Dentures

affordable dentures history of denturesAs dental professionals, our ultimate goal is for every one of our patients to live their whole lives without losing their teeth. However, in the unfortunate situation that a patient is missing their teeth, dentures are a great solution to return a smile to beauty and function. Dentures have a long and legendary history, and modern technology has made today’s dentures even more natural-looking and customized than ever before.

The earliest examples of dentures appeared in the 7th Century B.C. The ancient Etruscans used a combination of gold wire and human and animal teeth to create these early dentures. By the 5th Century B.C., ancient Romans were creating similar dentures. Wooden dentures appeared in Japan in the early 1500s. These dentures were similar to modern dentures in that they were carefully carved to match the shape of a person’s mouth. The Japanese later made dentures from stone, ivory and animal horn in addition to wood.

The number of people who need dentures has grown pretty quickly over the last few hundred years. As access to sugar and tobacco increased, mostly because of large sugar cane and tobacco plantations in the Americas, tooth decay became more common and widespread. The more people ate sugar and smoked, the more their teeth fell out. It makes sense that modern dentistry started to be developed around the same time.

Affordable dentures are a recent thing. For most of the history of dentures, they were an item reserved for the upper classes. The materials and expertise required to make them made dentures very expensive.

Contrary to popular belief, the first U.S. President, George Washington, did not have dentures made of wood. His dentures were made from carved hippopotamus ivory, gold wire, and human teeth. In fact, most dentures in the 1700s and 1800s were made with other people’s teeth, which had either been collected from bodies on battlefields or even stolen from graves! Thankfully, early dentists started developing porcelain dentures, which eventually eliminated the need to take teeth from the dead or those down on their luck.

Today, dentures are made from a specialized form of acrylic (a kind of durable, hard plastic) that can be made to look just like natural teeth and gums. While most dentures are held in place by friction/suction or adhesives, there are now dentures that can be held in place by mini dental implants. These implant-supported dentures are more secure and can even help prevent tooth-loss-related bone loss. The invention of dental implants in the last century also means that many people who might have gotten dentures in the past are replacing their teeth entirely with permanent prosthetic teeth, complete with a titanium tooth root.

We hope this history of dentures has made you grateful for the advances in modern dentistry. We certainly are!

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5 Things You Do That Annoy Your Dental Hygienist

avoid tooth decay obey your hygienistDespite what some people seem to think, a hygienist’s greatest desire is not to scold patients. A dental hygienist’s greatest desire is to see healthy mouths free of tooth decay and dental disease. As the professional at our practice that you see the most often, your dental hygienist is on the front lines of keeping your smile healthy, so you better make sure to stay on his or her good side!

Here are a few things you shouldn’t do if you want to stay on your dental hygienist’s nice list.

Not Flossing

Rumors have been flying around about a study that says flossing doesn’t prevent gum disease, but flossing is still vitally important for your dental hygiene. Think flossing doesn’t matter? Tell that to your dental hygienist when she finds a popcorn kernel between your teeth from when you went to the movies three weeks ago! When debris is allowed to build up between teeth, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria that cause tooth decay. Relying on your hygienist to clean between your teeth every few months isn’t enough! You still have to floss daily if you want healthy teeth and gums.

Not Opening Your Mouth Wide Enough

We get it, it’s super strange to leave your mouth wide open for a long time. But please try to keep it open as wide as you can for as long as you can! Hygienists depend on being able to see inside your mouth in order to do their jobs thoroughly and spot problems like tooth decay, signs of bruxism, gum disease and more. If your hygienist keeps having to ask you to open your mouth, that’s a sign that you’re making things very difficult for him or her.

Not Brushing Your Teeth Before Your Appointment

This one is more about common courtesy than your dental health, though we’re all for extra brushing. If you brush in the morning and before bed, you might not bother to brush your teeth right before your dental appointment. But we guarantee that making the extra effort to brush your teeth right before your professional teeth cleaning goes a long way with your hygienist. Also, if you know you have a dental appointment that day, avoid stinky foods like onion and garlic that may linger on your breath hours later, even after brushing! It’s just the polite thing to do.

Not Taking Dental Diagnosis Seriously

This may be the most important thing to avoid. The hygienist is a trained dental professional who, along with the dentist, is part of a team dedicated to keeping your healthy and treating problems in the most conservative and gentle way possible. Much of the time, the hygienist is the first person to spot signs of trouble, such as tooth decay that needs repair or bleeding gums that are a sign of gingivitis or gum disease. If your hygienist says you need to come in for cleanings more frequently than twice a year and that you need to cut back on sugary drinks, this is his or her way of reducing your risks for dental problems and disease. Following your dental hygienist’s recommendations could eventually make the difference between losing or keeping all your teeth!

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How Dental Implants Were Invented

history of dental implantsPerhaps the earliest example of dental implants were seashells found in the jaw of an ancient Mayan skeleton from 1,300 years ago. While the Mayans were known for their surprisingly advanced dental knowledge, their seashell solution is a long way from today’s modern dental implants. And like many amazing, world-changing inventions, dental implants discovered practically by mistake.

It all started in Sweden in 1952. An orthopedic surgeon named Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark conducted an experiment studying bone healing and blood flow that involved placing titanium rods in the legs of rabbits. At the end of his months-long experiment, he went to remove the rods from the rabbits’ legs and discovered they were totally fixed in place. The bone had fused to the titanium and grown around it.

This was remarkable because the human body (and the rabbit body for that matter) usually doesn’t like foreign objects being placed inside it. The body views the object as a threat and rejects it. Just think about how irritated and painful your skin becomes when you get a splinter.

Following his discovery, Dr. Branemark coined the term “osseointegration” to describe the process of bone adhering to metal. (“Osseo” comes from the Latin word for bone.) Using titanium as anchors for replacement teeth was on of the first applications that Dr. Branemark thought of for his discovery. He placed the first implants in a dental patient in the mid-1960s, however, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the use of titanium implants became accepted by the rest of the medical and dental community.

Since then, the technology has continued to advance as scientists and dentists strive create better versions of dental implants. Improvements have been made to the materials, shapes and installation techniques of dental implants, leading to shorter healing times and making the procedure available to a wider range of patients.

The difference between traditional techniques of tooth replacement and dental implants is like the difference between a peg leg and a high-tech bionic prosthetic leg. The development of dental implants allowed dentists, for the first time, to truly replace a tooth. Because implants have a root and a crown structure just like a real tooth, they function just like a real tooth and can last for decades, unlike bridges and dentures which often need to be adjusted and replaced.

While many patients have only heard of the dental implants procedure within the last few years, the truth is that the concept of dental implants has been around for centuries, and modern dental implants have been around for over 60 years. The success of implants in restoring missing teeth to patients’ mouths truly makes it feel like we’re in a golden age of dentistry. Dentists the world over are grateful to have this amazing technology at their disposal to restore patients’ smiles.

What Do Denture Wearers & Astronauts Have in Common?

Older couple wearing affordable denturesThe answer: Bone loss.

A common legend says that an astronaut who returned to Earth after an extended stay on a space station had bones so weak that he broke his arm lifting a tea cup. While this story may be an exaggeration, astronauts do lose bone density at a about ten times the rate of osteoporosis when in space (source) due to the absence of gravity.

What does gravity have to do with your bones? All the bones in your body get built up or broken down (resorbed) based on the amount of stress they’re under. For most of the bones in your body, their major stressor is gravity. However, for the bones of your jaw, their stress comes from biting and chewing. But when someone loses their teeth, this stress goes away, which can lead to jawbone being resorbed by the body.

While dentures are an aesthetic and functional replacement for teeth, they apply biting and chewing pressure to your gums, instead of directly to your jawbone like a natural tooth does. Because the roots of natural teeth are embedded in your bone, so when you bite or chew something, that force is transferred through your tooth into the bone of your jaw.

This bone loss explains why you can get a new set of dentures that fit perfectly right after they’ve been manufactured, but as time goes on, they fit more and more poorly, until they are loose and uncomfortable. The dentures themselves have not changed, but the shape of the bone under your gums has.

For this reason, many believe there is no such thing as truly affordable dentures. Even the best, highest quality dentures will eventually need to be replaced due to the biological reality of bone resorption. However, it’s important to note that bone loss in your jaw will happen even more rapidly if you don’t replace your teeth with anything at all. If you’re missing teeth, dentures can help you speak, eat and look normally again. Any dentures that allow you to get some of the normal function of your mouth back are affordable dentures!

For a permanent solution to bone loss after tooth loss, dental implants are the best option. That’s because implants act as an artificial tooth root that transfers biting and chewing force directly into your jawbone, just like a natural tooth. Because your bone is still under stress from the implant, it won’t be resorbed by your body. While dental implants are more of a financial investment at first, they’ll never have to be replaced like dentures, so you only have to pay for them once. Plus, they can be maintained just like real teeth, with daily brushing, flossing and semi-annual visits to the dental hygienist.

Dental implants have allowed for the invention of a new type of denture: the implant-supported denture. This type combines the affordability of dentures with the bone-stimulating qualities of implants to create a tooth replacement solution that is much more stable than traditional dentures that are held on with adhesives. This makes implant-supported dentures the most affordable dentures there are, both in terms of your wallet and your oral health!

 

What to Do If Your Tooth Gets Knocked Out

woman needs emergency dentist appointmentWhile we all experienced losing teeth as a right of passage through childhood, losing a tooth as an adult is no fun at all, especially when it’s the result of an accident. If you should ever be unfortunate enough to have a tooth knocked out, a little knowledge about what to do can go a long way in preventing longterm damage to your smile.

Of course, on of the first things you should do if your tooth gets knocked out is make an emergency dentist appointment. However, depending on where and when your accident happened, it may be hours before you’ll actually be in the dentist’s chair. There is a good chance that the dentist will be able to put it back in place regardless, but only if you follow a few vital steps between the accident and your arrival at the dentist’s office.

Your primary goal after your tooth has come out is to keep the tooth alive, which means making sure the tooth root remains moist and as undamaged as possible. The tooth root is the tissues that provide blood flow and nutrients to the tooth. If these tissues dry out they can die, which makes it much harder for for the dentist to put it back in its socket successfully.

First, you should try to immediately fit the tooth back in its socket. If you manage to get the tooth back in place, you can bite down on gauze or a wet tea bag to keep in there until you get to your emergency dentist appointment. If you can’t get the tooth back in its socket, you’ll need to use other means to keep it safe.

If the knocked out tooth as dirt or debris on it, rinse it off using tap water or bottled water. Always hold the tooth by the crown (opposite end as the root) and don’t touch the root, as this may damage it. Do not brush the tooth or try to sterilize or clean it with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. These things will do more harm than good.

Next, to keep the tooth moist you need to put it either cow’s milk, or if milk isn’t available, put it in saliva. You can also keep the tooth in your mouth, either under your tongue or between your gums and your cheek. But be careful not to swallow it! Don’t put the tooth in water to keep it moist. Water is not as gentle as milk or saliva and can cause damage to the cells in the tooth root. Once you get to your emergency dentist appointment, the dentist will take care of sterilizing the tooth in a way that doesn’t risk damaging it.

The dentist will assess the damage to your tooth and your mouth and determine the best way to proceed. Usually this involves cleaning the area and the tooth and gently inserting it back into its socket. Sometimes the dentist will apply a splint to keep the tooth in position as it heals back into place. This splint resembles braces and will usually be in place for 1-2 weeks.

The biggest thing to remember when a tooth gets knocked out is that it can be put back if you follow the right steps! Be sure to call your dentist for an emergency dentist appointment right away and your smile should be back to normal in no time.

Please note: If you injuries could be life threatening, contact emergency medical services right away and worry about the dentist later!

Bonus fact: The clinical term for a knocked out tooth is an avulsed tooth.

A Little-Known Dental Insurance Trick Can Save You Money

A Little-Known Dental Insurance Trick Can Save You Money

new year insurance trick
When it comes to dental insurance, or insurance in general, many of us are quickly baffled. There are so many different types of plans & unfamiliar vocabulary that it often feels like trying to learn a new language. However, there is one important concept about your dental insurance that you should absolutely know, & it can save you money!

There are actually a few sweet spots on the calendar when it comes to getting dental treatments done, & one of them is the beginning of the year. Because your dental benefits don’t roll over from year to year, every New Year you’re granted with a fresh set of benefits. That means no matter how much dental work you had done the previous year, you have new benefits you can use right away this year.

If your dental insurance plan has a deductible (i.e. a total amount you must pay out-of-pocket before the insurance company starts covering your costs), getting treatments completed at the beginning of the year could mean reaching your deductible early. Once you’ve reached your deductible, any treatments you may need later in the year might be covered entirely by your insurance, meaning there will be no out-of-pocket cost for you. By contrast, if you started treatment at the end of the year before reaching your deductible & your follow-up appointments fell in the New Year, you’d be paying some out-of-pocket cost for all of it!

If your dental insurance plan has an out-of-pocket maximum, starting a treatment at the beginning of the year can help you reach that maximum sooner. Once your out-of-pocket maximum has been reached, that may mean that any follow-up appointments you have for your treatment, plus any other treatments or appointments, could be covered 100% by your dental insurance for the rest of year. Also, most dental plans cover your regular teeth cleanings at no cost to you (or a very small co-payment), often regardless of whether you’vereached your deductible or out-of-pocket maximum. That means no matter what time of year it is, you’re entitled to teeth cleanings for free with your insurance.

Both of these examples demonstrate why the beginning of the year is a great time to get started on dental work that you may have been putting off. Plus, it may be a great way to get started on your new year’s resolution to be healthier!

The Link Between Gum Disease & Heart Disease

dentist explaining link between heart disease and gum diseaseRecent studies have revealed that there is a strong correlation between gum disease and cardiovascular disease. Gum disease, which is referred to by dentists as periodontitis, is when the space between your teeth and gums becomes infected, creating pockets of bacterial infection that leads to swollen, bloody gums, bone loss, and eventual tooth loss. Cardiovascular disease affects your heart and blood vessels and can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

The same bacteria that accumulate in the pockets of your gums due to periodontitis can enter your bloodstream and end up in your heart (as well as throughout your body), which can cause inflammation that leads to cardiovascular problems (source). One bacteria in particular, called Streptococcus sanguis, can appear in gum disease infections and has been linked to strokes.

The link between the two diseases may also be inflammation. People with either disease have more inflammation in their bodies, and there is some evidence that the inflammation caused by gum disease can be a contributing factor in higher risk for heart disease and stroke.

The correlation between gum disease may also have to do with lifestyle choices and other health problems. For example, those with diabetes are more prone to gum disease. Many patients who are not taking care of their teeth may not be taking care of themselves in other ways, such as not eating right and not exercising, which can also contribute to heart disease.

While the evidence of a correlation between the two diseases continues to mount, there is still no evidence of causation. In other words, we have no reason to think that gum disease can cause heart disease in someone who would otherwise not have been at risk. That being said, the possibility remains that gum disease could make cardiovascular disease worse.

One thing we do know for sure is having poor oral health makes it hard for you to stay healthy overall. People with advanced gum disease will often start to lose their teeth or need tooth extraction. Tooth loss and the discomfort associated with it make it hard for people to eat the nutritious foods they need to keep their bodies healthy. The best way to prevent gum disease is to take good care of your teeth and gums by brushing twice a day for at least two minutes, flossing daily, eating well and seeing your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and checkups.

The Facts & Mysteries of Bruxism

woman with bruxism grinding her teethBruxism is what dentists call teeth clenching and teeth grinding. The symptoms of bruxism are fairly easy to spot, as are the complications that can result from it. The causes of bruxism, however, a more varied and mysterious.

Teeth grinding involves the moving of teeth back and forth across each other. Most teeth grinding is unconscious and happens during sleep. Grinding is more common in children and they usually grow out of it once they’ve finished losing their baby teeth. Most adults who grind their teeth are unaware of it until a partner tells them they can hear the grinding sound while they are sleeping or their dentist spots signs of wear on the teeth (more on this later).

Teeth clenching involves tightly pressing your top and bottom teeth together. While normal eating and chewing only exerts 20 to 40 pounds of force on your teeth, the clenching that occurs in bruxism can exert hundreds of pounds force on your teeth. Clenching is also unconscious, but it can occur both while someone is awake and while they’re asleep.

Most studies and indicators tie daytime bruxism to stress. As a result, daytime clenching can often be relieved with stress reduction techniques, massage or physical therapy. Sometimes just being made aware of the clenching problem helps sufferers change their habits.

Nighttime bruxism is trickier. Because it occurs while a person is asleep, it is impossible to treat with behavioral changes. As a result, nighttime bruxism is usually treated by your dentist, often with a dental appliance referred to as a splint or a mouthguard. This is usually a custom made rubber or plastic piece that fits over your top or bottom teeth to protect them from the forces of clenching and grinding.

In the past, bruxism was linked to misaligned teeth and was sometimes treated using orthodontics (braces). However, the link between bruxism and misaligned teeth (called malocclusion by dentists) has been somewhat disproven, so orthodontic treatment for the disorder has become more rare.

Recent studies have started to link bruxism to sleep apnea, and while more study is needed on this topic, it is possible that undergoing treatment for sleep apnea by your dentist (which often involves an oral appliance of some kind) could help alleviate nighttime bruxism.

As mentioned before, while the causes of bruxism aren’t totally clear, the symptoms are. Patients usually experience one or more of these symptoms:

  • Headaches, especially in the morning
  • Ear pain (because of the jaw joint’s proximity to the inner ear)
  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Sore jaw or full-blown TMJ disorder
  • Tooth sensitivity (to hot, cold or sweet)
  • Anxiety & tension

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should start a discussion with your dentist about whether you have bruxism.

In addition to uncomfortable symptoms, bruxism can have consequences for the health of your teeth. Some people with bruxism don’t have any of the symptoms listed above. They are diagnosed instead by the pattern of wear that the dentist sees on their teeth during an examination. Teeth worn down from grinding or clenching can eventually crack. Bruxism can also wear away the protective outer enamel layer of the teeth, making the exposed softer dentin more susceptible to cavities. Damage or decay in your teeth could lead to pain or even tooth loss. This is why it’s important to get treated for your bruxism once you’ve been diagnosed.

The Science Behind Teeth Whitening

woman getting teeth whitening at the dentistIn a world filled with whitening toothpastes and drugstore whitening kits, it’s important to know that the most effective teeth whitening treatment still comes from your dentist. Not only do dentists have more powerful tools at our disposal, we are also experts on your smile, and can tell you whether teeth whitening is right for you and what kind of results to expect.

To understand how to whiten teeth as effectively as possible, let’s start with a little science.

If you look at teeth under a microscope, you can see that the hard outer layer, called enamel, is made up of a tightly packed crystal structure called rods. While this layer seems solid and smooth to the naked eye, it’s possible for the molecules that cause stains to get deep into the enamel by seeping between the rods. In order to remove stains, dentists use a chemical that can get down to where the stains are and break up them up using a chemical reaction.

The chemicals used in professional teeth whitening are hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide (which breaks down into hydrogen peroxide in your mouth, so hydrogen peroxide is still the active ingredient). Hydrogen peroxide penetrates the teeth and causes a reaction called oxidation, which breaks down the stain compounds.

By the way, whitening toothpastes work by removing surface stains on teeth, not the ones under the surface. They do this by being more abrasive than other toothpastes, which is why your dentist may discourage you from using whitening toothpastes if you have complained of tooth sensitivity. More than anything, toothpastes are good for preventing stains, not removing them!

At-home teeth whitening products from the drugstore also contain carbamide or hydrogen peroxide, but in much lower concentrations. They also contain other ingredients for flavor and to help reduce the possibility of tooth sensitivity. While drugstore kits are much cheaper, because the bleaching agents in these kits are less potent, you can expect to see results in weeks as opposed to days (with a home kit from your dentist) or minutes (when you get your teeth bleached at the dentist).

Another reason that it’s a good idea to go to you dentist for whitening treatments is they can evaluate whether your teeth should even undergo whitening to begin with. Some people don’t realize that whitening only works on natural teeth. Fillings and crowns are made of artificial materials that look like teeth, and feel like teeth, but chemically speaking, they’re very different. Most restorations are made from ceramic, porcelain, or composite resin. These materials do not react the same way to bleaching chemicals as your natural tooth enamel does. If you have large fillings or crowns, a dentist can recommend alternatives to bleaching for improving the appearance of your smile.

The Science Behind Teeth Whitening

woman getting teeth whitening at the dentistIn a world filled with whitening toothpastes and drugstore whitening kits, it’s important to know that the most effective teeth whitening treatment still comes from your dentist. Not only do dentists have more powerful tools at our disposal, we are also experts on your smile, and can tell you whether teeth whitening is right for you and what kind of results to expect.

To understand how to whiten teeth as effectively as possible, let’s start with a little science.

If you look at teeth under a microscope, you can see that the hard outer layer, called enamel, is made up of a tightly packed crystal structure called rods. While this layer seems solid and smooth to the naked eye, it’s possible for the molecules that cause stains to get deep into the enamel by seeping between the rods. In order to remove stains, dentists use a chemical that can get down to where the stains are and break up them up using a chemical reaction.

The chemicals used in professional teeth whitening are hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide (which breaks down into hydrogen peroxide in your mouth, so hydrogen peroxide is still the active ingredient). Hydrogen peroxide penetrates the teeth and causes a reaction called oxidation, which breaks down the stain compounds.

By the way, whitening toothpastes work by removing surface stains on teeth, not the ones under the surface. They do this by being more abrasive than other toothpastes, which is why your dentist may discourage you from using whitening toothpastes if you have complained of tooth sensitivity. More than anything, toothpastes are good for preventing stains, not removing them!

At-home teeth whitening products from the drugstore also contain carbamide or hydrogen peroxide, but in much lower concentrations. They also contain other ingredients for flavor and to help reduce the possibility of tooth sensitivity. While drugstore kits are much cheaper, because the bleaching agents in these kits are less potent, you can expect to see results in weeks as opposed to days (with a home kit from your dentist) or minutes (when you get your teeth bleached at the dentist).

Another reason that it’s a good idea to go to you dentist for whitening treatments is they can evaluate whether your teeth should even undergo whitening to begin with. Some people don’t realize that whitening only works on natural teeth. Fillings and crowns are made of artificial materials that look like teeth, and feel like teeth, but chemically speaking, they’re very different. Most restorations are made from ceramic, porcelain, or composite resin. These materials do not react the same way to bleaching chemicals as your natural tooth enamel does. If you have large fillings or crowns, a dentist can recommend alternatives to bleaching for improving the appearance of your smile.