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Be Sure You Include Bite Treatment in Your Smile Makeover Plan

smile.

If you’re seriously considering turning your “smile makeover” dream into reality it’s a good idea to approach it like a home makeover. In both, there’s one critical element—make sure you’re working within the big picture.  A fresh coat of paint isn’t quite enough to renovate a house, for example, if it also has serious foundation flaws.

The same is true about your teeth—just changing their outward appearance with porcelain veneers, crowns or other restorations may not be enough to produce the desired appearance change. This is because the real cosmetic problem could be your teeth aren’t where they’re supposed to be due to a malocclusion (poor bite).

Your teeth are part of an overall framework that also includes your jaws and facial structure, the elements of which all blend together to create your smile appearance. A malocclusion resulting in misaligned teeth can therefore adversely affect your smile. That’s why your dentist and you may need to include orthodontic treatment in your smile transformation plan.

Orthodontics is a dental specialty that addresses occlusion (how the teeth come together and interact with each other) problems by moving teeth to better positions. While braces are the mainstay of orthodontic treatment, they’re by no means the only tool in an orthodontist’s tool kit, especially for complex malocclusions.

If the dentist directing your smile makeover detects a bite problem, he or she may refer you to an orthodontist for a complete assessment. Using a number of diagnostic tools like x-rays, CT scanning, mold impressions or computer modeling, an orthodontist can determine the exact nature of your malocclusion and the corrective actions to bring your teeth into proper alignment.

How your smile makeover proceeds from this point will depend on the type of malocclusion and its complexity. It will most likely involve a team approach between different specialties including orthodontics or periodontics (for the gums and other structures that support the teeth). Each team member will address some aspect of your care and work together to achieve your smile transformation.

Depending on your needs, your smile enhancement may proceed in stages and over an extensive period of time. In the end, though, your smile “renovation” will be thorough and lasting.

If you would like more information on smile transformations, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Magic of Orthodontics: The Original Smile Makeover.”

Anchors Make all the Difference in Successful Orthodontic Treatment

TADS.

Orthodontics shares a principle with the classic tug of war game: if you want things to move in the right direction you need a good anchor. Anchors help braces and other appliances apply constant pressure to misaligned teeth in the direction they need to go to correct a malocclusion (poor bite).

Orthodontic treatments work in cooperation with an existing oral mechanism that already moves teeth naturally in response to biting forces or other environmental factors. The key to this mechanism is an elastic tissue known as the periodontal ligament that lies between the tooth and the bone. Besides holding teeth in place through tiny attached fibers, the ligament also allows the teeth to move in tiny increments.

Braces’ wires laced through brackets affixed to the teeth exert pressure on them in the desired direction of movement –the periodontal ligament and other structures do the rest. To maintain that pressure we need to attach them to an “anchor”—in basic malocclusions that’s usually the back molar teeth.

But not all malocclusions are that simple. Some may require moving only certain teeth while not moving their neighbors. Younger patients’ jaws and facial structures still under development may also need to be considered during orthodontic treatment. That’s why orthodontists have other anchorage methods to address these possible complications.

One example of an alternate anchorage is a headgear appliance that actually uses the patient’s skull as the anchor. The headgear consists of a strap running around the back of the head and attached in front to orthodontic brackets (usually on molar teeth). The pressure it exerts can trigger tooth movement, but it can also help influence jaw development if an upper or lower jaw is growing too far forward or back.

Another useful anchorage method is a tiny metal screw called a temporary anchorage device (TAD) that is implanted into the jawbone above the teeth through the gums. Orthodontists then attach elastic bands between implanted TADs and specific braces’ brackets or wires to exert pressure on certain teeth but not others with pinpoint accuracy. After treatment the TADs can be easily removed.

Using these and other appliances allows orthodontists to customize treatment to an individual patient’s particular malocclusion. With the right anchor, even the most complex bite problem can be transformed into a beautiful and healthy smile.

If you would like more information on orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Orthodontic Headgear & Other Anchorage Appliances.”

What’s So Special About Dental Implants?

implants.

Probably a day doesn’t go by that you don’t encounter advertising for dental implants. And for good reason: implants have taken the world of dentistry by storm.

Since their inception over thirty years ago, implants have rocketed ahead of more conventional tooth replacements to become the premier choice among both dentists and patients. But what is an implant—and why are these state-of-the-art dental devices so popular?

Resemblance to natural teeth. More than any other type of dental restoration, dental implants mimic both the appearance and function of natural teeth. Just as teeth have two main parts—the roots beneath the gum surface and the visible crown—so implants have a similar construction. At their heart, implants are root replacements by way of a titanium metal post imbedded in the jawbone. To this we can permanently attach a life-like porcelain crown or even another form of restoration (more about that in a moment).

Durability. Implant materials and unique design foster a long-term success rate after ten years in the 95-plus percentile. They achieve this longevity primarily due to the use of titanium as the primary metal in the implant post. Because bone has an affinity for titanium, it will grow and adhere to the post over time to create a well-anchored hold. With proper maintenance and care implants can last for decades, making them a wise, cost-effective investment.

Added stability for other restorations. While most people associate implants with single tooth replacements, the technology has a much broader reach. For example, just a few strategically-placed implants can support a removable denture, giving this traditional restoration much more security and stability. What’s more, it can help stop bone loss, one of the main drawbacks of conventional dentures. In like fashion, implants can support a fixed bridge, eliminating the need to permanently alter adjacent teeth often used to support a conventional bridge.

With continuing advances, implant technology is becoming increasingly useful for a variety of restorative situations. Depending on your individual tooth-loss situation, dental implants could put the form and function back in your smile for many years to come.

If you would like more information on dental implant restorations, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants: Your Best Option for Replacing Teeth.”

Tips for Picture-Perfect Summer Smiles

smile.

June is the month when lots of important events happen—like weddings, graduations, and family get-togethers. When the weather turns balmy and the days get longer, it’s the perfect time for a celebration…and today it’s easier than ever to capture those special moments in pictures that will be treasured for years to come. Are you ready for your close-up?

Both professional photographers and dentists want to help you look your best when you’re smiling for the camera. Here are a few suggestions from both kinds of pros for capturing a great-looking smile.

Tilt your head just a bit

Instead of looking straight at the camera, try turning or tilting your head slightly. This often presents a more flattering angle, and can hide small facial asymmetries. If your face has a “good side” (you can check by looking in a mirror), be sure to make it visible. But even if your head is tilted or turned, your eyes should be looking at the camera.

Moisten teeth before the shutter clicks

A sparkly smile is the most appealing one. Just before the picture is snapped, run your tongue over your teeth to give them a little extra shine. Highlights in the teeth, lips and eyes add liveliness to your portrait.

Relax—Don’t clench your teeth!

It’s better to smile naturally—perhaps with teeth slightly parted, or lips in a more relaxed position—than to force yourself to make an artificial-looking grin. Try recalling things that make you joyful, or think of people you care about, and chances are your natural smile will shine out.

Have your teeth professionally cleaned at the dental office

Before the big event, you can ensure that your smile looks its best with a professional cleaning at our office. This treatment removes layers of plaque and tartar on visible tooth surfaces, as well as between teeth and under the gumline. It not only makes teeth look their best, but it’s also an effective way to fight tooth decay and gum disease. And while you’re here, it’s the perfect time to talk about any cosmetic issues that may be troubling you about your smile. With treatments like teeth whitening, cosmetic bonding or dental veneers, we can help you get the smile you’ve always wanted.

If you would like more information about professional teeth cleaning or cosmetic dentistry, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700.

New Materials Add Strength to Veneers’ Beautiful Life-Likeness

veneers.

With exciting innovations in cosmetic dentistry over the last few decades, we can now transform nearly any unattractive smile. One of the best and most cost-effective of these is the porcelain veneer. These thin layers of dental porcelain are bonded over the front of chipped, slightly misaligned or stained teeth to create an entirely new look.

Veneers have evolved over time, especially with the materials they contain that give them their beauty and life-likeness. The first veneers were made mainly of feldspathic porcelain, a mineral composition known for its similarity in color and translucence to natural teeth.

But because this early porcelain had a high amount of silica (in essence, glass), and because they were created through overlaying several thin layers that weren’t as strong as a single piece, they were prone to shattering. This made them problematic for teeth subject to heavy biting forces or patients with clenching or grinding habits.

The situation changed dramatically in the 1990s, when dental labs began adding Leucite, a sturdier glass-like mineral that didn’t diminish the porcelain’s translucence. Not only did Leucite make veneers more shatter-resistant, it also enabled dental technicians to fashion most of the veneer in one piece to further strengthen it.

More recent veneers may now incorporate an even stronger material called lithium disilicate. Because lithium disilicate has twice the strength of Leucite, veneers made with it can be as thin as 0.3 millimeters. Not only does this blend together the most desirable qualities expected of a veneer—strength, aesthetic appeal and easy fabrication—it allows for a broader range of situations and uses.

Both of these materials can be pressed or milled to assume the exact shape necessary to fit a particular tooth. The manufacturing process also allows for creating smaller veneers that can then be overlaid with porcelain for the most life-like appearance possible.

Thanks to these stronger materials enhancing the natural beauty of porcelain, we now have a wider creative palate for transforming your smile.  

If you would like more information on porcelain veneers, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Porcelain Veneers: Your Smile—Better Than Ever.”

Not a Fan of Using CPAP for Your Sleep Apnea? Consider an Oral Appliance

sleep apnea.

Do you wake up in the morning still feeling tired? Are you drowsy, irritable or have difficulty concentrating? And is your snoring habit a running joke around your household?

If you mostly answered yes, you may have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This condition is more than an irritation—it could also have major health implications if not addressed.

OSA occurs when the airway becomes temporarily blocked during sleep. The tongue (or other mouth structures like tonsils or the uvula) is often the cause as it relaxes and covers the back of the throat. Although you’re asleep, the brain notices the drop in oxygen and initiates arousal to unblock the airway. As this action usually only takes a few seconds, you may not fully awake every time; but because it can occur several times a night, it can rob you of the deep sleep you need for well-being.

If you’re diagnosed with OSA, your doctor may recommend continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP). This treatment uses a pump device to supply continuous pressurized air through a hose connected to a face mask worn during sleep. The elevated pressure helps keep the airway open.

While this approach is quite effective, many people find wearing the equipment uncomfortable or confining, and may choose not to use it. If that describes you, a qualified dentist may be able to provide you with an alternative called oral appliance therapy (OAT).

OAT uses a custom-made plastic oral appliance you wear while you sleep. The most common snaps over the teeth and uses a hinge mechanism to move the lower jaw (and the tongue with it) forward.

OAT is recommended for people with mild to moderate OSA, or those with severe symptoms who can’t tolerate CPAP. If you’d like to see if an OAT appliance could help you, contact us for a complete oral examination. Either treatment can improve your sleep and daily lifestyle, as well as help prevent certain health issues in the future.

If you would like more information on treatments for sleep apnea, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea.”

Stop Gum Disease Before it Becomes a Major Health Issue

woman with gum disease.

If you think gum disease only happens to the other guy (or gal), think again. If you’re over 30 you have a 50-50 chance for an infection. After 65 the risk climbs to 70 percent.

Fortunately, we can effectively treat most cases of gum disease. But depending on its severity, treatment can involve numerous intensive sessions and possible surgery to bring the disease under control. So, why not prevent gum disease before it happens?

First, though, let’s look at how gum disease most often begins—with dental plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles built up on teeth and gum surfaces. If plaque isn’t consistently removed through daily brushing and flossing, it doesn’t take long—just a few days—for the bacteria to infect the gums.

While it’s not always easy to detect gum disease early on, there are signs to look for like red, swollen and tender gums that bleed easily when you brush or floss, and bad breath or taste. The infection is usually more advanced if you notice pus-filled areas around your gums or loose teeth. If you see any of these (especially advanced signs like loose teeth) you should contact us as soon as possible.

Obviously, the name of the game with prevention is stopping plaque buildup, mainly through daily brushing and flossing. Technique is the key to effectiveness, especially with brushing: you should gently but thoroughly scrub all tooth surfaces and around the gum line, coupled with flossing between teeth.

To find out how well you’re doing, you can rub your tongue along your teeth after you brush and floss—you should feel a smooth, almost squeaky sensation. You can also use plaque-disclosing agents that dye bacterial plaque a particular color so you can easily see surface areas you’ve missed. You can also ask us for a “report card” on how well you’re doing during your next dental visit.

Dental visits, of course, are the other essential part of gum disease prevention—at least every six months (or more, if we recommend) for cleaning and checkups. Not only will we be able to remove hard-to-reach plaque and tartar, we’ll also give your gums a thorough assessment. By following this prevention regimen you’ll increase your chances of not becoming a gum disease statistic.

If you would like more information on recognizing and treating gum disease, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Gum Disease Gets Started.”

Keep Your Smile Beautiful…in April and Beyond

spring cleaning.

There are well-known holidays on the calendar this month, but here’s one that might have escaped your notice: “Keep America Beautiful Month,” which is observed throughout April! At this time, people from coast to coast are encouraged to clean and beautify their communities. So why not think of it as an occasion to spiff up your smile? Here are five ways to do exactly that:

Have your teeth professionally cleaned. A routine dental visit, which includes a professional cleaning and exam, is one of the best preventive healthcare values there is. It’s a chance to catch dental problems (including potentially serious ones like oral cancer) before they become more difficult to treat. A dental professional can remove built-up deposits of tartar from your teeth using specialized instruments—something you can’t do at home. Plus, you’ll leave the office with a freshly polished smile that looks and feels great.

Get a professional teeth whitening. Having whiter teeth often makes people look more youthful. And one of the best ways to brighten dull teeth is with professional teeth whitening. You can achieve the fastest, most dramatic results with an in-office treatment—up to ten shades in just one visit! We can also make you a custom take-home kit to achieve similar results over time.

Repair chipped teeth. If you feel self-conscious about a chipped tooth, consider cosmetic bonding. In this relatively inexpensive procedure, which often takes just one office visit, tooth-colored resin material is applied to the chipped area and hardened under a special light. The translucent resin is built up layer by layer, bringing teeth with minor flaws back to a great, natural-looking appearance.

Replace old dental work. Sometimes old dental work can stand out more than we’d like it to. This is especially true of amalgam (silver) fillings—but even white fillings can absorb stain after many years. If you feel old dental work is detracting from your smile, it may be time to replace it with up-to-date dental materials.

Straighten your smile. Did you know that there is no maximum age for successful orthodontic treatment? It’s true: Healthy teeth can be moved at any age. And if you think metal braces wouldn’t fit in with your look or lifestyle, consider one of the less-visible alternatives to traditional orthodontic hardware—such as ceramic braces and clear aligners.

Having the smile you want can make you feel more confident in any month of the year. If you’d like more information on cosmetic dentistry, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “How Your Dentist Can Help You Look Younger” and “Orthodontics for the Older Adult.”

Dentures Require Planning and Attention to Detail to Look Natural

dentures.

Twenty-six percent of American adults between 65 and 74 have lost all their teeth to dental disease. This isn’t an appearance problem only—lack of teeth can also harm nutrition and physical well-being.

Fortunately, we have advanced restorative options that can effectively replace missing teeth. Of these, there’s a tried and true one that’s both affordable and effective: removable dentures.

Dentures are simple in design: a plastic or resin base, colored with a pinkish-red hue to resemble gums to which we attach prosthetic (false) teeth. But while the design concept isn’t complicated, the process for creating and fitting them can be quite involved: they must conform to an individual patient’s jaws and facial structure if they’re going to appear natural.

If you’re considering dentures, here’s some of what it will take to achieve a successful outcome.

Positioning the teeth. The position of the prosthetic teeth on the base greatly determines how natural they’ll appear and how well they’ll function. So, we’ll need to plan tooth placement beforehand based on your facial and jaw structures, as well as photos taken of you before tooth loss. We’ll also consider how large the teeth should be, how far to place them forward or back from the lips, and whether to include “imperfections” from your old look that you see as part of your appearance.

Simulating the gums. While the teeth are your smile’s stars, the gums are the supporting cast. It’s important that we create a denture base that attractively frames the teeth by determining how much of the gums show when you smile, or adding color and even textures to better resemble gum tissue. We can also add ridges behind the upper teeth to support speech.

Balancing the bite. Upper and lower dentures don’t operate in and of themselves—they must work cooperatively and efficiently with each other during eating or speaking. So while appearance matters, the bite’s bite adjustment or balance might matter more. That’s why we place a lot of attention into balancing and adjusting the bite after you receive your dentures to make sure you’re comfortable.

This is a detailed process that we may need to revisit from time to time to make sure your dentures’ fit remains tight and comfortable. Even so, modern advances in this traditional restoration continue to make them a solid choice for total tooth loss.

If you would like more information on denture restorations, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor article “Removable Dentures.”

Get Ahead of Bite Problems with Interceptive Orthodontics

orthodontics.

At any given time some 4 million teens and pre-teens are wearing braces or other orthodontic appliances to correct a malocclusion (poor bite). While most cases are straightforward, some have difficulties that increase treatment time and cost.

But what if you could reduce some of these difficulties before they fully develop? We often can through interceptive orthodontics.

This growing concept involves early orthodontic treatment around 6 to 10 years of age with the goal of guiding the development of a child’s jaws and other mouth structures in the right direction. These early years are often the only time of life when many of these treatments will work.

For example, widening the roof of the mouth (the palate) in an abnormally narrow upper jaw takes advantage of a gap in the bone in the center of the palate that doesn’t fuse until later in adolescence. A device called a palatal expander exerts outward pressure on the back teeth to influence the jawbone to grow out. New bone fills in the gap to permanently expand the jaw.

In cases with a developing overbite (the upper front teeth extending too far over the lower teeth when closed), we can install a hinged device called a Herbst appliance to the jaws in the back of the mouth. The hinge mechanism coaxes the lower jaw to develop further forward, which may help avoid more extensive and expensive jaw surgery later.

Interceptive treatments can also be fairly simple in design like a space retainer, but still have a tremendous impact on bite development. A space maintainer is often used when a primary (“baby”) tooth is lost prematurely, which allows other teeth to drift into the empty space and crowd out the incoming permanent tooth. The wire loop device is placed within the open space to prevent drift and preserve the space for the permanent tooth.

To take advantage of these treatments, it’s best to have your child’s bite evaluated early. Professional organizations like the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommend a screening by age 7. While it may reveal no abnormalities at all, it could also provide the first signs of an emerging problem. With interceptive orthodontics we may be able to correct them now or make them less of a problem for the future.

If you would like more information on orthodontic treatments, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor article “Interceptive Orthodontics.”