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There’s a Lot of Effort Behind the Scenes to Making Dentures Work for You

dentures.

For centuries, people who’ve lost all their teeth have worn dentures. Although materials in today’s dentures are more durable and attractive than those in past generations, the basic design remains the same — prosthetic (false) teeth set in a plastic or resin base made to resemble gum tissue.

If you’re thinking of obtaining dentures, don’t let their simplicity deceive you: a successful outcome depends on a high degree of planning and attention to detail customized to your mouth.

Our first step is to determine the best positioning for the prosthetic teeth. It’s not an “eyeball” guess — we make a number of calculations based on the shape and size of your jaws and facial features to determine the best settings within the resin base. These calculations help us answer a few important questions for determining design: how large should the teeth be? How far forward or back from the lip? How much space between the upper and lower teeth when the jaws are at rest?

We also can’t forget about the artificial gums created by the base. How much your gums show when you smile depends a lot on how much your upper lip rises. We must adjust the base size to accommodate your upper lip rise so that the most attractive amount of gum shows when you smile. We also want to match as close as possible the color and texture of your natural gum tissues.

There’s one other important aspect to manage: how your upper and lower dentures function together when you eat or speak. This means we must also factor your bite into the overall denture design. This may even continue after your dentures arrive: we may still need to adjust them while in your mouth to improve function and comfort.

Ill-fitting, dysfunctional and unattractive dentures can be distressing and embarrassing. But with careful planning and customization, we can help ensure your new dentures are attractive and comfortable to wear now and for years to come.

If you would like more information on removable dentures for teeth replacement, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Removable Full Dentures.”

Braces Take Advantage of Teeth’s Natural Ability to Move

braces.

There are many new and exciting ways now to transform an unattractive smile into one you’ll be confident to display. But not all “smile makeover” techniques are new — one in particular has been around for generations: using braces to correct crooked teeth.

Braces have improved the smiles (and also dental health) for millions of people. But as commonplace this orthodontic treatment is, it wouldn’t work at all if a natural mechanism for moving teeth didn’t already exist. Braces “partner” with this mechanism to move teeth to better positions.

The jawbone doesn’t actually hold teeth in place — that’s the job of an elastic gum tissue between the teeth and bone called the periodontal ligament. Tiny fibers extending from the ligament attach to the teeth on one side and to the bone on the other. In addition to securing them, the dynamic, moldable nature of the ligament allows teeth to move incrementally in response to forces applied against them.

To us, the teeth feel quite stationary (if they don’t, that’s a problem!). That’s because there’s sufficient length of the tooth roots that are surrounded by bone, periodontal ligament and gum tissue. But when pressure is applied against the teeth, the periodontal ligament forms both osteoblasts (bone-forming cells) and osteoclasts (bone-resorbing cells) causing the bone to remodel. This allows the teeth to move to a new position.

Braces take advantage of this in a controlled manner. The orthodontist bonds brackets to the outside face of the teeth through which they pass a thin metal wire. They attach the ends of the wire to the brackets (braces), usually on the back teeth. By using the tension placed in the wire, the orthodontist can control the gradual movement of teeth to achieve proper function and aesthetics. The orthodontist continues to monitor the treatment progress, while making periodic adjustments to the tension.

It takes time, but through this marvelous interplay between nature and dental science you’ll gain a more healthy and beautiful smile.

If you would like more information on improving your smile with orthodontics, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Moving Teeth with Orthodontics.”

Consider Clear Aligners Instead of Braces for Your Teen

clear aligners.

Your teenager is about to take a big step toward better health and a more attractive appearance — orthodontic treatment. You both know the benefits: better chewing function, lower risk of dental disease, and, of course, a straighter and more beautiful smile.

But your teen might also dread the next couple of years of wearing braces. And it’s hard to blame them: although they’re effective, wearing braces restricts eating certain snacks and foods, they require extra time and effort for brushing and flossing, and they’re often uncomfortable to wear. And of high importance to a teenager, they may feel embarrassed to wear them.

But over the last couple of decades a braces alternative has emerged: clear aligners. This form of bite correction requires fewer food restrictions, allows greater ease in hygiene, and is considered more attractive than braces. In fact, most observers won’t notice them when a wearer smiles.

Clear aligners are a series of clear plastic trays created by computer that are worn in a certain sequence. During wear each tray exerts pressure on the teeth to gradually move them in the desired direction. The patient wears a single tray for two weeks and then changes to the next tray in the sequence, which will be slightly different than the previous tray. At the end of the process, the teeth will have been moved to their new positions.

Clear aligners aren’t appropriate for all bite problems. When they are, though, they offer a couple of advantages over braces. Unlike braces, a wearer can remove the aligner to brush and floss their teeth or for rare, special or important social occasions. And, of course, their appearance makes them less likely to cause embarrassment while wearing them.

In recent years, design improvements have increased the kinds of bites aligners can be used to correct. For example, they now often include “power ridges,” tiny features that precisely control the amount and direction of pressure applied to the teeth. They’ve also become thinner and more comfortable to wear.

If you’re interested in clear aligners as a treatment option, talk with your orthodontist about whether your teen is a good candidate. If so, they could make orthodontic treatment for achieving a more attractive and healthy smile less of an ordeal.

If you would like more information on clear aligners as an orthodontic option, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Clear Aligners for Teens.”

Recognizing the Symptoms of Oral Cancer Could Save Your Life

oral cancer.

Oral cancer isn’t picky: Its victims have included Motown singers and rock-n-roll guitarists, baseball players and film critics, one-half of TV’s “Odd Couple” and two U.S. Presidents. And while it’s still true that the majority of people who get it are older men who habitually smoke and drink, the fastest-growing group of new patients are young people of both sexes who don’t. That’s why it’s so important to learn about the early symptoms of oral cancer — and what better time to do so than in April, which is Oral Cancer Awareness Month?

First, some numbers: In the United States, around 50,000 people are newly diagnosed with oral cancer each year, and one person dies from the disease every hour of every day. Oral cancer is two times as common in men as it is in women, and has three major risk factors: the use of tobacco in any form; the habitual consumption of alcohol; and exposure to HPV-16, the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus. Its overall 5-year survival rate is just slightly above 50%. But if caught early, the odds of successful treatment are much better.

Dentists perform oral cancer screenings at routine exams. But it’s still a good idea to do a monthly self-exam for oral cancer at home. Here’s how:

  • First, get a hand-held mirror and a bright light. Remove any dentures or oral appliances, and then open wide.
  • You’re looking for white, red or discolored patches, persistent sores, or other abnormal features.
  • Examine your lips and gums, the lining of your mouth and cheeks, and your tongue.
  • Gently pull your tongue forward and pull lips away from teeth, so you can see them from all sides.
  • Feel all oral surfaces to check for any lumps, bumps or unusual masses.
  • Feel both sides of the neck and lower jaw for swellings or enlarged lymph nodes.
  • Be alert for chronic sore throat, hoarseness, or difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking.

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, the high mortality rate of this disease doesn’t stem from its being hard to diagnose: It results from the cancer not being discovered until it has reached a later stage, when it’s harder to treat. That’s why recognizing the warning signs are so important. While the same mild symptoms are often caused by benign (non- serious) conditions, it takes a medical professional (and possibly a biopsy or other test) to make a definite diagnosis. So if you notice something suspicious, don’t wait: tell us right away. It might just save your life.

If you have questions about oral cancer, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article Oral Cancer.

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

oral cancer.

This April marks the 14th observance of Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Yet there are still plenty of people who underestimate the seriousness of oral cancer, don’t know the warning signs, and are unsure where to get screening or treatment for this potentially deadly disease. It’s true that oral cancer doesn’t have as high a profile as some other cancers — but thanks to the efforts of educational foundations, medical professionals, and celebrities like actress Blythe Danner and baseball superstar Tony Gwynn (1960-2014), it significance is increasingly being recognized.

How common is oral cancer? According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, some 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with this illness in the current year. Five years from now, slightly more than half of those people will still be alive. That’s one of the most troubling aspects of the disease: Its survival rate is much lower than that of more well-known cancers — like breast or cervical cancer, or Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A major reason for those discouraging odds is that oral cancer isn’t generally found until it has reached a later stage of development, when it’s harder to treat successfully.

That’s why early diagnosis of oral cancer is so important — and why it’s vital to become aware of possible warning signs of the disease. The first symptoms are often relatively minor:  a red or white patch or a sore on the tongue, lips or the inside of the mouth, that doesn’t go away within 14 days; an unusual lump or mass in the mouth or neck; or difficulty eating, speaking or swallowing. While these symptoms are common and most often benign, they can also indicate an early stage of oral cancer.

Fortunately, dentists are trained to recognize the early signs of oral cancer, and we can often identify possible signs of the disease in its initial stages. We perform oral cancer screenings at routine dental exams, but you can also come in for an examination any time you have a concern. The good news is that recent advances in diagnosing oral cancer offer the hope that more people will get appropriate, timely treatment for this potentially deadly disease.

If you have questions about oral cancer, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation. Learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor article Oral Cancer.

Dental Implants: a Durable, Life-Like Solution for your Tooth Loss

implant.

What’s so special about dental implants — and why should you consider one to replace a missing tooth?

Although they’ve only been widely available for thirty years, dental implants have climbed to the top of tooth replacement choices as the premier restorative option. Since their debut in the 1980s, dentists have placed over 3 million implants.

There’s one overriding reason for this popularity: in structure and form, dental implants are the closest replacement we have to a natural tooth. In fact, more than anything else an implant is a root replacement, the part of the tooth you don’t see.

The artificial root is a titanium post surgically imbedded into the jaw bone. Later we can attach a porcelain crown to it that looks just like a visible tooth. This breakthrough design enables implants to handle the normal biting forces generated in the mouth for many years.

There’s also an advantage in using titanium dental implants. Because bone cells have a special affinity to the metal, they will grow and attach to the implant over time. Not only does this strengthen the implant’s hold within the jaw, the added growth also helps deter bone loss, a common problem with missing teeth.

It’s this blend of strength and durability that gives implants the highest success rate for any tooth replacement option. Over 95% of implants placed attain the 10-year mark, and most will last for decades.

Dental implant treatment, however, may not be possible in every situation, particularly where significant bone loss has occurred. They’re also relatively expensive, although more cost-effective than other options over the long term.

Even so, implants can play an effective and varied role in a dental restoration. While single implants with attached crowns are the most common type of replacement, they can also play a supporting role with other restorative options. As few as two strategically placed implants can provide a more secure connection for removable dentures or fixed bridges.

You’ll need to first undergo a thorough dental examination to see if implants could work for you. From there, we’ll be happy to discuss your options for using this “best of the best” restoration to achieve a new, beautiful smile.

If you would like more information on dental implants, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants 101.”

Don’t Forget Your Oral Hygiene While Wearing Braces

braces.

There are a few things you need to do — and not do — while wearing braces: avoid hard or sticky foods, for example, or wear protection during sports to avoid injury. There’s one important thing, though, that should be at the top of your list — extra attention to daily brushing and flossing.

The fact is your risk for developing tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease increases during orthodontic treatment. This is because the braces make it more difficult to reach a number of locations around teeth with a toothbrush or floss. Bacterial plaque, the source for these dental diseases, can subsequently build up in these areas.

Teen-aged orthodontic patients are even more susceptible to dental disease than adults. Because their permanent teeth are relatively young they have less resistance to decay than adults with more mature teeth. Hormonal changes during puberty also contribute to greater gum disease vulnerability.

There are some things you can do while wearing braces to avoid these problems. Be sure you’re eating a nutritious diet and avoid sugary snacks or acidic foods and beverages (especially sports or energy drinks).  This will deprive bacteria of one of their favorite food sources, and the minerals in healthy food will contribute to strong enamel.

More importantly, take your time and thoroughly brush and floss all tooth surfaces (above and below the braces wire). To help you do this more efficiently, consider using a specialized toothbrush designed to maneuver around the braces. You might also try a floss threader or a water irrigator to remove plaque between teeth. The latter device uses a pressurized water spray rather than floss to loosen and wash away plaque between teeth.

Even with these efforts, there’s still a chance of infection. So, if you notice swollen, red or bleeding gums, or any other problems with your teeth, visit us as soon as possible for an examination. The sooner we detect and treat dental disease while you’re wearing braces, the less the impact on your future smile.

If you would like more information on taking care of teeth while wearing braces, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Caring for Teeth During Orthodontic Treatment.”

Baseball Fan Catches Her Own Knocked-Out Tooth

fan.

When your favorite baseball team wins, it’s hard not to get excited — especially if you’re right there in the stadium. It’s even better when a player tosses the ball to fans. But sometimes, in the heat of the moment, things can go awry.

That’s what happened during a recent game at New York’s Yankee Stadium. After catching the ball that ended the game in an 8-2 Dodgers win, Los Angeles outfielder Yasiel Puig tossed it into a cheering crowd of supporters. “I saw it coming at me and I remember thinking, ‘I don’t have a glove to catch this ball,’” Dodgers fan Alyssa Gerharter told the New York Daily News. “I felt it hit me and I could feel immediately with my tongue there’s a hole. And I looked down at my hand and saw there’s a tooth in my hand.”

Ouch. Just like that, one fan’s dream became… a not-so-good dream. But fortunately for the 25-year-old software engineer, things went uphill from there. Ushers quickly escorted her into a first-aid room at the stadium. She was then rushed to a nearby hospital, where the upper front tooth was re-inserted into her jaw. After a follow-up appointment at her dentist’s office the next day, Gerharter said she remains hopeful the re-inserted tooth will fuse with the bone, and won’t require replacement.

We hope so too. And in fact, she has as good a chance of a successful outcome as anyone, because she did everything right. If you’re not sure what to do about a knocked-out tooth, here are the basics:

  • locate the tooth, handle it carefully (don’t touch the root surface), and if possible gently clean it with water
  • try to open the person’s mouth and find the place where the tooth came from
  • carefully re-insert the tooth in its socket if possible, making sure it is facing the right way
  • hold the tooth in place with a soft cloth as you rush to the dental office or the nearest urgent care facility
  • if it can’t be replaced in its socket, place the tooth in a special preservative solution or milk, or have the person hold it between the cheek and gum (making sure they won’t swallow it) — and then seek immediate care at the dental office
  • follow up at the dental office as recommended

In general, the quicker you perform these steps, the more likely it is that the tooth can be preserved. How quick is quick? The best outcomes are expected when re-implantation occurs in no more than five minutes. So if you’re in this situation, don’t wait: get (or give) appropriate first aid right away — it just might save a tooth!

If you would like more information about what to do in a dental emergency, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation. You can learn more the Dear Doctor articles “Knocked Out Tooth,” and “The Field-Side Guide to Dental Injuries.”

In Today’s NFL, Oral Hygiene Takes Center Stage

hygiene.

Everyone knows that in the game of football, quarterbacks are looked up to as team leaders. That’s why we’re so pleased to see some NFL QB’s setting great examples of… wait for it… excellent oral hygiene.

First, at the 2016 season opener against the Broncos, Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers was spotted on the bench; in his hands was a strand of dental floss. In between plays, the 2105 MVP was observed giving his hard-to-reach tooth surfaces a good cleaning with the floss.

Later, Buffalo Bills QB Tyrod Taylor was seen on the sideline of a game against the 49ers — with a bottle of mouthwash. Taylor took a swig, swished it around his mouth for a minute, and spit it out. Was he trying to make his breath fresher in the huddle when he called out plays?

Maybe… but in fact, a good mouthrinse can be much more than a short-lived breath freshener.

Cosmetic rinses can leave your breath with a minty taste or pleasant smell — but the sensation is only temporary. And while there’s nothing wrong with having good-smelling breath, using a cosmetic mouthwash doesn’t improve your oral hygiene — in fact, it can actually mask odors that may indicate a problem, such as tooth decay or gum disease.

Using a therapeutic mouthrinse, however, can actually enhance your oral health. Many commonly available therapeutic rinses contain anti-cariogenic (cavity-fighting) ingredients, such as fluoride; these can help prevent tooth decay and cavity formation by strengthening tooth enamel. Others contain antibacterial ingredients; these can help control the harmful oral bacteria found in plaque — the sticky film that can build up on your teeth in between cleanings. Some antibacterial mouthrinses are available over-the-counter, while others are prescription-only. When used along with brushing and flossing, they can reduce gum disease (gingivitis) and promote good oral health.

So why did Taylor rinse? His coach Rex Ryan later explained that he was cleaning out his mouth after a hard hit, which may have caused some bleeding. Ryan also noted, “He [Taylor] does have the best smelling breath in the league for any quarterback.” The coach didn’t explain how he knows that — but never mind. The takeaway is that a cosmetic rinse may be OK for a quick fix — but when it comes to good oral hygiene, using a therapeutic mouthrinse as a part of your daily routine (along with flossing and brushing) can really step up your game.

If you would like more information about mouthrinses and oral hygiene, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation.

Transform Your Smile and Dental Health by Correcting Your Bad Bite

bad bite.

When planning for your new smile, we look at more than the condition of individual teeth. We also step back for the bigger “bite” picture: how do the teeth look and interact with each other?

If we have a normal bite, our teeth are aligned symmetrically with each other. This not only looks aesthetically pleasing with the rest of the face, it also contributes to good function when we chew food. A bad bite (malocclusion) disrupts this mouth-to-face symmetry, impairs chewing and makes hygiene and disease prevention much more difficult.

That’s where orthodontics, the dental specialty for moving teeth, can work wonders. With today’s advanced techniques, we can correct even the most complex malocclusions — and at any age. Even if your teen years are well behind you, repairing a bad bite can improve both your smile and your dental health.

The most common approach, of course, is braces. They consist of metal or plastic brackets bonded to the outside face of the teeth with a thin metal wire laced through them. The wire attaches to an anchorage point, the back teeth or one created with other appliances, and placed under tension or pressure. The gradual increasing of tension or pressure on the teeth will move them over time.

 Braces are versatile and quite effective, but they can be restrictive and highly noticeable. Many people, especially older adults, feel embarrassed to wear them. There is an alternative: clear aligners. These are a series of clear, plastic trays that you wear in sequence, a couple of weeks for each tray. When you change to the next tray in the series, it will be slightly different than its predecessor. As the trays change shape guided by computer-enhanced modeling, the teeth gradually move.

If you’re interested in having a poor bite corrected, the first step is a comprehensive orthodontic examination. This looks closely at not only teeth position, but also jaw function and overall oral and general health.

With that we can help you decide if orthodontics is right for you. If so, we’ll formulate a treatment plan that can transform your smile and boost your dental health.

If you would like more information on the cosmetic and health benefits of orthodontics, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Magic of Orthodontics.”