Posts for: September, 2014
Q: I’ve heard about dental implants, but I’m still not sure exactly what they are. Can you explain?
A: It’s no wonder you’ve heard of them: Dental implants have been called the most exciting advance in dentistry in the last 50 years! Essentially, the implant itself is a small, screw-shaped post that is placed in the jaw bone (underneath the gums), and serves as a replacement for the tooth’s roots. It is attached to a lifelike crown (a replacement for the visible part of the tooth) via a sturdy connector called an abutment. Dental implants offer results that can last a lifetime, and have the highest documented success rate of any tooth replacement system — over 95%.
Q: How does a dental implant work?
A: A few decades ago, it was discovered that titanium metal has a unique property: It can actually become fused to living bone tissue in a process called osseointegration. Implants are made of titanium, and take advantage of this feature. Solidly anchored in place by both osseointegration and mechanical forces, dental implants provide a strong and durable base for several different kinds of natural-looking and fully functional replacement teeth.
Q: What are dental implants used for?
A: One dental implant can be used to replace just one missing tooth with a crown that matches your own teeth. Two or more dental implants can be used to support a fixed bridge (a series of three or more replacement teeth) without requiring any work to be done on the adjacent, healthy teeth. Four or more implants can support an entire arch (complete top or bottom set) of replacement teeth that won’t slip and will never need to be removed — a great alternative to traditional removable dentures! Implants can also be used to support some kinds of removable dentures, and in certain orthodontic procedures.
Q: What is the procedure for getting a dental implant?
A: The implant process begins with a consultation, a thorough exam, and a set of diagnostic images. Placing one or more implants involves minor surgery, which is typically performed in the dental office and requires only local anesthesia. After the area has been numbed, a small opening is made in the tissue of gums and jaw bone, and the implant is carefully inserted. In some situations, a temporary replacement tooth may be placed on the implant immediately; otherwise, the implant will be allowed to rest for a period of weeks. In either case, the permanent replacement teeth will be secured to the implants at a subsequent visit.
Q: What are the advantages of an implant over other tooth replacement methods?
A: We already mentioned the high success rate and the long life of dental implants. Another advantage is the fact that implants stop the deterioration of bone in the jaw that inevitably follows tooth loss. Bone loss, a “hidden” consequence of tooth loss, is what tends to make people who are missing teeth look older than they really are. Implants need no special care beyond what you would give your natural teeth, and their longevity can make them a cost-effective investment in the long term. Plus, they look, function and “feel” just like your natural teeth.
If you’d like to find out more about dental implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dental Implants” and “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”
For years, even as tobacco use began to decline and disappear in most settings, professional baseball seemed one of the few exceptions. Now, the tide is finally turning. Recently, the legendary right-hand pitcher Curt Schilling revealed that he had been treated for oral cancer — and said that his chewing tobacco habit was to blame. “I’ll go to my grave believing that was why I got [cancer],” Schilling told the Boston Globe.
Schilling isn’t the only former player whose oral cancer is blamed on smokeless tobacco. Tony Gwynn, Hall of Famer and beloved coach, recently passed away from oral cancer at the age of 54. His death led to players pledging to give up the habit. But many still use “dip” or “snuff,” thinking perhaps it’s not so bad after all.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. With nicotine as its active ingredient, chewing tobacco can be just as addictive as cigarettes. Not only is nicotine addictive, it also increases heart rate and blood pressure, constricts the arteries, and affects the body in other ways. In addition to nicotine, chewing tobacco contains about 30 other chemicals known to cause cancer.
Tobacco use of any kind is a major risk factor for oral cancer. While it isn’t as well-known as some other types of cancer, oral cancer can be just as deadly. About 43,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with it each year — and the 5-year survival rate is just 57%. One reason for the relatively low survival rate is that oral cancer isn’t usually detected until it has reached a later stage, when it’s much harder to treat.
What can you do to reduce your risk for oral cancer? Clearly, you should stop using tobacco products of any kind. Moderating your intake of alcohol, and eating more plant foods and less red meat can also have an impact. And don’t forget to have regular dental checkups: cancer’s warning signs can often be recognized in an oral examination — and early detection can boost survival rates to 80-90 percent.
How does Schilling feel about chewing tobacco now? “I lost my sense of smell, my taste buds for the most part. I had gum issues, they bled, all this other stuff,” he told the Globe. “I wish I could go back and never have dipped. Not once.”
If you have questions about oral cancer or cancer prevention, contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Chewing Tobacco” and “Diet and Prevention of Oral Cancer.”