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tooth loss

Understanding Tooth Loss and Your Oral Surgery Treatment Options

According to the American College of Prosthodontists, approximately 178 million Americans have lost at least one permanent tooth, with some 40 million of them having no teeth left at all. Tooth loss does more than create challenges in eating, smiling, and talking; it can also affect your overall health. Fortunately, oral surgery procedures such as dental implants can help you regain your smile and optimize your dental function permanently. Take a look at the causes and effects of tooth loss, along with the treatment options available from skilled oral surgeons.

 

Causes of Tooth Loss

People may lose teeth for a variety of reasons. Here are some of the most common issues that might cause you to lose one or more teeth.

  • Periodontal disease – Most cases of tooth loss stem from this preventable inflammatory gum condition. When food particles and saliva get stuck to the teeth around the gum line, bacteria flock to the resulting plaque as a food source. The immune system reacts to the bacteria by mounting an inflammatory response against it. Unfortunately, the inflammation damages the gum tissue surrounding the teeth and weakens the ligaments that hold the teeth in their sockets, potentially leading to tooth loss.
  • Acute injuries or tooth problems – A blow to the face from a fist, ball, auto accident, or other high impact can knock teeth out of their sockets. (Emergency dentists can sometimes reseat these knocked-out teeth and secure them in place until they heal.) A tooth fractured down to the root, erupted at an angle that threatens neighboring teeth, or decayed beyond all hope of repair might require extraction, leaving you with a gap in your smile.
  • Tobacco and alcohol use – Tobacco use not only increases your risk for periodontal disease but also reduces your body’s ability to fight off infections, including oral infections that threaten the stability of your teeth. Excessive alcohol consumption can leave you with a chronically dry mouth, reducing the saliva that normally coats the teeth and helps to safeguard them against catastrophic decay.
  • Underlying conditions – Untreated malnutrition, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even arthritis can make you more vulnerable to tooth loss.

 

How Tooth Loss Affects Facial Aesthetics and Your Health and Functionality

Missing teeth affect the aesthetics of not only our smile, but also of the facial contour and symmetry. Each tooth and tooth-root provide support to our jaw bones and facial muscles. Similar to how grasses at the beach provide anchor to sand, the roots of our teeth help to anchor bone. Missing roots eventually causes surrounding bone to melt away, causing facial structures to have a hollowed out look and show signs of premature ageing.

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When you have missing teeth, you can’t chew food efficiently. Poor chewing function can make you prone to indigestion, malabsorption of nutrients, and other digestive complaints. You may also develop a heightened risk for gum disease that threatens not just your other teeth, but every system in your body, as bacteria migrate from your gums to major organs.

Tooth loss can affect your ability to talk clearly and smile with confidence in conversations. However, that gap in your smile may prove only the beginning of a more long-term change in your looks. Without constant stimulation from tooth roots, the bone in the jaw stops remodeling itself. The loss of bone density can reduce the height of your jaws, eventually giving your face a “collapsed” look.

 

How an Oral Surgeon Can Help You Deal with Tooth Loss

Adults who have lost teeth have traditionally done whatever they can to fill those gaps in their smile through dental restorations, from bridges that replace individual teeth to full upper and lower dentures. Unfortunately, these replacements have their limitations. For instance, a removable bridge or denture plate can feel loose in the mouth or even get dislodged, making chewing an adventure and threatening public embarrassment. More critically, bridges and dentures only restore the part of the teeth that used to sit above the gum line, not the root structures that anchored the natural teeth to the jawbone, so they can’t stop you from losing bone density.

Your oral surgeon can help you avoid these issues by performing dental implant surgery. Dental implants feature screw-like threaded metal posts capped with permanent crowns. Once the metal posts go into your jawbone, the bone responds by growing into(and in between) the posts’ threads, a phenomenon called osseointegration. This process takes a few months to complete, but you’ll end up with strong, tightly anchored artificial tooth roots that actually promote continuous bone remodeling. The oral surgeon will then add permanent crowns to the posts, giving you a beautiful smile and dental restorations you can rely on for decades to come.

If you have already lost some jawbone density from going without teeth, don’t panic. Your oral surgeon can often surmount this challenge as well by performing a bone graft. In this form of oral surgery, a small amount of organic or synthetic bone fills out the thin parts of the jawbone, providing the firm foundation your implants will require. Just keep in mind that you must heal completely from your bone graft before proceeding with the implant surgery.

Dental implant surgery can work equally well for you whether you seek to replace a single tooth or a whole mouthful of teeth. Oral surgeons can create entire denture plates that snap onto just a handful of implanted posts in the upper and/or lower jaw. You may hear this kind of restoration referred to as a four-on-one or six-on-one dental implant.

Don’t let tooth loss rob you of your ability to smile, talk, and eat with confidence. Contact Woodview Oral Surgery today to learn more about your dental restoration options!

 

Image credits: Photo by jeltevanoostrum on Pixabay.

Reconstructive Surgery

Cosmetic and Reconstructive Surgery: What Can An Oral Surgeon Do to Help?

The structures of your face and jaw perform a variety of functions. Ideally, the arrangement of bones and soft tissues allows you to eat, breathe, and talk effortlessly. These structures also provide your face with its characteristic contours and appearance. Whether an injury or medical condition has harmed these structures and reduced their functionality, or you simply would like to give your face a new, preferred look, you may see substantial benefits from cosmetic or reconstructive oral surgery. Let’s examine these forms of surgery to discover what an oral surgeon might do to give you a better quality of life.

 

Reconstructive Oral Surgery vs. Cosmetic Oral Surgery

The difference between reconstructive oral surgery and cosmetic oral surgery lies mainly in the result you wish to achieve. Reconstructive oral surgery focuses on procedures that correct damage and functional abnormalities. When expertly performed, reconstructive oral surgery can help you speak more clearly, chew more effectively, experience less pain or stiffness from structural alignment errors, or restore tissue lost in an accident or previous surgery.

Cosmetic oral surgery focuses on improving the aesthetics of your oral and facial structures. For example, an oral surgeon can change the shape or size of your jaw, bringing the jawbone forward or making it recede for a more attractive facial balance. An oral surgeon has the expertise to perform a variety of procedures to improve both the looks and the function of your teeth.

 

Conditions and Challenges Treated by Cosmetic and Reconstructive Oral Surgery

Depending on your individual needs, you may schedule either or both forms of oral surgery to address different conditions and challenges. Common problems tackled by reconstructive oral surgeons include:

  • Malocclusion (abnormal bite) – This problem typically stems from an abnormal jaw position and/or uneven tooth wear.
  • Diseased or impacted teeth – A hopelessly decayed, infected, or impacted tooth may threaten your comfort and health.
  • Broken or weakened teeth – Root canal therapy or tooth fractures can leave the affected teeth in a fragile state while making them vulnerable to future infections.
  • Palate issues – Deformities such as a cleft palate may call for surgical reconstruction.
  • Jaw or facial trauma – Auto accidents and other crises can shatter bones in your jaw and face, making normal jaw function impossible.

Cosmetic surgeons can address some of the same issues, assuming that those issues affect your appearance as well as your oral and dental function. These specialists typically deal with:

  • Chipped or broken teeth – Even if such teeth don’t suffer from any deeper damage or hurt your chewing ability, they may make you self-conscious to smile or talk in public.
  • Overbites and underbites – A misaligned jaw may make you unhappy with your looks, even when it doesn’t seriously affect your ability to speak or eat.
  • An oversized or undersized lower jaw – Even a perfectly aligned jaw may appear too prominent, or not prominent enough, for your taste.
  • Soft tissue abnormalities – If you have noticeable facial scars or missing facial tissue, you can have these issues cosmetically repaired.

 

Types of Oral Surgery Procedures

Modern medical techniques and technologies have opened the door to many kinds of cosmetic and reconstructive oral surgery procedures. Your oral surgeon may recommend and administer:

  • Dental implants, which replace missing teeth while helping to stimulate jawbone regeneration.
  • Bone grafts to help dental implants root themselves securely in the jaw.
  • Extractions of wisdom teeth or other problematic teeth.
  • Craniofacial surgery to reassemble broken facial bones or correct abnormal facial formation.
  • Orthognathic surgery to alter your jawbone structure.
  • Soft tissue trauma repair to fix lacerations, mend severed nerves, and reconnect or reroute damaged blood vessels.

 

A Whole New You

Oral surgery can improve your life in a variety of ways. On a purely functional, physical level, procedures that improve your chewing ability can help your digestive system break down food more efficiently, giving your body more of the nutrients it needs for optimal wellness. Surgery that addresses sinus or airway issues (including jaw alignment problems that may affect your breathing) can help you avoid or overcome potentially serious health risks. Psychologically, reconstructive or cosmetic oral surgery can help you feel less stress and self-consciousness, boosting your confidence to live the life you want to live.

 

What to Expect from Oral Surgery

Oral surgery procedures can vary widely in the amount of preparation and recovery that they involve. As a general rule, you and your oral surgeon should discuss your medical history, current medication list, and lifestyle factors that can influence the procedure’s success. If you smoke, you’ll need to kick the habit as far ahead of your surgery as possible, since smoking can slow healing.

Some oral surgeries such as tooth extractions require only sedation and a local anesthetic, while more extensive surgeries that rebuild portions of the face require general anesthesia and a hospital stay. During your recuperation, you may need to adhere to a soft diet and/or small meals. If your procedure requires the jaw to remain wired shut for a time, your oral surgeon will prescribe a liquid diet until the surgeon removes the wires.

Contact Woodview Oral Surgery to schedule a consult appointment, which is an in-depth analysis of your medical history and dental x-rays and is an opportunity to discuss with the Surgeon the treatment approaches.

dental implants

A Guide to Caring for Your Dental Implants

Dental implants work and feel just like your own teeth, but these marvels of oral surgery still require the same hygiene and maintenance that you’d devote to the genuine articles. Even the most durable implants, installed by the most skilled oral surgeon, may suffer damage or even fail altogether if you neglect these dental restorations. Certain foods can chip or wear down the realistic simulated enamel, while poor hygiene can promote an implant-loosening inflammatory condition known as peri-implantitis.

Fortunately, you can boost your chances of enjoying many years of optimal chewing function and an attractive smile simply by looking after your dental implants properly. Take heed of these useful dental implant care tips.

 

1. Clean Your Dental Implants Regularly and Thoroughly

Although dental implants can’t develop cavities like organic teeth, they can still develop problems at the gum line. The permanent crowns that cap your implants don’t actually extend all the way to the gums, meaning that food and bacteria can find their way into tiny gaps and set the stage for gum disease.

Thankfully, you can prevent this issue by using the same basic brushing and flossing techniques that keep natural teeth healthy. Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to each tooth, brushing upward or downward in a sweeping motion from the gum line to the edge of the tooth. Spend two to three minutes repeating this process for all your teeth, both natural and implanted. Follow this phase of dental hygiene with careful flossing, paying special attention to the spaces between your implants and your natural teeth (since trapped food or tartar in these spaces can promote decay of the natural enamel). If you have a four-on-one bridge that supports multiple implants, take care to floss underneath the bridge as well.

 

2. Choose Your Dental Hygiene Tools Wisely

Either a manual toothbrush or an electric toothbrush will do a good job of removing biofilm and trapped food from your dental implants. Whichever tool you select, choose one with the softest bristles you can find, along with a toothpaste low in abrasion, to protect the gums against irritation and avoid unnecessary crown wear. Because the spaces between implants can prove tricky to floss, consider investing in some super floss. Super floss uses a floss threader with a stiffened end combined with a spongy, flexible midsection and a normal length of thread at the “business end.”

If you can’t use floss easily because of manual dexterity issues, purchase a water flosser and use it every evening after brushing. This handy device can blast debris away from tight spaces. To clean out the tiny gap between the base of an implant and your gum tissue, trace this area with a rubber-tipped gum stimulator. An ADA-approved mouthwash or oral rinse can help kill any remaining bacteria.

 

3. Schedule Dental Checkups and Cleanings

Dental implants require a healthy mouth. Keep up your regular schedule of routine dental wellness checkups and cleaning per your dentist’s recommendations. These evaluations can detect potential concerns such as bone loss in the jaw, early gum inflammation (gingivitis), and cavities in the teeth seated next to your implants. Professional cleanings can remove built-up tartar and hard-to-reach debris that may escape even the most careful home dental hygiene practices.

 

4. Watch for (and Respond to) Trouble Signs

Dental implants and/or their surrounding tissues can develop infections and other problems even when they receive the best of care. The more quickly you respond to these issues by scheduling immediate dental evaluation and treatment, the better. Signs of implant-related trouble may include:

  • Loose or wobbly implants
  • Gums that bleed when you brush
  • Pus or discoloration at the gum line
  • Bad breath
  • Pain underneath an all-on-four bridge

 

5. Steer Clear of Potentially Damaging Foods and Habits

Right after your dental implant surgery, your oral surgeon will warn you to avoid crunchy or hard-to-chew foods, sugary items, and alcoholic beverages. These products can raise your risk for postoperative complications. Even after you’ve completely recovered from the surgery, however, you must still treat your implants with a certain amount of care.

Approach harder objects such as nuts with caution. You can eat most soft candies as long as you follow up with thorough brushing and flossing to get those damaging sugars away from your natural teeth and gums. Avoid crunching on ice (which can break your crowns) or popcorn (which can deposit hard-to-remove hulls in your gum pockets).

Bruxism (habitual, unconscious tooth grinding) can wear down the crown on your implants while also damaging your remaining natural teeth. If you show signs of this condition, ask your dental professional to recommend strategies to combat it, from stress reduction techniques to correction of bite alignment errors that might encourage tooth grinding.

Don’t smoke if you have dental implants. Smoking can directly affect your bones’ ability to remodel themselves and maintain the proper density. If you lose bone in your jaw, the metal posts that hold your implants firmly in place may loosen.

Woodview Oral Surgery can perform your dental implant surgery and help you keep your implants in good shape. Contact our clinic today with questions!.

 

Image credits: Photo by Wilfried Pohnke on Pixabay.

dental implants

Dental Implants: A Great Alternative to Dentures and Bridges

Maintaining a terrific smile as you age can be difficult and if teeth are not properly taken care of, they become compromised and have to be extracted. As the American College of Prosthodontics notes, approximately 178 million Americans are currently missing at least one tooth.

Historically, several civilizations have come up with some unique approaches to missing teeth including ancient Egypt, where archaeologists have discovered several examples of teeth that had dental bridges or “prosthetic appliances.”

More recently, our nation’s first President, George Washington, suffered frequent toothache and had several missing teeth and eventually had to have a partial denture fabricated from ivory and wired in place to the remaining teeth. A full set of the President’s denture is on display at Mount Vernon, the historic home of George and Martha Washington.

More recently, the dental implant has evolved to be the first choice for replacement of a missing tooth/teeth. First placed in the 1960’s the implant has developed various solutions capable of providing permanent solution to a compromised tooth or teeth. If you have lost one or more teeth, you need to understand why dental implants are the go-to option.

 

What Are Dental Implants?

Unlike other tooth replacement methods, implants are a more natural and permanent solution. Dental implants include an anchor, usually ceramic or titanium, placed into the jawbone. After a period of 4-6 months the implant fuses, or technically, osseointegrates with the surrounding bone, creating a solid foundation for placement of a crown or fabricated tooth.

The implant also serves as an anchor in the jaw bone. Bone loss is often associated with a missing tooth, which in turn leads to a hollow look in the cheeks since the bone tissue is no longer present and can be viewed as premature ageing. Unlike a bridge, a dental implant is able to anchor surrounding bone and avoid the bone loss that often accompanies missing teeth.

Dental implants have few if any side effects and are the nearest thing to having your real teeth back. Keep in mind that an implant can support more than one tooth. For instance, four implants can be used to support a replacement upper or lower arch or both, depending on the extent of tooth loss.. Unlike a denture, the teeth are not removable and having much greater biting power of natural teeth up to 90% according to some studies. Dentures have 20-30% biting power.

 

Who Should Get Dental Implants?

Dental implants are appropriate for most adults, even those of advanced age. In fact, implants can benefit the health of older patients because they eliminate the discomfort of sliding dentures and allow the patient to eat the foods they enjoy, and also make sure they get the nutrition that they need. Your oral surgeon will evaluate your medical history to determine if implants are a good choice for you. You may be a suitable implant candidate if the following are true:

  • You have enough healthy bone to hold the implants.
  • Your gums and other oral tissues are healthy.
  • You do not smoke.
  • Your jawbone has reached full growth.

 

What Are the Advantages of Dental Implants?

For a good reason, dental implants have become the best solution compared to other tooth replacement options.

  • Implants have a look and feel more like natural teeth, including a functional capacity of 90% of natural teeth, unlike dentures that provide 10-30% function.
  • Implants have proven that with proper care, they can last a lifetime.
  • Third, the lifetime costs of an implant contrasted to a denture are very competitive as one has to consider the expenses of denture adjustments, chair-time fees to the patient for increased dental visits, and replacement costs as most dental appliances have a 5-7 year lifetime.
  • A dental implants does not need special daily care, simply floss and brush as you would natural teeth. In contrast, dentures must be removed and cleaned daily to maintain their appearance and to keep your mouth and gums healthy.
  • Finally, implants give you more confidence since they are a permanent solution that means no one will see you, night or day, without a bright and beautiful smile.

 

What Should You Expect from the Dental Implant Procedure?

A tooth implant is an outpatient procedure done under general anesthesia. Your surgeon may complete the implant process in several phases. After you’ve had a regular dental exam and medical assessment, your oral surgeon may need to do the following:

  • Remove a damaged tooth
  • Graft bone onto your jaw if necessary
  • Place the dental implant
  • Allow for healing
  • Place an abutment (an attachment that holds the artificial tooth in place)
  • Attach the artificial tooth

The process may require several months for your oral surgeon to complete, particularly if you need a bone graft, but an implant that is properly taken care of can last a lifetime.

Sometimes, your surgeon can complete an immediate load procedure that allows them to attach the artificial tooth immediately after placing the implant.

 

What Happens After the Procedure?

Most people only have minor after-effects from their implant surgery. You may experience facial and gum swelling, some bruising, pain at the surgical site, or minor bleeding. You might need to stick to soft food for a few days and take pain relievers and antibiotics.

Most dental implant surgeries are successful, with issues or infections being very rare.

 

How Woodview Oral Surgery Can Help

Missing and severely decayed teeth are a painful and often embarrassing problem that can affect your overall health and self-esteem. You may not want to try traditional options such as dentures, which can be uncomfortable and look unnatural. Fortunately, a skilled oral surgeon can correct your dental issues.

In the DC area, Woodview Oral Surgery offers you the latest and safest oral surgery techniques. You can regain your oral health and your confidence by booking an appointment. If you are interested in dental implants, contact us today for more information.

 

Image credits: Photo by Bogdan Condr on Unsplash.

6 Ways Oral Surgeons Can Help Improve Your Quality of Life

When most people think about visiting the oral surgeon, it’s usually prompted by a pressing dental issue that needs to be addressed, such as wisdom teeth removal, or having dental reconstruction after an accident.

Although those are important and valid reasons to visit the oral surgeon, the reality is, oral surgeons also can help you improve your quality of life in a wide variety of situations, and maybe even a few you might not be aware of.

Tooth loss, for example, can affect your quality of life for normal oral function such as eating and drinking, and even extend to speaking and self-esteem. Through various approaches, an oral surgeon can quickly and effectively address many issues you may be experiencing and get you back to your normal life.

If you’re having problems with your mouth but have been held back from seeking solutions because of cost or fear, take a moment to consider the benefits of oral surgery.

Here’s a look at common procedures performed by an Oral Surgeon and how they can improve your overall quality of life:

 

Dental Implants

If you are missing a tooth or several teeth, dental implants not only improve the aesthetics of the mouth, but also restore functionality – improving overall quality of life.

A study by Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine found that osteoporotic women with dental implants compared to those who have missing teeth and use removable dentures, experienced a significantly higher quality of life in every aspect including occupational, emotional, and sexual health.

With dental implants, a medical-grade titanium post is inserted into the jaw replacing the missing tooth root. Over 3-6 months, the titanium osseointegrates with the bone, providing a solid foundation on which to attach an abutment and then the fabricated tooth, or crown. Not only do the implants look like natural teeth, but also with proper care, they can last a lifetime.

 

Sleep Apnea

Many who struggle with sleep apnea spend their nights attached to a sleep mask or hose to help ease the symptoms. However, through the use of laser technology, it is possible to decrease the excess tissue at the back of the mouth, keeping the airway clear while sleeping. The best part is that with the use of laser, there is no cutting or recovery period involved; the procedure is touchless and done in office, with each session lasting about 20-30 minutes. Most patients see improvement after 3-5 sessions.

If you’re experience severe symptoms of sleep apnea, it may be time to seek the help of an oral surgeon. They can help get rid of unnecessary tissue from the back of your throat, which often exacerbates sleep apnea symptoms.

After the removal, most patients find they are able to breathe more easily, and, as a result, sleep better.

 

Bone and Gum Grafting

Bone and gum grafting is sometimes necessary for people who have ignored missing teeth for a period of years.

This is because a missing tooth root can lead to a loss or melting away of the adjacent bone and tissue. Similar to how beach grass is often planted to abate beach erosion, tooth roots serve to anchor bone in the jaw.

If you already have a missing tooth and would like to have a dental implant placed, an oral surgeon will first determine if adequate bone is available to anchor the implant. Modern 3D scanning allows for precision bone measurement and a determination can quickly be made if a bone graft is needed before placement of the dental implant.

 

Reconstructive Surgery

Those who have suffered traumatic facial injuries from an accident or who have experienced losing several teeth may find it hard to complete everyday tasks such as speaking, eating, and drinking.

Reconstructive surgery, however, can help you replace damaged teeth, correct issues with your jaw, and address gum damage.

The starting point is a CT scan which will provide a 3D representation of the mouth and surrounding structures. Depending on the complexity of the case, your oral surgeon may recommend the procedure be undertaken in a hospital setting which provides a full range of anesthesia and surgical support options that maybe needed.

 

Biopsies

Sometimes, a routine visit to the dentist may find an unusual lesion, growth, or discoloration in the oral cavity, in which case you may be referred for a biopsy. Lesions are not always bad, however, a diagnosis cannot be made by visual inspection and x-ray imaging alone, so you may be referred to an oral surgeon for a biopsy.

A biopsy involves removing a small sample of the tissue from your mouth and sending it to a lab for analysis. Depending on the location of the lesion in the mouth, numbing medication maybe used for comfort. If access to the biopsy area is needed underneath the gum, a surgical procedure may be required, and this is sometimes done under sedation (put-to-sleep) for the procedure.

The lab is usually able to analyze the sample and issue results in 7-14 days, which provides a diagnosis for the issue, and the surgeon will then discuss treatment options. Starting treatment early leads to better prognosis and outcomes.

 

Jaw Surgeries

Jaw surgery can be necessary in a variety of circumstances: for an improperly aligned jaw, to correct issues with swallowing, or to minimize excessive breakdown of your teeth, to name a few.

An oral surgeon can assess your jaw and any symptoms you may be experiencing to let you know if surgery will correct it. By addressing the problem head on, you can ensure a lifetime of a happy, healthy mouth with restored tooth and jaw function.

 

In need of help?

If you find yourself experiencing any of the issues discussed above, or others related to oral health that aren’t listed here, contact us today. We’d love to set up a consultation to offer our expert advice for improving your health and quality of life.

 

Image credit: Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels