My Blog

Posts for: December, 2014

By Phil Hart, DDS
December 30, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: orthodontics   headgear  
OrthodonticHeadgearWhatItIsandWhyItMaybeNeeded

Most of us are quite familiar with what traditional braces look like. But occasionally we see more complex-looking devices being worn by young orthodontic patients: thicker wires that extend outside the mouth, with straps that may go behind the neck or over the chin. What are these devices, and why are they sometimes needed?

In general, orthodontic appliances with external parts braced by the head, neck or chin are referred to as “headgear.” These devices may be used to handle a number of particular orthodontic situations, but they all have one thing in common: They provide the additional anchorage needed to move teeth into better positions.

It may come as a surprise that teeth, which seem so solid, can actually be moved fairly easily over time. This is because teeth are not fixed directly into bone, but are instead held in place by a hammock-like structure called the periodontal ligament. Using a light, controlled force — such as the force of springy wires and elastics in traditional braces — teeth can be moved slowly through the jaw bone, like a stick being pulled through sand.

Of course, to pull a stick through sand, you need a firm anchorage — your legs, for example, bracing against a rock. Most of the time, the back teeth, with their large, multiple roots, provide plenty of support. But sometimes, the back teeth alone aren’t enough to do the job.

If a very large space between teeth is being closed, for example, the back teeth might be pulled forward as the front teeth are pulled back; this could result in poor alignment and bite problems. In other cases, the front teeth may need to be pulled forward instead of back. The back teeth can’t help here; this is a job for headgear.

Some types of headgear have a strap that goes behind the head or neck; they use the entire head as an anchorage. Other types, called “reverse pull” headgear, have a strap that comes over the chin or the forehead; they can pull teeth forward. Headgear can even influence the proper growth of facial structures — that’s why it is usually seen on preteens, whose growth isn’t yet complete.

Headgear is usually worn for 12 hours per day, for a limited period of time. In some cases, rather than headgear, appliances called “temporary anchorage devices” (TADS) may be recommended. These are tiny screws that are implanted into the jawbone in a minimally invasive procedure, and serve a similar function.

While it may not look pretty, orthodontic headgear is capable of moving teeth into their proper positions in a relatively short period of time — and ending up with a great-looking smile is what orthodontics is all about.

If you have questions about orthodontic headgear, please call our office to schedule a consultation. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Moving Teeth With Orthodontics.”


Tooth-ColoredFillingsAretheRestorationofChoiceforBallroomDanceStarCherylBurke

If you've ever watched Dancing with the Stars on television, you've no doubt noticed the vivacious and talented Cheryl Burke, whose ballroom dance moves are as captivating as her bright smile. In fact, Cheryl considers her smile to be one of her most important assets as a professional dancer.

“As a performer, you're basically smiling the whole time,” Cheryl told Dear Doctor magazine recently in an exclusive interview. “It's just really important to take care of your teeth and have a great smile.”

Cheryl is very conscientious about caring for her smile, but that wasn't always the case. In the Dear Doctor interview, Cheryl revealed that her teeth suffered from ineffective oral hygiene when she was younger. “I definitely had my share of cavities,” Cheryl recalled, adding that she believed this was her own fault. “I didn't use floss,” She explained. “I think when you do floss frequently, it helps to reduce the chances of getting cavities. It took me a while to figure it out.”

Once Cheryl did figure it out, she was able to make cavities a thing of the past. But in order to make sure the effects of her prior tooth decay did not mar her lovely smile, she made sure her dentist — who is also her stepdad! — gave her tooth-colored fillings that could not be distinguished from the surface of a natural tooth. “It's important for me,” Cheryl said.

Lots of dental patients feel the same way, even if they don't spend time in front of television cameras. That's why the dental profession has developed tooth-like materials such as composite resins and porcelains that mimic natural tooth material exactly. These materials are also suitable for children's teeth and can incorporate fluoride to reduce tooth decay. It's even possible to replace old silver-colored fillings with these newer dental materials.

If you would like to learn more about tooth-colored fillings, please contact us to schedule an appointment for a consultation. To read Dear Doctor's entire interview with Cheryl Burke, please see “Cheryl Burke.” Dear Doctor also has more on “The Natural Beauty of Tooth-Colored Fillings.”


By Phil Hart, DDS
December 22, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: Dental Bonding  

Dental bonding in Bartlett is one of the simplest and easiest ways to give your smile a mini makeover.

Are you dealing with minor dental flaws like chipped or cracked teeth? Do you suffer from discolorations and stains that teeth whitening just can’t seem to fix? Do you have a small gap between your teeth that has you self-conscious? If so, there is a cosmetic dental procedure in Bartlett that can hide all of these common problems and restore your smile. Better yet, the procedure is painless, non-invasive and one of the least expensive cosmetic dental treatments.

About Dental Bonding

Dental bonding uses a tooth-colored resin (made from plastic) that covers over parts of a tooth to hide cracks, fractures and discolorations. If you’ve ever had a cavity filled then you know dental bonding. It’s the material they use to fill your cavity after the decay has been removed. What makes bonding an ideal cosmetic treatment for many patients in Bartlett is that a better-looking smile can be achieved in only one visit. Plus the procedure is quick and completely non-invasive.

What to Expect/Preparing for Dental Bonding

If you are opting for dental bonding in Bartlett for purposely cosmetic reasons then there isn’t much you need to be prepared for and there is certainly nothing you need to do before your treatment. When bonding is used for cosmetic purposes only, the procedure is painless and does not require anesthesia. However, if dental bonding is being used to fill a cavity, a local anesthesia will be used to numb the area prior to removing the tooth decay. If you regularly experience dental anxiety and you need to have a cavity filled, talk to your Bartlett dentist about sedation dentistry to help make the experience more relaxing for you.

Again, if dental bonding is being used for aesthetic purposes no tooth preparation is needed beforehand. We will choose a resin color that matches the rest of the tooth and then we will roughen the surface of the tooth and apply a liquid that will help the bonding material stick to the tooth easier.

Next, we will apply the resin and mold and reshape it to hide problem areas and achieve the desired look. Once this is complete we will harden the resin using a laser. Each tooth only takes about 30 minutes to an hour to treat with dental bonding.

The Benefits of Dental Bonding

This is one of the simplest and least expensive ways to cover dental flaws without invasive procedures or multiple visits. Plus, this treatment doesn’t require anesthesia (unless we are filling a cavity), so you won’t have side effects or a recovery time after dental bonding.

If you want to find out more about dental bonding and whether it’s right for you, call our Bartlett dental office today to schedule a consultation. We would be happy to see if your smile is the perfect fit for dental bonding.


By Phil Hart, DDS
December 19, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
TreatingGumDiseasewithLasers

Since their development in the laboratory over five decades ago, lasers have found increasing use in our everyday lives. In the field of medicine, it’s not uncommon to find lasers in the offices of dermatologists, ophthalmologists and surgeons, to name just a few. Now, some dentists are finding that lasers can offer an alternative means of treating gum disease — and one that may have advantages in certain situations.

You probably know that a laser produces a special kind of light — in fact, its name is an acronym for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.” Essentially, a medical laser uses electrical energy to produce an intense and narrow beam of concentrated light. This light can be directed to a particular area, often via a fiber-optic channel. The laser’s precision allows a doctor or technician to focus the light energy exactly where it’s needed — to remove diseased tissue, seal off blood vessels, and sterilize a wound, for example.

For several years, periodontists — dentists who specialize in treating diseases of the gums — have been researching the use of lasers for treating certain types of gum disease. In standard clinical practice, hand-held instruments and ultrasonic cleaning tools are used at regular time intervals (3 – 6 months) to remove the sticky bacterial biofilm, as well as calculus (tartar), that forms in between teeth and gums. If that still isn't effective, gum surgery may be required to access the affected area, remove diseased tissue, and reduce pocket depth (the space below the gum line that gets larger as bone loss occurs) to prevent reinfection.

Recently, however, several new procedures have been developed that use lasers to accomplish some or all of these goals. One type of therapy uses a special laser that emits pulses of light with a specific wavelength (color) of 1064 nanometers. This light passes through healthy cells like a sunbeam through a window — but when it encounters darkly-pigmented bacteria, it vaporizes them instantly!

One of the potential advantages of laser treatment is its precision: focused directly on the area where trouble occurs, it targets diseased tissue but leaves healthy tissue alone. Another is that laser treatment is less invasive: It requires less tissue removal, and may cause less discomfort and tissue shrinkage (gum recession) than conventional periodontal surgery. And because it produces small amounts of heat, it can seal blood vessels and help control bleeding.

While lasers have long shown promise for treating gum disease, until recently it wasn’t clear if they offered any advantages over traditional methods. Now, several studies have shown that certain laser treatments can be just as effective as traditional gum surgery in many cases — with the potential benefit of being less invasive. In the future, the use of lasers for periodontal procedures is likely to increase.

It’s important to remember that no single treatment — not even a laser — can “zap” gum disease in one fell swoop. Controlling periodontal disease requires effective at-home oral hygiene combined with regular professional care. If you have questions about periodontal disease, please call our office to schedule a consultation.


By Phil Hart, DDS
December 11, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: wisdom teeth  
ExtractingWisdomTeethNowMayPreventDentalProblemsLater

The reason for extracting a tooth may be all too obvious — the tooth is too decayed or damaged to attempt saving. The reason for extracting a wisdom tooth, on the other hand, may not be so apparent: from the perspective of pain or reduced function, you may not notice a thing. Our recommendation to remove a wisdom tooth is based primarily on what may be occurring out of view below the gum line and its potential threat to adjacent teeth.

Teeth grow and develop below the gum line in the jaw, and then push their way through the gums as they appear in the mouth (eruption). After a normal eruption, the enamel-covered crown is visible above the gum line; the remaining tooth root (about two-thirds of the tooth’s length) resides below the gum line. Because wisdom teeth, or third molars, erupt rather late between ages 17 and 25, they may lack the room to erupt properly due to crowding from other teeth that have already erupted. This can cause the wisdom tooth not to erupt fully through the gums, leaving the crown trapped below the gum line, a condition known as impaction. For the tooth, impaction increases the chances of infection, cyst formation and gum disease around it.

An impacted wisdom tooth can also cause problems for the adjacent teeth as well. The impacted tooth may begin to press against the roots of other teeth; the resulting pressure can damage the other roots, increasing the risk for disease or future tooth loss. A person may not even know they have this problem since there’s often little to no noticeable pain or symptoms.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the best time to remove a wisdom tooth is when it’s not causing immediate problems. There will be, however, signs found during examination (particularly x-rays or CT scan) that future problems are in the making. By extracting an impacted wisdom tooth at the appropriate time, we can avoid more serious problems in the future and improve oral health.

If you would like more information on wisdom teeth and your oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Removing Wisdom Teeth.”