Posts for category: Dental Procedures

TreatingSmallEnamelCracksCouldHelpyouAvoidaDangerousToothFracture

Teeth can take a lot of force over a lifetime of biting and chewing, thanks to enamel, their outer layer made of the strongest substance in the human body. Unfortunately, they’re not invincible: it’s even possible for you to break or “fracture” a tooth while biting or chewing normally.

Although such a fracture might seem to occur out of the blue, it’s usually related to a condition known as cracked tooth syndrome. It usually occurs in three stages: in the first, miniscule cracks in the outer enamel known as craze lines develop. They’re not immediately dangerous since they only involve the enamel surface; but left untreated they could deepen and progress to the next stage, a larger crack that penetrates the tooth’s underlying dentin.

If allowed to grow, this crack in turn can lead to the third stage, a full fracture that could extend down to the root. A fracture can put the tooth in danger of loss, especially if its inner pulp becomes exposed. To avoid this worst case, it’s best to treat the tooth at the earliest stage possible when craze lines are just developing.

There is a difficulty, though, with detecting craze lines — they’re small, too small to detect normally with x-rays. We, therefore, rely on other methods such as using an instrument called an explorer to feel for cracks, having the patient bite on a stick or rubber pad to replicate pain symptoms or using fiber-optic lighting with special dye stains to highlight possible cracks. Endodontists, specialists in root canals, can use microscopic equipment that’s quite adept at detecting craze lines.

There are also some signs you can be on alert for that might indicate a craze line or crack. If you feel a short, sharp pain — a “wince” — when chewing and releasing food, you could have a crack that hasn’t yet affected the nerves. If a true fracture occurs, the pain will intensify and you may notice pieces of the tooth coming off. If the crack extends to the root, the pain will become greater and more chronic.

It’s important then that you see us for any recurring pain symptoms as soon as possible. If it’s a crack, the sooner it’s treated the better your tooth’s chances for survival.

If you would like more information on cracked tooth syndrome, 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 “Cracked Tooth Syndrome.”

By James P. Watts, DMD
November 18, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: bonding   chipped tooth  
WhyBearaChippedTooth

Having a chipped tooth certainly can make life more difficult. It not only keeps you from wanting to smile, but it may also make it harder to eat your favorite foods. And that can be a major problem — especially if you need to eat up to 80 pounds of bamboo every day to stay healthy.

Just ask Bai Yun, the female giant panda at the San Diego Zoo. The 23-year-old animal recently chipped one of her lower canines, and her keepers were concerned that it might impair her ability to get good nutrition (pandas spend as many as 12 hours a day munching on the woody plants). So they decided it was time for a little dental work!

What followed was not unlike a regular visit to the dental office… except that, instead of sitting in a chair, the 227-pound panda reclined on a large table. After being anesthetized, the patient’s teeth were examined, and x-rays were taken. A composite resin was applied to the damaged tooth, and it was cured with a special light. After the repair work was done, her teeth were given a professional cleaning. When the anesthesia wore off, Bai Yun was released in good health — and ready to eat more bamboo.

Tooth bonding with composite resin is the restoration of choice in many situations. This method can be used to repair small chips or cracks in the teeth, and to clear up some spacing irregularities. The resin itself is a mixture of tough, translucent plastic and glass components that can be made in a number of different shades, which look remarkably like the tooth’s natural enamel coating. And the bonding material links up so well with the tooth structure that this treatment can be expected to last for years.

Another benefit of bonding is that it can be done right in the office — there’s no lab work involved (as there could be for veneers or crowns, for example). That makes it a relatively simple and economical treatment that can typically be completed in a single visit. It’s ideal for fixing minor flaws that don’t involve a great deal of tooth structure. It’s also a cost-effective solution for teenagers who need cosmetic dental work, but must wait until they have stopped growing to get more permanent restorations.

While it isn’t usually as long-lasting as restorations like crowns and veneers, cosmetic bonding is a minimally invasive, reversible treatment that can keep your smile healthy and bright for years to come. And that’s important — whether or not you spend most of your day eating bamboo and posing for snapshots at the zoo.

If you have questions about whether cosmetic bonding could help your smile look its best, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Repairing Chipped Teeth” and “Artistic Repair Of Front Teeth With Composite Resin.”

By James P. Watts, DMD
November 09, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures

Dental ImplantsHave you been thinking about replacing missing teeth with dental implants but have a few questions about the process? The latest restoration options offer several benefits that can make it an appealing choice. Mystic, CT, dentist Dr. James Watts helps his patients care for and improve their smiles with dental implants and other treatments.

How do dental implants work?

Dental implants are designed to become a permanent part of your jawbone. The titanium posts replace your natural tooth roots and are placed in small openings made in the bone. Once in place, the posts begin to osseointegrate, or bond, to your jawbone. Osseointegration ensures that your synthetic root can provide a stable foundation for the dental crown that will be attached to it.

After the crown is attached, your new tooth will act just like your natural teeth. You'll be able to eat anything you want and won't experience any slippage or irritation, even if you take a bite of a hard apple or enjoy a juicy steak.

Are implants the best choice for me?

Before you make your decision, you'll need to consider a few factors, including:

  • Longevity: Dental implants usually never need to be replaced, unlike bridges and dentures. If you're looking for a long-term replacement option, implants are an excellent choice. Keep in mind that you will need to replace the crowns on top of the implants approximately every 10 to 15 years due to wear.
  • Versatility: Implants are the only restoration option that can replace an unlimited number of lost teeth. If you've lost all of your teeth, you may want to consider implant-supported dentures. The dentures can be secured with as few as four implants per arch.
  • Biting Power: Unlike removable dentures, implant-supported dentures don't significantly reduce your biting power or limit your food choices.
  • Strength: Without stimulation from your roots, your jawbone will eventually begin to shrink. This shrinkage, called resorption, can cause your teeth to drift, lead to further tooth loss and even cause facial sagging. Dental implants provide the constant stimulation needed to prevent resorption.
  • Depth: Your Mystic dentist considers jawbone depth when deciding if you're a good candidate for dental implants. If your bone is too shallow, it won't be able to support the implants. In many cases, adding bone grafts to your jawbone will increase the depth and allow implants to be placed.

Restore your smile with dental implants! Call your Mystic, CT, dentist Dr. James Watts at (860) 536-6446 to schedule an appointment.

By James P. Watts, DMD
October 29, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: tooth loss  
WhyweNeedtoCareforaYoungerPatientsBoneafteraToothLoss

In an instant, an accident could leave you or a loved one with a missing tooth. Thankfully, we can restore it with a dental implant that looks and functions like a real tooth—and the sooner the better.

But if the patient is a teenager or younger, sooner may have to be later. Because their jaws are still developing, an implant placed now could eventually look as if it's sinking into the gums as the jaw continues to grow and the implant doesn't move. It's best to wait until full jaw maturity around early adulthood and in the meantime use a temporary replacement.

But that wait could pose a problem with bone health. As living tissue, bone cells have a life cycle where they form, function and then dissolve (resorption) with new cells taking their place. This cycle continues at a healthy rate thanks to stimulation from forces generated by the teeth during chewing that travel through the roots to the bone.

When a tooth goes missing, however, so does this stimulation. Without it the bone's growth cycle can slow to an unhealthy rate, ultimately reducing bone volume.  Because implants require a certain amount of bone for proper placement and support, this could make it difficult if not impossible to install one.

We can help prevent this by placing a bone graft immediately after the removal of a tooth within the tooth's "socket." The graft serves as a scaffold for new bone cells to form and grow upon. The graft will eventually resorb leaving the newly formed bone in its place.

We can also fine-tune and slow the graft's resorption rate. This may be preferable for a younger patient with years to go before their permanent restoration. In the meantime, you can still proceed with other dental treatments including orthodontics.

By carefully monitoring a young patient's bone health and other aspects of their dental care, we can keep on course for an eventual permanent restoration. With the advances in implantology, the final smile result will be worth the wait.

If you would like more information on dental care for trauma injuries, 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 “Dental Implants for Teenagers: Factors Influencing Treatment Planning in Adolescents.”

By James P. Watts, DMD
September 29, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
SingerDuaLipaSeestheWisdominPostponingTourDates

When die-hard music fans hear that their favorite performer is canceling a gig, it’s a big disappointment—especially if the excuse seems less than earth-shaking. Recently, British pop sensation Dua Lipa needed to drop two dates from her world tour with Bruno Mars. However, she had a very good reason.

“I’ve been performing with an awful pain due to my wisdom teeth,” the singer tweeted, “and as advised by my dentist and oral surgeon I have had to have them imminently removed.”

The dental problem Lipa had to deal with, impacted wisdom teeth, is not uncommon in young adults. Also called third molars, wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt (emerge from beneath the gums), generally making their appearance between the ages of 18-24. But their debut can cause trouble: Many times, these teeth develop in a way that makes it impossible for them to erupt without negatively affecting the healthy teeth nearby. In this situation, the teeth are called “impacted.”

A number of issues can cause impacted wisdom teeth, including a tooth in an abnormal position, a lack of sufficient space in the jaw, or an obstruction that prevents proper emergence. The most common treatment for impaction is to extract (remove) one or more of the wisdom teeth. This is a routine in-office procedure that may be performed by general dentists or dental specialists.

It’s thought that perhaps 7 out of 10 people ages 20-30 have at least one impacted wisdom tooth. Some cause pain and need to be removed right away; however, this is not always the case. If a wisdom tooth is found to be impacted and is likely to result in future problems, it may be best to have it extracted before symptoms appear. Unfortunately, even with x-rays and other diagnostic tests, it isn’t always possible to predict exactly when—or if—the tooth will actually begin causing trouble. In some situations, the best option may be to carefully monitor the tooth at regular intervals and wait for a clearer sign of whether extraction is necessary.

So if you’re around the age when wisdom teeth are beginning to appear, make sure not to skip your routine dental appointments. That way, you might avoid emergency surgery when you’ve got other plans—like maybe your own world tour!

If you would like more information about wisdom tooth extraction, please call our office to arrange a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Wisdom Teeth” and “Removing Wisdom Teeth.”