My Blog

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
May 11, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: retainer  
RemovableorFixedChoosingtheRightOrthodonticRetainerforYou

Anyone who's worn braces celebrates that day they finally come off. But while this marks the end of the actual teeth-straightening process, it's just the beginning of the next phase—wearing a retainer to preserve those hard-earned gains.

A retainer is a dental appliance that keeps or "retains" straightened teeth in their new positions. Without it, there's a high chance the teeth would rebound to where they were before through a kind of tissue memory within the gum ligaments. In essence, the same natural mechanism that allows us to move teeth with braces can also work in reverse.

Most people are familiar with the removable retainer and its benefits. Being able to remove the device makes it easier to brush and floss teeth, and it's a convenience if you only need to wear it part of the time. But removable retainers can easily be misplaced and lost, requiring purchase of a replacement. And, there's always the temptation to wear it less than the recommended time.

There's also an alternative appliance that's growing in popularity known as a bonded or non-removable retainer. These are usually a thin wire bonded with a composite dental material to the back of the teeth. Unlike the removable retainer, only a dentist can remove the bonded variety.

Its fixed nature is its biggest advantage—since it's in to stay, there's no need to keep up with it. And because it's positioned behind the teeth, no one need know about save the wearer and their orthodontist. The bonded retainer can, however, take a little getting used to the fixed wire against the teeth, and it can make flossing more difficult.

Although more rigid than the removable type, a bonded retainer could still break while biting and chewing. Wearers need to exercise caution biting into hard foods like apples to avoid damage—and the added expense of repairing or replacing it.

As you or a family member approaches the day the braces come off, you'll surely be discussing with your orthodontist which type of retainer is best in your situation. Either way, wearing a retainer is an absolute must if you're going to protect that new smile you've endured so much to achieve.

If you would like more information on straightening teeth through orthodontics, 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 “Bonded Retainers.”

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
May 01, 2022
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants  
ImplantsCanLastaLongTimeIfYoullDoThistoMaintainThem

Dental implants have taken restorative dentistry by storm for a number of reasons: They're incredibly life-like; and their unique design allows them to function much like natural teeth. But perhaps the clincher for many is their longevity. Numerous studies show that more than 95% percent of implants are still performing after 10 years.

The reason for their durability is wrapped up in their "unique design" mentioned earlier—a titanium metal post imbedded into the jawbone, to which a dentist attaches the visible crown. The titanium attracts the growth of new bone cells, which adhere and accumulate on the implant surface.

This "integration," a process which occurs over a few weeks after implantation, creates a strong bond between the implant and jawbone. This ultra-strong hold enables the implant to withstand years, if not decades, of chewing forces you generate on a daily basis.

With that said, though, there are rare instances when an implant loses its hold—or doesn't properly develop it. Integration may not fully succeed due to infection either before or right after surgery, which can inhibit bone growth around the implant.

Other conditions can compromise the bone's integrity like a weakened immune system, diabetes or osteoporosis. And even if integration occurs normally, later problems like gum disease or a teeth-grinding habit can damage the connection between implant and bone.

There are things you can do, however, to further minimize the risk of implant failure.

  • Brush and floss daily (especially around implants) and maintain regular dental visits to lower your risk of gum disease;
  • See your dentist if you notice swollen, reddened or bleeding gums, an indication of a gum infection that could impact your implants;
  • Stop smoking, which increases your infection risk, or abstain a few weeks before and after surgery;
  • Manage issues like diabetes, osteoporosis, or teeth-grinding that could affect your implants.

Implants can be a great long-term solution to tooth loss. You can help ensure their longevity by looking out for both your oral and general health.

If you would like more information on dental implant restorations, 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: A Tooth-Replacement Method That Rarely Fails.”

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
April 21, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: nutrition   tooth decay  
EnergyDrinksCouldPoseaThreattoYourTeeth

In the last few years, energy drinks have begun to offer strong competition to traditional "pick-me-up" drinks like tea or coffee. But while the proponents of energy drinks say they're not harmful, the jury's still out on their long-term health effects.

With that said, however, we may be closer to a definitive answer regarding oral health—and it's not good. The evidence from some recent studies doesn't favor a good relationship between energy drinks and your teeth.

For one, many energy drinks contain added sugar, which is a primary food source for the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease. Increased bacteria also increase your chances of dental disease.

Most energy drinks also contain high levels of acid, which can damage the enamel and open the door to advanced tooth decay. The danger is especially high when the mouth's overall pH falls below 5.5. Energy drinks and their close cousins, sports drinks, typically have a pH of 3.05 and 2.91, respectively, which is well within the danger zone for enamel.

A research group recently put the acidity of both types of beverages to the test. The researchers submerged samples of enamel into different brands of beverages four times a day for five days, to simulate a person consuming four drinks a day. Afterward, they examined the samples and found that those subjected to energy drinks lost an average 3.1 % of their volume, with sports drinks faring only a little better at 1.5%.

Although more research needs to be done, these preliminary results support a more restrained use of energy drinks. If you do consume these beverages, observing the following guidelines could help limit any damage to your teeth.

  • Limit drinking to mealtimes—eating food stimulates saliva production, which helps neutralize acid;
  • After drinking, rinse out your mouth with water—because of its neutral pH, water can help dilute concentrated acid in the mouth;
  • Wait an hour to brush to give saliva a chance to remineralize enamel—brushing before then could cause microscopic bits of softened enamel to slough off.

There's one other alternative—abstain from energy drinks altogether. In the long run, that may turn out to be the best choice for protecting your oral health.

If you would like more information on the effects of sports or energy drinks on teeth, 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 “Think Before You Drink.”

UnlikeBradPittYouDidntMeanToChipYourToothWeCanStillFixIt

It's not unusual for serious actors to go above and beyond for their roles. They gain weight (or lose it, like Matthew McConaughey for True Detective). They grow hair—or they shave it off. But perhaps nothing tops what Brad Pitt did to assume the character of Tyler Durden in the movie Fight Club—he had his dentist chip his teeth.

While a testament to his dedication to the acting craft, Pitt's move definitely falls into the category of "Kids, don't do this at home." Fortunately, people deliberately chipping their teeth isn't a big problem. On the other hand, accidentally chipping a tooth is.

Chipping a tooth can happen in various ways, like a hard blow to the jaw or biting down on something too hard. Chipping won't necessarily endanger a tooth, but the missing dental structure can put a damper on your smile.

But here's the good news: you don't have to live with a chipped tooth. We have ways to cosmetically repair the damage and upgrade your smile.

One way is to fit a chipped or otherwise flawed tooth with a dental veneer, a thin wafer of dental porcelain bonded to the front of a tooth to mask chips, discolorations, gaps or other defects. They're custom-made by a dental lab to closely match an individual tooth's shape and color.

Gaining a new smile via dental veneers can take a few weeks, as well as two or more dental visits. But if you only have slight to moderate chipping, there's another way that might only take one session in the dentist's chair. Known as composite bonding, it utilizes plastic-based materials known as composite resins that are intermixed with a form of glass.

The initial mixture, color-matched for your tooth, has a putty-like consistency that can be easily applied to the tooth surface. We apply the composite resin to the tooth layer by layer, allowing a bonding agent in the mixture to cure each layer before beginning the next one. After sculpting the composite layers into a life-like appearance, the end result is a "perfect" tooth without visible flaws.

Unlike Brad Pitt, it's pretty unlikely you'll ever find yourself in a situation requiring you to purposely damage your teeth. But chips do happen—and if it happens to you, we have more than one way to make your teeth as good as new.

If you would like more information about repairing dental flaws with veneers or composite bonding, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Artistic Repair of Front Teeth With Composite Resin.”

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
April 01, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
ProtectingYourselfFromInfectionisParamountDuringDentalCare

The odds are extremely low that you'll read or hear about an infection outbreak in a dental clinic anytime soon. That's no happy accident. The more than 170,000 dentists practicing in the U.S. work diligently to protect their patients and staff from infectious disease during dental care.

Spurred on by both high professional standards and governmental oversight, American dentists adhere to strict infection control measures. The primary purpose of these measures is to protect patients from bloodborne infections like Hepatitis B and C and HIV/AIDS.

The term bloodborne refers to the transmission of a virus from person to person via contact with blood. This can occur when blood from an infected person enters the body of another person through a wound or incision.

This is of special concern with any procedure that can cause disruptions to skin or other soft tissues. Oral surgery, of course, falls into this category. But it could also apply to procedures in general dentistry like tooth extraction or even teeth cleaning, both of which can cause tissue trauma.

Each individual dentist or clinic formulates a formal infection control plan designed to prevent person to person blood contact. These plans are a set of protocols based on guidelines developed by on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Barrier protection is an important part of such plans. Dentists and their staff routinely wear gloves, gowns, masks, or other coverings during procedures to block contact between them and their patients.

Additionally, staff members also disinfect work surfaces and sterilize reusable instruments after each treatment session. They isolate disposable items used during treatment from common trash and dispose of them separately. On a personal level, dental staff also thoroughly wash their hands before and after each patient visit.

Because of these practices and the importance placed on controlling potential infection spread, you have nothing to fear in regard to disease while visiting the dentist. If you have any questions or concerns, though, let your dentist know—your safety is just as important to them as your dental care.

If you would like more information on infection control in the dentist's office, 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 “Infection Control in the Dental Office.”





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