While tooth decay is a potential problem at any age, the risk increases as you grow older. Not only are senior adults more susceptible, decay is often more difficult to treat. That’s because cavities can occur at or below the gum line, often due to gum recession.
If that’s the case, we won’t be able to fill the cavity in the usual way because the gum tissue is in the way. To make it possible to treat, we may need to perform a minor surgical procedure known as crown lengthening.
As the name implies, the procedure helps expose more of the crown, the tooth’s visible part, from the surrounding gum tissue. In basic terms, we’re repositioning the gum tissue away from the biting surface of a tooth to make room for a filling. It’s also useful for improving a tooth’s appearance by making it look longer, or creating room for a crown or other dental restoration.
After applying a local anesthesia, the dentist (or periodontist, a specialist in the gums) creates a tiny flap of gum tissue with a series of incisions. This allows the dentist to move the affected gums out of the way to access the underlying bone. The dentist then reshapes the bone to adequately support the gum tissue when it’s finally repositioned to expose the crown. In its new and improved position, the dentist sutures the gum tissue in place.
For a few days afterward, the patient will need to restrict their diet to soft foods, avoid strenuous activities and apply an ice pack to help reduce swelling the day of surgery. They will also prescribe a pain reliever and possibly an antibiotic to reduce the chances of infection.
While most people return to normal activities a few days later, you’ll usually have to wait a few weeks for the gums to heal before undergoing any further treatments for the affected teeth. But even with the wait, crown lengthening could make it possible to not only save your tooth but improve your smile as well.
If you would like more information on treating tooth decay, 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 “Crown Lengthening: This Common Surgical Procedure Restores Function and Improves Appearance.”
You've reached a decision—that old, unattractive smile has to go. You're ready for a complete makeover—and the field of cosmetic dentistry has the materials, techniques and equipment to make it happen.
But it could be a major undertaking requiring a fair amount of time and money. And once all the procedures are complete, what if you're not happy with the results?
Fortunately, you don't have to wait with nervous apprehension until the end of the dental work to see what your smile will look like. We can give you a realistic preview of your new smile before we even begin—and not on a computer monitor. We can actually create a trial smile applied directly to your actual teeth so you can see your new look up close and personal, and in all three spatial dimensions.
That's not to put down enhanced computer presentations. State-of-the-art imaging software can display an accurate representation of your future smile transposed onto an image of your face. But it's still a two-dimensional image, like any other photograph. It can't present the full range, movement or feel of the real thing.
A trial smile can. We shape and sculpt composite resin to resemble the finished dental work and temporarily bond it to your teeth. Once applied, you'll then be able to see what your appearance will look like from different angles and movements. Although we'll have to remove the trial smile before you leave, we can photograph it so you can show it to family and friends for their reaction.
While it's an added expense, a trial smile has two great benefits. First, it helps both of us "test drive" your new look and see how it performs in different ways: as you speak, when you're relaxed and, of course, when you smile. This allows us, if necessary, to fine-tune your planned dental work. Perhaps the biggest benefit, though, is that it can reassure you you've made the right decision to remake your smile.
With a trail smile, there are no surprises—you'll know what the end result will look like before any work is done. And that can be a great motivator toward obtaining the smile you've dreamed of having.
If you would like more information on restoring your smile, 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 “Testing Your Smile Makeover: The Reassurance of a Trial Smile.”
Besides attractively showcasing your teeth, your gums protect your teeth and underlying bone from bacteria and abrasive food particles. Sometimes, though, the gums can pull back or recede from the teeth, leaving them exposed and vulnerable to damage and disease.
Here are 4 things that could contribute to gum recession—and what you can do about them.
Periodontal (gum) disease. This family of aggressive gum infections is by far the most common cause for recession. Triggered mainly by bacterial plaque, gum disease can cause the gums to detach and then recede from the teeth. To prevent gum disease, you should practice daily brushing and flossing and see your dentist at least twice a year to thoroughly remove plaque. And see your dentist as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment at the first sign of red, swollen or bleeding gums.
Tooth position. While a tooth normally erupts surrounded by bone, sometimes it erupts out of correct alignment and is therefore outside the bony housing and protective gum tissue. Orthodontic treatment to move teeth to better positions can correct this problem, as well as stimulate the gum tissues around the involved teeth to thicken and become more resistant to recession.
Thin gum tissues. Thin gum tissues, a quality you inherit from your parents, are more susceptible to wear and tear and so more likely to recede. If you have thin gum tissues you'll need to stay on high alert for any signs of disease or problems. And you should also be mindful of our next common cause, which is….
Overaggressive hygiene. While it seems counterintuitive, brushing doesn't require a lot of "elbow grease" to remove plaque. A gentle scrubbing motion over all your tooth surfaces is usually sufficient. On the other hand, applying too much force (or brushing too often) can damage your gums over time and cause them to recede. And as we alluded to before, this is especially problematic for people with thinner gum tissues. So brush gently but thoroughly to protect your gums.
If you would like more information on treating gum recession, 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 “Gum Recession.”