Posts for: May, 2014
If you were a well-known actor, how far would you go to get inside the character you’re playing in a movie? Plenty of stars have gained or lost weight to fit the role; some have tried to relate to their character by giving up creature comforts, going through boot camp, even trying out another occupation for a time. But when Jamie Foxx played a homeless musician in the 2009 film The Soloist, he went even further: He had part of his front tooth chipped out!
“My teeth are just so big and white — a homeless person would never have them,” he told an interviewer. “I just wanted to come up with something to make the part unique. I had one [tooth] chipped out with a chisel.”
Now, even if you’re trying to be a successful actor, we’re not suggesting you have your teeth chipped intentionally. However, if you have a tooth that has been chipped accidentally, we want you to know that we can repair it beautifully. One way to do that is with cosmetic bonding.
Bonding uses tooth-colored materials called “composite resins” (because they contain a mixture of plastic and glass) to replace missing tooth structure. The composite actually bonds, or becomes one, with the rest of the tooth.
Composite resins come in a variety of lifelike tooth shades, making it virtually impossible to distinguish the bonded tooth from its neighbors. Though bonding will not last as long as a dental veneer, it also does not require the involvement of a dental laboratory and, most often, can be done with minor reshaping of the tooth.
Cosmetic Bonding for Chipped Teeth
A chipped tooth can usually be bonded in a single visit to the dental office. First, the surface of the tooth may be beveled slightly with a drill, and then it is cleaned. Next, it is “etched” with an acidic gel that opens up tiny pores. After the etching gel is rinsed off, the liquid composite resin in a well-matched shade is painted on in a thin layer, filling these tiny pores to create a strong bond. A special curing light is used to harden this bonding material. Once the first layer is cured, another layer is painted on and cured. Layers can continue to be built up until the restoration has the necessary thickness. The bonding material is then shaped and polished. The whole procedure takes only about 30 minutes!
If you have questions about cosmetic bonding, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Repairing Chipped Teeth” and “Artistic Repair of Chipped Teeth With Composite Resin.”
What is tooth wear?
“Tooth wear” refers to a loss of tooth structure that can make your teeth appear shorter or less even than they used to be. Wear starts with loss of outer covering of the teeth, known as enamel. Although enamel is the hardest structure in the human body — even harder than bone — it can wear away over time. If enough enamel is lost, the softer inner tooth structure known as dentin can become exposed, and dentin wears away much faster.
What causes tooth wear?
Tooth wear can be caused by any of the following:
- Abrasion: This is caused by a rubbing or scraping of the teeth. The most common source of abrasion is brushing too hard or using a toothbrush that is not soft enough. A removable dental appliance, such as a partial dentures or retainer, can also abrade teeth. Abrasion can also result from habits such as nail-biting and pen-chewing.
- Attrition: This is caused by teeth contacting each other. Habits that you might not even be aware of — such as grinding or clenching your teeth — can be quite destructive over time. That’s because they can subject teeth to 10 times the normal forces of biting and chewing.
- Erosion: Acid in your diet can actually erode (dissolve) the enamel on your teeth. Many sodas, sports drinks and so-called energy drinks are highly acidic; so are certain fruit juices. Eating sugary snacks also raises the acidity level in your mouth. If you can’t give up these snacks and drinks entirely, it’s best to confine them to mealtimes so your mouth doesn’t stay acidic throughout the day. Swishing water in your mouth after eating or drinking acidic or sugary substances can also help prevent erosion.
- Abfraction: This refers to the loss of tooth enamel at the “necks” of the teeth (the part right at the gum line). This type of wear is not thoroughly understood, though it is believed to result from excessive biting forces. Abrasion and erosion can contribute to this problem.
How is it treated?
The first step in treating any type of tooth wear is to determine the cause during a simple oral examination right here at the dental office. Once the cause has been identified, we can work together to reduce the stresses on your teeth. For example, you may need a refresher course on gentle, effective brushing techniques; or you might benefit from some changes to your diet. If you have a clenching or grinding habit, we can make you a nightguard that will protect your teeth during sleep or periods of high stress. Once we have dealt with the underlying cause, we can make your teeth look beautiful again by replacing lost tooth structure with bonding, veneers, or crowns. This will also allow your bite to function properly again.
You may think snoring is a minor problem, but it can be a lot more than that. Just ask hoops star Shaquille O'Neal, whose rambunctious snoring bothered his girlfriend enough for her to suspect a health problem. Her observations eventually led to Shaq's diagnosis of moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which occurs when the soft tissue structures at the back of a person's throat, including the tongue, partially close off the upper airway and prevent air from moving into the lungs during sleep. Sometimes airflow can be blocked completely for 10 or more seconds.
When air flow is reduced, blood oxygen levels drop. This leads to brief waking episodes known as “micro-arousals,” which can happen sometimes more than 50 times an hour. The sleeper might not even be aware of this, even while gasping for air. Micro-arousals prevent the person from ever reaching deep, restful sleep.
Besides suffering from excessive daytime sleepiness, studies show sleep apnea patients are at higher risks of heart attacks, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, brain damage and strokes. People with sleep apnea also have a higher incidence of work and driving-related accidents.
OSA can be treated in a few different ways. On the advice of his doctor, Shaq opted for a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine, which generates pressurized air delivered through a face mask worn while sleeping. The force of the pressurized air opens the airway (windpipe) in the same way as blowing into a balloon does.
For people with milder OSA, or who find they can't tolerate wearing a mask during sleep, an oral appliance supplied by a dental professional might be the answer. Oral appliances are worn in the mouth and are designed to gently reposition the jaw and move the tongue forward away from the back of the throat. Success rates of 80% or more have been reported using oral appliances, depending on the severity of the OSA.
If you would like more information on sleep apnea, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about sleep apnea by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Snoring & Sleep Apnea.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Sleep Disorders & Dentistry.”