Posts for category: Dental Procedures
For all you hardcore Saturday Night Live fans, here's a trivia question: Who was the first cast member born in the 1990s? The answer—Pete Davidson, the edgy young comic who joined in 2014 at age 20. Speaking of Davidson, here's another question: What happened to his tooth gap?
If you're a dedicated viewer, you may have noticed in his early SNL seasons that Davidson had a noticeable gap between his front teeth, as well as some overall unevenness. Recently, though, the gap seems to have vanished and his teeth look straighter. As gossip goes, some believe his recent relationship with Kim Kardashian may be behind any dental changes.
So, what happened? Well, we're not sure! Davidson hasn't dished on any dental work. We'll just have to speculate and we do have a few possibilities.
First, though, it's helpful to understand what causes tooth gaps. In some cases, the size of a person's tooth might be too small in proportion to their jaw, which can leave space between teeth.
A gap can also develop if the strap of tissue connecting the upper lip to the gums (labial frenum) is overly large. Problems during childhood like an abnormal swallowing pattern or thumb sucking that put pressure on upper front teeth to move outward can create a gap.
Knowing the underlying cause can help us determine the best approach to correcting a tooth gap. Here a few of them.
Orthodontics. If a poor bite has created the gap, correcting the bite can close it. In this instance, we may turn to braces, aligners, or other orthodontic devices for moving teeth.
Dental bonding. With this technique, we apply a composite dental material to the tooth surface and bond it in place. This method is often used to repair chips, cracks or, in this case, fill in a slight gap.
Veneers. These thin shells of dental porcelain are bonded to the face of teeth to mask dental defects. Depending on how wide it is, a tooth gap could fall into this category.
Crowns. A step up from veneers, porcelain crowns are cemented over small-sized teeth to completely cover them. Crowns could alleviate a gap by improving the proportional size of teeth.
One other thing to note: It may be possible to avoid a gap altogether by addressing causative issues in childhood. A simple frenectomy—snipping the tissue of an overly large labial frenum—or cessation therapy for thumb sucking could prevent a gap from developing.
But if that ship has already sailed, we may still be able to address your tooth gap and improve your smile. An initial consultative exam is your first step to a more attractive, gap-free smile.
If you would like more information about tooth gaps and how to treat them, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Space Between Front Teeth.”
Although Elvis Presley left us more than four decades ago, he still looms large over popular culture. It's not uncommon, then, for personal items like his guitars, his revolver collection or even his famed white jumpsuit to go on sale. Perhaps, though, one of the oddest of Elvis's personal effects recently went on auction (again)—his gold-filled dental crown.
It's a little hazy as to how the "King" parted with it, but the crown's list of subsequent holders, including a museum, is well-documented. Now, it's looking for a new home with a starting bid of $2,500.
The interest, of course, isn't on the crown, but on its original owner. Dental crowns weren't rare back in Presley's day, and they certainly aren't now. But they are more life-like, thanks to advances in dental materials over the last thirty years.
Crowns are an invaluable part of dental care. Though they can improve a tooth's cosmetic appeal, they're more often installed to protect a weak or vulnerable tooth. In that regard, a crown's most important qualities are strength and durability.
In the early 20th Century, you could have utility or beauty, but usually not both. The most common crowns of that time were composed of precious metals like silver and, as in Presley's case, gold. Metal crowns can ably withstand the chewing forces teeth encounter daily.
But they simply don't look like natural teeth. Dental porcelain was around in the early days, but it wasn't very strong. So, dentists devised a new kind of crown that blended durability with life-likeness. Known as porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns, they were essentially hybrids, a metal crown, which fit over the tooth, overlayed with a porcelain exterior shell to give it an attractive appearance.
PFMs became the most widely used crown and held that title until the early 2000s. That's when a new crown leader came into its own—the all-ceramic crown. In the decade or so before, the fragility of porcelain was finally overcome with the addition of Lucite to the tooth-colored ceramic to strengthen it.
Additional strengthening breakthroughs since then helped make the all-ceramic crown the top choice for restorations. Even so, dentists still install metal and PFM crowns when the situation calls for added strength in teeth that aren't as visible, such as the back molars. But for more visible teeth like incisors, all-ceramic usually stands up to biting while looking life-like and natural.
For a star of his magnitude, Presley's crown was likely state-of-the-art for his time. In our day, though, you have even more crown choices to both protect your tooth and enhance your smile.
Just a century ago a heavily decayed tooth was most likely a goner, but that all changed in the early 1900s when various treatments finally coalesced into what we now call root canal therapy. The odds have now flip-flopped—you're more likely to preserve a decayed tooth than to lose it.
By decay, we're not referring only to cavities in a tooth's enamel or outer dentin. That's just the start—decay can quickly spread deeper into the dentin close to the pulp, the central portion of a tooth containing bundles of nerves and blood vessels. It can then move into the tooth's pulp chamber, causing the pulp to die and producing infection that will eventually infect the surrounding supporting bone.
Root canal treatments are often a lifeline to a tooth in this perilous condition. After numbing the tooth and surrounding tissues with local anesthesia, we start the procedure by drilling a tiny hole to access the central pulp and root canals. We then use specialized tools to remove all of the infected tissue within these interior spaces.
After thoroughly disinfecting the tooth of any decay, we shape up the root canals for filling. We then inject a rubbery substance known as gutta percha and completely fill the tooth's resulting empty spaces. This filling helps to prevent a recurrence of infection within the tooth.
Once we've filled the tooth, we seal off the access hole to complete the procedure. You may experience a few days of mild discomfort, but it's usually manageable with over-the-counter pain relievers. Later, we'll cement a crown over the tooth: This provides additional protection against infection, as well as adds support to the tooth structure.
One more thing! You may have encountered the notion that undergoing a root canal is painful. We're here to dispel that once and for all—dentists take great care to ensure the tooth and the area around it are completely dead to pain. In fact, if you were experiencing a toothache beforehand, a root canal will alleviate the pain.
To get the best treatment outcome for tooth decay, it's important to uncover it as soon as possible. The earlier we begin treatment, the more likely we can bring your tooth back to good health.
If you would like more information on root canal treatment, 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 “A Step-By-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment.”
Porcelain crowns are most commonly used to protect and support teeth damaged by disease or trauma. Today's highly advanced crowns are more effective than ever—and more life-like and attractive.
For instance, dentists often install a crown for a tooth that's endured long-term decay. It's often necessary for a dentist to remove significant portions of affected dentin of a decayed tooth over time, which weakens its overall structure. By crowning the tooth, a dentist can both protect it from further decay and provide it structural support. For similar reasons, dentists routinely place crowns after root canal treatments.
To fulfill their role in preserving and strengthening teeth, crowns must be made of durable materials. For this reason, earlier generations of dentists often turned to crowns composed of precious metals like gold or silver, which could withstand daily chewing forces. But these metal crowns did have one downside: Other than shape, they little resembled real teeth.
Crowns later became more life-like around the middle of the 20th Century with the advent of a type of crown composed of a metal shell encased with a tooth-colored porcelain layer. Marrying functionality with aesthetics, these porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns became quite popular and reigned supreme until the early 2000s.
At that time, advances in dental porcelain led to the emergence of the all-ceramic crown. The effort had started a full decade before when dental labs began adding a material called Lucite to porcelain to give it strength. With further improvements, these new porcelain materials, which no longer required metal for durability, soon displaced PFMs as the most commonly installed crown.
Today's dental patient now has more crown choices than patients in previous generations. Especially useful for visible teeth (those in the "Smile Zone"), an all-ceramic crown now enhances rather than detracts from a tooth's appearance. Metal and PFM crowns haven't gone away either—they're often used with teeth that encounter heavy biting forces like molars, and which are not as noticeable.
With more choices, patients no longer need sacrifice their appearance to protect their teeth. You can now preserve a troubled tooth—and still maintain an attractive smile.
If you would like more information on restorative dentistry, 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 “Crowns & Bridgework.”
Up and coming performers are often pressured by their handlers to change their appearance, and many have over-the-top stories to prove it. But they'd be hard pressed to outdo Kirsten Dunst's experience just before filming 2002's Spider-Man: Producers actually drove her to a dentist for her to get what they considered a more attractive "Hollywood" smile.
Dunst didn't get out of the car: Although a 19 year-old newbie in the business, Dunst had enough fortitude to hold fast about her appearance. And perhaps she had a bit of intuition about what she calls her "snaggle fangs": Her quirky smile is one of her appearance trademarks.
The lesson here is not to avoid any cosmetic dental changes, but rather to choose the smile you want. If you count your slight front tooth gap or the faint crookedness of your teeth as unique to your personality, then rock on.
On the other hand, if you're uncomfortable with your dental flaws, then there are numerous ways to upgrade your smile, from a simple whitening procedure to a comprehensive "smile makeover." You simply have to decide what you want to keep and what you want to change about your smile.
To help guide you along this potentially life-changing journey, here are few key tips to follow.
Find your "right" dentist. If you're going to change your smile, you need a partner—a dentist who is not only skilled in cosmetic techniques, but with whom you feel comfortable. One of the best ways to do this is to make note of smile changes your friends and family have undergone that you find attractive, and ask who did their dental work.
Dream a little. Finding the right dentist is important for the next step: Exploring the possibilities for a new and improved smile. After assessing your current smile, your skilled dentist can give you a range of options to improve it. And, to actually help you "see" how those options might turn out, "virtual smile" technology can show you the proposed changes applied to an actual photo of you on a computer monitor.
Match it to reality. Once you're aware of all the possibilities, it's time to narrow them down to what you really desire. At this point, you'll want to decide what "quirks" you want to keep, and what you want to improve. You'll also have to consider your overall dental health and financial wherewithal to see what's truly practical and doable.
With that in mind, you and your dentist can then formulate a treatment plan. And just like Kristen Dunst, the end result should be the smile that makes you happy and confident to show.
If you would like more information about to get the best smile for you, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cosmetic Dentistry: Fix Your Smile With Veneers, Whitening and More.”