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.”
If your child suddenly begins complaining about a toothache, your average day can immediately turn into something else. It can become even more worrisome as you try to decide what to do.
It doesn't have to. There are definite things you can do to calmly and methodically deal with the situation at hand. Here, then, are action steps you can take when your child has tooth pain.
Find out where and when. To get the big picture, first ask the child where in the mouth it hurts and if they remember when it started. A rough estimate of the latter is usually sufficient to establishing how long it's been going on, which could help determine how soon you should call the dentist.
Take a look inside. You'll want to then look in their mouth for any observable signs of what might be the cause of the pain. Look for spots or small holes (cavities) in the affected tooth, an indication of decay. Also check the gums for swelling, a sign they may be abscessed.
Remove trapped food debris. While checking in the mouth, look for pieces of food like popcorn hulls or candy that might be wedged between the teeth. This could be the cause of the pain, so attempt to remove it by gently flossing between the teeth. If it was the source, their pain should subside soon after.
Ease their discomfort. You can help take the edge off their pain by giving them an appropriate dose for their age of either ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Don't, however, rub aspirin or other pain relievers around the affected tooth or gums—these medications can be acidic, which could severely irritate interior mouth tissues.
Call your dentist. It's always good for a dentist to check your child's mouth after a toothache. The question is when: If your child has responded well to pain medication and has no swelling or fever, you can wait to call the next day. If not, call as soon as possible for an appointment.
A toothache is rarely an emergency, but it can still be disconcerting for you and your child. Knowing what steps to take can help resolve the situation without a lot of discomfort for them and stress for you.
If you would like more information on dealing with a child's tooth pain, 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 Child's Toothache.”
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.”
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