Posts for: November, 2013
For most people, replacing missing front teeth takes a higher priority over missing back teeth. The reason is obvious: others can see those missing in front, but not necessarily those in the back.
From a functional view, however, you should still consider replacing missing back teeth. Not only will it improve your chewing ability, it may also prevent a chain reaction of negative effects to your remaining teeth.
Teeth are held in place in the jawbone by a membrane called the periodontal ligament. The ligament is a living tissue that allows teeth to move to keep contact with adjacent and opposing teeth as natural wear occurs. When a space is created by a missing tooth, this natural movement accelerates and the teeth may shift beyond normal ranges.
As a result you can encounter excessive mobility of teeth from bite irregularities, uneven tooth wear, bone loss, potential painful problems with the temporo-mandibular joints (connecting the lower jaw to the skull), and a loss in facial height.
There are three basic options for this kind of tooth replacement. The best option is dental implants: these free-standing replacements don't normally affect surrounding teeth, they're easier to clean, and they help support the bite. On the downside, there must be enough remaining bone to support the implant.
The next best option is a fixed bridge. This option only works, however, if there are teeth on either side of the missing tooth space capable of supporting the bridge, and they must be reduced in size by removing the enamel with the dental drill. They also have a tendency to retain plaque, the main cause of gum disease.
That leaves the last, and least favorable, option, a removable partial denture. They may also trap food and be difficult to wear. They can move in the mouth, stressing — and possibly loosening — the remaining teeth that hold them in place. With all its drawbacks, though, if a partial denture is the only solution to missing back teeth, it's a better alternative than doing nothing and risking long-term problems.
If you would like more information on replacement options for back 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 “Replacing Back Teeth.”
Not long ago, Glee star Lea Michele had all of her wisdom teeth removed. This is a very common procedure that people in their twenties, like Michele, often undergo to prevent serious dental problems down the road. The actress found that the procedure really was actually not very difficult to tolerate.
“Feeling all better from my surgery!” she tweeted to fans a few days later. “Back to work tomorrow.”
Why do wisdom teeth so often cause problems? For one thing, they come in years later than the other 28 permanent teeth — usually between the ages of 17 and 25. By that time, there is often no room in the jaw to accommodate them. As man has evolved, the jaws have actually become smaller in size — often creating a lack of space for the wisdom teeth to erupt into proper position. If wisdom teeth become blocked (impacted) by other molars that are already there, infection and damage to neighboring teeth may result.
Sometimes the wisdom teeth themselves cause the problem by growing in at an odd angle. They push against other teeth, often compromising the adjacent tooth's supporting bone. While you would think pain would occur if any of these problems were present, that does not always alert us to a wisdom-tooth problem. It's usually diagnosed with the help of x-rays.
Wisdom tooth extraction is often performed in the dental office using a local anesthetic (numbing shot) to keep you from experiencing any pain, along with conscious sedation to help you relax. The type of anesthesia that's best for you will be determined before the procedure.
After we gently remove the tooth or teeth, you may need to have the site sutured (stitched) to promote healing. You will rest for a short time before going home, and may need to have someone drive you, depending on what type of anesthesia you were given.
Once you get home, you should apply an ice pack on the outside of your cheek for about five minutes on, five minutes off for as many hours as possible to help reduce any postoperative swelling on the first day. Starting on the second day, the warm moist heat of a washcloth placed on the cheek and hot salt water rinses will make you more comfortable. You may want to eat soft foods and brush your teeth very carefully during the recovery period, which lasts only a few days as Lea Michele discovered. Before you know it, you'll be “feeling all better!”