Certain People may Benefit from Antibiotics Before Implant Surgery: Havasu Dentist

Dental implants are considered today’s premier method for restoring missing teeth. Obtaining an implant, though, is often a long process and the implants themselves must be surgically placed within the jaw bone. Nothing to worry about, though: implant surgery is a minor to moderate procedure akin to a surgical tooth extraction.

Still like any surgery, this procedure does involve cutting into the soft tissues of the gums and could allow oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream. While most bacteria in the mouth are harmless (and even beneficial) a few strains can cause disease. For some people, especially those with certain heart conditions or joint replacements, this could potentially cause serious issues in other parts of their body that might be highly susceptible to infection.

To guard against this, it’s been a long-standing practice in dentistry to prescribe antibiotics to certain high risk patients before a procedure. Although this departs from the normal use of antibiotics for already occurring infections, due to the circumstances this has been deemed an acceptable measure to prevent disease.

In the past, the categories of patients for which preventive antibiotics were appropriate had been more extensive. In recent years, though, both the American Dental Association and the American Heart Association have adjusted their recommendations. Today, your dental provider may recommend antibiotic pre-treatment if you have a prosthetic (artificial) heart valve, a history of infective endocarditis (inflammation of the inner linings of the heart), a heart transplant or certain congenital heart conditions.

While physicians may still recommend premedication with antibiotics for patients with joint replacements, it’s not as blanket a standard as it might once have been. It’s now only recommended for certain cases, such as patients who’ve received a prosthetic joint within the last two years.

There’s still an ongoing debate about the effectiveness of antibiotic pre-medication. However, there’s evidence medicating before procedures with antibiotics can be beneficial in avoiding infection. If you fall into one of the categories just mentioned or are concerned about infection, feel free to discuss with your dentist if using antibiotics before your implant surgery is wise move for you.

If you would like more information on antibiotic treatment before oral surgery, 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 “Implants & Antibiotics: Lowering Risk of Implant Failure.”

Bleaching — An Excellent Tool For Whitening Stained Teeth: Havasu Dentist

The embarrassment of having discolored and/or stained teeth can be monumental and negatively impact your love life, work career, interactions with others, on top of undermining your self-esteem. And it is this reality that urges many people to wonder what teeth whitening could do for their specific needs. However, before obtaining any “fix,” you really should get an understanding of what causes staining of your teeth. This important step will enable you to make the necessary lifestyle and behavioral changes to prevent future issues.

For example, letting us know which of the following common causes for staining teeth apply to you can be an excellent first step towards building an optimal action plan for brightening your smile.

Which of the following questions about discolored teeth apply to you?

  • Staining from tobacco use?
  • Staining from coffee, tea and/or wine?
  • Your teeth have become progressively discolored and yellow with age?
  • Staining from red (tomato-based) sauces, sodas/colas and blueberries among other things?
  • Other family members have stained teeth so it seems to be genetic?
  • Staining from medications such as the antibiotic tetracycline given as a child?

Your honest responses to the above, along with your medical history will enable us to formulate the appropriate therapy for brightening your smile. And for most people this includes bleaching, an inexpensive yet effective method for whitening teeth. It is most often accomplished using a gel that is between 15% and 35% carbamide peroxide, a type of hydrogen peroxide. Years of research have proven that this whitening agent does not damage tooth enamel or the nerves inside the teeth. The only side effect that some people experience is slight tooth sensitivity and irritation of the gum tissues. However, they both are usually temporary, often occuring when you first start bleaching and generally subside after a few days. You can learn more when you continue reading the Dear Doctor article, “Tooth Staining.” Or, you can contact us to discuss your questions or to schedule an appointment.

Bitewing X-Rays an Important Tool in Early Tooth Decay Detection: Havasu Dentist

It’s difficult to measure how x-ray imaging has transformed dentistry since its use became prominent a half century ago. As equipment and methods standardized, the technology revolutionized the way we diagnose tooth decay and other mouth-related issues.

One of the more useful of these methods is called the bitewing x-ray. The term comes from the shape of the device a patient holds between their teeth with the film attached on the side toward their tongue. We direct the x-ray beam to the outside of the patient’s cheek, where it passes through the teeth to expose on the film. Its particular design provides clearer images since the patient’s bite helps keep the film still and distortion-free, making it easier to view signs of early tooth decay.

Bitewing x-rays usually consist of four films, two on either side of the mouth, necessary to capture all of the teeth (children with smaller jaws, however, often only require one film per side). How frequently they’re conducted depends on a number of factors, including the patient’s age: children or young adolescents are usually filmed more frequently than adults, usually every six to twelve months. Frequency also depends on a patient’s particular decay risk — the higher the risk the more frequent the x-ray.

Regardless of how often they’re performed, a similar application principle applies with bitewing x-rays as with any other radiological method: As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA). With the ALARA principle in other words, we’re looking for that sweet spot where we’re able to detect the earliest stages of dental disease with the least amount of radiation exposure.

Bitewings fit this principle well: a patient receives only a fraction of the radiation exposure from a four-film bitewing as they do from a daily dose of environmental radiation. Factor in new digital technology that reduces exposure rates and bitewings pose virtually no health risk to patients, especially if conducted in a prudent manner.

The benefits are well worth it. Thanks to bitewing x-rays we may be able to diagnose decay early and stop it before it causes you or your family member extensive tooth damage.

If you would like more information on the importance of x-rays in dentistry, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

Havasu Dentist: Are Porcelain Veneers Right For You?

If you are unhappy with your smile or the way some of your teeth appear, porcelain veneers may be the solution to your concerns. They are a fast, effective, and well-proven method for cosmetically enhancing your smile — and a secret that Hollywood and other celebrities have been taking advantage of for years. To help you determine if they are right for you, here are some questions we typically receive.

What is a veneer?

A veneer is a custom made thin “shell” or thin layer of a dental ceramic material (usually porcelain) used to replace the front, visible surface of the tooth. They are artistically and hand-crafted using a precise model of your mouth and teeth to achieve a natural look.

What can they do for me?

Veneers are the optimal choice for correcting small to medium gaps between teeth; slight rotations of teeth causing them to be misaligned; oddly shaped, chipped, or “short” teeth; as well as teeth that are discolored or unevenly colored. However, veneers have their limitations, too. They cannot correct bite issues, poor tooth position, or profile issues. It is also important to note that if you have this procedure, we will typically need to remove a small amount of enamel from your teeth to accommodate the veneer and produce dramatic improvements to your smile.

How long will they last?

While they can vary widely from person to person, porcelain veneers usually last from 7 to 20 years. Factors that impact this timeline include your oral hygiene habits, diet, lifestyle, as well as how well you protect your veneers during sleep and while playing sports.

Have more questions?

Contact us today to discuss your questions or to schedule an appointment. You can also learn more about veneers by reading the Dear Doctor article, “Smile Design Enhanced With Porcelain Veneers.”

Antibiotics Could Help Ensure your Implant Surgery is Successful: Havasu Dentist

If you’re considering dental implants to replace one or more missing teeth, you’ll need to undergo a minor to moderate surgical procedure (depending on the number of implants) to install them. Depending on your current health status and medical history, you may need antibiotics before or after the procedure to help ensure a successful outcome.

Although implants have a high success rate (over 95%), they can still fail — and bacterial infection is a major culprit. Installing implants requires surgically accessing the bone through the gum tissues; you may also need other invasive procedures like tooth extraction or bone or gum tissue grafting. These disruptions to the soft tissues can introduce bacteria into the bloodstream.

In certain individuals, this can increase infection risk not only around the implant but also in other parts of the body. You may be at higher risk, for example, if you have serious health problems like cardiovascular disease or diabetes, a weakened immune system, you use tobacco or you’re over or under normal weight. The American Dental and American Heart Associations both recommend antibiotics before dental implant surgery as a preventive measure against infection if you have a prosthetic heart valve, a history of infective endocarditis, a heart transplant or some congenital heart conditions.

For other patients with low to moderate risk for infection, there’s vigorous debate on administering antibiotics before implant surgery. There are some side effects to antibiotic use, ranging from diarrhea to allergic reactions, and an increased concern in general to the developing resistance of many infectious agents due to the prevalent use of antibiotics. Many dentists and physicians are becoming more discriminate in the patients for which they prescribe antibiotics before surgical procedures.

It really comes down, then, to your particular case: not only the specific procedures you need but also your general health. After weighing these factors against the possible benefits for protecting your health and improving your odds of a successful outcome, we’ll recommend whether antibiotic treatment for implants is right for you.

If you would like more information on the role of antibiotics in dental procedures, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

Although Challenging, ‘Smile Zone’ Implants can Appear Beautifully Life-Like: Havasu Dentist

Dental implants have quickly become the restoration of choice for two basic reasons: they effectively restore the lost function of missing teeth and simultaneously rejuvenate the smile with their life-like appearance.

Achieving a life-like appearance, however, isn’t always a simple matter. A restoration in what we dentists call the “Smile Zone” (the upper front area that displays both teeth and the gum line when you smile) requires careful planning and technique to ensure they appear as life-like as possible.

Our first concern is whether there’s enough bone to fully anchor an implant. Bone is a living, dynamic tissue that goes through cycles of dissolving (resorption) and growth. The normal forces of biting and chewing transmit through healthy teeth and stimulate growth in the bone. When the teeth are missing and no longer transmit this pressure, the bone will eventually resorb only and not grow.

Adjacent teeth could also be affected with bone loss if the extraction was difficult and a bone graft was not placed into the extraction socket to preserve bone. This not only puts adjacent teeth at risk of gum and bone loss but can also have implications for the final smile appearance. This bone also supports the triangular tissue between teeth known as papillae which give teeth their arched appearance. If the bone isn’t adequate, there’s less hope that the papillae will regenerate.

With these concerns it’s very important to consider how the implant and crown emerges from the gums in the Smile Zone. Recent developments in implant design are helping in this regard. The design change of the top of the implant re-orients the gum tissues in relation to the implant from vertical to horizontal, which dentists call “platform switching.” This provides greater stabilization where bone mass is limited, and helps create a more aesthetically pleasing result. There are also other techniques, such as surgical tissue grafting of the papillae that can further enhance the final appearance.

Although creating a natural, life-like appearance in the Smile Zone is difficult, it’s not impossible. It’s important first to undergo a complete dental examination and profile, where we can advise you on your best options to achieve a beautiful smile.

If you would like more information on the relation of implants to the aesthetics of 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 “Implant Aesthetics.”

A Smile Makeover is a Transforming Experience: Havasu Dentist

The term “makeover” is a powerful word in today’s society. It’s used for a variety of things — hair, body, lawn — that need more than a different style, a little toning or some new shrubs. A makeover is a transformation, replacing the dissatisfying status quo with something new and dynamic.

Your smile and its various components — teeth, gums, jaw structure and facial features — might also be a candidate for a makeover. This involves more than just a few modifications. It’s the answer to a smile we avoid showing in photos, cover with our hand when we’re speaking or laughing, or makes us feel older than we really are. In other words, it’s a comprehensive change to a smile that inhibits us from fully expressing ourselves in our friend, family or career relationships.

Of course, for any makeover to succeed, it must follow a plan. A smile transformation is no different. The process begins with what we call a “smile analysis”: a comprehensive examination that determines the exact condition of your entire mouth. This enables us to identify problems and defects, understand how they interact with your other facial features, and then recommend a treatment plan that effectively addresses these issues.

The plan isn’t complete, though, without your input. You may want a complete renovation — to restore missing teeth or change their shape, color and brilliance. On the other hand, you may be more comfortable with a few subtle changes, perhaps even keeping slight imperfections that you see as part of the real “you.” Whichever path you take, the end result is a smile that makes you happy, and proud to show to others.

The various techniques and materials available through cosmetic or restorative dentistry can turn any disappointing smile into a beautiful one. Your journey to that newer, brighter smile begins with your next dental visit.

If you would like more information on smile makeovers through restorative or cosmetic 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 “The Impact of a Smile Makeover.”

A Child’s Damaged Tooth may require a Different Approach than an Adult’s: Havasu Dentist

A traditional root canal procedure can be a “life-saver” for a decayed or injured tooth. But while it’s usually the best course for a damaged adult tooth, variations of the procedure are advisable for a new permanent tooth in a child or young adolescent.

This is because the inner pulp, the focus of the treatment, plays an important role in a young tooth’s development. When it first erupts a tooth’s dentin layer, the living tissue that makes up most of the body and roots of the tooth, hasn’t fully formed. The pulp increases the dentin layer over time in conjunction with jaw development.

Because a full root canal treatment removes all of the pulp tissue, it could interrupt any remaining dentin development in a young tooth. This could lead to poorly-formed roots and a less healthy tooth. For an immature permanent tooth, then, we would use variations of a root canal treatment depending on the nature and extent of the injury, the patient’s overall health and medications they may be taking.

Our main objective is to expose or remove as little of the pulp tissue as possible when treating the tooth. If the pulp hasn’t been exposed by the decay or injury, we may only need to remove the softened decayed or injured dentin while leaving harder dentin nearer the pulp intact. If, however, the pulp has become partially exposed by disease or injury, we would then perform a pulpotomy in which we remove only the exposed tissue and then place calcium hydroxide or mineral trioxide aggregate (MTA) to stimulate dentin growth that will eventually patch the exposure site.

In cases where decay or injury has rendered an immature tooth’s pulp tissue unsalvageable, we may use a procedure known as apexification that seals off the open, cylindrical root end of the tooth. This will allow bone-like tissue to grow around the root to serve as added support for the tooth. Although it can save a tooth in the short run, the tooth’s long-term survival chances may be lower.

By using these and other techniques we may be able to save your child’s immature tooth. At the very least, such a technique could postpone replacing the tooth until a more opportune time in adulthood.

If you would like more information on treating damaged teeth in children, 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 “Saving New Permanent Teeth after Injury.”

4 Reasons Why a Home Whitening Kit Might not be Right for You: Havasu Dentist

Do-it-yourself (DIY) whitening kits are a popular option for restoring a healthy shine to stained and dulled teeth. They’re relatively safe and generally live up to their packaging claims.

But a home kit might not always be your best option. Here are 4 reasons why DIY whitening might not be right for you.

You’re on the early side of your teen years. Tooth whitening at home is quite popular with teenagers. For older teens it doesn’t really pose a dental risk as long as you use the product appropriately (more on that in a moment). However, the immature enamel of younger teens’ permanent teeth is still developing and can be vulnerable to damage by whitening processes.

You don’t follow instructions well. Not to say you have this particular character quirk — but if you do you may run into trouble with DIY whitening. Home kits are safe if you follow their instructions carefully. If you use them to excess as one 13-year old boy was reported to have done, you could severely (and permanently) erode your teeth’s protective enamel.

Your teeth are in need of dental work. Tooth whitening can’t fix everything that may be contributing to an unattractive smile. It’s always better to have issues like dental disease or chipped teeth addressed first before whitening. And, if your tooth discoloration originates from inside your tooth, a whitening kit won’t help — they’re only designed for staining on the enamel’s outside surface. You’ll need a special dental procedure to whiten internal (or intrinsic) tooth staining.

You want to control the amount of brightness. Home kits don’t have the level of fine-tuning that a clinical procedure can achieve. While the bleaching agent in a professional whitening solution is much stronger than a home kit, your dentist is trained in techniques that can vary the amount of bleaching, from a softer white to dazzling “Hollywood” bright. And clinical whitening usually takes fewer sessions and may last longer than a home kit.

If you’re interested in teeth whitening, see your dentist for a dental examination first before purchasing a DIY kit. Even if you decide to do it yourself, your dentist can give you buying advice for whitening kits, as well as how-to tips.

If you would like more information on tooth whitening, 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 “Tooth Whitening Safety Tips.”

3 Reasons Why Smoking Doesn’t Mix with Dental Implants: Havasu Dentist

If you smoke, you know better than anyone how a hard a habit it is to kick. If you want to quit, it helps to have a motivating reason—like lowering your risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease or similar conditions.

Here’s another reason for quitting tobacco: it could be making your teeth and gums less healthy. And, if you’re facing a restoration like dental implants, smoking can make that process harder or even increase the risk of failure.

So, to give your willpower some needed pep talk material, here are 3 reasons why smoking doesn’t mix with dental implants.

Inhaled smoke damages mouth tissues. Though you may not realize it, the smoke from your cigarette or cigar is hot enough to burn the top layer of skin cells in your mouth, which then thickens them. This could affect your salivary glands causing them to produce less saliva, which in turn could set off a chain of events that increases your risk of tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease. The end result might be bone loss, which could make installing dental implants difficult if not impossible.

Nicotine restricts healthy blood flow. Nicotine, the chemical tobacco users crave, can restrict blood flow in the tiny vessels that course through the mouth membranes and gums. With less blood flow, these tissues may not receive enough antibodies to fight infection and fully facilitate healing, which could interfere with the integration of bone and implants that create their durable hold. Slower healing, as well as the increased chances of infection, could interrupt this integration process.

Smoking contributes to other diseases that impact oral health. Smoking’s direct effect on the mouth isn’t the only impact it could have on your oral health. As is well known, tobacco use can increase the risk of systemic conditions like cardiovascular and lung disease, and cancer. These conditions may also trigger inflammation—and a number of studies are showing this triggered inflammatory response could also affect your body’s ability to fight bacterial infections in the mouth. Less healthy teeth, gums and underlying bone work against your chances of long-term success with implants.

If you would like more information on dental implants, 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 “Dental Implants & Smoking: What are the Risks?