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Posts for category: Dental Procedures

By C. Scott Davenport, D.D.S., PA
February 10, 2020
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: x-rays  
BitewingX-RaysanImportantToolinEarlyToothDecayDetection

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.

By C. Scott Davenport, D.D.S., PA
January 01, 2020
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: fillings  
DontWorryAboutDentalAmalgamItsSafeforTreatingCavities

Dental amalgam—also known as “silver fillings”—has been used for nearly a hundred years to treat cavities. There are several reasons why this mixture of metals has been the go-to material among dentists: Malleable when first applied, dental amalgam sets up into a durable dental filling that can take years of biting forces. What’s more, it’s stable and compatible with living tissue.

But there’s been growing concern in recent years about the safety of dental amalgam, with even some wondering if they should have existing fillings replaced. The reason: liquid mercury.

Mercury makes up a good portion of dental amalgam’s base mixture, to which other metals like silver, tin or copper are added to it in powder form. This forms a putty that can be easily worked into a prepared cavity. And despite the heightened awareness of the metal’s toxicity to humans, it’s still used in dental amalgam.

The reason why is that there are various forms of mercury and not all are toxic. The form making headlines is known as methylmercury, a compound created when mercury from the environment fuses with organic molecules. The compound builds up in the living tissues of animals, particularly large ocean fish, which have accumulated high concentrations passed up through their food chain.

That’s not what’s used in dental amalgam. Dentists instead use a non-toxic, elemental form of mercury that when set up becomes locked within the amalgam and cannot leach out. Based on various studies, treating cavities with it poses no health risks to humans.

This also means there’s no medical reason for having an existing silver fillings removed. Doing so, though, could cause more harm than good because it could further weaken the remaining tooth structure.

The most viable reason for not getting a dental amalgam filling is cosmetic: The metallic appearance of amalgam could detract from your smile. There are newer, more life-like filling options available. Your dentist, though, may still recommend dental amalgam for its strength and compatibility, especially for back teeth. It’s entirely safe to accept this recommendation.

If you would like more information on updating your dental work, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By C. Scott Davenport, D.D.S., PA
December 22, 2019
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: veneers   crowns  
Life-likeDentalPorcelainHelpsRestoreSmilesMarredbyUnattractiveTeeth

With its life-like color and texture, dental porcelain can restore a smile marred by decayed or damaged teeth. This durable ceramic material not only matches the varieties of individual tooth colors and hues, its translucence mimics the appearance of natural teeth. But perhaps its greatest benefit is its adaptability for use in a number of different applications, particularly veneers and crowns.

Veneers are thin layers of dental porcelain laminated together and permanently bonded to cover the visible outer side of a tooth to improve its appearance. Crowns, on the other hand, are “caps” of dental porcelain designed to completely cover a defective tooth.

Veneers and crowns share a number of similarities. Both can alter the color and shape of teeth, although crowns are used when more extensive tooth structure has been damaged. They’re also “irreversible,” meaning the tooth must be altered in such a way that it will always require a veneer or crown, though on some occasions a veneer can require no removal of tooth structure and can be reversible.

They do, however, have some differences as to the type of situation they address. Veneers are generally used where the affected teeth have a poor appearance (chipped, malformed or stained, for example) but are still structurally healthy. And although they do generally require some removal of tooth enamel to accommodate them (to minimize a “bulky” appearance), the reduction is much less than for a crown.

Crowns, on the other hand, restore teeth that have lost significant structure from disease, injury, stress-related grinding habits or the wearing effects of aging. Since they must contain enough mass to stand up to the normal biting forces a tooth must endure, a significant amount of the original tooth structure must be removed to accommodate them.

Which application we use will depend upon a thorough examination of your teeth. Once we’ve determined their condition and what you need, we can then recommend the best application for your situation. But regardless of whether we install a veneer or crown, using dental porcelain can help achieve an end result that’s truly life-changing — a new, younger-looking smile.

If you would like more information on dental porcelain restorations, 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 “Porcelain Crowns & Veneers.”

By C. Scott Davenport, D.D.S., PA
December 12, 2019
Category: Dental Procedures
SingerDuaLipaSeestheWisdominPostponingTourDates

When die-hard music fans hear that their favorite performer is canceling a gig, it’s a big disappointment—especially if the excuse seems less than earth-shaking. Recently, British pop sensation Dua Lipa needed to drop two dates from her world tour with Bruno Mars. However, she had a very good reason.

“I’ve been performing with an awful pain due to my wisdom teeth,” the singer tweeted, “and as advised by my dentist and oral surgeon I have had to have them imminently removed.”

The dental problem Lipa had to deal with, impacted wisdom teeth, is not uncommon in young adults. Also called third molars, wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt (emerge from beneath the gums), generally making their appearance between the ages of 18-24. But their debut can cause trouble: Many times, these teeth develop in a way that makes it impossible for them to erupt without negatively affecting the healthy teeth nearby. In this situation, the teeth are called “impacted.”

A number of issues can cause impacted wisdom teeth, including a tooth in an abnormal position, a lack of sufficient space in the jaw, or an obstruction that prevents proper emergence. The most common treatment for impaction is to extract (remove) one or more of the wisdom teeth. This is a routine in-office procedure that may be performed by general dentists or dental specialists.

It’s thought that perhaps 7 out of 10 people ages 20-30 have at least one impacted wisdom tooth. Some cause pain and need to be removed right away; however, this is not always the case. If a wisdom tooth is found to be impacted and is likely to result in future problems, it may be best to have it extracted before symptoms appear. Unfortunately, even with x-rays and other diagnostic tests, it isn’t always possible to predict exactly when—or if—the tooth will actually begin causing trouble. In some situations, the best option may be to carefully monitor the tooth at regular intervals and wait for a clearer sign of whether extraction is necessary.

So if you’re around the age when wisdom teeth are beginning to appear, make sure not to skip your routine dental appointments. That way, you might avoid emergency surgery when you’ve got other plans—like maybe your own world tour!

If you would like more information about wisdom tooth extraction, please call our office to arrange a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Wisdom Teeth” and “Removing Wisdom Teeth.”

By C. Scott Davenport, D.D.S., PA
November 22, 2019
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: teeth whitening  
HeresWhatYouNeedtoKnowAboutTeethWhitening

Getting a smile upgrade doesn’t necessarily require extensive dental work. You might be able to change your appearance for the better with teeth whitening.

This technique employs a bleaching solution that brightens dull enamel, the outermost layer of teeth. It isn’t a permanent fix, but if cared for properly your brighter smile could last two years or more.

Here’s what you need to know about this proven smile brightener.

Know your options. Enamel whitening is usually obtained in one of three ways: a dentist performing the procedure in-office; at home using custom trays created by a dentist; or at home with an over-the-counter whitening product. The in-office option is the most expensive—but since dentists use a stronger bleaching solution, your brighter tint may last longer and dentists can control the degree of whiteness better.

Know your preferences. That last point is important if you’re looking for a particular look. Teeth whitening can give you a dazzling “Hollywood” smile or one that’s a bit more subtle. It all depends on your lifestyle and personal preferences. Because of their advanced techniques and equipment, you may have better chances getting the look you want from your dentist rather than by doing it yourself.

Know your limitations. This type of teeth whitening won’t work if the staining originates within the teeth—for that you’ll need an invasive procedure only a dentist can perform. You’ll also want to be careful with any whitening if you have dental work like crowns, veneers or fillings: the bleaching solution won’t alter these materials’ color, which could make them stand out beside whitened natural teeth. And if you have diseased teeth and gums, those need to be treated first before any cosmetic procedures like whitening.

Teeth whitening is a great way to take years off a smile. Even if you plan to whiten your teeth at home see your dentist first for a complete examination and helpful tips on products and techniques.

If you would like more information on teeth 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 “Important Teeth Whitening Question…Answered!