By Stephen R. Harris, DDS
September 09, 2020
Category: Dental Procedures
ImproveYourSmileWithTheseDentalEnhancements

In case you missed it, September is Self-Improvement Month. Don't fret if you weren't aware—we're not sure how the ninth month acquired this celebration of positive human development either. But as long as we're celebrating, do something good for yourself—like improving your smile.

If this doesn't seem like a lofty enough self-improvement goal, remember this: There's much more to a smile than its looks. Smiles “speak” a social language, allowing us to wordlessly communicate acceptance, happiness, or even sympathy. A smile is a valuable part of beginning and maintaining relationships, be they familial, social or professional.

So why not go all out and enhance your smile during Self-Improvement Month? To that end, here are a few options:

Teeth whitening. Maybe your teeth are a little yellowed. If you have mild to moderate enamel staining, consider undergoing a professional whitening procedure. We use a safe but effective solution to give you just the level of brightness you want. And with proper maintenance and occasional touch-ups, you can have a brighter smile for years.

Bonding, veneers or crowns. If your teeth have chips, heavy discolorations or other mild to moderate defects, we can offer a variety of solutions. We can bond special dental materials to repair slight defects that make a tooth look good as new. For moderate flaws, heavy staining or slight gaps, we can bond a custom-made veneer to the front of teeth to hide these imperfections. We can also cap teeth with natural-looking crowns to cover larger disfigurements.

Orthodontics. Misaligned teeth can detract from an otherwise attractive smile. Orthodontics can help—and as long as you're in good oral and general health, you can undergo bite correction at any age. Braces aren't your only option: Removable clear aligners are nearly invisible to others, and because they're removable, they make it easier to keep your teeth clean.

Dental implants. Missing teeth can definitely dim a smile. And while there are a number of restoration options, dental implants are one of the top choices. Implants not only look and feel lifelike, they're exceedingly durable. Although they may be more expensive up-front, they have been shown to last longer and tend to require less maintenance than other restorations. Dental implants are a worthwhile investment in a long-term smile.

Cosmetic enhancements like teeth whitening or bonding may require only one or two visits, while other options like orthodontics or implants can take much longer. But you can still get the ball rolling now. Make an appointment this month for a full dental exam and consultation to start your journey toward improving your smile.

If you would like more information about enhancing your smile, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cosmetic Dentistry: A Time for Change.”

InterceptiveOrthodonticsStoppingPoorBitesBeforeTheyDevelop

Approximately 4 million tweens and teens are currently undergoing orthodontic treatment for a poor bite (malocclusion) that can cost their families thousands of dollars in braces or clear aligners. But treatment doesn't always have to follow this track: Found early, many malocclusions can be corrected or minimized before they fully develop.

Known as interceptive orthodontics, this particular approach to bite correction often begins as early as 6-10 years of age. Rather than move existing teeth, interceptive orthodontics focuses instead on redirecting jaw growth and intervening in other situations that can cause malocclusions.

For example, a child's upper jaw may not be growing wide enough to accommodate all incoming permanent teeth, crowding later arrivals out of their proper positions. But taking advantage of a gap during early childhood that runs through the center of the palate (roof of the mouth), orthodontists can increase jaw width with a device called a palatal expander.

The expander fits up against the palate with “legs” that extend and make contact with the inside of the teeth. With gradually applied pressure, the expander widens the central gap and the body naturally fills it with new bone cells. The bone accumulation causes the jaws to widen and create more room for incoming teeth.

Another way a malocclusion can develop involves the primary or “baby” teeth. As one of their purposes, primary teeth serve as placeholders for the future permanent teeth forming in the gums. But if they're lost prematurely, adjacent teeth can drift into the vacant space and crowd out incoming teeth.

Dentists prevent this with a space maintainer, a thin metal loop attached to the adjoining teeth that puts pressure on them to prevent them from entering the space. This spacer is removed when the permanent tooth is ready to erupt.

These and other interceptive methods are often effective in minimizing the formation of malocclusions. But it's often best to use them early: Palatal expansion, for example, is best undertaken before the central gap fuses in early puberty, and space maintainers before the permanent tooth erupts.

That's why we recommend that children undergo an orthodontic evaluation around age 6 to assess their early bite development. If a malocclusion looks likely, early intervention could prevent it and reduce future treatment costs.

If you would like more information on interceptive orthodontics, 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 “Interceptive Orthodontics.”

2KindsofOrthodonticRetainersThatCanProtectYourNewSmile

While retainers are often viewed as a nuisance, they’re crucial to protect the gains made with bite correction. Without them, all of the progress achieved through braces or clear aligners could be lost.

Here’s why: The same elastic gum tissue called the periodontal ligament that holds teeth in place also allows them to move incrementally in response to changes in the mouth. That’s why we can move teeth with braces or aligners, which put pressure on the teeth toward a desired direction of movement while the periodontal ligament does the rest.

But the mechanics can also work in reverse: With pressure relieved when the braces are removed, the teeth could revert to their original positions through a kind of “muscle memory.” The light pressure provided by a retainer is enough to keep or “retain” teeth in their new positions.

The best known retainer is a removable appliance. Initially, a patient wears it continuously and only takes it out during oral hygiene. Wear duration may later be reduced to night time only and eventually not at all, depending on a patient’s individual needs.

While effective, removable retainers do have some downsides. Like braces, they’re visible to others. And because they’re removable, they’re frequently misplaced or lost, leading to the added expense of a new one.

An alternative is a bonded retainer, a thin piece of wire attached to the back of the newly moved teeth to keep them in place. Because it’s behind the teeth it’s not visible—and there’s no misplacing it because only a dentist can take it out.

A bonded retainer is a good option, especially if a patient is immature and not as diligent about wearing or keeping up with their appliance. But it can make flossing difficult to perform, and if they’re removed or broken prematurely, the teeth could revert to their former positions.

If you decide to go with a bonded retainer, be sure you get some tips from your dental hygienist on how to floss with it. And if you decide later to have it removed early, be sure to replace it with a removable retainer. Either of these two options can help you keep your new and improved smile.

If you would like more information on bonded retainers, 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 “Bonded Retainers.”

WhyKathyBatesChoseThisAlternativetoBracesandsoMightYou

Kathy Bates has been a familiar face to filmgoers since her Oscar-winning performance as Annie Wilkes in Misery. She's best known for playing true-to-life characters like Wilkes or Barbara Jewell in last year's Richard Jewell (for which she earned her fourth Oscar nomination). To keep it real, she typically eschews cosmetic enhancements—with one possible exception: her smile.

Although happy with her teeth in general, Bates noticed they seemed to be “moving around” as she got older. This kind of misalignment is a common consequence of the aging process, a result of the stresses placed on teeth from a lifetime of chewing and biting.

Fortunately, there was an orthodontic solution for Bates, and one compatible with her film career. Instead of traditional braces, Bates chose clear aligners, a newer method for moving teeth first introduced in the late 1990s.

Clear aligners are clear, plastic trays patients wear over their teeth. A custom sequence of these trays is developed for each patient based on their individual bite dimensions and treatment goals. Each tray in the sequence, worn in succession for about two weeks, places pressure on the teeth to move in the prescribed direction.

While clear aligners work according to the same teeth-moving principle as braces, there are differences that make them more appealing to many people. Unlike traditional braces, which are highly noticeable, clear aligners are nearly invisible to others apart from close scrutiny. Patients can also take them out, which is helpful with eating, brushing and flossing (a challenge for wearers of braces) and rare social occasions.

That latter advantage, though, could pose a problem for immature patients. Clear aligner patients must have a suitable level of self-responsibility to avoid the temptation of taking the trays out too often. Families of those who haven't reached this level of maturity may find braces a better option.

Clear aligners also don't address quite the range of bite problems that braces can correct. Some complex bite issues are thus better served by the traditional approach. But that gap is narrowing: Recent advances in clear aligner technology have considerably increased their treatability range.

With that said, clear aligners can be an ideal choice for adults who have a treatable bite problem and who want to avoid the appearance created by braces. And though they tend to be a little more expensive than braces, many busy adults find the benefits of clear aligners to be worth it.

The best way to find out if clear aligners could be a viable option for you is to visit us for an exam and consultation. Like film star Kathy Bates, you may find that this way of straightening your smile is right for you.

If you would like more information about tooth straightening, please contact us or schedule a consultation.

ImplantsMakeDenturesMoreSecureComfortableandBone-Friendly

Even in the 21st Century, losing most or all of your teeth is still an unfortunate possibility. Many in this circumstance turn to dentures, as their great-grandparents did, to restore their teeth. But today's dentures are much different from those of past generations—and dental implants are a big reason why.

The basic denture is made of a gum-colored, acrylic base with artificial teeth attached. The base is precisely made to fit snugly and comfortably on the patient's individual gum and jaw structure, as the bony ridges of the gums provide the overall support for the denture.

Implants improve on this through two possible approaches. A removable denture can be fitted with a metal frame that firmly connects with implants embedded in the jaw. Alternatively, a denture can be permanently attached to implants with screws. Each way has its pros and cons, but both have two decided advantages over traditional dentures.

First, because implants rather than the gums provide their main support, implant-denture hybrids are often more secure and comfortable than traditional dentures. As a result, patients may enjoy greater confidence while eating or speaking wearing an implant-based denture.

They may also improve bone health rather than diminish it like standard dentures. This is because the forces generated when chewing and eating travel from the teeth to the jawbone and stimulate new bone cell growth to replace older cells. We lose this stimulation when we lose teeth, leading to slower bone cell replacement and eventually less overall bone volume.

Traditional dentures not only don't restore this stimulation, they can also accelerate bone loss as they rub against the bony ridges of the gums. Implants, on the other hand, can help slow or stop bone loss. The titanium in the imbedded post attracts bone cells, which then grow and adhere to the implant surface. Over time, this can increase the amount of bone attachment and help stymie any further loss.

An implant-supported denture is more expensive than a standard denture, but far less than replacing each individual tooth with an implant. If you want the affordability of dentures with the added benefits of implants, this option may be worth your consideration.

If you would like more information on implant-supported 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 “Overdentures & Fixed Dentures.”





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Stephen R. Harris, DDS

Farmington, MI Dentist
Stephen R. Harris DDS, PC
34024 W 8 Mile Rd., Ste. 106
Farmington Hills, MI 48335
(248) 478-4755
(248) 478-1139 fax
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