What If……….?!

Publication: Montana Woman Magazine

The holidays and the New Year, bring out a lot of wishes and resolutions in everyone. I thought, what if we applied hopes and dreams to the dental realm. In light of recent developments in dental technology, many of the things we wish about in dental care are actually possible! To enlighten you further, this column will give some answers to some of the, “What if?” questions we may have about dental care.

What if the dentist could make it so I stopped getting cavities? We can do that, with a little help from you! It is more than the usual brush and floss and never have sugar or pop again for the rest of your life. A medical model of treatment for tooth decay has emerged that treats the underlying causes of decay that have been virtually ignored for years. Yes, you still have to brush and floss and watch what you eat and drink, that is common sense. In addition to having the actual cavities treated there are things you can do at home to keep them from coming back! These are fun easy things like chewing Xylitol sweetened gum, rinsing with a special mouthwash, and using a special remineralizing paste to return the minerals to your weakened enamel. This regimen will reduce the cavity causing bacteria, adjust the acid levels and allow the teeth to remineralize and be more resistant to cavities. This is great news! I am excited about this protocol. We can measure the effectiveness of the treatment by measuring the bacterial activity in the mouth, before and after treatment, using a cool new tester that only requires us to wipe a couple teeth with a Q-tip. Now extensive and expensive dental care can have some protection from recurring decay, and no more fear of bad news and lectures at your check ups!

What if the dentist could treat my gum disease without all the pain and expense of scraping and numbing my poor sensitive inflamed teeth and gums over and over? Great news! We can! I have recently been certified in a new FDA approved method of treating gum disease, called PerioProtect ™. This novel approach is simple, comfortable and fits in well with the other treatments for decay if needed. The main side effect is a slight whitening effect on the teeth! Oh no! Who would want that! Not only does this technique reduce the need for gum surgery, and challenging “deep cleanings”, but it may accidentally make your teeth whiter. By using specially designed FDA approved custom made trays, we can direct healing medications into the crevice between the teeth and gums, to fight bacteria and soften up the hard deposits. This makes your tender gums less inflamed and easier to clean when the time comes to remove stain and tartar. This is a great option for people who haven’t been responding to the standard treatment of gum disease. It is also a great way to provide long term maintenance of gum health for protection of nice dental work and periodontally compromised dentitions. Wishes can come true, you can do most of this on your own time at home! With the proof in from research about the horrid effects that gum disease has on the rest of the body, this is great news indeed! I had an older gentleman in the other day, with severe heart disease. He said last time he had his teeth cleaned it hurt for three years! Oh, how I wanted to scrape those dirty teeth with those red inflamed gums. I just knew they were making him sicker. Now, I can’t wait to make him some trays and send him home to get healthy.

What if I could get my not so pretty teeth transformed into a great smile, with no shots or drilling? Ok, there is a way to do that! It works great for patients with dental fears. With only an impression and some dental cement, we can make and place super thin porcelain veneers over teeth, to improve color, and shape of the smile! The rewards of a confidant smile will be reaped painlessly for years and years. Recently one of my patients remarked to me, that after we improved her smile, the responses she received from other people were much more positive now, even though she has always been outgoing. That was really cool to hear. This is great news for many patients. Combined with the other treatments for cavities and gum disease, the whole experience just got a whole lot easier, for both of us!

What if I could get rid of these floppy stinky dentures, and get real teeth back? Are you kidding, we can do a lot but, wait a minute, Yes, we can do that! With the use of implant dentistry, some patients can say goodbye to their dentures with fixed implant reconstructions. Implants are titanium tooth root replacements that we can use to support prosthetic teeth that stay in the mouth and are permanent. They will never get cavities, and will not develop the kind of gum problems real teeth can. How cool is that! This is great news for individuals who can afford the best, but what about the rest of the denture wearers? I have great news for you too! By placing only two implants, you may be able stabilize new, and sometimes, old dentures, with snap like attachments, that hold those wiggly (especially lower) choppers firmly in place. This has become my new standard of care for lower denture patients. Even if you have a partial denture, implants can be used for anchors. This protects the remaining teeth from damage caused by the removable partial that hooks onto them. Scary and expensive you think, not really! The discomfort associated with implant placement is minor to moderate. The dependability of the implants makes them a lifetime solution in most cases. I would say the quality of life gained by the patient, is priceless. Generally speaking, the cost of avoiding dental care can be much higher due to increased medical problems, time off work, and increased severity of dental and medical complications.

The wish list goes on, but the page is short. I wish this brings hope for those dental dreams and New Year’s resolutions. Have faith, dental medicine is becoming more comfortable all the time, and you can have a healthy and pretty smile if you want it. Good luck and keep smiling. Have a tremendous New Year!