Posts for: April, 2014
Everyone knows that George Washington wore false teeth. Quick, now, what were our first President's dentures made of?
Did you say wood? Along with the cherry tree, that's one of the most persistent myths about the father of our country. In fact, Washington had several sets of dentures — made of gold, hippopotamus tusk, and animal teeth, among other things — but none of them were made of wood.
Washington's dental troubles were well documented, and likely caused some discomfort through much of his life. He began losing teeth at the age of 22, and had only one natural tooth remaining when he took office. (He lost that one before finishing his first term.) Portraits painted several years apart show scars on his cheeks and a decreasing distance between his nose and chin, indicating persistent dental problems.
Dentistry has come a long way in the two-and-a-half centuries since Washington began losing his teeth. Yet edentulism — the complete loss of all permanent teeth — remains a major public health issue. Did you know that 26% of U.S. adults between 65 and 74 years of age have no natural teeth remaining?
Tooth loss leads to loss of the underlying bone in the jaw, making a person seem older and more severe-looking (just look at those later portraits of Washington). But the problems associated with lost teeth aren't limited to cosmetic flaws. Individuals lacking teeth sometimes have trouble getting adequate nutrition, and may be at increased risk for systemic health disorders.
Fortunately, modern dentistry offers a number of ways that the problem of tooth loss can be overcome. One of the most common is still — you guessed it — removable dentures. Prosthetic teeth that are well-designed and properly fitted offer an attractive and practical replacement when the natural teeth can't be saved. Working together with you, our office can provide a set of dentures that feel, fit, and function normally — and look great too.
There are also some state-of-the art methods that can make wearing dentures an even better experience. For example, to increase stability and comfort, the whole lower denture can be supported with just two dental implants placed in the lower jaw. This is referred to as an implant supported overdenture. This approach eliminates the need for dental adhesives, and many people find it boosts their confidence as well.
If you have questions about dentures, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Removable Full Dentures” and “Implant Overdentures for the Lower Jaw.”
There are only a few teeth that are known by nicknames. The big, late-blooming third molars (“wisdom teeth”) are one set; another set is the sharply-pointed canines, also called the “eyeteeth”. These two sets of teeth have something else in common: They can both suffer from the failure to develop in the proper place. Impacted wisdom teeth are a well known problem; impacted canines, however, are an issue that’s seen less frequently — but can often be effectively treated without extraction (removal).
What does the term “impacted” mean? In dental terminology, it indicates a tooth that is growing in a position where it can’t erupt (grow in to the bite) properly. This sometimes happens in cases where the bite is “crowded” — that is, where there isn’t enough space in the jaw for all of the teeth to develop properly. An impacted tooth remains “buried” to some extent in the tissues of the gums and jaw. It may eventually cause various problems with the roots of neighboring teeth, or even form a cyst (fluid-filled sac). That’s why treatment of impacted teeth is so important.
Impacted third molars (wisdom teeth) are generally removed (extracted), and are rarely missed. Canines, however, are located near the front of the mouth, forming an important component of an aesthetically pleasing smile. Therefore, whenever possible, it’s preferable to bring these teeth into good alignment with the rest of the smile rather than remove them. How is this done?
The process begins with a series of radiographic images (x-rays or CT scans) that show the exact positions of the affected teeth. Next, a minor surgical procedure, performed under local anesthesia, is used to expose the crowns (surfaces) of the impacted teeth. Then, a bracket is bonded to the surface of the tooth, which can be attached to orthodontic appliances. These appliances will, in time, move the tooth into a better position.
Impacted canines can be a serious problem — but the good news is that, with the proper treatment, it’s often possible to bring them into alignment with the rest of your smile. If you would like more information about treating impacted canine teeth, call our office for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Exposing Impacted Canines.”