tooth loss

Understanding Tooth Loss and Your Oral Surgery Treatment Options

According to the American College of Prosthodontists, approximately 178 million Americans have lost at least one permanent tooth, with some 40 million of them having no teeth left at all. Tooth loss does more than create challenges in eating, smiling, and talking; it can also affect your overall health. Fortunately, oral surgery procedures such as dental implants can help you regain your smile and optimize your dental function permanently. Take a look at the causes and effects of tooth loss, along with the treatment options available from skilled oral surgeons.

Causes of Tooth Loss

People may lose teeth for a variety of reasons. Here are some of the most common issues that might cause you to lose one or more teeth.

  • Periodontal disease – Most cases of tooth loss stem from this preventable inflammatory gum condition. When food particles and saliva get stuck to the teeth around the gum line, bacteria flock to the resulting plaque as a food source. The immune system reacts to the bacteria by mounting an inflammatory response against it. Unfortunately, the inflammation damages the gum tissue surrounding the teeth and weakens the ligaments that hold the teeth in their sockets, potentially leading to tooth loss.
  • Acute injuries or tooth problems – A blow to the face from a fist, ball, auto accident, or other high impact can knock teeth out of their sockets. (Emergency dentists can sometimes reseat these knocked-out teeth and secure them in place until they heal.) A tooth fractured down to the root, erupted at an angle that threatens neighboring teeth, or decayed beyond all hope of repair might require extraction, leaving you with a gap in your smile.
  • Tobacco and alcohol use – Tobacco use not only increases your risk for periodontal disease but also reduces your body’s ability to fight off infections, including oral infections that threaten the stability of your teeth. Excessive alcohol consumption can leave you with a chronically dry mouth, reducing the saliva that normally coats the teeth and helps to safeguard them against catastrophic decay.
  • Underlying conditions – Untreated malnutrition, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even arthritis can make you more vulnerable to tooth loss.

 

How Tooth Loss Affects Facial Aesthetics and Your Health and Functionality

Missing teeth affect the aesthetics of not only our smile, but also of the facial contour and symmetry. Each tooth and tooth-root provide support to our jaw bones and facial muscles. Similar to how grasses at the beach provide anchor to sand, the roots of our teeth help to anchor bone. Missing roots eventually causes surrounding bone to melt away, causing facial structures to have a hollowed out look and show signs of premature ageing.

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When you have missing teeth, you can’t chew food efficiently. Poor chewing function can make you prone to indigestion, malabsorption of nutrients, and other digestive complaints. You may also develop a heightened risk for gum disease that threatens not just your other teeth, but every system in your body, as bacteria migrate from your gums to major organs.

Tooth loss can affect your ability to talk clearly and smile with confidence in conversations. However, that gap in your smile may prove only the beginning of a more long-term change in your looks. Without constant stimulation from tooth roots, the bone in the jaw stops remodeling itself. The loss of bone density can reduce the height of your jaws, eventually giving your face a “collapsed” look.

 

How an Oral Surgeon Can Help You Deal with Tooth Loss

Adults who have lost teeth have traditionally done whatever they can to fill those gaps in their smile through dental restorations, from bridges that replace individual teeth to full upper and lower dentures. Unfortunately, these replacements have their limitations. For instance, a removable bridge or denture plate can feel loose in the mouth or even get dislodged, making chewing an adventure and threatening public embarrassment. More critically, bridges and dentures only restore the part of the teeth that used to sit above the gum line, not the root structures that anchored the natural teeth to the jawbone, so they can’t stop you from losing bone density.

Your oral surgeon can help you avoid these issues by performing dental implant surgery. Dental implants feature screw-like threaded metal posts capped with permanent crowns. Once the metal posts go into your jawbone, the bone responds by growing into(and in between) the posts’ threads, a phenomenon called osseointegration. This process takes a few months to complete, but you’ll end up with strong, tightly anchored artificial tooth roots that actually promote continuous bone remodeling. The oral surgeon will then add permanent crowns to the posts, giving you a beautiful smile and dental restorations you can rely on for decades to come.

If you have already lost some jawbone density from going without teeth, don’t panic. Your oral surgeon can often surmount this challenge as well by performing a bone graft. In this form of oral surgery, a small amount of organic or synthetic bone fills out the thin parts of the jawbone, providing the firm foundation your implants will require. Just keep in mind that you must heal completely from your bone graft before proceeding with the implant surgery.

Dental implant surgery can work equally well for you whether you seek to replace a single tooth or a whole mouthful of teeth. Oral surgeons can create entire denture plates that snap onto just a handful of implanted posts in the upper and/or lower jaw. You may hear this kind of restoration referred to as a four-on-one or six-on-one dental implant.

Don’t let tooth loss rob you of your ability to smile, talk, and eat with confidence. Contact Oral Surgery DC today to learn more about your dental restoration options!

 

Image credits: Photo by Jeltevanoostrum on Pixabay.

Reconstructive Surgery

Cosmetic and Reconstructive Surgery: What Can An Oral Surgeon Do to Help?

The structures of your face and jaw perform a variety of functions. Ideally, the arrangement of bones and soft tissues allows you to eat, breathe, and talk effortlessly. These structures also provide your face with its characteristic contours and appearance. Whether an injury or medical condition has harmed these structures and reduced their functionality, or you simply would like to give your face a new, preferred look, you may see substantial benefits from cosmetic or reconstructive oral surgery. Let’s examine these forms of surgery to discover what an oral surgeon might do to give you a better quality of life.

 

Reconstructive Oral Surgery vs. Cosmetic Oral Surgery

The difference between reconstructive oral surgery and cosmetic oral surgery lies mainly in the result you wish to achieve. Reconstructive oral surgery focuses on procedures that correct damage and functional abnormalities. When expertly performed, reconstructive oral surgery can help you speak more clearly, chew more effectively, experience less pain or stiffness from structural alignment errors, or restore tissue lost in an accident or previous surgery.

Cosmetic oral surgery focuses on improving the aesthetics of your oral and facial structures. For example, an oral surgeon can change the shape or size of your jaw, bringing the jawbone forward or making it recede for a more attractive facial balance. An oral surgeon has the expertise to perform a variety of procedures to improve both the looks and the function of your teeth.

 

Conditions and Challenges Treated by Cosmetic and Reconstructive Oral Surgery

Depending on your individual needs, you may schedule either or both forms of oral surgery to address different conditions and challenges. Common problems tackled by reconstructive oral surgeons include:

  • Malocclusion (abnormal bite) – This problem typically stems from an abnormal jaw position and/or uneven tooth wear.
  • Diseased or impacted teeth – A hopelessly decayed, infected, or impacted tooth may threaten your comfort and health.
  • Broken or weakened teeth – Root canal therapy or tooth fractures can leave the affected teeth in a fragile state while making them vulnerable to future infections.
  • Palate issues – Deformities such as a cleft palate may call for surgical reconstruction.
  • Jaw or facial trauma – Auto accidents and other crises can shatter bones in your jaw and face, making normal jaw function impossible.

Cosmetic surgeons can address some of the same issues, assuming that those issues affect your appearance as well as your oral and dental function. These specialists typically deal with:

  • Chipped or broken teeth – Even if such teeth don’t suffer from any deeper damage or hurt your chewing ability, they may make you self-conscious to smile or talk in public.
  • Overbites and underbites – A misaligned jaw may make you unhappy with your looks, even when it doesn’t seriously affect your ability to speak or eat.
  • An oversized or undersized lower jaw – Even a perfectly aligned jaw may appear too prominent, or not prominent enough, for your taste.
  • Soft tissue abnormalities – If you have noticeable facial scars or missing facial tissue, you can have these issues cosmetically repaired.

 

Types of Oral Surgery Procedures

Modern medical techniques and technologies have opened the door to many kinds of cosmetic and reconstructive oral surgery procedures. Your oral surgeon may recommend and administer:

  • Dental implants, which replace missing teeth while helping to stimulate jawbone regeneration.
  • Bone grafts to help dental implants root themselves securely in the jaw.
  • Extractions of wisdom teeth or other problematic teeth.
  • Craniofacial surgery to reassemble broken facial bones or correct abnormal facial formation.
  • Orthognathic surgery to alter your jawbone structure.
  • Soft tissue trauma repair to fix lacerations, mend severed nerves, and reconnect or reroute damaged blood vessels.

 

A Whole New You

Oral surgery can improve your life in a variety of ways. On a purely functional, physical level, procedures that improve your chewing ability can help your digestive system break down food more efficiently, giving your body more of the nutrients it needs for optimal wellness. Surgery that addresses sinus or airway issues (including jaw alignment problems that may affect your breathing) can help you avoid or overcome potentially serious health risks. Psychologically, reconstructive or cosmetic oral surgery can help you feel less stress and self-consciousness, boosting your confidence to live the life you want to live.

 

What to Expect from Oral Surgery

Oral surgery procedures can vary widely in the amount of preparation and recovery that they involve. As a general rule, you and your oral surgeon should discuss your medical history, current medication list, and lifestyle factors that can influence the procedure’s success. If you smoke, you’ll need to kick the habit as far ahead of your surgery as possible, since smoking can slow healing.

Some oral surgeries such as tooth extractions require only sedation and a local anesthetic, while more extensive surgeries that rebuild portions of the face require general anesthesia and a hospital stay. During your recuperation, you may need to adhere to a soft diet and/or small meals. If your procedure requires the jaw to remain wired shut for a time, your oral surgeon will prescribe a liquid diet until the surgeon removes the wires.

Contact Oral Surgery DC to schedule a consult appointment, which is an in-depth analysis of your medical history and dental x-rays and is an opportunity to discuss with the Surgeon the treatment approaches.

dental implants

A Guide to Caring for Your Dental Implants

Dental implants work and feel just like your own teeth, but these marvels of oral surgery still require the same hygiene and maintenance that you’d devote to the genuine articles. Even the most durable implants, installed by the most skilled oral surgeon, may suffer damage or even fail altogether if you neglect these dental restorations. Certain foods can chip or wear down the realistic simulated enamel, while poor hygiene can promote an implant-loosening inflammatory condition known as peri-implantitis.

Fortunately, you can boost your chances of enjoying many years of optimal chewing function and an attractive smile simply by looking after your dental implants properly. Take heed of these useful dental implant care tips.

 

1. Clean Your Dental Implants Regularly and Thoroughly

Although dental implants can’t develop cavities like organic teeth, they can still develop problems at the gum line. The permanent crowns that cap your implants don’t actually extend all the way to the gums, meaning that food and bacteria can find their way into tiny gaps and set the stage for gum disease.

Thankfully, you can prevent this issue by using the same basic brushing and flossing techniques that keep natural teeth healthy. Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to each tooth, brushing upward or downward in a sweeping motion from the gum line to the edge of the tooth. Spend two to three minutes repeating this process for all your teeth, both natural and implanted. Follow this phase of dental hygiene with careful flossing, paying special attention to the spaces between your implants and your natural teeth (since trapped food or tartar in these spaces can promote decay of the natural enamel). If you have a four-on-one bridge that supports multiple implants, take care to floss underneath the bridge as well.

 

2. Choose Your Dental Hygiene Tools Wisely

Either a manual toothbrush or an electric toothbrush will do a good job of removing biofilm and trapped food from your dental implants. Whichever tool you select, choose one with the softest bristles you can find, along with a toothpaste low in abrasion, to protect the gums against irritation and avoid unnecessary crown wear. Because the spaces between implants can prove tricky to floss, consider investing in some super floss. Super floss uses a floss threader with a stiffened end combined with a spongy, flexible midsection and a normal length of thread at the “business end.”

If you can’t use floss easily because of manual dexterity issues, purchase a water flosser and use it every evening after brushing. This handy device can blast debris away from tight spaces. To clean out the tiny gap between the base of an implant and your gum tissue, trace this area with a rubber-tipped gum stimulator. An ADA-approved mouthwash or oral rinse can help kill any remaining bacteria.

 

3. Schedule Dental Checkups and Cleanings

Dental implants require a healthy mouth. Keep up your regular schedule of routine dental wellness checkups and cleaning per your dentist’s recommendations. These evaluations can detect potential concerns such as bone loss in the jaw, early gum inflammation (gingivitis), and cavities in the teeth seated next to your implants. Professional cleanings can remove built-up tartar and hard-to-reach debris that may escape even the most careful home dental hygiene practices.

 

4. Watch for (and Respond to) Trouble Signs

Dental implants and/or their surrounding tissues can develop infections and other problems even when they receive the best of care. The more quickly you respond to these issues by scheduling immediate dental evaluation and treatment, the better. Signs of implant-related trouble may include:

  • Loose or wobbly implants
  • Gums that bleed when you brush
  • Pus or discoloration at the gum line
  • Bad breath
  • Pain underneath an all-on-four bridge

 

5. Steer Clear of Potentially Damaging Foods and Habits

Right after your dental implant surgery, your oral surgeon will warn you to avoid crunchy or hard-to-chew foods, sugary items, and alcoholic beverages. These products can raise your risk for postoperative complications. Even after you’ve completely recovered from the surgery, however, you must still treat your implants with a certain amount of care.

Approach harder objects such as nuts with caution. You can eat most soft candies as long as you follow up with thorough brushing and flossing to get those damaging sugars away from your natural teeth and gums. Avoid crunching on ice (which can break your crowns) or popcorn (which can deposit hard-to-remove hulls in your gum pockets).

Bruxism (habitual, unconscious tooth grinding) can wear down the crown on your implants while also damaging your remaining natural teeth. If you show signs of this condition, ask your dental professional to recommend strategies to combat it, from stress reduction techniques to correction of bite alignment errors that might encourage tooth grinding.

Don’t smoke if you have dental implants. Smoking can directly affect your bones’ ability to remodel themselves and maintain the proper density. If you lose bone in your jaw, the metal posts that hold your implants firmly in place may loosen.

Oral Surgery DC can perform your dental implant surgery and help you keep your implants in good shape. Contact our clinic today with questions!.

 

Image credits: Photo by Wilfried Pohnke on Pixabay.

Dental implants

Dental Implants: Why They Are A Great Alternative to Dentures and Bridges

Maintaining a terrific smile as you age can be difficult and if teeth are not properly taken care of, they become compromised and have to be extracted. As the American College of Prosthodontics notes, approximately 178 million Americans are currently missing at least one tooth.

Historically, several civilizations have come up with some unique approaches to missing teeth including ancient Egypt, where archaeologists have discovered several examples of teeth that had dental bridges or “prosthetic appliances.”

More recently, our nation’s first President, George Washington, suffered frequent toothache and had several missing teeth and eventually had to have a partial denture fabricated from ivory and wired in place to the remaining teeth. A full set of the President’s denture is on display at Mount Vernon, the historic home of George and Martha Washington.

More recently, the dental implant has evolved to be the first choice for replacement of a missing tooth/teeth. First placed in the 1960’s the implant has developed various solutions capable of providing permanent solution to a compromised tooth or teeth. If you have lost one or more teeth, you need to understand why dental implants are the go-to option.

 

What Are Dental Implants?

Unlike other tooth replacement methods, implants are a more natural and permanent solution. Dental implants include an anchor, usually ceramic or titanium, placed into the jawbone. After a period of 4-6 months the implant fuses, or technically, osseointegrates with the surrounding bone, creating a solid foundation for placement of a crown or fabricated tooth.

The implant also serves as an anchor in the jaw bone. Bone loss is often associated with a missing tooth, which in turn leads to a hollow look in the cheeks since the bone tissue is no longer present and can be viewed as premature ageing. Unlike a bridge, a dental implant is able to anchor surrounding bone and avoid the bone loss that often accompanies missing teeth.

Dental implants have few if any side effects and are the nearest thing to having your real teeth back. Keep in mind that an implant can support more than one tooth. For instance, four implants can be used to support a replacement upper or lower arch or both, depending on the extent of tooth loss.. Unlike a denture, the teeth are not removable and having much greater biting power of natural teeth up to 90% according to some studies. Dentures have 20-30% biting power.

 

Who Should Get Dental Implants?

Dental implants are appropriate for most adults, even those of advanced age. In fact, implants can benefit the health of older patients because they eliminate the discomfort of sliding dentures and allow the patient to eat the foods they enjoy, and also make sure they get the nutrition that they need. Your oral surgeon will evaluate your medical history to determine if implants are a good choice for you. You may be a suitable implant candidate if the following are true:

  • You have enough healthy bone to hold the implants.
  • Your gums and other oral tissues are healthy.
  • You do not smoke.
  • Your jawbone has reached full growth.

 

What Are the Advantages of Dental Implants?

For a good reason, dental implants have become the best solution compared to other tooth replacement options.

  • Implants have a look and feel more like natural teeth, including a functional capacity of 90% of natural teeth, unlike dentures that provide 10-30% function.
  • Implants have proven that with proper care, they can last a lifetime.
  • Third, the lifetime costs of an implant contrasted to a denture are very competitive as one has to consider the expenses of denture adjustments, chair-time fees to the patient for increased dental visits, and replacement costs as most dental appliances have a 5-7 year lifetime.
  • A dental implants does not need special daily care, simply floss and brush as you would natural teeth. In contrast, dentures must be removed and cleaned daily to maintain their appearance and to keep your mouth and gums healthy.
  • Finally, implants give you more confidence since they are a permanent solution that means no one will see you, night or day, without a bright and beautiful smile.

 

What Should You Expect from the Dental Implant Procedure?

A tooth implant is an outpatient procedure done under general anesthesia. Your surgeon may complete the implant process in several phases. After you’ve had a regular dental exam and medical assessment, your oral surgeon may need to do the following:

  • Remove a damaged tooth
  • Graft bone onto your jaw if necessary
  • Place the dental implant
  • Allow for healing
  • Place an abutment (an attachment that holds the artificial tooth in place)
  • Attach the artificial tooth

The process may require several months for your oral surgeon to complete, particularly if you need a bone graft, but an implant that is properly taken care of can last a lifetime.

Sometimes, your surgeon can complete an immediate load procedure that allows them to attach the artificial tooth immediately after placing the implant.

 

What Happens After the Procedure?

Most people only have minor after-effects from their implant surgery. You may experience facial and gum swelling, some bruising, pain at the surgical site, or minor bleeding. You might need to stick to soft food for a few days and take pain relievers and antibiotics.

Most dental implant surgeries are successful, with issues or infections being very rare.

 

How Oral Surgery DC Can Help

Missing and severely decayed teeth are a painful and often embarrassing problem that can affect your overall health and self-esteem. You may not want to try traditional options such as dentures, which can be uncomfortable and look unnatural. Fortunately, a skilled oral surgeon can correct your dental issues.

In the DC area, Oral Surgery DC offers you the latest and safest oral surgery techniques. You can regain your oral health and your confidence by booking an appointment. If you are interested in dental implants, contact us today for more information.

 

Image credits: Photo by Bogdan condr on Unsplash.

All You Need to Know About Sedation Dentistry

Modern oral surgery has come a long way in its ability to provide optimal comfort for patients who must undergo invasive procedures. Unfortunately, however, many dental patients still feel anxiety whenever they must sit in the dentist’s chair, even for relatively minor dental work.

If you’ve ever had trouble remaining calm for dental appointments, or grown anxious at the prospect of major procedures such as dental implants, sedation dentistry can help you feel at ease.

 

Definition of Sedation Dentistry

Sedation dentistry involves the use of sedative medications to relax dental patients and help them remain calm while undergoing everything from routine examinations and cleanings to extensive oral surgery work. The patient typically receives such medications alongside any necessary local anesthesia to ensure both relaxation and comfort. (The use of general anesthesia makes other forms of dental sedation unnecessary.)

 

Benefits of Sedation Dentistry

Sedation dentistry can benefit patients in a variety of scenarios. For example, children often have irrational fears of the dentist, especially if they have little to no experience in the dentist’s chair or have had a painful dental experience in the past. For this reason, sedation often plays an important role in pediatric dental care.

Patients of any age can experience dental anxiety. An underlying general sense of anxiety — or “whitecoat syndrome” that comes into play specifically in medical settings — sometimes feeds such fear. Individuals with unusually low pain thresholds or sensitive teeth may have good reason to worry about what they’ll experience during their dental procedure. Other patients may simply dislike the tedium of lengthy dental procedures and find it difficult to sit in the chair for long periods.

Sedation dentistry can prove invaluable for these patients. Although the strength and effects of sedatives used may vary, the patient ultimately feels tranquil and at ease throughout the procedure in question. By alleviating their anxiety, sedation dentistry also encourages patients to schedule dental exams and procedures as needed instead of delaying proper care.

 

Common Types of Dental Sedation

Dental sedation usually takes one of four primary forms. Depending on your anxiety level and/or the scale of your dental procedure, you may receive:

  • Nitrous oxide sedation: This light form of sedation uses an inhaled gas commonly referred to as “laughing gas.” Recipients breathe a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen through a face mask. The dentist adjusts the mixture as needed, with the effects wearing off relatively quickly after the procedure.
  • Oral sedation: When most people think of sedation dentistry, they envision this technique. You’ll receive an oral tranquilizer such as Valium or Halcion before your scheduled procedure, resulting in extreme grogginess.
  • IV sedation: IV sedation has the same general effect as oral sedation, but as a constant infusion through a vein rather than a pre-set dosage. This method permits the dentist to adjust the sedation level throughout the procedure.
  • General anesthesia: General anesthesia, also referred to as deep sedation, involves the use of intravenous drugs that render you completely or almost completely unconscious through your procedure. Extensive oral surgery may call for this type of sedation.

 

What to Expect from Sedation Dentistry

Your experience under dental sedation will vary according to the sedatives used. True to its nickname, laughing gas may make you feel giddy or giggly, although this effect fades as soon as the dentist introduces more oxygen into the mixture. Heavier drugs may induce an effect known as twilight sedation. In this state, you may feel almost asleep but can still respond to your dentist’s questions and instruction. If you receive general anesthetic, you probably won’t feel or even remember anything about the procedure at all.

 

Routine Cautions Regarding Dental Sedation

Skilled professionals trained in sedation dentistry can use sedatives safely and effectively. However, sedative and anesthetic drugs come with certain risks that call for vigilance and care in their use. Underlying health conditions can complicate the use of dental sedation. For this reason, it is important that your medical history form is filled out completely and accurately, including listing of all medications and supplements you currently take.

For all forms of sedation, you will be advised it you need to have an escort with you to drive you home post-procedure as while you may be awake, you’ll likely feel some residual drowsiness that might impair your driving skills. Remember to make these plans before your appointment.

 

Sedation Dentistry Costs and Insurance

The cost of your sedation dentistry will depend on factors such as the type of sedation you received and how much of it you require. (The amount of sedation required can vary according to your physical size and age.) Most standard dental insurance plans won’t cover sedation because insurers don’t regard it as a medically essential treatment. You might receive coverage if your procedure involves multiple appointments, or if the use of sedation helps to reduce the overall procedure cost. Otherwise, plan to pay for this form of care either out of pocket or with the aid of a supplemental dental payment plan or account.

Oral Surgery DC can answer all your questions about sedation dentistry and provide this form of care if you need it. Contact our office to learn more.

 

Image Credits: Photo by Caroline LM on Unsplash.

Five Steps You Can Take to Prepare Successfully for Your Oral Surgery Procedure

Dental care is an important component of positive health.

Although the bulk of dental procedures are diagnostic and preventative, approximately 10% are restorative (≈ 7%) and surgical (≈ 3%), according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. A 2007 study reported that five million Americans get their wisdom teeth removed each year, not to mention procedures such as dental implants and bone grafting. Each procedure offers its own unique benefits — especially when you follow all preoperative and postoperative instructions.

If you require oral surgery, you can take steps to ensure the most optimal outcome. The key is to take proactive action so that your recovery is as straightforward as possible. Surgery preparation will reduce your risk of complications, increasing the rate of recovery. These five steps may help you as you approach your upcoming oral surgery.

 

Step One: Start with a Consult Appointment

A consult appointment is a chance to our surgeon who examine your mouth and x-rays and go over your medical history to reach a diagnosis and offer a proposed treatment plan with the dental codes. You will also be advised to other treatment approaches that would meet an accepted standard of care.

Depending on procedure, it is sometimes possible to combine the consult appointment with treatment at the same time, such as for a single tooth extraction, however for complicated cases it helps to have a time-out between consult and procedure to ensure everyone understands the case and is comfortable with the approach.

Tip 1: Discuss any aspects of the surgery that give you anxiety. This will allow you to talk through your concerns so that you are much more comfortable on the day of your surgery. It’s also important to discuss any medications you are taking. The more your dental surgeon knows, the better for avoiding complications, such as drug interactions.

Tip 2: Many people are anxious about the cost of surgery and have a difficult time figuring out how much they will owe. If you have dental insurance, the treatment plan will provide dental codes for your care. You can call your insurance plan and check on coverage for each code. Our office will usually request a pre-authorization from your insurance plan, which will detail what is covered and your estimated co-pay will be. There is no charge for this service.

 

Step Two: Organize Postoperative Needs

Before your surgery date, ask a friend or family member to accompany you. After your surgery is complete, you will need a drive home. Regardless of the complexity of your surgery, even local anesthesia can impair your reflexes. If you opt for a ride service, make sure you do not order a car until you are told it is safe for you to leave.

Meal prep is also important. Be sure to follow a diet that will support you through your recovery, stocking up on soft, nutrient-dense foods. For example, cool or room-temperature liquids and soft solids may be best for the first day or two. Smoothies, applesauce, and yogurt are all ideal. You may then transition to warmer foods, such as broths, soups, and mashed potatoes. Prep any meals the day before you go into surgery so that you do not need to cook.

Tip: If you are undergoing a more complex operation, it’s important to plan ahead. If you live alone, ask someone to stay with you or at least check in. If you have children, arrange for child care. When you are preparing your meal plan, consider the addition of a vitamin C supplement. A 2018 study, published in Clinical Implant Dentistry and Related Research, reported that vitamin C supplementation helps improve postoperative healing following dental surgery.

 

Step Three: Know the “Rules” for a Successful Recovery

There will be preoperative guidelines associated with your oral surgery. It is very important that you follow them. Again, it’s important to prepare yourself for any alterations to your routine, particularly in terms of eating, drinking, and smoking habits. For example, most times you cannot eat or drink anything prior to your surgery (6-8 hours before). In other cases, when all you require is a local anesthetic, you may be able to have a light meal a couple of hours before you arrive. It is also very important that you do not smoke for at least 12 hours before surgery and a minimum of 24 hours after.

Tip: Work with your oral surgeon to create a post-op recovery plan that works for you. Besides a meal plan, discuss what you will need for icing, pain medication, oral hygiene, etc. What will help you heal and what might interfere with your recovery? Knowing the “do’s and don’ts” will allow you to make the right decisions within the first 24 hours, as well as within the days and weeks to come. For example, many people do not realize the potential dangers of using a straw to drink. The suction created in your mouth can loosen the clot that keeps your wound closed and delay healing.

 

Step Four: Dress Appropriately for Surgery

When you are heading into surgery, you will want to wear comfortable clothing — for obvious reasons. However, it’s also important that you wear a short-sleeved shirt to accommodate your IV drip. This will also be necessary for monitoring your vital signs and blood pressure. Do not wear any jewelry and, out of courtesy, avoid wearing any colognes or perfume.

Tip: Wear something to your surgery that is easy to remove when you get home. Have a change of loose-fitting clothing ready for when you arrive, opting for an outfit that is comfortable enough to sleep in.

 

Step Five: Sleep Well and Arrive Early

The night before, prepare for oral surgery just as you would any other surgery. That means getting a good night’s rest. This will help you feel your best and better prepare the morning of. It’s important to not feel rushed before your surgery. Unless your surgeon says otherwise, arrive at your appointment 15-20 minutes early. This will allow you to ask any last-minute questions or fill out any necessary paperwork.

Tip: If you’re anxious the day before your surgery, take steps to ensure the best sleep possible. Recommendations include not consuming caffeine or alcohol, avoiding blue light from electronics, taking a warm bath, journaling to express your thoughts, and creating an optimal sleep environment.

If you think you may need oral surgery or have questions about what a certain procedure entails, Oral Surgery DC is here for you. Contact us for more information.

 

Image credits: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.

When and Why Your Dentist Will Refer You to an Oral Surgeon

When it comes to the health of your mouth, it’s important to know which type of professional is best suited to handle the particular issues you are facing. Dentists focus on preventative care and also do cosmetic and restorative work like fillings, bridges, and even teeth whitening. On the other hand, oral surgeons are highly-trained specialists who concentrate on surgeries of the face and jaw. The two work together, and dentists will often refer patients to an oral surgeon if there is a problem that needs more advanced care.

In this article, we’ll explore a few of the most common reasons your dentist may refer you to the specialized care of an oral surgeon.

 

1. Removal of impacted teeth

Removing impacted wisdom teeth is a common procedure in most oral surgeons’ offices, but impaction can occur in other areas of the mouth as well. Impaction happens when a tooth doesn’t fully erupt from the gums. The most common causes of impaction are crowding or lack of space.

The third molars, often referred to as wisdom teeth, are the last to erupt and the easiest to become impacted. This can lead to adjacent tooth decay and gum disease, which is why dentists will often refer patients to an oral surgeon to take care of the problem.

 

2. Facial pain and jaw issues

Facial pain, popping sounds, and headaches are common symptoms of temporomandibular (TMJ) disorders. This joint connects the jaw to the skull. Research shows that about 5%-12% of the population suffers from it. Other jaw and joint disorders, either caused by accidents or present at birth, are common sources of oral surgeries.

Depending on the severity of the problem, there are different options for surgery — some ranging from minimally invasive (arthrocentesis) to full-on open joint surgery.

Because this is a focused area of the face, it’s important to have an oral surgeon evaluate and perform any procedures necessary. They have the advanced training and surgical knowledge to help alleviate pain and resolve jaw issues.

 

3. Dental implants

Dental implants are a surgical procedure that replaces the root with metal rods. Artificial teeth can also be added to aid in function and add a natural appearance. Because this is a surgery, it’s important to work with an oral surgeon in order to achieve the proper placement of the implants. Oral surgeons have experience dealing with the ins and outs of implant work and are also well versed to deal with any complications or issues that may arise.

Dental implant surgeries have increased in recent years because they are a solid alternative to dentures. Ill-fitting dentures can cause pain and various other dental issues, making implants a more desirable choice for many.

 

4. Snoring and Breathing Issues

Snoring is an uncomfortable and troubling sleep disorder that disrupts sleepers, or their partners. Snoring occurs when tissues in the throat relaxes enough and partially blocks the airway causing a vibrating sound, which can be soft or loud. Contrasted with sleep apnea, which is characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep and may or may not be accompanied by snoring sound. Both conditions are potentially dangerous.

While the first step to eliminate the problem often comes in the form of weight loss, patients may also need to use a CPAP machine at night to help them breathe more easily.

For many people, snoring and sleep apnea may sound the same, but the two are different and it is sometimes possible to eliminate the snoring, yet have the characteristic stopping-and-starting of breathing during sleep of the sleep apnea persist. For this reason, a sleep analysis is recommended first.

Oral Surgeons get involved in severe forms of snoring. Usually after sleep analysis, the oral surgeon assesses the patient’s breathing obstruction and then if needed, perform surgery. Traditional surgery involves removing excess tissue near the throat. However, advances in the field of oral surgery now allow for excess tissue reduction to be done in office with the use of a laser. With no cutting or recovery period involved, snoring sufferers now have a much easier path to good sleep and health.

 

5. Cosmetic or reconstructive surgeries

Oral surgeons also work on correcting jaw and facial issues due to accidents, deformities, or traumas from pathology removal. These surgeries can often involve the restructuring of bones, tissues, and nerves. Extensive training, clinical practice, and years of study are needed to perform these complex procedures.

Some examples of these surgeries include cancer treatment and the removal of tumors, cysts, and lesions, along with cleft lip and cleft palate surgery.

 

6. Bone grafts

In order to support dental implants, a healthy jaw bone is necessary. Because of this, many oral surgeons recommend bone grafting before a patient receives their implants. This ensures there will be enough healthy bone in the mouth to secure the implants. Many patients looking to get dental implants do not have strong enough gums, so bone grafts are needed.

Bone grafts require the transplant of tissue, either from the patient or a donor, to initiate growth where bone is absent or limited. The procedure is a common one in oral surgeons’ offices, and they are able to leverage proven techniques to help encourage bone growth.

In addition to the procedures performed above, oral surgeons are also knowledgeable about general anesthesia, as many extensive surgical procedures may be better performed while the patient is asleep. Prescribing medications is another big job of oral surgeons. Depending on the extent of the surgery, surgeons will determine the level of pain management needed to ease patient discomfort while keeping them safe.

While your dentist is generally looking out for the health of your mouth and trying to prevent tooth and gum disease, there are some situations where an oral surgeon is needed. If you’re looking to get more information about Oral Surgery DC and the types of procedures we perform or how we can assist you, contact us today.

 

Image credits: Photo on Freepik.

Impacted Teeth

Impacted Teeth: What You Need to Know for Successful Removal and Recovery

Impacted teeth are pretty common, and happen with a tooth that doesn’t grow out, or erupt, naturally continues growing under the gum instead. While the most common impacted teeth are wisdom teeth, other teeth can be blocked from erupting properly as well.

If you have an impacted tooth, your dentist will recommend that you see a specialist for removal or assisted eruption. You’ll need to consult an experienced oral surgeon to ensure the success of the procedure and full, quick recovery. Here are a few things you need to know about treating impacted teeth.

 

Impacted Teeth: How Common Are They?

Studies show that up to 35% of people experience an impacted tooth, with wisdom teeth being the most common by far. Usually, these teeth don’t fully emerge due to a lack of space in the jaw or because they grow in at the wrong angle. In many cases, impacted teeth don’t cause any symptoms for some time. Your dentist is likely to discover the problem during a routine x-ray.

Besides wisdom teeth, other teeth can be impacted as well. The second most common impacted teeth are maxillary (upper jaw) canines. About 2% of the population needs surgery to uncover these teeth.

 

Symptoms of Impacted Teeth: Can You Feel Them?

While many people don’t notice any symptoms for quite a while, once the impacted tooth starts causing problems, you could experience:

  • Swollen or red gums
  • Tender and bleeding gums
  • Bad breath
  • A bad taste in your mouth
  • Problems opening your mouth
  • Jaw pain when biting and chewing
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck

If the impacted tooth is erupting at an angle, it can also damage the nearby tooth, causing pain and inflammation.

An impacted wisdom tooth doesn’t affect your overall quality of life until it starts causing problems. Some people live with impacted wisdom teeth for decades without experiencing any discomfort.

If you have impacted or partially impacted maxillary canines, you may want to treat them to restore the aesthetic appeal of your mouth. Treating them requires a comprehensive approach by your dentist, oral surgeon, and orthodontist.

 

Impacted Wisdom Teeth Complications: Do You Need Treatment?

Besides physical discomfort, impacted and partially impacted wisdom teeth can cause a variety of problems if left untreated.

  • Pericoronitis — This is an inflammation of the gum tissue that surrounds the impacted tooth. Besides discomfort and a bad taste in your mouth, this condition can develop into more severe and painful symptoms.
  • Damage to nearby teeth — If an impacted wisdom tooth grows in at a wrong angle, it can push against the second molar. This could lead to damage or infection. Extensive pressure could also cause teeth crowding, which in turn would require orthodontic treatment.
  • Cysts — Wisdom teeth develop in a sac inside the jawbone. If a tooth doesn’t erupt, the sac can fill with fluid, which could result in a cyst. In rare cases, a benign tumor can develop. To deal with the problem, a surgeon may need to remove bone and tissue.
  • Caries — Partially impacted teeth are more likely to develop caries–or cavities–than fully erupted teeth. This is because tooth decay is more likely in areas of the mouth that are harder to clean.

All the above complications can be avoided with timely discovery and treatment of impacted teeth.

 

Treatments for Impacted Teeth

If your dentist discovers an impacted tooth during a routine x-ray, he or she will assess the severity and impact of the situation and either recommend waiting and monitoring the tooth, or seeing an oral surgeon whose treatments can include:

 

Surgical Removal

When an impacted wisdom tooth starts causing problems, you need to consult an oral surgeon. Surgical removal or extraction is a highly recommended solution for the problem of impacted wisdom teeth – for complicated extractions and for patient comfort, the procedure is usually done under general anesthesia – which means you can be asleep during the procedure.

Healing from an impacted tooth depends not only on the position of the tooth, but also on the age of the patient. As we age, our teeth ossify, or become, set into the jawbone, causing a longer healing time from an extraction procedure. Patients under the age of twenty-five usually heal more quickly from an extraction procedure as their teeth are not yet ossified. Keep in mind that everyone heals at a different pace, but typical healing times is 3-5 days of resting at home post-procedure. Pain management prescriptions may also be given depending on need and the patient’s medical profile.

 

Assisted Eruption

If it’s your maxillary canines that are impacted, the treatment usually requires a coordinated effort between your oral surgeon and orthodontist:

  • An oral surgeon cuts the gum to push it back and expose the impacted tooth. In some cases, the surgeon will also remove some of the bone surrounding the tooth’s crown.
  • An orthodontist attaches brackets and a chain to help move the tooth into its natural position.

The surgery is done under general or local anesthesia on an outpatient basis.

 

Working with an Experienced Oral Surgeon

If you think you have an impacted tooth, contact your dentist as soon as possible for a checkup and x-ray. Even if the tooth isn’t causing any discomfort, it needs regular monitoring.

If your dentist recommends surgical removal, you’ll need to consult an experienced oral surgeon. While common, both these procedures require extensive expertise in order to avoid complications and speed up the recovery process.
Contact us today for more information about surgical extraction or assisted eruption of impacted teeth.

Making the Most of Your Smile: Healthy Habits that Protect Your Teeth

The benefits of good dental hygiene may start with a gorgeous smile, but they extend to promoting your confidence and your physical health on many levels. Good oral health helps make you feel great not only physically, but it also assists in making you feel good about yourself when you have a fresh smile. If your teeth aren’t taken care of properly, this can lead to a number of irritations and infections, some of which could cause serious medical issues if left untreated. However, practicing basic dental hygiene can increase your overall wellbeing and make your smile stand out.

Making the most of your smile with healthy habits to protect your teeth only takes a few minutes a day. Here’s how you can make your smile the healthiest –and most noticeable– in the room.

 

Start with the basics

To make the most of any smile, using basic dental practices like brushing your teeth daily can help prevent plaque build-up, which leads to cavities and potential gum disease. Depending on what toothpaste you use and what your dentist recommends, daily brushing can also help whiten your smile so that it looks nice and clean.

Using mouthwash to gargle with can also help reduce and kill harmful bacteria that may be lurking in hard to reach spots. This is great for preventing tooth decay and can get between your teeth and under your tongue.

 

Water pik vs. flossing

If you’ve heard the long-running debate on whether a water pik is better than flossing, we’ve got the answers for you. The truth is that both options are great and provide you with similar benefits.

Both flossing and a water pik help remove plaque. However, water piks are especially beneficial for people who wear braces, and for those who have non-removable bridgework, implants, or crownwork. Compared to flossing, a water pik enables people with braces or this type of dental work to still clean away bacteria and other particles since string flossing may be a little more difficult to maneuver.

The downside is that water piks are a little less accurate than regular flossing. With a water pik, you may not be able to get rid of all the plaque that’s settling on and around your teeth, and it can be a little messy when you’re first trying to figure out how to aim and what specific pressure level to use.

Flossing is a beneficial practice to build a habit out of because it allows you to work on each tooth in full, helping you thoroughly clean away bacteria and plaque before it turns into tartar.

Both options are great for removing plaque, and rather than choosing one over the other, utilizing both can ensure a clean and healthy smile.

 

Should I brush multiple times a day?

It’s true that brushing your teeth at least twice a day can prevent plaque build-up and the settling of bacteria. Plaque only needs 48 hours to fully harden, so brushing roughly an hour after eating a good meal is recommended as it doesn’t give bacteria the time to grow.

While brushing, ensure you’re using a toothbrush that’s less than 3-4 months old. Once a brush begins to have frayed bristles, it’s less accurate on keeping bacteria from growing and can be more harmful than good. Forgetting to replace your toothbrush regularly increases the likelihood you will be leaving plaque or bacteria behind.

 

Am I brushing too hard?

Finding the perfect balance in pressure when brushing can feel frustrating. You don’t want to lightly brush and miss out on removing dangerous bacteria, but you also don’t want to brush so hard that you damage your gums or cause bleeding. It’s recommended that you gently press your brush against the base of your teeth and the edges of your gums. As you brush, you can move side to side, up and down, and in circular motions to ensure you’re touching all areas. This isn’t only good for removing particles but it also helps encourage the blood circulation in your gums and around your teeth.

 

Foods to avoid

As much as we all have our guilty pleasures with food, some can be a nightmare for our teeth if consumed too frequently. From alcohol to candy, soda, and more, different foods and beverages contain acids that are harmful to our oral health. While indulging from time to time in your favorite treat is completely fine, you may want to avoid these foods if you’re trying to improve your dental health or have an oral infection you’re trying to treat.

Number one on the list to avoid? Acidic foods to avoid in large quantities, like:

  • Sour candies – Many sour candies are filled with acids and are chewy. When you eat them this leaves behind build-up on your teeth that can be more difficult to remove, often allowing sugar to erode your enamel and encourage tooth decay.
  • Bread – Believe it or not, when you’re chewing, your saliva breaks down the starches in bread and turns it into sugars that can increase plaque levels.
  • Oranges, grapefruits, and citrus-based products – These items are often rich in Vitamin C but their acid content erodes enamel, which makes your teeth more susceptible to decay.

There are various other foods, treats, and beverages you can limit your consumption of in order to improve the health of your smile.

Have questions or need a little extra help with your smile? We’re here to provide expert support and care? Contact us today for more advice on what you can do to make the most of your smile and improve your oral health.

 

Image Credits: Photo by Racool_studio on Freepik

6 Ways Oral Surgeons Can Help Improve Your Quality of Life

When most people think about visiting the oral surgeon, it’s usually prompted by a pressing dental issue that needs to be addressed, such as wisdom teeth removal, or having dental reconstruction after an accident.

Although those are important and valid reasons to visit the oral surgeon, the reality is, oral surgeons also can help you improve your quality of life in a wide variety of situations, and maybe even a few you might not be aware of.

Tooth loss, for example, can affect your quality of life for normal oral function such as eating and drinking, and even extend to speaking and self-esteem. Through various approaches, an oral surgeon can quickly and effectively address many issues you may be experiencing and get you back to your normal life.

If you’re having problems with your mouth but have been held back from seeking solutions because of cost or fear, take a moment to consider the benefits of oral surgery.

Here’s a look at common procedures performed by an Oral Surgeon and how they can improve your overall quality of life:

 

Dental Implants

If you are missing a tooth or several teeth, dental implants not only improve the aesthetics of the mouth, but also restore functionality – improving overall quality of life.

A study by Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine found that osteoporotic women with dental implants compared to those who have missing teeth and use removable dentures, experienced a significantly higher quality of life in every aspect including occupational, emotional, and sexual health.

With dental implants, a medical-grade titanium post is inserted into the jaw replacing the missing tooth root. Over 3-6 months, the titanium osseointegrates with the bone, providing a solid foundation on which to attach an abutment and then the fabricated tooth, or crown. Not only do the implants look like natural teeth, but also with proper care, they can last a lifetime.

 

Sleep Apnea

Many who struggle with sleep apnea spend their nights attached to a sleep mask or hose to help ease the symptoms. However, through the use of laser technology, it is possible to decrease the excess tissue at the back of the mouth, keeping the airway clear while sleeping. The best part is that with the use of laser, there is no cutting or recovery period involved; the procedure is touchless and done in office, with each session lasting about 20-30 minutes. Most patients see improvement after 3-5 sessions.

If you’re experience severe symptoms of sleep apnea, it may be time to seek the help of an oral surgeon. They can help get rid of unnecessary tissue from the back of your throat, which often exacerbates sleep apnea symptoms.

After the removal, most patients find they are able to breathe more easily, and, as a result, sleep better.

 

Bone and Gum Grafting

Bone and gum grafting is sometimes necessary for people who have ignored missing teeth for a period of years.

This is because a missing tooth root can lead to a loss or melting away of the adjacent bone and tissue. Similar to how beach grass is often planted to abate beach erosion, tooth roots serve to anchor bone in the jaw.

If you already have a missing tooth and would like to have a dental implant placed, an oral surgeon will first determine if adequate bone is available to anchor the implant. Modern 3D scanning allows for precision bone measurement and a determination can quickly be made if a bone graft is needed before placement of the dental implant.

 

Reconstructive Surgery

Those who have suffered traumatic facial injuries from an accident or who have experienced losing several teeth may find it hard to complete everyday tasks such as speaking, eating, and drinking.

Reconstructive surgery, however, can help you replace damaged teeth, correct issues with your jaw, and address gum damage.

The starting point is a CT scan which will provide a 3D representation of the mouth and surrounding structures. Depending on the complexity of the case, your oral surgeon may recommend the procedure be undertaken in a hospital setting which provides a full range of anesthesia and surgical support options that maybe needed.

 

Biopsies

Sometimes, a routine visit to the dentist may find an unusual lesion, growth, or discoloration in the oral cavity, in which case you may be referred for a biopsy. Lesions are not always bad, however, a diagnosis cannot be made by visual inspection and x-ray imaging alone, so you may be referred to an oral surgeon for a biopsy.

A biopsy involves removing a small sample of the tissue from your mouth and sending it to a lab for analysis. Depending on the location of the lesion in the mouth, numbing medication maybe used for comfort. If access to the biopsy area is needed underneath the gum, a surgical procedure may be required, and this is sometimes done under sedation (put-to-sleep) for the procedure.

The lab is usually able to analyze the sample and issue results in 7-14 days, which provides a diagnosis for the issue, and the surgeon will then discuss treatment options. Starting treatment early leads to better prognosis and outcomes.

 

Jaw Surgeries

Jaw surgery can be necessary in a variety of circumstances: for an improperly aligned jaw, to correct issues with swallowing, or to minimize excessive breakdown of your teeth, to name a few.

An oral surgeon can assess your jaw and any symptoms you may be experiencing to let you know if surgery will correct it. By addressing the problem head on, you can ensure a lifetime of a happy, healthy mouth with restored tooth and jaw function.

 

In need of help?

If you find yourself experiencing any of the issues discussed above, or others related to oral health that aren’t listed here, contact us today. We’d love to set up a consultation to offer our expert advice for improving your health and quality of life.

 

Image credit: Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels