When considering “smile makeover” options, it’s easy to focus on whitening, veneers or implants — techniques and materials focused mainly on the teeth and gums. But if you don’t also consider the bigger picture of how your upper and lower teeth come together to form your bite, these efforts may be a lot like picking out paint colors for a house with foundation problems.
That’s why orthodontics, the dental specialty concerned with the bite, could be a consideration in your smile makeover plan. Moving teeth into better positions not only improves your teeth’s function and health it could also help facilitate any cosmetic changes that follow.
The first step, of course, is to visit an orthodontist, a dentist with advanced training and experience in tooth alignment and function, for a comprehensive evaluation. Orthodontists are also knowledgeable in the growth and development of the bite, and so can develop a treatment approach that reflects the patient’s needs, whether a child or adult.
Treatments vary, depending on your particular needs. Fixed appliances like metal or clear braces that can’t be removed by the patient are the standard treatment for most malocclusions (bad bites). Clear aligners, removable trays that fit over the teeth with programmed incremental movements of the teeth, find the greatest application with adults. Orthodontists may also use specialized appliances, like temporary anchorage devices (TADs), which work to isolate teeth that need to be moved from those that don’t.
In comprehensive makeovers, orthodontists will work with a team of other dentists and specialists, including periodontists (specializing in the gums, bone and other supporting structures of the teeth) and oral surgeons. In these cases, orthodontic treatment may occur before or after other treatments with the overall goal of producing a beautiful, transformed smile.
If you would like more information on how orthodontics can transform your smile, 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 “The Magic of Orthodontics: The Original Smile Makeover.”
In real life he was a hard-charging basketball player through high school and college. In TV and the movies, he has gone head-to-head with serial killers, assorted bad guys… even mysterious paranormal forces. So would you believe that David Duchovny, who played Agent Fox Mulder in The X-Files and starred in countless other large and small-screen productions, lost his front teeth… in an elevator accident?
“I was running for the elevator at my high school when the door shut on my arm,” he explained. “The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the hospital. I had fainted, fallen on my face, and knocked out my two front teeth.” Looking at Duchovny now, you’d never know his front teeth weren’t natural. But that’s not “movie magic” — it’s the art and science of modern dentistry.
How do dentists go about replacing lost teeth with natural-looking prosthetics? Today, there are two widely used tooth replacement procedures: dental implants and bridgework. When a natural tooth can’t be saved — due to advanced decay, periodontal disease, or an accident like Duchovny’s — these methods offer good looking, fully functional replacements. So what’s the difference between the two? Essentially, it’s a matter of how the replacement teeth are supported.
With state-of-the-art dental implants, support for the replacement tooth (or teeth) comes from small titanium inserts, which are implanted directly into the bone of the jaw. In time these become fused with the bone itself, providing a solid anchorage. What’s more, they actually help prevent the bone loss that naturally occurs after tooth loss. The crowns — lifelike replacements for the visible part of the tooth — are securely attached to the implants via special connectors called abutments.
In traditional bridgework, the existing natural teeth on either side of a gap are used to support the replacement crowns that “bridge” the gap. Here’s how it works: A one-piece unit is custom-fabricated, consisting of prosthetic crowns to replace missing teeth, plus caps to cover the adjacent (abutment) teeth on each side. Those abutment teeth must be shaped so the caps can fit over them; this is done by carefully removing some of the outer tooth material. Then the whole bridge unit is securely cemented in place.
While both systems have been used successfully for decades, bridgework is now being gradually supplanted by implants. That’s because dental implants don’t have any negative impact on nearby healthy teeth, while bridgework requires that abutment teeth be shaped for crowns, and puts additional stresses on them. Dental implants also generally last far longer than bridges — the rest of your life, if given proper care. However, they are initially more expensive (though they may prove more economical in the long run), and not everyone is a candidate for the minor surgery they require.
Which method is best for you? Don’t try using paranormal powers to find out: Come in and talk to us. If you would like more information about tooth replacement, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Crowns & Bridgework,” and “Dental Implants.”