Posts for: July, 2015
Professional basketball player Lamar Odom is sometimes known as “the candyman” because of his notorious fondness for sweets. But when his sweet tooth finally caught up with him — in the form of a mouthful of decayed teeth — the six-foot-ten-inch, 230-pound hoops star admitted that he had been avoiding treatment… because he was afraid of going to the dentist!
It took two Kardashians (Khloe and Kim) and a painful toothache to finally persuade Odom to sit in the chair. Once he did, it was found that he needed a root canal, a wisdom tooth extraction, and several fillings. Yet the fretful forward sailed through the whole set of procedures in a single visit, and walked out with a big smile afterward. How did his dentists make that happen?
Put it down to the “magic” of sedation dentistry. With anxiety-relieving medications that can be delivered orally (in pill form or by gas) or intravenously (into the bloodstream), the techniques of sedation dentistry can help even the most fearful patients get the dental care they need. That’s good news for about 50 percent of the population, who admit they’re at least somewhat afraid of the dentist — and even better for the 15 percent who avoid dental care completely due to their fear.
Dentists have a number of ways to ease apprehensive patients through a dental visit. An oral anti-anxiety drug can be given in pill form about an hour beforehand. Nitrous oxide (sometimes called “laughing gas”), which is administered by a mask placed over the mouth or nose, may also be used to relieve anxiety. The calming effects of these medications help make any nervousness melt away — and in many circumstances, mild sedation is all that’s needed to ease the fear.
For lengthier or more complex procedures, intravenous (IV) sedation may be recommended. Unlike deeper (unconscious) sedation, IV sedation doesn’t cause “sleep.” Instead, it puts you in a comfortable semi-awake state, where you can still breathe on your own and respond to stimuli… but without feeling any anxiety. And when the procedure is over, you probably won’t have any memory of it at all.
IV sedation can be administered by dentists who are specially trained and equipped with the proper safety equipment. While sedation is being provided, you will be monitored at all times by a dedicated staff member; when it’s over, you will rest for a while as the medication quickly wears off. Then (as is the case with oral sedation), you’ll need another person to give you a ride home.
Does sedation dentistry really work? Lamar Odom thinks so. “I feel so much better,” he said when his 7-hour procedure was over. “I feel like I accomplished something.”
With their durability, versatility and life-likeness, there’s no doubt dental implants have revolutionized teeth replacement. If you’re considering dental implants, however, there are some issues that could impact how and when you receive implants, or if you should consider another type of restoration.
Cost. Dental implants are initially more expensive than other tooth restorations, especially for multiple tooth replacement. However, be sure you consider the projected cost over the long-term, not just installation costs. Because of their durability, implants can last decades with little maintenance cost. In the long run, you may actually pay more for dental care with other types of restorations.
Bone health. Dental implants depend on a certain amount of bone to properly situate them for the best crown placement. If you’ve experienced extensive bone loss, however, there may not be enough to support the implant. This can often be overcome with grafting — immediately after extraction, at the time of implantation or a few months before implantation — to encourage bone growth. In some cases, though, bone loss may be so extensive you may need to consider an alternative restoration.
Gum Health. While implants themselves are impervious to infection, they’re supported by gum and bone tissues that can be affected. Infected tissues around an implant could eventually detach and lead to implant failure. If you have periodontal (gum) disease, we must first bring it under control and render your gums infection-free before installing implants. It’s also important to maintain effective oral hygiene and regular dental cleanings and checkups for optimum implant health.
Complications from osteoporosis. People with osteoporosis — in which the bones lose bone density and are more prone to fracture — are often treated with drugs known as bisphosphonates. In less than 1% of cases of long-term use, a patient may develop osteonecrosis in which the bone in the jaw may lose its vitality and die. As with bone loss, this condition could make implant placement difficult or impractical. Most dentists recommend stopping treatment of bisphosphonates for about three months before implant surgery.
If you have any of these issues or other complications with your oral health, be sure to discuss those with us before considering dental implants. With proper planning and care, most of these difficulties can be overcome for a successful outcome.
If you would like more information on pre-existing conditions that may affect implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Osteoporosis & Dental Implants” and “Infections around Implants.”
Here's a startling fact: according to the National institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 92 percent of American adults between the ages of 20 and 64 have had some degree of dental decay. Left untreated, cavities can lead to painful abscesses and tooth loss. They can also mean a hit to the household budget, depending the extent of the restorative dentistry needed.
How can dental cavities be prevented? The answer to that question lies in the tested and reliable strategies that your experienced Woodbridge, VA dentist, Dr. Charles L. Sours, brings to his patients.
Dental Cleanings Keep Decay at Bay
In addition to basic home hygiene - twice daily brushing and once daily flossing - professional dental check-ups and cleanings help prevent tooth decay. Accumulation of bacteria-filled plaque and rock-hard tartar on tooth surfaces, and at and below the gum line, decays teeth. The sticky plaque, formed from the build-up of food and saliva on teeth, contains a destructive oral bacteria which secretes acids that eat away at tooth enamel.
While diligent brushing and flossing removes plaque and prevents cavities, it simply is not enough. A skilled dental hygienist can visualize areas of the mouth the patient misses when brushing. They scale the teeth - that is, manually scrape away accumulating plaque, tartar and the bacteria they harbor.
In addition, cleanings and check-ups afford both hygienist and dentist opportunities to thoroughly inspect all tooth surfaces for the signs of decay. Modern x-rays reveal decay at the root and bone level and uncover conditions that predispose an individual to decay, such as overcrowding, impacted wisdom teeth and other enamel-compromising issues. With regular cleanings and check-ups, the dentist catches decay early, so small problems can be more easily resolved before they develop into larger issues.
Other Benefits of Exams and Cleanings
After the hygienist cleans and polishes the teeth, Dr. Sours performs:
- a bite check to evaluate how the teeth are closing together
- a fast and pain-free visual check for oral cancer
- a check on restorations such as fillings, crowns and implants
- a visual inspection for decay
- gentle periodontal probing to assess gum health
For children, Dr. Sours may recommend dental sealants, a plastic coating applied to the deep grooves and crevices on the molars. These sealants, together with fluoride treatments as needed, assist home hygiene and professional cleanings in preventing cavities.
Charles L. Sours, Jr DDS and his team of caring professionals view hygienic cleanings and exams as the cornerstones of preventive dentistry. Simple and comfortable, these dental services help patients win the fight against dental decay.
When was your last dental cleaning and check-up? Call Dr. Sours' Woodbridge, VA office now for an appointment: (703) 491-2131.