Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Intraoral Camera: See What Your Dentist Sees

I have heard people complain about the dentist in a way that makes a comparison to an auto mechanic: they can't see what is going on and they are afraid the dentist is just making up stuff to pad the bill.

Well, if your dentist has an intraoral camera, you can see just what is happening inside your mouth. The dentist can use it to show you problem areas in your mouth that you otherwise might not be able to see. The addition of this visual aid in the explanation of your diagnosis and treatment gives you added confidence in the dentist. You can also see before and after photos of the improvements in your mouth.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Your Dentist Can Treat TMD

Temporomandibular Disorder, or TMD, results from problems with the jaw and its surrounding muscles. TMD can have causes such as stress, injury, and grinding of the teeth (bruxism). Some of the symptoms of TMD (often also called TMJ) are unusual clicking or popping sounds when opening or closing the mouth, headaches, and ear pain when chewing.

A dentist can determine if you have TMD or not. If you do, the dentists can suggest treatment options. Some common treatments include stretching exercises, mouth protectors, or dental treatments that may fix an uneven bite.  

Your dentist can also give you tips about how to deal with your TMD issues in your daily life.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

All Our Dentists Are Thoroughly Screened

I read a news story today about a dentist in New York who was arrested for practicing dentistry without a license - in his kitchen. Granted, the practicing in the kitchen part probably should have been a red flag in this situation, but perhaps some people are desperate and don't know where to turn.

At 1-800-DENTIST, our dentists are thoroughly screened before we allow them to join. We routinely monitor the licenses of our dentists to make sure they stay in good standing. If you'd like to find a dentist who has been screened and approved - and who won't treat you in the kitchen - call us today.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Can Bacteria Slide Off Your Teeth?

The accumulation of bacteria on your teeth causes the formation of plaque, which leads to tooth decay. We've talked about how proper brushing and flossing can reduce the amount of cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth.

Researchers at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York have studied a new tooth-polishing technology that may allow teeth to be too "slippery" for bad bacteria to build up on teeth. This allows the bacteria to be removed more easily.  The study findings were published in the October issue of the Journal of Dental Research.

New technology or not, you should visit the dentist regularly. Ask about slippery teeth...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sensitivity to Cold

Where do you live?  Is it cold?  You only need to go outside or turn on The Weather Channel to see that snow and ice are visiting many of us. Does the cold bother your teeth?

Many people have tooth sensitivity to cold stimuli like breathing in cold air or drinking a cold beverage.  Tooth sensitivity can have a variety of causes, including brushing too hard, receding gums, or chipped or broken teeth. If you feel that zing, I'm sure you'll want to take action to try to prevent it from happening again.

There are things you can do to try to reduce your tooth sensitivity. You can use a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste for sensitive teeth. You can also use toothpaste or a mouth rinse that contains fluoride.

Of course, the best first step is to see the dentist to discuss your sensitivity issues (for your teeth, anyway).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why Is Dentistry So Expensive?

Many people are shocked by the cost of dentistry, especially if they need extensive work done. There are many reasons why it costs so much. First, dental school is expensive. The tuition alone for USC Dental School, for example, is $65,000 per year, and that's for three years. And before your first meal or your first book.

The dental office also requires much more equipment than the average medical office. X-ray machines, special chairs, a variety of handpieces, and then water, vacuum (for suction), electricity, computer cables and sometimes nitrous oxide all have to be set up for each room and each chair. The cabinetry is very involved, and then each dentist's office requires a lab and a sterilization area. And that's just a basic office. Many offices have a variety of new technologies to make your dental experience go better and faster and to improve the quality of the dentistry done.

But most of all, the goal of dentistry is to restore your mouth to its optimum level, which means straight, healthy teeth and gums. Dentists deal with a combination of both extremely soft tissue (gums) and the hardest bone in the body, tooth enamel. Imagine how challenging that is. And they need to be very precise in how they repair teeth, dealing in fractions of a millimeter, so that there will be no openings that allow the tooth to decay below the crown, for example.

Think of how much teeth have to endure. The jaw muscles are extremely powerful, and put tremendous pressure on the teeth from multiple angles. This means whatever a dentist does has to be stong and last a long time. There are few things in life that you could repair that would last twenty years or longer, but dentists do that kind of work every day.

Lastly, dentistry seems expensive because even if you have dental insurance, it doesn't really cover much most of the time. It's designed to cover basic care, and the insurance companies are very slow to add new treatments and procedures that they will cover, even if they are found to improve the patient's health. So many times the patient is the one making up the difference in cost in order to get the kind of dentistry that lasts.

And no matter what you'll be doing twenty years from now, I guarantee you'll be eating. And you'll no doubt want to do it with your own teeth. So if it seems expensive, think about the other things that you spend money on. Do they give you a twenty year value? Will you still be using them every day during those 20 years? So in the end, taking care of your teeth is an extremely good value. It may seem expensive, but for the use you get out of your teeth, and the lasting quality of good dentistry, it's probably more than worth the money. In, fact, I think it's one of the best investments you can make.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dental Health and General Surgery

Occasionally we get calls to 1-800-DENTIST from people who are looking for a dentist because they need to get some other type of surgery. Very often if you need a hip replacement, or heart surgery, or many other types of surgery, even cosmetic, the surgeon will not begin surgery if you have some sort of dental infection.

The reason for this is simple: the surgeon knows that your body is already fighting an infection, meaning your immune system is already somewhat compromised, and surgery always poses a further risk of infection and always makes a greater demand on your immune system. The doctor simply wants you to be as healthy as possible and reduce the risk of complications.

This is just one more example of the connection between your overall health and your dental health.  It's unfortunate that health care creates a disconnect between your mouth and your body, and doesn't cover your teeth, but that's the reality. 

Too many people discover too late that the source of many of their health problems is what's going on with their teeth--they have gum disease, or an abscess, and this is affecting their health in ways they don't recognize.  What more proof would you need than a surgeon unwilling to operate on you?

Don't let it get this far, or anywhere near this.  Find a dentist you love, see him or her regularly, and stay truly healthy.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Core Values That Drive Our Company

Many people think that 1-800-DENTIST is simply a listing service for dentists Actually, it is much more. For example, we put our dentists through a detailed screening process, and operate a live call center 24 hours a day.

But what is most unique about our company are the core values that guide the business. These core values were created by the employees, and they act as "rules of the road" for every aspect of our operation. There are twelve of them, and they are:

1. Make everyone feel safe, valued and important
2. Listen closely
3. Be remarkably helpful
4. Integrity trumps profits
5. Learn, teach, and embrace change
6. Be contagiously positive
7. Be unique, playful and memorable
8. Walk our talk
9. Be compassionate, openminded and grateful
10. Balance life and work, and be present in both
11. Do more with less
12. Have a positive impact on the world

These have become part of the lexicon of our business, and they also affect people's personal lives. An employee told me today that she used one of the core values to guide her in a situation the night before where two people were about to get in a fight in a bar. She said she decided to be "Contagiously Positive" and talked to the two men, showed them how positive she could be and that their dispute was silly, and they calmed down and ended up all having a drink together and enjoying the evening.

The bouncers in the club came up to her and asked her how she did it, and said, "I was just being contagiously positive. You should try it sometime. It works!" And they agreed. Nobody's teeth got knocked out, so we didn't generate any new business, but it can't always be about making money!

The Dentist Can Detect Oral Cancer Early

Here is a link to an article published in the Journal of Prosthodontics.  A prosthodontist is a dental specialist who focuses on replacing missing teeth and restoring damaged teeth.

The article mentions that your dentist is trained to do oral cancer screening. Those over 40 who use tobacco and drink alcohol are at the highest risk for developing oral cancer.

Read more about it here.    Find a great dentist here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Children and Dentistry

I learned recently that the number one reason a child is brought to the emergency room is for a dental problem.  What's worse, many times that child has never been to a dentist.  It is critical to a child's overall health to see a dentist starting as early as three years old, or younger.

Many people believe that since the first set of teeth will fall out anyway, there is no reason to see a dentist.  This is absolutely not true.  If a child's baby teeth are not healthy, then the second set of teeth will not come in properly and problems with enamel density and other issues will plague the child for the rest of his life.

The state of California now mandates that all children must see a dentist before entering the first grade.  I hope all states adopt this law, but more importantly I hope parents start taking their children at a younger age.  Imagine being a child with a toothache in school, trying to learn.  I can barely tie my shoes when I have tooth pain.

Keeping kids healthy means keeping their mouth and their teeth healthy.  Find a dentist that makes your child feel comfortable, so that they can begin a life of proper dental care.  Like most things, starting early is the key.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Focus on Your Teeth

Our call center is open 24 hours a day to help you find a dentist. As you can imagine, we have heard it all. Today, one of our callers said she wanted her tooth distracted. So we sent her a blinking toothbrush. I hope that did the trick. If you don't want your teeth to be distracted, extracted, redacted or compacted, contact us today to find a great dentist. 

Monday, December 8, 2008

My Ultrasonic Teeth Cleaning

I had my teeth cleaned last Saturday (after six months, which is too long for me) and the hygienist used an ultrasonic cleaning device, or scaler, to clean the plaque. It vibrates quite a bit and makes you think she's using a drill until you see it and realize it's just a vibrating piece of metal.

Anyway, my teeth feel incredibly clean now. She also gave me a fluoride rinse that I have to use every day for a month to strengthen my teeth so they won't be as sensitive to the cleaning. She told me that I should get my teeth cleaned every three months, and I believe her. She says bacteria start to do lots of nasty things once they've had three months to accumulate.

Also, my gums are receding. She thinks I brush too hard. But I use a Sonicare (ultrasonic being the theme here) and I think I just have recessionary gums. Especially in this economy. But the bacteria thing is true. Bacteria multiply exponentially, that is, they are doubling and doubling and doubling. Kind of like that math fact that if you took a penny and doubled it every day for a month you'd have over 5 million dollars (try it!)

In other words, if you don't get your teeth cleaned for a year instead of six months, you don't have twice as much bacteria accumulating, you have ten times or more. (Brushing keeps it from doubling every day, but it still accumulates.)

So that's it for me. Every three months from now on. It also goes a lot easier because she doesn't have to chisel hard plaque out. I'm ready for that. She also did a special test where she takes a sample of the bacteria around my gums and sends it to a lab to determine if I have harmful bacteria that could harm my heart, among other things. More about that in a later blog.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Speech Problems with Braces and Dentures

Many people who get dentures, braces such as Invisalign, and even veneers find that it affects their speech patterns, making them lisp or have trouble pronouncing words. Essentially what's happened is the inside architecture of their mouth has changed, and the tongue had completely adapted to the old architecture, and needs time to readapt.

If you experience a problem like this, and most people will with dentures, braces or a retainer, then here is a site that has a bunch of great tongue twisters that will retrain your tongue in a matter of a week or two. Pick ten or twenty of them and do them three times each, twice a day. You'll find yourself laughing and struggling at first, but these are used by actors all the time to refine their diction.

They are very clever, like "Six thick thistle sticks, six thick thistles stick," and even short, like "Unique New York." (Try that three times in a row!)  Click here for the site.

If you're hesitating on getting dentures or braces because you're worried about how it will affect your speech, my advice is find a dentist that you love and trust. That way you'll make sure you have the best fit, and I guarantee you'll be glad you made the changes in the long run.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Get Straighter Teeth in Less Time

Have you always wanted a straighter smile?  Did you not get braces because you didn't have the money or the time? Well, now you can get a break on the time aspect with an innovative technology called "speed braces."

Also referred to as "rapid orthodontics," speed braces can dramatically reduce the time needed to straighten your teeth. Conventional braces can take from 12 - 20 months of treatment. If your dentist determines you are a candidate, speed braces can do the job in just 6-9 months. 

You have many options to fix crooked teeth to get the smile you've always wanted. Studies show that this can give you more confidence and can actually improve your health. See your dentist to find out which option will work for you.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Stem Cells in Baby Teeth

Stem cell research is a hot button these days. What are we willing to do to possibly cure diseases and save lives? This question has spawned much debate and argument.

Parents who want to prepare for the long-term possibilities have some options. There are companies that will store a baby's umbilical cord blood in case it is needed later in life for stem cells to battle a life-threatening illness.

Now, there are also companies that will store your child's baby teeth for possible future stem-cell use (with treatments that have yet to be developed).   In both cases there are initial fees and then continuing storage fees. 

I thought this might be an interesting fact for parents to know.  The next time you are there, ask if your dentist has heard of it. If you don't have a dentist yet, well, you know...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Dentist Can Help You Get a Good Night's Sleep

Regardless of whether you are the one doing it or the one being kept awake by it, snoring is no fun. It can also be bad for your health. Snoring can cause your blood pressure to rise and it may increase the risk of a stroke.

Did you know that your dentist can help with the snoring problem? Using an appliance such as Silent Nite, the dentist can help to decrease the vibrations that cause snoring. This is another one of the many ways that seeing the dentist regularly can increase your quality of life.

So, see your dentist and be on the way to a better night's rest. If someone's snoring is keeping you awake as you read this, remember, we can help you find a great dentist 24 hours a day.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Brushing Issues? Try Tooth Tissues

We all know the importance of proper tooth brushing between visits to the dentist. I have also written previously about the importance of dental care for babies and about the dental benefits of xylitol.

Many parents will tell you that it is a challenge to brush a baby's teeth.  There are struggles with the toothbrush, concerns about when to start using toothpaste and, also, which trick to use to try to make brushing a successful experience. 

I recently found out about a product designed to help with dental hygiene when brushing is an issue (or before the baby even has any teeth).  They are called Tooth Tissues. They were developed by two dentists who are also parents. The tissues contain xylitol and they are free of fluoride and sugar. They are also good to help adults get a clean mouth when brushing is a challenge.

Of course, any oral hygiene product should be used in addition to your regular visits to the dentist. You didn't think I'd forget that part, did you?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lemons Can Hurt Your Teeth

Cold lemonade on a hot day...  Lemon in hot tea on a cold day... They may both sound good to you, but your teeth may not agree. Lemons and lemon juice have a very high acid content which can irritate your gums and wear away the enamel on your teeth, leading to dental erosion

You can enjoy your lemons and still take care of your teeth. Some tips include: drink acidic beverages with a straw, to minimize their contact with your teeth and drink water after you eat to help to wash away the acid.

Another thing to do, which may seem counterintuitive, is to wait an hour or so after eating or drinking acidic food before you brush your teeth. Abrasive materials contained in some toothpastes may damage your enamel, which gets weakened by the acid.

Of course, your dentist can check for signs of dental erosion.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dentistry is a Good Investment

We all know what's happening with the economy.  Money is tight all over. The stock market is like a roller coaster. The holiday season is approaching and your disposable income is shrinking. As you think about opening those new accounts to finance a new TV or sofa, think about the gift that keeps on giving: dentistry.

In addition to accepting cash, insurance and the credit cards you already have, many dentists offer financing, both internally and through outside companies such as CareCredit or Capital One. Perhaps it is time to get that dental work you've been putting off. Maybe 'tis the season for your dream smile.

In addition to improving your appearance, taking care of your teeth can have far-reaching health benefits. It can help prevent gum disease and heart problems, to name just two.  Can a new TV do that for you?  

Friday, November 21, 2008

Dental Avoidance--an Amazing Talent!

One of my operators told me today about a patient who called and said they were in pain. He asked how bad the pain was, and the caller said, "On a scale of 1 to 10, it's a 25." "Oh," he said, "then you probably want to get in to see a dentist right away." "No," she said, "I could wait until tomorrow."

Remarkable how much people are willing to go through to avoid seeing a dentist, as if putting it off helps. She was just finding a dentist in case the pain reached a 50, I guess. (On a scale of 1 to 10, of course.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dentures--an Unfortunate Choice

I visited my 92-year-old aunt this summer, and brought with me some sweet corn that had been picked that morning.  If you have never tasted a fresh ear of Rhode Island native sweet corn, there is no describing it.

I thoughtlessly forgot that my aunt wore dentures (probably for 30 years) and could not eat the corn for lunch, at least not off the cob.  My wife, who is capable of eating 8 ears of this corn in one sitting, was more than willing to relieve my aunt of her serving.

Dentures can be a real limitation, and now that there are dental implants I hope that more and more people will learn about them and realize what a good investment they are.  But if you can't afford them, at least get dentures that fit really well.  

Eating is one of the pleasures of life, and there's no reason not to enjoy it your entire life.  Taking care of your teeth to avoid losing them is obviously the best approach.  That means finding a dentist that you love and will see regularly.

My aunt, she grabbed the corn back from my wife and sliced it off the cob and ate it.  She's old, but she's not crazy!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Out of Control Tartar

With all the toothpastes out there claiming to do everything from whitening your teeth to making them harder, we're starting to hear the word "tartar", as in "tartar control", thrown around more. So what exactly is it?

Tartar, or dental calculus (no, not math problems for your teeth) is a hard material that develops between your teeth over time when you don't get your teeth professionally cleaned often enough, and sometimes even when you do. It accumulates faster if you don't brush your teeth regularly or floss.

Basically what it's doing is filling in the areas around and between your teeth. But it's not acting as a protective shield--it's more like the opposite. It's formed by an invisible layer of bacteria on your teeth called plaque, and it develops into a whitish, hard material that has fed on the sugars and starches you've eaten (and not brushed away.) And what it does is create acidic waste that will slowly travel down between your teeth and gums and separate them.

I was talking to a dentist recently who had a patient with so much plaque that as the dentist started to remove it the patient thought the dentist was breaking his teeth apart and got very upset!

A quick test: run your tongue along the back of your lower front teeth. Can you feel the separation between the teeth, or is it smooth from one end to the other? If it's smooth, you probably have filled in the spaces with tartar. Time to see a dentist quick!

While getting a dental cleaning with a lot of tartar can be a bit unpleasant, this just means you should improve your dental hygiene and see the dental hygienist more often. Waiting won't make it better, that's for sure.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Saving a Lost Tooth

I was just listening to one of my operators talk to a caller who had a tooth knocked out, and I reminded him that many times a tooth can be saved when it has been completely knocked out and is still intact. If the tooth is broken off from the part below the gum, it's no longer possible to save it, but if you can see that it is the whole tooth, you have a chance.

The most important thing to remember is to get to a dentist with the tooth right away, and to wrap it in a small cloth soaked with milk. This will preserve the tooth and keep it from dehydrating, and often a dentist can put the tooth back in place and the root will take hold.

So if you knock out a tooth somehow, make sure you find it, and get to your dentist (or one of ours) immediately.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tobacco May Steal Your Teeth

By now we should all be aware of the risks associated with smoking and tobacco: lung disease, heart disease, low birth weight, etc.  One thing you might not know about is that tobacco can cause oral health issues like gum disease (periodontitis) as well. This can ultimately lead to tooth loss. This can be true whether you smoke, use smokeless tobacco or even have exposure to secondhand smoke.

Besides having facial wrinkles and horrible breath, it has been shown that smokers lose more teeth than non-smokers. In addition to the cosmetic effects , tooth loss can lead to a host of other problems. 

The next time you think about putting tobacco to your lips, imagine yourself with no teeth to greet it. Give your teeth a fighting chance. See your dentist regularly.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gift Certificates for Smiles

A nice holiday gift for someone might be an in-office whitening at your dentist. Zoom and other in-office systems tend to work much better than the over-the-counter items, and you should always have your teeth examined before whitening just to make sure that they will whiten evenly and you don't have some other issue that should be dealt with first.

Almost any dentist would create a gift certificate for you, if they don't already have them, and certainly any 1-800-DENTIST member would do it, so they could go to a dentist near them.

A quick word about gift certificates. One of the worst ripoffs, in my mind, in the gift certificate business is the American Express gift cards that you buy in the supermarket and other places. First, you pay a premium on them, second, they expire, (which they shouldn't even be allowed to do--it's money!) and third, they charge a service fee every month of approximately 2%!!! So if you bought a $100 gift card and the person you gave it to waited a year, it would only be worth $74. And shortly after that, it would be worth $0. Nice for Amex, bad for everyone else.

So my advice is, avoid them. Get gift certificates at places that you know will give you the true dollar value that you paid for.

Give somebody a white (Christmas) smile. They'll think of you every time someone compliments them.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Only Floss the Teeth You Want to Keep

Brushing your teeth is good, but it won't necessarily remove food and plaque from between your teeth. Flossing your teeth will get this done. Floss can reach where your toothbrush can't. It is available in many varieties: waxed or unwaxed, thin or wide and flavored or unflavored.

As good as it is for you, it must be done carefully and gently.  Improper flossing can hurt your gums.  Ask your dentist to show you the proper way to floss.

It isn't a stretch to say that, in addition to saving your teeth, flossing can actually help save your life.  Reducing bacteria in your mouth means reducing the chances of bacteria getting to your heart and to the rest of your body. There are studies that show a link between periodontal disease and coronary artery disease.

Speaking of flavored dental floss, I thought I'd leave you with this. It is for those of you who want to remove the bacon from between your teeth without losing the flavor. It's not an endorsement, but I do support whatever gets you to floss.... 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Long in the Tooth"

If you've ever heard that expression and wondered what the heck it meant, it refers to the fact that as we get older, our gums recede. This makes more of the tooth show, and therefore look longer. It means someone is old, in other words.

Getting long in the tooth isn't just an appearance issue. It means the lower part of the tooth that should be below the gumline is exposed. This is bad for a couple of reasons: first, the part of the tooth below the gums is not as dense, with much thinner enamel than the upper part of the tooth, so it decays a lot more easily; and second, it is more sensitive, to cold, heat, or even touch.

Seeing a dentist can keep you from getting long in the tooth for a long time. Have I mentioned this fact before?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Quadrant Dentistry--the Best Way to the Best Bite

I've just returned from a seminar where one of the leading experts on CEREC, which is dental technology that allows a dentist to do crowns in a single appointment, was touting the advantages of what is referred to as "quadrant dentistry."

What this refers to is having your teeth repaired in sections rather than one at a time. A quadrant is one quarter of your teeth--think upper left, upper right, lower left, etc.--and working on all the teeth together provides a much more stable and longlasting restoration of your teeth.

Think of it this way. Your back molar has a huge metal filling in it that was put in when you were 17. The tooth in front of it has had a couple of cavities, and though the dentist used composite fillings, they are really only good for 5-8 years on average, and then they can start to decay on the sides and underneath. And now the tooth in front of that one has a new cavity.

Ideally, what your dentist should do is remove the fillings in the other two teeth at the same time as he or she is treating the cavity in the third tooth. This is better for two reasons: first, the older the fillings are, the more likely there is decay underneath, which can lead to infection and possibly needing a root canal; second, when you fix all the teeth in a row at the same time, they will all fit together better, and they will align better with the teeth above (or below) them.

When I was 35, I had a dentist go quadrant by quadrant through my mouth, removing old fillings and replacing them with new porcelain inlays and crowns (I had a lot of decay when I was younger). Because I did this, I have never had a root canal, and I don't expect I ever will. (I'm very regular in my checkups!) Were I to do it now, it would get done a lot faster if the dentist had a CEREC machine.

Many dentists are reluctant to suggest quadrant dentistry because their patients might think they are just out to make more money by doing unnecessary work. But the ones that believe in it and tell you about it are helping you to keep your teeth for a long, long time. Consider it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

DDS vs DMD -- Which Degree is Better?

I have gotten questions from potential patients regarding the distinction between a DDS and a DMD.  They want to know which one they should see.  Which is better?

Some schools confer a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) degree and others choose to award a DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) degree instead.  The training the dentist gets is typically similar, but the name of the degree granted is different.

DDS was the typical degree for a dentist until Harvard University added a dental school in 1867. The degrees granted by Harvard are in Latin. The Latin translation of DDS would have been CDD. They made the degree Dentariae Medicinae Doctor, or DMD.

So, it comes down to where the dentist attended dental school.  It is not a distinction based on the quality of the degree.  Regardless of the name of the degree, you should visit your dentist regularly.  If you don't have a dentist, find one today.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dental Care for Babies - Don't Neglect It

We've talked about dental implants, veneers and various other ways to enhance the adult smile. Let's not forget the other end of the spectrum: sound oral hygiene should start when we are babies. Ignorance about this fact can explain why, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common chronic disease among children aged 5 to 17 is tooth decay. 

Dentists suggest gently brushing baby's gums even before teeth erupt. Use a soft cloth or gauze after each meal. This gets the child used to it so he will be accustomed to brushing when that first tooth finally makes an appearance. Flossing should begin as soon as teeth erupt next to each other. Your child should be encouraged to brush and floss on her own as soon as she is able.

Children's teeth should also be brushed after they are given medicine, due to the high acid content contained in many medicines for children. I've heard people refer to "baby teeth" as being less important than the "permanent teeth" that ultimately replace them.  Healthy teeth are important to a child's complete health and development.  Dental sealants and fluoride can also help.

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Taking care of your teeth from the very beginning can prevent the need for those implants in adulthood.  Go to the dentist.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Lumineers® Instead of Veneers

The latest and perhaps greatest thing that has happened in dentistry lately are Lumineers, or "no-prep veneers". This is dentist shorthand for describing cosmetic porcelain shells that can be attached to your teeth without any preparation, i.e., any drilling, shots or loss of tooth tissue.

These no-prep veneers essentially add a very thin layer of porcelain to the tooth. They are very strong and they can significantly change the shape and color of your smile. Many people who wouldn't consider veneers because of the drilling, shots, and discomfort are trying Lumineers.

Lumineers can't be universally applied. You may have too much decay or discoloration, or your teeth may be twisted in a way that the veneer can't cover it. You might need some orthodontics, or you may need to have one or more teeth prepared, which is to say drilled, but the goal in dentistry is to hang onto as much natural tooth tissue as possible, and Lumineers allow you to do that.

Some patients find that Lumineers make them talk a little funny. This is because their teeth are, in essence, thicker. They usually adjust to this in a couple of weeks. They will also break more easily than cosmetic veneers, and if you are a bruxer (you grind your teeth) it's going to be tough to keep Lumineers attached. But most of the time they are fine.

Cost is still fairly significant, close to what regular cosmetic veneers would be, but they can be done without any discomfort. They can also be removed easily if you decide you don't like them, or if you need something that is stronger (because the no-prep veneer breaks,) leaving the original tooth is intact. Look at it like a starter kit for cosmetic veneers, and it may eliminate the need for them, or put it off by several years.

Redoing your smile can really change your life. It can help with your confidence, your self-esteem and generally make you feel better about yourself. That's a wonderful thing in my book.

The procedure is simple. The dentist takes an impression of your existing teeth, designs how your smile will look, and then sends all that off to the lab that makes Lumineers. The next visit, the dentist will spend a couple of hours putting them on (assuming you've had several teeth done), with virtually no discomfort on your part, and then you walk away with a beautiful smile that you can eat with right away. Amazing stuff.

While Lumineers is the most recognized brand, there are a couple of other competitors, Venus Smile and Vivaneers. They are both made by very old, reputable companies in the dental industry, so it's really a matter of what your dentist recommends. See a dentist and ask about no-prep veneers as an option if you're not happy with the way your smile looks. A dentist can design and show you exactly how your smile will look.

I'm probably going to get them myself pretty soon, and if I do, I'll go into a lot more detail about the procedure.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bruxism: the Daily Grind for 3 Million People

I just ready a report that over 3 million people in the U.S. suffer from bruxism. In layman's terms, that means grinding your teeth, usually while you sleep. This is usually caused by stress, nervousness, insomnia or other psychological issues, but the result is rough on the teeth.

First, you end up grinding the enamel off your teeth. You can also be causing minor fractures in your teeth, weakening them and allowing bacteria to pass all the way to the root of your tooth. But losing the enamel is bad enough. Enamel is hard, what's below it isn't, and it decays a lot faster.

People also get headaches that are the result of bruxing or grinding. You can imagine that clenching your teeth against each other for hours would make your jaw tired and pretty quickly make your head ache.

Some people try to compensate for the damage done by bruxing by getting cosmetic veneers on their teeth. Unfortunately, many times these will break or pop off because of the continued pressure from the bruxing.

The only solution is seeing a dentist and treating the bruxism with a well-fitted night guard that both protects the teeth and puts the jaw in the right position. Don't try to find some cheap thing that you get in a drug store. This mouth guard, or dental splint, should fit perfectly, and only a dentist can make those measurements and design something that works.

And then try to relax. Think about meditation, vacation, or at least taking a few deep breaths every day.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Candy: The Halloween Dental Scapegoat

Halloween candy. Those words go together like, well, like tooth and decay. Many parents see the kids' Halloween candy haul and start imagining numbers of cavities. Tis the season...  We also need to be mindful of ways to prevent cavities on all of the non-candy-holiday days of the year as well.  

Sugar gets most of the headlines, but many foods can cause tooth decay.  The bacteria in our mouths enjoy carbohydrates from "healthy" foods as well. How often we eat also plays a role. Constant snacking keeps our teeth in contact with food more often and allows plaque to thrive.
It is important to brush after every meal to keep the bacteria colonies at bay. The faster food particles are removed, the better your chances of avoiding decay. Oh, and visiting the dentist regularly can't hurt either.

Go ahead, live in the spirit of the day. Just don't forget sound oral hygiene for the other 364 as well.  Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Chewing Ice--Don't Do It!

One of my employees was chomping on ice today when she saw me and said, "I know, I'm not supposed to chew ice! But what's the big deal? Besides, it's crushed ice."

The big deal is that even with crushed ice you could be causing microfractures in your teeth. These are thin cracks that travel from the crown of your molar down to the root. This means that bacteria, and possibly infection, can now pass through your tough enamel and get all the way to the root and nerve of your tooth.

The result is you are susceptible to decay without it being obvious like a cavity. If you were to shine a light from behind your teeth, you would very likely be able to see some of these cracks.

As strong as enamel is, as the hardest bone in your body, your jaws are very powerful, and your teeth aren't for crushing ice, or opening bottles or really anything except eating regular food.

Don't risk needing a root canal down the road, or worse, losing a tooth. Talk to your dentist about this. Chew gum instead. But make sure it's gum with xylitol in it, not sugar or some other non-sugar sweetener. The xylitol is actually good for your teeth. And if you don't have a dentist, time to get one, especially if you're using your teeth as an ice crusher!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Into the Mouths of Babes

The story of Leta's trip to the dentist is a great illustration of a story I have heard time and time again:girl fears dentist, dentist meets girl, girl loses fear, girl loves dentist.  It's as old as the hills.

Our operators at 1-800-DENTIST hear from fearful patients on a daily basis. We match them with a great dentist, they lose their fear, they love the dentist. We're not quite as old as the hills, but we have been doing it since 1986.

Whether you are a fearful adult or you have a fearful child, a visit to the dentist shouldn't be a thing of dread. Something as simple as a free toothbrush can put your child on the road to great dental health and enjoyable trips to the dentist. Download a free toothbrushing chart to make brushing at home a fun event.

If you are a fearful parent, take a deep breath and go see the dentist.  Set a good example. There may just be a free toothbrush in your future.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Using Up Your Dental Insurance

Many people who have dental insurance (which is not at all like health insurance--but I'll get into that in another blog) have a limit that they can use each year, and then it resets, or runs out, to put it more accurately.  Often patients don't realize that if they don't use their limit in the current benefit year, they lose it. It's a little bit like vacation time at certain companies--it doesn't accumulate.  It's a "use it or lose it" scenario.

Most insurance plans have so many different elements to them, and most insurance companies have dozens if not hundreds of variations in their plans.  And it's very hard for dentists to keep up with how their patients are covered, and so it becomes the responsibility of the patient to keep track of their coverage.

Now is the time of year when you should be looking at your plan, and if you need some dentistry, get to your dentist before the end of the year and get it done.  While I disagree with the way dental plans control your treatment, if you have coverage you might as well take advantage of it, even if it's inadequate.

If you don't have a dentist and you have coverage at work, you're neglecting an important part of your health. While it's a bit bizarre that health insurance stops at your lips, not much is going to be done about that anytime soon.  Despite this, the health of your teeth and gums is directly tied to your overall health.  Don't wait until it hurts.  That's a sign you waited to long.

Use your insurance--it's there to keep you healthy.  Find a dentist who takes it and who is also someone you think you'll like going to.  If you love your dentist, I believe you'll go as often as you should.

Monday, October 27, 2008

How People Choose a Dentist

After a couple of decades in the dental referral business, I've found that there are five basic ways that people find a new dentist. They are:
1. Ask a friend, neighbor or coworker
2. Pick one randomly from an insurance provider list
3. Look in the yellow pages
4. Call from an ad on TV, in the newspaper, or from a mailer
5. Look online

While some of these are good and some are totally random and unreliable, here are the questions you should be asking yourself.

With asking someone you know, how do you really know how they evaluate the dentist? Have they been to several, and settled on this one? Or do they just like the hygienist? What do they really know about their dentist and his qualifications versus others in the area? Usually not much.

Picking from an insurance provider list is obviously like using a dartboard, where you end up choosing by the sound of a person's name (we all do it!)

Yellow pages is almost as bad. First of all, the ad runs for a year, without changes or corrections. The dentist could have lost his license one week into the release of the book. But mostly, this is just an upgraded dartboard. You may be able to tell some of the services they offer, but my experience is the bigger the ad, the worse the dentist--that's my personal opinion, your mileage may vary.

Calling from an ad or mailer is okay, but it doesn't give you any screening feedback on the dentist. It's still just an unfiltered message about the practice.

Going online may give you more information, and that's significantly better. If the dentist has a website then you can get a feel for the practice, and see what they have to offer for services. Unfortunately only 30% of dentists have a website, and most of them are not very comprehensive.

My business is different than these other methods for several reasons: first, we check the licenses of the dentists on an ongoing basis. Second, we make sure they have adequate malpractice insurance in case anything goes wrong. Third, we find out everything about the practice and put it in our database in a searchable way.

But most important is that we're sending people to our dentists, who are independent practices, by the way, and getting feedback on the experience of seeing them. If the experiences turn out to be negative, we drop the dentist. But some of the dentists we've been referring to for 20 years without a complaint, literally thousands of people sent to their office. But no one gets to stay a member if they don't meet our standards.

And they don't get to be members just because they pay. Our screening process is harder than any other dental organization. And certainly a lot harder than the dental societies. With them, it's pay your dues and you're a member. That's not us.

Choosing a dentist can be easy if you use the right resource. We try every day to be that resource, and get better and better at it. And if you didn't experience that with us, I want to know about it.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bleeding Gums--Not Normal!!

Proctor & Gamble recently did a survey on consumer thinking about their oral health and one of the statistics was that 33% of the people in the United States believe that a little gum bleeding as a result of brushing their teeth is normal.

It's not! It may be typical, as 50% of the population over 35 has some level of
gum disease, but it's not normal. If your hands bled a little bit after you washed them, would you think that was normal? Your gums should never bleed, not when you're brushing, not when you're flossing, or not when you're eating. Bleeding gums means that you have allowed some level of decay to occur in your mouth.

If there is infection around or below the gum line, gradually your gum is going to recede from the tooth, exposing the softer area below the tooth enamel. The result most often is you will end up needing a root canal, or possibly have to have the tooth extracted.

If you have a dentist, you should tell him or her that your teeth bleed when you brush or floss. Usually this means there will be much more bleeding when you get your teeth cleaned, so they can usually see the problem anyway. The hygienist is also going to check how much your gums are receding, and if there are any pockets of infection below the gum line. A dentist can fix this. But you should also be finding out the proper way to
brush your teeth--you may be brushing way too hard or with the wrong type of brush if there is bleeding.

If you don't have a
dentist and your gums bleed at any time for any reason, this is a clear indicator you need to see one quick before the problem gets any worse. Find a dentist that you like and then you will go as often as you should. Unless you think it's normal not to have all your teeth, then don't think it's normal to have gums occasionally bleed.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Gum Disease and Heart Disease

An employee told me today about his grandmother, who never took care of her teeth and had lost most of them, and because of the disease in her mouth and gums, she developed a heart aneurysm and died. This is one of the reasons he feels so committed to working here, convincing people to go to a dentist and helping them to find one. This is very personal for him.

What people are gradually learning is that gum disease can put bacteria into your bloodstream, and often this bacteria is the same bacteria that causes the buildup of arterial plaque. (Odd that it forms plaque in your mouth and your arteries--or maybe it isn't so odd.) It has now been shown to possibly cause a stroke.

It doesn't seem that neglecting your teeth could be fatal, but it is possible. The gums lead directly to the bloodstream--it's why heart patients put nitroglycerin under their tongue when they feel a heart attack coming on. The body absorbs it very quickly. The same is true when you don't control the bacteria in your mouth.

Crazy stuff, but true. Being afraid of the dentist is potentially life-threatening.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Invisalign-The Best Alternative to Braces Yet

Sometimes modern technology actually does make things better. What I've seen in the past few years is that the Invisalign system for orthodontics is a radical improvement in moving teeth. First of all, they are removable. Secondly, they are clear, not metal. Third, because they are smooth and not metal, they are not shredding your tongue and lips.

Adults who would never consider braces are using Invisalign to straighten their teeth, sometimes just a few skewed teeth who have wandered from the herd, but occasionally the full mouth. And the way Invisalign works is simple and brilliant.

First, an impression is taken of all your teeth. Then your dentist works with Invisalign advisors to design the proper movement of all your teeth, and then software plans the gradual movement of the teeth, and designs a series of retainers that are then made by the company and sent in batches to the dentist. Usually you wear a retainer for around two weeks and move on to the next one.

Very often Invisalign cases are finished in a year. This is also fairly appealing, but even if it were longer, then it wouldn't be as bad as metal braces. Not everyone is a candidate for Invisalign, though. The more extreme cases may require metal braces first, or some extractions, but they are getting better and better at the effectiveness of Invisalign all the time.

Also, it was not recommended for teenagers, because their mouths are still forming, but that has also improved. There are now many more younger people who can use Invisalign. The greatest challenge with Invisalign is that, because they are removable, people leave them out too long and slow their treatment down. Teenagers are the worst at this, as you can imagine.

Straight teeth are a good thing, not just because they look better but because, in the end, they are also healthier. Tight, crowded or crooked teeth are very often traps for food and decay, and also are at greater risk for gum disease. And it all gets worse from there.

Modern technology, it can be a beautiful thing!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Do Electric Toothbrushes Make a Difference?

People ask if these various types of electric toothbrushes are worth buying.  Let me first say that a dentist friend of mine, Dr. Shah, starts with every new patient by explaining how to brush their teeth. He estimates that 90% of people don't brush their teeth properly.

I use the Sonicare Pro Health toothbrush.  What I've seen is that there is a significant benefit to using an electric brush, and ideally a sonic one.  There is no way you can move your hand fast enough to replicate the action of these brushes, and people have found that they have much easier dental cleanings when they use them.  This was my experience when I switched to a sonic toothbrush.  And easier cleanings is reason enough.

There is an adjustment period with these brushes.  The first time you touch your tooth with the vibrating plastic rather than the bristles is a real eye-opener.  But you'll quickly learn to manipulate the brush properly and the result is a great, clean feeling.  They are also excellent for brushing your gums and tongue (which you should.)  You also need to wrap your lips around them in a very specific way, not the wide-mouthed approach that you can use with a regular toothbrush, otherwise you will have toothpaste spray all over the bathroom mirror.

My particular Sonicare has a special feature that disinfects the brush portion with an ultraviolet light (I'm a bit germ-phobic.)  I have tried various Oral B brushes, and am less impressed.  Their Triumph felt like a jackhammer.  And the Ultreo, the most expensive of all, designed by the former Sonicare inventors, is not as impressive as its price.  And I can't figure out what the rubber block in the middle of the bristles is for.  And three of them went defective on me in a row.

Don't forget to change the brush every three months or so.  If the bristles are starting to bend, it's time.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Healthy Teeth Equals Quality of Life

I was just reading one of my favorite blogs, from the author Daniel Pink, who wrote "A Whole New Mind," which is a very astute book about how design is essentially taking over every element of our lives, and the people who create those designs will "rule the world". His new premise is that "frugality will be the new ostentation." In other words, spending money wisely will now be more respected than bling.

My take on this is that healthy teeth is more than just a hygiene issue, it's a quality of life issue. If the average 30-year-old is going to live well past 100, as scientists tell us, then you are going to want to be eating. In fact, it may be one of your primary pleasures when you hit your next century.

Which means smoking isn't a good idea. Along with the thousand other things that it does to shorten your life, it increases the risk of cavities in your teeth. And don't leave missing teeth missing. Get a dental implant, or your teeth will spread out and you'll keep losing them, and eventually need dentures, or a lot more implants. It's cheaper to keep 'em, as they say.

Teeth are actually a great investment. Feeling better, looking better, eating better all add to the quality of your life. And the more you take care of them now, the less you'll spend on them in the future. The new frugality, remember?

That means finding a dentist you love and going to them. If you don't love them, you won't go as often as you should. And that is a cascading problem.

And if you follow Dan Pink's advice, find a dentist will a well-designed office. I agree with that too!

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Fearful Patient

I just talked one of my employees, who admitted to being an extremely fearful patient, and told her she had to get to the dentist. Angel kept insisting that she needed someone gentle, that everything hurts, and expressed the usual fears. I explained that she should go to this specific dentist, Dr. LaBounty, because I know how gentle both he and his hygienist are. I also told her she should ask for nitrous oxide for any treatment she has.

She told me she had a root canal a while ago but never put the crown on--that there was just a hole there--but it didn't hurt. I said, "Angel, you're not going to grow a new tooth. You're not a shark. That's not what happens in humans." She laughed. I think she realized that her procrastinating was only going to make things worse.

I stood there while she called and made an appointment. Her heart was actually racing. It reminded me how afraid many people are, and how important it is for dentists to realize this and make the extra effort to put their patients at ease, use the best comfort-conscious technology, and do their best to educate their patients. It made me even more resolved to make sure that the dentists that we recommend to people at 1-800-DENTIST are compassionate, caring, and use the latest technology.

Angel has an appointment on Monday. I'll bet she goes, and it changes her whole experience of the dentist.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Successful Smiles Blog: Let Your Kids Enjoy Their Halloween Candy

This is a well-known Boston dentist's take on eating candy.

The Successful Smiles Blog: Let Your Kids Enjoy Their Halloween Candy

Halloween--the dentists' holiday!

What an amazing holiday. We keep a giant bowl of candy in the house for about a week, and then distribute more candy in a night than anyone should eat in a year. The worst thing you can do for your teeth is eat candy all through the day, or worse, right before you go to bed. And not to sound like a mom, but you need to brush your teeth after you eat candy. Sort of ruins the taste, I know.

But here's the problem: the bacteria in your mouth love sugar. The devour it like a ten year old devours candy, and then the bacteria secrete acid which causes the teeth to decay, first as cavities, more typically in children, and then also as gum disease in adults.

So what do you do? Some simple rules:
1. Have specific times when you or your kids eat candy, and limit the quantity.
2. Brush soon after, or at least rinse with water.
3. Avoid the stickier, gummier candies. They adhere to the teeth and provide a much more sustained sugar supply to the plaque bacteria.
4. Don't let your kids have a "stash" of their new booty. If they see it, or know it's there, they'll eat a lot more of it. This goes for adults too. Probably even more.

A friend of mine gives out candy and toothbrushes at the same time on Halloween. Don't try just toothbrushes or you'll get a trick for sure!

If your kids have eaten a lot of candy around this holiday, make sure they see a dentist soon after. The best time to treat a cavity is early on, when it has done little damage to the enamel.
If they don't like to go to the dentist, find one with a better chairside manner. The right dentist can be the authority figure with your children (taking you out of that role for at least one thing!) and at the same time help your kids learn to appreciate good oral hygiene.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How to Choose a Dentist

I have one basic rule when it comes to finding a dentist, and that is if you love the dentist, then you'll go as often as you should, and that will help you save your teeth and give you the best smile. But to be more specific, here are some things to check out:

Is the staff friendly? If not, why bother going there? There are plenty of dentists, and many of them have great staffs.

Does the dentist offer a wide range of services? Dentistry has changed a lot in the past 20 years.
There are dentists who do Zoom whitening or some other in-office system.
There are dentists who have same-day restorations, which means you don't need to get a temporary. The machine they use is called a CEREC.
There are dentists with dental lasers, some using them for root canals and even cavities.
There are dentists who do same day dental implants.
There are dentists who do no-preparation veneers, like Lumineers or Vivaneers.
There are dentists who offer Invisalign, which are invisible braces.

Find the one that does what you want, and has what you would like. They should have technology that makes your experience more comfortable, and gives you the best, longest lasting results.

Does the dentist have a good chairside manner? Dental visits are seldom fun. But many dentists are very aware of that, and do their best to put patients at ease.

Is the office clean? Basic, but this is your mouth we're talking about, not your shoes.

Is the dentist well-trained? He or she should be getting ongoing training every year, and you should be able to see certificates of that training displayed in the office or on the website.

Has the dentist been sued for malpractice? This is really hard to check on your own. At 1-800-DENTIST, the only dentists that we refer are ones whom we've done a background check on for a history of malpractice, and we check their license as well.

You can search for all these criteria online at www.1800dentist.com, or you can call and find a practice that does what you want, knowing that 1-800-DENTIST has sent hundreds of patients to the dentist without a complaint. To find out more about dental technology, visit www.1800dentist.com/dental-encyclopedia.

But either way, find a dentist that you love. Otherwise, you'll put it off, and that's not good.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Myth About Cavities

I hear adults all the time saying, "I haven't had a cavity in years. I don't need to see a dentist." Sorry. The fact is that after your 20's your greatest risk isn't cavities, it's gum disease. Brushing and flossing (even if you did it daily) aren't nearly enough to prevent gum disease as you get older.

Here's what's happening. There are millions of bacteria in your mouth, and some of them get organized into little colonies, and they love to eat sugar and secrete acid. This acid might give you cavities, but it most likely will travel between your teeth and gums, and gradually separate the gum from the tooth, until you are, as they used to say, "long in the tooth."

Receding gums are bad, and very hard to fix. They expose the tooth below the enamel, which is the hardest bone in the body, and allow decay to reach the softer tooth area below.

But that's not all. Gum disease means that the bacteria have been allowed to travel deep below the gum line, and create pockets of infection. This means you could eventually lose the tooth. Symptoms are bad breath, bleeding when you floss, redness instead of a healthy pink color to your gums, and sensitivity at the gum line.

The only solution is to see a dentist and get cleaned regularly, at the very least every six months. Some people should go even more. (The cleanings are also a lot easier if you go more often.) This removes the plaque, which are the little bacteria villages secreting acid. And if you have gum disease, a dentist can start a program to treat it and allow you to keep your teeth.

50% of the population over 35 has some level of gum disease. My advice is find a dentist you love, and that way you'll go often. Call 1-800-DENTIST or visit www.1800dentist.com, and they'll help you find one. If you suspect gum disease, don't wait until it's too late and you need a root canal or lose the tooth. It won't heal itself, not with some mouthwash or by brushing harder. Get yourself to a dentist. Preachy, I know, but teeth are important.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Why Get a Dental Implant?

Most people don't realize the impact of a missing tooth on their overall tooth health, but two very serious things happen, and they start to happen quickly. First, the surrounding teeth start to space out. This will make them looser, and also more susceptible to gum disease. Second is the jawbone starts to recede from the area where the tooth was. This is because having a tooth stimulates the bone, and without that stimulation the body assumes it doesn't need bone tissue in that area. You can see where, the more teeth that are missing, the more these two problems would increase.

For the past few centuries, all you could do was put a partial bridge in to fill in the area, or if there are many missing teeth, dentures. Now there are dental implants, and they are drastically better. Everyone knows the problems with dentures, and even though they're better than no teeth at all, eating is restricted, your appearance changes, and you just plain feel old. Implants , on the other hand, are as strong or stronger than regular teeth, and last a long time, while keeping the jawbone stimulated.

Essentially dental implants are porcelain crowns that are fixed to a screw that is placed directly into the jawbone. Sounds a little strange, but very effective, and the jawbone grows very quickly around them to hold them in place. It's not a particularly uncomfortable procedure, especially if a dentist uses a dental laser to prepare the gum tissue.

Implants are relatively expensive, but generally a great investment, since most likely you'll be eating for many years to come. And now many times implants can be placed in a single appointment, which is vastly different than it was even five years ago, when it would take up to six months to complete. Also, a handful of dentists are using a 3D cone-beam scanner in order to place the implants in exactly the right place. I think this is a fantastic innovation, and I hope a lot more dentists will get one soon.

To read more about dental implants and find a dentist who does them, go to www.1800dentist.com. To read more about 3D cone beam scanners, go to www.sirona.com.