Our Dental Blog

Posts for category: Dental Procedures

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
July 03, 2019
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: smoking   Dental Implant  
SmokingCouldShortenYourImplantsLongevity

Although costly in the beginning, dental implants often turn out to be the least expensive tooth replacement option. That's because their enviable record for longevity often outpaces dentures or bridges. Over the long-term you might spend less for implants than these other restorations.

But even with the high success rate of dental implants (greater than 95% survive the ten-year mark), we can't guarantee they won't fail. And if you're a tobacco smoker, the risk of failure might be even higher. One study, for example, found early implant failures were twice the rate for smokers over non-smokers. Although implant failures overall are low, smoking seems to be a factor in those that do.

There are a number of reasons to account for this. For one thing, inhaled smoke can damage salivary glands, reducing the flow of this important fluid. Saliva helps control bacterial growth and neutralize mouth acid, so without it you're more susceptible to tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease. Either infection could ultimately weaken implant-supporting bone.

The nicotine in tobacco can also restrict oral blood vessels and lower their ability to supply antibodies and nutrients to the teeth and gums. This slows healing, which could have one particular effect on implant durability.

During the intervening weeks between implant placement and crown attachment, the implant's titanium post attracts bone cells that grow and adhere to its surface. The effects of nicotine on healing, especially right after implant surgery, can interfere with this integration process so that the implant doesn't anchor in the bone as well as it should.

If you're a smoker, you can increase your chances of implant success—and have a healthier mouth overall—by quitting smoking beforehand with the help of a cessation program. Or at the least, consider stopping smoking for one week before implant surgery and for two weeks afterward.

And be sure to brush and floss your teeth daily and visit your dentist regularly to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible. Stopping smoking and practicing effective oral hygiene could make a big difference in the success or failure of your implant.

If you would like more information on smoking and your dental health, 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 “Dental Implants & Smoking.”

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
May 14, 2019
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: tooth loss  
ToothLossAHealthRiskforOlderAdults

Tooth loss is a problem that affects many seniors—and since May is Older Americans Month, this is a good time to talk about it. Did you know that more than a quarter of adults over age 75 have lost all of their natural teeth? This not only affects their quality of life but poses a significant health risk.

According to a study in The Journal of Prosthodontics, significant tooth loss is associated with increased risk for malnutrition—and also for obesity. If this seems like a contradiction, consider that when you have few or no teeth, it’s much easier to eat soft, starchy foods of little nutritional value than it is to eat nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables. If all of your teeth are missing, it’s especially critical to replace them as soon as possible.

There are several ways to replace a full set of missing teeth, including removable dentures, overdentures, and fixed dentures:

Removable dentures are the classic replacement teeth that you put in during the day and take out at night. (However, if you suffer from sleep apnea, research has found that keeping dentures in at night may help keep the airway open, so if you have this condition, be sure to mention it to your doctor and dentist it). Dentures have come a long way in terms of how convincing they look, but they still have some disadvantages: For one thing, they take some getting used to—particularly while eating. Also, wearing removable dentures can slowly wear away the bone that they rest on.  As that bone gradually shrinks over time, the dentures cease to fit well and require periodic adjustment (re-lining) or a remake.

Overdentures are removable dentures that attach onto a few strategically placed dental implants, which are small titanium posts placed in the bone beneath your gums. Strong and secure, implants prevent the denture from slipping when you wear it. Implants also slow the rate of bone loss mentioned above, which should allow the denture to fit better over a longer period of time. The ability to maintain hygiene is easier because you can remove them for cleaning.

Fixed implant-supported dentures are designed to stay in your mouth all the time, and are the closest thing to having your natural teeth back. An entire row of fixed (non-removable) replacement teeth can usually be held in place by 4-6 dental implants. Dental implant surgery is an in-office procedure performed with the type of anesthesia that’s right for you. After implants have been placed and have integrated with your jaw bone—generally after a few months—you can enjoy all of your favorite foods again without worry or embarrassment.

If you would like more information about tooth-replacement options, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Overdentures & Fixed Dentures” and “Removable Full Dentures.”

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
April 23, 2019
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental crowns  

How dental crowns from your dentist in Decatur, IL, can improve your smile

If your teeth are broken, fractured, cracked, or have other evidence of damage, they need protection. After all, if you bite down on an dental crownsalready injured tooth, you are at risk of additional damage and loss of overall structure. Luckily, dental crowns work to prevent your tooth from breaking. Dr. Carol A. Cunningham of the Gentle Art of Dentistry in Decatur, IL, offers a full range of dental services including dental crowns to help protect your smile—read on to learn more!

 

About Crowns

A dental crown is a restoration that covers the entire surface of your tooth above the gumline. It protects your tooth like a suit of armor, holding your tooth together. Unlike fillings, which can weaken teeth, a dental crown strengthens your tooth by evenly distributing the biting and chewing stress across the entire surface of your tooth.

You may need a dental crown if you have a tooth that:

  • Is cracked, fractured, or broken
  • Already has a large filling and the filling is leaking
  • Has been weakened from previous root canal therapy
  • Is badly decayed with significant loss of tooth structure

Not only do crowns provide the strength needed by your damaged teeth, but will also beautify your smile! This is because modern crown materials closely resemble the appearance of natural teeth. You can choose:

  • A full porcelain crown, which is the most lifelike dental crown. Porcelain reflects light, just like natural tooth enamel, making porcelain crowns look just like a natural tooth. Porcelain is also stain resistant, so your new crown will stay beautiful for years!
  • A porcelain-fused-to-metal crown, also known as a PFM crown. These crowns combine the beauty of porcelain with the strength of a metal underlay. Although they do lose light reflective qualities because of the metal, they do gain added strength for chewing. This extra fortitude makes PFM crowns an excellent choice for back teeth.

To view amazing before-and-after photos of Dr. Cunningham’s patients, please visit the Smile Gallery section on the Gentle Art of Dentistry website at http://www.gentleartofdentistry.com/gallery.html

 

Interested? Give Us a Call!

Dental crowns can help strengthen your smile and make it more beautiful too. To find out more about how crowns can help your smile, dial (217) 422-7448 to schedule an appointment at Dr. Cunningham's Decatur office!

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
March 08, 2019
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: veneers  

Your dentist, Dr. Carol Cunningham, knows first hand how common it is for patients to want better-looking smiles. In response, her VeneersDecatur, IL, office offers veneers to help improve smile aesthetics!

 

More About Veneers

Veneers are made of thin porcelain and used to resurface an individual's teeth, especially if they're damaged. They fix a variety of issues, such as:

  • Stained or discolored teeth, usually a result of drinking coffee/tea, poor oral hygiene, smoking, chewing tobacco, or taking tetracycline-containing medications.
  • Misshapen teeth including crooked, overcrowded, and irregularly shaped teeth.

 

What Veneers Fix

  • Tooth Color
  • Size & Shape
  • Alignment & Spacing

 

Treatment

When you first come into the Decatur office, your doctor will examine your teeth and assess whether veneers are right for you. If they decide that you are a good candidate, then they'll first deal with any underlying issues, such as cavities, first.

Your dentist will then take an impression of your teeth and send it to a lab where a custom set of veneers matching the color of your teeth will be made for you.

Your dentist will then remove some enamel from the surface of your teeth before cementing the veneers. This is done so that you don't feel like your teeth are protruding. Consequently, your new veneers will feel smooth and properly aligned with the rest of your teeth!

In order to take proper care of your veneers, you need to brush twice a day and floss at least once before bed. Changing your toothbrush when it's frayed is also important to ensure that your teeth are properly cleaned. Furthermore, you should make sure to drink plenty of water and eat healthy food like carrots that scrape teeth clean.

 

Give Us a Call!

For more information on veneers, contact our Decatur office by calling (217) 422-7448. We will be more than happy to help you with your dental needs!

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
February 03, 2019
Category: Dental Procedures
LadyGagaWasntBornThisWay

Sometimes, looking at old pictures can really bring memories back to life. Just ask Stefani Germanotta—the pop diva better known as Lady Gaga. In one scene from the recent documentary Five Foot Two, as family members sort through headshots from her teen years, her father proclaims: "Here, this proves she had braces!"

"If I had kept that gap, then I would have even more problems with Madonna," Lady Gaga replies, referencing an ongoing feud between the two musical celebrities.

The photos of Gaga's teenage smile reveal that the singer of hits like "Born This Way" once had a noticeable gap (which dentists call a diastema) between her front teeth. This condition is common in children, but often becomes less conspicuous with age. It isn't necessarily a problem: Lots of well-known people have extra space in their smiles, including ex-football player and TV host Michael Strahan, actress Anna Paquin…and fellow pop superstar Madonna. It hasn't hurt any of their careers.

Yet others would prefer a smile without the gap. Fortunately, diastema in children is generally not difficult to fix. One of the easiest ways to do so is with traditional braces or clear aligners. These orthodontic appliances, usually worn for a period of months, can actually move the teeth into positions that look more pleasing in the smile and function better in the bite. For many people, orthodontic treatment is a part of their emergence from adolescence into adulthood.

Braces and aligners, along with other specialized orthodontic appliances, can also remedy many bite problems besides diastema. They can correct misaligned teeth and spacing irregularities, fix overbites and underbites, and take care of numerous other types of malocclusions (bite problems).

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that kids get screened for orthodontic problems at age 7. Even if an issue is found, most won't get treatment at this age—but in some instances, it's possible that early intervention can save a great deal of time, money and effort later. For example, while the jaw is still developing, its growth can be guided with special appliances that can make future orthodontic treatment go quicker and easier.

Yet orthodontics isn't just for children—adults can wear braces too! As long as teeth and gums are healthy, there's no upper age limit on orthodontic treatment. Instead of traditional silver braces, many adults choose tooth-colored braces or clear aligners to complement their more professional appearance.

So if your child is at the age where screening is recommended—or if you're unhappy with your own smile—ask us whether orthodontics could help. But if you get into a rivalry with Madonna…you're on your own.

If you have questions about orthodontic treatment, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “The Magic of Orthodontics” and “Orthodontics For The Older Adult.”