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Posts for: October, 2014

By John Sartorio, D.M.D.
October 24, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures

If (heaven forbid) you were to lose your two front teeth in an accident, and you needed to choose a tooth replacement method, which one would you pick? Once upon a time, that question faced Taylor Hicks, the former American Idol winner who now plays a regular gig in Las Vegas. Back then, when he was a high-school basketball star, Hicks happened to receive a blow to the mouth at a playoff game. As fate would have it, he also happened to be the son of… wait for it… a dentist. So what did he do?

The down-to-earth song stylist recently told Dear Doctor magazine how, immediately after the accident, his father administered first aid, getting him back into the game before it ended. Then, a short while afterward, Hicks had the gaps in his smile fixed with dental implants.

We think he made a good choice. While there are other tooth replacement systems, none offer the benefits provided by dental implants. In case you need a reminder, here are some facts about dental implants:

  • They have the highest success rate of any tooth replacement procedure — above 95%
  • They are the most durable type of replacement tooth — with proper care, they can last for the rest of your life
  • They look and “feel” completely natural, and require no special maintenance
  • They are the only tooth replacement system that essentially stops bone loss in the jaw (a natural consequence of tooth loss), helping to maintain good oral health
  • Over the long term, they can offer the best value for your investment in dental care

What makes dental implants work so well? Unlike bridgework or other methods, lifelike implant crowns are supported by a screw-like titanium metal insert, which actually becomes fused with the bone of the jaw. This not only provides the prosthetic teeth with a rock-solid anchorage, but it also helps provide the physical stimulation that bone needs to keep itself healthy. Lacking this stimulation, the jaw bone begins to atrophy and erode (melt away) — and if left untreated long enough, it can result in the appearance of premature aging and other oral health problems.

So if you have missing teeth — whether from an accident, disease, or another cause — contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation, and find out whether dental implants might be right for you. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dental Implant Surgery” and “Dental Implants.”

By John Sartorio, D.M.D.
October 23, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: TMD  

tmdAs a cosmetic dentist in Pittsburgh, Dr. John Sartorio is available to help provide his patients with optimal care. If you are suffering from jaw pain, it is important to visit Dr. Sartorio for proper diagnosis and treatment of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). At our cosmetic dentistry office in Pittsburgh, Dr. Sartorio seeks to establish a harmonious relationship of the teeth, muscles and jaw joints, helping to relieve problems that occur with misaligned bites such as headaches, migraines, neck pain, jaw pain, and chipped or fractured teeth.

What is TMD?

TMD stands for temporomandibular dysfunction, which is a cycle of pain, muscle spasms, and jaw joint problems that results when the teeth, chewing muscles, and jaw joints don’t work together harmoniously. This refers to the problems with muscles and joints that join the lower jaw to the base of the skull. There are an abundance of TMD symptoms that do not affect all people equally, which makes accurate and consistent diagnosis of the condition very difficult and poorly understood by the dental community, as well as physicians and other health care modalities.
Some symptoms of TMD include:
  • Migraines
  • Facial pain
  • Jaw joint pain
  • Pain in the face
  • Difficulty opening the mouth (locked jaw)
  • Headaches (tension types)
  • Multiple bites that feel uncomfortable or, “off,” and continually changing
  • Clenching/bruxism
  • Tender, sensitive teeth to cold
  • Deviation of the jaw to one side
  • The jaw locking open or closed
  • Ringing in the ears, ear pain, and ear congestion

A Problematic Bite Can Cause TMD

A problem bite often exists when teeth are missing, misaligned or worn down. These conditions can prevent the upper teeth from meshing correctly with the lower teeth. It also forces the jaw to shift position and causes the muscles to work harder than they should to bring the teeth together. Even when you are not chewing, your jaw muscles may not fully relax when your teeth come together to swallow thousands of times per day.
If your bite is out of alignment, the muscles and the joints become sore, tired and stiff. Over time, this constant muscle tension leads to muscle fatigue, spasm, and pain. The constant strain on the muscles can also pull the disc that cushions the joint out of position. If this does occur, the bones of the jaw will rub against each other and the nerves, which causes pain and damages the joint.

Diagnosis and Treatment

With the right tools, your dentist can properly diagnose and treat TMD, while also being able to track the progress and the changes a patient makes. The first step in treatment is to wear a custom crafted bite splint called an orthotic to relax the muscles. This helps to restore the balance to the joint and stabilize the bite. Once the pain is eliminated and the bite is stabilized—on a case-by-case basis—Dr. Sartorio can decide how to permanently correct the problem. Depending on the situation, your options might include orthodontics, replacement of missing teeth, wearing a long-term orthotic, neuromuscular denture or a partial, placement of crowns, veneers or overlays, or a full mouth reconstruction.
Talk to Dr. John Sartorio, our dentist in Pittsburgh, for more information on TMD and how she can help you find relief from your pain. Whether you are suffering from headaches or jaw pain, TMD can be treated with the help of your dentist.

By John Sartorio, D.M.D.
October 09, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: dental insurance  

Most of us think of insurance as a means to protect us and our families from unforeseen loss. While that’s the general definition, some insurance plans — like dental — don’t quite work that way.

The typical dental plan actually works more like a discount coupon for dental services. Most are part of an employer-based benefit package and usually “fee-for-service”: the insurance company pays for part or sometimes the entire bill after your dental visit based on a fee schedule laid out in the policy.

A plan’s benefits depend on what the insurer offers to cover and what level of coverage your employer (or you) are willing to pay for. Typically, the more items covered under the policy, the higher the premium. Any deductibles (the amount you must pay out of pocket before receiving any plan benefits) can also affect the premium — the lower the deductible, the higher the premium.

The benefits may also be limited due to what a patient’s dentist charges for services. Most insurers pay benefits based on what they determine to be the “usual, customary and reasonable” (UCR) fee for a particular service. The dentist’s fees are most often higher, however, resulting in the patient paying a higher percentage of the bill.

Still, a dental plan can work to your financial advantage, especially if it’s employer-based with premiums paid by your employer. It may not be advantageous, however, if you’re paying the premiums. For example, a person without insurance might spend on average $200 a year for basic dental care (mostly preventative — checkups and cleanings), while a person with insurance may have those expenses covered, but are paying yearly premiums of $500 or more for the plan.

You should also consider one other factor: our first priority as dentists is to pursue the best course of treatment for your particular dental needs, which may not always align with what your policy covers. At the same time, we understand the limitations you may be under with your plan — we work in this world every day. We’ll certainly assist you in navigating the insurance waters to achieve the best care for what you can afford.

If you would like more information on dental insurance and other financial arrangements, 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 Insurance 101.”