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Posts for: June, 2015

By John Sartorio, D.M.D.
June 28, 2015
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants   smoking  

You probably already know that using tobacco causes significant health risks: It increases your odds of getting various cancers and coronary diseases, to name just a few. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to kick the habit, even when they know they should. Tooth loss is another issue that can cause trouble for your health, in the form of bone loss, malnutrition, and social or psychological problems. Dental implants are a great way to replace missing teeth — but does smoking complicate the process of getting implants?

The short answer is yes, smoking can make implant placement a bit riskier — but in the big picture, it doesn’t mean you can’t (or shouldn’t) have this procedure done if it’s needed.

Smoking, as you know, has harmful effects in your mouth (even leaving aside the risk of oral cancer). The hot gases can burn the oral cavity and damage salivary glands. Nicotine in smoke reduces blood flow to the soft tissues, which can affect the immune response and slow the processes of healing. At the same time, smoking promotes the growth of disease-causing oral bacteria.

How does this affect dental implants? Essentially, smoking creates a higher risk that implants may not heal properly after they are placed, and makes them more likely to fail over time. Studies have shown that smokers have an implant failure rate that’s twice as great as non-smokers. Does this mean that if you smoke, you shouldn't consider implants to replace missing or failing teeth?

Not necessarily. On the whole, implants are the most successful method of replacing missing teeth. In fact, the overall long-term survival rate of implants for both smokers and non-smokers is well over 90 percent — meaning that only a small percentage don’t work as they should. This is where it’s important to get the expert opinion of an implant specialist, who can help you decide whether implants are right for your particular situation.

If you do smoke, is there anything you can do to better your odds for having a successful dental implant? Yes: quit now! (Implants are a good excuse to start a smoking-cessation program.) But if you can’t, at least stop smoking for one week before and two weeks after implant placement. And if that is not possible, at least go on a smoking diet: restrict the number of cigarettes you smoke by 50% (we know you can at least do that!) Try to follow good oral hygiene practices at all times, and see your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings.

If you have questions about smoking and dental implants, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Strategies to Stop Smoking.”

By John Sartorio, D.M.D.
June 13, 2015
Category: Dental Procedures

A few days before the Oscars, Vanity Fair magazine asked Academy Awards host Neil Patrick Harris to name his most treasured possession. Was it his Tony award statuette for best leading actor in a musical? His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? The stethoscope he wore while playing teenaged doctor Doogie Howser on TV? No, as it turns out, the 41-year-old actor’s most treasured possession is… his wisdom teeth. Yes, you read that correctly. “Oddly, I still have my four wisdom teeth,” Harris said. “I refuse to let them go or I’ll lose my wise parts.”

How odd is it for a 41-year-old to have wisdom teeth? Actually, not that odd at all. While it is true that wisdom teeth are often removed, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this. It all depends on whether they are causing problems now, or are likely to cause problems in the future.

The trouble wisdom teeth cause is related to the fact that they are the last molars to come in, and that molars are large in size. By the time wisdom teeth appear between the ages of 17 and 21, there often is not enough room for them in the jaw. Sometimes it’s because you may have inherited a jaw size that’s too small for your tooth size; and generally speaking, the size of the human jaw has evolved to become smaller over time.

If room is lacking, the adjacent molar (that came in earlier) can interfere with the path of eruption — causing the wisdom tooth to come in at an odd angle. The wisdom tooth can hit up against that other tooth, possibly causing pain or damaging the adjacent tooth. This is known as “impaction.” Sometimes the wisdom tooth breaks only partway through the gum tissue, leaving a space beneath the gum line that’s almost impossible to clean, causing infection. A serious oral infection can jeopardize the survival of teeth, and even spread to other parts of the body.

If a wisdom tooth is impacted, will you know it? Not necessarily. A tooth can be impacted without causing pain. But we can see the position of your wisdom teeth on a dental x-ray and help you make an informed decision as to whether they should stay or go. If removal is the best course of action, rest assured that this procedure is completely routine and that your comfort and safety is our highest priority. If there is no great risk to keeping them, as Neil Patrick Harris has done, we can simply continue to monitor their condition at your regular dental checkups. It will be particularly important to make sure you are reaching those teeth with your brush and floss, and that you keep to your schedule of regular professional cleanings at the dental office. All healthy teeth are indeed worth treasuring.

If you would like more information about wisdom teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Wisdom Teeth” and “Removing Wisdom Teeth.”

By John Sartorio, D.M.D.
June 01, 2015
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants  

Dental ImplantsIf you've lost one or more teeth to trauma or decay, dental implants can give you a full smile again.

If you've driven down a highway or watched any television, you've probably seen ads for dental implants. Maybe your friends have mentioned them or you've seen information in your Pittsburgh dentist's office. If you have one more missing teeth, you might be wondering if these implants are a solution for your situation. 

What are dental implants?

Dental implants are permanent fixtures made up of three parts. The post, which looks similar to a tiny screw, is made of titanium and is designed to simulate a natural tooth's root. At Sartorio Dental, a brief surgical procedure installs the post under the gum line. The site of the procedure takes a few days to heal over, but it will require several months of bone growth before the post is fully integrated into the mouth. The middle section of an implant, called the abutment, is then attached to the top of the post. This holds the topmost section - the crown - in place. Crowns are porcelain or ceramic tooth replacements. They allow for the regular functions like chewing, talking and support for the adjacent teeth.

How do I know if they'll work for me?

As your Dr. John Sartorio will explain, dental implants are popular for replacing teeth in a variety of situations. They can replace one tooth or several - if a full set is needed, the crowns are attached to denture plates, which are then held in place by a series of implants. This is a very attractive alternative to removable dentures. Regardless of how many are needed, dental implants are high quality, long-lasting and very natural-looking. Much like regular teeth, they only need daily brushing and flossing and checkups at your Pittsburgh dentist to keep them in working order. Dental implants can last a lifetime if they are well-maintained.

Not everyone's jawbone can support dental implants. If the bone is not healthy or the immune system is compromised, Dr. Sartorio may present other restorative options. Having a thorough evaluation to determine if you're fit for dental implants is the first step, so contact Sartorio Dental in Pittsburgh today!