Posts for: July, 2018
As a cancer patient, you know how important radiation and chemotherapy are to overcoming the disease. But these treatments often come at a price to other aspects of your health, including your teeth and gums if the treatment target includes the head or neck regions.
Radiation and chemotherapy are effective because they target and destroy cancer cells. Unfortunately, they may also kill non-cancerous, healthy cells; in the mouth, for example, they can damage the cells in the salivary glands and disrupt their ability to produce adequate saliva flow, leading to xerostomia (dry mouth).
This could seriously affect your teeth’s protective enamel shell. As we eat or drink, our mouth’s pH level can become too acidic. Acid is your enamel’s primary enemy because it causes the minerals in the enamel to soften and dissolve (de-mineralization). Saliva neutralizes acid and replaces much of the enamel’s minerals.
Without adequate saliva flow, the enamel will tend to erode over time. You can further aggravate the situation if you routinely consume acidic foods and drinks, like sipping energy drinks or soda during the day. Once the enamel is gone it can’t be replaced naturally, and the teeth will be in serious danger of tooth decay and eventual loss of function and appearance.
To avoid these consequences you should take steps during cancer treatment to reduce your risk for xerostomia or other unhealthy mouth conditions: limit your consumption of acidic foods and beverages; use mouth rinses to counteract acidity and inhibit bacterial growth; and promote saliva flow through medication.
It may be, though, that enamel erosion and subsequent tooth damage is unavoidable. In this case, you may need to consider restorative options with artificial crowns or other cosmetic enhancements — not only to improve your appearance but also to protect your natural teeth from further damage.
Before considering the latter, you should undergo a complete dental examination to assess your condition and make sure you have adequate bone and gum support, and any dental disease under control. From here, we can go about restoring the attractive smile that may have faded during your battle with cancer.
Magician Michel Grandinetti can levitate a 500-pound motorcycle, melt into a 7-foot-tall wall of solid steel, and make borrowed rings vanish and reappear baked inside bread. Yet the master illusionist admits to being in awe of the magic that dentists perform when it comes to transforming smiles. In fact, he told an interviewer that it’s “way more important magic than walking through a steel wall because you’re affecting people’s health… people’s confidence, and you’re really allowing people to… feel good about themselves.”
Michael speaks from experience. As a teenager, his own smile was enhanced through orthodontic treatment. Considering the career path he chose for himself — performing for multitudes both live and on TV — he calls wearing an orthodontic device (braces) to align his crooked teeth “life-changing.” He relies on his welcoming, slightly mischievous smile to welcome audiences and make the initial human connection.
A beautiful smile is definitely an asset regardless of whether you’re performing for thousands, passing another individual on a sidewalk or even, research suggests, interviewing for a job. Like Michael, however, some of us need a little help creating ours. If something about your teeth or gums is making you self-conscious and preventing you from smiling as broadly as you could be, we have plenty of solutions up our sleeve. Some of the most popular include:
- Tooth Whitening. Professional whitening in the dental office achieves faster results than doing it yourself at home, but either approach can noticeably brighten your smile.
- Bonding. A tooth-colored composite resin can be bonded to a tooth to replace missing tooth structure, such a chip.
- Veneers. This is a hard, thin shell of tooth-colored material bonded to the front surface of a tooth to change its color, shape, size and/or length; mask dental imperfections like stains, cracks, or chips, and compensating for excessive gum tissue.
- Crowns. Sometimes too much of a tooth is lost due to decay or trauma to support a veneer. Instead, capping it with a natural-looking porcelain crown can achieve the same types of improvements. A crown covers the entire tooth replacing more of its natural structure than a veneer does.
If you would like more information about ways in which you can transform your smile, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about the techniques mentioned above by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Teeth Whitening,” “Repairing Chipped Teeth,” and “Porcelain Crowns & Veneers.”
With its life-like color and texture, dental porcelain can restore a smile marred by decayed or damaged teeth. This durable ceramic material not only matches the varieties of individual tooth colors and hues, its translucence mimics the appearance of natural teeth. But perhaps its greatest benefit is its adaptability for use in a number of different applications, particularly veneers and crowns.
Veneers are thin layers of dental porcelain laminated together and permanently bonded to cover the visible outer side of a tooth to improve its appearance. Crowns, on the other hand, are “caps” of dental porcelain designed to completely cover a defective tooth.
Veneers and crowns share a number of similarities. Both can alter the color and shape of teeth, although crowns are used when more extensive tooth structure has been damaged. They’re also “irreversible,” meaning the tooth must be altered in such a way that it will always require a veneer or crown, though on some occasions a veneer can require no removal of tooth structure and can be reversible.
They do, however, have some differences as to the type of situation they address. Veneers are generally used where the affected teeth have a poor appearance (chipped, malformed or stained, for example) but are still structurally healthy. And although they do generally require some removal of tooth enamel to accommodate them (to minimize a “bulky” appearance), the reduction is much less than for a crown.
Crowns, on the other hand, restore teeth that have lost significant structure from disease, injury, stress-related grinding habits or the wearing effects of aging. Since they must contain enough mass to stand up to the normal biting forces a tooth must endure, a significant amount of the original tooth structure must be removed to accommodate them.
Which application we use will depend upon a thorough examination of your teeth. Once we’ve determined their condition and what you need, we can then recommend the best application for your situation. But regardless of whether we install a veneer or crown, using dental porcelain can help achieve an end result that’s truly life-changing — a new, younger-looking smile.
If you would like more information on dental porcelain restorations, 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 “Porcelain Crowns & Veneers.”