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Thu, Jan. 23

Save the tooth: Looking at advances in dentistry

Courier stock photo

Courier stock photo

The dentistry of today is not what it used to be and thank goodness! The dentist your parents and grandparents saw for care is in the past. It wasn’t that long ago that the philosophy of dentistry was to remove teeth that were troublesome, in poor condition, or were aesthetically unappealing. But technology and surgical advancements are changing the entire focus of dentistry; and the communication and education gap between the dental world and the medical world is evolving. Dentistry is migrating away from the destructive focus of removing teeth and bone, as dental providers are beginning to repair teeth by growing bone and tissue in deteriorating areas of the mouth.

As a long-time practicing dentist in Prescott and as an educator on advanced dental procedures, I am always disheartened when individuals feel they have no choice but to extract teeth. The patient is then left to contend with resulting side effects, prior to exploring the many tooth saving alternatives that science and technology have made available.

Even with all the advancements dentistry has made, it has always been my strong opinion that there is NO replacement for natural teeth or roots; especially when it comes to maintaining the sensation of chewing. But in many cases, the best dental care providers can offer is reasonable alternatives to the real thing. An example of this would be dental implants; which have become a popular recommendation as a tooth replacement alternative. Implants have many advantages over dental bridges which historically had been the “go to” option, but still lack the function, ability and longevity of natural teeth.

There are only a few tooth conditions that ultimately condemn teeth for extraction such as:

• A fracture that runs vertically down the root under the bone (Vertical Root Fracture), resulting in the body rejecting the tooth and eating the supporting bone.

• Periodontal gum disease which destroys bone leaving the majority of the root without support.

• Chronic tooth infections that have completely destroyed surrounding supportive bone.

• Severely broken tooth crowns that have left the tooth un-restorable.

However, most problematic teeth can be salvaged; and for less money than what replacement options would cost, so before accepting the recommendation to extract, seek a consultation on the options that may be available to “save teeth.” Dentists are using surgical techniques to grow or replace tissue and bone in areas where it has been lost around teeth. This is completed with the help of growth factors, donor tissues, and bone products that dentists can purchase and have on hand.

One of the latest advancements in dental care, is the ability to draw and use a person’s own blood during procedures. An in-office centrifuge is used to spin down and harvest immune cells to prevent post treatment infections. Growth factors are harvested from platelets, which speeds up tissue healing and can help grow bone in deficient areas. Fibrin tissue membranes are also used to aid in gum regeneration and speed up and improve healing of needed transplanted tissues. Remaining roots with missing or broken crowns can now be l eft in the bone and used to place special coverings and attachments.

This can help support and retain dentures, rather than pulling the root to replace it with an implant. A surgical procedure known as “hemi section” or “root amputation” has become more common. This method allows dentists to preserve healthy roots and crowns on multi-rooted teeth, and only remove the root that has become compromised.

Teeth that have become afflicted by bone loss from periodontal disease, can in many instances be saved, thanks to the availability of bone products for grafting and special membranes that promote tissue healing. Teeth that have been treated by “root canal” with latent infections that have trouble healing, can often be saved by a surgical treatment known as an apicoectomy. In this procedure, the infected tip of the root is removed, and bone product is placed in the area to heal the site.

These are just a few examples of how teeth can be saved because of advancements in dental care. Although we have made great strides in providing tooth replacement alternatives, nothing available is equal to the function of natural teeth. That is why trying to save your own teeth is not only the most economical choice, but the most comfortable choice for you long term.

For more information, contact Pro Solutions Dental Group at 928-776-1208.

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