By Gregory E. Phillips, DDS, MSD, PC
March 13, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: gum recession  

Gum recession — when the gum tissue covering teeth wears away — is a serious matter. If the roots become exposed you'll not only have increased sensitivity and possible discomfort, your teeth can become more susceptible to decay.

There are a number of reasons for gum recession, including overaggressive brushing and flossing, poor fitting appliances like dentures or braces, or genetics (inheriting a thin gum tissue type or poor tooth position). Perhaps the most common reason, though, is periodontal (gum) disease. Caused by bacterial plaque, a thin film of food particles that builds up on tooth surfaces, the disease weakens the gum tissues around teeth, causing them ultimately to detach and “roll up” toward the roots.

Treating the gum infection by removing the built-up plaque and calculus (hardened plaque deposits) will help stop recession or even reverse it.  As we remove plaque the infection subsides and the gums cease to be inflamed. If they haven't receded too far they may re-grow and renew their attachment to the teeth.

In other cases, though, the recession may have progressed too far and too rapidly toward root exposure. Gums in this condition may require tissue grafts to the recessed area to create or regenerate new tissue.

Most grafting techniques fall into one of two categories. The first is known as free gingival grafting where a thin layer of skin is removed or "freed" from the roof of the patient's mouth (the palate), shaped and then stitched to the recession site.

The second category is called connective tissue grafting, most often used to cover exposed roots. In this case the donor material is transplanted from the donor site to the recipient site, but the recipient site's tissue covers the donor connective tissue graft as it still maintains a physical attachment to the original location. The recipient site can thus maintain a blood supply, which can result in quicker, more comfortable healing than with free gingival grafting.

Connective tissue grafting does, however, require sophisticated microsurgical techniques, along with the surgeon's in-depth skill and art, to prepare both the donor and recipient sites. Allografts (donor skin from another person) may also be used as a donor tissue and placed beneath the recipient site tissue thereby avoiding a second surgical site.

Gum tissue grafting can be an intense undertaking, but the results can be astounding. Not only will restoring recessed gum tissues give your teeth a new lease on life, it will revitalize your smile.

If you would like more information on treatment for gum recession, 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 “Periodontal Plastic Surgery.”

By Gregory E. Phillips, DDS, MSD, PC
February 26, 2018
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 Gregory E. Phillips, DDS, MSD, PC
February 18, 2018
Category: Oral Health
Tags: medicine  

The red, scaly rash suddenly appearing on your face doesn’t cause you much physical discomfort, but it’s still embarrassing. And to make matters worse treating it as you would other skin ailments seems to make it worse.

Your ailment might be a particular skin condition known as peri-oral dermatitis. Although its overall occurrence is fairly low (1% or less of the population worldwide) it seems to be more prevalent in industrialized countries like the United States, predominantly among women ages 20-45.

Peri-oral dermatitis can appear on the skin as a rash of small red bumps, pimples or blisters. You usually don’t feel anything but some patients can have occasional stinging, itching or burning sensations. It’s often misidentified as other types of skin rashes, which can be an issue when it comes to treatment.

Steroid-based ointments that work well with other skin ailments could have the opposite effect with peri-oral dermatitis. If you’re using that kind of cream out of your medicine cabinet, your rash may look better initially because the steroid constricts the tiny blood vessels in the skin. But the reduction in redness won’t last as the steroid tends to suppress the skin’s natural healing capacity with continued use.

The best treatment for peri-oral dermatitis is to first stop using any topical steroid ointments, including other-the-counter hydrocortisone, and any other medications, lotions or creams on it. Instead, wash your skin with a mild soap. Although the rash may flare up initially, it should begin to subside after a few days.

A physician can further treat it with antibiotic lotions typically containing Clindamycin or Metronidazole, or a non-prescription, anti-itch lotion for a less severe case. For many this clears up the condition long-term, but there’s always the possibility of relapse. A repeat of this treatment is usually effective.

Tell your dentist if you have recurring bouts of a rash that match these descriptions. More than likely you’ll be referred to a dermatologist for treatment. With the right attention—and avoiding the wrong treatment ointment—you’ll be able to say goodbye to this annoying and embarrassing rash.

If you would like more information on peri-oral dermatitis, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By Gregory E. Phillips, DDS, MSD, PC
February 03, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures

For a predictable outcome, a dental implant should be placed as soon as the bone and gum tissues following a tooth extraction have healed. But what happens if the tooth has been missing for months or years? You might then run the risk of not having enough bone to properly place an implant.

This can happen because of a disruption in the growth cycle of living bone tissue. As older bone cells dissolve (resorption), new bone develops to take its place. This is a dynamic process, as the amount and exact location of the new growth is in response to changes in the mouth, particularly from forces generated by the teeth as we chew. If, however, this stimulation transmitted to the bone no longer occurs because the tooth is missing, the bone will tend to dissolve over time.

In fact, within the first year after a tooth loss the associated bone can lose as much as a quarter of its normal width. This is why we typically place bone grafting material in an empty socket at the same time as we extract the tooth. This encourages bone growth during the healing period in anticipation of installing a dental implant or a fixed bridge. If, however, the bone has diminished to less than required for a dental implant, we must then use techniques to encourage new bone growth to support a future implant.

One such technique for restoring bone in the back of the upper jaw is to surgically access the area through the maxillary sinus (a membrane-lined air space within the bone structure of the face) positioned just over the jawbone to place grafting material. During surgery performed usually with local anesthesia, the surgeon accesses the sinus cavity, lifts the tissue membrane up from the sinus floor and applies the grafting material on top of the bone. Eventually, the new bone growth will replace the grafting material.

If successful, the new bone growth will be sufficient to support an implant. Thanks to this renewed growth, you’ll soon be able to enjoy better function and a transformed smile provided by your new implant.

If you would like more information on forming new bone for implants through sinus surgery, 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 “Sinus Surgery.”

By Gregory E. Phillips, DDS, MSD, PC
January 19, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants  

When it comes to replacing a missing tooth, you have several options, including a removable partial denture or a fixed bridge. But the premier choice is “the new kid on the block” at just over thirty years old: dental implants. Implants are by far the most popular tooth replacement choice among both patients and dentists.

But they also happen to be the most expensive option, at least initially. So the question is, why invest in dental implants over less costly choices?

Here are 3 reasons why implants could be well worth their price.

More Like a real tooth than other restorations. Implants can match the life-like appearance of any other replacement choice, often utilizing the same types of materials. But where they really excel is in function—how they perform while biting and chewing. This is because the dental implant’s titanium post imbedded in the jawbone replaces the tooth root. No other dental restoration can do that—or perform better when comparing the resulting functionality.

Best long-term solution. As we mentioned before, the initial implant cost is typically higher than either dentures or bridges. But you should also consider their durability compared to other choices. It could be potentially much longer—possibly decades. This is because the titanium post creates an ultra-strong hold in the jawbone as bone cells naturally grow and adhere to this particular metal. The resulting hold can withstand the daily forces generated during eating and chewing. With proper care they might even last a lifetime, and actually cost you less in the long run over other choices.

Adaptable to other types of restoration. Implants have greater uses other than as individual tooth replacements. A few strategically placed implants can also be used to support removable dentures or a fixed bridge for multiple teeth or an entire dental arch. As the technology continues to advance, implants are helping to make other restoration options stronger, more stable and longer lasting—and adding more value to your investment.

If you would like more information on dental implants, 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 101.”

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