Hopeless. Beyond repair. Past fixable. Too far gone.
When I see a new patient who describes his or her smile in these terms, my heart goes out to them. As a dentist, these are phrases I hear more than most people realize.
In nearly 25 years as a dentist, I’ve met people who grew up in families that lacked the means to tend to their children’s teeth. I’ve met some who were down on their luck for long periods and didn’t realize how bad their oral health had become until severe pain began. I’ve spoken with a few who never realized just how bad their oral health could get – until it did.
Let me begin here with a reassuring statement: NO SMILE IS HOPELESS.
Even if high fear levels associated with dental visits has prevented you from having the dental care you need, we can help you accomplish a beautiful, healthy, confident smile. And, we’ll go at a pace that is comfortable for you.
For most patients who have a mouthful of problems, we start with a private, one-to-one session. This is a seated conversation in our private Consultation room. This time allows me to get to know your specific needs, concerns, preferences and overall smile goals.
At the same time, this is a time for YOU to get to know ME! You can ask questions, determine what feels right, and learn which options are available for your needs. You can ask questions about treatment time, sedation, costs (including financial options), insurance, and the results.
From here, most patients proceed with a full-mouth examination and imaging (sometimes known as x-rays, although we use digital imaging for better detail and less radiation exposure). The exam allows me to assess your gum health, condition of teeth, the bone structures that support your teeth, bite alignment, and your jaw joints.
Your jaw joints, or TMJ (an abbreviation for “temporomandibular joints”), are the joints on each side of your head, located just in front of the ears. These joints hinge the upper and lower jaws. When you speak, bite, chew, or even swallow, these joints move.
When the bite is misaligned, the disparity in the fit of upper to lower teeth can transfer strain on the jaw joints. This lack of unity can trigger a domino effect, leading to problems seemingly unrelated to the teeth or jaw joints – but very much so.
Bite misalignment can result in chipped, broken, or fractured teeth. However, TMJ disorders can cause headaches, migraines, ear ringing, dizziness, difficulty opening the mouth fully, and jaw popping.
The health of the gums is examined visually and through measurements. Using a small tool, this tells us if there is separation between the gum tissues surrounding all side of each tooth. If separation exists, it also tells us how much there is.
For example, healthy gums will have mostly “1” or “2” measurements. A “3” is a satisfactory grade but indicates you need to do a better job of brushing and flossing around the tooth. A “4” or higher is not good. There is work to be done, but we’ll help you.
When measurements indicate the presence of gingivitis or gum disease (known as periodontal disease, or “perio” to some), we recommend the appropriate level of treatment needed to restore your gums to a healthy state. We will discuss this with you so you’ll understand the process and, most of all, the need!
Gum disease will only worsen without treatment. Not only is gum disease the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss, it can affect your overall health. Research has linked infectious oral bacteria of gum disease with some serious health problems.
To date, it has been found that oral bacteria can trigger systemic inflammation far beyond the mouth. This occurs when the bacteria enter the bloodstream through weakened gum tissues. Studies show oral bacteria can increase the risk for heart disease, stroke, some cancers, preterm babies, arthritis, diabetes, impotency, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Those are good reasons to have a health mouth!
However, having a smile we’re proud to share makes us FEEL good, too. Studies have shown that people who smile more often than “frowners” live longer lives. They also project a more upbeat, friendly, and confident appearance to others.
Additionally, smiling can make us appear younger. The muscles used in a smile pull the face up and smooth wrinkles around the mouth, giving a mini facelift!
Smiling also improves our mood. When we smile, the brain senses a happy mood (even if you don’t feel like smiling). The brain reacts by releasing chemicals known as endorphins. These are what make us feel happy. This is a terrific reason to smile even when we’re in a not-so-happy mood!
Creating a beautiful, natural-looking smile can easily occur with today’s cosmetic dentistry. However, it’s important that these procedures are done with advanced skills and high-quality materials. No one wants a “fake” looking smile and, unfortunately, inept skills and cheap materials may be your cheapest price on a new smile, but will likely not be the smile you wanted.
Tooth replacement is often a need of people who have delayed or avoided dental care. In our office, we provide complete dental services in one convenient location. We perform all phases of implant dentistry – from implant placement to the attachment of your final teeth.
In addition to dental implants, we provide services of crown-&-bridge, single crowns, along with full and partial dentures. All of these include careful alignment and construction that looks and feels natural. As a dentist with advanced training in neuromuscular dentistry, we want your bite alignment to complement your smile as well as your overall health.
Finally, for those who desire sedatives, we offer oral and IV sedation (often referred to as “twilight sleep”). Sedation relaxes the patient throughout treatment and erases most (if not all) memory of treatment afterwards. The areas in treatment are still numbed when sedation is administered, just after the sedatives have taken affect.
Here, patients who thought their smile was “beyond hope” find a place where their smile restored. They feel confident and happy to smile, and do so often! For many who were once fearful of dental visits, their fears have been released and they walk in all smiles!
You CAN achieve the smile you desire. In the right hands, with the proper diagnosis, exceptional skills and materials, and the respectful, compassionate care we believe our patients deserve, you, too, can enjoy the radiance and improved well-being that a healthy smile can provide.