My Blog

Posts for: November, 2011

By Stephen P. Lukin, D.D.S.
November 27, 2011
Category: Oral Health

Grinding, clenching, and gritting your teeth are common reactions to stress — but their results can be quite complex. Here are some questions and answers that will fill you in on what you may not know about this widespread problem.

My dentist said I was bruxing. What does that mean?
Bruxing means that your teeth are grinding upon each other. Many people carry out this habit subconsciously and are not even aware that they are doing it.

Is bruxing or gritting harmful?
Such habits are called “parafunctional” (from para, meaning outside, and function, meaning purpose). This is because these stress habits exert much larger biting forces — as much as ten times more — than in normal biting and chewing activities. This excess pressure can cause damage to jaw joints and muscles, resulting in muscle spasm and pain; and to the teeth, resulting in wear, fractures or looseness. They can also cause headaches, earaches, and even neck and backaches because of the pressures on various structures in the face and mouth.

What is the usual treatment for problems arising from these stress habits?
The first thing we want to do is relieve your pain and discomfort. Second, we want to stop future damage. Application of heat or cold is helpful, and mild anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant drugs are prescribed for pain and muscle spasm. To prevent future occurrences, we may treat you with biofeedback or refer you to someone who can offer psychotherapy.

What is a night guard and how can it help?
A night guard is an unobtrusive thin plastic appliance that is made to fit over the biting surfaces of your upper teeth. These guards are so unobtrusive that they can even be worn during the day if your stress level is so high that you grind your teeth during the day. The guard is adjusted to leave the lower teeth free to move against the surface of the guard, but they cannot bite into the upper teeth. This prevents wear on the teeth and lets the jaw muscles relax, preventing the pain of muscle spasm.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about stress and tooth grinding. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Stress & Tooth Habits.”


By Stephen P. Lukin, D.D.S.
November 20, 2011
Category: Dental Procedures

The best method for permanently replacing a missing tooth is with a dental implant. But did you know that there are two main techniques for placing implants? Implants can be placed either using a one stage or a two stage surgical technique, and as their names suggests, one is performed in one step while the other requires a second surgery.

With a one-stage procedure, a healing abutment is placed at the time of surgery. An abutment is a connector that attaches the implant from the bone into the mouth and which protrudes through the gum tissues. Following a 3 to 6 month healing period in which the implant fuses to the bone, a crown is then placed on the implant restoring the immediate appearance of a healthy, normal tooth. One-stage implant systems are generally used when the bone quality is good, guaranteeing good initial implant stability. They are also used when cosmetics is not a concern, such as the back areas of the mouth.

Under special conditions an implant can be placed and a crown placed on top of it at the same time. However, this is a very special circumstance requiring ideal conditions and surgical experience as well as crown fabrication know-how. It is generally safer and wiser not to subject an implant to biting forces until it is fully healed and integrated with the supporting bone.

A two-stage procedure is typically used for replacing teeth where there is no immediate need for a cosmetic solution and when more of a margin of safety is required. With this approach, the implant(s) are placed into the jawbone and the gum tissues cover them. They are not exposed to the mouth, but stay buried and left to heal. Once healed, a second surgery is performed to attach an abutment for securing the crown in place. This approach is used when there is poorer bone quality or quantity. This may make it necessary to regenerate bone around the implant at the time of its placement. There may also be other health considerations dictating that a two-stage approach may be indicated.

Depending on your individual situation and medical status, our implant team will determine which approach is best for you. To learn more about these two procedures, read the Dear Doctor article, “Staging Surgery In Implant Dentistry.” You are also welcome to contact us to discuss your questions or to schedule an appointment.


By Stephen P. Lukin, D.D.S.
November 13, 2011
Category: Dental Procedures

Lost teeth can cause a host of problems, including a loss of your jaw bone and a collapsing appearance of your face, along with difficulty chewing and speaking.

Clearly, it is important to replace missing teeth as soon as possible. Options for replacement include the more traditional methods and the newest technique — dental implants. We believe that implants are your best choice for the following reasons.

  1. Implants prevent bone loss.

    Dental implants are substitute tooth roots. Like the roots of your original teeth, they stabilize the bone into which they extend — but in a different way.

    The part of the bone that encases the teeth is called alveolar bone, from the word root meaning “sac.” This bone has a special relationship with the teeth it surrounds. It develops as they first erupt into the mouth. If they are lost, the alveolar bone goes, too. It resorbs, or melts away, giving an impression that the bone, gums, and sometimes the lips are collapsing.

    Implants are made of titanium, which has the ability to join biochemically to bone. It takes the place of the original tooth root and prevents resorption.

  2. Implants support adjacent teeth.

    Your teeth work in harmony, an all for one, one for all relationship with each other. If one is missing, the remaining teeth will slowly move and shift causing them to receive forces that may not be well received. Losing any tooth increases the pressure on the remaining teeth. Losing a back (posterior) tooth can put pressure on the front teeth and they can be forced out of position. All these movements can change a person's appearance as well as in their ability to speak, bite and chew.

  3. They are easier to clean than “traditional” options.

    Fixed bridges are non-removable tooth replacements that attach to adjacent natural teeth. These teeth that are adjacent to the missing tooth have to be cut into small peg shapes on which the bridge is attached. The removal of their enamel may make them more prone to tooth decay and gum disease.

    Older replacement methods include removable options such as plastic “flippers” and partial dentures. These replacements rest on the teeth and gums, making the teeth they attach to receive greater pressure causing more mobility. In addition, they exert pressure on the gums, causing additional bone loss and increasing the potential for bone loss on the neighboring teeth.

    Full dentures, in cases where all teeth are missing, are kept in place by pressing on the gum tissues. This causes even more pressure on the bone, leading to bone loss and changing facial structures.

  4. They are longer lasting.

    Studies have shown that removable partial dentures are replaced about every five years; bridges are only 67% successful at 15 years; and implants are over 95% successful for 20 or more years.

  5. They are cost effective in the long term.

    Because implants last longer than other alternative tooth replacements, they may seem more expensive at first; but they will be cost effective over the long term.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about dental implants. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants. Evaluating Your Options.”


By Stephen P. Lukin, D.D.S.
November 06, 2011
Category: Dental Procedures

We are often asked about restorative and cosmetic dentistry procedures and the role they play in a smile makeover. We are also faced with people wondering whether or not they can benefit from treatment. For this reason, we developed the following self-assessment to help you determine whether or not cosmetic dentistry is right for you.

  • Do you avoid smiling in public or for photos?
  • Are you self-conscious about spaces and gaps between your teeth?
  • Do your teeth make you look older than you feel?
  • Have you ever held back or restrained a smile?
  • Do you feel that your teeth are stained or yellow?
  • Do you hold your hand in front of your mouth when talking, laughing or smiling?
  • Do your teeth look old and worn down, making you look and feel older?
  • Do your teeth appear short because of a “gummy” smile?
  • Are your teeth crooked, chipped or crowded?
  • Do you wish you had someone else's smile?

If you answered, “yes” to one or more of the above questions, then you could benefit from a smile makeover. However, that is the easiest part of the process. The next step is the one that probably matters the most — scheduling a consultation with us. During this appointment you can discuss the specifics that bother you about your smile using your responses from our self-assessment test. You can also learn about the many treatment options available for providing you with the smile of your dreams.

Ready To Take The Next Step?

Contact us today to discuss your smile makeover questions or to schedule a consultation. Or, learn more now when you continue reading the Dear Doctor article, “The Impact Of A Smile Makeover.”