Posts for: August, 2014

ActorEdHelmsTooth-YankingTrickItWasaDentalImplant

The lengths that some comedians will go to for a laugh! Actor Ed Helms, as dentist Stu Price, pulled out his own tooth in the movie The Hangover. Or did he? Turns out Helms really is missing a tooth, which never grew in. When he was in his late teens, he received a dental implant to make his smile look completely natural.

Helms told People magazine he wasn't exactly eager to remove the implant crown that had served him so well for almost 20 years, but there was no better way to do the famous tooth-pulling scene.

“We started to do different tests with prosthetics and blacking it out and nothing worked,” Helms told the magazine. Helms' dentist said it would be okay to take the implant crown out. “My dentist was really into it,” Helms said. The rest is movie history!

Congenitally missing (“con” – together with; “genital” – relating to birth) teeth are inherited and actually quite common. More than 20% of people lack one or more wisdom teeth, for example. These would not usually be replaced if missing (in fact, wisdom teeth are often removed) but it's a more serious issue when the missing tooth is in the front of the mouth — and not just for aesthetic reasons.

When a particular type of tooth is missing, it disrupts the pattern and function of the teeth. If left alone, sometimes the existing teeth will shift to close the gap. It's like removing a brick from an arch — the rest of the bricks would fall together in a different formation (or collapse entirely). And when upper and lower teeth don't come together properly, they can't function well.

The best treatment for this type of situation is the one Ed Helms had: a dental implant. They look and function like real teeth and do not attach to or damage adjacent teeth as other tooth-replacement options might.

It is important that a child with a congenitally missing tooth wait until jaw growth is complete — different for every person but usually in the late teens — before getting an implant. Otherwise, the artificial tooth might eventually appear too short when the person has stopped growing. In the meantime, there are temporary tooth replacements that can be made.

If you would like more information about options for congenitally missing teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “When Permanent Teeth Don't Grow.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Teenagers & Dental Implants.”


TakingPrecautionsBeforeDuringandAfterImplantsWillHelpEnsureSuccess

One of the many reasons for dental implant popularity is their reliability — studies have shown 95% of implants still function well after ten years. Still, on rare occasions an implant will fail. We can minimize this risk by taking precautions before, during and after installation.

Long-term success begins with careful planning before surgery. We thoroughly examine your teeth and jaws, using x-rays or CT scanning to map out the exact location of nerves, sinus cavities and other anatomical structures. Along with your medical history, this data will help us develop a precise guide to use during implant surgery.

We’ll also assess bone quality at the intended implant site. The implant needs an adequate amount of bone for support — without it the implant will not be able to withstand the biting force of normal chewing. It may be possible in some cases to use bone grafting or similar techniques to stimulate growth at the site, but sometimes other restoration options may need to be considered.

The surgery can also impact future reliability. By precisely following the surgical guide developed during the planning stage, the oral surgeon can increase the chances of success. Still, there may be an unseen variable in play — a pre-existing or post-operative infection, for example, that interferes with the integration of the implant with the bone. By carefully monitoring the healing process, we can detect if this has taken place; if so, the implant is removed, the area cleansed and the implant (or a wider implant) re-installed.

Even if all goes well with the implantation, there’s still a chance of future failure due to gum disease. Caused mainly by bacterial plaque, gum disease infects and inflames the supporting tissues around the teeth; in the case of implants it could eventually infect and weaken the surrounding bone, a condition known as peri-implantitis. This calls for aggressive treatment, including plaque and infected tissue removal, and possible surgery to repair the bone’s attachment to the implant. Without treatment, the implant could eventually detach from the weakened bone.

Maintaining your implants with good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups is the best insurance for long-term reliability. Taking care of them as you would natural teeth will help ensure a long, happy life for your “third set” of teeth.

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.”


By James B. Howell, D.M.D.
August 01, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: celebrity smiles   orthodontics   gap  
FixingthatGapinyourTeeth

We all know Madonna, Seal, David Letterman, Anna Paquin and Michael Strahan (of the talk show Kelly and Michael). What do all of these celebrities have in common? Each has a “signature gap” between their front teeth. Given that they have been in the public eye for quite some time, it's not likely that these famous faces will choose to change their well-known smile. In fact, Michael Strahan has publically stated that he will never close his gap.

However, it is not uncommon for people to desire to fix a small gap in their teeth, particularly in advance of important events, such as weddings. Often times, fixing this small gap requires relatively simple orthodontic movements or tooth straightening. Since the teeth don't have to be moved very far, we can usually use simple appliances to correct the issue within a few months.

In order for us to determine your course of treatment, you'll need to make an appointment with our office for a thorough examination. When we examine you, we'll be looking for a number of items that will affect our treatment recommendation:

  • Is there enough room to close the space without creating other bite problems?
  • Are the roots of the teeth in reasonably good position to allow for minor tooth movement to close the space? X-rays will be required to make a proper assessment.
  • Is there an involuntary tongue habit that has pushed the teeth forward and created the gap? If so, this could be difficult to fix quickly.
  • Are the surrounding gum tissues and bone healthy?

Based on our assessment and your individual needs, we may recommend one of the following options:

  • Clear retainers, a computer-generated series of clear retainers customized for your bite to move the teeth
  • Removable orthodontic retainers to which we will attach small springs or elastics to facilitate the minor tooth movement
  • Traditional fixed orthodontic appliances (most commonly known as braces), small metal or clear brackets bonded to your teeth through which tiny wires are used to move the teeth

Regardless of the method we choose, once your teeth have moved into the new position, it is important for you to remember that they must be kept in this position until the bone stabilizes around the teeth. We may therefore advise you to wear a retainer for a few months to a few years, depending on your situation.

If you would like more information about orthodontic treatments, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Minor Tooth Movement.”




Louisville, KY Cosmetic Dentistry
James B. Howell, D.M.D.
3936 Dutchmans Lane
Louisville, KY 40207
(502) 899-7766

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