Westminster, MD Dentist
Gallagher & Eden Family Dentistry
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Westminster, MD 21157
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Posts for category: Dental Procedures

By Dr. Patrick Gallagher, D.D.S.
November 11, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
HowDentalImplantsSavedTaylorHicksSmile

If (heaven forbid) you were to lose your two front teeth in an accident, and you needed to choose a tooth replacement method, which one would you pick? Once upon a time, that question faced Taylor Hicks, the former American Idol winner who now plays a regular gig in Las Vegas. Back then, when he was a high-school basketball star, Hicks happened to receive a blow to the mouth at a playoff game. As fate would have it, he also happened to be the son of… wait for it… a dentist. So what did he do?

The down-to-earth song stylist recently told Dear Doctor magazine how, immediately after the accident, his father administered first aid, getting him back into the game before it ended. Then, a short while afterward, Hicks had the gaps in his smile fixed with dental implants.

We think he made a good choice. While there are other tooth replacement systems, none offer the benefits provided by dental implants. In case you need a reminder, here are some facts about dental implants:

  • They have the highest success rate of any tooth replacement procedure — above 95%
  • They are the most durable type of replacement tooth — with proper care, they can last for the rest of your life
  • They look and “feel” completely natural, and require no special maintenance
  • They are the only tooth replacement system that essentially stops bone loss in the jaw (a natural consequence of tooth loss), helping to maintain good oral health
  • Over the long term, they can offer the best value for your investment in dental care

What makes dental implants work so well? Unlike bridgework or other methods, lifelike implant crowns are supported by a screw-like titanium metal insert, which actually becomes fused with the bone of the jaw. This not only provides the prosthetic teeth with a rock-solid anchorage, but it also helps provide the physical stimulation that bone needs to keep itself healthy. Lacking this stimulation, the jaw bone begins to atrophy and erode (melt away) — and if left untreated long enough, it can result in the appearance of premature aging and other oral health problems.

So if you have missing teeth — whether from an accident, disease, or another cause — contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation, and find out whether dental implants might be right for you. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dental Implant Surgery” and “Dental Implants.”

By Dr. Patrick Gallagher, D.D.S.
September 23, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: tads  
AnchorageDevicescanaddStabilityDuringOrthodonticTreatment

Braces are certainly the most recognized means for moving misaligned teeth. But depending on your or your family member’s particular malocclusion (bad bite), your orthodontist may also include other “anchorage” appliances to achieve the best results.

We can move teeth because of a mechanism that already exists in the mouth. The periodontal ligament, which holds teeth in place by attaching the tooth surface to the jawbone, allows teeth to move if needed in response to biting forces or normal tooth wear. Using braces or similar appliances, orthodontists can apply gentle but constant pressure to move teeth to new and better positions.

This applied pressure, however, soon encounters an “equal and opposite reaction,” in accordance with Newton’s third law of motion. In a way, we’re playing tug-of-war with the periodontal ligament — and as in the playground game, the key to “winning” is having the stronger point of resistance, something we call anchorage.

We often use the teeth themselves to establish this anchorage with the help of elastics (rubber bands) attached at various locations in the braces. Sometimes, though, the situation requires a different form of anchorage. In a younger patient, for example, we may want to influence the facial structure’s growth and development along with tooth movement. In this case we might use the patient’s skull for additional anchorage by having a strap running around the back of the head that attaches to brackets affixed to the teeth.

Another method involves a temporary anchorage device (TAD) directly implanted into the jawbone. We use TADs to isolate teeth we want under pressure from teeth we don’t (as with moving front teeth back without causing the back teeth to move forward). Usually made of stainless steel that won’t fuse with bone, TADs are relatively simple to remove once treatment is complete. Another form of anchorage is a titanium micro-implant, a miniature version of a dental implant that’s also inserted into the bone; like its larger relative, micro-implants fuse with the bone to add greater stability. Their diminutive size, however, eases any difficulty in their eventual removal.

Though some of these appliances aren’t visually appealing, they are temporary in nature and only applied for as long as needed. The end result, though, is permanent — beautifully aligned teeth that perform well and look great.

If you would like more information on orthodontic appliances, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

AlthoughChallengingSmileZoneImplantscanAppearBeautifullyLife-Like

Dental implants have quickly become the restoration of choice for two basic reasons: they effectively restore the lost function of missing teeth and simultaneously rejuvenate the smile with their life-like appearance.

Achieving a life-like appearance, however, isn’t always a simple matter. A restoration in what we dentists call the “Smile Zone” (the upper front area that displays both teeth and the gum line when you smile) requires careful planning and technique to ensure they appear as life-like as possible.

Our first concern is whether there’s enough bone to fully anchor an implant. Bone is a living, dynamic tissue that goes through cycles of dissolving (resorption) and growth. The normal forces of biting and chewing transmit through healthy teeth and stimulate growth in the bone. When the teeth are missing and no longer transmit this pressure, the bone will eventually resorb only and not grow.

Adjacent teeth could also be affected with bone loss if the extraction was difficult and a bone graft was not placed into the extraction socket to preserve bone. This not only puts adjacent teeth at risk of gum and bone loss but can also have implications for the final smile appearance. This bone also supports the triangular tissue between teeth known as papillae which give teeth their arched appearance. If the bone isn’t adequate, there’s less hope that the papillae will regenerate.

With these concerns it’s very important to consider how the implant and crown emerges from the gums in the Smile Zone. Recent developments in implant design are helping in this regard. The design change of the top of the implant re-orients the gum tissues in relation to the implant from vertical to horizontal, which dentists call “platform switching.” This provides greater stabilization where bone mass is limited, and helps create a more aesthetically pleasing result. There are also other techniques, such as surgical tissue grafting of the papillae that can further enhance the final appearance.

Although creating a natural, life-like appearance in the Smile Zone is difficult, it’s not impossible. It’s important first to undergo a complete dental examination and profile, where we can advise you on your best options to achieve a beautiful smile.

If you would like more information on the relation of implants to the aesthetics of your smile, 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 “Implant Aesthetics.”

DidYouKnowMatineeIdolJamesDeanHadFalseFrontTeeth

Imagine how different things would have been for movie star James Dean, had he not managed to replace the front teeth he lost as a youngster. According to one biography of the 1950s heartthrob, Dean's teeth were knocked out while he was swinging around on a homemade trapeze. Because his smile was restored, Dean was able to land the plumb movie roles that catapulted him to stardom.

This is perhaps the ultimate example of how a smile makeover can create new opportunities for a person. But opinion polls confirm that nearly 90% of adults feel an attractive smile is an important social and career asset. And, an almost equal percentage of adults feel that their smile could use some improvement.

Are you unhappy with your smile? Is a smile makeover something you've ever thought about? Dear Doctor magazine has come up with a great list of questions you can ask yourself to figure out if you would benefit from this life-changing experience:

  1. Do you avoid smiling in photos?
  2. Are you conscious about spaces and gaps in your teeth?
  3. Are your teeth making you look older than you feel?
  4. Have you held back a smile?
  5. Do you feel that your teeth are stained or too yellow?
  6. Do you hold your hand up in front of your mouth when speaking or laughing?
  7. Do you notice areas of excessive tooth wear that make your smile look older?
  8. Do you have little teeth and a gummy smile?
  9. Are your teeth crooked, chipped or crowded?
  10. Do you wish you had someone else's smile?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, please come in and see us. We have an amazing array of cosmetic procedures available to us — far more than what was available to James Dean in the 1950s. These options range from relatively inexpensive teeth whitening treatments to more permanent cosmetic solutions such as porcelain crowns and veneers. Together we can come up with a plan to give you the smile you've always dreamed about.

If you would like more information about what a smile makeover could mean for you, please contact us or schedule an appointment. You can learn more about smile makeovers by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Beautiful Smiles by Design.” Dear Doctor also has more on “The Impact of a Smile Makeover.”

ReplacingMissingBackTeethIsImportant-JustAskChristieBrinkley

Supermodel Christie Brinkley has a one-in-a-million smile, but she is just one of millions who have benefited from today's preferred tooth-replacement technique: the dental implant. In a wide-ranging interview, Brinkley told Dear Doctor magazine about a helicopter accident she suffered while back-country skiing.

“I fractured two molars in the back of my mouth and I had to get two dental implants,” Brinkley told the magazine. “I am grateful for the dental implant technology that feels and looks so natural.”

You might think it serves little purpose to replace a missing back tooth that was barely visible in your smile to begin with — especially if you don't spend a lot of time posing for magazine covers. But this is actually not the case. Your molars are extremely important for chewing and even for maintaining a more youthful appearance.

Dentists generally agree that losing posterior (back) teeth can have many consequences for the remaining teeth and their surrounding structures, i.e., bone and gums. If back teeth are missing, the front teeth end up bearing more stress than they were built for. And there are certain things that happen when any tooth is lost, whether front or back, that can affect function and appearance.

For one thing, when a tooth is lost the adjacent teeth tend to drift into the empty space or tip towards it. This can adversely affect your bite. Too much shifting can render a tooth basically useless and also leave it more vulnerable to gum disease.

Another complication is the loss of tooth-supporting bone that inevitably occurs when teeth are lost. When a tooth comes out, the bone under it actually begins to melt away. Since back teeth support the vertical dimension of the face, their loss can cause what's known as “bite collapse” — a reduction in facial height that becomes increasingly noticeable over time and can make you look older.

A dental implant can prevent all of these things, while providing you with a replacement that looks and feels just like the tooth you lost.

If you are interested in learning more about implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. If you would like to read Dear Doctor's entire interview with Christie Brinkley, please see “The Secret Behind Christie Brinkley's Supermodel Smile.” Dear Doctor magazine also has more on “Replacing Back Teeth.”