Posts for: May, 2014

By J. Marie Stidham, DMD, PA
May 27, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
WhatMadeAmericanIdolFinalistElliottYaminSmile

One day, while looking at old pictures of himself, 34-year-old American Idol finalist Elliott Yamin noticed something peculiar. “I [had] figured out how to kind of smile without displaying all my teeth,” he told an interviewer with People magazine. The reason: Yamin (like many other people) was unhappy with the way his teeth looked. And others noticed it too: “[They] wrote things in magazines, called me Snaggletooth and things like that,” he said.

Yamin's situation came to the attention of dentists from across the country, several of whom offered to fix his crossbite and other problems. One of them even provided the singer with computer-generated renderings of how he'd look after a total “smile makeover” — and that was enough to convince him. Finally, after receiving a set of porcelain veneers and other dental work — all provided free of charge by the concerned dentist — Yamin has the smile he always dreamed of.

You don't have to be an American Idol finalist to appreciate the benefit of having a super smile — and it's never too late to get started! As Yamin found out, a “smile analysis” is the first step, and it's a critical part of the process. This is the time when you and your dentist get to know each other, and begin talking about what kind of a look you want to achieve, and what you should realistically expect.

But it can be tough to express in words exactly what your idea of a perfect smile looks like. Are the teeth completely regular in alignment and “Hollywood white?” A little bit asymmetrical and more natural-looking — or something in between? And exactly how would that look on you? Fortunately, we have a variety of ways to help you make those decisions.

One is computer-generated images, like the ones that persuaded Yamin. Convenient and relatively easy to produce, they're a great way to preview possible changes before a single tooth is touched. However, some people may find it hard to picture their new smile from different angles and in different lights. If you'd like a better representation, it's possible to produce a 3-D model of the proposed work before it's done. This can let you truly visualize your new smile in a realistic way.

If you need even more evidence before deciding, there's still more that can be done. Your teeth can be built up to their new contours with composite resin, a tooth-colored restoration material that can change tooth shape and size with relative ease. A related procedure, the “provisional restoration,” gives you a complete preview of the final work. When you're satisfied, the “temporary” materials are replaced with more permanent ones, like long-lasting porcelain veneers. Whichever method you choose, you'll be on your way to a better looking smile.

If you would like more information about a smile makeover, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Great Expectations — Perceptions in Smile Design” and “Smile Design Enhanced with Porcelain Veneers.”


By J. Marie Stidham, DMD, PA
May 12, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay  
WinningtheBattleOverToothDecay

Tooth decay (also known as caries by professionals and as cavities by consumers) is an infectious disease process that damages tooth structure. Cavities, hollowed-out holes in the teeth, are the most common result of untreated caries. It affects millions of Americans, young and old alike.

How does this destructive process happen? It begins when acid-producing bacteria multiply beyond normal levels in the mouth. Dental plaque, a film of remnant food particles and bacteria, cover the teeth due to poor oral hygiene. The bacteria break down sugars and carbohydrates present in the mouth, which in turn produces acid. Too many “bad bacteria” can raise the acidic level in the mouth.

The normal pH level of the mouth is neutral — 7 on the pH scale. But when the acidic level increases, dropping the pH to 5.5, the calcium and phosphate minerals in the hard, protective layer of tooth enamel begin to dissolve in a process known as de-mineralization. A healthy flow of saliva, however, acts as a buffering agent to return the pH level of the mouth back to neutral. Saliva also contains calcium and phosphate that can replace those lost from the enamel and is referred to as re-mineralization.

So, a constant battle rages within the mouth. On one side acid-producing bacteria, the possible absence of saliva, and poor diet and hygiene habits create the conditions where teeth enamel loses its mineral strength, allowing decay to eventually invade the fragile inner dentin of the tooth; on the other side is an adequate flow of saliva, a good diet and hygiene, boosted by treatment options like sealant application, antimicrobials and the topical application of fluoride.

The key, of course, is prevention. We add protection to the teeth by strengthening them; applying fluoride topically is the best approach, along with sealants that can be applied in our office. We reduce the level of acid-producing bacteria, usually with an anti-bacterial mouth rinse. You can also adopt a healthier diet that limits sugars and carbohydrates and reduces snacking between meals.

These preventive measures, along with early treatment of known tooth decay, can help you avoid the full impact of this destructive disease.

If you would like more information on tooth decay and how to prevent it, 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 “Tooth Decay.”


By J. Marie Stidham, DMD, PA
May 02, 2014
Category: Oral Health
ShaquilleONealsSlamDunkAgainstSleepApnea

You may think snoring is a minor problem, but it can be a lot more than that. Just ask hoops star Shaquille O'Neal, whose rambunctious snoring bothered his girlfriend enough for her to suspect a health problem. Her observations eventually led to Shaq's diagnosis of moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which occurs when the soft tissue structures at the back of a person's throat, including the tongue, partially close off the upper airway and prevent air from moving into the lungs during sleep. Sometimes airflow can be blocked completely for 10 or more seconds.

When air flow is reduced, blood oxygen levels drop. This leads to brief waking episodes known as “micro-arousals,” which can happen sometimes more than 50 times an hour. The sleeper might not even be aware of this, even while gasping for air. Micro-arousals prevent the person from ever reaching deep, restful sleep.

Besides suffering from excessive daytime sleepiness, studies show sleep apnea patients are at higher risks of heart attacks, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, brain damage and strokes. People with sleep apnea also have a higher incidence of work and driving-related accidents.

OSA can be treated in a few different ways. On the advice of his doctor, Shaq opted for a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine, which generates pressurized air delivered through a face mask worn while sleeping. The force of the pressurized air opens the airway (windpipe) in the same way as blowing into a balloon does.

For people with milder OSA, or who find they can't tolerate wearing a mask during sleep, an oral appliance supplied by a dental professional might be the answer. Oral appliances are worn in the mouth and are designed to gently reposition the jaw and move the tongue forward away from the back of the throat. Success rates of 80% or more have been reported using oral appliances, depending on the severity of the OSA.

If you would like more information on sleep apnea, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about sleep apnea by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Snoring & Sleep Apnea.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Sleep Disorders & Dentistry.”