North Iowa Oral Surgery

Oral Cancer: What you Need to Know

One of the most important jobs we have in our practice is to examine, monitor and diagnose head and neck pathology in our patients. What we are really looking for is any sign of oral cancer. Each year, about 42,000 Americans are newly diagnosed with oral cancer. Unfortunately, more than 8,000 of those people will die from the disease because too often it is caught in a late, incurable stage.

Oral Cancer What you Need to KnowTo help you stay healthy and educated about your oral health needs, we have compiled a list of the most important things you should know about oral cancer:

  • Oral cancer affects more than just the mouth. Any cancer in the mouth, lips, throat or back of the mouth is considered oral cancer.
  • Since 90% of oral cancers begin in the surface area of the mouth, tongue and lips, we recommend regular self-exams.
  • Largest risk factors: Not surprisingly, tobacco and alcohol use top the list of biggest risk factors for oral cancer.
  • Other risk factors: Human papilloma virus (HPV), pre-cancerous oral lesion, betel quid use (common in Asia), excessive UV/sun exposure, certain drugs and genetic syndromes.
  • To diagnose oral cancer, we will examine the mouth and neck, ask about your risk factors, and possibly order biopsies and imaging of the head (CT, MRI, etc).
  • Pain is not associated with cancer in its early stages. Usually pain does not occur until the cancer has progressed to a later stage.
  • The most common oral cancer symptoms warrant a call to our office. They include: sores that don’t heal, lumps inside the mouth, white or red patches on soft tissues in the mouth, bleeding, pain when swallowing or chewing, numbness, difficulty moving the jaw or tongue, lumps in the neck, hoarseness, and more.

Don’t hesitate to us if you are experiencing any of these symptoms of oral cancer.

Dental Implants vs. Dentures and Bridges

Whether it was during a consultation in our office or perhaps while you were doing your own research online, you have probably come across the term “dental implant” at some point. A dental implant is a great way, often the best way, to replace a missing tooth.

Dental lmplants vs DenturesSo how do you decide if a dental implant is the right path for you, or if a more traditional tooth replacement method such as dentures or bridges is the best way to go?

We have been asked this question many times, and have compiled a comprehensive breakdown of the benefits that implants offer over their conventional counterparts. We hope that this guide will help make the decision process easier for you.

Dental Implants vs. Dentures and Bridges: Things to Consider

  • Longevity: Dental implants offer a long-term solution (often lasting a lifetime) to missing teeth, while dentures and bridges require replacement every 5 to 10 years. Not only does this mean less hassle, it also means that implants may be more affordable over time.
  • Quality of Life:
    • Simply put, dental implants look, feel and function more like natural teeth than do dentures and bridges.
    • With a dental implant, our patients can hardly notice the difference when biting into hard objects. They also look more natural.
    • In addition to that, dental implants are fixed – they are not going to fall out while you are talking or smiling, and you don’t have to put them away each night when you go to sleep. They remain in your mouth, anchored to your jawbone at all times.
  • Bone Stability and Health: Just like muscles, bones also need a “workout” in order to maintain their mass and health. So when a tooth is missing from the jawline, the bone underneath the old tooth site becomes atrophied and shrinks. Dentures and bridges do nothing to help this deterioration. However, dental implants actually screw into the bone and integrate with it, actually encouraging new bone growth.
  • Overall Health: Because implants allow for a normal range of food choices in the diet (a benefit not afforded by dentures), they encourage you to continue your healthy lifestyle for the rest of your life!

Do you still have questions? As always, we are here to answer any questions you have. Give us a call for more information!

Facts About Modern Bone Grafting

Did you know that with today’s modern techniques, bone grafting is now considered a routine treatment? A bone graft can fix a variety of facial and dental problems and may be required in some cases. If you’ve been told in the past that you’re not an ideal candidate for getting a tooth implant, call us to ask about how a sinus graft makes it possible for many of our patients to receive dental implants. Here are a few things you should know if you’re thinking about getting a dental implant or think a bone graft could help you.

Facts About Modern Bone GraftingIt’s a routine procedure!

Bone grafting has become a standard practice. Depending on the quantity and quality of jawbone, most procedures take place in our office and we use local anesthesia or conscience sedation to relieve any anxiety.

Bone loss has been virtually eliminated!

The only reason our jaws have the amount of the bone that they do is because of the presence of existing teeth. Complicated procedures were developed in the past to attempt to rebuild jaws that had atrophied due to missing teeth and disuse but with the modernization of bone grafting and dental implants, we can prevent jawbone atrophy all together.

There are a variety of materials that can be used.

The bone grafting material you need could come from a variety of sources. Generally, we use bone taken from your hip, jaw, or lower knee but today we have the ability to grow bone where needed or obtain bone from a tissue bank. We also use special membranes to help protect the bone graft and encourage bone regeneration.

Bone grafting allows your body to rebuild itself.

The human body uses most bone grafting materials as a frame on which it can grow new bone. Over time the graft material will be replaced with new bone through your body’s own process of bone regeneration. Maintaining a healthy amount of bone tissue around your teeth is crucial in keeping up your oral health.

If you have a missing tooth, congenital defect, or have had a traumatic jaw injury, and you’re wondering whether you may need bone grafting, give us a call. We can answer your questions, and present the treatment options that are best in your individual situation.

Dental Implants: A Three-Step Procedure

One of the most common questions we hear from patients when it comes to dental implants is “Why does it take three separate procedures?”

Dental Implants - 3 StepIt helps to understand that within the entire dental implant process, there are not just three stages, there are also three important parts to the final product that replaces your tooth. First, there is the implant itself, which is the metal rod that we surgically implant into the bone. Next, there is the abutment, which connects the implant to the artificial tooth. And lastly, the crown (or prosthetic tooth) itself.

The fact that the process has three physical components alone doesn’t tell the whole story though. Here, we explain why the most commonly employed dental implant method is split up into three separate procedures.

Step One: Placing the Implant

The first stage of the dental implant process is to bury the implant in the jaw bone via a surgical procedure. The dental implant replaces the tooth root, and requires healing time. During this healing time, osseointegration (the integration of the bone with the implant itself) occurs. The bone cells actually attach to the implant rod, filling in the spaces to secure the implant in place for permanent residency.   The healing time usually takes from 3-6 months.

Step Two: Placing the Abutment

The abutment is a post that connects the implant to the prosthetic tooth. Essentially, the abutment is a bridge that spans through the gum line so that the implant itself remains buried. As with the implant, the abutment has a healing period of its own. The gum around the abutment must heal and form a cuff or collar around it before the crown can be placed.

Step Three: The Prosthetic Tooth

Once the implant site and abutment have successfully integrated, the prosthetic tooth is fabricated and installed.

If you have any questions about the dental implant process, give us a call!

Wisdom Teeth: What do I Really Need to Know?

For the majority of people, the removal of their wisdom teeth is just another part of growing up. However, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy part! A combination of frightening stories from friends and false rumors online have may have you feeling anxious about your upcoming procedure. So we’d like to set the record straight and put your mind at ease.

Wisdom teethHere is what you really need to know about wisdom teeth:

  1. If you ignore them, there will be more (pain, that is).

Despite their name, it is not a smart idea to refuse surgery and live with your wisdom teeth. Most wisdom teeth are asymmetrical (they don’t grow evenly) which can cause complications. Asymmetric wisdom teeth have a high chance of developing gum disease and infections, which can become life threatening if not treated.

  1. Patience is not a virtue.

As wisdom teeth generally form roots during the teenage years, it is better to have them removed during that time. Waiting until you are 30 or 40 can increase the chance of them rupturing a nerve, leading to a longer and more complicated recovery.

  1. I scream for ice cream!

We recommend that you only ingest liquids for a day after the procedure. Ice cream, pudding and smoothies are all great choices (without straws). Softer foods are advised for the rest of the week, so make sure to stock up on pasta, eggs and mashed potatoes! And remember: NO straws during your recovery period.

  1. No pain, plenty to gain.

Thanks to anesthesia and/or laughing gas, your wisdom tooth extraction will be painless. However, most of our patients do experience some sort of discomfort in the days following the surgery, so we will suggest methods and medications to help with that while you are in our office.

  1. Rest is the best!

Post-removal recovery depends on the patient, but most people do not resume work for four-to-five days. Patients are also advised to not exercise vigorously or play any sort of wind instrument for a week.

Dental Implants: Are they Right for you?

Not everyone is blessed with perfect teeth. Many people would tell you they lack the smile they’ve always wanted due to genetics, disease, and sometimes even accidents. Fortunately, we have a solution. With dental implants, you will no longer feel self-conscious about your smile; but rather delight in having a new and improved grin!

Dental Implant FWhat are dental implants?

Technically, dental implants are replacement roots for missing teeth. First, the implant, a titanium screw, is inserted into the jawbone. Next, a removable or permanent replacement tooth is attached to the top of the implant to mirror the appearance of your natural teeth. Currently, over 3 million people worldwide have dental implants and the technology has reached a point where each procedure has a 98% success rate.

Why should I get dental implants?

Beyond simply improving the appearance of your smile, dental implants include many other benefits:

  • Oral health: Unlike other restorative procedures, dental implants do not necessitate the reduction or alteration of neighboring teeth, thus resulting in improved oral health overall. Additionally, dental implants do not interfere with access to neighboring teeth, so it is no harder to brush or floss.
  • Longevity: While other dental aides such as dentures and bridges inevitably require replacement, dental implants are extremely durable, lasting many more years and in some cases even a lifetime!
  • Convenience: Dental implants do not ever need to be removed for activities such as eating, drinking and brushing, and do not require adhesives. They act, look and feel just like natural teeth!

How much do dental implants cost?

Dental insurance does not always cover the cost of dental implants. However, in the long run, dental implants are usually cheaper than other restorative procedures. Because they do not need to be replaced, the initial investment for implants is well worth the price.

Dental implants are becoming a popular trend in the world! Call us to set up an appointment to upgrade your smile!

Teeth Nerve Stem Cells Signal New Age of Recovery

Have you ever thought about the possibility of growing new teeth? Of course, when we are younger, this phenomenon does occur, with adult teeth replacing our missing baby teeth. Many scientists and doctors, however, believed it was impossible, or highly unlikely for adults to ever form new teeth.

teeth nerve stem cellsYet only recently, researchers in Sweden have discovered that such a feat may one day become commonplace. While most scientists did know that the pulp in teeth contains a certain amount of stem cells, the Swedish researchers of the Karolinska Institute have discovered the origin of these cells.

These stem cells are typically used to help reform damaged teeth by assisting with the restoration of tooth tissue. Upon further examination, however, the researchers have discovered that these stem cells originally were nerve cells of the tooth. These cells leave the nerves at early stages of development, changing their identity to become part of the connective tissue, which forms dentin underneath the enamel.

The future possibilities for this discovery are almost endless. Using these nerve tissues, it may be possible for scientists to manipulate the stem cells to form new adult teeth. As these teeth will essentially be copies of one’s original teeth, this innovative process may replace veneers and other restorative processes as the best form of teeth restoration.

In fact, the benefits of this discovery may not stop with just teeth. Igor Adameyko, from Sweden’s Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, believes that all types of peripheral nerves, not just the ones found in teeth, “may function as important stem cell reserves.” Adameyko hypothesized that these “multipotent stem cells can depart from the nerves and contribute to the healing and reformation of tissues in different parts of the body.”

To summarize this exciting research, tooth nerve cells may be the key to a new wave of human recovery and restoration, and adult tooth creation is only one of these recently discovered benefits!

Dental Implants: Five Things You May Not Know

How much do you know about dental implants? With the increasing popularity and availability of dental implant surgery worldwide, patients are gaining more and more knowledge about dental implants every day.

Dental Implant eBut did you know these five important facts?

  1. Dental implants are appropriate for almost all ages. Not just for the elderly, dental implants are frequently placed even in the mouths of young adults. As long as the jaw has stopped growing (after puberty; age 16 for girls and age 18 for boys), a dental implant can be placed with great success.
  2. The titanium post actually fuses (osseointegrates) with the natural jawbone. They grow together to form a stronger foundation for replacement teeth. So dental implants actually improve the bone structure in the jaw, they don’t just fill it in.
  3. The “dental implant” is actually just the titanium post, one of three parts of the whole process. Other parts used in the full procedure that we think of as “dental implant surgery” are known as the abutment (the connector) and the actual replacement tooth itself (the crown).
  4. Dental implants preserve jawbone, whereas other teeth replacement options can lead to bone deterioration. Bone is similar to muscle in that it must be used in order to maintain its mass. When a tooth goes missing and the site is left untreated, the jawbone underneath tends to deteriorate. Dental implants eliminate this problem by securing a natural-like tooth right into the jawbone and thus utilizing (and preserving) that area of bone.
  5. Dental implants protect their neighbors. By contrast, a traditional, tooth-supported bridge involves the grinding away of the teeth on either side to act as a hammock for the bridge. With dental implants, the jaw is the anchor and support for the artificial tooth.

The bottom line? Dental implants offer a safe and manageable alternative to traditional tooth replacement methods.

Traveling and Oral Health: Tooth Tips for the Holidays

We don’t have to tell you: the winter holidays mark one of the busiest seasons of the year. With shopping, parties and vacations jam-packed on the calendar, it’s no wonder that many people take shortcuts when it comes to oral health maintenance during this time. If you are traveling during the holiday season and you want to avoid a January surprise cavity (or worse), here are some simple tooth travel tips to help you keep your smile intact.

  1. TravelDon’t leave home with a toothache! If you suspect you have any lurking problems in your mouth, schedule an appointment prior to your travel date so that you don’t end up with a tooth emergency while out of town. Research emergency dental clinics in your destination city and have those numbers handy to ensure that your time off is as relaxing as possible.
  2. No one ever regrets buying travel-sized gear. Keeping a travel toothbrush, floss and toothpaste on hand in addition to trial sizes of your favorite toiletries reduces your packing time, and not just during the holidays.
  3. Splurge on probiotics! Diseases and germs run rampant in buses, airports and other communal places that you might encounter during your trip. Researchers believe that probiotics are not only good for the gut; they may help maintain optimal oral health too!
  4. Toothbrushes don’t last forever! Generally, dentists recommend that you buy a new toothbrush every two to three months when at home. However if you are traveling, your toothbrush is exposed to even more bacteria. It’s best to toss it when you return home and swap it for a fresh brush, even if it hasn’t hit the three-month mark yet.
  5. Chewing gum is a limitless oral-health-on-the-go tip! Bringing sugar-free gum with you has multiple benefits; not only does it taste good and make your breath smell fresh, but the gum can help remove food that may be stuck in your teeth as well, acting as a secondary toothbrush.

Dental Implants: What Should I Believe?

Dental Implants have become commonplace, with over 3 million people worldwide hosting some sort of implant. Unfortunately, their rising popularity has been accompanied by an increasing number of misconceptions about what they can and can’t do.

dental implant dLet us help you to understand which of these common messages are true and which are fabricated.

Message #1: Dental implants are more expensive than traditional restorative methods.

Verdict: True and False. While the initial implant installation is more costly than other dental restorative procedures, over time, maintaining dental implants is much easier and cheaper. Other procedures require eventual replacement. For example, dentures require replacement after 5-10 years while dental bridges must be replaced every 7-10 years. So in the long run, dental implants can be less expensive than these alternative procedures.

Message #2: Dental implants are exceedingly painful.

Verdict: False. Like most forms of oral surgery, dental implant installation does involve some discomfort. However, patient accounts reveal that the pain is not worse than any typical tooth extraction as doctors use local anesthesia to address and minimize any discomfort during the procedure.

Message #3: Dental implant placement often fails.

Verdict: False. While dental implants do have the possibility of falling out, it is very rare for this to happen. In fact, reports show that 98% of dental implant surgeries are successful.

Message #4: Only young people should get dental implants.

Verdict: False. There is no reason healthy, elderly patients cannot receive implants. In fact, there are many cases of patients 90 and older undergoing dental implant placement surgery with great success!

Don’t let these common misconceptions get in the way of your decision to get dental implants. Give us a call…we’d be happy to discuss your concerns about dental implants with you to give you a better idea of what this procedure can do for you.