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Help! My Face is Changing!

The bones of your face deteriorate when you lose your teeth.

Did you know that when you have a tooth pulled you also lose the bone around it? If you lose several teeth in a row you quickly lose large quantities of the bone that kept you jaw strong and your face looking young.  The more bone you lose, the more your face sags.  If you ask the dentist to put those teeth back, odds are you will get a bridge, partial, or a denture that may even speed up the loss of bone.

How do you stop losing bone after you have lost your teeth? 

A famous dental educator has stated that there are two ways to stop bone loss: eternal rest or dental implants.  You see, when a removable dental appliance or denture sits on your gums, it may look and feel good for a while, but the bone that it sits on always goes away, quickly at first, and then slowly, but with very dramatic results.  In fact, if you are wearing a denture that was made 10 years ago, it is likely that the denture does not fit your remaining jawbone or your face.  Why do you think so many older denture patients wear dental adhesive?  Their dentures just can’t hang on to what little bone is left.

How can you avoid losing the precious bone that makes your face look young and healthy? 

Keep your teeth and gums healthy.  If you lose a tooth, have it replaced with a dental implant before you lose the bone in your face.  Dental implants restore the stress and strain to the bone in a healthy way so that it doesn’t atrophy.  While it is unfortunate to lose one of your chewing tools, it is great news that it can be replaced with a long term dental implant.  Your new tooth can be made to look and chew just like the one you were born with!

“But my tooth has been gone for a while.  The dentist didn’t offer implants as an option.  There is already a dent in my jaw where I know the bone is missing.” 

A safe, inexpensive dental CT scan can precisely show the amount of bone lost so you can get the picture and make plans to stay healthy.  Some of these areas can be restored with bone from your own mouth–a bone graft. Ouch?  Not so bad.  Sort of the same discomfort you experienced losing a tooth should be expected when having a bone graft with current techniques and medicines.  After a few months healing, a dental implant and crown can be placed into the grafted bone to restore stability and beauty.

“What happens if I ignore these areas of bone deterioration?” 

If you wait too long you can plan on wearing removable dental appliances forever.  Frankly, dentures and dental adhesive were never something I wanted for me when I got old.  I’ll take every small step I can to hold on to my teeth and the bone around my teeth, so I can chew and smile like a kid, even when I’m eighty…or a hundred!

Talk to your dentist about dental implants, bone grafting, and about how you can keep the bone of your jaws healthy.  Don’t become a “dental cripple”.  Discuss this problem with someone with training, experience, and knowledge about maintenance of your jaw bone health.


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Guide to Selecting Your Dentist…On The Web

Guide to selecting your dentist…on the WEB


By Thomas O’Connor DMD, Saint Louis, MO.   314-351-2900


When you are evaluating the professional who will help you and your family maintain the highest level of health, I think you need to consider a few factors beyond whether or not the dentist is on your insurance list and if the dental office is in the next block.

What are your dental needs? Are you sure that you are even aware of the condition of your mouth? Has anyone sat down with you and explained what a healthy mouth looks like? Have you been offered a chance to see how your mouth measures up to “great health”? This process takes time. It does not happen in a five-minute exam and a five-minute consultation.

Who selected the dentists on your list? Did you know that almost any dentist can be on any list of preferred providers? The requirement is that he will sign the contract to work for a fee set by the insurance company following the treatment guidelines of the insurance company. That’s about it.

There are few, if any, extraordinary requirements for education, experience, excellence, or patient satisfaction–few, if any, requirements beyond those of state licensure for participation in most dental insurance preferred provider plans. It’s about the buck. Accepting a reduced fee so the insurance company can make a profit while corralling as many participants from as many employers and agents as possible. And, the less treatment you receive, the more the insurance company makes. If that is all you are looking for in a health care provider, just about any dentist should keep you happy.

If you have higher expectations for you and your family you might want to evaluate your choice a little closer.

Your needs determine the right dentist for you. If your mouth is truly healthy, if you are blessed with healthy gums and strong, straight, perfect teeth and a relentless daily drive to personally maintain them with flossing and brushing, there is a good chance that almost any dentist can help you monitor your dental health.

Unfortunately, most of us have somewhat greater needs. Consider that many of us have lost a tooth or teeth, or have had a number of restorative dental procedures by the time we reach adulthood. Also consider that the old restorative techniques, silver fillings and porcelain fused to “whatever metal” crowns deteriorate and discolor our teeth and gums over time. Teeth shift and wear, bones change, gums recede. Is the dentist who spends his day seeing 30 or 40 patients, two or three or even four patients at a time, going to spend the time educating you and finally helping you clinically to your highest potential? Is this dentist going to personally have the time to treat you and your family, or will the details of your treatment be left to his “helper” (whose last name you don’t even know) as he sprints on to the next person on your “list”. If you feel like a number in the dental office…that’s exactly what you are.

Verify your dentist’s expertise and credentials with the State Board. Have there been disciplinary actions taken against the Dentist’s licenses to practice? Is that OK?

Look at photos of cases that may be similar to yours. Compare pictures of your condition, before and after treatment, to other patients the dentist has helped. You can see dental excellence in photos. Are the tissues natural-looking after treatment. Can you see the gum line and is it natural looking?

If being “technologically up-to-date” is important to you, look at your dentist’s web site and library of digital photography of his case work. If the dental office doesn’t have these in 2014, maybe technology is not the focus of that particular office. If all of the photos are canned (purchased from a distributor of dental web sites–you can tell) then you have no documentation of the capacity for generation of beautiful dentistry of this office. If the web site is all commercially generated information, not personally written by the owner, you can bet that there will be little personal contribution to the dentistry you receive. In other words, just like the cleanliness of the floor and bathroom reflects the clinical cleanliness of a dental office, the web site of a dental office should be a reflection of the personal care provided on a day-to-day basis by the dentist.

My opinion is that the Internet can be a good source for finding a dentist in this age of technology and information. Read testimonials of existing patients carefully, Verify credentials and continuing education of your dentist. Do you know that a dentist practicing dentistry as learned 35 years ago in dental school would still be putting silver fillings and gold in front teeth, would not be wearing gloves even during surgery, would be using sterilization techniques developed before HIV was even discovered, and would be using techniques and materials that barely meet minimal standards in this modern age of dentistry. Responsible continuing education requires develping competence in modern dental technology including new CT-based diagnostics and other radiology techniques, implant dentistry, new and beautiful biologically compatible restorative materials, sterile technique, bone grafting and atraumatic surgical techniques.

Don’t be a victim of desperate marketing attempts to grab patients with loss leaders like “free whitening” or “free exams and x-rays”. Believe me…Nothing of substance in dentistry comes for “free”.

If you are looking for the finest dentistry available for you and your family, demand to see it in photos, in writing, in the words of existing patients, in continuing education credentials, in on-on-one conversations with the dentist who will personally partner with you to help you get what you want.

YOU are the one responsible for your dental health and the selection of your dentist.

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Welcome to our blog!

We’re excited to announce the official launch of our Smilesr4Sharing blog.

We’ll be posting helpful dental tips, news from the dental industry, news from our practice, and more about the latest in dentistry.

We built our practice on the notion that we’re there for our patients when they need us and we want our online presence to be a reflection of that principle. We hope this blog provides an extra level of service to our current and future patients.

If you would like to stay up to date on the latest from Smilesr4Sharing, simply click the RSS “Subscribe to feed” link located on our website and subscribe. Our subscribers will be updated when we make a new blog post.

Here’s to your best oral health ever!