Thursday, September 1, 2005
Improvements in the field of dentistry are leaving doctors and patients healthier, happier and smiling brighter.
Steamboat Springs dentist David Banks of Alpine Family Dentistry said that a new laser designed to detect tooth decay allows dentists to detect tooth decay earlier and begin treatment sooner for many patients.
"This laser is very successful," he said. "It is helpful in diagnosing some cases where we have been suspicious for some time. It is a way for us to look into the biting surface of the tooth."
Banks said the low-powered laser is directed at the tooth, and the machine is able to pick up a reflected wavelength from the decay because the decay is reflected at a different wavelength. The laser then gives the dentist a numerical reading that helps determine if tooth decay is present and how severe it is.
Banks said his office has used the laser for about a year.
Dental implants also are key to care.
Implants are titanium cylinders that are placed into the jawbone of a patient with the intent that the bone will grow around the cylinders forming a stable palate. From there, dentists can attach crowns to the implants.
Banks said these treatments are used for missing teeth and people who might use dentures or bridges.
Banks said it usually takes the bone about 3 to 5 months to grow around the cylinders.
Dentist Jim McCreight with Yampa Valley Dental said one of the biggest advancements he has seen recently has stemmed from people wanting to improve the appearance of their smiles because they are inundated with images from television shows like "Extreme Makeover" and "The Swan."
"The smile is definitely looked at differently now," he said. "People are realizing their smile makes a big impression."
McCreight said there are a number of ways to whiten their teeth including lasers, tray, crÃmes, strips, toothpastes, and mouthwashes.
He said most people use lasers to whiten their teeth because there can be a noticeable difference after one or two visits. However, McCreight warns patients that just making your teeth white doesn't mean your teeth are healthy.
Just like Banks, McCreight said the decay-detecting laser has been a huge step forward in maintaining a healthy mouth. "Lasers allow a dentist to get a jump start," he said.
McCreight said the advantage to this kind of technology is early detection and treatment. It is easier to drill a small hole in a tooth when you detect decay than a large hole, he said.
Both McCreight and Banks see patients in Steamboat Springs, Craig and the Yampa Valley.
McCreight said that while there are new products and procedures available to help maintain a healthy mouth that preventative care is key.
McCreight recommends parents bring their children with them to visits to get accustomed to being in a dentist chair and being worked on.
McCreight recommends parents bring in children between 6 and 12 months of age and that adults visit a dentist every six months.