Lansing's Dental Discussion
By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
March 17, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
AcidRefluxCouldBeDamagingYourTeeth

Your tooth enamel is often under assault from oral acid produced by bacteria and certain foods. Unless neutralized, acid can erode your enamel, and lead to destructive tooth decay.

But there's another type of acid that may be even more destructive—the acid produced in your stomach. Although important for food digestion, stomach acid outside of its normal environment can be destructive. That includes your teeth, if stomach acid finds its way into your mouth. And that can happen if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

GERD, a chronic condition affecting 1 in 5 adults, is caused by the weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter, a ring of muscle at the intersection of the esophagus and the stomach that prevents stomach acid from traveling back into the digestive tract and damaging the esophageal liner.

It's also possible for stomach acid to travel as far up as the mouth. With a pH of 2.0 or less, stomach acid can lower the mouth's normal pH level of 7.0 well below the 5.5 pH threshold for enamel softening and erosion. This can cause your teeth, primarily the inside surfaces of the upper teeth, to become thin, pitted or yellowed. Your teeth's sensitivity may also increase.

If you have GERD, you can take precautions to avoid tooth damage and the extensive dental work that may follow.

  • Boost acid buffering by rinsing with water (or a cup of water mixed with a ½ teaspoon of baking soda) or chewing on an antacid tablet.
  • Wait about an hour to brush your teeth following a reflux episode so that your saliva has time to neutralize acid and re-mineralize enamel.
  • If you have chronic dry mouth, stimulate saliva production by drinking more water, chewing xylitol gum or using a saliva supplement.

You can also seek to minimize GERD by avoiding tobacco and limiting your consumption of alcohol, caffeine or spicy and acidic foods. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to control your GERD symptoms.

Preventing tooth decay or gum disease from the normal occurrences of oral acid is a daily hygiene battle. Don't let GERD-related acid add to the burden.

If you would like more information on protecting your teeth from acid reflux, 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 “GERD and Oral Health.”

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
March 07, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants  
ImplantsCouldHelpYouKeepRemainingTeethLonger

It's a common practice among people slowly losing their teeth to have their remaining teeth removed. They find dentures to be less costly than replacing one tooth at a time or caring for those that remain. On the other hand, it's usually healthier for the mouth to preserve remaining teeth as long as possible, replacing them only as necessary.

This latter strategy has up to now been difficult and expensive to achieve. But dental implants are changing that—using these imbedded titanium metal devices with a variety of restorations, we're able to better plan and implement staged tooth replacement.

Most people associate implants with single tooth replacements of a life-like crown cemented or screwed into an abutment attached to the implant post. This can play an early role in a staged replacement plan, but at some point, multiple single-tooth implants can become quite expensive.

Implants, however, have a much broader range of use. A few strategically placed implants can support a variety of restorations, including bridges and removable or fixed dentures. Four to eight implants, for example, can secure a fixed denture replacing all teeth on a jaw, far fewer than the number needed to replace the teeth individually.

Implants may also improve the function of traditional restorations. For instance, dentures can't stop the bone loss that often results from tooth loss—in fact, they will accelerate it as they rub and irritate the bony ridges of the jaw. By contrast, implants stimulate bone growth, slowing or even stopping the process of bone loss.

In a traditional bridge, the outer crowns of the restoration are bonded to the teeth on either side of the missing tooth gap (the middle crowns fill the gap). These support teeth must be permanently altered to accommodate the crowns. But an implant-supported bridge doesn't depend on other teeth for support, thus eliminating the need to permanently alter any teeth.

More importantly, previously placed implants often become part of the next stages of tooth replacement, like building on an addition onto an existing house. All in all, including implants in your ongoing dental restoration can help you enjoy the benefits of preserving your natural teeth for much longer.

If you would like more information on dental restoration options, 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 “Replacing All Teeth but Not All at Once.”

AGTsSimonCowellUpdatesHisSmileWithVeneersandSoCanYou

It's been a rough year for all of us, but especially for Simon Cowell. The famous entrepreneur and brutally honest talent judge on American Idol and America's Got Talent underwent emergency back surgery in August after an accident on a new electric bike. But the good news is he's well on his way to recovery—and well enough in October to undergo another, less-stressful, procedure: a smile makeover with dental veneers.

This latest trip to the dentist wasn't Cowell's first experience with the popular restoration, wanting this time to update his smile to more closely resemble what he had when he was younger. He even brought along some older photos for reference.

Veneers aren't exclusive to celebrities like Simon Cowell, as thousands of people who get them every year can attest. These thin wafers of porcelain bonded to teeth can mask a wide range of defects, from chips, wear or discoloration to slight tooth gaps or misalignments. And every veneer is custom-made to match an individual patient's dental dimensions and coloring.

If you're thinking about a smile upgrade, here are a few reasons to consider dental veneers.

More bang for your buck. Compared to other transformative cosmetic options, veneers are relatively affordable, with the cost dependent largely on the extent of your dental needs. Still, dental veneers are an investment that can give long-lasting yields of a more attractive smile and even a completely new look.

Little to no tooth alteration. In most veneer cases, we need only remove a small amount of enamel so the veneers don't appear bulky (the alteration is permanent, though, so you'll need a veneer on the tooth from then on). It's also possible to get “no-prep” veneers requiring little to no alteration.

Durable and long-lasting. Continuing improvements in porcelain and other dental ceramics have led to stronger forms that can better withstand the biting forces your teeth encounter every day. Although you'll still need to be careful biting into hard items, your veneers can last for several years.

Easy to maintain. Veneer cleaning and maintenance is much the same as with natural teeth—daily brushing and flossing, and regular dental cleanings and checkups. Outside of that, you'll need to watch what you chomp down on: Veneers are strong, but not indestructible, and they can break.

As Simon Cowell knows, getting veneers isn't difficult. It starts with an initial visit so we can evaluate your dental health and needs. From there, we can present options on how to update your smile.

If you would like more information about dental veneers, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Porcelain Veneers” and “No-Prep Porcelain Veneers.”

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
February 15, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants  
HowLongIstheImplantProcessItDependsonYourBoneHealth

If you're thinking about getting dental implants, you may be curious about how long it might take. The answer depends on the health of your supporting bone.

Bone is an integral part of implant functionality as bone cells gradually grow and adhere to the newly placed implant to give it its characteristic strength. The implant also requires an adequate amount of bone to accurately position it for the best appearance outcome.

If the bone is sufficient and healthy, we can proceed with the surgical placement of the implant. The most common practice following surgery is to allow a few weeks for the bone integration described previously to take place before finally attaching the crown. With an alternative known as a “tooth in one day” procedure, we install a crown right after surgery, which gives you a full smile when you leave.

There's one caveat to this latter method, though—because the implant still requires bone integration, this immediate crown is temporary. It's designed to receive no pressure from biting or chewing, which could damage the still integrating implant. We'll install the permanent crown after the implant and bone have had time to fully mesh.

So, if your supporting bone is sound, the complete implant process may only take a few weeks. But what if it's not—what if you've lost bone and don't have enough to support an implant? In that case, the length of process time depends on the severity of the bone loss and if we're able to overcome it. In some cases, we can't, which means we'll need to consider a different restoration.

But it's often possible to regenerate lost bone by grafting bone material at the implant site. If the bone loss is moderate, it may take 2 to 4 months of regrowth after grafting before we can perform implant surgery. If it's more significant or there's disease damage to the socket, it may take longer, usually 4 to 6 months. It largely depends on the rate of bone regeneration.

In a nutshell, then, the health of your jaw's supporting bone has a lot to do with whether the implant process will take a few weeks or a few months. Regardless of the time, though, you'll gain the same result—new, functional teeth and a more attractive smile.

If you would like more information on dental implant restorations, 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 Timelines for Replacing Missing Teeth.”

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
February 05, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   toothache  
WhatToDoandNotDoforThese3CommonChildhoodDentalProblems

Knowing what to do—and what not to do—when your child is sick can greatly affect their health and well-being. That's especially true with dental problems.

Here then are some Dos and Don'ts for 3 common problems children experience with their teeth and gums.

Teething. An infant's first teeth breaking through the gums is a normal but often unpleasant experience. Fortunately, teething episodes only last a few days. And, there's usually no need to see the dentist unless they have a fever or diarrhea while teething. In the meantime:

  • Do: provide them chilled (not frozen) cloth or plastic items to bite and gnaw, and massage their gums to relieve painful pressure. You can also give them an age-appropriate dose of a mild pain reliever.
  • Don't: rub any medication on their gums, which can irritate them and other soft tissues. Never use alcohol or aspirin to alleviate teething discomfort. And avoid using anything with benzocaine, a numbing agent which can be hazardous to young children.

Toothache. Whether a momentary sensitivity to hot or cold or a sharp, throbbing pain, a child's toothache often signals tooth decay, a bacterial disease which could eventually lead to tooth loss.

  • Do: make a dental appointment at your child's first complaint of a toothache. Ease the pain with a warm-water rinse, a cold compress to the outside of the jaw, or a mild pain reliever.
  • Don't: rub medication on the teeth or gums (for similar reasons as with teething). Don't apply ice or heat directly to the affected tooth or gums, which can burn them.

Bleeding gums. Gum bleeding from normal brushing or flossing, along with red or swollen gums, may indicate periodontal (gum) disease. Although rare in children, it can still happen—and it can put an affected tooth in danger.

  • Do: see your dentist if bleeding continues for a few days. Continue to brush gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush around the gums to remove plaque, a thin-biofilm most responsible for gum infection.
  • Don't: brush aggressively or more than twice a day, which could unnecessarily irritate and damage the gums. And don't stop brushing—it's important to remove plaque buildup daily to lessen the gum infection.

If you would like more information on dental care for children, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
January 26, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
4ThingsYouCanDoToProtectOralHealthDuringCancerTreatment

Despite momentous strides in recent years in the fight against cancer, treatments can still disrupt normal life. Both radiation and chemotherapy have side effects that can cause problems in other areas of health—particularly the teeth and gums.

If you or a loved one are undergoing cancer treatment, it's important to get ahead of any potential side effects it may have on dental health. Here are 4 things that can help protect teeth and gums while undergoing cancer treatment.

Get a preliminary dental exam. Before beginning treatment, patients should have their dentist examine their teeth and gums to establish a baseline for current dental health and to treat any problems that may already exist. However, patients should only undergo dental procedures in which the recovery time can be completed before starting radiation or chemotherapy.

Be meticulous about oral hygiene. Undergoing cancer treatment can increase the risks for developing tooth decay or gum disease. That's why it's important that patients thoroughly brush and floss everyday to reduce bacterial plaque buildup that causes disease. Patients should also reduce sugar in their diets, a prime food source for bacteria, and eat “teeth-friendly” foods filled with minerals like calcium and phosphorous to keep teeth strong.

Keep up regular dental visits. The physical toll that results from cancer treatment often makes it difficult to carry on routine activities. Even so, patients should try to keep up regular dental visits during their treatment. Besides the extra disease prevention offered by dental cleanings, the dentist can also monitor for any changes in oral health and provide treatment if appropriate.

Minimize dry mouth. Undergoing cancer treatment can interfere with saliva production and flow. This can lead to chronic dry mouth and, without the full protection of saliva against dental disease, could increase the risk of tooth decay or gum disease. Patients can minimize dry mouth by drinking more water, using saliva boosters and discussing medication alternatives with their doctor.

It may not be possible to fully avoid harm to your oral health during cancer treatment, and some form of dental restoration may be necessary later. But following these guidelines could minimize the damage and make it easier to regain your dental health afterward.

If you would like more information on dental care during cancer treatment, 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 “Oral Health During Cancer Treatment.”

YouDontNeedtoPassaFootballLikePatrickMahomestoRemoveaLooseBabyTooth

Kids get pretty inventive pulling a loose primary (baby) tooth. After all, there's a profit motive involved (aka the Tooth Fairy). But a young Kansas City Chiefs fan may have topped his peers with his method, revealed in a recent Twitter video that went viral.

Inspired by all-star KC quarterback Patrick Mahomes (and sporting his #15 jersey), 7-year-old Jensen Palmer tied his loose tooth to a football with a line of string. Then, announcing “This is how an MVP gets their tooth out,” the next-gen QB sent the ball flying, with the tooth tailing close behind.

It appears young Palmer was no worse for wear with his tooth removal technique. But if you're thinking there might be a less risky, and less dramatic, way to remove a loose tooth, you're right. The first thing you should know, though: Primary teeth come out when they're good and ready, and that's important. Primary teeth play an important role in a child's current dental and speech function and their future dental development. For the latter, they serve as placeholders for permanent teeth developing within the gums. If one is lost prematurely, the corresponding permanent tooth might erupt out of position and cause bite problems.

In normal development, though, a primary tooth coming out coincides closely with the linked permanent tooth coming in. When it's time, the primary tooth lets you know by becoming quite loose in the socket.

If you think one of your children's primary teeth is ready, clean your hands first with soap and water. Then using a clean tissue, you should be able to easily wiggle the tooth with little tension. Grasp the tooth with the tissue and give it a little horizontal twist to pop it out. If that doesn't work, wait a day or two before trying again. If it does come out, be sure you have some clean gauze handy in case of bleeding from the empty socket.

Normally, nature takes its course from this point. But be on the lookout for abnormal signs like fragments of the tooth left behind in the socket (not to be mistaken for the top of the permanent tooth coming in). You should also look for redness, swelling or complaints of pain the following day—signs of possible infection. If you see anything like this, make a prompt appointment so we can take a look. Losing a primary tooth is a signpost pointing the way from childhood to adulthood (not to mention a windfall for kids under their pillows). You can help make it a smooth transition—no forward pass required.

If you would like more information about caring for primary teeth, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Importance of Baby Teeth” and “Losing a Baby Tooth.”

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
January 06, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implant  
AToothinaDayImplantCouldGiveYouaPerfectSmileFromDayOne

Getting a new implant tooth in only one day sounds too good to be true. But it's true—up to a point. Whether or not you can undergo an immediate crown replacement (attaching a crown to an implant right after surgery) will depend mostly on the underlying bone.

Traditionally, an implant crown isn't attached until several weeks after surgery to allow bone cells to grow and adhere to an implant's titanium surface (osseointegration). The gums are sutured back in place to protect the metal implant until it develops a durable hold within the bone. But this also leaves you with a noticeable missing tooth gap during the integration period.

A “tooth in a day” procedure gives you a full smile right after implant surgery. There is one catch, though—this first crown will be temporary and it won't be able to receive biting pressure.

Until the bone and implant fully integrate, attaching a full-sized permanent crown can damage the implant. To avoid this, the initial crown is slightly shorter than the future permanent crown. This prevents it from contacting solidly with teeth on the other jaw while biting or chewing, which can generate enough force to potentially damage the implant.

If you undergo an immediate-load crown on your implant, you'll have to return later for the full-length permanent crown. In the meantime, though, you'll avoid the embarrassment of a missing tooth in your smile.

With that said, the target bone must be healthy and intact for you to undergo a “tooth in a day” procedure. That isn't always the case with missing teeth—over time, bone volume can gradually diminish. The subsequent loss can complicate implant placement, which must be exact to achieve the most natural outcome. If extensive bone loss exists, you may need grafting to build up enough bone to adequately support an implant.

Even if an implant can be placed, the bone may still be too weak to allow for immediate crown placement. In that case, the traditional procedure may be the best course to allow the bone and implant to fully bond.

To determine if you're a candidate for a “tooth in a day” implant procedure, you'll first need to have a thorough dental exam that includes an assessment of bone health. If it's sound, you may be able to have a full smile right after implant surgery.

If you would like more information on dental implant restorations, 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 “Same-Day Tooth Replacement With Dental Implants.”

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
December 27, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
BoostYourDentalHealthWithSoon-To-ExpireFSAFunds

If you're among the estimated 14 million families with a healthcare flexible spending account (FSA), New Year's Eve has an added meaning—that's typically the deadline for using any current year funds. Since any remaining money in your FSA could go poof at the stroke of midnight on December 31st, you might be looking for a way to spend it. If so, consider a dental health boost for you and your family.

FSAs were created in the 1970s by the U.S. Government as a salary benefit that employers could offer employees. Instead of receiving all of their pay as taxable income, employees could designate a portion of it (currently up to $2,650) in a non-taxable account to use for certain medical and dental expenses. An FSA thus provides families a way to pay for uncovered healthcare costs while saving on their taxes.

But because most FSAs expire by the end of the year and then restart with a fresh balance in the new year, there's a natural concern that you will “use or lose” remaining money. People thus begin looking for eligible expenses like treatments, prescribed medications or eyeglasses. They can't, however, use them for items like over-the-counter medical products (though some pain relievers get a pass this year because of COVID-19), as well as most things cosmetic.

The same generally holds true for dental expenses—you won't be able to use FSA funds for procedures like teeth whitening or veneers. Toothbrushes and other routine oral care products are also ineligible, although you may be able to buy items like a water flosser if your dentist issues you a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN).

Still, there's a wide range of eligible dental items you could pay for with remaining FSA funds.

Prevention measures. Any procedures or treatments intended to prevent disease are typically FSA-eligible. These can include measures like regular dental cleanings, sealants or fluoride applications.

Disease treatment. FSAs cover procedures like fillings, extractions, gum surgery or root canals. This could include repairing damage from disease through dental bonding or crowns, which might also improve your smile.

Dental restorations. Missing teeth restorations like bridgework, dentures or dental implants are also covered. These may improve your appearance, but they primarily restore disrupted dental function.

Out-of-pocket expenses. Although you can't pay for dental insurance premiums, an FSA may be able to help in other ways. You can use FSA funds for co-pays or any remaining out-of-pocket expenses.

If you're not sure what dental expenses might be eligible for FSA funds, give our office a call and we can provide you guidance. If FSA funds can help, you'll be able to improve your dental health—and possibly your appearance—before you ring in 2021.

If you would like more information about managing your dental care, please contact us or schedule a consultation.





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