dr. barrett

What is Orthognathic Surgery?

What is Orthognatic SurgeryOrthognathic surgery is a procedure, or set of procedures, that make corrections to the jaw. The jaw serves many functions. It isn’t just for chewing. A healthy jaw also plays an important role in your speech, ability to sleep well, as well as maintain a proper bite, airflow, and facial symmetry.

Your jaw can be misaligned for a number of reasons. Perhaps you suffered an injury that wasn’t corrected properly. Maybe things just grew that way. It may very well be that a slight misalignment is no issue, but it’s worth giving us a call to find out just how severe your misalignment is, and what it means for your health.

Reasons to ask about jaw surgery:

Unexplained Pain
Sometimes, unexplained pain elsewhere in the body is caused by the activities of your jaws. Your headaches and even neck pain may be the result of excessive pressure in your jaw due to grinding or bite issues.

Air Flow
The position of your jaw can also restrict air flow while you sleep. Misaligned jaws are a common cause of sleep apnea. It could very well be that your fatigue and stamina issues stem from a misaligned jaw.

Mechanical Problems
If you have trouble chewing, meeting your lips together or can see a visible imbalance in your appearance, it may be that you have jaw misalignment issues that can be corrected with surgery. It is also worth noting that a great deal of jaw issues cannot be detected by looking in the mirror, but we think it’s a good place to start.

A Common Treatment Plan:

Your treatment plan will depend on your needs, but for a major jaw correction we often start with braces to move teeth into a better position, and then surgically correct the position of your jaw. This happens after a consensus is made between your family dentist, a maxillofacial surgeon an orthodontist and yourself.

Surgery is done under anesthesia, so you won’t feel a thing while the procedure occurs.

Afterward, you’ll be given a schedule to modify your diet, activity, and be given medication so as to heal as soon as possible

Contact us for a consultation to see if corrective jaw surgery is for you!

The Miracle of Bone Grafting

Bone grafting is something of a miracle. Although you only get one set of bones, it’s actually possible to convince your body to repair itself with new bone material where you need it most. We aren’t talking about growing a whole femur. We’re talking about growing just enough bone material to strengthen weak spots in your jaw.

Why would I ever need this?
Let’s say you need a dental implant. You’re sick of that hole in your mouth where one of your teeth used to be, and you’re ready for a shiny new tooth to fill the gap. The problem is, your bone just isn’t strong enough to support the implant. Maybe you have periodontal disease, and the jaw bone is just too weak. Bone grafting may be necessary.

How does it work?
Simply put, bone grafting is the process of taking a little bone material from another site in your body and placing it where it is most needed. The healthy bone then fuses with the weak bone and encourages your body to grow more bone in the site, rebuilding the area to the point where it can support an implant.

There are a few ways to do this.
Sophisticated sounding terms to impress your friends:

  • Autogenous bone graft: Bone is removed from another site in your body and transplanted to where you need it. If you need just a little bone, it can be taken from another site in your mouth. But if there is not enough good material in your mouth, or you need a sizable amount, it can be taken from your hip, or your shin.
  • Allograft: Synthetic bone can be grown in a lab, or taken from a cadaver bone. This is a perfectly safe, proven procedure, though your best bet is always your own bone material. Your body knows there’s just no place like home.
  • Xenograft: Cow bone. Yes. Your body will accept cow bone. In this scenario, no secondary donor site is needed, so it may be a great option if you are uncomfortable with having bone taken from another site in your body. This is a perfectly safe procedure. Your jaw can be beefed up with bovine bone.

No online article will let you know for sure whether or not you need bone grafting, but it is good to know something about it. Give us a call and come on down for a consultation, and we’ll let you know exactly what we think the best option is for you.

Facial Trauma: Let a Pro Handle Your Injury

Facial Trauma Let a Pro Handle Your InjuryFacial trauma covers an array of conditions, but in general it’s an umbrella term for facial injury. This covers everything from tooth damage to eye socket injury. When it comes to mending damage to your face, you want to make sure an expert handles it. Facial trauma is not just about pain; it’s an emotional issue as well. This is about your face, and making sure you when you recover from your injury, you are still just as happy to see yourself in the mirror.

Facial trauma is a term that covers an array of conditions. There are soft tissue injuries, bone injuries, and injuries to special regions (including nerves, glands, or eyes).

Soft Tissue Injury
Suturing repairs laceration to soft tissue. These can be dissolvable stiches that your body absorbs, or artificial material that must be taken out later. Suturing facilitates faster healing, avoiding infection, and more cosmetically pleasing results. The main concern here is that you heal from the procedure looking as good as you did before your injury, and so we are always sure to closely examine you for nerve and gland damage. Your healing time will depend on the seriousness of your injury, and we can inform you on what to expect.

Bone Injury
We can’t put a cast on your face. How great is that? The alternatives depend on who/what/where/when of your particular case. In the case of a serious jaw fracture, we want to immobilize the fracture the same way a cast would. Since a cast is out of the question, we may wire the jaws together and use tiny plates and screws to hold the bone in the right place. While this sounds extreme, it leads to faster recovery time and a more rapid return to proper function.

Tooth Injury
Tooth injuries are very common, and just like the above injuries, require procedures that vary depending on the case. If your tooth gets chipped or knocked out, place it milk or salt water, and then call your dentist or our office immediately. The longer you wait, the less likely it is that your tooth will survive. Also, don’t wipe the tooth off, as you could destroy important ligaments.

As you can see, facial trauma is a very complex, very delicate issue. If left in the wrong hands, the injury could heal in a less than preferable way, which could then necessitate another surgery to fix the results of the last one. If you have an accident, make sure you give our office a call so that we can handle your case, and get you looking good as new.

Dental Implants: FAQ

Dental Implant FAQDental implants are becoming more and more popular these days, and we can see why. The ability to replace a missing tooth with a brand new one is an attractive concept.

We know that people often have questions about implants, so we have put together this page to answer those common questions:

What is a dental implant?
Implants are artificial teeth that function exactly like your natural teeth. We take a titanium screw, attach it to your jaw, allow the jaw to grow around the screw, and then fit the new tooth in right where the old one used to be. It will feel exactly like your old tooth used to when you had it.

How quick is the procedure?
It depends on just how strong and healthy your jaw is. Your jaw may very well be ready to receive the new tooth quickly, but it may also take time to grow around the screw. If your jaw is weak, we can also transplant bone from other parts of your body first, via another procedure called “bone grafting”, to grow a fresh, strong base where the screw can be inserted. If that is the case, the whole process takes more time, but again, it depends on your case.

Does it hurt?
No. Medications and anesthesia are available to reduce or eliminate pain. You shouldn’t feel a thing.

Since it’s an artificial tooth, do I need to care for it as if it were alive?
You should clean and maintain your implant exactly like you do with your living teeth. Though the implant isn’t going to die, it can still allow bacteria to build up, like your other teeth do. Clean all of your teeth with care, and they should all stay healthy.

How long do they last?
If your implant is taken good care of, it should last a long, long time. Perhaps 40 years and sometimes even a lifetime!

What should I eat after the procedure?
Eat soft food. We will help you decide on a diet that works for you depending on the specifics of your case and treatment.

Have more questions? Call us! We would be glad to set up an evaluation.

6 Reasons for Considering Dental Implants

Loss of permanent teeth is more common than you’d think. The average adult age 20-34 is missing 1 permanent tooth, the average adult age 35-49 is missing 3 permanent teeth, and the average adult over the age of 50 is missing 6 permanent teeth! There are a variety of different tooth replacement options, but we believe that dental implants offer the most success, with the best aesthetics and functionality. Take a look at just a few of the many benefits of dental implants!

  1. Long-lasting. Dental implants are designed to be the permanent solution for missing teeth. Dental bridges last 5-10 years and crowns last 10-15 years, but dental implants can last 20 years, even a lifetime with proper dental care, making them a cost-efficient alternative to other modes of tooth replacement.
  2. No cavities. Because they are made of titanium, dental implants are not subject to decay. They also don’t put stress on other teeth, which hel6 Reasons-for-Considering-Dental-Implantsps avoid tooth erosion.
  3. Like natural teeth. Dental implants are natural-looking and fully functional. Unlike dentures, which are bulky and removable, cause sores and require the application of adhesive, dental implants are comfortable, permanent fixtures that don’t interfere with eating or speaking. And, because pressure is applied to the jaw bone when you bite down on dental implants, chewing with dental implants doesn’t feel any different from chewing with your natural teeth.
  4. Preserve jaw bone. Without a tooth to support, the jaw bone begins to atrophy, and this bone degradation makes the replacement of missing teeth nearly impossible without the help of jaw regenerative procedures such as bone grafting.
  5. Appearance. Your teeth play an important role in supporting your facial structure. Missing teeth can cause your features to sag and your face to lose shape, which tends to have an aging effect. Replacing missing teeth works wonders for improving your appearance and helping you look younger.
  6. Tooth stability. When you’re missing a tooth, your surrounding teeth are no longer stabilized and they start to shift out of position. Dental implants secure teeth in place and, as a result, prevent severe problems such as periodontal disease and further tooth loss.

Schedule a consultation with us if you’re ready to transform your smile!

Tooth Trauma – Complicated Crown/Root Fracture – What Now?

You tripped, you fell and now you have found yourself with a part of your tooth broken and the root exposed. A complicated crown/root fracture is common in trip and fall injuries. In this form of fracture, the crown is fractured with the fracture extending below the gum line, involving the root of the tooth. This is the kind of fracture we typically see portrayed in movies.   This is a dental emergency and you should see us right away. Since this injury is traumatic, we thought it be best if you had a general overview of what to expect during the investigation and treatment stages.

Complicated crown/root fracture is the most challengin(2)Tooth-Trauma-Complicatedg type of fracture to treat. As traumatic injury responders our priority is you, your health and your safety. We will do our very best to ensure your comfort during a stressful injury such as this.

We will work quickly in order to assess the vitality of the tooth. We will first assess for pulpal necrosis, vestibule swelling, periapical lesions and/or dramatic color change of the crown. There are instances in crown/root fractures where a gingiovectomy may be necessary in order to ensure that the tooth can be properly restored. During a gingiovectomy, we remove gum tissue that is no longer vital and reshape it to accommodate the tooth accordingly. Using the most current technology and techniques, we will treat your injury as the unique situation it truly is, tailoring a treatment plan and follow-up schedule specifically for you.

Remember: chipping your tooth mildly may not always be a dental emergency but you should call or see us right away so we may help you determine this.

10 Facts About Jaw Surgery

Jaw surgery, as with any operation, is a very serious matter, one that takes careful thought by both the patient and the doctor. If you have been considering jaw surgery but aren’t sure what to do, you may want to take into account some of these interesting facts:

  1. In Latin, “orthognathic” means to straighten (“ortho”) the jaws (“gnathia”).
  2. The goal of reconstructive jaw surgery is to improve the bite and function. However, many patients also experience an improvement in appearance and speech after surgery!
  3. Misalignment of the jaws can be caused by birth defects, injuries or because the upper or lower jaw have grown at different rates.
  4. Aligning your jaws can also save your teeth by minimizing excessive wear and tear.
  5. Jaw surgery is sometimes used to improve TMJ symptoms and provide relief for sleep10 Facts About Jaw Surgery apnea.
  6. Jaw surgery can even improve “gummy” or “toothless” smiles!
  7. An orthodontist can straighten teeth. So if your bite or smile is crooked because of the position of your teeth, an orthodontist can treat you. However, if your bite is off because of the position of your jaws, only an oral surgeon can thoroughly remedy the situation. We work with your orthodontist before and after surgery for a comprehensive approach to your bite and smile.
  8. Some patients require a hospital stay for a few days, however the average patient returns home the day of surgery.
  9. The time range for returning to school or work post-surgery is 1-3 weeks.
  10. Healing is usually complete within 9-12 months.

Vaping: Is It Harmless?

You may have noticed a shift in the smoking world over the past few years. Smokers have been seemingly taking a step in the right direction. Smokers are transitioning away from the traditional cigarette to the e-cigarette, this act is also known as: vaping. Transitioning to an e-cigarette from a chemical-filled cigarette that decades of research have proven is deadly seems like a good thing, right? Think again. There are many people venturing into the world of e-cigarettes blindly. While e-cigarette advertisements and companies are currently unregulated, we wanted to uncover a few potential dangers of this popular fad.

The e-cigarette anatomy consists of a battery, a heating element and a cartridge that holds the nicotine, liquid and flavoring. If anyone has tried to convince you that e-cigarettes are not addictive, they’re wrong. Nicotine is highly addictive, and while many teens and young adults believe that vaping is harmless, nicotine is known to negatively affect brain development in this age group. The act of holding an e-cigarette and the presence of nicotine has indicated that it could be a very strong gateway to smoking real cigarettes for these young adults. That correlation has big tobacco firms excited for the future. Tobacco companies have been severely restricted in their advertising campaigns. In the recent past, they were forced to rely on the ‘cool-factor’ of smoking, something they hoped that celebrities and young adult’s peers would embody. E-cigaVapingrettes present a gateway to becoming addicted to the real thing. This is just what tobacco companies had been hoping for! Speaking of advertising, while tobacco companies are highly restricted in their advertising campaigns, no one is regulating e-cigarette companies. In fact, these companies can make any claims they wish. With regard to the manufacturing aspect of the e-cigarettes and their cartridges, there is also no regulating body that creates standards for the products.

We have talked about the anatomy of the actual e-cigarette, but what makes up the vapor that is exhaled by the smoker? The cloud that you see consists of aerosol, nicotine, propylene glycol, flavoring and fine particles. The hotter the body of the e-cigarette gets, the more harmful the chemicals contained in them becomes. This means that the deadly carcinogens present in a traditional cigarette are also present in their electronic counterpart.

Research is currently underway to determine the long-term effects of vaping. While current research indicates that an e-cigarette is safer than smoking an actual cigarette, research also proves that e-cigarettes are far from harmless. If you are looking to improve your mouth and lung health, experts agree that quitting smoking devices altogether is still the only 100% risk-free option available.

4 Surprising Symptoms of TMJ Disorders

Common symptoms of Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder such as jaw pain, clicking or popping of the jaw and clenching are well known, but did you know that you can experience symptoms of TMJ disorders throughout your whole body? TMJ disorders can be difficult to diagnose when your symptoms are not restricted to the jaw area, so to make diagnosis easier we’ve listed some symptoms you might be surprised to find out are related to TMJ disorders!

  1. Earache: Because the jaw muscles run from ear to ear, TMJ related jaw pain can also trigger ear pain, which is often mistaken for an ear infection. The pain actually doesn’t come from the ear at all, but originates directly beneath or in front of the ear.
  2. Neck pain: The temporomandibular joint plays a major role in keeping the head balanced on top of the spinal chord. The head weighs roug4-Surprising-Signs-of-TMJ-Disordershly 8 pounds, but bad posture due to joint misalignment causes this weight to be distributed unevenly, putting added stress on the neck and spine and causing the head to have a 30-pound pull on your muscles. No wonder neck and back pain are symptoms of TMJ disorders!
  3. Pinched nerves: When TMJ alignment is skewed, your muscles overwork themselves to compensate for the imbalance. The back is prone to TMJ related pain, as it becomes strained in order to maintain the body’s balance. This tension can lead to numbness in your extremities, so if you’re experiencing any tingling sensations in your arms, legs, fingers or toes, it could be a sign of a TMJ disorder.
  4. Obstructed airways: The tongue is attached to the lower jaw, so the position of the tongue in the mouth depends on your jaw alignment. Misalignment of the lower jaw could cause your tongue to sit too far back in the mouth and obstruct your airways. If your breathing feels abnormal, especially while sleeping, a TMJ disorder could be the culprit.

We hope that reading about these lesser-known symptoms will answer some of your questions about TMJ disorders. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, schedule a consultation with us to learn about your treatment options!

Understanding Bone Grafting

Tooth loss as a result of periodontal (gum) disease, facial trauma or tooth extractions can cause the jaw bone to atrophy, as it no longer has something to support. As if bone deterioration isn’t bad enough, tooth replacement requires a solid foundation, meaning that patients with jawbone degeneration aren’t candidates for dental implants. Fortunately, our state-of-the-art restorative techniques allow us to augment areas with inadequate bone structure so we can restore your smile! We have the answers to all your bone grafting questions below, so keep reading!

What is bone grafting?
During a bone grafting procedure, the jawbone is restored so it can support a dental implant. An incision is made in the gum and the bone graft material is transplanted into the jawbone. There are four types of bone grafts:

  1. Understanding-Bone-GraftingAutogenous: bone grafts are harvested from other parts of your body, such as the chin or hip. They are the most effective because using your own living cells promotes natural bone growth.
  2. Allogenic: bone grafts are donor grafts collected from tissue banks.
  3. Xenogenic: bone grafts are harvested from other species, typically bovine donors.
  4. Synthetic: bone grafts are artificial bone material composed of calcium phosphates

When is bone grafting necessary?
Bone grafting procedures are routinely performed in preparation for dental implants. This is due to the fact that the implants are unable to anchor themselves into a stable foundation unless the jawbone is adequate.

How long after bone grafting can I get dental implants?
Minor bone grafting can be done the same day as dental implants, but major bone grafting requires downtime between procedures. Dental implants will be placed 4-9 months after your bone grafting procedure once the major bone grafts have had time to fuse with your natural jawbone. We will decide the best time to place your dental implants based on your recovery.

Give us a call if you think bone grafting can get you on track to replace missing teeth for natural, lasting, functional results!