By Kenneth Woo, DDS and Associates
September 10, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants   smoking  
WhySmokingandDentalImplantsDontMix

With a 95-plus percent survival rate after ten years, dental implants are one of the most durable replacement restorations available. Implants can potentially last much longer than less expensive options, which could make them a less costly choice in the long run.

But although a rare occurrence, implants can and do fail—often in the first few months. And tobacco smokers in particular make up a sizeable portion of these failures.

The reasons stem from smoking’s effect on oral health. Inhaled smoke can actually burn the outer skin layers in the mouth and eventually damage the salivary glands, which can decrease saliva production. Among its functions, saliva provides enzymes to fight disease; it also protects tooth enamel from damaging acid attacks. A chronic “dry mouth,” on the other hand, increases the risk of disease.

The chemical nicotine in tobacco also causes problems because it constricts blood vessels in the mouth and skin. The resulting reduced blood flow inhibits the delivery of antibodies to diseased or wounded areas, and so dramatically slows the healing process. As a result, smokers can take longer than non-smokers to recover from diseases like tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease, or heal after surgery.

Both the higher disease risk and slower healing can impact an implant’s ultimate success. Implant durability depends on the gradual integration between bone and the implant’s titanium metal post that naturally occurs after placement. But this crucial process can be stymied if an infection resistant to healing arises—a primary reason why smokers experience twice the number of implant failures as non-smokers.

So, what should you do if you’re a smoker and wish to consider implants?

First, for both your general and oral health, try to quit smoking before you undergo implant surgery. At the very least, stop smoking a week before implant surgery and for two weeks after to lower your infection risk. And you can further reduce your chances for failure by practicing diligent daily brushing and flossing and seeing your dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups.

It’s possible to have a successful experience with implants even if you do smoke. But kicking the habit will definitely improve your odds.

If you would like more information on dental implants, 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 “Dental Implants & Smoking.”

By Kenneth Woo, DDS and Associates
August 31, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
WhyemBigBangTheoryemActressMayimBialikCouldntHaveBraces

Mayim Bialik has spent a good part of her life in front of TV cameras: first as the child star of the hit comedy series Blossom, and more recently as Sheldon Cooper’s love interest — a nerdy neuroscientist — on The Big Bang Theory. (In between, she actually earned a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA…but that’s another story.) As a child, Bialik had a serious overbite — but with all her time on camera, braces were just not an option.

“I never had braces,” she recently told Dear Doctor – Dentistry & Oral Health magazine. “I was on TV at the time, and there weren’t a lot of creative solutions for kids who were on TV.” Instead, her orthodontist managed to straighten her teeth using retainers and headgear worn only at night.

Today, there are several virtually invisible options available to fix orthodontic issues — and you don’t have to be a child star to take advantage of them. In fact, both children and adults can benefit from these unobtrusive appliances.

Tooth colored braces are just like traditional metal braces, with one big difference: The brackets attached to teeth are made from a ceramic material that blends in with the natural color of teeth. All that’s visible is the thin archwire that runs horizontally across the teeth — and from a distance it’s hard to notice. Celebs like Tom Cruise and Faith Hill opted for this type of appliance.

Clear aligners are custom-made plastic trays that fit over the teeth. Each one, worn for about two weeks, moves the teeth just a bit; after several months, you’ll see a big change for the better in your smile. Best of all, clear aligners are virtually impossible to notice while you’re wearing them — which you’ll need to do for 22 hours each day. But you can remove them to eat, or for special occasions. Zac Efron and Katherine Heigl, among others, chose to wear clear aligners.

Lingual braces really are invisible. That’s because they go behind your teeth (on the tongue side), where they can’t be seen; otherwise they are similar to traditional metal braces. Lingual braces are placed on teeth differently, and wearing them often takes some getting used to at first. But those trade-offs are worth it for plenty of people. Which celebs wore lingual braces? Rumor has it that the list includes some top models, a well-known pop singer, and at least one British royal.

So what’s the best way to straighten your teeth and keep the orthodontic appliances unnoticeable? Just ask us! We’d be happy to help you choose the option that’s just right for you. You’ll get an individualized evaluation, a solution that fits your lifestyle — and a great-looking smile!

For more information about hard-to-see (or truly invisible) orthodontics, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Orthodontics for the Older Adult” and “Clear Aligners for Teenagers.”

By Kenneth Woo, DDS and Associates
August 21, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: cleft lip   cleft palate  
LiporPalateCleftscanbeEffectivelyRepaired

About one American baby in 700 is born with some form of lip or palate cleft—and the percentage is even higher in other parts of the world. At one time this kind of birth defect sentenced a child to a lifetime of social stigma and related health issues. But thanks to a surgical breakthrough over sixty years ago, cleft defects are now routinely treated and repaired.

Oral and facial clefts happen because a child’s facial structure fails to develop normally during pregnancy. This causes gaps or “clefts” to occur in various parts of the mouth or face like the upper lip, the palate (roof of the mouth), the nose or (more rarely) in the cheek or eye region. Clefts can have no tissue fusion at all (a “complete” cleft) or a limited amount (an “incomplete” cleft), and can affect only one side of the face (“unilateral”) or both (“bilateral”).

There was little that could be done up until the early 1950s. That’s when a U.S. Navy surgeon, Dr. Ralph Millard, stationed in Korea noticed after reviewing a series of cleft photos that tissue needed to repair a cleft was most often already present but distorted by the defect. From that discovery, he developed techniques that have since been refined in the ensuing decades to release the distorted tissue and move it to its proper location.

This revolutionary breakthrough has evolved into a multi-stage approach for cleft repair that often requires a team effort from several dental and medical professionals, including oral surgeons, orthodontists and general dentists. The approach may involve successive surgeries over several years with dental care front and center to minimize the threat of decay, maintain proper occlusion (the interaction between the upper and lower teeth, or “bite”), or restore missing teeth with  crowns, bridgework or eventually dental implants.

While it’s quite possible this process can span a person’s entire childhood and adolescence, the end result is well worth it. Because of these important surgical advances, a cleft defect is no longer a life sentence of misery.

If you would like more information on treatment for a cleft lip or palate, 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 “Cleft Lip & Cleft Palate.”

By Kenneth Woo, DDS and Associates
August 11, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
WorldCupSoccerCoach-DentistSavestheDay

If you followed the 2018 FIFA World Cup Soccer games, you probably know that one of this year’s biggest surprises was the debut of the team from Iceland—the smallest country ever to earn a chance at the sport’s top prize. But here’s something you may not have known: When he’s not on the field, the team’s coach, Heimir Hallgrímsson, is a practicing dentist! Those two skill sets might not seem like a natural fit… but they came together dramatically at a recent contest.

At a local women’s game last summer, when a player was hit and her tooth was knocked out, Dr. Hallgrímsson took immediate action. “I jumped on the pitch and put the tooth back in, took her to a dental office and fixed it,” he said.

Not everyone has the special training or ability to fix a tooth that has been damaged or knocked out—but there are some simple things that you can do to help an adult who has suffered this kind of injury. Here’s a quick run-down:

  • After making sure the person is stable and not otherwise seriously injured, try to locate the tooth.
  • Handle it carefully, without touching root surfaces, and clean it gently with water if possible.
  • Try to open and gently rinse out the mouth, and find where the tooth came from.
  • Carefully place the tooth back in its socket, making sure it is facing the right way, and hold it in place with a soft cloth.
  • If the tooth can’t be re-implanted, place it in a bag with a special preservative solution, milk or saliva, or have the person hold it between the cheek and gum—but make sure it isn’t swallowed!
  • Rush to the nearest dental office or urgent care facility.

When these steps are followed and the person receives professional treatment as quickly as possible (ideally within minutes), their tooth will have the best chance of being saved. But even if it isn’t possible to preserve the tooth, receiving prompt and appropriate care can make replacing the tooth much easier.

Having Dr. Hallgrímsson on the sidelines was a lucky break for the injured soccer player—and as a coach, just getting to the World Cup is a remarkable achievement. But you don’t need to be a coach (or a dentist) to give first aid in a dental emergency. Taking the right steps can help ensure the best possible outcome… and might even save a tooth!

If you would like more information about emergency dental treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor articles “Knocked Out Tooth” and “The Field-Side Guide to Dental Injuries.”

By Kenneth Woo, DDS and Associates
August 09, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants  

Dental ImplantsSmile gaps cause a number of problems. Most obvious are the facial changes and poor self-image caused by missing teeth. Fortunately, Dr. Kenneth Woo, Dr. Edmond Woo, and Dr. Ho Kai Wang span gaps with state-of-the-art dental implants--artificial teeth custom-designed to look and operate just like real teeth. Plus, dental implants from these skilled Gaithersburg and Kensington, MD, dentists improve jaw bone density and size every time you bite and chew.

A superior choice

When you lose a tooth in an accident or suffer extensive decay or severe gum disease, you have many choices to replace it. Partial dentures or fixed bridgework are the conventional methods. However, they pose problems of extensive wear on teeth adjoining the dental appliance, they need replacement after 10 years and they simply set on top of your gums.

Dental implants are different from and superior to traditional prosthetics because implants reside in the jaw bone below the gum line. Through what scientists call osseointegration, implants preserve and even improve bone quality, avoiding the bone, gum, and facial changes associated with tooth loss.

Dental implants boast a 40- to 50-year lifespan, states the Institute for Dental Implant Awareness, making them a wise, long-term option--even for extensive tooth loss. Dental implants from your Gaithersburg and Kensington dentist can support bridges, partials, and full dentures, too.

Who can get implants?

Most healthy adults and teens whose jaws have finished growing can receive implants. A detailed dental examination and X-rays will tell if you have sufficient bone in your jaw to receive the titanium implant devices. Additionally, non-smokers and individuals who practice careful brushing and flossing habits are great candidates.

The procedure itself takes place in two stages:

  1. Implant insertion with the benefit of local anesthetic
  2. Bonding of a metal abutment and porcelain crown

Between the two stages, your dentist leaves adequate time for the implant to integrate with the jaw bone, creating a firm foundation for the rest of the appliance.

Gaps? What gaps?

Make them disappear, and enjoy wonderful oral health, function, and aesthetics, too. Explore dental implants with Dr. Kenneth Woo and his professional associates. Contact us today for a personal consultation. We have two area offices. In Gaithersburg, phone (240) 683-3833, and in Kensington, call (301) 933-1833.




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