My Blog

Posts for: September, 2017

By Phillip S. Tully III DMD
September 27, 2017
Category: Dental Procedures

In her decades-long career, renowned actress Kathy Bates has won Golden Globes, Emmys, and many other honors. Bates began acting in her twenties, but didn't achieve national recognition until she won the best actress Oscar for Misery — when she was 42 years old! “I was told early on that because of my physique and my look, I'd probably blossom more in my middle age,” she recently told Dear Doctor magazine. “[That] has certainly been true.” So if there's one lesson we can take from her success, it might be that persistence pays off.

When it comes to her smile, Kathy also recognizes the value of persistence. Now 67, the veteran actress had orthodontic treatment in her 50's to straighten her teeth. Yet she is still conscientious about wearing her retainer. “I wear a retainer every night,” she said. “I got lazy about it once, and then it was very difficult to put the retainer back in. So I was aware that the teeth really do move.”

Indeed they do. In fact, the ability to move teeth is what makes orthodontic treatment work. By applying consistent and gentle forces, the teeth can be shifted into better positions in the smile. That's called the active stage of orthodontic treatment. Once that stage is over, another begins: the retention stage. The purpose of retention is to keep that straightened smile looking as good as it did when the braces came off. And that's where the retainer comes in.

There are several different kinds of retainers, but all have the same purpose: To hold the teeth in their new positions and keep them from shifting back to where they were. We sometimes say teeth have a “memory” — not literally, but in the sense that if left alone, teeth tend to migrate back to their former locations. And if you've worn orthodontic appliances, like braces or aligners, that means right back where you started before treatment.

By holding the teeth in place, retainers help stabilize them in their new positions. They allow new bone and ligaments to re-form and mature around them, and give the gums time to remodel themselves. This process can take months to years to be complete. But you may not need to wear a retainer all the time: Often, removable retainers are worn 24 hours a day at first; later they are worn only at night. We will let you know what's best in your individual situation.

So take a tip from Kathy Bates, star of the hit TV series American Horror Story, and wear your retainer as instructed. That's the best way to keep your straight new smile from changing back to the way it was — and to keep a bad dream from coming true.

If you would like more information about orthodontic retainers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Why Orthodontic Retainers?” and “The Importance of Orthodontic Retainers.” The interview with Kathy Bates appears in the latest issue of Dear Doctor.

By Phillip S. Tully III DMD
September 12, 2017
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants  

There’s a lot to like about replacing a missing tooth with a dental implant. This state-of-the-art restoration is by far the most durable and life-like option available. And unlike other replacement options implants stimulate bone growth, a major concern after tooth loss.

For that reason we encourage getting an implant as soon as possible — for adults, that is. We don’t recommend implants for younger patients because even a teenager’s jaws haven’t yet reached full maturity. Because it attaches to the jaw differently, an implant can’t move with the growing jaw as real teeth do. It would eventually look as if it were sinking into the jaw below the gum line or being left behind as the rest of the jaw grows.

It’s best, then, to postpone placing an implant until the jaw fully matures, usually in a patient’s early twenties. In the meantime, there are some things we can do to prepare for a future implant while also restoring the tooth with a temporary replacement.

As previously mentioned, our biggest concern is bone health. Like other living tissue, bone has a growth cycle of older cells dissolving and newer ones forming in their place. The teeth transmit the pressure produced when we chew to the bone to stimulate this growth. With the absence of a tooth, the adjacent bone no longer receives this stimulation — the growth cycle slows and may eventually lead to bone loss.

We can help this situation by placing a bone graft in the missing tooth socket at the time of extraction. The graft serves as a scaffold that’s eventually taken over and replaced by new bone growth. We can also try to control how fast the graft is replaced by using grafting material that’s slowly removed and lasts longer — often a preferable situation if an implant is years away.

As for appearance, we can create a custom partial denture or even a type of bridge that bonds a prosthetic tooth to neighboring teeth without significantly altering them. If the patient undergoes orthodontic treatment it’s also possible to add prosthetic teeth to an orthodontic appliance.

Eventually, we’ll be able to provide the permanent solution of a dental implant. With careful planning and measures to preserve bone health, there’s a good chance the outcome will be worth the wait.

If you would like more information on treatments for lost teeth in children and teenagers, 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 for Teenagers.”

By Phillip S. Tully III DMD
September 11, 2017
Category: Oral Health
Tags: Oral Cancer  

If a simple, painless health evaluation could tell you something very important, would you want to have it? Common sense says you would. oral cancerThat's why Dr. Phillip Tully, your family dentist in Columbus, GA, performs oral cancer screenings with each of his patients. Yes, at your six-month check-up, Dr. Tully will look at your oral mucosa--that is, the soft tissues of your mouth-- checking for signs of the disease that harms tens of thousands of Americans annually. With early diagnosis, cure rates soar.

What is oral cancer?

Oral cancer is an overgrowth of malignant cells within the mouth, on the tongue, cheeks, back of the throat, salivary glands and lips. New diagnoses of this potential killer number close to 50,000 each year in the United States alone, says the Oral Cancer Foundation. Unfortunately, many cases remain undetected because individuals are not routinely screened.

Screening for oral cancer

Both you and your family dentist in Columbus, GA, can participate in watching for oral cancer. For you the patient, the screening process is as simple as being aware of what is happening inside your mouth. Inspect in and around it as you perform your daily oral hygiene routines. Look for:

  • Changes in dental bite or in the fit of a denture
  • A sore (red or white) that doesn't heal within 14 days
  • A hoarseness in your voice
  • Difficulty eating and swallowing
  • Bleeding, numbness or facial pain that persists and seems to have no cause

Your family dentist's part is a visual inspection of every individual 18 years and older. Dr. Tully will palpate, or feel, the sides of your neck (lymph nodes) and look carefully at your lips and inside your mouth, including under the tongue and at the roof of your mouth. The process takes just a few minutes as part of your routine check-up, and it's completely comfortable.

Preventing oral cancer

People with suppressed immune systems are prone to oral cancer and to other types as well. Cigarettes and smokeless tobacco present the biggest hazards; Dr. Tully suggests you consult with your primary care physician about a smoking cessation program.

Additionally, some research suggests a diet low in fruits and vegetables creates an environment for oral cancer growth. Exposure to HPV, or the Human Papillomavirus, is another risk factor as are sun exposure and excessive alcohol intake.

Be informed and vigilant

Dr. Phillip Tully and his professional team will help you stay on guard against oral cancer. Is it time for your semi-annual check-up and cleaning? Why not call the office today to schedule your routine appointment? Phone (706) 323-6491.