High-Tech Treatments for Your Teeth

This feature was written by Studio MSP writers. While some of our advertisers were sourced, no advertiser paid to be included.

Victory for Veneers

Have you ever wondered how celebs such as Emma Watson, Niall Horan, and Cardi B have such beautiful smiles? While we’re sure they brush and floss regularly, they’re also among thousands of people in the United States to invest in dental veneers—a cosmetic treatment often used to cover the faces of chipped, yellowing, or otherwise damaged teeth.

Veneers have come a long way since their invention in 1928—most recently tapping into digital imaging technology, additive manufacturing, and more durable materials to create a more natural-looking (and longer-lasting!) smile.

“The newer ceramic materials used in the fabrication of veneers, crowns, and implant crowns offer dentists and patients more metal-free, fracture-resistant restorations,” says Dr. David Louis, a dentist at HealthPartners Dental Clinic in Eden Prairie and St. Louis Park.

“The newer ceramic materials used in the fabrication of veneers, crowns, and implant crowns offer dentists and patients more metal-free, fracture-resistant restorations.” —Dr. David Louis, HealthPartners Dental Clinic

But even with such advancements, veneers may not be the right fit for everyone. Advancements in orthodontics (including developments in Invisalign) and a better selection when it comes to teeth whitening treatments, both in office and at home (such as Philips Zoom or Opalescence), mean more ways for patients to get a brighter smile—beyond simply brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist biannually. 

“Our patient needs to understand some of the options they have before going to veneers,” says Dr. Christopher Steele, a dentist at Park Dental. “Is it just whitening? Or are there some small things they can do to improve the looks of their teeth? Can they get orthodontics to change things?”

Tooth Tech

Dentistry has historically operated under an authoritative model: Your dentist told you what work to get done, and you did what they told you to do. That was that. 

“Patients were expected to accept and follow through with recommended treatment with very little input or understanding,” says Dr. Erin Allen of Allen and Holm Family and Cosmetic Dentistry. “It could make dental visits understandably intimidating! Today, with widespread availability of information on the internet, social media, and other sources, dental patients are more informed and empowered than ever. This has allowed patients to play a much more active role in their dental health.”

While COVID-19 halted much of our world, it precipitated the rise of new advancements—especially at dental offices, where experts are transitioning over to more digitally supported care.

“Today, with widespread availability of information on the internet, social media, and other sources, dental patients are more informed and empowered than ever.” —Dr. Erin Allen, Allen and Holm Family and Cosmetic Dentistry

“In the very near future, dental offices will be equipped with 3D printers and artificial intelligence to aid in the diagnosis of dental disease,”  Louis says. “Yes, 3D-printed dentures are just now being fabricated—I have delivered two sets in the last two months!” 

There are benefits beyond patient care. An intraoral scanner, for example, creates more accurate and better-fitting dental restorations and treatments with less waste, since impressions can be done without using gag-inducing materials such as alginate, polyether, or vinyl polysiloxane. 

Patient experience has similarly evolved over time. According to Dr. John Cretzmeyer of Dentistry for the Entire Family, options for anxious patients include nitrous oxide, gentle injections, overhead TVs, noise-cancelling headphones, and—perhaps most importantly—gentle dentists who don’t scold, judge, or lecture patients. 

“Patients feel taken care of, in control of their own oral health, and can make confident decisions about their treatment options,” Allen adds.

New TMJ and TMD Treatments

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders and other temporomandibular disorders (TMD), along with bruxism (grinding and gnashing of teeth), worsened amid the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for patients who contracted the virus, says Dr. Kim Ledermann of Minnesota Craniofacial Center for TMJ and Sleep Treatment. 

But exciting advances in regenerative medicine that can be applied to the TMJ—including platelet-rich fibrin and stem cell injections—can help address pain. 

“There is extensive research underway with photobiomodulation—also known as low-level laser therapy,” Ledermann says. “This knowledge is helping to improve treatment protocols, and we continue to learn ways in which this technology can facilitate healing…. I love helping our patients better understand their condition and developing a comprehensive plan to help them improve. Restoring function, improving sleep quality, and improving pain can be life-changing.”

Common treatments for TMD, including night guards, are experiencing other innovations. 

“Our TMD department [at the HealthPartners St. Paul Como location] is completely digital—all sleep apnea appliances and night guards are digitally measured, designed, and fabricated,” Louis says.

“I love helping our patients better understand their condition and developing a comprehensive plan to help them improve.” —Dr. Kim Ledermann, Minnesota Craniofacial Center for TMJ and Sleep Treatment 

Sleep Dentistry

Breathe in; breathe out. Did you breathe through your nose or mouth? Recent research has shed light on the possible relationship between sleep apnea, TMJ disorders, and mouth breathing. So while you open wide, dentists are checking your teeth—and asking about your sleep. 

“We know that people who snore and have sleep apnea have an extremely high [level] of clenching and grinding,” says Dr. David Cook of Smiles at France. “[There’s] a strong suspicion that clenching and grinding could be a compensating action to keep tension in the throat and tongue. So the tongue pushes forward, and the teeth grind left and right. And that keeps tension in the lower jaw so that the airways stay open.” 

Mouth breathing similarly causes problems, including dry mouth, a higher risk of periodontal disease and tooth decay, the need for more frequent cleanings, and the need to drink water more frequently—which in turn means more trips to the bathroom. Avoiding the habit of mouth breathing starts early, and dentists such as Cook recommend airway assessments for all infants, citing how early habits can inform jaw and muscle development.

A simple solution for mouth breathing: mouth taping and/or nasal dilators. Before bed, use a gentle tape to hold your lips together from the top to the bottom of your mouth, leaving space at the sides of your lips to prevent suffocation. This will remind your brain to breathe through your nose. If you struggle to adjust to the feeling of mouth tape, try using it during the day.   

If you still feel like your sleep isn’t satisfactory, Boger Dental offers a take-home self-test to help screen for common TMJ issues, obstructive sleep apnea, and other sleep-related issues. 

“This [home sleep test] measures your blood oxygen saturation, heart rate, airflow, movement of your chest, and will also record the time spent in each sleep position,” Dr. Chad Boger says. “The HST is not designed to replace a sleep test done in a sleep lab with a doctor and technicians.” Sleep clinics, he notes, often conduct this type of test as well.

Brush Up!

Want to learn more about the importance of nasal breathing? Cook recommends patients read the book Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor.

What Dentists Wish You Knew

  • Floss before you brush. “People are more likely to floss more often if they floss first.” —Dr. David Louis, HealthPartners Dental Clinic
  • Oil pulling? Nah—prioritize brushing and flossing. “The people that wanted to do it did it, and then they realized, That’s a lot of effort and a lot of time.” —Dr. Chad Boger, Boger Dental
  • Don’t rinse your mouth with water after brushing. “This can remove some of the surface fluoride protecting the teeth that was just applied.” —Dr. David Louis, HealthPartners Dental Clinic
  • Want veneers? Find a dentist accredited by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. “The skills necessary for top-level cosmetic dentistry…take years of experience and vast continuing education to develop.” —Dr. Steve Gorman, The Gorman Center for Fine Dentistry

Sources and Resources

Cherrywood Dental Care, Savage, cherrywooddental.com

Lindahl Family Dental, Woodbury, indahldental.com

Linden Hills Dentistry, Minneapolis, lindenhillsdentistry.com

Minnesota Craniofacial Center for TMJ and Sleep Treatment, Saint Paul, mncranio.com

Morgan Family Dental, Prior Lake, mypriorlakedentist.com

Reflections Dental Care, Minneapolis, rdcaremn.com

Smiles At France, Edina, smilesatfrance.com

The Dental Specialists, Multiple metro locations, thedentalspecialists.com

The Gorman Center for Fine Dentistry, North Oaks, drstevegorman.com

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