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When you hear the word “dentures” you probably think of an appliance that replaces all the teeth on a dental arch. But there is another type: a removable partial denture (RPD), which can be a viable option for replacing a few missing teeth.

An RPD rests on the bony gum ridges that once held the missing teeth and are secured with clasps or other attachments to adjacent teeth. While lightweight, RPDs are designed to last for many years — they’re made of vitallium, a light but very strong metal alloy that reduces the RPD’s thickness. Recently, metal-free partial dentures are being used that don’t have the fit or longevity of the vitallium partial dentures, but are considered more of a cosmetic solution.

RPDs are custom-made for each individual patient to accommodate the number, location and distribution of teeth missing throughout the mouth. Their design must also reflect the health and stability of the gums and remaining natural teeth to ensure they won’t move unduly during normal mouth function, and will be as lifelike and unnoticeable as possible.

RPDs have been a mainstay in dentistry for many years and represent a less expensive tooth replacement option than implants or fixed bridgework. But they do have their downsides: because of their method of attachment to the remaining natural teeth they tend to accumulate plaque, which increases the risk of both periodontal (gum) disease and tooth decay. Their fit requires that they attach to the adjacent teeth that will cause some damage and lead to their looseness over time.

If you wear an RPD, there are some things you can do to decrease these problems. First and foremost, you should clean your RPD thoroughly every day, as well as brush and floss your remaining teeth to reduce plaque buildup especially at contact points. Be sure to remove the RPD at night while you sleep. And keep up regular dental visits not only for additional plaque removal but also to allow us to inspect the RPD for problems or wear.

An RPD is a viable option for improving mouth function and restoring your smile after multiple tooth loss. With proper care and maintenance, your RPD can serve you well for many years to come.

If you would like more information on removable partial dentures, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Removable Partial Dentures.”

By Okabe Dental Arts
November 19, 2015
Category: Dental Procedures

Fans of the primetime TV show The Middle were delighted to see that high school senior Sue, played by Eden Sher, finally got her braces off at the start of Season 6. But since this popular sitcom wouldn’t be complete without some slapstick comedy, this happy event is not without its trials and tribulations: The episode ends with Sue’s whole family diving into a dumpster in search of the teen’s lost retainer. Sue finds it in the garbage and immediately pops it in her mouth. But wait — it doesn’t fit, it’s not even hers!

If you think this scenario is far-fetched, guess again. OK, maybe the part about Sue not washing the retainer upon reclaiming it was just a gag (literally and figuratively), but lost retainers are all too common. Unfortunately, they’re also expensive to replace — so they need to be handled with care. What’s the best way to do that? Retainers should be brushed daily with a soft toothbrush and liquid soap (dish soap works well), and then placed immediately back in your mouth or into the case that came with the retainer. When you are eating a meal at a restaurant, do not wrap your retainer in a napkin and leave it on the table — this is a great way to lose it! Instead, take the case with you, and keep the retainer in it while you’re eating. When you get home, brush your teeth and then put the retainer back in your mouth.

If you do lose your retainer though, let us know right away. Retention is the last step of your orthodontic treatment, and it’s extremely important. You’ve worked hard to get a beautiful smile, and no one wants to see that effort wasted. Yet if you neglect to wear your retainer as instructed, your teeth are likely to shift out of position. Why does this happen?

As you’ve seen firsthand, teeth aren’t rigidly fixed in the jaw — they can be moved in response to light and continuous force. That’s what orthodontic appliances do: apply the right amount of force in a carefully controlled manner. But there are other forces at work on your teeth that can move them in less predictable ways. For example, normal biting and chewing can, over time, cause your teeth to shift position. To get teeth to stay where they’ve been moved orthodontically, new bone needs to form around them and anchor them where they are. That will happen over time, but only if they are held in place with a retainer. That’s why it is so important to wear yours as directed — and notify us immediately if it gets lost.

And if ever you do have to dig your retainer out of a dumpster… be sure to wash it before putting in in your mouth!

If you would like more information on retainers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “The Importance of Orthodontic Retainers” and “Why Orthodontic Retainers?

By Okabe Dental Arts
November 11, 2015
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  

When you’re going through hard economic times, the natural thing to do is cut areas of spending you believe you can do without. Unfortunately, many people include regular dental care in this low-priority category.

But even if your finances have become strained you should still try to maintain your dental care if at all possible. Saving a few dollars now could cost you a lot more in the long run.

Of course, this may mean focusing on just the basics for a while and prioritize your treatment options with a strong emphasis on preventive care. To put together a plan you should first undergo a thorough dental exam to learn your mouth’s current level of health, as well as take a look at your dietary practices, family history and hygiene practices to gauge your risk for tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease.

From there, it’s a good idea to make changes in habits and lifestyle that will improve your teeth and gums’ long-term health, a prudent thing to do financially as well. Eat a nutritious diet high in fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products and low in added sugar. Practice daily brushing and flossing to remove bacterial plaque from tooth surfaces, a primary cause of dental disease. And, keep to a schedule of regular dental office cleanings and checkups to remove any deep-seated plaque and identify developing dental disease before it becomes too serious.

Even when we find problems, there are usually treatment options within most people’s financial ability, like newer, less-expensive tooth filling materials that are both attractive and longer lasting than older types.  At the very least you may benefit from temporary measures that postpone a permanent restoration until you’re in a better position financially to handle it.

And, don’t hesitate to ask us for help in working out a care strategy that fits your current finances and insurance coverage. By creating these long-term goals, we can help you get the most out of your financial resources now that can save money — and provide you better oral health — in the future.

If you would like more information on managing dental care, 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 “Cost-Saving Treatment Alternatives.”


One of the best restorative options for slightly deformed, misaligned or stained teeth is a porcelain veneer. Composed of thin, laminated layers of dental material, the veneer is bonded to the outside of the tooth to transform both its shape and color to blend with other natural teeth.

Veneers are more than a technical process — they’re works of art produced by skilled artisans known as dental lab technicians. They use their skills to shape veneers into forms so life-like they can’t be distinguished from other teeth.

How technicians produce veneers depends on the material used. The mainstay for many years was feldspathic porcelain, a powdered material mixed with water to form a paste, which technicians use to build up layers on top of each other. After curing or “firing” in an oven, the finished veneer can mimic both the color variations and translucency of natural teeth.

Although still in use today, feldspathic porcelain does have limitations. It has a tendency to shrink during firing, and because it’s built up in layers it’s not as strong and shatter-resistant as a single composed piece. To address these weaknesses, a different type of veneer material reinforced with leucite came into use in the 1990s. Adding this mineral to the ceramic base, the core of the veneer could be formed into one piece by pressing the heated material into a mold. But while increasing its strength, early leucite veneers were thicker than traditional porcelain and only worked where extra space allowed for them.

This has led to the newest and most advanced form that uses a stronger type of glass ceramic called lithium disilicate. These easily fabricated veneers can be pressed down to a thickness of three tenths of a millimeter, much thinner than leucite veneers with twice the strength.  And like leucite, lithium disilicate can be milled to increase the accuracy of the fit. It’s also possible to add a layer of feldspathic porcelain to enhance their appearance.

The science — and artistry — of porcelain veneers has come a long way over the last three decades. With more durable, pliable materials, you can have veneers that with proper care could continue to provide you an attractive smile for decades to come.

If you would like more information on dental veneers, please contact us to schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Porcelain Veneers.”

By Okabe Dental Arts
October 26, 2015
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth pain  

Determining which of your teeth is causing your toothache isn’t always easy — or even if it’s a tooth at all. The pain could be coming from a tooth, the gums, or both. Only a thorough dental examination can pinpoint the exact cause and best course of treatment.

If a decayed tooth is the problem, the pain may be coming from nerves and other tissue deep within the tooth’s pulp. The symptoms could be dull or sharp, constant or intermittent, specific to one area or spread out. It’s even possible for the pain to suddenly subside after a few days. This doesn’t mean the infection has subsided, but rather that the infected nerves have died and no longer transmit pain. Pain can also radiate from the actual source and be felt somewhere else — the pain in your sinuses, for example, could actually originate from an infected back tooth.

If the source is periodontal (gum) disease, the infection has begun in the gum tissues. As they become more inflamed they lose their connectivity with the teeth, bone loss occurs and the gums may “recess” or draw back. This exposes the tooth root, which without the protective cover of the gum tissues becomes highly sensitive to changes in temperature or pressure. As a result you may encounter sharp pain when you eat or drink something hot or cold, or bite down.

Treating these issues will depend on the actual infection source. An infected tooth often requires a root canal treatment to clean out the pulp and root canals of dead or infected tissue, fill them with a special filling, and seal and crown the tooth to prevent future infection. If the source is gum disease, we must manually remove the bacterial plaque causing the disease from all tooth and gum surfaces to stop the infection and allow the gums to heal. In advanced cases, surgical procedures may be necessary to repair damage and encourage new gum and bone growth.

Where dental disease has spread from tooth to gums or vice-versa, you may need treatments for both areas to address your overall condition. Whatever the treatment course, we can put an end to your tooth pain and restore health to your teeth and gums.

If you would like more information on the sources of mouth pain, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Confusing Tooth Pain.”

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