Dental care is often an overlooked healthcare expense for older adults. As our teeth change with normal wear and tear as we age, there is a greater likelihood for increased dental care—and associated costs–in older adulthood and into the senior years. This is why it’s important to make dental care a priority throughout your life–ensuring the teeth and gums are as healthy as possible, not only for a beautiful smile, but to conserve your natural teeth as well.
Today’s dentistry is about much more than routine teeth cleanings, fillings, and root canals. What you may not think about—but should–is the link between your oral and physical health. The oral cavity acts as a window to the rest of your health, says Dr. Mark Sowell, a cosmetic dentist with Sensational Smiles in Plano. Poor oral health is linked to diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s, and certain cancers. “The plaque in your mouth is the same plaque that can clog your arteries,” Dr. Sowell says. “Bacteria from the gums enters into your bloodstream causing inflammation and can impact your health in a variety of ways.”
New dental technology can address teeth and gums as well as your overall health. “New studies are showing that about 47% of all dental implants more than 10 years old have some stage of periodontal disease,” Dr. Sowell says. “We are now reconsidering methods to conserve teeth. A well-thought-out treatment plan, particularly with someone who has a lot of damage to their teeth and gums, will include making the oral environment as healthy as possible before implants or any other cosmetic procedures are performed. In the past 20 years, dental implants have been the gold standard to replace teeth, but we know it’s critical to ensure there is no infection in the gums or bones in order for the implants to be a successful long-term solution.”
Technology helps in many ways, but the training, skills, and artistic ability of an experienced cosmetic dentist are key in achieving natural-looking results.Dr. Sowell
Dr. Sowell uses the latest in dental technology to create—and maintain—beautiful, healthy smiles for his patients. Prior to any cosmetic work, he sends a patient’s saliva sample to a microbiology lab for screening that will show if the patient has an elevated risk for pathogens under the gums that may predict future bone loss. “Often, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease are also associated with these particular pathogens, which can provide us with an even bigger picture of one’s overall health,” Dr. Sowell says.
Clear aligners, such as Invisalign, can be used to move teeth to correct overcrowded or crooked teeth, which may mean a patient can avoid extractions. Crowns may repair and strengthen teeth to keep the natural teeth healthier long term. CBCT imaging can locate teeth infections and bone anatomy to help the dentist determine the next best steps in care. “We can also screen for TMJ and joint health with these scans,” Dr. Sowell says. Dr. Sowell compares placing a dental implant on unhealthy gum and bone structure to building a home on a poor or weak foundation. “A quick and easy solution is not always the best solution,” he says. “Technology helps in many ways, but the training, skills, and artistic ability of an experienced cosmetic dentist are key in achieving natural-looking results.”
Fortunately, an experienced dentist who has trained in the latest advancements and who practices in a technologically advanced office can address these issues and get your mouth—and possibly your general health—back in shape. The key element in a dentist having this ability, besides studying the current professional literature, is in training and owning the latest dental technology. If you are not sure what technology your dentist should be using to properly address your oral and systemic health issues related to respiratory health, a bit of research can get you up to speed.
“Three-dimensional imaging is ideal imaging for dental issues, such as TMJ, root canals, bone grafting, and dental implants, as well as for diagnosis of airway obstruction,” Dr. Sowell says. “Because of more precise 3-D imaging with CBCT technology, we are able to diagnose a lack of ideal bone volume or quality for implants so that we may use grafts and growth factors to grow bone to reduce surprises and increase longevity and predictability.” Unlike traditional X-rays, 3-D imaging allows for three-dimensional viewing of the jawbone, jaw joints, and sinuses. All films needed for surgery, joint problems, orthodontics, airway obstruction diagnostics, and routine care can be taken in a single location without referral to a special facility for patient convenience.
Dr. Sowell commonly cares for patients who are experiencing oral health issues that are typically related to periodontal disease and tooth and bone loss. Often, regenerative procedures are required, such as implant replacement, bone grafts, gum grafts or gum lifts, TMD therapy, drill-free fillings, and tooth whitening. Patients with fear or anxiety about going to the dentist often benefit from laser dentistry as it is gentle on the tissues and much less painful than traditional dental procedures. Laser dentistry is noninvasive, which usually means patients can receive multiple treatments in one visit. Other benefits of dental lasers include no sutures or surgery, little or no downtime after treatment, faster healing, reduced risk of infection, and a reduction in swelling and bleeding. “I like to call it the latest in the ‘non-cutting-edge’ dental technology,” he says. “In some cases, lasers completely replace the older cutting methods of oral surgery.”
Biolase Epic Diode Laser
Sowell has one of the only dental offices in Dallas equipped with both the Biolase Epic Diode Laser and the WaterLase iPlus Laser for comprehensive treatment and patient comfort. “Our certified dental hygienist has extensive experience and training in using the Biolase Epic Diode Laser,” Dr. Sowell says. “It is used exclusively to remove the biofilm in your gums. The biofilm grows in the inside lining of the gum around the teeth where bacteria multiply, and the laser targets the biofilm without affecting the healthy gum.” Traditional dental ultrasonics and scalers only treat the root surface and never remove the biofilm, resulting in bacterial regeneration and reinfection. According to Dr. Sowell, the utilization of this laser can reverse early and moderate gum disease efficiently and painlessly without shots or numbing, in most cases. The diode laser is also used to relieve pain and accelerate healing of the TMJ joint and muscles in addition to other regenerative procedures and for teeth whitening and the treatment of alphas ulcers.
WaterLase iPlus Laser
Sowell also offers his patients The WaterLase iPlus laser, a versatile, multi-powdered, high-frequency laser for all regenerative procedures, including treatment of advanced gum disease, implant placement, bone grafting, and gum lifts and leveling. Speed and precision are the secrets of the WaterLase iPlus Laser’s successful results. The high-powered laser interacts with water droplets to clean out debris and bacteria from both the gums without the vibration and heat of a drill. It acts as a miniature power washer flushing out the disease. It can treat gum and bone problems as well as cavities in a non-invasive manner.
For nearly 40 years, Dr. Mark Sowell has served the community by providing state-of-the-art dental care. He is a nationally recognized expert in the fields of cosmetic dentistry, implant dentistry, and restorative dentistry. Because of his relentless commitment to excellence in all aspects of dental care, Dr. Sowell is often asked to lecture other dentists, and he attends over 100 hours of rigorous postdoctoral training each year. Dr. Sowell is a member of an elite group of dentists who have achieved both Master status with the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) and Accredited Membership with the prestigious American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD). Fewer than 40 dentists nationwide have earned both professional distinctions. While these recognitions illustrate Dr. Sowell’s dedication to providing the best that dentistry has to offer, he has achieved numerous other merits in the field of dentistry. He is also visiting faculty at Spear education in Arizona, teaching in workshops for faculty-generated treatment planning, including airway, TMD, gum and bone disease, esthetics (smile design), and function to create predictable, long-term results.