Solutions for a Missing Front Tooth

Issues with your smile can cause you to be self-conscious. The list of issues may include stained, crooked, or worn teeth. However, if one or more of your front teeth are missing, this can be a glaring concern since it is highly noticeable. There are many potential causes for a missing front tooth, including periodontal disease, decay, trauma, or a congenital issue where the tooth never develops. Our skilled team at Skyline Dental can help restore the look and function of your smile when a tooth is missing.

Considerations for Replacing a Missing Front Tooth

Any dental restoration requires care and attention to detail. Since front teeth are highly visible and play a large role in your smile, this is especially important. You should choose a restorative and cosmetic dentist who can create realistic replacement teeth that look natural and blend with your existing teeth.

It’s also essential to consider the full process before beginning treatment. Digital Smile Design is an innovative tool we use at our Tucson dental office that allows you to see how the final front tooth restoration will look. This can be beneficial for identifying any additional treatments that could improve the final outcome. For example, if you are unhappy with the shade, length, or shape of your surrounding teeth, you may consider veneers during the process of fabricating your replacement tooth. Having the laboratory ceramist make multiple adjacent restorations at once allows the ceramist to control the color and appearance of multiple teeth. As a result, they all match and naturally blend in with your smile when delivered. It is much more difficult to get an accurate shade match of multiple teeth if they are done one at a time.

Dental Implant or Bridge?

There are two main options for replacing a missing front tooth: a bridge or a dental implant. The video above summarizes how each one works and what the potential benefits and drawbacks are.

Front Tooth Dental Implant

A dental implant and crown used for single tooth replacement

A dental implant is a titanium post that is surgically placed below the gum line and acts as an artificial tooth root. It also acts as an anchor for a final crown and prevents the degradation of bone and gum tissue in that area. This is important because as time passes after tooth loss, the bone in your jaw can begin to resorb. Bone loss changes the shape of your jaw. This can shift teeth around the space where you are missing a tooth, causing more issues and complications. In addition to preventing this issue, an implant can be cared for like a natural tooth. It does not attach to the teeth around it.

A diagram showing a dental implant

For implant placement, we will work with a trusted oral surgeon or periodontist. During healing, we will provide a provisional replacement tooth to wear while your implant integrates with your jaw bone. This process takes approximately 2-3 months. During this time, we will work with a dental laboratory to make a highly-realistic crown that matches the shade of your surrounding teeth. After you have healed, we will place this crown and make sure you are satisfied with the final appearance of the restoration.

Dental Bridge for Front Tooth Replacement

A patient with two missing teeth and then with a new smile after getting dental crowns

A dental bridge is a prosthetic tooth that is supported on either side by natural teeth. A well-made bridge will look realistic and can be a valuable solution for some patients. However, there are a few things to consider. Cleaning a bridge takes more work because it requires different hygienic care than a natural tooth. It also will not prevent bone loss. As a result, your teeth may still shift around your missing front tooth and you may need to replace the bridge in the future.

Illustration of a dental bridge

Overall, we will typically recommend a dental implant instead of a bridge, but this is dependent on individual circumstances. For example, surgery may be more difficult due to existing bone loss. Alternatively, your neighboring teeth may already need crowns, favoring the option for a bridge. Of course, we will also take your preferences into consideration and will discuss all of your different options.

Highly-Skilled Cosmetic and Restorative Dentist in Tucson, AZ

If you are missing a front tooth and would like to restore your smile, Skyline Dental can help. We consider both form and function and can discuss whether a dental implant or a bridge would be best for your unique circumstances. Our cosmetic dentist, Dr. James Raymond, has extensive experience creating realistic dental restorations. We also focus on your comfort throughout the process.

To learn more about your options for replacing a missing front tooth, contact us today.

What is Periodontal Disease?

Your gums and supporting bone hold your teeth in place. Issues with either can have serious consequences. When you begin to lose this attachment, we call it periodontal disease, also called gum disease. This is usually the result of bacterial build-up and inflammation at or under the gum line. If left untreated, it can result in tooth loss. It’s important to seek professional treatment as early as possible to help ensure the best outcome.

 

Gum Disease Risk Factors

A man brushing his teeth to prevent gum disease

The primary cause of gum disease is plaque, which is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth. This is caused mainly by carbohydrates, sugars, and starches in food and drinks. If you don’t brush and floss properly, this begins to build up.

Stages of Periodontal Disease

A diagram showing the phases of periodontal disease including gingivitis and periodontitis

No Gum Disease – Healthy Gums

Healthy gums should be pink and fit tightly against your teeth. They are firm and should not bleed during brushing, flossing, or professional dental cleaning. To keep your gums healthy and prevent periodontal disease, you should brush twice daily and floss once a day. You should also see your dentist regularly for check-ups and professional cleanings every 6 months.

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease and is reversible if caught early and treated properly. This occurs when plaque begins to form under the gum line. Over time, this will harden into “tartar” or “calculus.” Equally as frustrating as a college-level mathematics course, calculus can be a challenge to remove and keep from regrowing. Since it must be removed by a professional, it is important you visit our office early and frequently. In this early stage, the bacteria in plaque and tartar have not yet begun to erode the tooth or bone. Symptoms of gingivitis include bad breath, red or swollen gums, and bleeding while brushing/flossing. However, disease at this stage can also be present with no symptoms, which is one reason it’s important to see your dentist regularly.

Periodontitis

Once gum disease progresses from gingivitis to periodontitis, it is no longer possible to fully reverse the damage. With proper dental care, you can stop the progression of the disease. During this stage, your gums start to become infected and can pull away from the teeth, creating pockets of bacteria. The bacteria also spread into the bone and tooth and begin to eat away at these structures. Symptoms may be similar to gingivitis and your dentist will also be able to check the probing depth of your gums to detect periodontal disease at this stage.

Moderate to Severe Periodontitis

At advanced levels of gum disease, you will notice some of the same symptoms from the earlier stages, along with increased gum recession and increased pocket formation. The bacteria continue to attack the bone and tooth structure, destroying more tissue as time progresses without treatment. Bacteria may begin to spread into your bloodstream as well, causing an increase in inflammation. Recent science shows this link and illustrates the broader consequences of inflammation in our bodies. We now know unnecessary stressors tax our body’s fight against REAL external pathogens and also age us quicker.

Advanced Periodontitis

When periodontal disease reaches its most advanced stage, your gums may start to ooze pus and your teeth can become loose or fall out. Other symptoms include severe pain and sensitivity as well as extreme bad breath that does not go away. Bone loss occurs, unfortunately all too often, and you may need to have teeth extracted during the treatment process to protect the “the greater good of the teeth.” Extensive care is usually necessary in addition to treating the gum disease itself.

Periodontal Disease Treatment

To stop the spread of periodontal disease, it is necessary to clear away plaque and tartar from below the gum line. This area cannot be reached with brushing, flossing, or even more standard methods of professional cleaning. Instead, a “deep cleaning” is necessary, and this treatment is known as scaling and root planing. Scaling is the removal of plaque and tartar build-up and root planing is the process of smoothing the tooth root so your gums can more easily reattach to your teeth. This may be completed in multiple appointments depending on your situation.

Additional Restorative Dentistry

A woman smiling after periodontal disease treatment by our Tucson dentist

In many cases, periodontal disease is accompanied by tooth decay/cavities. You may need dental fillings or crowns to restore affected teeth. If you are suffering from advanced periodontitis, you may need additional care, especially if you have lost teeth or need to have teeth extracted. There are many options for tooth replacement including crowns with dental implants, dental bridges, and dentures (implant-supported or conventional). Your dentist can discuss your options to determine which is best for you.

Gum Disease Treatment and Prevention at Skyline Dental

Our dental office can help you prevent periodontitis with routine cleanings. We will also examine your teeth and gums to check for early signs of the disease. This makes it more likely that we will be able to reverse the issue. If you are already at a more advanced stage, we can work with you to develop a treatment plan.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss periodontal disease.

The Process of Teeth Straightening

Crooked teeth can diminish your confidence and have a negative impact on your oral health. Luckily, there are many teeth straightening options that can give you the smile you want. Whether you need orthodontic treatment or a more minor cosmetic revision, we can make the process of straightening your teeth as easy as possible.

Identifying Crooked Teeth

A model of severely crooked teeth that can be fixed with orthodontic care

If you want to make any changes to your smile, you should visit your dentist. When it comes to crooked teeth, it is necessary to check just how severe the misalignment is. We do this by taking X-rays, visually examining your mouth, and asking you about any discomfort when chewing or any other concerns you may have. 

Choosing the Right Method for Teeth Straightening

The best straightening method for you will vary depending on how the crookedness of your teeth affects function and aesthetics. Orthodontic issues can make it harder to brush and floss properly and can lead to other oral health issues. Based on our assessment, we will recommend which method(s) will best fit your needs. 

Some of the processes we can use to straighten your smile:

A man having the color of his teeth matched for veneers to cover crooked teeth

Veneers

Veneers are thin porcelain shells that cover your teeth. They can mask minor misalignments but do not actually move your natural teeth. As a result, you will need to explore other options if you have orthodontic concerns. 

After you determine that you would like this cosmetic procedure, we will use Digital Smile Design technology to help you visualize your new smile. Once you are happy with this, we will scan your mouth to take a non-invasive digital impression. This allows us to create a smile try-in that you can wear for a few days to make sure the new look is right for you. 

In order to prepare your teeth for veneers, we will remove a small amount of enamel from the front of each tooth that you are covering. This is usually approximately half a millimeter. We will then take an impression and send it to a dental laboratory where they will make your veneers. This process takes 2-4 weeks and you can wear temporary veneers while you wait. When the permanent veneers are complete, you will return to our office and we will bond them to your teeth with dental cement. With proper care, your new smile can last up to 30+ years. 

A woman putting in an invisalign aligner tray for teeth straightening

Clear Aligner Trays

If you do need orthodontic treatment, then clear aligner trays may be right option for you. Invisalign is one of the most well-known brands. Clear trays are sometimes called invisible braces. However, this can also refer to wire and bracket braces that are clear or white. Many patients prefer aligners to traditional braces because they are very discreet, but they may not be right for you if you have severely crooked teeth. 

After deciding to start treatment with clear aligner trays, we will take a digital impression of your teeth and will use this to make a 3D model of your smile. We will then map out how we will move your teeth. Usually this is accomplished by adjusting a few teeth at once. We will go over the details with you to make sure you understand how the process works. 

Every two weeks, you will get a new aligner that will be slightly tighter. You can often switch to your new aligner at home and only come in for visits approximately every six weeks. This allows us to make sure the treatment is progressing as it should. You will need to wear the aligners for 20-22 hours a day, only taking them out to eat, brush, or floss. The process is usually complete in a year for adults. 

A woman being fitted for adult braces by her dentist

Wire and Bracket Braces

If you have teeth that are very crooked or there is another reason that clear aligners are not a good fit for you, traditional braces can straighten your teeth. There are many options to make these less visible, such as using clear or white brackets. 

The process starts similarly to using clear aligner trays. We will scan your mouth and create a model that helps you understand and visualize the treatment plan. At your initial appointment, we will place the braces. This will take longer than your future appointments. We cement brackets to each tooth and then thread a wire through them, using bends and kinks in the wire to put pressure on your teeth to slowly move them into place. 

Every three to four weeks, you will come into our office for an adjustment. We may move the existing wire or place a new one which is tighter, stronger, or placed differently. We will also help you keep your braces clean and will go over any foods you should avoid during treatment. After your teeth are straight, we will remove the braces and fit you for a retainer. This will ensure your new smile stays in place. 

Get a Straight, Beautiful Smile

If you aren’t happy with your smile, it can affect your quality of life. Skyline Dental can help. We can correct crooked teeth using cosmetic or orthodontic procedures depending on your specific case. 

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your options for teeth straightening.

Tooth Filling Basics

Tooth decay is among the most common health issues in the world. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), 92% of adults between 20 and 64 have had some form of decay in their permanent teeth. In the earlier stages of decay, a dental filling can be used to replace damaged enamel and repair a cavity. Fillings are a common treatment and NIDCR data indicates that the average adult has 7 permanent teeth with fillings, although this varies based on access to dental care.

More information about decay and fillings:

Tooth Decay and Cavities

A graphic that shows the four different stages of tooth decay, starting with health teeth and ended with decay in the pulp

If you tend to eat or drink a lot of carbohydrates and starches and are not meticulous with dental hygiene, a thin layer of bacteria can start to build up on your teeth. This is known as plaque and it is a sticky substance that can be colorless or pale yellow. A lack of brushing/flossing can allow this plaque to continue to build and it will eventually harden into tartar, which can only be removed by a dental professional.

Plaque that rests on your teeth will form acids. These acids attack the surface of your tooth (enamel) and cause it to lose minerals. This weakens the structure and will result in tooth decay over time. If left untreated, the decay will progress, eventually moving deeper into the tooth structure and causing more serious dental problems.

Cavities, also called dental caries, are a result of the tooth decay process. These are damaged areas where decay has caused a hole in a tooth. They usually start in the enamel, although they can also start on root surfaces, especially for adults with gum recession. You may not notice a cavity beginning to form until it reaches the dentin, which is when most people will start to notice tooth sensitivity and other symptoms. However, some adults with deep cavities may never experience pain or other typical symptoms.

What is a Filling?

In the early stages, a cavity can usually be treated using a dental filling. Fillings, as their name implies, fill in the hole that decay leaves in teeth. They can be made from a variety of different materials.

A cavity before and after using tooth-colored composite resin filling material

In the past, silver amalgam fillings were the most common variety. These are made of a combination of several different metals and have a silver color, making them more noticeable when laughing or smiling. With the advancements in white composite materials, including improvements in strength and longevity, silver fillings are no longer in use at Skyline Dental.

A dentist matching the color of a woman's teeth to create a realistic resin filling

Recent advances in dental technology allow dentists to use tooth-colored fillings which look more natural while still being strong enough to support the tooth. These are made from a composite resin material and your dentist can closely match the color of your tooth for a more natural appearance.

Various types of composite resin that can be used for restorative dentistry

Filling materials are often used to repair cavities, but can also repair worn and chipped teeth, as well as stained teeth to improve their appearance. Stronger but less esthetic composite fillings are often placed on the back teeth where they blend in well and are not noticeable and strength is priority. On front teeth, sometimes several different composite materials may be used within a single filling to mimic exactly the natural layers of our teeth. These materials take into account not only the color to match your existing teeth, but also the opacity and translucency of the dentin and enamel layers of your teeth, so light is reflected properly and appearance is restored seamlessly.

A chipped tooth that has been repaired with composite resin dental bonding

See more examples of before and after results using dental composites in the “minimally invasive cosmetics” section on our before and after page.

The Process of Filling a Cavity

A diagram showing the process of filling a cavity and treating tooth decay

Determining if a Filling is the Best Option

Before you actually get a filling, your dentist will examine your teeth and determine if this is the best option for treating your oral health concerns. In the case of advanced tooth decay, another treatment may be more suitable. Dental crowns are a common option since they cover and protect your tooth. The Skyline Dental Team will discuss your choices with you and make sure you fully understand our recommended course of action.

Ensuring Comfortable Dentistry

To keep you comfortable during your dental procedure, your dentist will inject local anesthetic around the tooth where the filling will go. This is in order to numb the area. At our office, we use state-of-the-art technology to make this process as pain-free as possible.

A dentist using a special light to cure a tooth-colored filling

Tooth-Colored Composite Filling

To ensure that the tooth-colored filling is stable and looks natural, your dentist will apply the material in layers. We use a special light to harden (“cure”) each layer of the composite resin. After the entire space is filled, we will shape the material and polish it.

Dental Care in Tucson, AZ

At Skyline Dental, we offer compassionate and high-quality dental care. If you suspect that you have a cavity, we can examine your teeth and determine how to move forward. For all of our treatments, we take both form and function into account to provide restorative solutions that look natural.

To discuss tooth-colored fillings or other dental treatments, contact us today.

What Causes Short Teeth?

Short teeth can impact your confidence and also cause problems with eating and speaking. This issue can be caused by genetics or can develop due to wear and tear. Identifying the cause of your short teeth is important so that this root concern can be addressed. Once identified, we will use state-of-the-art dental treatments to restore the appearance and function of your smile.

Genetic Causes/Microdontia

Small teeth (microdontia)

Some individuals have teeth that are not only short but are also smaller in general and may look more like baby teeth than adult teeth. This is known as microdontia and is usually caused by a genetic condition.

There are three different types of microdontia. The first, truly generalized microdontia, is when all of a person’s teeth are abnormally small. This is the rarest variety and can be caused by dwarfism, Down’s syndrome, or if a child has chemotherapy or radiation treatment during tooth development. Relatively generalized microdontia is when someone does not actually have small teeth, but their teeth appear smaller than usual because their jaw is larger. Finally, localized microdontia is the most common form. This is when only one tooth is small, often an upper lateral incisor or third molar.

Short Teeth from Wear and Tear

In many cases, short teeth develop over time. This can happen for a number of different reasons, including:

Erosive Wear

Erosive wear can occur if teeth are regularly exposed to acidic substances. This can be intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic erosive tooth wear occurs due to exposure to gastric acids over time. One possible cause is gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), which is a condition where stomach acid comes up into the esophagus. At night, gastric acid can reach the back of the mouth for individuals with GERD, damaging the back teeth. Intrinsic erosive wear can also occur from excessive vomiting due to alcoholism, bulimia, or pregnancy. Extrinsic wear occurs due to external factors such as drinking soda frequently.

The back of a person's teeth with dental erosion, showing yellow exposed dentin and leading to short teeth

In the photo above, you can see that there is yellow showing through the teeth. This is exposed dentin (the inner layer of the tooth). Dentin wears faster than enamel and can be more sensitive, so it’s important to seek dental treatment if you notice this occurring. 

Abrasive Wear

Abrasive wear occurs due to physical pressure on your teeth. One common cause is bruxism, which is when you unconsciously grind or clench your teeth. Bruxism often occurs at night and can occur along with other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. If your teeth are misaligned, uneven bite forces when chewing can accelerate the wear of specific teeth, causing these to be shorter than the teeth around them.

A man with short teeth that have been fixed using dental crowns

Treatment for Short Teeth

If you are unhappy with your smile due to short or small teeth, there are many treatments available.

Some options include:

Treating the Root Cause of Short Teeth

It is important to address the cause of your small teeth in addition to cosmetically enhancing your smile. If you have genetic microdontia, it could be related to a health condition that runs in your family. In this scenario, you will likely need to seek treatment with a physician in addition to working with your dentist to improve your oral health. If your short teeth are due to wear and tear, addressing this issue can help prevent further damage to any restorations and can preserve your new smile for longer. Treatments may include orthodontics for a misaligned bite, wearing a night guard for bruxism, or changes to your diet.

Porcelain Veneers

Porcelain veneers covering worn and stained short teeth

Porcelain veneers are an excellent choice for a long-lasting and natural-looking restoration. These are thin ceramic shells that cover the front of your teeth, adding length and creating a natural shape. With Digital Smile Design, we can show you what your new smile will look like before you start the process of getting veneers.

Composite Bonding

A patient with short teeth that have been lengthened with veneers

Dental bonding is an option that can add length and improve the way your teeth look. Composite veneers conserve more tooth structure and take less time to create than porcelain, but they are less durable. We can discuss your specific case to help you determine which material is a better fit for your needs.

Dental Crown

If you have only one small tooth, a dental crown could be a good option. This is a ceramic cap that covers your natural tooth. This protects the tooth in addition to improving its appearance.

Cosmetic and Restorative Dentistry for Short Teeth

At Skyline Dental, we can determine the cause of your small teeth and restore your smile. Our cosmetic dentist, Dr. James Raymond, is highly skilled and experienced.

Contact us today to discuss options for improving the appearance and function of short teeth.

Common Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

If you are experiencing sharp tooth pain when eating certain types or temperatures of food, you shouldn’t “brush it off.” Tooth sensitivity can be a symptom of many different oral health conditions. Your dentist can help you find a solution so you no longer need to alter your eating habits. It is also important to address sensitivity sooner than later, as many of these issues can worsen over time and lead to more extensive dental work.

Common causes of tooth sensitivity are:

A woman putting in a night guard to prevent tooth sensitivity due to bruxism

Bruxism

Bruxism is when you unconsciously clench or grind your teeth. This can occur either while you are asleep or during the day. Clenching and grinding can be accelerated by stress and is a common cause for tooth-aches and jaw disorders. The added pressure to your teeth when clenching can cause individual or multiple teeth to become “hyper-aware” to other stimuli like temperature, chewing, and brushing. One way to think of bruxism and its effect on your teeth is to compare it to spraining an ankle. What used to be comfortable is now painful to touch or walk on.

Over the long term, the grinding can wear down your enamel, expose underlying dentin, and lead to sensitivity. Bruxism will also accelerate periodontal disease and recession which is known to cause sensitivity. You may also notice headaches, jaw pain, or even chips or fractures in your teeth. Bruxism, as mentioned, is often related to stress, but may occur as a result of sleep disorders like sleep apnea and upper airway resistance syndrome.

Wearing a night guard can help reduce damage to your teeth and prevent further sensitivity. It is best to get a custom fit from your dentist because over-the-counter night guards may worsen temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems and cause your teeth to shift, affecting appearance and causing an imbalance in your bite.

A couple brushing their teeth in front of a mirror and practicing good dental hygiene

Over-Aggressive Brushing

Brushing your teeth is very important, but it is possible to brush too hard and actually cause damage. This can accelerate recession leading to exposure of the roots of your teeth (also known as recession), as well as wear through the dentin that protects the nerve living inside. To prevent this, you should be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush and hold it at a 45-degree angle to your gum line. For more in-depth information, you can view a video about brushing here.

Another great tip is to avoid abrasive toothpastes. For a list of toothpastes, see the image below. For one of the best toothpastes, which is not on this list, consider CTX gel by CariFree, which can be purchased at our office.

A list of toothpastes ranked by how abrasive they are

If you think you are experiencing tooth sensitivity due to aggressive brushing, the first step is adjusting your brushing technique. Your dentist may also apply a fluoride gel to strengthen your enamel and exposed roots from recession. Finally, there are many desensitizing toothpaste options available that may help reduce or prevent tooth sensitivity.

A diagram showing the effects of tooth decay/a cavity, which can lead to tooth sensitivity

Tooth Decay/Cavities

Tooth decay is the destruction of enamel due to bacteria in plaque. This can result in sensitivity in just one tooth, or a few teeth if there are multiple areas where decay is occurring. If this issue is left untreated, the decay can continue to spread and impact deeper layers of the tooth. What may start as sensitivity could later result in infection or even tooth loss.

To treat the decay, your dentist will remove the affected portion of the tooth and replace it with a tooth-colored filling. In the case of severe decay, a crown may be necessary.

Two diagrams showing the progression of periodontitis (gum disease)

Gum Disease

If tooth decay continues to progress, it can result in gum disease. This occurs when plaque build-up starts to harden under your gum line and becomes tartar, also known as calculus. Unlike plaque, tartar cannot be removed at home and will require professional cleaning. If it remains under your gum line, it can lead to inflammation (red and bleeding gums), recession, and pocket formation.

Treatment for gum disease may be performed by your dentist or by a periodontist, depending on your specific circumstances. It usually involves a combination of in-office cleaning and at-home dental hygiene.

When to See Your Dentist About Tooth Sensitivity

Since tooth sensitivity can be an indication of a more serious issue with your dental health, it’s important to bring up your concerns with your dentist. If your tooth pain is accompanied by difficulty swallowing, a rapid heart rate, confusion, and/or a high fever, you should seek emergency medical attention as these could be signs of an infection.

Skyline Dental

At Skyline Dental, we provide high-quality and compassionate dental care to address your concerns. We can find the cause of your sensitivity and treat it so you can enjoy your favorite foods again.

To schedule an appointment to discuss tooth sensitivity, contact us today.

Alternatives to Insurance: HSA and More

If you want to keep your smile beautiful and healthy, dental care is a necessity. Your oral health also impacts your overall wellbeing, so taking care of your teeth is essential for this reason. Unfortunately, navigating the financial side of dentistry can be overwhelming and confusing. Dental insurance is often not the best fit and this leaves many patients looking for other options. At Skyline Dental, we are committed to providing you with access to many different methods for payment. One option, if you qualify, is combining a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA) with our in-office dental savings plan.

Here is how this works:

HSA: What It Is and Who Qualifies

An HSA is a type of savings account that you can use to pay for health care costs tax-free. You do not need to pay taxes on your contributions up to the yearly maximum. This applies both when you deposit funds and when you use them to pay for qualified medical expenses. In many cases, you can invest a portion of your HSA to further grow your savings. An HSA makes it possible to save up for procedures you need while taking advantage of tax benefits.

In order to qualify for an HSA, you need to have a high deductible health plan (HDHP). This applies to most health insurance plans where the deductible is over $1,350 for an individual or $2,700 for a family. If you are not sure whether you have an HDHP, you can reach out to your insurance provider for clarification. If you qualify, you can set up an HSA through any financial institution that offers these types of accounts.

Many forms of dental care are classified as qualified medical expenses. In some cases, a letter of medical necessity may be required to get reimbursement for procedures such as dental implants, crowns, or bridges. Most types of preventive and restorative dentistry are eligible, whereas purely cosmetic procedures are not. A full list of qualified expenses is available on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website.

A piggy bank with dental tools on it, representing using an HSA to save for dental procedures

What About an FSA?

Like an HSA, an FSA allows you to use pre-tax income to save for medical expenses and can be used for dental care. However, there are many differences between the two types of plans. An employer will need to set up an FSA and as a result, funds generally do not transfer if you leave your job. Unlike an HSA, FSA funds have a time limit for when you can use them. This is usually within a year unless your employer has set up the FSA with a grace period or allows you to carry over a portion of unused funds to the next year. You forfeit any money that you do not use during the allowed time to your employer. The maximum contribution is also lower for most FSAs.

In general, an HSA is the best option if you qualify since you control this plan yourself and can save long-term. However, if you do not have an HDHP and your employer offers an FSA, this still can be helpful depending on your situation.

A woman smiling and talking to her dentist about how to pay for treatment

Third-Party Financing

For many patients, an HSA or FSA combined with a savings plan can help you cover the cost of treatments. However, if you need extensive restorative dentistry and do not already have the full funds available, you may want to consider third-party financing. This splits up the cost of treatment into smaller monthly payments and may allow you to get the treatment you need sooner. At Skyline Dental, we work with DOCPAY and Proceed Finance.

When using an HSA with a financing option, you can continue to make pre-tax contributions to the HSA up to the yearly maximum. Monthly payments can come out of this account. It’s important to note that while the cost of the treatment itself may be HSA-eligible, the finance charges (e.g. interest) are not, so these are not tax-deductible.

Financial Options at Our Dental Office

Skyline Dental is committed to helping you improve and maintain your oral health and we accept a wide range of payment options. If you don’t have dental insurance, an HSA/FSA and our in-office savings plan can be a great option.

If you have questions about using an HSA, FSA, or our in-office plan to pay for treatment, contact us today.

Does Dental Insurance Make Sense?

Most of us are familiar with insurance because we have a variety of different plans for medical, car, and homeowners/renters insurance. How insurance usually works is that individuals pay a small amount towards a collective pool of money. This is meant to cover costs in the case of a rare, but expensive incident. However, dental insurance doesn’t work that way. Instead, subscribers get a fixed amount of money to spend each year on dental care, subject to exclusions and limitations. Most patients don’t need or use the full $1,000-$2,000 available to them every year, so these funds often go unused. In addition, most insurance companies will only pay 50% of high-cost, major treatments. This leaves you not only paying 50% of the more expensive treatments but also your monthly premiums and annual deductibles. Given this, does “dental insurance” make sense? For most dental patients, it does not.

Some factors to consider when reviewing the value of your dental insurance:

A man stacking coins on a balance with a model of a tooth, deciding if dental insurance is the best option for him

Limitations that Apply to Everyone

There are certain limitations to dental insurance that apply for everyone who uses it. It is important to consider these when deciding if insurance makes sense for your specific situation.

One major factor is that annual benefits are capped. Whether you use them or not, they will not roll over to the next year. Certain procedures also have lifetime maximums, so you will continue to pay the same premium, but will not be able to use that benefit again. Your plan may also cover procedures that you will never need, but you still have to pay for the potential use. There are also frequency limitations, so you can only have a procedure once every 5-7 years depending on your plan.

Additionally, many insurance plans have a waiting period for major care such as crowns, implants, dentures, and other procedures, which is typically one year. It is also common for plans to contain pre-existing clauses for missing teeth, so your insurance will never pay for the replacement of a tooth lost prior to enrollment.

Also, you may only be able to see dentists within a selected network dictated by your insurance. Some plans do allow you to see out-of-network providers. These are called PPO plans.

A woman admiring her teeth in a yellow mirror after a visit to the dentist

What to Consider if You’re Paying Out-of-Pocket for a Dental Plan

Consider what your monthly and annual spend is for the plan and what you are getting in return. Are you taking advantage of all the annual benefits your plan can provide for you? What dollar value do they pay your dentist compared to what you pay them? Is the insurance plan forcing you to delay needed treatment due to waiting periods or annual maximums? Do you feel like you’re able to see the dentist you want and get the quality of care you need to achieve oral health? When a dental plan is not subsidized by an employer with a large group plan, the math shows self-paying individuals lose the majority of the time.

What to Consider as an Employee with Dental Benefits

If you are an employee with a dental benefit from your employer, you should consider whether or not you are truly using this plan to its fullest.

There are two scenarios that are very common when it comes to dental insurance. The first is that you are healthy and you don’t need extensive dental work, so you are paying for access to unnecessary procedures. By not utilizing coverage, you are throwing away the potential use of the money you pay to have access to.

The second is that you need expensive treatment, but you can’t afford to pay the 50% not covered by your insurance, or the annual maximum benefit is not enough to pay for all your needs. Many are only willing to complete procedures their insurances agree to help cover, which guarantees the future cost of your dental care needs will go up because treatment is delayed and problems worsen.

What to Consider as an Employer

If you are an employer paying for a group plan, you should consider that only a fraction of employees will use their dental benefits. Those who need it the most are often those who avoid using it. You should also be aware that plans never pay out to exceed the combined contributions of you and your employees. Dental insurances are businesses. They make profits and pay other dentists to review and justify denying coverage of procedures. This is how they stay viable, so like playing slots at any casino, you can only lose in the long run.

A woman having her teeth examined at the dentist office

The Impact of Dental Insurance on Your Oral Health

By reducing reimbursement rates in the face of inflation, coupled with illegal anti-competitive practices, many dental insurance companies are forcing dentists to provide a lower standard of care. In these situations, dentists need to see more patients, rush through procedures, buy cheaper materials, pay their staff less, not invest in new technology, and take fewer continuing education courses. The overall result is a poor dental experience for the patient. Instigated by dental insurance, the end result is a decreased likelihood the patient will return to the dentist. A lose-lose for the dentist and patient, but a win for the insurance.

Delaying treatment because your dental insurance won’t cover it also worsens your oral health over time. Many patients who need more than what insurance will pay for feel like they can never catch up with their dental care. This turns into an endless cycle.

An Alternative To Dental Insurance

Since dental insurance is not usually the best option, what can you do to get the dental care you need? We also accept a variety of payment methods including health savings accounts (HSAs), flexible spending accounts (FSAs), third-party financing, and more. We know that navigating the financial side of dental care can be challenging and our team is here to help.

If you have questions about dental insurance or alternative ways to pay for the care you need, contact us today.

Tucson’s Best Hygienist

Dear friends of Skyline Dental,

It is with great pleasure that I write to introduce myself and express my gratitude and excitement at having the opportunity to provide dental hygiene services for you and your family at state of the art Skyline Dental. I am Judy Hodges RDH and I look forward to helping you improve your oral health and achieve a beautiful smile.

Judy, our dental hygienist at Skyline Dental

In 2017 my husband and I moved from Michigan to Tucson. It had been my dream to live in Arizona by the mountains for as long as I can remember. Snowing on Mother’s Day can have a profound effect. We have 5 grown children who live amongst the states of Washington, Texas, Florida, and Michigan and two grandsons in Michigan. Outside of work I enjoy cooking, gardening, reading, traveling, and hiking. I am an active memberof Soroptomist of Desert Tucson.

Since I was 10 years old, I knew I wanted to be a dental hygienist. After finishing dental hygiene education at the University of Detroit, I experienced a wonderful 37-year tenure at a high-quality family dental practice. After getting settled in Tucson, I started missing the best part of being a hygienist–the great interpersonal relationships with my patients. I wasn’t looking for any position, but waiting for the right fit to present itself. After 40 years as a hygienist, I had set my standards very high to find the perfect balance of integrity, excellence, and friendliness in a cutting edge office. Skyline Dental has all three! Dr. Raymond and I share the same patient care philosophies and believe in a preventive and proactive approach to providing care to you.

Attending conferences and seminars regularly is essential to staying current with emerging science and technology in dentistry. Back in the 1980s, dentistry was aware that plaque (bacteria) was the leading cause of tooth decay and periodontal disease, which could lead to tooth loss. Today, research has shown that the same bacteria from the mouth has potential ramifications for many systemic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease stroke, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases, and pregnancy complications. In short, a healthy mouth is very important for overall health.

Recently, due to COVID19, our training has been focused on understanding the science of the virus and enhancing infection control.  We are committed to delivering dental care in the safest environment which means adding many new protocols. I emphatically agree with Dr. Raymond’s decision to reopen in phases for your safety. The science available today, the CDC and American Dental Hygienists Association guidelines, and the shortage of personal protection equipment further support this approach.

In the interim, a few things that can be done at home to promote good oral health:

  1. Brush and floss at least twice a day
  2. Avoid sugary foods and drinks
  3. Avoid snacking between meals

For more information, check out these videos: 

Make an Appointment with Us

If you are currently experiencing bleeding gums daily please contact me by emailing hello@skylinedentaltucson.com and we can schedule a video conference to review home care techniques and products that will benefit your particular situation. It is my hope that I can provide a gentle and positive dental experience for you in the not too distant future. 

Yours Truly,

Judy Hodges, RDH

What to Do If You Have a Toothache

Even a mild toothache can be a distraction. In the worst cases, your tooth pain may be so severe that you can’t function normally. Pain is an indication from your body that something is not right and may be a sign of an underlying condition.

Here is some information about toothaches and what you should do:

What Causes a Toothache?

A toothache can have many potential causes. Tooth decay is a common reason. The diagram below shows the different stages of decay. At first it may only affect the outer layer of your tooth, called the enamel. As it progresses, it will start to move into the dentin (below the enamel) and eventually the pulp. The pulp is the inner part of your tooth which is made up of connective tissue and when decay reaches this level, extensive dental work is often required.

A graphic that shows the four different stages of tooth decay, starting with health teeth and ended with decay in the pulp

A toothache may also be caused by other conditions such as an abscessed tooth. This is when the pulp becomes infected and pus forms a pocket around the root. An abscess will not get better on its own and avoiding treatment can have serious consequences. Toothaches can also be caused by gum disease, infected gums, a damaged filling, teeth grinding (bruxism), or a tooth fracture.

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Tooth Pain

You may be tempted to ignore issues with your teeth in hopes that they will go away on their own. Many people try to ignore the pain because they do not want to have to visit a dentist. However, ignoring a toothache can lead to much more serious problems. The risk of gum infection or an infection from an abscessed tooth is particularly serious. These infections can spread from your tooth into your jaw and then to other parts of your body through your bloodstream.

If you have a high fever, rapid heart rate, confusion, and/or difficulty swallowing, you should go to the emergency room as these could indicate a serious infection requiring immediate medical treatment.

A woman holding a blue ice pack to her cheek to help with her tooth pain

What to Do Until You Get to the Dentist

Until you are able to see the dentist, you may want to get some temporary relief from your toothache pain. Over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin can be helpful, as can using a cold compress on your jaw. A saltwater rinse is also one of the best home remedies. Use half a teaspoon of salt with 8 ounces of warm water and swish this around in your mouth for a minimum of 30 seconds.

How We Can Help

When you make an emergency appointment with us, we will do everything we can to get you into the office as soon as possible. We will start by reviewing your health history and then will examine your teeth and gums. If necessary, we may take digital X-rays.

Once we identify the cause of your toothache, we will develop a treatment plan. This may involve a tooth-colored filling, gum cleaning, a prescription for antibiotics, or other options depending on the specific situation.

Follow-Up Treatments

While we can usually help reduce your pain and start treatment during your first appointment, many oral health conditions require continued care. This is especially true if you have a more serious issue, such as extensive tooth decay. During your visit, we will discuss our recommendations for follow-up care.

It is also important that you practice good oral hygiene to prevent new or worsening dental issues. This includes brushing twice a day and flossing once a day.

Emergency Dentistry When You Need It Most

During the current COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, many people are feeling anxious and are concerned about how to get the care they need. Skyline Dental is here to help and we are available for emergency dentistry. We have always taken precautions to ensure the cleanliness of our office and continue to do so, helping to keep you safe.

If you have a severe toothache, call us at 520-800-7010 to schedule an emergency visit at our dental office.Alternatively, contact us online today!