My Blog

Posts for: May, 2019

By Lee Oppenheimer, DDS, PA
May 28, 2019
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants  

It’s time to find out how dental implants can replace your missing teeth for life.

If you are dealing with gaps in your smile due to tooth loss, you may already know first-hand that this affects more than just your appearance. Unfortunately, untreated tooth loss can cause everything from jawbone deterioration to facial wrinkles. If you are looking for a tooth replacement option that’s as close to the real thing as you can possibly get, then it’s time to turn to our periodontists in Hilton Head Island and Hardeeville, Dr. Lee Oppenheimer and Dr. Kane Ramsey, to find out if dental implants are right for you.

What is a dental implant?

An implant is a metal post that is positioned into the jawbone under the gums where it will function like tooth roots and provide a strong,Dental Implants long-term foundation from which to support a false tooth (aka: a dental crown). If you are missing several or all of your teeth, multiple implants can also be placed along the arches of the jawbone to support partial or full dentures.

How do I get a dental implant?

First, you will need to come into one of our offices in either Hilton Head Island or Hardeeville for a consultation with our dental implant specialists to find out if this is the right treatment option to meet your needs. We will perform an oral exam and take X-rays to make sure that your jawbone is strong enough to support an implant.

Once we have determined that you are healthy enough for a dental implant, we will need to perform a minor surgery to place the implant into the jawbone. Don't worry—this surgery is performed right here in our office under local anesthesia and only takes about one hour to place the implant. Given that this procedure is quite simple, you can go home immediately after!

Once the implant is placed, we will need to wait several months before we can begin the next step in your treatment process. During these 3-6 months, the jawbone will grow around and integrate with the implant. Once the implant and jawbone are fused together, we can then begin the next step: placing the abutment.

The abutment is the part of the implant that links up the metal post with the dental crown. Once it has been placed and the gums have healed, we can then cement your dental crown over the abutment to complete your new tooth. If you are replacing several or all of your teeth, we will secure permanent dentures on top of the implants. These dentures should be removed every night before bedtime.

Interested? Give us a call!

If you are living in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina and you are dealing with tooth loss, then it’s time to call our dental practice today to schedule a consultation. Find out if dental implants are the right for you by dialing (843) 842-5005 for the Hilton Head Island office, or (843) 208-2222 for the Hardeeville location.

By Lee Oppenheimer, DDS, PA
May 25, 2019
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  

Anybody can contract periodontal (gum) disease if they don't brush and floss every day. Inadequate hygiene allows a thin film of disease-causing bacteria and food particles called plaque to build up.

But while we're all at risk for gum disease, some people are more so. This is especially true for those with diabetes, heart disease or other systemic conditions. The common denominator among all these conditions is inflammation, the body's defensive response to disease or injury.

When tissues become infected or damaged, the body causes swelling at the site to isolate the affected tissues, clear out diseased or dead cells and start tissue repair. Inflammation also produces redness, pain and, particularly with gum tissues, bleeding.

Inflammation is an important part of the body's ability to heal itself. It's possible, though, for the inflammatory response to become chronic. If that happens, it can actually begin doing more harm than good.

We're learning that chronic inflammation is a factor in many systemic diseases. For example, it can interfere with wound healing and other issues associated with diabetes. It also contributes to fatty deposit buildup in arterial blood vessels, which can lead to heart attacks or strokes. And in gum disease, chronic inflammation can cause gum detachment, followed by bone and tooth loss.

We're also learning that inflammation can create connections between these various health conditions. If you have an inflammatory disease like heart disease or diabetes, your risk for gum disease not only increases but it may also be difficult to bring under control. Likewise, if you have persistent gum disease, the associated inflammation could aggravate or even increase your risk for other systemic diseases.

Researchers hope continued discoveries about the interrelationship of inflammation with various conditions will lead to better treatment strategies, including for gum disease. In the meantime, getting prompt treatment for any inflammatory condition, especially gum disease, could help your treatment prospects with other conditions.

If you would like more information on connections between dental disease and other health conditions, 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 “The Link between Heart & Gum Diseases.”

By Lee Oppenheimer, DDS, PA
May 15, 2019
Category: Dental Procedures

Sometimes, looking at old pictures can really bring memories back to life. Just ask Stefani Germanotta—the pop diva better known as Lady Gaga. In one scene from the recent documentary Five Foot Two, as family members sort through headshots from her teen years, her father proclaims: "Here, this proves she had braces!"

"If I had kept that gap, then I would have even more problems with Madonna," Lady Gaga replies, referencing an ongoing feud between the two musical celebrities.

The photos of Gaga's teenage smile reveal that the singer of hits like "Born This Way" once had a noticeable gap (which dentists call a diastema) between her front teeth. This condition is common in children, but often becomes less conspicuous with age. It isn't necessarily a problem: Lots of well-known people have extra space in their smiles, including ex-football player and TV host Michael Strahan, actress Anna Paquin…and fellow pop superstar Madonna. It hasn't hurt any of their careers.

Yet others would prefer a smile without the gap. Fortunately, diastema in children is generally not difficult to fix. One of the easiest ways to do so is with traditional braces or clear aligners. These orthodontic appliances, usually worn for a period of months, can actually move the teeth into positions that look more pleasing in the smile and function better in the bite. For many people, orthodontic treatment is a part of their emergence from adolescence into adulthood.

Braces and aligners, along with other specialized orthodontic appliances, can also remedy many bite problems besides diastema. They can correct misaligned teeth and spacing irregularities, fix overbites and underbites, and take care of numerous other types of malocclusions (bite problems).

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that kids get screened for orthodontic problems at age 7. Even if an issue is found, most won't get treatment at this age—but in some instances, it's possible that early intervention can save a great deal of time, money and effort later. For example, while the jaw is still developing, its growth can be guided with special appliances that can make future orthodontic treatment go quicker and easier.

Yet orthodontics isn't just for children—adults can wear braces too! As long as teeth and gums are healthy, there's no upper age limit on orthodontic treatment. Instead of traditional silver braces, many adults choose tooth-colored braces or clear aligners to complement their more professional appearance.

So if your child is at the age where screening is recommended—or if you're unhappy with your own smile—ask us whether orthodontics could help. But if you get into a rivalry with Madonna…you're on your own.

If you have questions about orthodontic treatment, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “The Magic of Orthodontics” and “Orthodontics For The Older Adult.”


Losing a tooth from disease or accident can be traumatic. The good news, though, is that it can be replaced with a life-like replica that restores your smile. One of the most popular and durable solutions is a dental implant, which replaces not only the root of the tooth but the crown as well.

But there's a possible wrinkle with implants — for accurate placement there must be a sufficient amount of bone around it. This could be a problem if you've been missing the tooth for sometime: without the stimulus provided by a tooth as you chew, older bone cells aren't replaced at an adequate rate. The bone volume gradually diminishes, as up to 25% of its normal width can be lost during the first year after tooth loss. A traumatic injury can damage underlying bone to an even greater extent.

There is a possible solution, but it will require the services of other specialists, particularly a periodontist trained in gum and bone structure. The first step is a complete examination of the mouth to gauge the true extent of any bone loss. While x-rays play a crucial role, a CT scan in particular provides a three-dimensional view of the jaw and more detail on any bone loss.

With a more accurate bone loss picture, we can then set about actually creating new bone through grafting procedures. One such technique is called a ridge augmentation: after opening the gum tissues, we place the bone graft within a barrier membrane to protect it. Over time the bone will grow replacing both the grafting material and membrane structure.

Once we have enough regenerated bone, we can then perform dental implant surgery. There are two options: a “one-stage” procedure in which a temporary crown is placed on the implant immediately after surgery; or a “two-stage” in which we place the gum tissue over the implant to protect it as it heals and bone grows and attaches to it. In cases of pre-surgical bone grafting, it's usually best to go with the two-stage procedure for maximum protection while the bone strengthens around it.

Necessary preparation of the bone for a future dental implant takes time. But the extra effort will pay off with a new smile you'll be proud to display.

If you would like more information on special situations with dental implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.