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Dental is fundamental for Yuma's Dr. Snyder
His office at first appears to be just another dentist's office. But once Randolph Snyder, D.M.D., a Yuma periodontist, describes his job as a gum disease specialist, it is easy to see the technological advances he has experienced in his 30-year practice.
Perhaps the most exciting technology of all that Snyder sees as a future possibility is the use of stem cells to generate new teeth from the root up. He says researchers are already doing this in some animal models.
“If we can get to that point, how exciting will that be? We don't have to use dental implants anymore. If that happens in my lifetime, I don't think there is anything more exciting than that.”
A new and more exciting technology for treating advanced gum disease is the use of laser surgery to remove plaque and tartar from deep under the gum line, an underlying cause of tooth and bone loss, Snyder says. Called “laser assisted new attachment procedure,” this treatment involves minimal incisions, greater patient comfort and minimal gum shrinkage afterward.
“A laser can be used under the gum line to remove any infected gum tissue,” says Snyder. “It heats the tartar so that when we go back in with the ultrasonic cleaners, it will remove plaque and tartar easier. Then we come back in and modify the bone with a second laser pass, and the pocket is sealed to prevent new bacteria from entering.”
The advantage of this procedure is that only the diseased tissue is removed without removing any healthy tissue, which also helps maintain the height of the gum tissue surrounding the teeth, he says.
As a periodontist who has practiced in Yuma for 22 of his 30 years, Snyder explains that most people are unaware that they even have gum disease, although 75 to 85 percent of people at one time in their lives have at least one area of the disease.
“As a periodontist, I treat conditions that involve the gum and bone that surround our teeth. If somebody hasn't gone to the dentist for a long time, or if they don't floss their teeth, then plaque and tartar can get under the gum line and may cause the gums to bleed and more importantly may cause a low-grade infection that will start to dissolve the bone that holds the teeth in.”
For daily oral hygiene, Snyder recommends electric toothbrushes such as those produced by Sonicare, which uses ultrasonic technology. He says these kinds of brushes are more effective because they can put more surface strokes onto the teeth and gums than you can do with regular manual brushes.
Flossing is the key to removing plaque from between the teeth, which the brushes cannot get to, says Snyder. “If everybody flossed, I wouldn't have a job.”
Another technological advancement that Snyder uses is dental implants: manmade titanium roots that are placed into the jawbone.
“It's very exciting because it allows us to basically reconstruct a tooth from the bottom up. It is a process, not just a procedure. Sometimes if we break a tooth off or a tooth can't be saved, the tooth can be extracted.
“We do bone grafting to regenerate the bone. Then a dental implant replacement procedure under sedation is done four to six months later. Finally, a crown is placed over the implant four months later so that it will resemble and function like a regular tooth.”
The use of implants is not without its limitations, though. Snyder explains that if a patient is a heavy smoker or has uncontrolled diabetes, implants are not recommended because there is a higher failure rate in these cases.
In the past, if a person were to lose a tooth, Snyder says, the only option was to insert a bridge — an artificial tooth connected to the teeth on either side of the tooth that was lost.
“Now that doesn't have to be done. You can basically reconstruct that one tooth, leaving the other teeth alone.”
In cases of multiple tooth loss, dental implants, combined with crowns or a denture that locks on over the top of the titanium implants, allow greater comfort and more strength, enabling his patients to eat a wider variety of foods because the titanium implants that Snyder describes are “rigid, fixed, non-movable and biocompatible.”
“They rarely will fracture. They are subject to gum disease. You still have to come in for regular cleanings. The implant process has been perfected over the last 20 years. Most of the implants have an 85 to 95 percent success rate. People ask, ‘Will these last a lifetime?' We hope they do, but we cannot give guarantees.”
In short, Snyder says that the idea in periodontics is to help people save their own teeth first. “If they save their teeth, they will eat better, and typically they will live longer.”