Frequently Asked Questions

Why have I been referred to a prosthodontist?

Your dental needs are beyond the scope of a general dentist. This referral is indicative of the strong commitment to optimal dental care that your dentist has for you.

Why should I see a prosthodontist?

A prosthodontist is usually recommended when the type of dental care you need is outside the scope of your general dentist’s expertise.

Prosthodontists provide an extremely high level of care to patients with missing teeth, or those who have significant damage to their existing teeth. Prosthodontists also work with patients who have congenital defects as well as problems arising from trauma and medical conditions.

Do I need to be referred by my general dentist to see Dr. Petrini or Dr. Schmidt?

No. We work with many general dentists and other dental specialists, and although many of our patients are referred to us through them, it is not a requirement. In fact, many of our patients are referred by their family, friends, or colleagues. If you feel our services could be of benefit to you, please give us a call.

How do I schedule an appointment?

It’s easy! Either call us at (206) 242-6660 or click here to request an appointment.

What is a denturist?

A denturist is required by Washington state to complete a two-year, post-high school program as a dental laboratory technician. These skills are mechanical in nature, with little or no training and/or clinical experience with patients. Washington is one of only seven states in the country that allows laboratory technicians to provide intraoral (in the mouth) services without the supervision of a dentist.

How will I benefit from dental implants?

Because of the positive effect that dental implants have on the bone, they allow for more jawbone preservation. Implants can be utilized in the following ways:

  • Replace one or more teeth without affecting bordering teeth
  • Replace a removable partial denture with a fixed bridge
  • Secure an unstable partial denture
  • Provide support for a complete denture

What is the difference between an implant and a bridge?

A great benefit of implants is that they can be used without compromising other teeth. Replacing a missing tooth with a bridge would require grinding down the teeth on both sides of the space so a bridge can be cemented onto them. With an implant, the neighboring teeth do not need to be involved in treatment.

Will I get implants in one treatment?

Once we have determined that dental implants are the best option for you, an implant will be surgically placed in your jawbone by Dr. Petrini or one of the surgeons that work with us.  Dental implants generally take from three to six months to become firmly embedded in the bone. Once the implant is integrated and stable, Dr. Petrini or Dr. Schmidt will fabricate the custom abutment and implant crown. Under favorable conditions, it is sometimes possible to place a temporary restoration immediately when the implant is placed.

Why do teeth need crowns?

A dentist might recommend placing a crown (cap) for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • To restore a tooth to its original shape or length
  • To strengthen the tooth
  • To improve the cosmetic appearance of a tooth

Crowns are routinely made for teeth that are broken or excessively worn, or have had large portions destroyed by tooth decay.

How can I change the appearance of my teeth?

Aesthetic dentistry has become very popular in the last several years, not only due to the many advances in aesthetic dental procedures and materials available today, but also because patients are becoming more focused on improving their overall appearance. This includes dental prevention and achieving a healthier, whiter, more radiant smile. Depending on your particular needs, aesthetic dental treatments can change your smile dramatically.

Will I ever have dentures that fit comfortably?

Yes! As  prosthodontists, Dr. Petrini and Dr. Schmidt have the education and experience to make a properly fitting, comfortable denture for you. In addition, having an in-office lab of technicians trained by Dr. Schmidt ensures a high level of technical expertise for fabricating your dentures. We pay particular attention to proper lip support, correct tooth positioning, jaw function, and bone height. If you have limited bone support, particularly on your lower jaw, Dr. Petrini or Dr. Schmidt may recommend a specialized soft liner or raise the possibility of an implant-retained denture.

Is it normal to have to remove my dentures all the time because they get sore?

No, it is not normal. If dentures cause soreness, they are not fitting in a healthy way. Often soreness is caused by improperly made dentures, dentures that have been worn for too long or are worn out, weight loss, or dry mouth. These are all things that can be corrected.

Can I wear my denture while I sleep?

As long as you are comfortable wearing your denture, it fits well, and it is kept clean, you may sleep with it in place. Wearing an ill-fitting denture can cause damage to the bone and soft tissues. If you choose to wear your denture continuously, it is wise to massage the tissues with a soft toothbrush or cloth for approximately one minute in the morning and evening.

How long do dentures last?

A properly fitting denture will remain functional for seven to ten years. When teeth are removed, the jawbone shrinks rapidly at first and then more slowly for the remainder of the patient’s life.

When the denture is made, it fits the jawbone at that time. However, as the jawbone shrinks, the fit of the denture changes. Denture teeth also wear down and become less capable of cutting into food properly. An inability to bite or cut into food with denture teeth forces the denture to push on the jawbone, which may cause the bone to shrink at a faster rate. Bruxism, or grinding of the teeth, will decrease the life of a denture.

Some indications that your dentures need to be replaced:

  • Sore spots
  • Looseness
  • Wearing down or flattening of the denture teeth
  • Over-closing of the jaws
  • Difficulty with speech

How often should my denture or partial denture be relined?

A reline is vital maintenance for all denture wearers and should be performed roughly every two to three years. A reline creates a new inside, or underside, to your denture. The teeth remain the same, but the fit is modified to reflect the changes of your gums that occur over time.

A reline will establish even pressure on the gums, and create healthier tissues and an increased ability to chew and feel more secure. A new impression will be taken of your gums, and your existing denture will be modified. Our in-house lab allows your denture to be relined and returned to you on the same day.

How often should I have my denture/partial denture examined?

If you wear a denture or partial denture, it is recommended that you see us on a yearly basis, even if you are not experiencing any known problems. At this yearly evaluation, Dr. Petrini or Dr. Schmidt will examine the health of your tissues, gums, and supporting structures, as well as perform an oral cancer screening. Our lab technician will also clean your dentures professionally.

The denture teeth are examined for wear and security of fit, and the condition of the appliance is determined. Any necessary adjustments will be made, and an assessment of the need for a reline or replacement is done. We will also review your daily care routine and make suggestions to assist you in caring for your denture or partial denture.

Of course, if you notice a sore spot, it should be evaluated immediately. More serious complications can arise from an unchecked or untreated sore spot.

How often should I have a dental exam and cleaning?

You should have your teeth examined and cleaned at least twice a year, although your dentist or dental hygienist may recommend a plan more specific to your needs.

Regular dental exams and cleaning visits are essential to prevent dental problems and maintain the health of your teeth and gums. At these visits, your teeth are cleaned and checked for cavities. In addition, we monitor and evaluate the following:

  • Medical history review
  • Examination of diagnostic radiographs (X-rays)
  • Oral cancer screening
  • Gum disease evaluation
  • Examination of existing restorations
  • Removal of plaque and calculus (tartar)
  • Oral hygiene recommendations
  • Review dietary habits

How often should I have an oral cancer exam?

Oral cancer screenings should be done at least once a year. Many pre-cancers and cancers of the oral cavity can be found early, during routine screening exams by a doctor, dentist, or dental hygienist. This is why an oral cancer exam is an essential part of your visit to the dental office, whether you have natural teeth or not.

In 2008, the American Cancer Society estimated that about 35,310 new cases (25,310 in men, 10,000 in women) of oral cancer would be diagnosed in the U.S.

The average age of most people diagnosed with oral cancer is 62. However, roughly one-third of these cancers occur in patients younger than 55.

The rate of new cases of this disease has been dropping for the past 30 years. This is mostly due to earlier detection, so the death rate for these cancers has been decreasing since the late 1970s.

Oral cavity cancers occur most commonly in the following sites:

  • the tongue (about 20% to 25%)
  • the floor of the mouth (about 15%)
  • the lip (about 10% to 15%)
  • the minor salivary glands (about 10% to 15%)

The rest are found in the gums, tonsils, and other sites. A 1994 study of oral cancer patients noted that 59% were edentulous (without teeth).

Why do I need full-mouth X-rays?

It is crucial for us to obtain a clear and full picture regarding the health and condition of your natural teeth and supporting bone structure for diagnosis and treatment. In order to perform a comprehensive examination, Dr. Schmidt requires a current image of each individual tooth within the past year.

This eliminates the guesswork of changes that may have happened since your previous full-mouth X-ray. Once you are an established patient, Dr. Petrini and  Dr. Schmidt recommend a new full-mouth X-ray every three to five years and a panoramic x-ray every five years to monitor bone health.

What are study models?

Study models are replications of the teeth. They’re useful tools for prosthodontists during the course of treatment. They enable us to evaluate your bite three-dimensionally and make measurements without your having to be present. We can model the shape and structure of your new smile by creating a wax image as a three-dimensional representation of the proposed care. Dr. Petrini and  Dr. Schmidt do a significant amount of preparation for your treatment plan and dental care while you are not in our office by utilizing these study models.

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