February 2012

Cosmetic Dentistry for Beautiful Smiles, Better Breathing & A Balanced Body

Author: Debbie Szpanka | Photographer: Jim Crotty

What’s behind a beautiful smile? More than you would expect. There’s better balance, restful sleep and improvement to your overall health. Hilton Head Island cosmetic dentist Dr. Timothy Gross said in some cases, there’s a better life, because some procedures can correct life-threatening conditions such as sleep apnea.

“One of the greatest rewards of my work is treating patients with sleep apnea,” Gross, said. “We can literally save a life. Our patients who suffer from sleep apnea are so grateful because they didn’t realize a simple solution can stop the domino of health problems caused by improper breathing.”

According to Gross, sleep apnea can trigger high cholesterol, high blood pressure and inability to control one’s blood sugar, wreaking more havoc on the body than drinking and smoking combined. A simple solution, he said, is fitting a mouthpiece that holds the lower jaw forward, opening the airways. Once the patient can freely breathe, sleep apnea is greatly reduced or eliminated.

“Many times, it’s as simple of giving your tongue enough room in your mouth. Basically, the garage is too small for the car, so the tongue falls back and obstructs your sleeping, breathing and health. Unfortunately, there are more than 20 million Americans with sleep apnea and only five percent know they have it,” Gross said. “Out of them, very few know that wearing a customized appliance or mouthpiece can be a simple solution.”

Gross, a Pittsburgh native, said that practicing mercury-free dentistry is among the many exciting reasons to be a dentist today. The term “cosmetic” dentistry doesn’t always give patients the depth of what is available at his practice. For starters, a guiding principal of his practice is providing procedures which add to the overall health of his patients and his community. That’s why he also takes extra precautions to operate a mercury-free office and promotes his health-conscious procedures to his colleagues nationwide.

“Silver fillings are about 50 percent mercury, and while it is still being debated if mercury is a direct link to health issues, we know for sure it is among the most toxic elements on earth,” Gross said. When he removes mercury fillings, he uses an elaborate system which filters and captures the residue, ensuring that no traces of mercury are entering the water disposal system and contaminating our environment.

Also of importance to Gross is keeping on the front lines of progressive dentistry practices. Gross holds a fellowship with the Las Vegas Institute of Advanced Dental Studies (LVI) and cherishes his experiences there to share information and innovations with colleagues. He is one of only four South Carolina dentists who hold fellowships at the Institute.

The school is recognized as a premier institution in post-graduate dental training in cosmetic dentistry and provides a venue for sharing the latest trends and materials of the trade. Gross is an instructor at LVI and enjoys teaching cosmetic dentistry to other dentists from around the world.

“I have been referred to as a dentist geek,” Gross said. “I am proud of that, because I am passionate about my profession.”

When shopping around for braces, patients may not first think of using a cosmetic dentist; however, comprehensive orthodontics is 30 percent of Gross’ practice. The transformation of a patient’s teeth and smile can also have a significant effect on his or her aging process and overall self-esteem, Gross said. “Cosmetic dentistry is very emotional for many of my patients. When you look at before and after pictures, you not only notice the difference in the mouth, you also notice the patient is looking at the camera differently. I sometimes struggle with the pre-treatment pictures, because some patients subconsciously look up or away to hide their smile and teeth. In almost all cases, my patients are looking square into the camera during their post-treatment pictures. A subtle head position reveals their renewed self-esteem. I am always happy to see that.”

Many patients who want to fix their bites and smiles also want a more fashionable look during the process, Gross said. That’s why he often uses a hybrid approach to a patient’s correction, e.g. appliances or traditional braces for a period of time and cosmetic braces or Invisalign® for another period of time.

“Many people want to get away from the railroad track appearance of traditional braces, however the braces are what get the teeth to move,” Gross explained. “Cosmetic braces are usually the solution. They are basically the same as silver colored braces but more aesthetic because the brackets on the patient’s teeth are clear.” Invisalign clear, removable teeth aligners are an option if the patient does not want braces yet wants straighter teeth.

Dr. Timothy Gross

“It’s amazing how much younger many of my patients look after their bite is corrected,” Gross said. “When a patient’s bite is over-closed and his or her teeth are worn, the facial muscles contract and it makes the whole face look older. Once that’s corrected, it’s like 10 years just fell off their faces.”

A “sexy” side of neuromuscular dentistry is emerging onto the professional and amateur sports fields, courts and courses, and Gross’ office is offering this relatively new product. PX3 Custom Mouthwear relaxes and aligns an athlete’s jaw, which improves alignment, breathing and performance.

“Where your head goes, your body follows,” Gross said. “When you align your bite, you align your spine, and when your body is where it needs to be, better balance, flexibility and performance are the natural result.”

Gross has fitted professional athletes who play golf, tennis, basketball, baseball and football. “Just like your fingerprint, your bite and jaw alignment is individual to each person,” Gross said. “That’s why mass-produced mouth guards are not a solution.”

The product is also scoring high points with professional golfers. “The PGA won’t let golfers wear these individual mouth pieces during professional play unless they have a medical diagnosis that they suffer from TMJ or jaw issues, because it is believed the golfer who wears one may have an unfair advantage,” Gross said. This is another example of how people cosmetic dentistry can improve so much more than a patient’s smile.

“These are exciting developments and that’s why I love being a dentist. Even when I’m old, I will always be a dentist, even as a hobby. I just love what I do.”

For More Information call 843.342.7700 or visit www.drtimgross.com

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