About the Expert
Dr. Tonie Lewis has been practicing dentistry for over 17 years. She graduated with honors from the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in biological science and earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Howard University’s College of Dentistry. She has received awards in dental excellence from the American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry and is a member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.
What are some of your patients’ biggest fears or concerns?
The biggest barrier is fear of the unknown, or patients may have had a negative experience. We reduce their fear through communication and education. We use advanced diagnostic tools that allow us to show patients what our concerns are. Most people are visual — I know I am — and actually seeing a visual helps alleviate a patient’s anxiety.
What are the most advanced dental practices, and how can someone improve their smile?
By far, digital dentistry. We have the technology to scan a patient’s mouth and capture high-resolution images. This is the first step toward changing someone’s smile. Cosmetic procedures such as porcelain veneers, crowns, and bridges are constructed from a digital scan that is sent to a lab. Composite or bonded veneers are done chairside, are more cost effective, require little to no enamel or tooth structure removal, but may change color or stain over time.
There are many other options to improve a patient’s smile. A treatment plan needs to be created and reviewed before deciding on any type of cosmetic procedures. Porcelain veneers typically last 10-20 years but if a patient has crowded, crooked teeth, or their bite isn’t corrected, they may crack or break. Using clear aligner therapy, such as Invisalign, followed by teeth whitening, is more cost effective. The goal is to have a beautiful, but functional, natural smile. Digital dentistry uses several technological advancements, and the patient is always active in the decision-making process of how to best accomplish optimal oral health and a beautiful smile.
How important is dental health?
Some of our patients see us more than their general physicians. We are often the first doctors to diagnose a condition or to make a patient aware that may want to check with their primary care doctor about an issue we find. We monitor blood pressure, conduct oral cancer screenings, and routinely perform head and neck exams. Early signs of diabetes or vitamin deficiencies can manifest in the mouth. Our assessments have led to patients’ primary doctor prescribing them medication or recommending lifestyle changes.
How often do patients need a dental checkup?
Bi-annual dental checkup ups are recommended for most people. However, if periodontal disease is present, a patient requires frequent dental checkups. Periodontal disease, over time, can erode the bone and cause tooth loss.
You have several spa-like amenities for your patients — what inspired you to do this?
Some people don’t like coming to the dentist, and we understand that. We want our patients to feel as comfortable as possible. We have headphones, weighted blankets, streaming services, and other amenities to help ease their anxiety.