Posts for: July, 2013
Though it's been a while since Olivia Newton-John sang her way into our hearts in the movie Grease, her smile is as radiant as ever. Today, Olivia is still singing, acting and busy with new ventures such as authoring a cookbook and raising money for the cancer center that bears her name in Melbourne, Australia. Whichever part of the world Olivia finds herself in, she protects that beautiful smile with an oral appliance that many find beneficial.
“I wear a nightguard to prevent wear on my teeth, custom-made by my dentist,” Olivia recently told Dear Doctor magazine. “I love it!”
Olivia's device, also referred to as a bite (occlusal) guard, is designed for people who clench or grind their teeth at night, or during stressful periods. Made of thin, wear-resistant plastic, it is custom-made to fit exactly over your top teeth. This allows the bottom teeth to slide gently across the top teeth without biting into them. Not only does this prevent excessive tooth wear, it also helps relax the muscles of the jaw.
Grinding or “bruxing,” as it's also called, can affect virtually any part of the oral system: the jaw joints or muscles, resulting in spasm and pain; the teeth themselves, resulting in wear, fractures or looseness; it can even cause an aching in the ears, head, neck or back.
If you are a teeth-grinder, you might not even know it unless a sleeping partner hears it or your dentist notices signs of wear. These habits are called “parafunctional” (para – outside, function – normal), meaning the biting forces it generates are well outside the normal range — sometimes as much as 10 times normal. So it's no wonder that damage to teeth can occur if they are not protected.
If you have any questions about grinding habits or nightguards, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. If you would like to read Dear Doctor's entire interview with Olivia Newton-John, please see “Olivia Newton-John.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Stress & Tooth Habits.”
Participating in athletic activities offers numerous well-documented health benefits — not to mention instilling the intangible values of discipline, teamwork and goal-setting. Of course, in nearly every sport, the possibility of injury exists as well. But don't let that stop you or someone you love from playing! Instead, you can learn about the potential hazards of dental injury, and take some practical steps to minimize the risk.
It should come as no surprise that injury to the mouth is an ever-present possibility in so-called “collision” sports like football and ice hockey. But did you know that the greatest number of dental injuries result from the games of baseball and basketball, which are often played informally? Even non-contact sports like skiing, bicycling and skateboarding carry a real risk of injury.
Who suffers dental injury? Men are slightly more likely than women — but only by a small percentage. Injury peaks in the teenage years, and seems to decrease afterward — but older athletes tend to have more severe problems. In short, most anyone who participates in sports is subject to possible dental injury.
Besides the obvious aesthetic imperfections, a damaged or missing tooth can also result in functional problems with the bite — a potentially serious condition. If a tooth can't be immediately replanted, restoring it can be expensive: The total cost of each tooth replacement is estimated at $10,000-$20,000 over a lifetime. So tooth damage or loss can cause a multitude of troubles.
The American Dental Association (ADA) has recommended that participants in all of the sports mentioned above — as well as two dozen others — should wear a custom-fitted mouthguard. Why? Because when it comes to dental injury, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.
Numerous studies have shown that wearing a custom-fitted mouthguard is an effective way to prevent dental injury. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, mouthguards prevent some 200,000 injuries each year. And the ADA says that athletes who don't wear mouthguards are 60 times more likely to sustain harm to the teeth than those who do wear them.
Off-the-shelf mouthguards in a limited range of sizes are available at many sporting-goods stores. But these can't compare to the superior protection and durability offered by a mouthguard that's custom-made just for you. Using an exact model of your teeth, we can individually fabricate a piece of protective gear that fits correctly and feels comfortable in your mouth. A custom mouthguard may be more economical than you think — yet its real payoff comes in preventing dental injury.
If you have questions about mouthguards or sports-related dental injuries, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Athletic Mouthguards” and “An Introduction to Sports Injuries & Dentistry.”
Metal braces are often considered a rite of passage for teenagers whose teeth need straightening. While some teens have no problem with this, others are more self-conscious and would like a less noticeable and less restrictive form of orthodontic treatment (“ortho” – to straighten; “odont” – teeth). After all, traditional braces can sometimes require diet modification, regular tightenings can cause discomfort, and the hardware itself can irritate the inside of the mouth. All of these things can limit a teen's ability to function normally during an already difficult stage of life.
That's why many teens today are opting for removable clear aligners, which have been popular with adults for years. In this system of orthodontic treatment, transparent, flexible, plastic “trays” are custom-made to move an individual's teeth into better alignment in a step-by-step fashion. Each tray moves the teeth a little bit further, according to a precise plan developed with specialized computer software by an orthodontist, or a general dentist who has received special training. It's not available from every dentist, but we are happy to be able to offer it here.
It used to be that clear aligners were not recommended for teens for two main reasons. For one thing, because they are removable rather than attached to the teeth, it was assumed a teenager would not be as conscientious as an adult about wearing them nearly 24 hours a day, which is necessary to achieve the desired results. Now, however, clear aligners for teens have colored “compliance indicators” that fade over time. With this new tool, dentists and parents — and teens themselves — can monitor compliance and progress.
The other main problem in prescribing clear aligners for teens had been that their second molars are still growing into position. This problem, too, has been solved. Clear aligners now have “eruption tabs” that serve as space-holders for teeth that have yet to grow in.
Finally, in recent years, improvements have been made to the whole clear aligner system that allow it to be used for more serious malocclusions (bad bites). So it's actually a viable option for more orthodontic patients in general — teens as well as adults.
If you would like to learn more about clear aligners for your teenager, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also find out more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Clear Aligners For Teenagers.”