Posts for: May, 2014
Periodontal or gum disease is a serious condition that could lead to tooth and bone loss. Unfortunately, you may not even realize you have it — the disease in its early stages can be difficult to detect. If you know what to look for, however, a few signs can tell you something isn’t quite right.
Bleeding gums after brushing, for example, are a likely indication that your gum tissues are inflammed due to an infection caused by bacterial plaque. Coupled with chronic inflammation from the body’s response to the infection, the unhealthy tissues bleed easily.
As the disease progresses, you may also notice changes in your gums’ appearance: redness at the gum line, as well as some slight swelling. Receding gums expose more of the tooth below the enamel crown. As roots become exposed to the oral environment, you’ll begin to notice painful sensitivity to hot or cold. In time, the disease may cause bone loss producing other signs like loose teeth or teeth shifting from their original position.
In some cases, gum disease can cause a painfully acute abscess. This occurs when the bacterial infection becomes isolated in a pocket of space between the teeth and gums. As the body attempts to fight the infection, its defenses are overwhelmed and the abscess becomes painful, swollen and filled with pus.
If you encounter any of these signs, it’s important to take action quickly to minimize the damage and stop the disease’s progress. Our first priority is to remove as much bacterial plaque and calculus as possible and may consider antibacterial and antibiotic treatments. This may take more than one session, but it’s necessary in stopping the disease.
Long-term success, though, will depend on improved oral hygiene (brushing and flossing), regular office cleanings to remove difficult to reach plaque and calculus, and checkups to monitor the condition of your gums. You can also lower the risk of reoccurrence with improvements in diet and life-style (such as quitting smoking). Instituting better hygiene and lifestyle habits, as well as keeping alert to any signs of recurring disease will go a long way in preserving your teeth and overall oral health.
If you would like more information about periodontal disease and its effect on your health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”
Your children’s health is a major concern for you, even before they’re born. That concern should include their dental health and, yes, even before they’re born — a baby’s primary teeth are already forming just a few weeks into pregnancy.
Here, then, are some important tips for keeping your child’s dental health, before and after birth, on track.
Eat healthy during pregnancy. Your baby’s teeth actually begin to mineralize around the third or fourth month of your pregnancy. You can aid this process by eating a diet rich in calcium, phosphorous and protein.
Fight tooth decay by limiting sugar. Sugar is a major contributor to tooth decay, especially in primary teeth. To reduce this risk, limit sugary snacks as much as possible, and avoid bottles filled with sugar-filled liquids (including breast milk) during your baby’s sleeping hours.
Begin good hygiene early. When teeth first appear in the mouth you should begin to wipe around the teeth and gums with a water-soaked gauze pad right after feeding. As teeth develop, begin to gently brush them with a soft-bristled brush with just a smear of fluoridated toothpaste. Teach your child beginning around age 2 to brush for themselves with a pea-sized amount of paste on the brush. By age 6, they should be able to brush on their own and ready to learn flossing.
Schedule regular dental visits and cleanings. Dental checkups should begin around their first birthday and continue semi-annually. Your dentist is a key resource in monitoring tooth development, preventing disease and developing future treatment strategies.
Make your home “tooth-friendly.” Your home environment can be a danger to your child’s mouth. Check for hard or sharp surfaces your child could fall on and eliminate the danger — it’s estimated half of dental injuries to children under seven occur near home furniture. Check your drinking water as well — does your system add fluoride, a proven cavity fighter, or do you need to find other sources?
Taking a few precautions and establishing good life-long dental habits will help ensure your child’s teeth and gums remain healthy right into adulthood.
If you would like more information on oral health for children, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Top 10 Oral Health Tips for Children.”
If you haven't seen a recent picture of Matthew Lewis, the actor who played Neville Longbottom in all eight Harry Potter movies, you may be in for a surprise: It seems the plump, awkward teenager from Gryffindor has been magically transformed into a post-Hogwarts hunk. What kind of wizardry did it take to change his memorably snarled teeth into a leading man's sparkly smile? The kind skilled cosmetic dentists perform every day!
While special effects created some of the character's dental disarray, the actor's own teeth were far from perfect. And, as Lewis recently noted, the film studio urged him to postpone cosmetic dental work until the movies were all done. “It was something I'd always wanted to do, but it would have meant me wearing a brace for two years,” he told an interviewer with the Yorkshire Evening Post. “Warner Brothers said if I put it off until we'd finished filming they'd pay for it — and they did.”
There are plenty of people, like the twenty-something actor, who put off orthodontic treatment until after their teen years. If you're wondering whether there's still time to get orthodontic work done, then take heart — it's never too late to straighten your teeth!
Today, an estimated twenty percent of orthodontic patients are adults. Compliance with the orthodontic program (meaning thorough regular brushing and flossing, wearing elastics, etc.) is often less of an issue with adults than with teens. Plus, there are some options that can help ensure your orthodontic appliances will fit in with a more mature image.
One is colorless braces. In this system, the brackets (the parts that are bonded to the front teeth and hold the archwire) are made of a clear ceramic material that blends in with the tooth's natural color. This makes them hard to see unless you look closely. Inconspicuous yet effective, clear braces have been the first choice of many celebrities, such as Tom Cruise and Faith Hill... and lots of “regular” adults too.
Another option is lingual braces. These are truly invisible, because they attach behind the teeth (on the tongue side) instead of in front. They work just like the standard braces, and they're appropriate in many situations. However their cost is higher, and the space they occupy in the mouth may take the wearer a bit of time to get used to.
A third option is clear aligners. Unlike braces, which aren't normally removed until orthodontic treatment is nearly complete, clear aligners are easily removable. They consist of a series of transparent trays made of special plastic, which are worn over the teeth 22 hours per day. Each tray in the series is worn for a few weeks, and each moves the teeth a small amount; all together, they can accomplish a big change.
Aligners work well for correcting mild to moderate malocclusion (bite problems). Plus, you can temporarily remove them for important social occasions. But best of all, they're virtually undetectable — so whether or not you play the role of a wizard in the movies, you won't need a magic spell to make them invisible!
Which option is right for you? That's something we would be happy to discuss. If you would like more information about adult orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Orthodontics for the Older Adult.”
Q: What exactly are porcelain veneers?
A: The term “veneer” usually means a very thin covering that’s designed to improve the way a surface looks. The porcelain veneers we use in cosmetic dentistry are just like that: They cover up flaws in the natural teeth, while preserving their strength and vitality. Porcelain veneers are wafer-thin layers of super-strong material, which are bonded to the front surfaces of the teeth. Once placed on your teeth, they offer a permanent way to improve a smile that’s less than perfect.
Q: What kinds of smile defects can porcelain veneers fix?
A: Veneers can help with a whole range of issues, including:
- Color: Teeth that are deeply stained or yellowed — even those which can’t be lightened with professional bleaching — can be restored to a brilliant white (or a natural luster) with porcelain veneers.
- Shape and size: If your teeth have become worn down with age, or have chips or roughened edges, veneers can restore them to a more pleasing shape. They can also lengthen teeth that appear too short, for a dramatic enhancement of your smile.
- Alignment and spacing: For closing a small gap between teeth or making other minor adjustments in tooth spacing or position, veneers may be just what you need; more serious issues can be handled with orthodontics.
Q: What's involved in getting porcelain veneers?
A: First, we will talk with you about what aspects of your smile you’d like to improve, and develop a plan to accomplish that. When we’re all agreed, the next step will probably be to remove a small amount of tooth material in preparation for placing the veneers. (Some types of veneers, however, don’t require this step.) Next, we will make a mold of your teeth and send it to the dental lab; you’ll leave our office with a set of temporary veneers. In a few weeks, you’ll return to our office to have the final veneers permanently bonded to your teeth.
Q: Is it possible to preview the results?
A: Yes! The options for a preview range from computer-generated images of your new smile to an accurate, life-sized model of your teeth with veneers applied. It may even be possible to make acrylic “trial veneers” that we can actually place on your teeth to try on! So if your smile could use a little help, ask us about porcelain veneers.
Q: What is sleep apnea, and how common is it?
A: Obstructive sleep apnea is a type of sleep-related breathing disorder (SRBD) in which the airflow to the lungs is restricted — or even cut off completely — during sleep. This condition is usually caused by the collapse of soft tissues in the back of the throat, and is potentially deadly. Sleep disorders, including SRBD, are thought to affect tens of millions of people in the United States. They have been blamed for several catastrophic accidents, including the 2014 Metro-North train crash in New York, and the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.
Q: How can I tell if I might have sleep apnea?
A: Everyone has trouble sleeping sometimes. But if you constantly snore, wake up feeling irritable, and experience sleepiness and diminished performance during the day, it may mean you suffer from this condition. After a while, SRBDs can trigger depression, confusion, memory loss, and other personality changes. Medical professionals note that a person with SRBD tends to be obese; to show enlargement of the tongue, tonsils, or uvula; to have nasal polyps or congestion; and possibly, to exhibit other signs.
Q: How is sleep apnea treated?
A: There are various treatments for sleep apnea, depending on the severity of the problem and its likely cause. These include oral appliance therapy (wearing a retainer-like device in the mouth at night); orthodontic treatment and/or oral surgery; and using a CPAP (constant positive airway pressure) machine to help facilitate breathing at night. Each has advantages and disadvantages that should be discussed with a healthcare provider who has experience in the area of sleep disorders.
Q: What does all this have to do with dentistry?
A: Dentists are, of course, extremely familiar with the anatomy of the mouth. We sometimes notice signs of potential sleep problems before they become life-threatening. What’s more, we may be able to successfully treat the problem with oral appliance therapy. We can properly fabricate, fit and adjust an oral device that helps keep your airway open at night. Because it is inexpensive, removable, and relatively comfortable, an oral appliance may be a good remedy to try before moving on to more complex treatments, such as a CPAP machine or surgery. So if you think you might have SRBD, maybe it’s time to make an appointment and talk to us about it.