Posts for: August, 2014
There was a time when most adults with a bad bite or misaligned teeth considered it too late in their lives for corrective treatment. Fortunately, times have changed — today, one in five orthodontic patients is an adult.
There are solid reasons for considering corrective treatment for bite problems at any age. Poorly aligned teeth are harder to clean, which raises the risk for tooth decay or gum disease. Correcting alignment may also improve your chewing ability, making eating more comfortable with less joint pain. And, last but not least, orthodontic treatment could greatly improve your smile — with potential benefits to your self-confidence, social life and career.
So, should you consider orthodontic treatment? That will depend on three factors: your periodontal (gum-related) health; your general health; and what type of orthodontic problem needs to be corrected.
If you have gum disease, you are at risk of losing supporting bone — since treatment involves gently moving teeth within the bone that supports them, the inflammation may cause bone loss and may not lend itself to a successful outcome. Moreover, besides aggravating and worsening your periodontal condition, the treatment may result in teeth that may not stay where they were moved and could continue to stay mobile long afterward.
There are certain medical conditions that could make orthodontic treatment difficult or even prohibitive: heart-valve disease; bleeding disorders; leukemia; severe diabetes; and taking medications for arthritis or osteoporosis, or those that increase mouth dryness. If you have serious medical conditions or you take prescription drugs, it’s wise to first consult with your medical doctor before considering orthodontic treatment.
The last consideration is whether the misalignment could involve more of your jaw’s skeletal structure than just misaligned teeth. If, for example, the malocclusion (bad bite) is related to the way your jaws fit together, you may need orthognathic surgery to straighten the jaws’ alignment while having orthodontic treatment.
There may be an additional roadblock to treatment — many adults feel self-conscious about wearing braces. If this bothers you, you may have another option: clear aligners. These transparent trays that fit over teeth have been a popular choice among adults because they’re not as noticeable as braces.
In any event, orthodontic treatment can be a little inconvenient, but only for a relatively short time. The lifetime benefits — better health, improved function and a more attractive smile — are well worth the inconvenience.
If you would like more information on adult orthodontics treatment, 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 “Orthodontics for the Older Adult.”
Look around and you’ll find warning labels on lots of household items: alcoholic beverages, drain uncloggers, pesticides and pool toys (not to mention cigarettes and chainsaws). Now, California lawmakers are proposing to add one more item to the list: sugary soft drinks. A bill to that effect recently passed the California state Senate, and is presently headed to the Assembly. If approved by both houses and signed by the governor, it would require sugary beverages to carry a warning label.
The proposed label would read: “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.” It would appear on drink packaging and vending machines. While some may feel it’s an infringement on personal choice, recent polling seems to show that the tide of public opinion may have turned toward recognizing the potential health dangers of sugary drinks.
How real are those dangers? The medical groups sponsoring the bill (including the California Medical Association) point to numerous scientific studies showing, among other things, that:
- Drinking one soda per day increases an adult’s likelihood of being overweight by 27 percent — and for a child, the likelihood is doubled!
- Drinking one or two sodas per day increases the risk of developing type II diabetes by 26 percent.
- People who drink two to three sodas per day are 2.75 times more likely to have a heart attack.
- Drinking sugary beverages daily for only two weeks increases LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglyceride levels by 20 percent; over a longer period, it has even worse effects.
- Children who consume sugary beverages are much more likely to develop tooth decay.
No matter where you stand on the debate over warning labels, you should understand the potential dangers of consuming foods and beverages with added sugar. For years, dentists have been cautioning people to limit their intake of sugary treats, including sodas and other sweets. Initially, our warnings came from the standpoint of oral health. Now, we have evidence that many other health problems have the same cause. We want to share this information with you because we’re concerned about your overall health — not just your oral health. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Think Before You Drink.”
We're always tickled to see dentists represented in popular culture, especially when portrayed by an actor as handsome as John Stamos. On the hit television show Glee, Stamos played a dentist who made sure the glee club members cleaned up their act when it came to oral hygiene — though perhaps he used a bit too much anesthesia to achieve this admirable goal. While under his care — and lots of sedation — several Glee characters had music-infused hallucinations in which they danced and sang with pop star Britney Spears.
Far-fetched? No doubt. Still, it's worth mentioning that sedation has its place in dentistry. In fact, if you are someone who tends to get anxious or even fearful about dental treatment, you should know that sedation can help you relax both mind and body so you can feel peaceful rather than anxious in the dentist's chair. And that's the whole point: Fear of pain should not stand in the way of your getting the care that will keep you healthy and allow you to keep your teeth for as long as possible.
You may not know this, but when you are afraid, your threshold for pain is actually lower. You become hypersensitive to every sensation and sound, and you tense your muscles. Fear and anxiety trigger the release of certain chemicals that put you in “fight or flight” mode. In this heightened state of alert you experience more pain during and even after treatment.
The good news is that this response can virtually be eliminated with various oral sedatives and/or with nitrous oxide, which is inhaled. Both treatments will allow you to let your guard down and relax. Your apprehension and hypersensitivity to pain will disappear, even though you are still conscious. And when you are relaxed, we are better able to focus on the task at hand, knowing that you are comfortable.
The sedatives used in dentistry have been subjected to rigorous testing and have a strong safety record backed by decades of use. Several even have “amnesic” properties, meaning that you will remember little to nothing of your treatment — unless, of course, you end up singing and dancing with Britney Spears!
If you would like more information about sedation in dentistry, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Sedation Dentistry.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Overcoming Dental Fear & Anxiety.”
Chewing gum, so much a part of modern culture, actually has ancient roots — humans have been chewing some form of it for thousands of years. While gum chewing is a benign habit for the most part, it does raise some dental health concerns.
The good news for jaw function is that chewing gum is unlikely to cause any long-term problems for your joints if you respond to your body’s warning signals. Our joints, muscles and associated nerves have a built-in mechanism of fatigue and pain signaling to help us avoid overuse. Furthermore, the action of chewing stimulates the production and release of saliva. Among saliva’s many beneficial properties is its ability to neutralize acid, which can soften and erode tooth enamel. It also strengthens enamel by restoring some of the calcium and other minerals lost from acid.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the physical act of chewing gum isn’t without risks. Chewing gum “exercises” your jaw muscles and makes them stronger, so they’re able to deliver more force to your teeth. This could lead to future tooth mobility and excessive wear. It’s important then that you don’t chew gum excessively to avoid this kind of damage to your teeth.
Unfortunately, there’s more bad news involving a key ingredient in many brands. Many manufacturers use sugar (sucrose) to sweeten their product, which is a major part of its appeal. Sugar, however, is a prime food source for oral bacteria responsible for tooth decay. The prolonged presence of sugar in the mouth when we chew gum can negate the beneficial effects of increased saliva.
A sweetener called xylitol, though, could be the answer to “having your gum and chewing it too.” This alcohol-based sugar (which, by the way, has almost half the calories of table sugar) has the opposite effect on bacteria — rather than becoming a food source it actually inhibits bacterial growth. Studies have even shown that products like chewing gum, mints or candy sweetened with xylitol can contribute significantly to a reduction in dental caries (cavities) caused by decay.
The better news: you don’t have to give up chewing gum for the sake of your teeth — just be sure to choose products with dental-friendly ingredients and don’t chew excessively. You’ll not only reduce the risks of tooth decay and damage, you’ll also promote a healthier environment in your mouth.
If you would like more information on chewing gum and its effects on dental 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 articles “Chewing Gum” and “Xylitol in Chewing Gum.”
When a 51-year-old Swedish man developed a throbbing toothache with facial swelling, he knew he needed to get to the dentist right away. There was only one problem: The unnamed individual was inside the Östragård minimum-security prison, serving a short sentence. But he didn’t let that stop him from getting dental treatment — he simply broke out of jail and headed straight for the nearest dental office.
“In the end, I just couldn’t stand it,” he explained to the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
After the offending tooth was extracted, the offender himself went to the local police precinct and turned himself in. Taking his circumstances into account, the court added just 24 hours to his original sentence, and he was released soon thereafter. “Now I only have to pay the dentist bill,” he noted.
While we certainly don’t encourage jailbreaks, we might feel that this fellow made the right choice. It’s important to know when you need to get dental treatment right away, and when you can wait. Here are some very basic guidelines:
- If you’re suffering a traumatic dental injury that is causing you severe pain, or you can’t control bleeding after applying pressure for a few minutes, go to the nearest emergency room right away (as you would for any serious injury).
- If your tooth is knocked out or loosened, it should be treated in the dental office or emergency room within 6 hours. Place it back in its socket (in the correct orientation), if possible; if not, tuck it between the cheek and gum, or put it in a glass of cold milk. Hold the loose tooth gently in place. It’s often possible to successfully re-implant a tooth that has received quick first aid.
- If a tooth is chipped or cracked less severely, try and save any missing pieces, and make an appointment to come in as soon as you can. Don’t forget to bring the pieces with you!
- If you have acute or persistent tooth pain, come in to our office right away. There are many things that can cause tooth pain, including tooth decay (a bacterial infection), a loose filling, or tooth sensitivity. Minor sensitivity or occasional aches when chewing can be temporarily eased by rinsing with warm salt water and taking an over-the-counter pain reliever; more severe pain may indicate that you need root canal treatment to preserve a tooth in which the pulp has become seriously infected.
Pain is the body’s way of telling you that something’s wrong. When you experience mouth pain, it’s best for you to see us as soon as possible. Quick treatment just might save your tooth — and perhaps save you from a far steeper bill for tooth replacement. If you would like more information about dental emergencies, call our office for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Pain? Don’t Wait!”