Posts for: November, 2014
Today, many people are taking positive steps to reduce the risks posed by major health problems like cancer, cardiopulmonary diseases, hypertension, and diabetes. But there’s one disease that makes the top-ten list of worldwide health conditions, and yet isn’t thought about as much as many of the others. That malady is severe periodontal (gum) disease — and according to a new study, it’s the sixth-most prevalent health condition in the world.
The study, released by the International and American Associations for Dental Research, reveals that some 743 million people around the world — about 11 percent of the global population — suffer from severe periodontal disease; that percentage hasn’t changed significantly since 1990. The study also shows that while an individual’s chance of developing this condition rises gradually with age, there is a steep increase in people between 30 and 40 years old, with a peak at age 38.
If severe periodontal disease is such a major concern, why isn’t it “on the radar”? A 2010 report from the U.S. Surgeon General, titled “Oral Health: The Silent Epidemic,” gives some clues. For one thing, diseases related to oral health don’t always produce dramatic symptoms: Even tooth loss, for example, is sometimes (wrongly) regarded as an inevitable consequence of aging, when it’s more often the result of disease or injury. For another, these conditions disproportionately affect people whose voices aren’t always heard: children, the elderly, and the disadvantaged.
Severe periodontal disease is clearly a challenge to the public health. But what can you do as an individual? Plenty! The good news about periodontal disease is that it is largely preventable, and very treatable. Prevention is chiefly a matter of maintaining good oral hygiene.
Have you flossed lately? Is your brushing technique up to snuff? Do you avoid sugary snacks and beverages (especially between meals), and visit your dentist for regular checkups? If so, you’ve taken some major steps toward preventing periodontal disease. But despite their best efforts, it is difficult for some people to control periodontal disease without extra assistance. That’s where a periodontist can help.
Periodontists are concerned with treating problems of the gums. We use a number of methods to combat periodontal disease — including removing plaque bacteria, restoring healthy tissue, and educating people about how to maintain better oral hygiene at home. Your general dentist may refer you to a periodontist if warning signs are noticed, but you don’t need a referral to come in for an exam. If you notice the symptoms of periodontal disease — redness or inflammation of the gums, a bad taste or odor in your mouth, or any amount of bleeding when you brush — then it may be time to have your gums checked.
You probably already know that using tobacco causes significant health risks: It increases your odds of getting various cancers and coronary diseases, to name just a few. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to kick the habit, even when they know they should. Tooth loss is another issue that can cause trouble for your health, in the form of bone loss, malnutrition, and social or psychological problems. Dental implants are a great way to replace missing teeth — but does smoking complicate the process of getting implants?
The short answer is yes, smoking can make implant placement a bit riskier — but in the big picture, it doesn’t mean you can’t (or shouldn’t) have this procedure done if it’s needed.
Smoking, as you know, has harmful effects in your mouth (even leaving aside the risk of oral cancer). The hot gases can burn the oral cavity and damage salivary glands. Nicotine in smoke reduces blood flow to the soft tissues, which can affect the immune response and slow the processes of healing. At the same time, smoking promotes the growth of disease-causing oral bacteria.
How does this affect dental implants? Essentially, smoking creates a higher risk that implants may not heal properly after they are placed, and makes them more likely to fail over time. Studies have shown that smokers have an implant failure rate that’s twice as great as non-smokers. Does this mean that if you smoke, you shouldn't consider implants to replace missing or failing teeth?
Not necessarily. On the whole, implants are the most successful method of replacing missing teeth. In fact, the overall long-term survival rate of implants for both smokers and non-smokers is well over 90 percent — meaning that only a small percentage don’t work as they should. This is where it’s important to get the expert opinion of an implant specialist, who can help you decide whether implants are right for your particular situation.
If you do smoke, is there anything you can do to better your odds for having a successful dental implant? Yes: quit now! (Implants are a good excuse to start a smoking-cessation program.) But if you can’t, at least stop smoking for one week before and two weeks after implant placement. And if that is not possible, at least go on a smoking diet: restrict the number of cigarettes you smoke by 50% (we know you can at least do that!) Try to follow good oral hygiene practices at all times, and see your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings.
He’s the world’s highest-paid soccer player: a forward on the Spanish club Real Madrid, and captain of the Portuguese national team. His super-toned body is featured in a series of advertisements, and he’s regularly seen with a supermodel on his arm. So would it surprise you to know that it took a bit of dental work to help Cristiano Ronaldo get a world-class smile?
You might never guess it to look at him now — but when he was 18 years old, and just starting his professional career with Manchester United in England, Ronaldo wore ceramic braces to correct a set of teeth that were quite a bit… off-sides. (As pictures from that time show, his teeth were out of alignment and had irregular spacing.) Yet in a relatively short time, his smile was completely transformed.
Ceramic braces are the treatment of choice for many sports stars and celebrities — and plenty of “regular” folks too. They work just like traditional all-metal braces, exerting a gentle force that slowly moves the teeth into better positions. But they have one major difference: They’re a good deal harder to notice.
That’s because instead of having brackets made of metal, this style of braces uses a high-tech ceramic material to attach the archwire to the teeth. The brackets blend right in with the natural shade of the tooth, so all you can see from a distance is the thin metal wire. That makes them a great orthodontic option for image-conscious celebs (like Tom Cruise and Faith Hill, who both wore them) — as well as anyone who may be concerned that traditional metal braces don’t fit in with their “look”.
In addition to ceramic braces, there are other, less-visible orthodontic treatments that can work just as well in many situations. One is lingual braces, which are similar to traditional braces — except they are applied on the tongue-side of the teeth, making them truly invisible. Another is clear aligners, a series of transparent plastic trays that are worn 22 hours a day and gradually move the teeth into more pleasing positions. What’s the best way to know which system is right for you? Come in and talk to us about your options!
Besides braces, did Cristiano Ronaldo have other cosmetic dental work (like teeth whitening) done? It’s possible, but he’s not saying exactly. Yet, as he told a Portuguese magazine, “I feel good about myself and that’s the most important thing.”
If you would like more information about ceramic braces or other orthodontic treatments, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor articles “The Magic of Orthodontics” and “Orthodontics For The Older Adult.”