Posts for: August, 2013
It used to be that the only option for straightening a teenager's teeth involved lots of shiny hardware. Besides the esthetic downside, traditional orthodontic devices (braces) can interfere with the enjoyment of certain favorite foods, irritate the inside of the mouth, trap food particles (potentially another esthetic embarrassment and sustenance for cavity-causing bacteria), and complicate dental hygiene routines.
These aren't causes for concern with clear orthodontic aligners, however, which consist of a series of transparent plastic, removable trays that fit over the teeth and gradually move them into better positioning. About every two weeks, the teen proceeds to the next aligner in the progression (or set of aligners if treatment involves both the upper and lower teeth) until the improved alignment goal is reached. The trays are meant to be worn 22 hours a day, but they can be removed for eating, brushing and flossing, and, on a limited basis, special occasions.
Thanks to relatively recent developments in the design of clear aligner systems, teens who previously were not considered good candidates for this modality may now have this option available to them. This includes:
- Teens whose second molars (the last to come in except for wisdom teeth) haven't fully emerged. Aligners now come with “eruption tabs” that serve as place-holders for teeth that are still growing into position.
- Teens with severely rotated teeth requiring complicated movement. Tooth-colored attachments called “buttons” can be temporarily bonded onto teeth to provide additional leverage, and elastics (rubber bands) can also be used to promote movement.
Compliance is always a concern with any orthodontic treatment — whether it be gum chewing with traditional braces or wearing clear aligners for the requisite period of time each day. Aligners now come with built-in colored “compliance indicators” that fade with use over time. This makes it possible for orthodontists, dentists, parents and teens alike to monitor both compliance and treatment progress.
If you would like more information about clear orthodontic aligners 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 “Clear Aligners for Teens.”
Are you ready to suit up for sports? Mouthguards have been called the most important part of an athlete's uniform. Designed to absorb and distribute the forces of impact received while you participate in athletic activities, your mouthguard is a protective appliance that covers and cushions your teeth and gums to prevent and reduce injury to your teeth, jaws, lips and gums. A properly fitted protective mouthguard is comfortable, resilient, tear resistant, odorless, tasteless, not bulky, fits well, and has sufficient thickness where needed. If you wear it when engaging in contact sports it can prevent injury, pain, suffering and years of expensive dental treatment.
Here's why athletes need mouthguards:
- Sports related dental injuries account for more than 600,000 emergency room visits each year. Mouthguards are recommended particularly for contact sports such as boxing, football, hockey and lacrosse.
- An athlete is 60 times more likely to suffer harm to the teeth when not wearing a mouthguard. It is estimated that mouthguards prevent more than 200,000 injuries each year.
- Properly fitted mouthguards protect the soft tissues of the lips, cheeks, gums and tongue by covering the sharp surfaces of the teeth that can cause lacerations on impact. They also reduce the potential for tooth injury, jaw damage or jaw joint fracture and displacement by cushioning against impact — absorbing and distributing the forces that can cause injury.
- Custom-fitted mouthguards are made from exact and precise models of your teeth. They are effective, comfortable, easy to clean, and do not restrict breathing. The best mouthguard is custom designed to fit your mouth and made in our office after your athletic needs have been assessed. For a growing child or adolescent, a custom made mouthguard can provide space for growing teeth and jaws.
- A mouthguard properly fitted in our office costs little in comparison to the cost of treatment after injury. If your teeth are knocked out and are not properly preserved or replanted you may face lifetime dental costs of as much as $10,000 to $20,000 per tooth.
The American Dental Association recommends the use of custom mouthguards in 27 sports/exercise activities. Make an appointment to consult with us to find out more about mouthguards. You can also read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Athletic Mouthguards: One of the most important parts of any uniform!”
It can be daunting for parents to know just what to do when their child complains of an ache or pain. What if your child tells you their tooth hurts — is that cause for alarm? That's actually not so easy to determine, but there are some things you should do when your child has a toothache.
First, try to determine from your child exactly where the pain is coming from and how long it's been hurting. Look for an apparent cause for the pain: the most common is tooth decay, considered a type of infection caused by bacteria, and normally indicated by brown spots or tiny holes (cavities) on the biting surfaces or between teeth. Look for swelling or tenderness in the gum tissues, a sign of a possible abscess. Debris caught between teeth may also cause pain.
The pain might stem from an injury. Though the lips and outer tissues may appear fine, a blow to the face or other traumatic incident may have damaged the teeth. Without treatment, pulp tissue within a traumatized tooth may die and lead to an infection and potential tooth loss.
If you see any of these signs or symptoms, or the pain keeps your child up at night or continues into the next day, you should contact our office as soon as possible so that we can do a full evaluation of the tooth. In the meantime, there are some things you can do to help lessen the pain. First, clean the teeth to remove any debris. Administer ibuprofen or acetaminophen (in the proper dosage for a child) for pain relief. An ice pack against the jaw may also help, but alternate on and off in five-minute intervals to prevent burning the skin with the ice.
If these steps stop the pain within an hour, you can wait until the next day to make an appointment. If not, this may be indicative of an abscess forming and you should not delay contacting our office. The quicker we can properly diagnose and begin treatment, the less chance your child will suffer from any long-term damage to their teeth.
If you would like more information on caring for a child's toothache, 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 “A Child's Toothache.”
Oral cancer is not as uncommon as people think. In 2008 an estimated 34,000 cancers of the mouth and throat were diagnosed. In order to minimize your risk of developing oral cancer, be aware of habits that increase your risk.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer include:
- Use of smoking or chewing tobacco: Tobacco smokers have 5-9 times greater risk of developing this cancer than non-users; snuff and chewing tobacco users have a four times greater risk than non-users.
- Excessive use of alcohol: Moderate to heavy drinkers at are 3-9 times greater risk than non-drinkers.
- Exposure to sun: Chronic sun exposure is associated with development of lip cancers.
- Certain viral infections such as the human papilloma virus that can cause cervical cancer in women can also cause oral cancer.
- Compromised immune (resistance) systems that are not functioning properly can be associated with cancers.
- Poor nutrition including diets low in fruits and vegetables can increase risk for all cancers including oral cancer.
- Family history: People carry a predisposition in their DNA (the genetic material they inherited from their parents) for developing cancer.
Oral Cancers Can Mimic Harmless Sores
Early signs of oral cancer can mimic harmless sores that occur in the mouth such as canker sores, minor infections, or irritations that occur from biting or eating certain foods. Cancers in the lip area can easily be mistaken for harmless sores.
Early Detection is Key
It is important to have regular oral examinations to detect signs of oral cancer. Although 90 percent of oral cancers occur in people who are over 40, it is becoming more prevalent in younger people, particularly those who adopt risky behaviors: smoking, drinking and oral sex.
- If you notice any unusual lesions (sores or ulcers), or color changes (white or red patches), anywhere in your mouth that do not heal within two to three weeks, come and see us and have it examined immediately.
- Definitive diagnosis may require a small biopsy, the microscopic examination of a piece of tissue from the affected area.
It is important not to let a suspicious sore go unchecked. If detected and treated early, while a lesion or growth is small, survival rates can exceed 80 percent. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about oral cancer. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer.”