Posts for: December, 2014
Imagine this: your active, adventurous child — or adolescent — loves high-risk contact sports like hockey or football, and while playing breaks a front tooth. After an emergency trip to our office, we recommend bonding as a good choice for this repair.
“What is bonding?” you ask. Here's what you need to know. In a bonding procedure, a composite resin restoration material is attached (bonded) to the broken tooth, and it looks as good as new.
Composite resin restorations are tooth-colored filling materials composed of a special plastic-based matrix for strength, with glass filler for aesthetics and translucence. The combination looks just like a natural tooth. The composite resin material is physically bonded to the remaining healthy tooth structure. First the natural tooth enamel or dentin must be etched so that the composite resin can attach and actually join to the tooth. In the end it will function as one and look exactly like a tooth.
Composites can be placed directly on the teeth in our office, quite easily, and they are relatively inexpensive. They look natural and can be matched to your child's natural tooth. They require little to no tooth reduction. Bonded composite resin restorations are the best choice for children and teenagers because their teeth and jaws are still growing and developing. What's more, they are still active in their sports and could need further restorations.
Composite resin restorations may need to be replaced with more permanent restorations after your child is fully grown. The bonded resin restorations may wear over time, and may stain and dull somewhat with age. When your child has completed growth, more permanent restorations such as porcelain veneers or crowns may be necessary.
By the way, a custom-made mouthguard might have prevented injury in the first place and certainly should be considered in the future.
If your child has chipped or damaged a tooth, contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about bonding and a protective mouthguard. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Repairing Chipped Teeth.”
Ever wonder just exactly what causes cavities? Once upon a time, “Toothworms” — miniscule, yet relentless pests — were thought to be responsible for this widespread malady. This belief persisted from ancient times through the 17th Century; William Shakespeare even made reference to the baneful beasts in his play Much Ado about Nothing. (“What, sigh for a toothache? [It] is but a humor or a worm.”) Today, however, we know why no one ever observed an honest-to-goodness toothworm: it’s because they’re much too tiny to see with the naked eye.
Actually, it isn’t worms, but much smaller organisms that cause tooth decay. These harmful plaque bacteria (along with many helpful microorganisms) live in the mouth, and build up on surfaces of the teeth when they aren’t cleaned properly. They feed on sugar in the diet, and release substances that erode tooth enamel, which causes small holes called cavities. Cavities, in turn, are what’s responsible for most toothaches.
While we may scoff at old legends, one fact remains: Even today, according to the National Institutes of Health, tooth decay is the number one chronic disease of both children and adults; and it’s almost entirely preventable. We can’t blame it on toothworms — but what can we do about it?
Glad you asked! The best way to avoid decay is through prevention. That means brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, and flossing them every day. It also means eating a balanced diet and avoiding acidic and sugary foods — like soda, some juices, and sweet, sticky snacks. If you do consume these types of foods, limit them to mealtimes; that gives your saliva enough time in between to neutralize the acids naturally. And, of course, make an appointment see us twice a year for a complete check-up and professional cleaning.
If you do begin to notice the symptoms of tooth decay (toothache, for example) it’s important to come in to the dental office right away, so we can treat the problem before it gets worse. Prompt action can often help save a tooth that might otherwise be lost. Besides filling the cavity, we may be also able to recommend ways to help prevent the disease from affecting other teeth. And if you need a more extensive procedure to relieve the problem — such as a root canal — we can make sure you get the appropriate treatment.
We’ve come a long way since the “toothworm” days — but we can still do a lot more to make tooth decay a thing of the past.
If you would like more information about tooth decay and cavity prevention, please contact us or schedule an appointment. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay — The World’s Oldest & Most Widespread Disease” and “Tooth Decay — How To Assess Your Risk.”
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.”
Chronic stress can cause any number of physical problems like back pain, insomnia or stomach ulcers. In the mouth, it can also be the cause of teeth grinding or clenching habits that may lead to pain and tooth damage.
Besides toothaches and jaw pain, stress-related teeth grinding may also be causing your teeth to wear at a faster than normal rate. While the teeth can withstand normal forces generated from biting and chewing, a grinding habit could be subjecting the teeth to forces beyond their normal range. Over time, this could produce excessive tooth wear and contribute to future tooth loss.
Here, then, are some of the treatment options we may use to stop the effects of stress-related dental habits and provide you with relief from pain and dysfunction.
Drug Therapy. Chronic teeth grinding can cause pain and muscle spasms. We can reduce pain with a mild anti-inflammatory pain reliever (like ibuprofen), and spasms with a prescribed muscle relaxant drug. If you have sleep issues, you might also benefit from occasional sleep aid medication.
A Night or Occlusal Guard. Also known as a bite guard, this appliance made of wear-resistant acrylic plastic is custom-fitted to the contours of your bite. The guard is worn over your upper teeth while you sleep or when the habit manifests; the lower teeth then glide over the hard, smooth surface of the guard without biting down. This helps rest the jaw muscles and reduce pain.
Orthodontic Treatment. Your clenching habit may be triggered or intensified because of a problem with your bite, known as a malocclusion. We can correct or limit this problem by either moving the teeth into a more proper position or, if the malocclusion is mild, even out the bite by reshaping the teeth in a procedure known as occlusal (bite) equilibration.
Psychological Treatment. While the preceding treatments can help alleviate or correct dental or oral structural problems, they may not address the underlying cause for a grinding habit — your psychological response to stress. If you’re not coping with stress in a healthy way, you may benefit from treatments in behavioral medicine, which include biofeedback or psychological counseling.
If you would like more information on dental issues related to stress, 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 “Stress & Tooth Habits.”
If you are dissatisfied with the way your smile looks, and your dentist is unhappy with the way your teeth fit together — but you don't like the idea of wearing braces — clear aligners may be your best solution. How much do you know about this teeth-straightening alternative? Below are some FAQs on the subject.
What do we mean by clear aligners? Clear aligners are a system for straightening teeth that uses clear plastic removable “trays” that fit over your teeth. As the teeth move to fit the trays, new trays are substituted that are designed to continue to move your teeth into the desired position. This system is an alternative to the traditional system of brackets and wires known as braces.
How can teeth be moved to new positions? The connection that holds a tooth in place in your jaws — the periodontal ligament — is not immobile. It constantly changes its position based on the normal forces of your bite. As the ligament is pushed on one side and pulled on the other, the living cells of your mouth respond by depositing bone and cementum (the protective covering of the tooth's root) on one side and dissolving it on the other. Normally this happens in a balance, maintaining your teeth in their position. We can manage these slight changes by applying constant light forces to move teeth in a predictable way.
How long does it take to move teeth to their optimum position using clear aligners? As with braces, the process is gradual. Total treatment time can range from six months to two years.
Do the trays have to be worn all the time? As you move through the sequence of trays, each is worn for 20 hours per day for two weeks. They may occasionally be removed for important social occasions.
How does an orthodontist design the sequential trays that are used? The trays are designed using a computer, based on an assessment and images of your mouth, teeth and jaws.
What kinds of problems can clear aligners correct? This method works well to correct mild to moderate crowding or spacing. If your back teeth already fit together as they should, the system may be ideal. If you have an extreme overbite or underbite, braces might work better.
Are clear aligners an alternative for everyone? Clear aligners are recommended for adults and recently, teenagers. They are not usually recommended for young children.
Why is it important to have your teeth straightened? Besides the obvious benefit of feeling better about yourself and your appearance, straight and well-aligned teeth work better. You will experience a better-functioning bite and can improve your oral health.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about orthodontics and clear aligners. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Clear Orthodontic Aligners” and “Moving Teeth With Orthodontics.”