Posts for: September, 2013
Orthodontic treatment (commonly known as braces) can be a lengthy process to re-align your teeth to a more functional and aesthetic position. Once the orthodontic devices are removed, however, the treatment isn't finished. Wearing a retainer is the final step to ensuring that the re-alignment doesn't eventually fail. It's designed to do just what its name implies — to “retain” the teeth's new position and prevent a relapse to the old.
This can happen because of the way teeth fit into the jaw bone. The teeth are joined to the bone by the periodontal ligament, which works somewhat like a hammock: the ligament's fibers act like threads that fit into the tooth on one side and into the bone on the other, and hold the teeth in place.
As living tissue, the ligament's cell structure is dynamic and can adapt to the gentle pressure applied by an orthodontic device. However, once this pressure subsides after the device is removed “muscle memory” can cause the ligament to resist the new position and pull the teeth back to their original setting. The retainer helps hold the teeth in the new position while the bone and ligament continue to mature and stabilize around the teeth.
There are two basic types of retainers; the one recommended for you will depend on your age and the extent of your orthodontic treatment. One type is a removable device that is typically worn around the clock initially, but may eventually only need to be worn at night or for even a lesser interval of time. The other type is attached permanently behind the teeth and can only be removed by an orthodontist. Permanent retainers have the benefit of not being as visible as the removable type, and there's no bother with putting them in and taking them out.
You may consider wearing a retainer a nuisance especially after months of orthodontic treatment. But consider it the last lap in a long race — only by finishing can you achieve that winning smile.
If you would like more information on the use of a retainer, 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 “The Importance of Orthodontic Retainers” and “Why Orthodontic Retainers?”
You may think the structures of your face and mouth stop growing when you reach adulthood. That's not true: your skeletal structure, facial features and soft tissues continue to change all through your life, even into old age. In fact, there's as much change from ages 25 to 42 as there is from ages 18 to 25. This fact of continuous growth and change affects the approaches we may take to satisfy your oral and dental needs.
We should especially consider facial changes due to aging as a factor when planning orthodontic treatment. For example, as we age the profile of our face will tend to flatten, which makes our nose become more prominent (and, yes, our noses continue to grow longer as we grow older). A good plan will take advantage of this, especially during expected growth spurts such as right before puberty. As the position of the patient's bite improves through treatment, the continuing growth of their facial profile will continue to bring the angle of the jaw into a more aesthetic position.
Likewise, where there are multiple issues with the mouth and face, orthodontics can be employed with other treatments such as rhinoplasty, the surgical improvement to the shape of the nose, or orthognathic surgery, procedures that correct problems associated with the position and structure of the lower jaw. As we employee these techniques, we keep in mind that the mouth and face are essentially a “moving target” — that is, they will continue to move in the direction of change due to aging. We coordinate the outcomes of treatment to eventually meet up with that eventual growth.
Armed with an understanding of how change occurs during aging, we can coordinate these procedures into a well-timed strategy that actually takes advantage of the aging process. The end result is a more favorable aesthetic appearance for the long-term.
If you would like more information on how aging can affect your dental health and treatment options, 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 “Understanding Aging Makes Beauty Timeless.”
Your gums are red around the margins and bleed whenever you brush or floss but there's minimal to no pain... You: (select the most appropriate answer[s])
- are brushing or flossing too vigorously
- have an accumulation of dental plaque where the teeth meet the gums
- are using a toothbrush that's too firm
- are experiencing early signs of gum disease
- should see your dentist if this persists for more than 6 months
Kudos if you picked b) and d). The most common cause of bleeding gums is the accumulation of dental plaque (bacterial deposits) at the gum line, which is an early sign of periodontal (from the Latin “peri” – around, and the Greek “odont” – tooth) disease. It is usually painless so people tend to underestimate the risk of allowing gum disease to progress and become a more significant problem.
It's a common misconception that bleeding gums are caused by brushing or flossing too vigorously or using a toothbrush that's too firm. This is sometimes the case, but the abrasion would probably cause noticeable pain. Instead, it's likely that you're not brushing and flossing effectively enough, allowing bacterial deposits to accumulate at the gum line and feed on food particles that haven't been adequately flushed from your mouth.
The bacterial deposits form a whitish film that is hard to detect when you look in the mirror. But you will notice bleeding and redness and eventually inflammation of the gums — an immune response to disease-causing bacteria that flourish in the plaque. As the biofilm grows, with time it also hardens (calcifies), making it increasingly difficult to dislodge. Eventually, only professional cleaning can remove it and sometimes antibiotics are needed. If no action is taken, gum disease will progress, and eventually cause loss of the underlying bone that anchors the teeth.
There are other reasons that gums may bleed, such as elevated hormone levels in women, a side effect of certain medications, or a systemic (bodily) disease. Whatever the cause, it's important to get a professional diagnosis promptly and take appropriate therapeutic action as needed. Optimally, with good oral hygiene and regular checkups, you can avoid this problem entirely!
If you would like more information about preventing or treating bleeding gums, 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 “Bleeding Gums.”
The Tooth Fairy has been easing the process of losing baby teeth for hundreds of years — at least 500 years according to one authority on the subject. Her name is Brady Reiter, and while she looks only age 11 in earth years, she is actually a 500-year-old Tooth Fairy; at least she plays one on DVD.
Brady is the star of Tooth Fairy 2, a new DVD comedy also starring Larry the Cable Guy as a novice Tooth Fairy doing penance for questioning the existence of the magical sprite who leaves payment under pillows for lost teeth.
In a charming interview with Dear Doctor magazine, Brady says it wasn't very difficult to play an ancient tooth fairy trapped in a child's body.
“I'm kind of more mature than an average 11-year-old because I have older brothers and sisters,” Brady told Dear Doctor. “It was kind of just connecting with my inner 500-year-old. It was very fun to play a character like that!”
Brady also enjoyed working with Larry, who dons a pink tutu and fluffy wings for his role.
“In hair and makeup every morning, he'd be making all these jokes,” she said. “He just cracked us up 100 percent of the time!”
But as much fun as Brady had on the set, her character, Nyx, is all business. And that's how Brady, who recently lost her last baby tooth, has always believed it should be.
“My whole life I thought the Tooth Fairy is just like Nyx,” Brady said. “They know what to do, they come in, they're professionals, you don't see them and they never make a mistake and forget your tooth. Just like Santa Claus, tooth fairies are very professional.”
Brady also told Dear Doctor that she is very excited to be helping the National Children's Oral Health Foundation fight childhood tooth decay as spokesfairy for America's ToothFairy Kids Club. The club offers kids personalized letters from the Tooth Fairy along with lots of encouraging oral health tips and fun activities.
If you would like to enroll your child in the club — it's free! — please visit www.AmericasToothFairyKids.org. And to make sure your child's teeth and your own are decay-free and as healthy as possible, please contact us to schedule your next appointment.