Posts for: November, 2014
Not long ago, musician, businessman, and actor 50 Cent (AKA Curtis James Jackson III) joined the growing ranks of celebrities (like Demi Moore and LeAnn Rimes) who have sent out tweets from the dental chair. The rapper, who has had extensive cosmetic work done on his teeth, even live-tweeted an action shot of his dentist giving him an oral exam!
Some might consider this too much information — but we're happy whenever people are reminded of the importance of regular dental checkups. In fact, the “routine” dental exam is truly one of the most useful procedures (and one of the best values) in dental care. Let's “examine” some reasons why that's so.
For one thing, coming in to our office when you don't have a specific problem gives us the chance to talk to you about any concerns you may have in regard to your mouth — or your health in general. In fact, many of the questions we ask and the exam procedures we perform give us an opportunity to detect potentially deadly diseases. For example, simply monitoring your blood pressure may identify a risk for heart disease; or an examination of the oral tissues may reveal the first signs of oral cancer. Both conditions are treatable if caught early on.
Of course, at a dental exam we always look closely at your teeth for signs of cavities. We also check your gums for inflammation or bleeding, which could indicate gum disease. X-rays or other diagnostic tests are performed when necessary. Generally, the sooner we can diagnose and treat any problems we may find, the better (and less costly) the outcome tends to be.
A typical checkup also includes a thorough, professional teeth cleaning with specialized tools, performed by our skilled dental hygienists. This not only makes your mouth look and feel sparkly clean — it also removes the built-up hard deposits (called tartar or calculus) that can lead to bad breath or gum disease.
Once the exam and cleaning are done, we have a good idea of the general state of your dental health. We can then give feedback on your oral hygiene techniques, assess your risk for disease, and make recommendations tailored to your individual needs. And we can do all this in about half an hour.
So talk about it, tweet about it — but don't neglect it! Along with regular brushing and flossing, routine dental checkups are the best way for you to maintain good oral hygiene — and prevent future dental problems.
If you would like more information about the benefits of regular dental exams, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Dental Hygiene Visit.”
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.
Your braces have finally been removed and you’ve unveiled your new smile to the world. You’re finished with orthodontics — right?
Not quite. If you want to “retain” your new smile you’ll need to wear a retainer appliance: depending on your age and which teeth were moved, that could be for several months or even indefinitely.
Retainers are necessary because of how teeth naturally move within the mouth. Although your teeth may seem rigidly set in bone, they’re actually held in place by an elastic tissue called the periodontal ligament. This tissue is quite dynamic in response to biting forces or even normal tooth wear. When forces are applied to a tooth, it’s the ligament that transmits pressure against the teeth to gradually move them to a more accommodating position. In response, the bone resorbs (dissolves) on the side of the tooth moving toward the new position while laying down new growth on the other side. This bone growth will help anchor the tooth in the new position.
Braces use this natural process to gradually move teeth; both the ligament and bone will reform as needed. But this reforming process takes time. Furthermore, there’s a natural balance between the teeth, the tongue and the lips and cheeks. Although the new position created by orthodontics may be more aesthetically pleasing, it may disrupt the natural balance of these surrounding muscles. The influence of habits like clenching or grinding of your teeth may also disturb the new tooth position. The natural tendency is to revert back to the original tooth position.
We use retainers to prevent this reversal. Nearly all orthodontic patients will initially wear them all the time, and for younger patients this may be reduced to wear only during sleep time. Total wear time usually lasts a minimum of eighteen months, until the bone and ligament have fully reformed.
For older patients, though, retainer wear may need to continue indefinitely to prevent “relapse.” In these long-term cases another option to a removable retainer is to permanently bond thin retainer wires to the inside surfaces of the front teeth. The wires can remain in place for several years and are much less noticeable than a removable retainer.
While retainers are often considered inconvenient, they’re absolutely necessary for preserving the results of orthodontic treatment. In the end they’ll help you keep the form and function of your new smile.
If you would like more information on orthodontic retainers, 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 “Why Orthodontic Retainers?”