Posts for: January, 2014
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.”
Can having a great smile help land you a high-level business position, a TV show, and a bride? Maybe — at least if you go by the example of Bill Rancic.
The 42-year-old Chicago native is well known as the first winner of NBC-TV's The Apprentice, a reality show where contestants vied for a job with Donald Trump's organization. Shortly after his selection as Trump's newest hire, Rancic met his future wife, Giuliana, when she interviewed him for E! News. Flash forward a few years, and the couple is now hosting their own reality TV show on Style network.
So how much has Bill's winning smile helped?
“I think a great smile says a lot about a person — especially in our professions,” Bill recently said in an interview with Dear Doctor magazine. He also mentioned that having a few cosmetic dental treatments helped him close the deal.
As a child, Bill wore braces to correct an overbite. For both kids and adults, orthodontic treatment is often the first step toward getting the smile of your dreams. The practice of orthodontics has changed dramatically in the past 20 years and there are now a number of choices available in lieu of traditional metal braces.
Not Your Father's Braces
For those who need to maintain a “professional” image, tooth-colored braces offer a less noticeable way to straighten your teeth. Lingual braces are another option that's suitable in some situations. These are truly invisible: bonded on the tongue side of the teeth, they can't be seen from the front.
Or, you may be able to forego braces altogether and use a series of clear plastic aligners to gradually bring your teeth into alignment. Not only are these difficult to notice, but they can be completely removed for short periods of time — at important board meetings, for example.
Red-Carpet Tooth Whitening
More recently, Rancic had tooth whitening treatments. Depending on the degree of lightening needed, these can range from custom-fitted bleaching trays that you wear at home under the supervision of a dentist, to in-office whitening treatments that work in far less time. Both can be effective in lightening your teeth by six shades or more.
But if you need the ultimate in whitening, veneers may be the best option. These are fingernail-thin coatings, made of pearly-white porcelain or composite material, that are placed directly on the tooth surfaces. Realistic and durable, they can provide a “Hollywood white” smile that's ready for the red carpet.
Did Bill's cosmetic dental work really improve his life? We can't say for sure — but as his wife Giuliana recently told Dear Doctor, “First impressions are very important, and having a beautiful smile will help anyone make a great impact on others.” So perhaps it worked on her!
If you would like more information on how cosmetic dental treatments can improve your smile, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “The Magic of Orthodontics” and “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”
If you wince while eating certain foods and beverages, you're not alone — one in three Americans suffer from the pain of tooth sensitivity. Fortunately, there are ways to treat it and reduce the pain.
Dentinal hypersensitivity occurs when dentin loses its protective cover. Dentin, a living tissue within a tooth, is composed of tiny tubules that act as conduits for transmitting sensations from the surface of the tooth to the nerves in the inner pulp. These tubules are protected by cementum, a hard, outer layer that covers the tooth root. But when the root becomes exposed, the cementum is easily stripped from the root. The tubules become more sensitive to sensations of temperature or pressure.
Receding gums are the main culprit for root exposure. This condition can result from periodontal disease, which arises mainly from poor oral hygiene. At the other end of the spectrum, over-aggressive brushing can lead to receding gums. Brushing may also contribute to another source of dentinal hypersensitivity: enamel erosion. The minerals in enamel begin to soften and erode as the acidic level of the mouth rises. Saliva neutralizes the acid and can restore a neutral balance in about thirty minutes to an hour after eating. If you brush before this process completes, you could brush away some of the softened enamel.
To properly treat tooth sensitivity, our first step is to find the cause. If it stems from improper or premature brushing, we can counsel you on proper technique. If periodontal disease is a factor, we would first treat the disease and then work with you on a proper oral hygiene regimen to reduce bacterial plaque, the main cause of the infection.
There are treatments as well to reduce nerve sensitivity and thereby ease the pain. Toothpastes and other mouth products with fluoride help reduce sensitivity, as well as products containing potassium nitrate or potassium citrate. We can also apply a varnish containing a concentrated dose of fluoride directly to tooth surfaces. Another approach is to block the tubules using bonding agents or sealants; this will reduce their capacity to receive and transmit sensations.
If you would like more information on the causes and treatment of tooth sensitivity, 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 “Treatment of Tooth Sensitivity.”
Periodontal (gum) disease is sometimes called a “silent” malady — meaning that its symptoms don’t generally announce themselves with great fanfare (or pain, as conditions like tooth decay and root canal issues often do). Yet this disease is estimated to affect almost half of the adult population in the United States, causing deterioration of the gums and the bone surrounding the teeth… and possibly leading to bacterial infections, loss of teeth, and even systemic (whole-body) problems.
So what exactly is periodontal disease? Actually, it’s the broad name for a group of related diseases which attack the soft tissue of the gums and the tooth-supporting bone. Most periodontal diseases are caused by the buildup of harmful bacteria in a biofilm (thin, sticky layer), which coats teeth in the absence of effective oral hygiene. And yes, that means if you don’t brush and floss daily, you’re much more likely to develop gum disease.
Even the most attractive smile could have gum disease lurking beneath it. How do you know if you may be affected? Some early warning signs include redness or inflammation of the edges of the gums, a bad taste in your mouth or bad breath, plus any degree of bleeding when you brush your teeth (brushing should never cause gums to bleed). As the disease progresses, you may develop painful inflammation or a pus-filled abscess, bone loss, loose teeth… and eventually tooth loss.
But don’t wait until then to seek treatment! If you see your general dentist regularly, and if he or she notices signs of gum disease, you may be referred to a periodontist. But you don’t need a referral — you can simply make an appointment and come in for a check-up. That may be wise if you have noticed any warning signs — especially if it has been a while since you’ve had an exam. Periodontal disease may be a silent malady, but that doesn’t mean you have to let it affect your oral health.
If you would like more information about periodontal disease, call our office for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “When To See A Periodontist” and “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”