Posts for: April, 2014
While our children are small, we want to make sure they receive the best (and safest) care — that’s why a parent’s job can include finding the most comfortable stroller, picking out the best-rated car seat… and making sure kids get top-quality health care. When it comes to dental care, some parents are surprised to learn that a child’s first visit to the dentist should take place before his or her first birthday. If that seems too soon, keep in mind that recent evidence-based studies show that starting dental visits prior to age one not only reduces oral health costs, but also ensures that kids will have more pleasant dental experiences in the future.
What are the top five ways to help ease young kids through their earliest trips to the dental office? We’re glad you asked.
- Stay calm — even if dental visits make you a little nervous yourself. Kids pick up almost instantly on non-verbal cues, positive or negative. A few soothing words and a gentle touch can go a long way toward calming any worries they may have.
- Explain — but not too much. Let them know what to expect in the most basic terms, but leave talking about the nuts-and-bolts of it to us. We pediatric dentists go to great lengths to make children feel safe and comfortable in our care, and we can tell kids all they need to know in age-appropriate terms they can easily understand.
- Model healthy behavior — both in and out of the home. In the early years (and later, too), parents are the primary role models for their kids. Don’t just tell your kids — show them how you brush and floss your teeth regularly, and let them know why you avoid soda and “energy” drinks, and limit sugary snacks to after mealtimes.
- Learn how to maintain good oral hygiene — Did you know that tooth decay is the second most common disease in humans, after the common cold? Babies aren’t born with decay-causing bacteria — but one in four picks up oral bacteria from their caregivers! You can help prevent cavities by developing healthy habits. Where can you learn more? From us, of course! Next time you come in, ask us how to keep teeth sparkling clean and decay-free. And, of course, look for more tips in our blog posts.
- Get it done in Year One — We can’t say it enough: Starting children out right, with appropriate early dental care, can help set them up for a lifetime of good checkups and healthy teeth. And isn’t that something we all want for our kids?
If you would like more information about children’s dental visits, please contact us or schedule an appointment. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Taking the Stress Out of Dentistry for Kids” and “Age One Dental Visit.”
Clenching, or grinding of your teeth (also known as bruxing) are common habits. Biting forces are normally small, gentle, fleeting and very frequent throughout the day. In fact, it's the normal stimulus necessary to keep your teeth and jawbone healthy. When you clench or grind your teeth you apply forces up to ten times normal (in the 200 lb range). And it's not just the force, it's the duration and frequency with which they're applied. High forces lasting for seconds or minutes, frequently exerted, can affect some or all of the masticatory system. This includes the teeth, jaws, jaw joints and muscles, causing aching jaws, headaches, earaches, neck and even backaches; and the teeth themselves causing excessive wear, fractures, or even loose teeth.
Why does grinding occur? Habitual grinding is most frequently a reaction to stress. Sometimes abnormalities in your bite or malocclusion (“mal” – bad; “occlusion” – bite) can trigger clenching or grinding. It is normal for children to sometimes grind their teeth when new teeth are coming in, but it may be indications of stress too. You may be grinding your teeth subconsciously in your sleep, but it may be so loud as to awaken your sleeping partner. Or our office may be the first to suspect it during a dental exam because of the apparent signs of change to muscles, joints and teeth especially abnormal tooth wear.
What can be done about teeth grinding or bruxing? If you are symptomatic, having pain, muscle, joint or tooth soreness, the first step is to get you comfortable. Generally, a mild non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (aspirin, ibuprofen) and muscle relaxants will help in addition to moist heat and mild jaw exercises. Stress management is also helpful. To prevent further damage, we may recommend a bite guard made of wear-resistant plastic that fits over the biting surfaces of your upper teeth. These customized unobtrusive appliances when properly fitted and adjusted stop clenching and grinding activity, or at least the damage they can do. A bite guard can be worn day or night especially during stressful periods.
If (heaven forbid) you were to lose your two front teeth in an accident, and you needed to choose a tooth replacement method, which one would you pick? Once upon a time, that question faced Taylor Hicks, the former American Idol winner who now plays a regular gig in Las Vegas. Back then, when he was a high-school basketball star, Hicks happened to receive a blow to the mouth at a playoff game. As fate would have it, he also happened to be the son of… wait for it… a dentist. So what did he do?
The down-to-earth song stylist recently told Dear Doctor magazine how, immediately after the accident, his father administered first aid, getting him back into the game before it ended. Then, a short while afterward, Hicks had the gaps in his smile fixed with dental implants.
We think he made a good choice. While there are other tooth replacement systems, none offer the benefits provided by dental implants. In case you need a reminder, here are some facts about dental implants:
- They have the highest success rate of any tooth replacement procedure — above 95%
- They are the most durable type of replacement tooth — with proper care, they can last for the rest of your life
- They look and “feel” completely natural, and require no special maintenance
- They are the only tooth replacement system that essentially stops bone loss in the jaw (a natural consequence of tooth loss), helping to maintain good oral health
- Over the long term, they can offer the best value for your investment in dental care
What makes dental implants work so well? Unlike bridgework or other methods, lifelike implant crowns are supported by a screw-like titanium metal insert, which actually becomes fused with the bone of the jaw. This not only provides the prosthetic teeth with a rock-solid anchorage, but it also helps provide the physical stimulation that bone needs to keep itself healthy. Lacking this stimulation, the jaw bone begins to atrophy and erode (melt away) — and if left untreated long enough, it can result in the appearance of premature aging and other oral health problems.
So if you have missing teeth — whether from an accident, disease, or another cause — contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation, and find out whether dental implants might be right for you. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dental Implant Surgery” and “Dental Implants.”
When a natural tooth can’t be preserved, it is important to have it replaced as soon as possible. Presently, there are two excellent tooth-replacement systems in wide use: traditional bridgework and high-tech dental implants. What’s the difference between the two methods?
Essentially, it comes down to how the replacement tooth is secured in the mouth. In the dental implant system, a natural looking prosthetic tooth is solidly anchored in place by a screw-like titanium implant. This is inserted directly into the bone of the jaw in a minor surgical procedure, and over a short period of time (usually 6 – 12 weeks) its titanium metal structure will actually become fused with the living bone.
With bridgework, however, the support for the prosthetic tooth (or teeth) comes from the healthy teeth adjacent to it. These teeth must be prepared (shaped) by carefully removing some of the outer tooth material (enamel and some dentin), which enables them to be fitted with coverings called crowns or caps. Crowns are often used on their own, to restore teeth that are missing too much of their structure to be treated effectively with standard fillings. But the bridgework system goes one step further.
Instead of making individual crowns for each tooth, a dental lab will fabricate a bridge — a single unit consisting of crowns for the prepared teeth, plus complete prosthetics to replace the missing tooth (or teeth). A three-unit bridge, for example, consists of one complete prosthetic tooth to replace the one that’s missing, plus two crowns for the adjacent “abutment” teeth. It’s possible to have larger bridges as well: For example, a six-unit bridge might consist of two complete prosthetic teeth in the center, with two crowns for abutment teeth on each end, all linked together in one piece.
While bridgework has been used effectively for decades, it is now being gradually supplanted by dental implants. Implants don’t require the removal of healthy tooth material from abutment teeth, and they don’t place extra stress on those teeth; plus, they generally last much longer than natural tooth bridges. However, the dental bridge remains a viable alternative for tooth replacement in many circumstances.
Some people are planners, and others just go with the flow. Some spend all winter in the gym, and others try and lose ten pounds right before beach season. Some have every detail of their wedding day planned out months in advance, and others... don't.
No matter which kind of person you are, you'll want to look your best for your wedding day. And that includes sporting a bright, healthy-looking smile. Depending how much time you have beforehand, there's a range of dental treatments that can help you look and feel great — not just that day, but every day. Here's a rundown of what you can do in the time remaining before your big day.
Time Left: Up to two years. If you've planned this far in advance, congratulations! You probably have time for almost any needed dental treatment — including orthodontics, which can straighten misaligned teeth and correct a bad bite. But even if you don't have quite so much time, don't despair: Clear aligners and tooth-colored or tongue-side braces, if recommended, can make orthodontic appliances nearly invisible.
Time Left: Six months to one year. Many dental treatments, like periodontal plastic surgery or tooth implants, can achieve remarkable results in this time. Periodontal surgery can give you a less “gummy” smile and greatly improve the aesthetics of your teeth. Tooth implants are modern dentistry's best option for replacing missing teeth. Natural-looking implants have a success rate of 95%, and can last a lifetime.
Time left: Three or four months. There's plenty you can do! If the roots are intact, a crown can be placed on a damaged tooth to restore its appearance and function. Or, missing teeth can be replaced via bridgework, which supports a false tooth from abutments on either side. Stained or discolored teeth can also be dramatically lightened with veneers, where a porcelain shell replaces the tooth's outermost layer of enamel. Tooth implants are still a possibility, under the right circumstances. We can evaluate your individual situation and come up with the best option to replace missing teeth.
Time left: Six weeks or so. You still have time for some basic, yet effective, treatments. Small chips or discolored fillings can be restored with tooth-colored materials that securely bond to the teeth themselves. You can also brighten your teeth by several shades using the techniques of bleaching. In-office whitening treatments are the fastest, but take-home kits, used under our supervision, offer similar results in a longer time.
Have even less time? At the very least, come in for a thorough cleaning right before the date! This will help remove many surface stains and freshen up your smile. Be sure to call in advance so that you're able to get an appointment. Then, smile for the camera!
If you would like more information about a wedding-day smile makeover, please contact us or schedule an appointment to discuss your treatment options. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Wedding Day Smiles.”