Posts for: September, 2013
Are the following statements true or false?
Thumb sucking in children may cause problems with their teeth later on.
Prolonged thumb sucking may be responsible for many problems with the bite. The constant pressure of the thumb itself can create a gap between the top and bottom teeth in front, a condition called an “open bite.” It also reinforces the habit of using the “tongue thrust” motion in swallowing, where the tongue is positioned between top and bottom teeth. This habit may also block full eruption of the front teeth.
Infants and young children swallow exactly the same way that adults do.
When they swallow, young children use what is called the “infantile swallowing pattern.” In this method, which begins before their teeth have erupted, the tongue is thrust forward in the mouth, sealing and supporting the lips. In adult swallowing, the tongue touches the roof of the mouth, behind the front teeth. The transition from the infantile method usually happens naturally, by around age 4.
Most open bites result from the habit of positioning the tongue too far forward.
Failure to transition between the infantile and adult swallowing pattern is believed to be the cause of most open bites. The tongue's position alone may prevent the front teeth from fully developing. Allowing the thumb to rest between the teeth has the same effect — and it can also push the front teeth forward. Other causes of an open bite are skeletal or jaw-related problems.
It is harder to cure open bites caused by thumb sucking or bad tongue position than those from other causes.
Open bites that are caused by skeletal factors (patterns of bone growth, etc) are often difficult to resolve. Those caused by dental factors (tongue position, tooth eruption, etc) are generally easier to fix. However, the pressure exerted by the thumb over a long period of time can influence bone growth in the jaw.
There is a dental appliance that can help discourage thumb sucking.
A thin metal “tongue crib” placed behind upper and lower incisors discourages the thumb-sucking habit. It also helps to “re-train” the tongue, keeping it from going between upper and lower teeth. To successfully treat an open bite caused by dental factors, and to prevent its reoccurrence, it is essential to eliminate the unhelpful habits of both the thumb and the tongue.
If you would like more information about thumb sucking or open-bite problems in children, 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 “How Thumb Sucking Affects The Bite.”
The “wear and tear” nature of gingival (gum) tissue enables it to readily handle the chewing and biting actions of eating and still perform its most important function: protecting the roots of your teeth from decay and environmental exposure. But while they're resilient, they're not invincible: it's quite possible for them to lose their attachment to a tooth and begin to recede, leaving the root surfaces exposed.
Gum recession can occur for a number of reasons: poor oral hygiene; over brushing and flossing; malocclusion (a poor bite); personal habits, like biting down on hard foreign objects; or poorly fitted dentures or other appliances. From a genetic point of view, people with thinner gingival tissues are more prone to gum recession than those with thicker tissues. Whatever the cause, the result is the same — the exposed tooth becomes more sensitive to environmental factors (such as heat, cold, abrasion or erosion). More importantly, it now has a higher susceptibility to decay and disease, leading to its possible demise.
But there may be a solution. Although the original tissue may be lost, periodontal plastic surgery can restore a protective layer of tissue to the tooth, and at the same time give you back the smile you once had.
From the Greek word “plastik” for sculpting or modeling clay, plastic surgery procedures restore both form and function to a bodily structure. While the term “plastic surgery” can apply to other procedures in medicine such as rhinoplasty or face lifts, the periodontal procedure particularly involves grafting similar tissue to an area of recession, and then “shaping” it into a natural, life-like form.
To graft means to remove tissue from a donor site and attach it to a recipient site. In the case of periodontal tissue, the recipient patient can also be the donor with the tissue coming from some other area of the same mouth (the graft can also come from another human or an animal). Using advanced techniques and a touch of artistry, the surgeon positions and sutures the graft in place.
The result: not only a new protective covering for your tooth, but a more pleasing appearance when you smile.
If you would like more information on periodontal plastic surgery, 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 “Periodontal Plastic Surgery.”
Tooth decay (also known as caries by professionals and as cavities by consumers) is an infectious disease process that damages tooth structure. Cavities, hollowed-out holes in the teeth, are the most common result of untreated caries. It affects millions of Americans, young and old alike.
How does this destructive process happen? It begins when acid-producing bacteria multiply beyond normal levels in the mouth. Dental plaque, a film of remnant food particles and bacteria, cover the teeth due to poor oral hygiene. The bacteria break down sugars and carbohydrates present in the mouth, which in turn produces acid. Too many “bad bacteria” can raise the acidic level in the mouth.
The normal pH level of the mouth is neutral — 7 on the pH scale. But when the acidic level increases, dropping the pH to 5.5, the calcium and phosphate minerals in the hard, protective layer of tooth enamel begin to dissolve in a process known as de-mineralization. A healthy flow of saliva, however, acts as a buffering agent to return the pH level of the mouth back to neutral. Saliva also contains calcium and phosphate that can replace those lost from the enamel and is referred to as re-mineralization.
So, a constant battle rages within the mouth. On one side acid-producing bacteria, the possible absence of saliva, and poor diet and hygiene habits create the conditions where teeth enamel loses its mineral strength, allowing decay to eventually invade the fragile inner dentin of the tooth; on the other side is an adequate flow of saliva, a good diet and hygiene, boosted by treatment options like sealant application, antimicrobials and the topical application of fluoride.
The key, of course, is prevention. We add protection to the teeth by strengthening them; applying fluoride topically is the best approach, along with sealants that can be applied in our office. We reduce the level of acid-producing bacteria, usually with an anti-bacterial mouth rinse. You can also adopt a healthier diet that limits sugars and carbohydrates and reduces snacking between meals.
These preventive measures, along with early treatment of known tooth decay, can help you avoid the full impact of this destructive disease.
If you would like more information on tooth decay and how to prevent it, 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 “Tooth Decay.”
Already read every “What to Expect” book twice over? Think you know something about how pregnancy affects your teeth and gums — and vice versa? OK, ace — test your knowledge by taking the quiz below. No peeking at the answers!
Myth or fact: The calcium in baby's teeth comes from mom's teeth.
MYTH. Calcium is needed to build baby's teeth and bones, but it should come primarily from the mother's diet, not her body. If an expectant mom's diet contains too little calcium, however, this essential mineral may be supplied from calcium stored in her bones. That's one reason why a proper diet — with an adequate intake of dairy products, plus dietary supplements, if recommended — is important throughout pregnancy.
Myth or fact: Developing symptoms of periodontal disease is common during pregnancy.
FACT. The levels of many hormones, including progesterone, are higher during pregnancy. When periodontal disease is present, progesterone stimulates the body to produce prostaglandins, which cause inflammation of blood vessels in the gum tissue. This can result in a disease called pregnancy gingivitis. Excess growths of gum tissue called “pregnancy tumors” may also develop. These benign growths are probably related to dental plaque.
Myth or fact: Untreated dental infections pose a risk to the fetus as well as the mother.
FACT. Studies have shown that pregnant women with severe periodontal disease are at greater risk for preterm birth and low birth weight babies, and may be susceptible to an increased rate of pre-eclampsia, a serious complication. This seems to be due to the fact that oral bacteria can trigger inflammatory responses in other parts of the body — even the placenta. That's why a dental evaluation is so important at the first sign of a potential problem.
Myth or fact: All moms should take fluoride supplements to help their babies form strong teeth.
MYTH (for now). The benefits of parental fluoride supplements are poorly studied, and at present remain controversial. Although baby's teeth begin forming in the second month, fluoride works best after the teeth have erupted in the mouth. So, at present, this practice isn't recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
Myth or fact: Once your baby is born, it's OK to feed them pre-chewed food or slobber over them.
Myth (we gave that one away). First of all, it's gross. Second, while your baby isn't born with the bacteria that cause tooth decay, this behavior can transmit them from you to her, causing dental problems down the road. So don't do it. But do come in for a dental evaluation as soon as you know you're expecting. And have a safe and healthy pregnancy!
If you would like more information about pregnancy and oral health, 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 “Pregnancy and Oral Health,” and “Expectant Mothers.”