Posts for: October, 2013

By Orthodontics for Children and Adults
October 29, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: aging  
UnderstandingtheChangesofAgingLeadstoBetterOralHealthOutcomes

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.”


By Orthodontics for Children and Adults
October 21, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
ProtectYourEnamelFromtheDamagingEffectsofAcid

One of your teeth's best defenses against tooth decay is its hard, outer layer made of a mineral-rich substance known as enamel. This great protector, however, has an enemy — acid — from the foods and drinks we consume as well as the acid byproducts from bacterial plaque. A high acidic level in the mouth could lead to the complete erosion of enamel, leaving teeth more susceptible to decay.

When the acid level in the mouth rises, calcium and other minerals in enamel become soft and begin to slough off, a process called de-mineralization. But the body can reverse this process with the help of saliva, which can neutralize acid. Saliva also contains calcium that can bind to the tooth surface and help replace what was lost during de-mineralization — a process known as re-mineralization. Saliva can normally accomplish this in thirty minutes to an hour after eating.

Unfortunately, saliva's neutralizing power can be overwhelmed when there is too much acid present. This occurs when we ingest substances like sodas or sports drinks that are high in citric acid. Many of these same beverages also have a high buffering capacity that slows the neutralizing effect of saliva. Ironically, we can also interrupt re-mineralization if we brush our teeth too quickly after eating or drinking something acidic. The enamel has been softened by the acid and when we brush before re-mineralization we can actually brush away some of the enamel.

There are some steps you can take to help this natural process for maintaining a healthy pH balance in the mouth. First, limit your intake of acidic foods and beverages. Drink water for rehydration, or at least acidic beverages enriched with calcium. If you do drink an acidic beverage use a straw to reduce acid contact with teeth, try not to swish it around in your mouth, and try to drink it during mealtime. Finally, wait 30 to 60 minutes before brushing your teeth after eating or drinking something acidic.

Tooth enamel is a key component in maintaining healthy teeth. Protecting this prime defense against decay will pay you dividends for many years to come.

If you would like more information on enamel erosion, 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 “Dental Erosion.”


By Orthodontics for Children and Adults
October 18, 2013
Category: Oral Health
WhatDentalDeviceDoesTVHostVannaWhiteKeeponherNightstand

Here's an interesting tidbit of information on Wheel of Fortune host Vanna White: like many people, she grinds her teeth at night. In a detailed interview with Dear Doctor magazine, Vanna explained how she had to replace a filling in a back tooth several times because of her grinding habit. Eventually, she had her dentist make her a nightguard to protect her famous smile.

“I really try to sleep with it every night,” Vanna told the magazine. “I try to keep it on my nightstand so when I go to bed, I remember to put it in. Or I will put it by my toothbrush so I can put it in after brushing my teeth at night.”

The habit of teeth grinding or clenching is often associated with stress and/or sleep deprivation. It is referred to as “parafunctional” (“para” – outside, “function” – normal), meaning it can generate biting forces well outside the normal range — perhaps 10 times normal. This excessive force can affect many areas of the oral system. Teeth may become worn, chipped or loose; jaw joints or muscles can go into spasm; and some grinders (or “bruxers” as they are also called) may even experience discomfort of the head, ears, neck or back. Many times, a person with a grinding habit does not become aware of it until it is pointed out by a sleep partner or dental professional.

Like Vanna White's dentist, we often recommend a nightguard to those with nocturnal bruxing habits. It is made of a very thin, wear-resistant plastic that fits over the biting surfaces of the upper teeth only. The lower teeth are then free to glide or skate over the guard, which prevents them from biting into the upper teeth. Some people wear their guards during the day if they tend to clench their teeth when under stress.

If you are concerned about teeth grinding or interested in learning more about nightguards, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation. If you would like to read Dear Doctor's entire interview with Vanna White, please see “Vanna White.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Stress & Tooth Habits.”


By Orthodontics for Children and Adults
October 11, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   tmj   tmd  
TMDHowCanSuchSmallJointsCauseSuchBigProblems

If you have pain in your jaws or related headaches, you may have Temporo-mandibular Joint Disorder, TMD. You are probably wondering what this is — and how it can be treated. If this sounds like something you may have, read on for some answers.

What is TMD? TMD describes a group of disorders or diseases that have the same symptoms, but may have different causes, hence it is known as “The Great Imposter.” Pain in and around the temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ), the jaw joint involved in opening and closing your mouth — is characterized by pain and soreness in the region of one or both joints, ears, jaw muscles and even the sinuses.

How does the temporo-mandibular joint work? You can feel your jaw joints working if you place your fingers in front of your ears and move your lower jaw up and down. On each side the joint is composed of an almond shaped structure at the end of the lower jaw, called the condyle, which fits neatly into a depression in the temporal bone (the bone on the side of your skull near your ear). A small disc between the two bones allows the lower jaw to move forward and sideways. The joints are stabilized by ligaments and moved by muscles, like all your joints.

What is the most common cause of TMD? Many people clench or grind their teeth as a reaction to stress. This is generally a subconscious habit, and can even occur during sleep. Continual tooth grinding habits can cause the muscles to go into spasm, which is the most common cause of TMD pain. Structures associated with the jaws — teeth, air sinuses, and even neck and back muscles — share nerves with the muscles in the joints, so the pain may be felt in those structures too, making the exact source of the pain difficult to diagnose. Symptoms of TMD may limit your ability to open your jaw and talk or eat normally.

What is the treatment for TMD? Treatment will depend on the cause, but generally the first step is to relieve pain and discomfort with heat, mild painkillers, muscle relaxants, a soft diet, and simple jaw exercises. A bite guard may be recommended, which should be custom made in our office; a rigid yet unobtrusive plastic appliance that fits over the biting surfaces of your upper teeth. Properly fitted and adjusted, it aids and causes jaw muscle relaxation by preventing clenching and grinding. It is worn during times of stress when oral habits tend to recur, and can also be worn at night.

If you are suffering from TMD — whether the pain is moderate or severe — schedule an appointment with us to have it evaluated and treated. You can learn more about TMD by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “TMD: Understanding the Great Imposter.”


By Orthodontics for Children and Adults
October 03, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay  
YourDentalHealthmaybeatRiskWithSportsandEnergyDrinks

Sports drinks have grown in popularity since University of Florida football trainers developed Gatorade® in the 1960s. They're widely viewed as a convenient fluid and nutrient replacement after strenuous workouts. Recently, another beverage has become wildly popular — the energy drink, whose high caffeine promises heightened concentration and physical ability.

While energy drinks have raised health concerns, sports drinks are widely regarded as safe. Both kinds of drinks, however, may be a cause for concern when it comes to your dental health.

While both are substantively different, they do have one thing in common — both beverages contain high levels of citric and other acids to improve taste and shelf life. This high acidity can have a detrimental effect on tooth enamel.

When the mouth becomes too acidic after eating or drinking (4 or lower on the pH scale), the tooth's outer protective enamel begins to erode, a process known as demineralization. Saliva with its neutral pH of 7 can neutralize this over-acidity in about thirty minutes to an hour after eating and the enamel will actually begin to remineralize. But when there's an overabundance of acid, as with these beverages, saliva's neutralizing ability becomes inhibited. The mouth remains too acidic for a longer period, resulting in greater erosion of the enamel.

Generally speaking, we don't recommend energy drinks at all. If, however, you occasionally take in a sports drink, add the following precautions, if possible: combine the drink with a mealtime and rinse your mouth with pH-neutral water to wash away residual acid from the sports drink; and wait an hour before brushing your teeth — since some demineralization occurs before saliva neutralizes the acid, you could brush away some of the softened enamel before it can remineralize.

Finally, consider this: pure, clean water is still the best hydrator in the world. Replenishing your fluids with it after exercise might also be the better choice for your dental health.

If you would like more information on the effects of sports and energy drinks on 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 article “Think Before you Drink.”