As parents, we want to do everything possible to help our kids stay healthy—and that includes their teeth. And just like other aspects of their health, it's better not to go at dental care alone. That's why we recommend beginning your child's regular dental visits no later than their first birthday.
You may think that's a bit premature, given the few teeth a child may have when they're a year old. But there are solid reasons why early childhood dental visits are a smart move, especially if you're playing the long game for their future dental health and development.
Minimizes damaging tooth decay. If a child loses just one primary tooth to decay, it could have an adverse, cascading effect on their developing bite. Dental visits begun sooner rather than later are more likely to catch and treat tooth decay, as well as provide other preventive measures that can ensure primary teeth aren't lost prematurely.
Provides you a partner for your child's dental care. A child's dental development and health depend on what you do in the home—daily oral hygiene, monitoring for signs of disease and avoiding habits that promote tooth decay. Regular dental visits help support the home front by providing you helpful insight and advice for supporting your child's dental health.
Identifies bite problems early. Although they usually develop gradually, there are often early signs of an emerging bite problem. Pediatric dentists especially are trained to notice early signs of an abnormal bite and refer you to an orthodontist for interventional treatment.
Reduces your child's dental visit anxiety. The unfamiliarity and clinical nature of a dental office can make a child susceptible to anxiety that could follow them into adulthood. Early childhood dental visits help normalize the dentist's office for your child, reduce anxiety and make it more likely they'll continue seeing the dentist later in life.
Life can be hectic with an infant in the home. But getting into the routine of regular dental visits at an early age is a worthwhile investment in healthier teeth and gums—now and in the future.
If you would like more information on good dental care practices for your child, 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 “Age One Dental Visit.”
It seems with each new election cycle another U.S. state legalizes marijuana use. It remains a flashpoint issue that intersects politics, law and morality, but there's another aspect that should also be considered—the health ramifications of using marijuana.
From an oral health perspective, it doesn't look good. According to one study published in the Journal of Periodontology a few years ago, there may be a troubling connection between marijuana use and periodontal (gum) disease.
Gum disease is a common bacterial infection triggered by dental plaque, a thin biofilm on tooth surfaces. As the infection advances, the gum tissues become more inflamed and lose their attachment to teeth. This often results in widening gaps or "pockets" between the teeth and gums filled with infection. The deeper a periodontal pocket, the greater the concern for a tooth's health and survivability.
According to the study, researchers with Columbia University's College of Dental Medicine reviewed data collected from nearly 2,000 adults, a quarter of which used marijuana at least once a month. They found the marijuana users had about 30 individual pocket sites on average around their teeth with a depth of at least 4 millimeters. Non-users, by contrast, only averaged about 22 sites.
The users also had higher incidences of even deeper pockets in contrast to non-users. The former group averaged nearly 25 sites greater than 6 millimeters in depth; non-users, just over 19. Across the data, marijuana users appeared to fare worse with the effects of gum disease than those who didn't use.
As concerning as these findings appear, we can't say that marijuana use singlehandedly causes gum disease. The condition has several contributing risk factors: diet, genetics, and, most important of all, how well a person manages daily plaque removal, the main driver for gum disease, through brushing and flossing.
Still, the data so far seems to indicate using marijuana can make gum disease worse. Further studies will be needed to fully test this hypothesis. In the meantime, anyone using marijuana should consider the possible consequences to their oral health.
In the classic holiday film, It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey sees what life would be like if he'd never been born. In a variation on the theme, imagine your life if your teeth had never formed.
That's actually a reality for some—they're born without teeth, albeit usually only one or two. But even then, they're often more susceptible to problems with their bite, speech development and nutrition.
And if their missing teeth affects their appearance, their self-image could also take a hit. In particular, the maxillary lateral incisors on either side of the central incisors (those in the very front) can create an odd smile if missing.
Fortunately, we can correct the problem of missing lateral incisors with three possible solutions. The first is canine substitution, involving the pair of pointed teeth next in line to the missing incisors. In effect, we use orthodontic appliances like braces to move them toward the frontmost teeth and close the missing teeth gap.
It's a minimally invasive way to improve smile appearance. But because of their size and sharp edges, it's often necessary to alter the canines, perhaps even crown them. Some people may also need gum surgery to "blend" the gums with the repositioned teeth.
A second method is a fixed bridge, a series of fused crowns. Those in the middle replace the missing teeth, while those on the ends are bonded to the natural teeth on either side of the gap to support the bridge.
Bridges can function well for many years, but it does require permanently altering the supporting teeth for crowning. An alternative Maryland or bonded bridge doesn't require this alteration, but it's also less durable than a traditional bridge.
Finally, we could replace the missing teeth with dental implants, a titanium post imbedded into the jawbone with an attached life-like crown. An implant tooth can last for decades, and don't require alterations to other teeth. However, they're not suitable for younger patients who are still undergoing jaw development—a temporary restoration may thus be in order until the jaw matures.
Being born without certain teeth is something you can't do anything about. But you can change how it affects your appearance and life with one of these options for a new smile.
If you would like more information on correcting a smile with missing teeth, 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 “When Permanent Teeth Don't Grow.”
We like to think we're more prone to stress in our modern, fast-paced world than those who lived in "simpler" times, but a finding from the recent discovery of Richard the III's remains in England suggests differently. Investigators noted the king had well-worn teeth, perhaps from grinding them out of stress.
We can't be sure this was the cause for the king's dental problems, or if teeth grinding was common in the 15th Century. But we are sure the problem exists today among adults.
Tooth grinding is the grinding, gnashing or clenching of teeth involuntarily when not engaged in regular dental functions like eating or speaking. It can occur while a person is awake, but most often while they're asleep.
The habit regularly occurs in children, but is not considered a major problem as most outgrow it by adolescence, usually with no lingering damage. Not so with adults: Because the habit generates abnormally high biting forces, teeth grinding can lead to accelerated tooth wear. It can also weaken teeth, making them more susceptible to fracture or disease.
People who grind their teeth will typically awaken with sore jaws or the complaints of family members about the loud chattering noise emitted during an episode. If you suspect a problem, you should see your dentist for a definitive diagnosis, and to learn how to reduce its occurrence and effects.
Treatments for the habit vary depending on underlying causes. They may involve lifestyle changes like quitting tobacco, limiting alcohol or altering your use of certain drugs or medications. Because stress is often a major factor, learning better relaxation techniques through meditation, group therapy or biofeedback may also help reduce teeth grinding.
These treatments, though, can take time, so you may also need ways to minimize the effects of the habit in the meantime. One of those ways is for your dentist to create an occlusal guard that you wear while you sleep. The guard prevents the teeth from making solid contact, thus reducing the potential biting forces.
It's important, then, to see your dentist as soon as possible if you suspect you're grinding your teeth. Finding out as early as possible and then taking positive steps to stop or reduce its effect can save your teeth from a good deal of harm.
If you would like more information on teeth grinding, 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 “Teeth Grinding.”
Quitting smoking is hard. The love affair between your brain and nicotine chains the habit to your daily life. But it's still worth the effort to quit to save your health from disease—including those that impact your teeth and gums. And, there's no time better to launch your "kick the habit" project than the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout day this November 18.
As to smoking's impact on your teeth and gums: Two-thirds of America's 32 million smokers contend with gum disease. A smoker's risk for tooth decay is also higher, as well as their prospects for implant failure.
So, why is smoking hazardous to your oral health?
Primarily, nicotine constricts oral blood vessels, which in turn reduces the nutrients and antibodies reaching the teeth and gums. Your mouth thus struggles to fight bacteria that cause tooth decay or gum disease.
Inadequate blood circulation can also hide signs of gum disease like swollen, reddened or bleeding gums. Instead, a smoker's gums may look deceivingly healthy, although you may have a gum infection that could be well advanced when it's finally diagnosed.
Gum or bone grafting also depends on good blood flow, or the grafts may not fully regenerate new tissue. The situation's similar for an implant: Its titanium post needs bone to grow and adhere to its surface to acquire sufficient strength and stability. But slow wound healing due to poor circulation can interfere with this process and cause an implant to fail.
For your mouth's sake, as well as the rest of your body, quitting smoking could help you avoid these problems. But as an ingrained, addictive habit, your body needs to "unlearn" it to stop it. Here are some ideas to help make that process easier.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy. Under your doctor's guidance, you can take medications that deliver nicotine to the body without smoking, and gradually reduce its concentration. This approach can be costly, however, and cause unpleasant side effects.
Brand fading. With this technique, you continuously switch to cigarette brands with less nicotine. This gradually acclimates your body to lower concentrations of the chemical, and eventually wean off it entirely. Here's an online site listing nicotine strength by brand.
Don't do it alone. Quitting smoking doesn't need to be a solo act. Developing relationships with those who don't smoke or who are also quitting can make it easier. One way is to attend a smoking cessation group for support and encouragement from others who're also trying to quit.
Above all, speak with your doctor or dentist to learn more about what you can do to stop smoking. It can be difficult, but the rewards—especially for your oral health—are well worth it.
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