One day, you lose one… followed by another…and then another. And then, after years of dental disease, you finally lose all your remaining teeth.
But between the first tooth lost and the last, years or even decades could pass. Individuals in the past caught in this downward spiral often decided the cost of continually upgrading their restorations with each lost tooth was simply too much. Instead, they opted at some point to have their remaining teeth extracted, even relatively healthy ones, to make way for full dentures.
That's still an option you might one day want to consider. Today, though, you have another alternative: With the help of dental implants, you can easily update your restorations with gradual tooth loss and keep more of your natural teeth longer. And keeping them longer is often the best scenario for maintaining optimum oral health.
Most people are familiar with dental implants as single replacements for individual teeth. It's a straightforward application. A dentist imbeds a titanium metal post into the jawbone at the missing tooth site, to which they later attach a life-like crown. Over time, the titanium post attracts new bone growth, resulting in enhanced durability for the implant, while also helping to reduce the bone loss that typically occurs after losing teeth.
But implants can also be used to support more traditional restorations like bridges or partial dentures. When used in that manner you only need a small number to support a restoration for multiple teeth, a much more affordable method than an individual implant for each tooth. And with planning and forethought, earlier installed implants could be incorporated into the next phase of restoration.
This helps make the process of updating restorations more manageable and affordable, while also prolonging the life of your remaining teeth. And should the time come when you lose all your teeth, implants can support a full fixed bridge or a removable denture. Including dental implants in your ongoing treatment strategy can pay dividends toward maintaining your best oral health.
If you would like more information on the many applications for dental implants, 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 “Replacing All Teeth But Not All at Once.”
Nina Parker, the host of Love & Hip Hop for six seasons, is now busy with the new game show Blockbusters and her own talk show The Nina Parker Show. But even with a full plate, she took time recently for some personal care—getting a new smile.
Parker's fans are familiar with her noticeable tooth gap. But a video on TikTok in February changed all that: In the video, she teasingly pulls away a mask she's wearing to reveal her smile—without the gap.
Parker and other celebrities like Madonna, Michael Strahan and David Letterman are not alone. Teeth gaps are a common smile feature, dating back millennia (even in fiction: Chaucer described the Wife of Bath as being "gap-toothed" in The Canterbury Tales).
So, what causes a tooth gap? Actually, a lot of possibilities. The muscle between the teeth (the frenum) may be overly large and pushing the teeth apart. There may be too much room on the jaw, so the teeth spread apart as they develop. It might also have resulted from tongue thrusting or late thumb sucking as a child, influencing the front teeth to develop forward and outward.
A tooth gap can be embarrassing because they're often front and center for all the world to see, but they can also cause oral health problems like complicating oral hygiene and increasing your risk for tooth decay. They can also contribute to misalignment of other teeth.
Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate a gap. One way is to move the teeth closer together with either braces or removable clear aligners. This may be the best approach if the gap is wide and it's contributing to misalignment of other teeth. You may also need surgery to alter the frenum.
You can also reduce less-pronounced gaps cosmetically with dental bonding or porcelain veneers. Bonding involves applying a type of resin material to the teeth on either side of the gap. After some sculpting to make it appear life-like, we harden the material with a curing light. The result is a durable, tooth-like appearance that closes the gap.
A veneer is a thin wafer of porcelain, custom-made to fit an individual patient's tooth. Bonded to the front of teeth, veneers mask various dental flaws like chips, deformed teeth, heavy staining and, yes, mild to moderate tooth gaps. They do require removing a small amount of enamel on the teeth they cover, but the results can be stunning—completely transformed teeth without the gap.
Getting rid of a tooth gap can be a wise move, both for your smile and your health. You may or may not take to social media to show it off like Nina Parker, but you can feel confident to show the world your new, perfect smile.
If you would like more information about treating teeth gaps and other dental flaws, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Space Between Front Teeth.”
Wearing braces can ultimately give you a healthier and more attractive smile. In the short-term, though, your gums in particular may be in for a rough ride.
While we're all susceptible to gum disease, braces wearers are more likely to encounter it. This stems from two related factors: the difficulty braces pose to oral hygiene; and the potential irritation of soft tissues by the braces themselves.
The main cause for any form of gum disease is dental plaque, a thin bacterial film that accumulates on teeth. Removing plaque through brushing and flossing greatly reduces the risk of any dental disease. But braces wires and brackets make it difficult to brush and floss—as a result, some plaque deposits may escape cleaning, which makes a gum infection more likely.
To exacerbate this, braces hardware can irritate the gums and cause swelling and tissue overgrowth, also known as hyperplasia. The one-two punch of ineffective hygiene with hyperplasia are why braces wearers have a higher incidence of gum problems compared to the general population.
To guard against this, patients with braces need to be extra vigilant about keeping their teeth and gums clean of plaque. It may be helpful in this regard to use specialized tools like interproximal brushes with narrower bristle heads that are easier to maneuver around braces.
And rather than using traditional flossing thread, orthodontic patients may find it easier and more effective to use pre-loaded flossing picks or an entirely different method called oral irrigation. The latter involves a handheld wand that directs a stream of pulsating water between teeth to loosen and flush away plaque.
It's also important for patients to see their dentist as soon as possible for any gum swelling, bleeding or pain. The dentist can determine if it relates to gum disease, hyperplasia or a combination of both, and recommend treatment. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to remove the braces until the gums heal, so catching and treating any gum problem early is a priority.
Regardless of the risk for gum disease, orthodontic treatment is still well worth the investment in your health and appearance. Practicing effective oral hygiene and keeping a watchful eye on your gums will help further lower that risk.
If you would like more information on oral care during orthodontic treatment, 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 “Gum Swelling During Orthodontics.”
Here in the Western Hemisphere, sunlight hours steadily shrink day by day as we approach December 21st. This shortest day of the year marks the winter solstice and the official start of its namesake season. Love it or hate it, winter can have an impact on your health—including your teeth and gums.
Fortunately, winter doesn't sneak up on you—you can see it coming as the days wane. And, knowing what's up ahead gives you time to get yourself—and your mouth—ready. Here, then, are 3 things to prepare for during the winter months to protect your oral health.
Holiday eating. Winter starts off nicely enough with a bevy of festivities. But that could also mean you're eating more carbohydrates—particularly refined sugar—that feed the bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum disease. To lessen your chances of dental disease, exercise moderation while eating sweets and other holiday goodies. And, don't neglect your daily brushing and flossing routine.
Winter weather. Winter's chill could trigger some unpleasant oral experiences. If you suffer from tooth sensitivity, for instance, colder temperatures can worsen your symptoms. Harsh and windy conditions also make you more susceptible to chapped lips. For the former, be sure you're using a toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth. For the latter, apply lip salve to your lips that offers sun protection (SPF+) while you're outside.
Cold sores. You may be more apt to get sick during winter. That's because shorter days and more of your skin covered against the cold means you may absorb less Vitamin D from sunlight, leading to a weakened immune system. In addition to infections like colds and flu, this might also make you more susceptible to cold sores forming around your lips and mouth. If you feel a sore coming on, be sure to keep the area clean and apply an appropriate topical antibiotic cream to curtail any infection.
Winter also signals the beginning of a new year—the perfect time to get back on track with your dental care. If you haven't done so already, schedule a visit with your dentist for a cleaning and a checkup. By following these guidelines, you're sure to sail through the frigid winter months toward a brighter spring.
If you would like more information about dental care throughout the year, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Bitter Truth About Sugar.”
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.”
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