Teeth are naturally strong and durable — if we can prevent or control dental disease like tooth decay or gum disease, they can last a lifetime. Still, teeth do wear gradually as we age, a fact we must factor into our dental care as we grow older.
Sometimes, though, the wear rate can accelerate and lead to problems much earlier — even tooth loss. There are generally four ways this abnormal wear can occur.
Tooth to tooth contact. Attrition usually results from habitual teeth grinding or clenching that are well beyond normal tooth contact. Also known as bruxism, these habits may occur unconsciously, often while you sleep. Treatments for bruxism include an occlusal guard worn to prevent tooth to tooth contact, orthodontic treatment, medication, biofeedback or psychological counseling to improve stress coping skills.
Teeth and hard material contact. Bruxism causes abrasion when our teeth regularly bite on hard materials such as pencils, nails, or bobby pins. The constant contact with these and other abrasive surfaces will cause the enamel to erode. Again, learning to cope with stress and breaking the bruxism habit will help preserve the remaining enamel.
Chronic acid. A high level of acid from foods we eat or drink can erode tooth enamel. Saliva naturally neutralizes this acid and restores the mouth to a neutral pH, usually within thirty minutes to an hour after eating. But if you’re constantly snacking on acidic foods and beverages, saliva’s buffering ability can’t keep up. To avoid this situation, refrain from constant snacking and limit acidic beverages like sodas or sports drinks to mealtimes. Extreme cases of gastric reflux disease may also disrupt your mouth’s pH — seek treatment from your medical doctor if you’re having related symptoms.
Enamel loss at the gumline. Also known as abfraction, this enamel loss is often caused by receding gums that expose more of the tooth below the enamel, which can lead to its erosion. Preventing and treating gum disease (the leading cause of receding gums) and proper oral hygiene will lower your risks of receding gums and protect tooth enamel.
If you would like more information on tooth wear, 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 and Why Teeth Wear.”
Her parents Will and Jada are Hollywood royalty, who helped her land her first acting role when she was 7. She released a hit single, “Whip My Hair,” before she had quite reached the age of 10; shortly afterward, she was signed to a record label. Yet the young singer and actress Willow Smith has at least one thing in common with plenty of ‘tweens and teens across America: She needed to wear braces to correct problems with the alignment of her teeth.
Why do braces seem to be a part of growing up for so many kids? One answer is because they work so well. Braces apply gentle pressure to the teeth through a thin, flexible wire called an archwire. Attached to the teeth with a metal or ceramic bracket, the archwire exerts a light force which causes teeth to gradually move into better positions. Sometimes, when additional force is needed, elastic bands or other appliances may be used in conjunction with braces.
Most everyone is familiar with the silvery metal “tracks” of traditional braces. But did you know that there are a number of other options too? For a more inconspicuous look, you may be able to have braces with tooth-colored ceramic brackets; then, only the thin archwire will be visible in your mouth. It’s even possible in some cases to place the metal wires and brackets on the tongue side of the teeth. With this system, called lingual braces, the orthodontic hardware is truly invisible.
What if you didn’t need metal braces at all? Some people can get good results using a system of clear plastic aligners instead of braces. The aligners are worn 23 hours a day, but can be taken off for cleaning and for important events. They work best for correcting mild or moderate alignment problems.
Still, plenty of people feel that if they’re going to wear braces, they might as well flaunt them. That’s why some types of braces are available with bands that come in different colors. When Willow’s brother Jayden wore braces, he was reported to favor red and black ones. Jayden, who is about two years older than his sister, had his braces removed just before Willow got hers put on.
So if it turns out that you need braces, remember that lots of your favorite celebrities wore them too. And keep in mind that, depending on your own situation, you may have several options to choose from.
If you would like more information about braces or orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “The Magic of Orthodontics” and “Orthodontics for the Older Adult.”
For decades, dental x-rays have helped us accurately diagnose and treat a wide array of dental diseases and conditions. But even with recent advances in digital imaging, the traditional x-ray does have one drawback: its two-dimensional view doesn’t always provide the “big picture” that a three-dimensional viewpoint can provide.
But a new type of x-ray technology can do just that: known as cone beam computed tomography (CBCT), these machines record hundreds of digital images as a cone-shaped beam of x-ray energy is projected through a device that rotates around a person’s head. A computer then assembles the images into a single three-dimensional image that can be manipulated on screen to view from various angles. Not only does this provide greater context and detail, it does so with no more radiation exposure than a standard 20-film digital full-mouth x-ray series.
While CBCT hasn’t replaced the traditional x-ray, it’s making its mark in a number of specialized areas of dentistry. The following are just a few of the ways CBCT is improving both accuracy and treatment outcomes.
Orthodontics. CBCT can provide a much more detailed view of the entire jaw; this can help us determine the best locations for realigning teeth safely and effectively.
Dental Implants. With a CBCT scan we can precisely locate nerve canals, sinuses and adjacent teeth before implant surgery to locate the best position for the implant.
TMD Treatment. To help develop the best treatment approach for alleviating the pain and dysfunction of temporo-mandibular joint disease (TMD), a CBCT scan can provide us detailed information on how the disease is affecting a patient’s joints, teeth, sinuses and airway.
Impactions. An impacted tooth can exert damaging pressure against the roots of neighboring teeth. A CBCT scan allows us to observe the impacted tooth from various vantage points to determine the best treatment approach for neighboring teeth, nerve canals and sinuses.
If you would like more information on CBCT technology, 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 “Getting the Full Picture With Cone Beam Dental Scans.”
He’s the world’s highest-paid soccer player: a forward on the Spanish club Real Madrid, and captain of the Portuguese national team. His super-toned body is featured in a series of advertisements, and he’s regularly seen with a supermodel on his arm. So would it surprise you to know that it took a bit of dental work to help Cristiano Ronaldo get a world-class smile?
You might never guess it to look at him now — but when he was 18 years old, and just starting his professional career with Manchester United in England, Ronaldo wore ceramic braces to correct a set of teeth that were quite a bit… off-sides. (As pictures from that time show, his teeth were out of alignment and had irregular spacing.) Yet in a relatively short time, his smile was completely transformed.
Ceramic braces are the treatment of choice for many sports stars and celebrities — and plenty of “regular” folks too. They work just like traditional all-metal braces, exerting a gentle force that slowly moves the teeth into better positions. But they have one major difference: They’re a good deal harder to notice.
That’s because instead of having brackets made of metal, this style of braces uses a high-tech ceramic material to attach the archwire to the teeth. The brackets blend right in with the natural shade of the tooth, so all you can see from a distance is the thin metal wire. That makes them a great orthodontic option for image-conscious celebs (like Tom Cruise and Faith Hill, who both wore them) — as well as anyone who may be concerned that traditional metal braces don’t fit in with their “look”.
In addition to ceramic braces, there are other, less-visible orthodontic treatments that can work just as well in many situations. One is lingual braces, which are similar to traditional braces — except they are applied on the tongue-side of the teeth, making them truly invisible. Another is clear aligners, a series of transparent plastic trays that are worn 22 hours a day and gradually move the teeth into more pleasing positions. What’s the best way to know which system is right for you? Come in and talk to us about your options!
Besides braces, did Cristiano Ronaldo have other cosmetic dental work (like teeth whitening) done? It’s possible, but he’s not saying exactly. Yet, as he told a Portuguese magazine, “I feel good about myself and that’s the most important thing.”
If you would like more information about ceramic braces or other orthodontic treatments, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor articles “The Magic of Orthodontics” and “Orthodontics For The Older Adult.”
While it doesn’t garner the star power of blood, saliva is still an important bodily fluid. A true multi-tasker, saliva contributes in many ways to the function and health of the body, from stronger teeth to more efficient digestion.
Here are six ways saliva helps your mouth and body function properly and stay healthy.
The mouth’s natural cleanser. Bacteria are responsible for much of the dental disease that plagues us, particularly tooth decay and gum disease. Saliva clears the mouth of food remnants, bacteria’s primary feeding source, after we eat. This leaves a cleaner mouth and fewer bacteria to cause infection.
The immune system’s partner. Saliva contains an antibody called Immunoglobulin A (IgA) that attacks disease-causing microorganisms. Along with secreting other antibacterial agents like lactoferrin and lyzozyme that curb the growth and development of bacteria, saliva serves as the body’s first line of defense against pathogens entering through the mouth.
Acid neutralizer. The optimal oral environment is a neutral pH of 7. Many of our foods and beverages, though, are highly acidic, which can raise the mouth’s acid level. The acidic environment causes the minerals in tooth enamel to soften and dissolve (a process called de-mineralization). Saliva restores the balance by neutralizing any remaining acid after we eat (a process that takes about 30 to 60 minutes).
Mineral replacer. Even under normal conditions, enamel will de-mineralize to some extent whenever the mouth becomes acidic. Saliva restores some of the enamel’s lost minerals like calcium and phosphate while it’s neutralizing acid. If fluoride is also present in saliva from fluoridated drinking water or toothpaste, it too is absorbed by the enamel making it stronger and more resistant to acid attacks.
Digestion enhancer. Saliva lubricates the mouth while we eat, making it easier for us to chew (and taste) our food. Saliva also releases the enzyme amylase as we chew to break down starches before the food enters our stomach. The end result is more efficient and comfortable digestion.
The wave of the future in diagnostics. Like blood and urine, saliva contains genetic and disease markers that could tell a physician if a patient has a certain condition. Since collecting a saliva sample is much easier than with these other bodily fluids, diagnosing disease with saliva will become more prevalent as more calibrated devices reach the market.
If you would like more information on the role of saliva in the body, 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 “Saliva.”
This website includes materials that are protected by copyright, or other proprietary rights. Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use, as defined in the copyright laws, requires the written permission of the copyright owners.