Dental Arts of Wyomissing Blog
According to the CDC, three out of one hundred infants born each year in the U.S. have a birth defect. A fair percentage of these abnormalities involve the mouth, teeth or gums.
Fortunately, though, we often have a solution for even the most serious of these oral abnormalities. In recognition of National Birth Defects Awareness Month in January, here are 5 common birth or genetic defects that affect oral health and what we can do about them.
Orofacial clefts. This birth defect occurs when the tissues of the upper lip, face or palate don't knit together during pregnancy, leaving a noticeable gap or "cleft." Clefts not only disrupt a baby's appearance, but they can also interfere with their ability to nurse or even breathe. Modern surgical procedures, however, are often effective in restoring normal appearance and function.
Missing teeth. One in five people have at least one missing tooth that failed to develop, skewing their smile and possibly creating a problem bite. But there are ways to compensate for these missing teeth, depending on their type and normal location. The most common way is to move any teeth that have invaded the missing tooth space back to their proper position, and then installing an implant to replace the missing tooth.
Weak enamel. Enamel hypoplasia, a genetic disorder prevalent among children with Down, Treacher-Collins or Turner syndromes, occurs when adequate tooth enamel fails to develop. As a result, children with this condition have a heightened risk for tooth decay. Brushing and flossing daily, as well as applied sealants and fluoride treatments to protect and strengthen the weakened enamel, help minimize the threat of decay.
Jaw abnormalities. A child's genetics can also influence their jaw development, which in turn may eventually affect their bite. A narrower than normal upper jaw, for example, may not allow enough space for later teeth coming in, causing them to erupt out of position. We may be able to address this situation if caught early enough with a device known as a palatal expander that widens the jaw as it grows.
Gum thickness. We inherit gum tissue thickness from our parents. If your gums are on the thinner side, you're more likely to encounter problems like sensitivity to cold (as what might occur while eating ice cream) or a higher risk of gum disease. It's important, then, that anyone with thin gum tissues keep an eye on their gum health, and see a dentist regularly for checkups.
The best outcome for many of these genetic traits and defects is to diagnose and initiate treatment as early as possible. Starting regular dental care by age one is the best way to stay ahead of a birth-related dental issue.
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.”
Know how to get the better of an age-guesser at the carnival? Smile! A recent study found that people tend to underestimate a person's age if they're smiling.
If true, smiling—naturally associated with youthfulness—might help you look younger than you are. Unfortunately, many older people smile less, self-conscious about the effects of aging on their teeth and gums. Their smile doesn't have the same zing as when they were younger.
If that's how you feel about your smile, a cosmetic dentist can help. Here are 3 common age-related problems a skilled dentist can help you improve.
Discoloration. After decades of eating, drinking and possibly smoking, teeth enamel can yellow and dull. But there are ways to brighten discolored teeth. One simple measure is to undergo teeth whitening with a bleaching solution. On a more permanent note, bonding tooth-colored materials, porcelain veneers or life-like dental crowns to teeth can mask stains and other imperfections.
Wearing. Speaking of all those meals, you can expect some teeth wearing later in life that makes them look shorter, and their shape and edges sharper rather than softer and rounded like a youthful smile. Dentists can improve the appearance of worn teeth by reshaping and contouring them to soften harsh edges. A procedure called crown lengthening can reposition the gums to display more of the teeth. Veneers or crowns can also transform the appearance of severely worn teeth.
Receding gums. There's also a contrasting gum problem. What some call "getting long in the tooth," The teeth look longer because the gums have receded from their normal coverage. This is often caused by gum disease, which older people encounter more than other age groups. After treating the infection, the gums may need help regaining their former position by grafting donor tissue to the area to encourage regrowth.
The effects of aging on teeth and gums are quite common, but you don't have to live with them. With a few appropriate techniques and procedures, your dentist can bring back the smile you once had—or one even better.
If you would like more information on maintaining a youthful smile, 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 Your Dentist Can Help You Look Younger.”
We all experience that unpleasant "cotton-mouth" feeling now and again. But what if it happens all the time? Chronic dry mouth is more than unpleasant—it could be a medical condition that threatens your oral health.
Chronic dry mouth is a sign you don't have enough saliva present. That's a problem because we need saliva to keep our teeth and gums healthy by neutralizing the oral acid that erodes tooth enamel. Saliva also supplies antibodies to fight infection.
A saliva deficiency could be the result of lifestyle habits like drinking alcohol or smoking, metabolic diseases or treatments like chemotherapy or radiation. More commonly, though, it's a side effect from a medication you're taking.
Given the heightened risk it causes to your teeth and gums, what can you do to alleviate chronic dry mouth?
Review your medications. If you're taking prescribed medications, talk with your pharmacist or doctor about possible oral side effects associated with any of them. If so, it may be possible to switch to an alternative medication without the dry mouth side effect.
Don't use tobacco. Regardless of whether you smoke, dip or chew, tobacco use can interfere with saliva production. Kicking the habit not only improves saliva flow, it may further reduce your risk for oral diseases, especially oral cancer.
Drink more water. Saliva is mainly composed of water—so, be sure your body has plenty of it to facilitate saliva production. It's a good idea to sip extra water throughout the day, and especially before and after you take medication.
Practice oral hygiene. As a general rule, brushing and flossing every day is pivotal in preventing dental disease—but it's especially important with dry mouth. Be sure, then, to brush twice and floss once every day. You should also see your dentist at least every six months for dental cleanings and checkups.
Chronic dry mouth could be setting you up for future dental disease. But taking steps to alleviate it while practicing daily dental care could help you avoid that unhappy outcome.
If you would like more information on alleviating chronic dry mouth, 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 “10 Tips for Dealing With Dry Mouth.”
If you're of a certain age, there's a good chance you've had your third molars—wisdom teeth—removed. At one time, extracting these particular teeth was a common practice, even if they hadn't shown any signs or symptoms of disease or dysfunction. But now, if you have a son or daughter coming of age, your dentist may recommend leaving theirs right where they are.
So, what's changed?
Wisdom teeth have longed been viewed as problematic. As the last of the permanent teeth, they often erupt on a jaw already crowded with other teeth. This can cause them to come in out of position—or not at all, remaining partially or totally submerged (impacted) beneath the gums.
Misaligned teeth are more difficult to keep clean of bacterial plaque, which in turn raises the risk of tooth decay or gum disease. Impacted teeth can put pressure on the roots of neighboring teeth, which further increases the risk for disease or bite problems.
To avoid these common problems associated with wisdom teeth, dentists often remove them as a preemptive measure. Given their size and possible root complexity, this is no small matter: Removing them usually requires oral surgery, making wisdom teeth extraction one of the top oral surgical procedures performed each year.
Today, however, many dentists are taking a more nuanced approach to wisdom teeth. While they still recommend removal for those displaying signs of disease or other problems, they may advise leaving them in place if the teeth are healthy, not interfering with their neighbors, and not affecting bite development.
That's not necessarily a final decision, especially with younger patients. The dentist will continue to monitor the wisdom teeth for any emerging disease or problems, and may put extraction back on the table if the situation merits it.
The key is to consider each patient and their dental needs regarding wisdom teeth on an individual basis. If warranted, removing the wisdom teeth may still be warranted if will help prevent disease, keep bite development on track and optimize oral health overall.
If you would like more information on wisdom 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 “Wisdom Teeth: Coming of Age May Come With a Dilemma.”
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