Dental Arts of Wyomissing Blog
Posts for: January, 2022
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.”