In any given year, 4 million tweens and teens are in the process of having their teeth straightened with braces or clear aligners. It's so common we tend to consider orthodontic treatment for young people as a rite of passage into adulthood.
But it doesn't necessarily have to be that way—it might be possible to stop or at least minimize a poor bite before it fully develops. That's the goal of interceptive orthodontics—treatments that head off or “intercept” a bite problem early.
The goal isn't necessarily to reposition misaligned teeth, but to correct a problem that can lead to misalignment. Here are some examples.
A narrow jaw. A narrowly developing jaw can crowd incoming teeth out of their normal positions. For the upper jaw, though, we can take advantage of a temporary separation in the bones in the roof of the mouth (palate) with a device called a palatal expander. Placed against the palate, the expander exerts outward pressure on the teeth and jaw to widen this separation. The body fills in the gap with bone to gradually widen the jaw.
Abnormal jaw alignment. It's possible for a jaw to develop abnormally during childhood so that it extends too far beyond the other. Using a hinged device called a Herbst appliance, it's possible to interrupt this abnormal growth pattern and influence the bones and muscles of the jaw to grow in a different way.
Missing primary teeth. An important role for a primary (baby) tooth is to hold a place for the future permanent tooth. But if the primary tooth is lost too soon, other teeth can drift into the space and crowd out the intended permanent tooth. To prevent this, we can insert a space maintainer: This simple looped metal device prevents teeth from drifting and preserves the space for the permanent tooth.
Although these and other interceptive treatments are effective, some like the palatal expander do their best work within a limited age frame. To take advantage of interceptive orthodontics in a timely manner, parents should seek a bite evaluation for their child from an orthodontist around age 6. The earlier we detect a growing bite problem, the greater your chances for successful intervention.
If you would like more information on treating emerging bite problems early, 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 “Interceptive Orthodontics.”
Fans everywhere were recently saddened by the news of musical legend Eddie Van Halen's death. Co-founder and lead guitarist for the iconic rock group Van Halen, the 65-year-old superstar passed away from oral cancer.
Van Halen's rise to worldwide fame began in the 1970s with his unique guitar style and energetic performances, but behind the scenes, he struggled with his health. In 2000, he was successfully treated for tongue cancer. He remained cancer-free until 2018 when he was diagnosed with throat cancer to which he succumbed this past October.
Van Halen claimed the metal guitar picks he habitually held in his mouth caused his tongue cancer. It's more likely, though, that his heavy cigarette smoking and alcohol use had more to do with his cancers.
According to the American Cancer Society, most oral cancer patients are smokers and, as in Van Halen's case, are more likely to beat one form of oral cancer only to have another form arise in another part of the mouth. Add in heavy alcohol consumption, and the combined habits can increase the risk of oral cancer a hundredfold.
But there are ways to reduce that risk by making some important lifestyle changes. Here's how:
Quit tobacco. Giving up tobacco, whether smoked or smokeless, vastly lowers your oral cancer risk. It's not easy to kick the habit solo, but a medically supervised cessation program or support group can help.
Limit alcohol. If you drink heavily, consider giving up alcohol or limiting yourself to just one or two drinks a day. As with tobacco, it can be difficult doing it alone, so speak with a health professional for assistance.
Eat healthy. You can reduce your cancer risk by avoiding processed foods with nitrites or other known carcinogens. Instead, eat fresh fruits and vegetables with antioxidants that fight cancer. A healthy diet also boosts your overall dental and bodily health.
Practice hygiene. Keeping teeth and gums healthy also lowers oral cancer risk. Brush and floss daily to remove dental plaque, the bacterial film on teeth most responsible for dental disease. You should also visit us every six months for more thorough dental cleanings and checkups.
One last thing: Because oral cancer is often diagnosed in its advanced stages, be sure you see us if you notice any persistent sores or other abnormalities on your tongue or the inside of your mouth. An earlier diagnosis of oral cancer can vastly improve the long-term prognosis.
Although not as prevalent as other forms of cancer, oral cancer is among the deadliest with only a 60% five-year survival rate. Making these changes toward a healthier lifestyle can help you avoid this serious disease.
If you would like more information about preventing oral cancer, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “How a Routine Dental Visit Saved My Life” and “Strategies to Stop Smoking.”
This month there are hearts everywhere we look, so it's fitting that February is designated as American Heart Month. We join with the American Heart Association in the goal of spreading awareness of cardiovascular disease, the top cause of death around the world. And while we think about our heart health, let's talk about the connection between cardiovascular health and oral health.
Cardiovascular disease includes heart disease, high blood pressure and cerebrovascular disease (involving the blood vessels of the brain)—in short, diseases of the circulatory system that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Periodontal disease, in contrast, attacks the gums and other tissues that hold the teeth in place. The two conditions, however, have more in common than you might think.
Both periodontal (gum) disease and cardiovascular disease are chronic and progressive, and both are linked to inflammation. Periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease share certain inflammation markers detected in the blood that can damage blood vessels. Furthermore, specific types of oral bacteria associated with periodontal disease have been found in plaque that builds up inside of blood vessels, constricting blood flow.
People with gum disease are twice as likely to have cardiovascular disease, and studies show that having advanced gum disease worsens existing heart conditions, increases the chances of having a stroke, and raises the risk of having a first heart attack by 28%. Untreated gum disease also makes hypertension (known as “the silent killer”) worse.
However, here's some encouraging news: Intensive treatment for gum disease was shown to result in significantly lower blood pressure. So, as you think about what you can do to take care of your heart health and overall health, don't forget your gums. Here are some tips:
Maintain a dedicated oral hygiene routine. A daily oral hygiene habit that includes brushing twice a day and flossing once a day is the best thing you can do to ward off gum disease.
Visit our office for regular dental checkups. Regular dental cleanings and checkups can keep you in the best oral health. Even with daily brushing and flossing, professional cleanings are needed to remove plaque and tartar from places a toothbrush can't reach, and regular checkups allow us to detect developing problems early.
Eat for good overall health. People who consume less sugar tend to have healthier teeth and gums as well as better overall health. An “anti-inflammatory diet” that is low in sugar and other refined carbohydrates and rich in whole grains, fiber and healthy fats can reduce inflammation throughout your body—and has been shown to greatly improve gum disease.
As a former Surgeon General once wrote, “You can't have general health without oral health.” So celebrate this month of hearts by showing love to your heart and your gums.
If you have questions about how to maintain good oral health, call us or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Good Oral Health Leads to Better Health Overall.”
February is Children's Dental Health Month—the perfect time to talk about the oral health of the little ones in your family. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, one out of every five children ages 5 to 11 has at least one untreated cavity. Although this statistic may not seem terribly significant given that primary teeth fall out anyway, dental disease is a concern even for kids.
Just as with adult teeth, baby teeth are needed for eating, speaking and smiling. Besides these obvious functions, primary teeth serve a crucial role as placeholders for the corresponding permanent teeth. If they are lost early, the adult teeth could come in crooked, crowded or out of place, increasing the chances of needing complex and costly treatment later. And because the enamel on primary teeth is thinner than that of permanent teeth, baby teeth are more vulnerable to decay, which can spread quickly—both to the inside of the tooth and to neighboring teeth. Decaying teeth can cause pain, which may interfere with getting proper nutrition. In addition, children with poor dental health are more likely to miss school and are much more likely to suffer from decay in their permanent teeth.
Fortunately, many dental problems can be avoided by following a few guidelines:
Instill good oral hygiene habits in your child. Teach children to brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and, when they are old enough, to floss once a day. (A handheld flosser can make flossing easier for young ones.) Preventing dental disease through good daily habits can save a lot of trouble down the line.
Offer nutritious foods. For healthy teeth and a healthy body, encourage your child to make nutritious food choices. Instead of sugary snacks, opt for fruits, vegetables and cheese. And choose plain water instead of soda, fruit juice or sweetened beverages.
Keep up with regular checkups and cleanings. The world's health focus has been all about COVID-19 and in an effort to isolate as much as possible some parents may have put off routine dental checkups for their children. However, it is important for the dental team to monitor the health of little mouths to keep small problems from turning into bigger, potentially painful ones. When it comes to infection control, dental professionals go above and beyond the minimum requirements to protect you and your loved ones. We are committed to a higher standard, following protocols that help ensure your health and safety.
Talk with us about preventive treatments. During your child's visit, ask whether a topical fluoride treatment or dental sealants are recommended. These affordable ways to help prevent cavities can benefit many children.
The key to healthy smiles for life is to start early. A good day-to-day dental hygiene habit along with healthy food choices and regular dental checkups can set your child on the course for a lifetime of good oral health.
If you would like more information about how to maintain your child's dental health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dentistry & Oral Health for Children.”
By the time your child reaches their first birthday, they may have only a handful of primary teeth. So, should you schedule their first dental visit or wait until they're older?
Absolutely schedule it—a dental visit at age one is one of the most important steps you can take to protect and promote your child's dental health. Starting routine dental care at this early stage can help ensure they enjoy healthy teeth and gums now and in the future. Here's why.
Keeps you a step ahead of tooth decay. Children can experience a rapidly advancing form of tooth decay called early childhood caries (ECC). If not prevented—or treated promptly should it occur—ECC can quickly destroy primary teeth. If they're lost prematurely, future permanent teeth may not erupt properly. Regular dental visits can help prevent or diagnose decay before it causes major damage.
Intercepts problems before they grow. Dental problems, especially bite-related, usually appear in late childhood or early adolescence. But they can start much earlier with signs only a dentist might be able to detect. Early treatments can correct or minimize a developing bite problem, saving you and your child more extensive treatment later.
Reduces your child's dental visit anxiety. The dental office can be an unfamiliar environment for a child that can trigger anxiety. But children who start dental visits sooner rather than later are more apt to adapt and view visiting the dentist as a routine part of life. You may also want to consider a pediatric dentist who not only specializes in children's dental care and development, but may also promote a “kid-friendly” treatment environment.
Promotes the importance of dental care. Beginning regular dental visits shines the spotlight on your child's dental needs and development. As a caregiver, you can gain important insight and support from your dentist toward ensuring your child's teeth stay healthy and develop normally. As a side benefit, increased attention on your child's dental care may increase the same for your entire family.
The first years of a child's life sets the foundation of their dental health for the rest of their lives. You can help make sure that foundation is as sound as possible by beginning early dental visits.
If you would like more information on effective dental care for children, 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.”
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.