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By Browell & Murphy
February 09, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: thumb sucking  
LateThumb-SuckingCouldCauseBiteProblems

Of the many concerns pediatric healthcare providers hear from parents, thumb-sucking is definitely on the short list. Such a worry isn't totally unwarranted—persistent thumb-sucking could influence poor bite formation.

But if you have an infant or toddler who can't seem to keep their thumb out of their mouth, there's no need to panic—yet. Thumb-sucking is a nearly universal habit among young children, but the vast majority won't suffer any long-term harm from it.

That being said, though, it can become a problem if the habit continues on into late childhood, especially as permanent teeth begin to come in. That's because of the habit's relationship with the transition that occurs in child's swallowing patterns.

Babies initially thrust their tongue forward as they swallow, which helps them maintain a seal on the breast or bottle. This causes the jaws to remain partially open and not completely shut together, what's known as an open bite. Later, when weaning off milk for solid food, the pattern will change as the child begins moving the tongue down and away as they swallow. This in turn allows the jaws to completely shut.

Thumb-sucking often coincides with the initial infant swallowing pattern, and it usually fades about the time the child is moving into the more adult pattern. Persistent thumb-sucking, however, interferes with that process, essentially extending the open bite longer than normal, which in turn creates the conditions for poor bite development. Thumb-sucking can also put undue upward pressure on the front teeth, which could disrupt their alignment.

If thumb-sucking causes these conditions to develop, a child could eventually need extensive orthodontic treatment later in childhood or adolescence to correct their bite problems. The better course, though, is to avoid this by encouraging your child to end their finger-sucking habit, preferably by the age of 3.

It was common in years past to coat a child's thumb with something spicy that although not harmful was definitely not pleasant to taste. Today, most care providers recommend a more positive approach like offering praise or rewards to a child when they avoid sucking their thumb.

It may take time, but persistence and patience can win out. And, the biggest winner in ending thumb-sucking will be the child's long-term oral health.

If you would like more information on the dental effects of thumb-sucking, 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 Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite.”

YouCanMakeCosmeticDentalChangesWhileStillKeepingYourUniqueSmile

According to Dr. Suess, "Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You." Indeed, you are different from everyone else on the planet. Your fingerprints, your DNA, even the shape of your outer ear, are all unique to you. And, in a society that pressures all of us to be alike, it's good to be reminded from time to time that it's okay to be different—including how your smile looks.

In fact, the thought has such a nice ring to it that some folks designate January as "It's OK to be Different Month," a good time to celebrate all the many ways we're unique from one another—and even in ways that might be considered imperfections.

For example, in terms of smiles, some people have a slight gap between their front teeth. Technically, it's a dental defect, and we can usually correct it with veneers or orthodontics. But a lot of people, including celebrities like Michael Strahan and Madonna, want to keep their gap—they consider it part of their personality, something that makes them, them.

The same could be said for other smile "quirks" like moderate dental misalignments (crooked teeth) or color variations—even a chipped tooth. If you consider it a comfortable part of who you are, then you do you, boo.

On the other hand, if there's something about your smile that you feel detracts from your appearance, you shouldn't have to live with it. And, fortunately, you don't.

Chipped tooth? Composite bonding could make it whole again. Misaligned teeth? Braces or clear aligners can straighten your smile. Missing teeth? You have numerous tooth-replacement options, with durable and life-like dental implants far and away the reigning champ of restorations.

More importantly, we can ensure that any cosmetic improvements you undergo enhance your uniqueness rather than diminish it. For example, we can fine-tune teeth whitening of dull and dingy teeth to achieve the level of brightness with which you're most comfortable—be it subtly natural or Hollywood dazzling.

The bottom line is that you can certainly undergo a complete smile makeover that radically transforms your appearance. Or, you can simply receive a few light cosmetic touches to make the smile you already like even better.

It's your decision—and it all begins with an exam to assess your current dental situation, followed by a discussion of your options. From there, you can choose just how much you want to change about your "Youer than you" smile.

If you would like more information about creating your own unique smile, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cosmetic Dentistry.”

By Browell & Murphy
January 20, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
EnjoyThatNibbleofCheese-ItsAlsoBenefittingYourOralHealth

Mystery writer Avery Aames once said, "Life is great. Cheese makes it better." Billions of people around the world would tend to agree. Humanity has been having a collective love affair with curdled milk for around 8,000 years. And, why not: Cheese is not only exquisitely delicious, it's also good for you—especially for your teeth.

No wonder, then, that "turophiles" have a day of celebration all to themselves—National Cheese Lovers Day on January 20th. In honor of the day cheese aficionados would definitely make a national holiday, let's take a closer look at this delectable food, and why eating it could do a world of good for your dental health.

As a dairy food, cheese contains a plethora of vitamins and minerals, many of which specifically benefit dental health. Every bite of velvety Gouda or pungent Limburger contains minerals like calcium and phosphate, which—along with the compound casein phosphate—work together to strengthen teeth and bones.

Cheese also helps tooth enamel defend against its one true nemesis, oral acid. Prolonged contact with acid softens the mineral content in enamel and may eventually cause it to erode. Without an ample layer of enamel, teeth are sitting ducks for tooth decay. A nibble of cheese, on the other hand, can quickly raise your mouth's pH out of the acidic danger zone. Cheese also stimulates saliva, the mouth's natural acid neutralizer.

Because of these qualities, cheese is a good alternative to carbohydrate-based snacks and foods, at home or on the go. Carbs, particularly sugar, provide oral bacteria a ready food supply, which enables them to multiply rapidly. As a result, the opportunity for gum infection also increases.

Bacteria also generate a digestive by-product, which we've already highlighted—acid. So, when oral bacterial populations rise, so do acid levels, increasing the threat to tooth enamel. By substituting cheese for sweets, you'll help limit bacterial growth and these potential consequences.

You may get some of the same effect if you also add cheese to a carbohydrate-laden meal or, as is common with the French, eat it as dessert afterwards. Often a tasty complement to wine or fruit, cheese could help blunt the effect of these carbohydrates within your mouth.

In a world where much of what we like to eat doesn't promote our health, cheese is the notable exception. And our enjoyment of this perennial food is all the more delightful, knowing it's also strengthening and protecting our oral health.

If you would like more information about the role of nutrition in oral health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nutrition & Oral Health.”

MikeTysonThePrizefighterPrizesHisUniqueSmile

Mike Tyson made a splash when he faced off against sharks during the Discovery Channel's Shark Week 2020. But there's bigger news for fans of the former undisputed world heavyweight champion: After a 15-year absence, he will enter the ring again for two exhibition matches in the Fall. However, it's not just Tyson's boxing action that made news during his 20-year career. His teeth have also gotten their fair share of press.

Tyson used to be known for two distinctive gold-capped teeth in the front left side of his mouth. He made headlines when he lost one of the shiny caps—not from a blow by a fellow pugilist but from being headbutted by his pet tiger as Tyson leaned in for a kiss. Tyson's teeth again garnered attention when he had his recognizable gold caps replaced with tooth-colored restorations. But the world champion may be best known, dentally at least, for his trademark tooth gap, or “diastema” in dentist-speak. Several years ago, he had the gap closed in a dental makeover, but he soon regretted the move. After all, the gap was a signature look for him, so he had it put back in.

That's one thing about cosmetic dentistry: With today's advanced technology and techniques, you can choose a dental makeover to suit your individual taste and personality.

An obvious example is teeth whitening. This common cosmetic treatment is not a one-size-fits-all option. You can choose whether you want eye-catching Hollywood white or a more natural shade.

If your teeth have chips or other small imperfections, bonding may be the solution for you. In dental bonding, tooth-colored material is placed on your tooth in layers and then hardened with a special light. The material is matched to your other teeth so the repaired tooth fits right in. This procedure can usually be done in just one office visit.

For moderate flaws or severe discoloration, porcelain veneers can dramatically improve your appearance. These thin, tooth-colored shells cover the front surface of the tooth—the side that shows when you smile. Veneers are custom-crafted for the ideal individualized look.

Dental crowns can restore single teeth or replace missing teeth as part of a dental bridge. Again, they are manufactured to your specifications. With restorations like crowns and veneers, the smallest detail can be replicated to fit in with your natural teeth—even down to the ridges on the tooth's surface.

And if, like Mike Tyson, you have a gap between your teeth that makes your smile unique, there's no reason to give that up if you opt for a smile makeover. Whether you would like a small cosmetic enhancement or are looking for a more dramatic transformation, we can work with you to devise a treatment plan that is right for you.

If you would like more information about smile-enhancing dental treatments, please contact us or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cosmetic Dentistry: A Time for Change.”

By Browell & Murphy
December 31, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gum disease  
TroublingDataSaysSmokingMarijuanaCouldWorsenGumDisease

It seems with each new election cycle another U.S. state legalizes marijuana use. It remains a flashpoint issue that intersects politics, law and morality, but there's another aspect that should also be considered—the health ramifications of using marijuana.

From an oral health perspective, it doesn't look good. According to one study published in the Journal of Periodontology a few years ago, there may be a troubling connection between marijuana use and periodontal (gum) disease.

Gum disease is a common bacterial infection triggered by dental plaque, a thin biofilm on tooth surfaces. As the infection advances, the gum tissues become more inflamed and lose their attachment to teeth. This often results in widening gaps or "pockets" between the teeth and gums filled with infection. The deeper a periodontal pocket, the greater the concern for a tooth's health and survivability.

According to the study, researchers with Columbia University's College of Dental Medicine reviewed data collected from nearly 2,000 adults, a quarter of which used marijuana at least once a month. They found the marijuana users had about 30 individual pocket sites on average around their teeth with a depth of at least 4 millimeters. Non-users, by contrast, only averaged about 22 sites.

The users also had higher incidences of even deeper pockets in contrast to non-users. The former group averaged nearly 25 sites greater than 6 millimeters in depth; non-users, just over 19. Across the data, marijuana users appeared to fare worse with the effects of gum disease than those who didn't use.

As concerning as these findings appear, we can't say that marijuana use singlehandedly causes gum disease. The condition has several contributing risk factors: diet, genetics, and, most important of all, how well a person manages daily plaque removal, the main driver for gum disease, through brushing and flossing.

Still, the data so far seems to indicate using marijuana can make gum disease worse. Further studies will be needed to fully test this hypothesis. In the meantime, anyone using marijuana should consider the possible consequences to their oral health.

If you would like more information on marijuana and oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.





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