Most parents well remember the day they brought their new baby home from the hospital. And then—in what seems like the blink of an eye—that same child is heading out the door to go on their own. "Empty nest" parents can easily regret not having more time to help their children get a solid handle on life.
With what little time you do have, it comes down to priorities—focusing on those things that are most important for their future well-being. Health, of course, is a big part of that—and oral health in particular.
In fact, the state of their teeth and gums could have a big impact on the rest of their health as they get older. That's why it's crucial to foster good dental care and reinforce tooth-friendly habits during their childhood years. Here's how.
Practice daily hygiene. A lifetime of great teeth and gums depends on a continual, daily habit of brushing and flossing. One of the best gifts you can give your child is to teach them how to properly brush and floss.
Start dental visits early. Regular dental visits support daily hygiene, and provide an early warning system for possible dental disease. Starting visits by their first birthday may also help a child avoid anxiety, making it more likely they'll continue the practice in adulthood.
Give their teeth a healthy head start. Losing even a primary tooth to decay could affect their future dental health. And despite diligence about dental care, some children may still be prone to decay. Give your child an added boost with topical fluoride or sealants to help prevent the buildup of dental plaque.
Practice what you preach. Children often do what they see their parents doing. If you're making dental care a priority—brushing and flossing every day and visiting the dentist at least twice a year—and with a positive attitude, your kids are more likely to follow your lead.
There's so much you want to instill in your children to better ensure they'll have a happy and prosperous life. Make sure these dental care tips are on your short list.
If you would like more information on dental care for kids, 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 “Taking the Stress Out of Dentistry for Kids.”
Although we have more replacement options for missing teeth than our forebears of a century ago, people who've lost all their teeth overwhelmingly choose dentures, a restoration that would have been quite familiar to past generations. And for good reason! Dentures have a long history of effectively restoring dental form and function.
Even so, dentures do have their weaknesses, and one in particular—they can't stop bone loss, a common occurrence after losing teeth. The forces we generate when we chew stimulate the bone in the jaw to produce new cells after older cells die off. The stimulation ends, however, where teeth go missing, which can cause replacement growth of bone to significantly lag behind and create a deficit in the bone.
What's worse, dentures may even accelerate further bone damage. The pressure they exert resting on the gums irritate the bony ridges beneath, resulting in more bone loss. The dentures' once tight fit may then become overly loose, making them unstable and uncomfortable to wear, and in need of repair or replacement.
There is a way, though, to address this weakness with dentures through dental implants. By strategically placing a few implants to support either a removable denture (overdenture) or a fixed denture, we may actually be able to slow or stop further bone loss.
As few as 3 implants might be needed to support an upper denture, which connects to them through special fittings, or perhaps only 2 for a lower denture. A fixed denture that's permanently affixed to the implants may require 4 to 6 for adequate support.
With the dentures' support shifted to the implants rather than the gums, it's obvious how these hybrid teeth replacements could be more secure. But what can they do to deter bone loss?
Implants are essentially a titanium metal post imbedded in the jawbone. Bone naturally attracts to titanium, and will readily grow and adhere to its metal surface. Besides creating a durable bond, the relationship between implant and bone can generate new bone growth even in areas of previous loss.
An implant-supported denture can feel more secure in your mouth. More importantly, it might help you avoid further bone loss.
If you would like more information on implant-supported dentures or bridges, 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 “Overdentures & Fixed Dentures.”
If it seems like your teeth have gotten longer, it's not likely they've magically grown. The changed appearance, often accompanied by tooth sensitivity, may mean you have gum recession—the gums have actually shrunk back or receded from the teeth.
Ordinarily, the gums cover the teeth to the edge of the crown enamel, but if their attachment to the teeth weakens, the gums can shrink back, exposing the tooth below the crown near the roots. Although recession can happen because of overzealous brushing or other forms of trauma, the most common cause is periodontal (gum) disease.
Gum disease usually begins as a bacterial infection in the tissues around the gum line, usually triggered by a thin film of bacteria and food particles on tooth surfaces called dental plaque. Unfortunately, the infection rarely stays there, but can quickly spread deeper into the gums and eventually impact the roots and supporting bone in the jaw. The infection also weakens the gums' attachment to teeth, resulting in recession.
While your smile can suffer from gum recession, that may be the least of your problems. Receded gums expose portions of a tooth that depend on gum coverage for protection against disease. Gum coverage also muffles sensations in these areas of the tooth, so that without it affected areas can experience a sharp, painful response to sudden hot or cold temperatures.
Fortunately, you may be able to avoid recession if you take steps to minimize your risk of gum disease. Your chances of an infection go down significantly if you gently brush and floss daily to remove dental plaque and you see your dentist regularly for dental cleanings.
If you do develop a gum infection, it's crucial to have it treated as early as possible. A mild occurrence of gum recession might even reverse on its own after comprehensive treatment (more advanced recession can require grafting surgery to encourage regeneration). Be on the lookout, then, for signs of gum disease—swollen, reddened or bleeding gums—and see your dentist as soon as possible if you do.
Protecting your teeth and gums can help you avoid gum recession. And should you experience recession, addressing it as soon as possible may help you regain normal gum coverage.
If you would like more information on gum protection and care, 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 “Gum Recession.”
Which celebrity has the most attractive smile? You might think the answer is purely subjective. What strikes you as the fairest may fall flat with someone else.
A dental group attempted to answer the question objectively by measuring the size and alignment of celebrities' teeth on a scale based on the "golden ratio." Often used in fields like art or architecture, the golden ratio (1.618 in decimal form) is universally considered the aesthetically ideal proportion for object sizes, and in relation to other objects—in this case, teeth.
The group applied the ratio to various aspects of individual celebrities' smiles using a pre-determined grading scale. And, their winner: actress Ellen Pompeo, scoring 5.91 out of 10 for overall attractiveness. She was closely followed by Gal Gadot, Melissa McCarthy, and Scarlett Johansson, respectively.
Not to be outdone, another group chose a different method to identify the top smile among the world's royalty by analyzing online search data for the most "Googled" royal smile. The winner: Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge and wife of Prince William, with an astounding 36,000 average searches each year. Her sister-in-law, Meghan Markle, came in a distant second.
Although you may not warm to these purportedly objective approaches to smile beauty, you'll have to agree the winners do have beautiful smiles. And, so do many others in the celebrity world where an attractive smile is the rule, not the exception. And while some celebrity smiles come naturally, quite a few have overcome dental flaws by cosmetically enhancing what nature gave them.
The good news, though, is that a beautiful smile isn't the exclusive domain of the rich and famous. Anyone can improve their dental appearance, and oftentimes affordably.
For example, restoring the teeth's original shine and luster can do wonders for a smile. Daily hygiene and regular dental cleanings help reduce staining. And for a truly bright smile, a professional teeth whitening can give you just the right amount of shine you desire.
You may be able to overcome chips, cracks, or similar defects with dental bonding, the application of dental material to the teeth to make them flawless. For more extensive defects, including slight gaps, porcelain veneers bonded directly to the tooth face can hide those defects from view.
Is your smile crooked? You can straighten it with braces or removable clear aligners—and at any age, so long as you and your teeth are reasonably healthy. Orthodontics also improves your dental health as well as your appearance.
These and many other cosmetic techniques can turn a lackluster smile into a winner. No objective test needed—one look in the mirror will leave you happy and satisfied.
In the last few years, energy drinks have begun to offer strong competition to traditional "pick-me-up" drinks like tea or coffee. But while the proponents of energy drinks say they're not harmful, the jury's still out on their long-term health effects.
With that said, however, we may be closer to a definitive answer regarding oral health—and it's not good. The evidence from some recent studies doesn't favor a good relationship between energy drinks and your teeth.
For one, many energy drinks contain added sugar, which is a primary food source for the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease. Increased bacteria also increase your chances of dental disease.
Most energy drinks also contain high levels of acid, which can damage the enamel and open the door to advanced tooth decay. The danger is especially high when the mouth's overall pH falls below 5.5. Energy drinks and their close cousins, sports drinks, typically have a pH of 3.05 and 2.91, respectively, which is well within the danger zone for enamel.
A research group recently put the acidity of both types of beverages to the test. The researchers submerged samples of enamel into different brands of beverages four times a day for five days, to simulate a person consuming four drinks a day. Afterward, they examined the samples and found that those subjected to energy drinks lost an average 3.1 % of their volume, with sports drinks faring only a little better at 1.5%.
Although more research needs to be done, these preliminary results support a more restrained use of energy drinks. If you do consume these beverages, observing the following guidelines could help limit any damage to your teeth.
- Limit drinking to mealtimes—eating food stimulates saliva production, which helps neutralize acid;
- After drinking, rinse out your mouth with water—because of its neutral pH, water can help dilute concentrated acid in the mouth;
- Wait an hour to brush to give saliva a chance to remineralize enamel—brushing before then could cause microscopic bits of softened enamel to slough off.
There's one other alternative—abstain from energy drinks altogether. In the long run, that may turn out to be the best choice for protecting your oral health.
If you would like more information on the effects of sports or energy drinks on 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 “Think Before You Drink.”
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