Posts for: July, 2019
Most dental problems arise from tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. But they aren't the only source of danger to your teeth—gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) could be just as damaging to your tooth enamel as dental disease.
GERD usually occurs when a ring of muscles at the top of the stomach weaken, allowing stomach acid to enter the esophagus. This resulting acid reflux can make life unpleasant and pose potential health dangers—over time it can damage the lining of the esophagus and cause ulcers and pre-cancerous cells. It can also erode tooth enamel if acid enters the mouth and raises its level of acidity.
This can be a problem because acid can soften and dissolve the mineral content of tooth enamel. This is the primary cause of tooth decay as acid produced by oral bacteria attack enamel. The more bacteria present, often thriving in dental plaque, the higher the potential levels of acid that can damage enamel. Stomach acid, which is strong enough to break down food, can cause similar harm to enamel if it causes higher than normal acidity in the mouth.
There are some things you can do to protect your teeth if you have GERD, namely manage your GERD symptoms with lifestyle changes and medication. You may need to avoid alcohol, caffeine or heavily acidic or spicy foods, all known to aggravate GERD symptoms. Quitting smoking and avoiding late night meals might also ease indigestion. And your doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription drugs to help control your acid reflux.
You can also boost your teeth's enamel health by practicing daily brushing and flossing—but not right after a reflux episode. The enamel could be softened, so brushing can potentially remove tiny particles of mineral content. Instead, rinse with water mixed with or without a little baking soda to help neutralize acid and wait about an hour—this will give saliva, the mouth's natural acid neutralizer, time to restore the mouth's normal pH level.
And be sure you're using a fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride strengthens enamel—in fact, your dentist may recommend topical fluoride applications to boost the effect.
These and other tips can help minimize the effects of GERD on your dental health. With an ounce of prevention, you can keep it from permanently damaging your teeth.
If you would like more information on managing your dental health with GERD, 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 “GERD and Oral Health.”
Your child's permanent teeth come in gradually, starting just as they begin losing their primary ("baby") teeth and not ending until late adolescence or early adulthood. That's when the third molars or "wisdom teeth" close out the process.
Because of their late arrival, wisdom teeth have a high potential for dental problems. With a greater chance of crowding or obstruction by other teeth, wisdom teeth often get stuck fully or partially below the gums and bone (impaction) or erupt out of position. In one study, 7 in 10 people between the ages of 20 and 30 will have at least one impacted wisdom tooth at some time in their lives.
It's not surprising then that wisdom teeth are among the most extracted teeth, to the tune of about 10 million per year. Besides those already diseased or causing bite problems, many are removed preemptively in an attempt to avoid future problems.
But wisdom teeth usually require surgical extraction by an oral surgeon, which is much more involved than a simple extraction by a general dentist. Given the potential consequences of surgical extraction, is it really necessary to remove a wisdom tooth not creating immediate problems?
That's not an easy question to answer because it's often difficult to predict a wisdom tooth's developmental track. Early on it can be disease-free and not causing any problems to other teeth. But as some researchers have found, one in three wisdom teeth at this stage will later develop disease or create other issues.
For many dentists, the best approach is to consider extraction on a case by case basis. Those displaying definite signs of problems are prime for removal. But where there are no signs of disease or other issues, the more prudent action may be to keep a watchful eye on their development and decide on extraction at some later date.
More than likely, your dentist will continue to have an ongoing discussion with you about the state of your child's wisdom teeth. While extraction is always an option, wisdom teeth that aren't yet a problem to dental health may be best left alone.
A lot of cosmetic dental procedures focus on how teeth look: whether they're stained, chipped or otherwise disfigured. But a true smile makeover requires looking beyond individual teeth appearance and asking if they're properly aligned. Your teeth may be beautiful in and of themselves, but they could detract from your smile if they're not straight.
Orthodontics—the dental specialty dedicated to correcting poor bites—can be just as important to your smile appearance as veneers, crowns or other restorations. Cosmetic enhancement, though, isn't an orthodontist's only priority: a poor bite can interfere with dental function and oral hygiene, so repairing it and making sure the teeth "bite" together correctly is just as important to your health.
Your first step is to undergo a comprehensive orthodontic exam. Its purpose is two-fold: to diagnose the nature of your particular bite problem; and to determine if your mouth is healthy enough to undergo the necessary treatment to correct it. From here, your orthodontist will propose a treatment plan to correct your particular bite problem.
Although a number of orthodontic appliances may be used, the most likely tools employed will be either fixed braces or removable clear aligners. Both of these use the mouth's natural ability to move teeth by applying subtle pressure on the teeth and supporting periodontal structures for a period of time.
While braces are effective, if you're an adult or teenager and nothing in your bite situation would preclude their use, you may choose clear aligners. Aligners are a sequence of plastic mouth trays that are computer-generated based on the patient's mouth impression. Patients wear the trays in succession, each slightly smaller than the previous one, until they complete the series.
People often prefer aligners over braces for a couple of reasons. Unlike fixed braces, you can take them out of your mouth for eating, cleaning or special occasions. And because they're clear, they're nearly invisible to others and so less embarrassing than metal braces.
Whichever method, you'll be under the supervision of a trained dentist or orthodontist who will monitor your progress and make treatment adjustments as necessary to keep you on course. It takes a lot of skill to make sure the bite fits together correctly. Remember, the plastic aligner is always between your teeth. Making sure your teeth come together is something a dentist must supervise or else it may not allow your teeth to fit together properly. In the end, you could have an entirely new smile that's healthier and more attractive—let's just make sure the bite is correct as well.
If you would like more information on gaining a straighter, more attractive 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 “The Magic of Orthodontics: The Original Smile Makeover.”