Posts for: April, 2015
Let’s say you’re traveling to Italy to surprise your girlfriend, who is competing in an alpine ski race… and when you lower the scarf that’s covering your face, you reveal to the assembled paparazzi that one of your front teeth is missing. What will you do about this dental dilemma?
Sound far-fetched? It recently happened to one of the most recognized figures in sports — Tiger Woods. There’s still some uncertainty about exactly how this tooth was taken out: Was it a collision with a cameraman, as Woods’ agent reported… or did Woods already have some problems with the tooth, as others have speculated? We still don’t know for sure, but the big question is: What happens next?
Fortunately, contemporary dentistry offers several good solutions for the problem of missing teeth. Which one is best? It depends on each individual’s particular situation.
Let’s say that the visible part of the tooth (the crown) has been damaged by a dental trauma (such as a collision or a blow to the face), but the tooth still has healthy roots. In this case, it’s often possible to keep the roots and replace the tooth above the gum line with a crown restoration (also called a cap). Crowns are generally made to order in a dental lab, and are placed on a prepared tooth in a procedure that requires two office visits: one to prepare the tooth for restoration and to make a model of the mouth and the second to place the custom-manufactured crown and complete the restoration. However, in some cases, crowns can be made on special machinery right in the dental office, and placed during the same visit.
But what happens if the root isn’t viable — for example, if the tooth is deeply fractured, or completely knocked out and unable to be successfully re-implanted?
In that case, a dental implant is probably the best option for tooth replacement. An implant consists of a screw-like post of titanium metal that is inserted into the jawbone during a minor surgical procedure. Titanium has a unique property: It can fuse with living bone tissue, allowing it to act as a secure anchor for the replacement tooth system. The crown of the implant is similar to the one mentioned above, except that it’s made to attach to the titanium implant instead of the natural tooth.
Dental implants look, function and “feel” just like natural teeth — and with proper care, they can last a lifetime. Although they may be initially expensive, their quality and longevity makes them a good value over the long term. A less-costly alternative is traditional bridgework — but this method requires some dental work on the adjacent, healthy teeth; plus, it isn’t expected to last as long as an implant, and it may make the teeth more prone to problems down the road.
What will the acclaimed golfer do? No doubt Tiger’s dentist will help him make the right tooth-replacement decision.
If you have a gap in your grin — whatever the cause — contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation, and find out which tooth-replacement system is right for you. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dental Implant Surgery” and “Crowns & Bridgework.”
Even after decades emphasizing oral hygiene and supplemental fluoride to fight dental disease, we’re now seeing an increase in tooth decay, especially among children. What’s causing this alarming trend?
Many in both the dental and medical professions link this and other health problems to a rise in the amount and consumption of sugar added to food products. A number of years ago our annual average consumption of added sugar was about 4 pounds per person; today, it’s closer to 90 pounds.
The increase in sugar consumption can be traced to the 1970s when the food industry began adding more sugar to make processed foods stripped of oils and fats taste better. Today, 77% of the approximately 600,000 food items sold in the United States contain some form of sugar (under a variety of names).
This additional sugar, however, has produced an unintended consequence: sugar triggers the release of a brain chemical called dopamine that regulates our sense of reward when we engage in a desirable behavior. The excess dopamine creates a weak addiction to sugar, which then leads to overconsumption, contributing to our current obesity epidemic and the rise in health problems like heart disease or Type 2 diabetes. This is especially alarming among children: thirty years ago Type 2 diabetes was unheard of among children — today there are over 55,000 diagnosed pediatric cases.
For both you and your family’s general and dental health, you should consider ways to reduce your sugar intake: purchase and eat most of your food from the “outer edges” of your supermarket — meats, dairy, and fresh vegetables and fruits (which do contain the sugar fructose, but are mostly fiber that slows the liver’s processing of the sugar); limit processed foods with added sugar, and learn to recognize its inclusion in products by reading ingredients labels. You should also be wary of sweetened beverages such as sodas, sports drinks, teas or juices, and try to drink more water.
The recommended daily sugar consumption is less than six teaspoons a day (about two-thirds the amount in one can of soda). By restricting this consumption, you’ll improve your general health and reduce your risk for dental disease.
Olivia Newton-John, now in her early 60's, is still a fresh-faced picture of health — with a radiant smile to match. How does she do it? She does it with healthy habits learned from her German-born mother, Irene.
“I love greens, and as many organic vegetables as possible,” Olivia recently told Dear Doctor magazine. “From spinach to salads to beets — pretty much any and all greens!”
Olivia credits her mom with instilling her lifelong love of healthy foods. Irene used dark bread rather than white bread for sandwiches and even made her own yogurt — which she used as a topping on baked fruit for dessert.
“Growing up, my mum really taught us some great eating habits,” Olivia told the magazine. “When I was a girl in school, all of my friends would have cakes and cookies and fun foods but my mum was all about teaching us to eat healthy foods and to be very aware of what we were putting into our bodies. At the time I was annoyed about it, but looking back now I thank her for teaching me at an early age to eat healthily.”
Irene paid particular attention to her children's oral health. “My mum always made us brush and floss after every meal so, once again, like the foods we ate, she taught us early about the importance of great dental hygiene,” said Olivia, who has an older brother and sister.
As a mom herself, Olivia passed those healthy habits down to her daughter, Chloe.
“I always insisted on regular dental checkups and limited sugar, especially in soft drinks — they were never in our fridge,” she said.
Parents do play an important role in developing healthy oral habits from the very beginning, starting with proper tooth-brushing techniques. By age 2, a brushing routine should be established using a smear of fluoride toothpaste. For older toddlers, parents can use a child's size soft toothbrush with water and a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Children need help brushing until at least age 6, when they can generally take over brushing by themselves and also learn to floss.
The point of a good daily oral hygiene routine is to remove the film of bacteria that collects daily along the gum line, and in the nooks and crannies of teeth. Effective daily removal of this biofilm will do more to prevent tooth decay and promote lifelong dental health than anything else.
If you would like to learn more about preventing tooth decay or teaching your child to brush and floss correctly, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. If you would like to read Dear Doctor's entire interview with Olivia Newton-John, please see “Olivia Newton-John.” Dear Doctor also has more on “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”