Posts for: September, 2013
Because its symptoms can be easy to overlook, gum disease is sometimes called a “silent” malady. But don't underestimate this problem! Untreated periodontal disease can progress into a serious condition, possibly leading to tooth loss and even systemic (whole-body) health issues. With proper preventive measures and appropriate treatment, however, the disease can be controlled.
The root cause of periodontal disease — actually, a group of related diseases, all of which affect the tissues surrounding the teeth — is the buildup of bacterial plaque (also referred to as biofilm) around the gums. While hundreds of types of bacteria live in the mouth, only a comparatively few are thought to be harmful. But when oral hygiene (namely, brushing and flossing) is inadequate, the environment in the mouth becomes favorable to those harmful types.
The disease often begins with inflammation of the gums called gingivitis. It symptoms include bad breath, bleeding gums, and soreness, redness, or tenderness of the gum tissue. However, in some people these early warning signs are ignored, or masked by the effects of harmful habits like smoking.
Gum disease is chronic; that means, if left alone, it will worsen over time. Periodontitis, as it progresses, causes damage to the ligament that helps hold the tooth in place, as well as bone loss. This may become increasingly severe, and ultimately result in the loss of the tooth. Severe periodontitis is also associated with whole-body (systemic) inflammation, which has been linked to an increased incidence of cardiovascular diseases, like stroke and heart attack.
But there's no reason to allow gum disease to progress to this stage! Prevention — that is, regular daily brushing and flossing as well as regular dental cleanings — is a primary means of keeping this problem at bay. Plus, every time you have a regular dental checkup, your gums are examined for early signs of trouble. Of course, if you notice the symptoms of gum disease, you should come in for a check-up as soon as you can.
There are a number of effective treatments for gum disease. One of the most conservative, routine ways are those regular dental cleanings we referred to earlier, usually called scaling and root planning. Using hand-held and ultrasonic instruments, the buildup of plaque (tartar) is carefully removed, sometimes under local anesthesia. A follow-up evaluation may show that this treatment, carried out on a regular schedule, is all that's needed. Or, it may be time for a more comprehensive therapy.
If you have concerns about gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Understanding Gum (Periodontal) Disease” and “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”
If Kristi Yamaguchi's kids inherit her figure skating ability, they might just be headed for the Olympics — after all, their mom won the gold medal for figure skating in the 1992 games. When it comes to teeth, however, she wouldn't mind if they inherited her spouse's instead. “My husband [fellow Olympian turned pro hockey player Bret Hedican] never had braces,” she recently told an interviewer. “I'm hoping they get his teeth.”
When you look at the elegant skating star's pearly smile, you'd never suspect she had dental problems. In fact, Kristi had four permanent teeth extracted to relieve the crowding in her mouth. She also wore braces to correct irregularities in both upper and lower teeth. Could orthodontics work the same “magic” for your kids — or yourself?
It just might. The first step toward finding out is having an orthodontic evaluation. For kids, the right time for an initial evaluation is no later than age 7. By then, the first molars are usually present and your child's bite pattern is establishing. Even though treatment may not begin for several more years, it's helpful to know what problems may arise in your child's individual situation — and to start treating them at just the right time.
Orthodontics has progressed a great deal in the two decades since Yamaguchi's braces came off. Today, small devices called palatal expanders are often used to create more space in the mouth, as an alternative to tooth extraction. There are also many new options for orthodontic appliances, in addition to standard metal braces. These include unobtrusive tooth-colored braces and lingual braces, which are applied to the tongue side of the teeth and can't be seen. In some cases, clear plastic aligners can be used instead of braces, for a look that's almost invisible.
Adolescence is often the preferred time to do orthodontic treatment. By then, the permanent teeth have mostly come in, but there's still some growing left to do. But age isn't a factor that should stop you from getting the smile you've always wanted. About one in five orthodontic patients today is an adult — and those less-visible appliances can fit in well with the more “professional” image of an older person.
Orthodontics can't help make someone an Olympic athlete — only lots of talent and practice can do that. But it can make a big difference in a person's appearance. “Once my braces came off, it was like — Wow! That looks so much nicer,” Yamaguchi recollected. And today, the mother of two, author, and philanthropist sports the same appealing smile she had on the podium at the Albertville Olympic Games.
If you would like more information on how orthodontics could help you get the smile you've dreamed about, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Early Orthodontic Evaluation” and “The Magic of Orthodontics.”