You can't correct a poor bite with braces or clear aligners overnight: Even the most cut-and-dried case can still require a few years to move teeth where they should be. It's a welcome relief, then, when you're finally done with braces or aligner trays.
That doesn't mean, however, that you're finished with orthodontic treatment. You now move into the next phase—protecting your new smile that took so much to gain. At least for a couple of more years you'll need to regularly wear an orthodontic retainer.
The name of this custom-made device explains its purpose: to keep or “retain” your teeth in their new, modified positions. This is necessary because the same mechanism that allows us to move teeth in the first place can work in reverse.
That mechanism centers around a tough but elastic tissue called the periodontal ligament. Although it primarily holds teeth in place, the ligament also allows for tiny, gradual tooth movement in response to mouth changes. Braces or aligner trays take advantage of this ability by exerting pressure on the teeth in the direction of intended movement. The periodontal ligament and nature do the rest.
But once we relieve the pressure when we remove the braces or aligners, a kind of “muscle memory” in the ligament can come into play, causing the teeth to move back to where they originally were. If we don't inhibit this reaction, all the time and effort put into orthodontic treatment can be lost.
Retainers, either the removable type or one fixed in place behind the teeth, gently “push” or “pull” against the teeth (depending on which type) just enough to halt any reversing movement. Initially, a patient will need to wear their retainer around the clock. After a while, wear time can be reduced to just a few hours a day, usually during sleep-time.
Most younger patients will only need to wear a retainer for a few years. Adults who undergo teeth-straightening later in life, however, may need to wear a retainer indefinitely. Even so, a few hours of wear every day is a small price to pay to protect your beautiful straightened smile.
If you would like more information on orthodontic retainers, 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 Importance of Orthodontic Retainers.”
If your dental health isn't in the best of shape, a survey conducted by the American Dental Association (ADA) says the cause is likely one of three common oral health problems. The survey asked around 15,000 people across the country what kinds of problems they had experienced with their teeth and gums, and three in particular topped the list.
Here then are the top three oral health problems according to the ADA, how they could impact your health, and what you should do about them.
Tooth pain. Nearly one-third of respondents, particularly from lower-income households and the 18-34 age range, reported having tooth pain at one time or another. Tooth pain can be an indicator of several health issues including tooth decay, fractured teeth or recessed gums. It's also a sign that you should see a dentist—left untreated, the condition causing the pain could lead to worse problems.
Biting difficulties. Problems biting or chewing came in second on the ADA survey. Difficulties chewing can be caused by a number of things like decayed, fractured or loose teeth, or if your dentures or other dental appliances aren't fitting properly. Chewing dysfunction can make it difficult to eat foods with greater nutritional value than processed foods leading to problems with your health in general.
Dry mouth. This is a chronic condition called xerostomia caused by an ongoing decrease in saliva flow. It's also the most prevalent oral health problem according to the ADA survey, and one that could spell trouble for your teeth and gums in the future. Because saliva fights bacterial infections like gum disease and helps neutralize acid, which can lead to tooth decay, chronic dry mouth increases your risk of dental disease.
If you're currently dealing with one or more of these problems, they don't have to ruin your health. If you haven't already, see your dentist for diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible: Doing so could help alleviate the problem, and prevent even more serious health issues down the road.
If you would like more information on achieving optimum dental health, 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 “Top 3 Oral Health Problems.”
The New Year: Time to put away those holiday decorations, collect tax records and—if you're a pro hockey player—get chummy with your dentist. That's right! After a disrupted 2020 season due to COVID-19, the NHL is on track to start again sometime in January. Before you know it, players will be hitting the biscuit (puck), while trying to avoid getting their chicklets (teeth) knocked out.
It's true that hockey has a roughhousing kind of reputation, which tends to lead to, among other things, chipped, fractured or knocked-out teeth. But to be fair, hockey isn't the only sport with a risk for orofacial injuries. It's not even top on the list: Of all contact sports, basketball has the highest incidence of mouth and facial trauma.
With over a half-million amateur and professional players, hockey still has its share of teeth, gum and jaw injuries. Fortunately, there's an effective way to reduce sports-related oral trauma—an athletic mouthguard.
Although there are different styles, most mouthguards are made of a soft plastic that helps cushion teeth against hard contact. You can sort most mouthguards into two categories: “boil and bite” and custom.
You can buy mouthguards in the first category online or in retail sporting goods stores, and they're relatively inexpensive. They're called “boil and bite” because they're first immersed in hot or boiling water to soften them. While the guard is still soft, the wearer places it in their mouth and bites down to create somewhat of an individual fit. On the downside, though, “boil and bite” mouthguards tend to be bulky with a fit that isn't as exact as it could be. This can make for uncomfortable wearing, which could tempt players not to wear them as often as they should. Also, because the materials are softer, they move with jaw movement and your teeth can move with them. Over time, teeth could loosen.
A custom-made mouthguard, on the other hand, is created by a dentist. We begin the process with a detailed mouth impression, which we then use to fashion the mouthguard. Custom mouthguards are more streamlined and fit better than their “boil and bite” counterparts. Because of this better fit, players may be more apt to wear them. They are more expensive, but compared to the cost of dental injury treatment, a custom mouthguard is a wise investment. For the best and most comfortable teeth, gum and mouth protection, you can't go wrong getting a custom mouthguard for the hockey players (as well as football and basketball players) in your family.
If you would like more information about athletic mouthguards, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Athletic Mouthguards: One of the Most Important Parts of Any Uniform.”
If you're thinking about getting dental implants, you may be curious about how long it might take. The answer depends on the health of your supporting bone.
Bone is an integral part of implant functionality as bone cells gradually grow and adhere to the newly placed implant to give it its characteristic strength. The implant also requires an adequate amount of bone to accurately position it for the best appearance outcome.
If the bone is sufficient and healthy, we can proceed with the surgical placement of the implant. The most common practice following surgery is to allow a few weeks for the bone integration described previously to take place before finally attaching the crown. With an alternative known as a “tooth in one day” procedure, we install a crown right after surgery, which gives you a full smile when you leave.
There's one caveat to this latter method, though—because the implant still requires bone integration, this immediate crown is temporary. It's designed to receive no pressure from biting or chewing, which could damage the still integrating implant. We'll install the permanent crown after the implant and bone have had time to fully mesh.
So, if your supporting bone is sound, the complete implant process may only take a few weeks. But what if it's not—what if you've lost bone and don't have enough to support an implant? In that case, the length of process time depends on the severity of the bone loss and if we're able to overcome it. In some cases, we can't, which means we'll need to consider a different restoration.
But it's often possible to regenerate lost bone by grafting bone material at the implant site. If the bone loss is moderate, it may take 2 to 4 months of regrowth after grafting before we can perform implant surgery. If it's more significant or there's disease damage to the socket, it may take longer, usually 4 to 6 months. It largely depends on the rate of bone regeneration.
In a nutshell, then, the health of your jaw's supporting bone has a lot to do with whether the implant process will take a few weeks or a few months. Regardless of the time, though, you'll gain the same result—new, functional teeth and a more attractive smile.
If you would like more information on dental implant restorations, 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 “Implant Timelines for Replacing Missing Teeth.”
Dental patients have amazing options for tooth replacement. Dental implants, for example, can replace the entire tooth, root and crown, giving patients a new tooth nearly as good as the old one.
Nearly—but not exact. Even implants can't match the full benefits of a natural tooth, including one in less than perfect shape. Our first goal as dentists, then, is to save a diseased tooth if at all practical before considering replacing it.
That often involves a root canal treatment to address decay threatening a tooth's interior. The procedure requires drilling into the tooth to access its innermost pulp, cleaning out the pulp and root canals, and then filling the empty spaces. Since all dentists are trained in basic root canal treatment, your general dentist may be able to perform it.
But some dental situations call for more advanced endodontics, the dental specialty for treating disease and other problems inside a tooth. So, in what situations would you see an endodontist?
When your dentist refers you. Your dentist wants you to receive the level of treatment necessary to save your tooth. After examination, they may determine your situation would be better served by the advanced training, equipment and techniques (including surgery) of an endodontist.
When your tooth has complications. Patients often need an endodontist when existing factors complicate treatment of advanced tooth decay. A patient may have dental pain that's difficult to pinpoint, requiring the diagnostic resources of an endodontist. It's also common for a tooth's root canal network to be highly intricate, and which respond better to treatment with specialized endodontic tools and techniques.
When root canal treatment fails. Most root canal treatments are successful in protecting the tooth from further infection. That said, it's still possible for a root-canaled tooth to become re-infected or develop more problems. Again, an endodontist and their “tool chest“ re-treating a root-canaled tooth may be the best option for saving it.
You also don't have to wait for a referral—you can see an endodontist if you believe they would be best to treat your decayed tooth. You can find one near you by visiting an online endodontist directory at www.aae.org/find. An endodontist may be the lifesaver your diseased tooth needs.
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