Posts for: May, 2014
When children begin losing their primary (“baby”) teeth, it’s a rite of passage — a sign that childhood is transitioning to future adulthood. And while it’s a normal part of dental development, it does bear watching for abnormalities.
Primary teeth are like deciduous tree leaves in that it’s their nature to shed and give way for new growth. They serve a purpose not only in providing children a means to bite and chew food, but also as guides for the permanent teeth that will soon erupt in their place.
As it reaches the end of its development within the jaw, the permanent tooth will begin to exert pressure on the primary tooth. This stimulates a process known as resorption where the primary’s roots begin to dissolve. This weakens its attachment to the jaw and the tooth becomes loose to the touch. At the end of this process, it doesn’t take much coaxing for the tooth to finally come out of its socket, with occasional minor bleeding and tenderness around the site. You will notice if you look at the bottom of the lost tooth that the roots have completely dissolved, leaving only a small indention.
This natural process, however, can run into complications. In their roles as permanent teeth guides, there’s a natural sequence for the loss of primary teeth; the permanent teeth develop along this sequence, which helps them erupt in the proper position. If a primary tooth is lost early and out of sequence (notably because of decay), the premature space can cause misalignment of the permanent teeth as they erupt.
That’s why it’s important for your child to have regular dental checkups, beginning sometime around their first birthday. This allows us to monitor primary tooth loss to make sure its progressing normally, as well as treat any condition such as tooth decay that could lead to premature loss. Regular checkups along with good oral hygiene practices will help ensure that the transition from primary to permanent teeth goes just as nature intended.
If you would like more information on the process of losing primary teeth in children, 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 “Losing a Baby Tooth.”
Some dental procedures that can beautify a smile — orthodontics or implants, for example — take months. Others take only minutes! Tooth contouring and reshaping is one of them. So just what is this remedy, and why would you need it?
Tooth contouring involves removing a tiny amount of enamel (the tooth’s outer covering) with a dental drill to sculpt a more pleasing shape and make the tooth fit in better with its neighbors. It is most often used on highly visible teeth that have minor yet noticeable cosmetic flaws.
For example, you may have a tiny chip in a front tooth, a slight size discrepancy among adjacent teeth, or extra-pointy canines. None of these issues are as serious as, say, a misaligned bite or a tooth that’s missing altogether — but they can be annoying nonetheless. If you find yourself staring in the mirror at any of these subtle yet distracting imperfections in your own smile, you may want to consider having us reshape a specific tooth or teeth.
Contouring can correct small chips, uneven tooth length, slight overlaps, and tooth edges that are too flat or pointy. We can also give teeth a more “feminine” or “masculine” appearance, simply by rounding or squaring the edges. Contouring also has a non-cosmetic use: It can be employed to adjust the bite so that the teeth come together more evenly. For example, if one tooth is just a little higher than the others, it might be subjected to more than its share of stress during chewing. This brings up another important point: We would not recommend tooth contouring if any bite imbalances could result from the procedure. And if we do determine that tooth contouring would not be the best way to go in your particular case, don’t worry — we can come up with a solution for any cosmetic issues that are of concern to you.
If you have any questions about tooth contouring and reshaping — or any other cosmetic dentistry procedures — please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How and Why Teeth Wear.”
When your baby’s first teeth erupt in the mouth, it’s a big step in their development. Unfortunately, you may not have much opportunity to celebrate — you’re too busy tending to your infant whose experience is anything but pleasant.
Commonly known as teething, the eruption process usually begins between six and nine months of age, although some children may begin as early as three months or as late as twelve. Not all teeth come in at the same time: it usually begins with the two lower front teeth, then the two upper front teeth, followed by the molars and then the canines (eye teeth). By age three, most children have all twenty of their primary teeth.
Each child’s teething experience is different and may vary in length of time and intensity. The usual signs are heightened irritability, biting and gnawing accompanied by gum swelling, ear rubbing, drooling and sometimes facial rashes. Babies also may have disturbed sleeping patterns and a decreased appetite. Occasionally, this discomfort can be intense.
There are some things you can do to ease this discomfort. Provide your baby a clean, chilled (not frozen) rubber teething ring, chilled pacifier or wet washcloth to gnaw on. Cold foods, like popsicles for older children can also be soothing, though you should limit sugary foods to lower the risk of tooth decay. You can also finger massage swollen gums to counteract the pressure coming from the erupting tooth, or administer pain relievers like baby acetaminophen or ibuprofen. You can use products with Benzocaine®, a numbing agent, for children two years or older — but you should never use alcohol for children of any age for inflamed gums.
Be sure to also set up a Year One dental examination around their first birthday. This is an important first step in your child’s long-term dental care, and a good opportunity to check their teething progress. And, by all means, if you have concerns about your child’s experience with teething, don’t hesitate to call our office.
Teething is a normal part of your child’s development. There’s much you can do to help make it as comfortable and pain-free as possible.
If you would like more information on teething, 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 “Teething Troubles.”
Q: What is sleep apnea, and how common is it?
A: Obstructive sleep apnea is a type of sleep-related breathing disorder (SRBD) in which the airflow to the lungs is restricted — or even cut off completely — during sleep. This condition is usually caused by the collapse of soft tissues in the back of the throat, and is potentially deadly. Sleep disorders, including SRBD, are thought to affect tens of millions of people in the United States. They have been blamed for several catastrophic accidents, including the 2014 Metro-North train crash in New York, and the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.
Q: How can I tell if I might have sleep apnea?
A: Everyone has trouble sleeping sometimes. But if you constantly snore, wake up feeling irritable, and experience sleepiness and diminished performance during the day, it may mean you suffer from this condition. After a while, SRBDs can trigger depression, confusion, memory loss, and other personality changes. Medical professionals note that a person with SRBD tends to be obese; to show enlargement of the tongue, tonsils, or uvula; to have nasal polyps or congestion; and possibly, to exhibit other signs.
Q: How is sleep apnea treated?
A: There are various treatments for sleep apnea, depending on the severity of the problem and its likely cause. These include oral appliance therapy (wearing a retainer-like device in the mouth at night); orthodontic treatment and/or oral surgery; and using a CPAP (constant positive airway pressure) machine to help facilitate breathing at night. Each has advantages and disadvantages that should be discussed with a healthcare provider who has experience in the area of sleep disorders.
Q: What does all this have to do with dentistry?
A: Dentists are, of course, extremely familiar with the anatomy of the mouth. We sometimes notice signs of potential sleep problems before they become life-threatening. What’s more, we may be able to successfully treat the problem with oral appliance therapy. We can properly fabricate, fit and adjust an oral device that helps keep your airway open at night. Because it is inexpensive, removable, and relatively comfortable, an oral appliance may be a good remedy to try before moving on to more complex treatments, such as a CPAP machine or surgery. So if you think you might have SRBD, maybe it’s time to make an appointment and talk to us about it.