Your child has had braces for a few months and making good progress with correcting a poor bite (malocclusion), but you’ve also noticed something else: his gums are becoming red and swollen.
These are symptoms of gingivitis, a periodontal (gum) disease. It’s an infection that arises when plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles, isn’t adequately removed from teeth with daily brushing and flossing. The braces increase the risk for gingivitis.
This is because the hardware — metal or plastic brackets cemented to the teeth and joined together by metal bands — makes it more difficult to reach many areas of the teeth with a brush or floss string. The plaque left behind can trigger an infection that causes inflammation (swelling) and bleeding.
To exacerbate the situation, gums don’t always take well to braces and can react by overgrowing. Wearing braces may also coincide with a teenager’s surge in hormones that can accelerate the infection. Untreated, gingivitis can develop into advanced stages of disease that may eventually cause tooth loss. The effect is also heightened as we’re orthodontically putting stress on teeth to move them.
You can stay ahead of gingivitis through extra diligence with daily hygiene, especially taking a little more time to adequately get to all tooth surfaces with your brush and floss. It may also help to switch to a motorized brush or one designed to work around braces. You can make flossing easier by using special threaders to get around the wires or a water flosser that removes plaque with a pulsating water stream.
And don’t forget regular dental visits while wearing braces: we can monitor and treat overgrowth, perform thorough dental cleanings and treat occurrences of gingivitis. In some cases you may need to visit a periodontist, a specialist in gums and supporting teeth structures, for more advanced treatment. And if the disease becomes extensive, the braces may need to be removed temporarily to treat the gums and allow them to heal.
Orthodontic treatment is important for not only creating a new smile but also improving your teeth’s function. Keeping a close eye out for gum disease will make sure it doesn’t sidetrack your efforts in gaining straighter teeth.
If you would like more information on dental care during orthodontics, 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 “Gum Swelling During Orthodontics.”
It's no secret that many of Hollywood's brightest stars didn't start out with perfectly aligned, pearly-white teeth. And these days, plenty of celebs are willing to share their stories, showing how dentists help those megawatt smiles shine. In a recent interview with W magazine, Emma Stone, the stunning 28-year-old star of critically-acclaimed films like La La Land and Birdman, explained how orthodontic appliances helped her overcome problems caused by a harmful habit: persistent thumb sucking in childhood.
“I sucked my thumb until I was 11 years old,” she admitted, mischievously adding “It's still so soothing to do it.” Although it may have been comforting, the habit spelled trouble for her bite. “The roof of my mouth is so high-pitched that I had this huge overbite,” she said. “I got this gate when I was in second grade… I had braces, and then they put a gate.”
While her technical terminology isn't quite accurate, Stone is referring to a type of appliance worn in the mouth which dentists call a “tongue crib” or “thumb/finger appliance.” The purpose of these devices is to stop children from engaging in “parafunctional habits” — that is, behaviors like thumb sucking or tongue thrusting, which are unrelated to the normal function of the mouth and can cause serious bite problems. (Other parafunctional habits include nail biting, pencil chewing and teeth grinding.)
When kids develop the habit of regularly pushing the tongue against the front teeth (tongue thrusting) or sucking on an object placed inside the mouth (thumb sucking), the behavior can cause the front teeth to be pushed out of alignment. When the top teeth move forward, the condition is commonly referred to as an overbite. In some cases a more serious situation called an “open bite” may develop, which can be difficult to correct. Here, the top and bottom front teeth do not meet or overlap when the mouth is closed; instead, a vertical gap is left in between.
Orthodontic appliances are often recommended to stop harmful oral habits from causing further misalignment. Most appliances are designed with a block (or gate) that prevents the tongue or finger from pushing on the teeth; this is what the actress mentioned. Normally, when the appliance is worn for a period of months it can be expected to modify the child's behavior. Once the habit has been broken, other appliances like traditional braces or clear aligners can be used to bring the teeth into better alignment.
But in Stone's case, things didn't go so smoothly. “I'd take the gate down and suck my thumb underneath the mouth appliance,” she admitted, “because I was totally ignoring the rule to not suck your thumb while you're trying to straighten out your teeth.” That rule-breaking ended up costing the aspiring star lots of time: she spent a total of 7 years wearing braces.
Fortunately, things worked out for the best for Emma Stone: She now has a brilliant smile and a stellar career — plus a shiny new Golden Globe award! Does your child have a thumb sucking problem or another harmful oral habit? For more information about how to correct it, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite.”
If you've undergone treatment for periodontal (gum) disease, you know how involved it can be. After several sessions of plaque and calculus (hardened plaque deposits) removal, your swollen, red gums finally begin to regain their healthy pink color.
But with gum disease, the battle may be over but not necessarily the war. If we don't remain vigilant, there's a high chance you'll experience a re-infection.
That's why periodontal maintenance (PM) is so important for gum disease patients after treatment. Plaque, the thin film of bacteria and food particles responsible for the infection, can grow again on your tooth surfaces as it did before. You'll have to practice diligent, daily brushing and flossing to curb that development.
But it's also important to keep up regular dental visits for advanced cleaning to remove hard to reach plaque and calculus. For most people that's usually twice a year, but for gum disease patients it could be up to four times a year, especially just after treatment. And there's more to these visits than cleaning.
Since our goal is to reduce the chances of re-infection as much as possible, we'll thoroughly examine your teeth, gums and any implants for signs of disease (we'll also include an oral cancer screening). We want to assess the health of your teeth and gums and to see how well you're doing hygiene-wise with plaque control.
If we find signs of gum disease, we'll discuss this with you and schedule a new round of treatment. The sooner we initiate treatment, the better your outcome. In some cases, we may perform procedures that make it easier to access and clean areas where plaque tends to build up.
Overall, we want to prevent the occurrence of any future disease and treat it as soon as possible if it re-occurs. Keeping up diligent PM will help ensure your gums continue to stay healthy.
If you're the principal caregiver for an older person, you may have already faced age-related health challenges with them. Good preventive care, however, can ease the impact of health problems. This is especially true for their teeth and gums: with your support you're loved one can have fewer dental problems and enjoy better health overall.
Here are a number of things you should focus on to protect an older person's dental health.
Hygiene difficulties. With increased risk of arthritis and similar joint problems, older people may find brushing and flossing more difficult. You can help by modifying their toothbrush handles with a tennis ball or bicycle grip for an easier hold, or switch them to an electric toothbrush. A water flosser, a device that uses a pressurized water spray to remove plaque, may also be easier for them to use than thread flossing.
Dry mouth. Xerostomia, chronic dry mouth, is more prevalent among older populations. Dry mouth can cause more than discomfort—with less acid-neutralizing saliva available in the mouth, the risk for dental diseases like tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease can soar. To improve their saliva flow, talk with their doctors about alternative medications that cause less dry mouth; and encourage your loved one to drink more water and use products that help boost saliva flow.
Dentures. If your older person wears dentures, be sure these appliances are being cleaned and maintained daily to maximize their function and reduce disease-causing bacteria. You should also have their dentures fit-tested regularly—chronic jawbone loss, something dentures can't prevent, can loosen denture fit over time. Their dentures may need to be relined or eventually replaced to ensure continuing proper fit and function.
Osteoporosis. This common disease in older people weakens bone structure. It's often treated with bisphosphonates, a class of drugs that while slowing the effects of osteoporosis can cause complications after certain dental procedures. It's a good idea, then, for an older person to undergo any needed dental work before they go on osteoporosis medication.
Keep alert also for any signs of dental disease like unusual spots on the teeth or swollen or bleeding gums. Visiting the dentist for these and regular dental cleanings, checkups and oral cancer screenings could prevent many teeth and gum problems.
If you would like more information on senior dental care, 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 “Aging & Dental Health.”
Although techniques for treating periodontal (gum) disease can vary, they all boil down to one objective: remove the bacterial plaque and calculus (hardened plaque deposits) that cause the infection. The initial treatment usually involves two techniques known as scaling and root planing.
Scaling uses hand instruments, ultrasonic equipment or a combination of both to manually remove plaque and calculus from the tooth and root surfaces. Root planing takes it a step further by minutely “shaving” infected material from the root surfaces. While more invasive techniques (including surgery) may be needed, scaling and root planing are the first line of treatment for any recent diagnosis of gum disease.
In recent years, an adaptation to these treatments has emerged using the Nd: YAG laser. The laser uses a particular crystal that’s adaptable for many different types of surgery. In the case of gum disease, it’s been found as effective as traditional methods for removing the infected linings of periodontal pockets. Voids created by detaching gum tissues as bone loss occurs, enlarge the small natural gap between the teeth and gums, which fill with pus and other infected matter. Removing the diseased lining from these pockets reduces bacteria below the gum line and speeds healing.
Periodontal laser therapy may have one advantage over traditional treatments: less tissue damage and swelling, and hence reduced post-treatment discomfort. While some research seems to confirm this, more controlled studies are needed to render a verdict on this claim.
Regardless of whether you undergo traditional scaling and root planing or a laser alternative, the aim is the same — to bring the disease under control by removing plaque and calculus and reestablishing good daily oral hygiene practices. Stopping gum disease as soon as possible will help ensure you’ll have healthy teeth and gums for a long time.
If you would like more information on treatments for periodontal (gum) disease, 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 “Lasers versus Traditional Cleanings for Treating Gum Disease.”
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