Your mouth is a lot like the Wild West — home to millions of bacteria and other microbes, some of which are definitely not “the good guys.” But your teeth are well-protected from these hostile forces and their acidic waste products: with enamel shielding the visible part of your tooth, your gums protect the parts you can’t see.
As effective as they are, though, your gums aren’t invincible: their greatest threat is periodontal (gum) disease. This bacterial infection arises from plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles accumulating on teeth due to inadequate brushing and flossing.
The infected tissues soon become inflamed (red and swollen), a natural defensive response from the immune system. The longer they’re inflamed, however, the more likely they’ll begin detaching from the teeth. The gums may eventually shrink back or recede from the teeth, often causing them to appear “longer” because more of the tooth is now exposed to view.
Gum recession doesn’t bode well for your teeth’s survival: the exposed tooth and underlying bone can become even more susceptible to infection and damage. In the end, you could lose your tooth and portions of the supporting bone.
Treatment depends on the severity of the gum recession. In mild to moderate cases, we may only need to perform the standard gum disease treatment of removing plaque and calculus from all gum and tooth surfaces (including below the gum line) with special instruments. This helps reduce the infection and allow the gums to heal and re-establish attachment with the tooth. In more advanced cases, though, the recession may be so extensive we’ll need to graft donor tissue to the area using one of a variety of surgical techniques.
Although the right treatment plan can help restore your gum health, there’s another approach that’s even better — preventing gum disease in the first place. You can reduce your disease risk by practicing daily brushing and flossing and visiting your dentist regularly or when you see symptoms like gum swelling or bleeding. Taking care of your gums won’t just save your smile — it might also save your teeth.
If you would like more information on diagnosing and treating 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 “Gum Recession.”
In November, many of us take time to reflect on what we are most thankful for—and good health is often put at the top of the list. If your teeth and gums have been trouble-free this year, congratulations! If not, here’s how to start making next year a better one for your oral health:
No Rushing When Brushing
It takes time to do a good job on the vital task of brushing your teeth. The American Dental Association recommends brushing twice each day for a full two minutes. That’s not a lot when you think about it: only 30 seconds to reach the front, back and chewing edge of every tooth in each quadrant of your mouth (upper left, upper right, lower left, lower right). Yet many people don’t regularly achieve the two-minute mark. So it’s a good idea to time yourself and see how long that actually is!
Clean In Between
Disease-causing dental plaque builds up not only on teeth, but also in between them. So it’s important to use floss or another interdental (between-the-teeth) cleaning aid. If you don’t floss, you’ll miss cleaning about a third of your tooth surfaces! Plaque left in place can harden into a deposit called calculus or tartar, which can only be removed at the dental office—not at home. When it remains on the teeth, tartar can irritate gums and promote dental disease.
Don’t Be a Stranger!
Practicing a good daily oral hygiene routine is essential for a healthy mouth, but regular dental exams and cleanings are also vital to maintaining your oral health. Routine dental visits are one of the best preventive healthcare values available. You’ll be screened for everything from cavities to oral cancer and alerted to any concerns that should be dealt with now—before they grow into bigger, more expensive problems later. So don’t be a stranger at the dental office!
Maintaining good oral health will help ensure your quality of life—today, tomorrow and throughout your life. That’s truly something to be thankful for.
If you have questions about oral health and hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor article “10 Tips for Daily Oral Care at Home.”
In real life he was a hard-charging basketball player through high school and college. In TV and the movies, he has gone head-to-head with serial killers, assorted bad guys… even mysterious paranormal forces. So would you believe that David Duchovny, who played Agent Fox Mulder in The X-Files and starred in countless other large and small-screen productions, lost his front teeth… in an elevator accident?
“I was running for the elevator at my high school when the door shut on my arm,” he explained. “The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the hospital. I had fainted, fallen on my face, and knocked out my two front teeth.” Looking at Duchovny now, you’d never know his front teeth weren’t natural. But that’s not “movie magic” — it’s the art and science of modern dentistry.
How do dentists go about replacing lost teeth with natural-looking prosthetics? Today, there are two widely used tooth replacement procedures: dental implants and bridgework. When a natural tooth can’t be saved — due to advanced decay, periodontal disease, or an accident like Duchovny’s — these methods offer good looking, fully functional replacements. So what’s the difference between the two? Essentially, it’s a matter of how the replacement teeth are supported.
With state-of-the-art dental implants, support for the replacement tooth (or teeth) comes from small titanium inserts, which are implanted directly into the bone of the jaw. In time these become fused with the bone itself, providing a solid anchorage. What’s more, they actually help prevent the bone loss that naturally occurs after tooth loss. The crowns — lifelike replacements for the visible part of the tooth — are securely attached to the implants via special connectors called abutments.
In traditional bridgework, the existing natural teeth on either side of a gap are used to support the replacement crowns that “bridge” the gap. Here’s how it works: A one-piece unit is custom-fabricated, consisting of prosthetic crowns to replace missing teeth, plus caps to cover the adjacent (abutment) teeth on each side. Those abutment teeth must be shaped so the caps can fit over them; this is done by carefully removing some of the outer tooth material. Then the whole bridge unit is securely cemented in place.
While both systems have been used successfully for decades, bridgework is now being gradually supplanted by implants. That’s because dental implants don’t have any negative impact on nearby healthy teeth, while bridgework requires that abutment teeth be shaped for crowns, and puts additional stresses on them. Dental implants also generally last far longer than bridges — the rest of your life, if given proper care. However, they are initially more expensive (though they may prove more economical in the long run), and not everyone is a candidate for the minor surgery they require.
Which method is best for you? Don’t try using paranormal powers to find out: Come in and talk to us. If you would like more information about tooth replacement, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Crowns & Bridgework,” and “Dental Implants.”
What makes a beautiful smile? The teeth, of course: bright, evenly shaped and precisely aligned with each other. But your teeth can be as perfect as can be and your smile will still appear unattractive.
The reason? Your gums show more than they should when you smile.
What's considered a gummy smile is largely a matter of perception that can vary from person to person. As a rule of thumb, though, we consider a smile “gummy” if four millimeters (mm) or more of the gums show.
Fortunately, we can minimize the gums' prominence and make your smile more attractive. But what methods we use will depend on why your gums stand out. And it's not always because of the gums themselves.
It could be your teeth didn't erupt normally during dental development. Mature crown (the visible part of the tooth) length is normally about 10 mm with a width about 75-85% of that. But an abnormal eruption could result in teeth that appear too short, which can make the gums stand out more. We can correct this with a surgical procedure called crown lengthening in which we remove excess gum tissue and, if necessary, reshape the underlying bone to expose more of the tooth crown.
Another potential cause is how far your upper lip rises when you smile. Normally the lip rises only enough to reveal about 4 mm of teeth. In some cases, though, it may rise too high and show more of the gums. We can modify lip movement in a number of ways, including Botox injections to temporarily paralyze the lip. A more permanent solution is a lip stabilization procedure. It sounds bad, but it's a fairly simple procedure to surgically reposition the muscle attachments to restrict movement.
Your gummy smile may also result from an upper jaw too long for your facial structure. We can correct this with orthognathic (“ortho” – straighten, “gnathos” – jaw) surgery. During the procedure the surgeon permanently positions the jaw further up in the skull; this will reduce the amount of teeth and gums displayed when you smile.
Discovering the true cause of your gummy smile will determine how we treat it. After a complete oral examination, we can then discuss your options to transform your smile into a more attractive one.
If you would like more information on treating gummy smiles and other cosmetic problems, 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 “Gummy Smiles.”
Watching your newborn develop into a toddler, then an elementary schooler, a teenager, and finally an adult is one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences there is. Throughout the years, you’ll note the passing of many physical milestones — including changes that involve the coming and going of primary and permanent teeth. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about children’s dental development.
When will I see my baby’s first tooth come in?
The two lower front teeth usually erupt (emerge from the gums) together, between the ages of 6 and 10 months. But your baby’s teeth may come earlier or later. Some babies are even born with teeth! You will know the first tooth is about to come in if you see signs of teething, such as irritability and a lot of drooling. The last of the 20 baby teeth to come in are the 2-year molars, so named for the age at which they erupt.
When do kids start to lose their baby teeth?
Baby teeth are generally lost in the same order in which they appeared, starting with the lower front teeth around age 6. Children will continue to lose their primary teeth until around age 12.
What makes baby teeth fall out?
Pressure from the emerging permanent tooth below the gum will cause the roots of the baby tooth to break down or “resorb” little by little. As more of the root structure disappears, the primary tooth loses its anchorage in the jawbone and falls out.
When will I know if my child needs braces?
Bite problems (malocclusions) usually become apparent when a child has a mixture of primary and permanent teeth, around age 6-8. Certain malocclusions are easier to treat while a child’s jaw is still growing, before puberty is reached. Using appliances designed for this purpose, orthodontists can actually influence the growth and development of a child’s jaw — to make more room for crowded teeth, for example. We can discuss interceptive orthodontics more fully with you at your child’s next appointment.
When do wisdom teeth come in and why do they cause problems?
Wisdom teeth (also called third molars) usually come in between the ages of 17 and 25. By that time, there may not be enough room in the jaw to accommodate them — or they may be positioned to come in at an angle instead of vertically. Either of these situations can cause them to push against the roots of a neighboring tooth and become trapped beneath the gum, which is known as impaction. An impacted wisdom tooth may lead to an infection or damage to adjacent healthy teeth. That it is why it is important for developing wisdom teeth to be monitored regularly at the dental office.
If you have additional questions about your child’s dental development, please contact us or schedule a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Losing a Baby Tooth” and “The Importance of Baby Teeth.”
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