People love dental veneers—those thin, porcelain shells bonded to teeth to mask stains and blemishes. For a relatively modest price, they can vastly improve a smile.
But what if it's your teenager who needs a smile upgrade? Teens also experience dental flaws like adults—which, at their age especially, disrupt their self-image and social confidence.
So, can veneers work for teens? Technically, yes, but there's a possible snag, depending on the maturity level of their teeth.
The potential problem relates to the tooth preparation that precedes the bonding of the veneers. One option is no-prep veneers and they are a nice solution depending on the size and shape of the existing teeth. If the teeth are slight in size, no preparation is necessary. If the teeth are large, even though veneers are thin, they can still look unnaturally bulky when bonded to unprepared teeth. A dentist may need to remove some of the tooth's surface enamel before applying the veneers.
Although this alteration has little effect on an adult tooth (other than requiring a veneer or restoration from that time on), it could damage a less mature tooth and stunt its development. A younger tooth can have a larger pulp—the central tooth chamber containing blood vessels and nerves—that's closer to the enamel surface than an adult tooth.
Because of the pulp's proximity to the surface of an immature tooth, there's a risk of damaging it during the tooth preparation phase for veneers. If that happens, the tooth may need additional treatment to save it.
We don't depend on a teen's calendar age to determine whether or not it's safe to install veneers. Instead, we examine the teeth and measure how close the pulp may be to the surface, as well as the thickness of the middle layer of dentin. Veneers could be acceptable if it appears the teeth have reached a healthy level of maturity.
If not, though, we may need to consider less invasive ways to improve a teen's smile. For stains or other outer discolorations, whitening with a bleaching solution significantly brightens teeth. We can repair chips by bonding and sculpting color-matching dental material to the teeth. And, these or similar cosmetic measures won't endanger an immature tooth like a veneer application.
Once a young patient's teeth have matured, we can revisit the subject of veneers. That may take time, but the more attractive smile that results will be worth the wait.
If you would like more information on dental care for adolescents, 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 “Veneers for Teenagers.”
If you're aiming for adorable camera shots, nothing beats baby photos. Even the tough guys among us can't resist oohing and ahhing over pics of their friends' and families' newest editions. Even celebrities like Brie Bella, WWE wrestler and now activewear entrepreneur, get into the act. She recently posted photos of her six-month old son, Buddy, for Instagramers. The focus—Baby Buddy's new baby teeth.
For many, a baby's first teeth are almost as cute as the baby themselves. Like the tiny humans sporting them, baby (or primary) teeth look like miniature versions of adult teeth. But aside from their inherent cuteness, primary teeth are also critically important for a child's dental function and development.
For most kids, primary teeth come right on time as they begin their transition from mother's milk or formula to solid food that requires chewing. Aside from their importance in nutrition, primary teeth also play a prominent role in a child's speech development and burgeoning social interaction.
They're also fundamental to bite development, with an influence that extends beyond their lifespan. They serve as placeholders for the permanent teeth, "trailblazers" of a sort that guide future teeth toward proper eruption.
So critical is this latter role that losing a baby tooth prematurely can open the door to bite problems. When a baby tooth is lost before its time, the space they're holding for an incoming tooth could be overtaken by neighboring teeth. This in turn could force the intended tooth to erupt out of place, leading to cascading misalignments that could require future orthodontics to correct.
Although facial trauma can cause premature tooth loss, the most common reason is tooth decay. One form of this disease known as early childhood caries (ECC) is especially problematic—it can rapidly develop and spread to other teeth.
Fortunately, there are ways to avoid early primary tooth loss. Here are a few things you can do to prevent that from happening.
- Clean your baby's teeth daily by brushing and later flossing to remove bacterial plaque, the major cause of tooth decay;
- Limit your baby's sugar consumption. In particular, avoid bedtime bottles filled with milk, juice or formula;
- "Child-proof" your child's play areas to lessen their chances of falling on hard surfaces that could injure teeth;
- Begin regular dental visits around their first birthday for early diagnosis, treatment and the application of other disease prevention measures.
Like Brie Bella, it's a joy for many parents to show off their baby's first teeth. Just be sure to take these common sense steps to protect those primary teeth from an unwelcome early departure.
Dental plaque, that gritty bacterial film coating your teeth, is the top cause for tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. You can see and feel a lot of it—but not all of it. Some deposits can lodge snugly between your teeth, and can cause dental disease just as much as what's out in the open.
The problem with between-teeth plaque is that even a solid brushing habit might not effectively remove it. That's why you flossing should also be part of your daily oral hygiene.
If the thought of flossing, however, causes you to let out an audible sigh, we understand. Flossing typically engenders less enthusiasm than brushing, mainly because many find flossing time consuming and difficult to do.
If traditional flossing isn't your bag, we may have a reasonable alternative. Oral irrigation is a hygiene method for removing plaque between teeth using a pressurized water spray. You direct the water spray between your teeth using a handheld wand (which somewhat resembles a power toothbrush) and small hose attached to a countertop pump appliance.
A mainstay in dental offices, oral irrigators (or water flossers) have been available for home use since the 1960s. They're ideal for people who have problems with manual dexterity or who may not want to contend with flossing thread. They also make it easier for patients wearing braces to clean between their teeth, a monumental task using regular floss.
As to effectiveness, oral irrigation appears to match that of regular flossing, especially for orthodontic patients. Clinical studies in the early 2000s compared patients with braces using oral irrigation with those who were brushing only. Those using irrigation were able to remove five times as much plaque as the other group.
There are a number of comparable oral irrigation brands on the market from which to choose, and your dentist can advise you on features to look for when purchasing one. Just be sure you're using some method, oral irrigation or traditional flossing, to remove disease-causing plaque from between your teeth—either will go a long way in keeping your teeth and gums healthy.
If you would like more information on flossing methods, 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 “Cleaning Between Your Teeth.”
While mouth pain can certainly get your attention, what exactly hurts may be difficult to identify. It might seem to emanate from a single tooth, or a group of teeth. Then again, it might not be clear whether it's coming from teeth or from the gums.
Still, it's important to pinpoint the cause as much as possible to treat it correctly. One of the main questions we often want to answer is whether the cause originates from within a tooth or without.
In the first case, tooth decay may have entered the pulp at the center of the tooth. The pulp contains nerve bundles that can come under attack from decay and transmit pain signals. Incidentally, if the pain suddenly goes away, it may simply mean the nerves have died and not the infection.
The decay can also spread into the root canals leading to the root and supporting bone, and then make the jump into the gum tissues. One possible sign of this is the one mentioned earlier—you can't quite tell if the pain is from the tooth or the surrounding gums.
The root canals could also serve as a transportation medium for infection in the other direction. In that case, gum disease has advanced into the bone tissues around a tooth near its roots. The infection can then cross into the tooth. Again, both a tooth and the gum tissue around it can become diseased.
We have effective treatments for individual occurrences of interior tooth decay or gum disease: The former usually requires a root canal treatment to remove infected tissue and fill and seal the tooth from future infection; we alleviate gum disease by removing the dental plaque causing it and helping the gum tissues to heal. But combined tooth and gum infection scenarios are more difficult to treat, have a poorer prognosis and may require specialists.
To reduce the risk of either tooth decay or gum disease developing into this greater problem, it's best to take action at the first sign of trouble. So, see your dentist as soon as possible when you encounter oral pain or if you notice swollen or bleeding gums. The earlier we treat the initial outbreak of disease, be it tooth decay or gum disease, the better your chances of a successful and happy outcome.
If you would like more information on tooth pain, 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 “Confusing Tooth Pain.”
You're doing the right things to avoid the return of gum disease: brushing and flossing every day, dental visits on a regular basis and watching for symptoms of another infection. But while you're at it, don't forget this other important part of gum disease prevention—your diet.
In relation to oral health, not all foods are alike. Some can increase inflammation, a major factor with gum disease; others strengthen teeth and gums. Carbohydrates in particular are a key part of this dynamic.
The body transforms these biomolecules of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen into the sugar glucose as a ready source of energy. But glucose levels in the bloodstream must be strictly controlled to avoid a harmful imbalance.
When elevated the body injects the hormone insulin into the bloodstream to bring glucose levels into normal range. Eventually, though, regular injections of insulin in high amounts in response to eating carbs—known as "spikes"—can increase inflammation. And, inflammation in turn increases the risk and severity of gum infections.
So, why not cut out carbohydrates altogether? That might be akin to throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water. A wide range of carbohydrates, particularly fruits and vegetables, are a rich source of health-enhancing nutrients.
It's better to manage your carbohydrate consumption by taking advantage of one particular characteristic: Not all carbohydrates affect the body in the same way. Some cause a higher insulin response than others according to a scale known as the glycemic index. It's better, then, to eat more of the lower glycemic carbohydrates than those at the higher end.
One of the latter you'll definitely want to restrict is refined sugar—which also happens to be a primary food source for bacteria. You'll also want to cut back on any refined or processed foods like chips, refined grains or pastries.
Conversely, you can eat more of a number of low glycemic foods, most characterized as "whole", or unprocessed, like fresh fruits and vegetables, or whole grains like oatmeal. You should still, however, eat these in moderation.
Better control over your carbohydrate consumption is good for your health overall. But it's especially helpful to your efforts to keep gum disease at bay.
If you would like more information on nutrition and your oral 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 “Carbohydrates Linked to Gum Disease.”
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