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By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
March 30, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: loose teeth  
LoosePermanentTeethisaProblem-takeActionNow

If you've noticed one of your teeth feeling loose, you're right to believe it's not a good thing. Loose permanent teeth are a sign of an underlying problem.

Periodontal (gum) disease is usually the culprit. Caused by bacterial plaque, a thin film of food particles, gum disease causes the tissues that support teeth to weaken and detach. While a tooth can become loose from too much biting force (primary occlusal trauma), it's more likely bone loss from gum disease has caused so much damage that even the forces from normal biting can trigger looseness.

A loose tooth must be treated or you may lose it altogether. If it's from gum disease, your treatment will have two phases.

In the first phase we need to stop the gum infection by removing plaque and calculus (hardened plaque deposits). Hand instruments known as scalers or ultrasonic equipment are usually sufficient for removing plaque and calculus around or just below the gum line. If the plaque extends deeper near or around the roots, we may need to consider surgical techniques to access these deeper deposits.

Once the infection is under control and the tissues have healed, we can then undertake the second phase: reducing biting forces by breaking clenching and grinding habits, doing a bite adjustment for advanced problems and securing loose teeth with splinting.

Although there are different types of splinting — both temporary and permanent — they all link loose teeth to adjacent secure teeth much like pickets in a fence. One way is to bond dental material to the outer enamel of all the teeth involved; a more permanent technique is to cut a small channel extending across all the teeth and bond a rigid metal splint within it.

To reduce biting forces on loose teeth, we might recommend wearing a bite guard to keep the teeth from generating excessive biting forces with each other. We may also recommend orthodontics to create a better bite or reshape the teeth's biting surfaces by grinding away small selected portions of tooth material so they generate less force.

Using the right combination of methods we can repair loose teeth and make them more secure. But time is of the essence: the sooner we begin treatment for a loose tooth, the better the outcome.

If you would like more information on treating loose teeth, 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 “Treatment for Loose Teeth.”

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
March 20, 2020
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: cleft lip  
CleftRepaircanRestoreaSmileChangeaLife

Oral and facial clefts are among the most common and heartbreaking of birth defects. Clefts make feeding or even breathing difficult and can affect speech development.

But there's one other profound effect: an “abnormal” face caused by a cleft can have devastating consequences for a person's self-image and social relationships.

About 1 in 700 U.S. babies are born with some type of visible gap or “cleft.” It can occur in their upper lip, soft and hard palate, nose or occasionally extending to the cheek or eye region. We typically classify clefts as “unilateral” (affecting only one side of the face) or “bilateral” (affecting both sides).  We're not completely sure on the root causes, but research so far has uncovered links with the mother's possible exposure to toxic substances, nutrient or vitamin deficiencies, or infections during fetal development.

Taking steps during pregnancy to minimize these exposures is certainly helpful. But what can be done for children born with a cleft?

A great deal, thanks to the development of surgical repair techniques over the last century. The surgical approach relies on the fact that the tissues required to repair the cleft already exist. They're simply distorted by the cleft break.

Even so, the road to restoration is a long and arduous one. Lip repairs usually take place at 3-6 months of age; palate (roof of the mouth) clefts are undertaken at 6-12 months. As the child's jaw and mouth structure develops, further surgeries may be needed to match earlier repairs with development.

Cleft repairs also require a team of specialists including a maxillofacial (oral) surgeon, orthodontist and general dentist. The latter plays an important role during the process, ensuring the child maintains good dental health through prevention and treatment of disease and dental work for at risk teeth.

The road to a normal life is difficult — but well worth it. A repaired cleft vastly improves a child's health and well-being. Moreover, it restores to them something the rest of us might take for granted — a normal face and smile.

If you would like more information on cleft defects and how to treat them, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
March 10, 2020
Category: Oral Health
WhatsThatonYourTeethNickJonasHowtoAvoidaSimilarSmileOops

Think no one is looking at your smile when you’re out in public? Nick Jonas’ recent experience might convince you otherwise. While the Jonas Brothers were performing during the 2020 Grammys, fans watching on television picked up on some dark matter between his teeth.

To say Twitter lit up is an understatement. For many, it was that thing you couldn’t unsee: Forget the performance, what was that between his teeth? Jonas later fessed up by tweeting, “…At least you all know I eat my greens.”

We’re sure Nick and his brothers take care of their teeth, as most any high-profile entertainer would. You can probably attribute his dental faux pas to trying to squeeze in some nourishment during a rushed performance schedule.

Still, the Grammy incident (Spinachgate?) shows that people do notice when your teeth aren’t as clean as they should be. To avoid that embarrassment, here are some handy tips for keeping your teeth looking their best while you’re on the go.

Start with a clean mouth. You’re more apt to collect food debris during the day if you have built-up plaque on your teeth. This sticky bacterial biofilm attracts new food particles like a magnet. Remove plaque by thoroughly brushing and flossing before you head out the door.

Rinse after eating. Although your saliva helps clear leftover food from your mouth, it may not adequately flush away all the debris. You can assist this process by swishing and rinsing with clean water after a meal.

Keep a little floss handy. Even after rinsing, stubborn bits of food can remain lodged between teeth. So just in case, keep a small bit of emergency floss (or a floss pick) in your purse or wallet to remove any debris you see or feel between your teeth.

Watch what you eat. Some foods—like popcorn, sticky snacks or fibrous vegetables—are notorious for sticking in teeth. Try to avoid eating these foods right before a public appearance where your smile may be critical.

And here’s an added bonus: Not only will these tips help keep your smile attractive on the go, they’ll also help keep it healthy. Rinsing with water, for example, helps lower your mouth’s acid level after eating, a prime factor in tooth decay. And flossing, both as a regular practice and for occasional stuck food, decreases plaque and subsequently your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

Remember, a healthy mouth is the starting place for a beautiful smile. Keep it that way with dedicated hygiene habits at home or on the go.

If you would like more information on tips for better oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Daily Oral Hygiene.”

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
February 29, 2020
Category: Dental Procedures
ThreeReasonswhyYourSixYearOldShouldUndergoanOrthodonticCheck

It would seem the best time to turn your attention to orthodontic problems with your child is when their permanent teeth have come in around early puberty. In fact, you should be attentive much earlier at around 6 years of age.

Here are 3 reasons why an early orthodontic evaluation could be beneficial to your child’s dental health.

We may be able to detect the first signs of a malocclusion. Also known as a poor bite, it’s possible for an experienced dentist or orthodontist to notice the beginning of a malocclusion as the permanent teeth start coming in between ages 6 and 12. Crowding of teeth, abnormal space between teeth, crooked, protruding or missing teeth are all signs that the teeth are not or will not be coming in properly and some type of treatment will eventually be necessary to correct it.

We might spot problems with jaw or facial development. Not all malocclusions arise from faulty erupting teeth position: sometimes they’re caused by abnormal development of the jaw and facial structure. For example, an orthodontist can detect if the upper jaw is developing too narrowly, which can create a malocclusion known as a cross bite. The difference in the source of a malocclusion will determine what present or future treatment will be needed.

We can perform “interceptive” treatment. While braces won’t typically be undertaken until the permanent teeth have come in, there are other treatments that can “intercept” a growing problem to eliminate or lessen future treatment needs. Orthodontists may recommend appliances that help guide incoming teeth, coax impacted teeth to come in fully or expand portions of the upper jaw to normal dimensions.

As with other areas of health, the earlier orthodontic problems are found the better the chances of a successful and less interventional outcome. By having your child examined orthodontically you may be saving money and future difficulties.

If you would like more information on when to begin monitoring bite development in your child, 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 “Early Orthodontic Evaluation.”

By Courtney Camp Highsmith, DMD
February 19, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   gum disease  
ThisFebruaryShowaLittleLovetoBothYourHeartandYourGums

It’s February and time for a little heart love. And not just the Valentine’s Day kind: February is also American Heart Month, when healthcare providers promote cardiovascular health. That includes dentists, because cardiovascular health goes hand in hand with dental health.

It just so happens that February is Gum Disease Awareness Month too. If that’s a coincidence, it’s an appropriate one: Although different in nature and health impact, heart disease and gum disease are linked by a common thread: chronic inflammation.

Inflammation (or tissue swelling) in and of itself is beneficial and often necessary. When cells in the body are injured or become diseased, the immune system isolates them from healthier cells through inflammation for the protection of the latter. Once the body heals, inflammation normally subsides.

But conditions surrounding both heart disease and gum disease often prevent a decrease in inflammation. With heart disease, for example, fatty deposits called plaque accumulate within blood vessels, impeding blood flow and triggering inflammation.

A different kind of plaque plays a pivotal role with gum disease. Dental plaque is a thin biofilm that builds up on tooth surfaces. It’s home to bacteria that can infect the gums, which in turn elicits an inflammatory response within those affected tissues. Unless treated, the infection will continue to grow worse, as will the inflammation.

The bad news is that these two sources of chronic inflammation are unlikely to stay isolated. Some recent studies indicate that cardiovascular inflammation worsens gum inflammation, and vice-versa, in patients with both conditions.

The good news, though, is that treating and managing inflammation related to either condition appears to benefit the other. Patients with cardiovascular disease can often reduce their inflammation with medical treatment and medications, exercise and a heart-friendly diet.

You can also ease gum disease inflammation by undergoing dental plaque removal treatment at the first signs of an infection. And, the sooner the better: Make a dental appointment as soon as possible if you notice swollen, reddened or bleeding gums.

You can lower your gum disease risk by brushing and flossing daily to remove accumulated plaque, and visiting us at least twice a year for more thorough dental cleanings and checkups. If you’ve already experienced gum disease, you may need more frequent visits depending on your gum health.

So this February, while you’re showing your special someone how much you care, show a little love to both your heart and your gums. Your health—general and oral—will appreciate it.

If you would like more information about gum health, please contact us or schedule a consultation.





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