Question: What oral health issue do teenagers who wear orthodontic retainers and older folks who wear dentures have in common?
Answer: Both need to pay particular attention to cleaning their oral appliances.
The same goes for anyone who wears a nightguard to control tooth grinding, a mouthguard to protect teeth while playing sports, or a clear aligner for orthodontic treatment. Yet many people aren’t sure how to properly clean their appliances — so here are a few handy tips:
- Use toothpaste on your appliance — the ingredients in toothpaste, which are designed to polish the hard enamel of your teeth, are too abrasive for the soft plastic of oral appliances, and will cause scratches.
- Boil your appliance, or use bleach to clean it — both will end up breaking down and destroying the appliance. Don’t even use very hot water, as it can deform the plastic and make the appliance useless.
- Leave your appliance out on the nightstand, or anywhere else — pets and small children have been known to find (and destroy) oral appliances left lying around. Instead, store it properly in its special case.
- Use liquid dish detergent or hand soap to clean your appliance. A little mild soap plus warm water will do a great cleaning job. While you’re at it, get a brush just for the appliance — because, while it’s fine for plastic, you don’t want to brush your teeth with soap!
- Put a towel in the sink basin when you clean your appliance. Soapy appliances (especially dentures) can be slippery, and can be damaged by dropping — and that’s an expensive mishap.
- Consider investing in an ultrasonic cleaner. These inexpensive countertop devices are an excellent way to get the tiny ridges and crevices of your appliance really clean.
Whether you rely on dentures for everyday use, or just need to wear a retainer for a period of time, your oral appliance serves an important function. It may also represent a significant investment. That’s why it’s worthwhile to spend a few minutes each day giving these important items the care they need.
What happens if you’re right in the middle of a song, in front of an arena full of fans… and you knock out a tooth with your microphone? If you’re Michael Buble, you don’t stop the show — you just keep right on singing.
The Canadian song stylist was recently performing at the Allphones Arena in Sydney, Australia, when an ill-timed encounter with the mike resulted in the loss of one of his teeth. But he didn’t let on to his dental dilemma, and finished the concert without a pause. The next day, Buble revealed the injury to his fans on his Instagram page, with a picture of himself in the dentist’s chair, and a note: “Don’t worry, I’m at the dentist getting fixed up for my final show tonight.”
Buble’s not the only singer who has had a close encounter with a mike: Country chanteuse Taylor Swift and pop star Demi Lovato, among others, have injured their teeth on stage. Fortunately, contemporary dentistry can take care of problems like this quickly and painlessly. So when you’ve got to get back before the public eye, what’s the best (and speediest) way to fix a chipped or broken tooth?
It depends on exactly what’s wrong. If it’s a small chip, cosmetic bonding might be the answer. Bonding uses special tooth-colored resins that mimic the natural shade and luster of your teeth. The whole procedure is done right here in the dental office, usually in just one visit. However, bonding isn’t as long-lasting as some other tooth-restoration methods, and it can’t fix large chips or breaks.
If a tooth’s roots are intact, a crown (or cap) can be used to replace the entire visible part. The damaged tooth is fitted for a custom-fabricated replacement, which is usually made in a dental laboratory and then attached at a subsequent visit (though it can sometimes be fabricated with high-tech machinery right in the office).
If the roots aren’t viable, you may have the option of a bridge or a dental implant. With a fixed bridge, the prosthetic tooth is supported by crowns that are placed on healthy teeth on either side of the gap. The bridge itself is a one-piece unit consisting of the replacement tooth plus the adjacent crowns.
In contrast, a high-tech dental implant is a replacement tooth that’s supported not by your other teeth, but by a screw-like post of titanium metal, which is inserted into the jaw in a minor surgical procedure. Dental implants have the highest success rate of any tooth-replacement method (over 95 percent); they help preserve the quality of bone on the jaw; and they don’t result in weakening the adjacent, healthy teeth — which makes implants the treatment of choice for many people.
So whether you’re crooning for ten thousand adoring fans or just singing in the shower, there's no reason to let a broken tooth stop the show: Talk to us about your tooth-restoration options! If you would like additional information, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Repairing Chipped Teeth” and “Dental Implants vs. Bridgework.”
Clenching, or grinding of your teeth (also known as bruxing) are common habits. Biting forces are normally small, gentle, fleeting and very frequent throughout the day. In fact, it's the normal stimulus necessary to keep your teeth and jawbone healthy. When you clench or grind your teeth you apply forces up to ten times normal (in the 200 lb range). And it's not just the force, it's the duration and frequency with which they're applied. High forces lasting for seconds or minutes, frequently exerted, can affect some or all of the masticatory system. This includes the teeth, jaws, jaw joints and muscles, causing aching jaws, headaches, earaches, neck and even backaches; and the teeth themselves causing excessive wear, fractures, or even loose teeth.
Why does grinding occur? Habitual grinding is most frequently a reaction to stress. Sometimes abnormalities in your bite or malocclusion (“mal” – bad; “occlusion” – bite) can trigger clenching or grinding. It is normal for children to sometimes grind their teeth when new teeth are coming in, but it may be indications of stress too. You may be grinding your teeth subconsciously in your sleep, but it may be so loud as to awaken your sleeping partner. Or our office may be the first to suspect it during a dental exam because of the apparent signs of change to muscles, joints and teeth especially abnormal tooth wear.
What can be done about teeth grinding or bruxing? If you are symptomatic, having pain, muscle, joint or tooth soreness, the first step is to get you comfortable. Generally, a mild non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (aspirin, ibuprofen) and muscle relaxants will help in addition to moist heat and mild jaw exercises. Stress management is also helpful. To prevent further damage, we may recommend a bite guard made of wear-resistant plastic that fits over the biting surfaces of your upper teeth. These customized unobtrusive appliances when properly fitted and adjusted stop clenching and grinding activity, or at least the damage they can do. A bite guard can be worn day or night especially during stressful periods.
If your teeth are stained and discolored, misshapen or too small, porcelain veneers may be just the opportunity to treat yourself to a beautiful smile that can last for decades. They may be used to restore a single tooth that is broken or stained, or many teeth that are worn or discolored. If you have small teeth with gaps between them, veneers can close the spaces.
Porcelain laminate veneers are thin layers of dental restorative material that are bonded onto your teeth. With porcelain laminate veneers you can change a tooth's shape, size, and color. They require a minimal amount of tooth preparation (reduction of enamel on the original tooth) and are a great way to help you have a beautiful smile now and for decades to come.
They can last from seven to twenty years or more. Part of what determines their exact longevity is the health of your mouth. Gum tissues may deteriorate and the gum line may shrink back away from the roots of your teeth. So brushing, flossing, and other good dental habits are important in maintaining your investment in your smile.
Veneers don't require special treatment, and you can eat nearly anything with them. Keep in mind one precaution, however. Porcelain, like glass, can break with too much stress. This means that biting something that applies a strong twisting movement to your teeth may cause the veneers to shatter. If you grind your teeth at night you may need to wear a night guard to protect your veneers. It doesn't happen often, but if a veneer detaches it can usually be rebonded to the tooth.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about porcelain veneers and see if they are right for you to enhance or change your smile. You can also learn more about veneers by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Porcelain Veneers: How long will your porcelain veneers last?”
Did you know that tooth decay (dental caries) is the second most frequently occurring disease — surpassed only by the common cold? It can start as soon as toddlers sprout their first teeth and by middle age, more than 90% of adults are affected by the problem! Fortunately, you can significantly lower your risk for decay. The key is to nurture health-promoting (protective) factors in your mouth while discouraging those that are disease causing (pathologic).
The top two traditional steps can't be stressed enough:
Good Oral Hygiene. Diligent brushing and flossing, along with routine professional cleanings, help limit a buildup of bacterial plaque (biofilm). This whitish film is attractive to decay-producing bacteria (among the many types of bacteria — including beneficial ones — that normally live in the mouth). These microbes like to snack on sugars and carbohydrates (perhaps part of that bagel you had for breakfast or the midafternoon candy bar), and in the process they produce acid. A healthy oral environment has a neutral pH — a perfect balance between acids and bases. But in a more acidic environment, minerals in the protective enamel of your teeth start to dissolve, exposing the dentin and root surfaces underneath that are even more vulnerable.
Sensible Diet. Keep decay-producing bacteria in check by limiting your intake of sugars and carbohydrates; the bacteria need these nutrients to grow and reproduce. Choose products containing natural sugars, such as those in fruits and vegetables, over those containing added sugars, such as sodas and candy. Be aware that Xylitol, an “alcohol sugar” used in some chewing gums and dental products, can actually help reduce pathogenic bacteria. And don't forget that frequent consumption of acidic foods and beverages, such as sipping coffee during the day, can create an acidic environment in your mouth that can contribute to decay by eroding tooth enamel and weakening its defenses.
Individual Risk Factors
You also may have individual risk factors as well that our office can help you identify and address. For example, the shape of everyone's teeth varies and some of us have more valleys, tiny grooves and pits than others. These likely places for bacteria to congregate can be the most difficult to reach with a toothbrush, but invisible sealants can be applied to prevent bacteria from reaching those areas.
If you would like more information about tooth decay and prevention, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Decay” and “Tooth Decay — How To Assess Your Risk.”
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