Posts for: August, 2014
Kristin Cavallari's flawless smile has been featured on TV, film and magazine covers. But the 25-year-old actress and reality-show personality didn't always have a perfect set of teeth. In fact, she told Dear Doctor magazine — where readers recently voted to crown her with the “Smile of the Year” award — that her dental treatments began the same way many do: with orthodontics in sixth grade.
“I had the ‘spaghetti catcher,’ which is what everyone used to call it,” she reminisced. But by that, she didn't mean a strainer — she's talking about what dentists call a “palatal expander.”
In case you're not familiar with this orthodontic device, a palatal expander takes advantage of the natural growth patterns of a child's upper jaw to create additional space for the top set of teeth. How does it work? Basically, it's similar to braces: By applying gentle pressure, the appliance creates changes in the jaw. Unlike braces, however, it's invisible — it fits between the upper teeth, close to the roof of the mouth.
During the three to six months a child wears the palatal expander, it pushes the left and right halves of the upper jawbone apart, and then maintains and stabilizes the new, wider spacing. Since the palatal bones don't fuse until after puberty, tightening it a little bit each day for the first few weeks provides a quick and painless method of making the upper jaw a bit roomier. And that can be a very good thing. Why?
There are lots of reasons. For one, it can relieve the condition called “crowding,” when there is not enough space in the upper jaw to accommodate the proper alignment of the permanent teeth. In the past, teeth often had to be extracted in that situation. It may even allow “impacted” teeth — ones which are blocked from erupting by other teeth — to come in normally.
It can help treat a “crossbite,” when the back top teeth come down to bite inside (instead of outside) the lower back teeth. It also generally shortens the total time a child needs for orthodontic treatment. That's good news for any teenager — even if their own day-to-day “reality show” isn't featured on TV!
If you would like more information about palatal expanders, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Palatal Expanders” and “Early Orthodontic Evaluation.”
One of the many reasons for dental implant popularity is their reliability — studies have shown 95% of implants still function well after ten years. Still, on rare occasions an implant will fail. We can minimize this risk by taking precautions before, during and after installation.
Long-term success begins with careful planning before surgery. We thoroughly examine your teeth and jaws, using x-rays or CT scanning to map out the exact location of nerves, sinus cavities and other anatomical structures. Along with your medical history, this data will help us develop a precise guide to use during implant surgery.
We’ll also assess bone quality at the intended implant site. The implant needs an adequate amount of bone for support — without it the implant will not be able to withstand the biting force of normal chewing. It may be possible in some cases to use bone grafting or similar techniques to stimulate growth at the site, but sometimes other restoration options may need to be considered.
The surgery can also impact future reliability. By precisely following the surgical guide developed during the planning stage, the oral surgeon can increase the chances of success. Still, there may be an unseen variable in play — a pre-existing or post-operative infection, for example, that interferes with the integration of the implant with the bone. By carefully monitoring the healing process, we can detect if this has taken place; if so, the implant is removed, the area cleansed and the implant (or a wider implant) re-installed.
Even if all goes well with the implantation, there’s still a chance of future failure due to gum disease. Caused mainly by bacterial plaque, gum disease infects and inflames the supporting tissues around the teeth; in the case of implants it could eventually infect and weaken the surrounding bone, a condition known as peri-implantitis. This calls for aggressive treatment, including plaque and infected tissue removal, and possible surgery to repair the bone’s attachment to the implant. Without treatment, the implant could eventually detach from the weakened bone.
Maintaining your implants with good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups is the best insurance for long-term reliability. Taking care of them as you would natural teeth will help ensure a long, happy life for your “third set” of teeth.
If you would like more information on dental implants, 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 “Dental Implants.”
Chewing tobacco is a known cause of oral cancer, yet many a Major League Baseball player has been seen walking onto the field with a round tin visibly poking out of his back pocket. That was before this year. Recognizing the influence big-leaguers have on their young fans, MLB players agreed to a new contract that limits their use of chewing tobacco and their ability to carry it around their fans. The 2012 season is the first to be played under the new rules, which were championed by Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.
One player who used smokeless tobacco heavily is Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. The former Padres slugger earlier this year endured 14 hours of surgery to remove a cancerous growth from the inside of his right cheek and graft a nerve from his shoulder to replace a facial nerve damaged by the tumor. This was Gwynn's second cancer surgery in less than two years.
When it comes to oral cancer, the importance of early detection can't be stressed enough. Unfortunately, this form of cancer is not usually detected until a late stage so the overall survival rate is poor, with only 58% surviving five years after treatment. Yet when oral cancer is detected while a lesion is small, survival rate exceeds 80%. That's why an oral cancer screening is always part of your dental check-up or regular cleaning appointment at this office.
During this screening we will examine your face, neck, lips, mouth, tongue and the back of your throat for any suspicious lesions (sores or ulcers) or lumps. Of course, if you notice any unusual lesions, or color changes (white or red patches), anywhere in your mouth that do not heal within two-three weeks, please come in to see us as soon as possible. And if you need help kicking a tobacco habit, we can advise you on how to get it.
If you would like more information about oral cancer, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer.”