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Do you know your toddler’s thumb (or finger) sucking habit could cause buck teeth and speech problems if it continues beyond age 3? Sucking on a pacifier can have similar effects.
From birth until 4 months, your child will reflexively suck on anything that is put in his or her mouth. After 4 months of age, this reflex changes to self-soothing. Your child will often suck on a pacifier, thumb or finger when she or he is anxious or upset. Most children will stop this on their own as they learn other ways to express their emotions—such as becoming more verbal.
While it used to be thought that you had until your child’s permanent or adult teeth started coming in to break this habit, dental experts are now recognizing that changes to the mouth resulting from prolonged sucking are seen as early as age 4. Stopping the sucking habit by age 2-3 is the best recommendation.
Let’s take a look at what dental changes occur and why:
Sucking causes cheek muscles to push on your upper teeth. Children have softer bone than adults, and that bone can be molded by pressure. The upper teeth are pushed toward the center of the mouth, narrowing the dental arch and the roof of the mouth. Front teeth are often pushed forward by the pressure of the thumb or fingers. Children will often bite to one side to accommodate their thumb, fingers or pacifier.
What does that mean for your child?
Narrow dental arches mean there is less room for the teeth, leading to crowded or overlapped teeth. The tongue also has less room and that, combined with the shape of the roof of the mouth, often lead to speech problems such as lisps. Speech therapy may be required to correct these problems.
Pressure from the thumb or fingers pushes front teeth out farther, resulting in a buck-tooth appearance. Lips may not close easily over the protruded teeth, and lower teeth do not hit upper teeth while biting. In order to get a seal to swallow, your child will need to thrust his or her tongue forward into the gap between the teeth and strain to close the lips. This tongue thrust habit is very hard to break, even if the bite is corrected with braces and often requires extensive retraining so that the tongue thrust doesn’t cause recurrence of the dental problems.
So you can see, this habit can cause problems that go beyond “just needing braces” to fix. So what can you do to break the habit?
1.Enlist your child’s help
- talk to your child about why she or he should stop. Have a dentist back you up if necessary.
- Set limits: for example, thumb sucking is only allowed in the bedroom—some children will forego thumb sucking to continue what they’re doing.
- For a pacifier, consider having a special ritual to give them up, such as placing them in a special spot for the pacifier fairy who will exchange them for a balloon or toy.
- Children want to be like those they admire. Ask “Do you think [insert your child’s hero here] would suck his/her thumb?”
2.Ask your child what you can do to help him or her stop. For some children simply asking them “Do you know you’re sucking your thumb right now?” helps them to connect it in their brain. Others may need help finding different ways to express their emotions to you.
3.Use positive reinforcement: praise and lavish attention on your child when he or she is not thumb sucking rather than scolding when she or he does.
4.Put something over the hand that prevents the sensation of skin against gums.
- For nap-time/night time this could be as simple as a glove or sock on the hand that is safety pinned or duct-taped to the sleeve so that the child cannot take it off easily.
- For daytime use, band-aids are an option. (The concerns with band-aids are that they could come off and be a choking hazard and that some children will just switch to sucking a non-covered finger.)
- There are also thumb and finger sucking gloves and guards made for this purpose.
5.Paint the thumb or fingers with a nasty tasting solution. The product Mavala Stop is one that area orthodontists recommend as being effective.
6.A dentist-made appliance: Some are called “Cribs” and have a mesh that prevents the thumb or fingers from contacting the gums. Others have a vertical gate that blocks the thumb or fingers. These appliances can interfere with your child’s eating and speech which is why they are used as a last resort.
Now that you know how sucking habits are affecting your child’s teeth, set a time to talk with him or her about it. If you need help convincing your child, call your dentist's office or if you don't have a dentist, you can establish care by calling my office at 440-960-1940.
NOTE: the information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals.
If you've lost some of your teeth, one of the replacement options you have is a removable appliance. Ones that only replace some teeth are called partial dentures or partials. To hold it in place (or retain) it, removable partials need to hook onto your remaining teeth in some way. For many years, metal arms that wrap around some of your teeth have the standard method to help hold your appliance in place.
Depending on how many teeth you’ve lost and where they were located in your mouth, the metal may be visible when you smile or talk. So what can you do if you don’t like the metal? Let’s look at several options:
Tooth colored arms: It is easier to plan these into a new partial, but sometimes the metal ones on your current partial can be replaced. The color of these arms means they are not as noticeable but they may still be seen under certain conditions. If you’ve ever seen someone with tooth colored braces, you have an idea of what these arms look like. In exchange for the cosmetics, you trade off the ability for your dentist to adjust the tightness of your partial in his or her dental office. Another limitation is that the tooth colored arms are not as flexible as some of the other materials. The shape of your tooth may prevent using this material.
Flexible base partials use a different pink base material than traditional partials. This newer base material has enough flexibility to be able to wrap around a tooth and create an arm whose color is approximately the color of your gums. As with the tooth colored arms, these may be visible under certain circumstances, and you give up the ability for your dentist to tighten or loosen the arm in the dental office. A unique limitation to this choice is that if the base material breaks or chips or if you lose another tooth, it may be very difficult to change or repair your appliance.
Of course, we’d love to have a material with the strength and flexibility of metal but in a tooth color. For a time, it was hoped that a paint on product could be used to cover the metal arms. But the product tended to chip and flake off when adjustments to the arm were needed.
*Note: The information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals.
If you would like to discuss replacing your partial or in seeing if your current appliance could be changed, I invite you to call my office at 440-960-1940 to schedule a visit. You can also contact us through my website at www.drjrobb.com or interact with me on facebook at www.facebook.com/DrJenniferRobb
“I’ve got a crown or cap, so I don’t have to worry about my tooth ever again, right?”
False. While a crown does protect your tooth by covering most of its surface, there is still a junction or margin where your tooth and crown meet. Your tooth can decay around this margin. And of course, any tooth can develop periodontal or gum disease. So it is still important to brush and floss around your crowns. Flossing is especially important since it cleans the areas in between your teeth where your brush can’t reach and where it is harder for your dentist to fix any problems that do develop.
If you do get decay around your crown, what are your options?
Hopefully you are seeing your dentist on a regular basis and the cavity has been found while it is small. If it is on the tongue or cheek side of your crown and is small, you may be able to have a filling placed to get you by for a while--though you should plan for a new crown in the future.
If the decay is large or is between your teeth, your best option is to remove the crown to see what’s underneath. X-rays often can’t tell your dentist how large the problem is because the material the crown is made of blocks the x-rays. And it’s almost impossible to know if all the decay has been removed without being able to see the tooth itself. If all the decay isn’t removed, you risk the need for more expensive procedures or loss of the tooth in the future.
"But you can put that crown back on, right?"
it is rare that a crown can be removed in a way that allows it to be re-cemented on your tooth. Often, the process of removing the crown destroys the crown, and a new crown is necessary.
Because crowns are expensive, you might be tempted to wait until there is an undeniable problem before you decide to do any treatment. Be warned, if you do so, you might be leaving yourself open to needing additional, often costly treatment or risk not being able to save the tooth at all.
I have seen teeth where the decay eats all the way through the tooth until the crown breaks off (with part of the tooth inside), leaving only a flat root behind. A crown or other restoration needs something above the gum to hold onto. These teeth are usually not able to be restored, and the root needs to be removed. (Teeth that are removed should be replaced in order to keep your best dental health.)
I have also removed a crown to find that the cavity burrowed into the tooth until it hit the dental pulp which contains the tooth’s nerve. This creates an abscess which is often painful. These teeth need a root canal (in addition to the core build-up and new crown) if you want to keep the tooth. The alternative is having the tooth removed and replacing it.
Please realize that these are just generalities, and you should discuss with your dentist what options you have for your specific situation.
If you think you have a problem with one of your crowns and do not have a dentist, I invite you to join my practice by calling 440-960-1940 or by using the contact form on my website at www.drjrobb.com
*Note: Information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare team.
Do you think that the foam in toothpaste is what cleans your teeth? It doesn’t. The foaming action of toothpastes does help a bit in spreading the toothpaste around your mouth, but for the most part it isn’t necessary for good dental hygiene.
Most toothpastes use Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) to create foam. New scientific studies suggest that SLS removes a layer of the tooth that sometimes covers over tooth areas that can become sensitive. SLS also causes an allergic reaction in some people that leads to canker sores.
If you have sensitive teeth you may want to sacrifice foam for comfort and choose a toothpaste that does not contain SLS.
Do you use a toothpaste that claims to whiten your teeth? Most of these products work by removing surface stains from your teeth rather than by actually bleaching teeth. Some also have special chemicals or polishing agents to try to enhance the stain removal process. Not only do these chemicals dull the surface of crowns and veneers, they can also wear away the protective outer covering of your tooth to expose the more sensitive layer underneath.
With careful home care on a daily basis using a soft bristle toothbrush, any toothpaste will keep your teeth white. In fact, daily brushing is critical because plaque left on your teeth can also cause sensitivity.
So if you have sensitive teeth, you may want to ditch the whitening toothpastes, or at least choose one that’s combined with a toothpaste designed for use on sensitive teeth.
So what should you look for in a toothpaste for sensitive teeth? Fluoride, calcium, strontium and potassium are all elements that can bind with your tooth to reduce sensitivity. Most toothpastes contain fluoride. Those that say “for sensitive teeth” usually also contain potassium nitrate. (Original Sensodyne and Sensodyne Mint contain strontium compounds that perform the same function.)
These formulas need to be used regularly to keep sensitivity from returning. In severe cases you may need to apply toothpaste directly to your teeth with a Q-tip just before bed or put it into a specially made tray from your dentist.
If your sensitivity does not go away after 8 weeks of using a sensitivity toothpaste, you should see your dentist to make sure that a dental problem is not causing your sensitivity.
Remember to practice good dental care to keep your teeth healthy and make sure to see your dentist or dental hygienist. If you do not have a dentist, I invite you to call my office at 440-960-1940.
*Note: The information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals.
The term wisdom teeth dates back to at least 1848 (some accounts say 1668) and is believed to result from the fact that these teeth come into your mouth somewhere between the ages of 17 and 25. This age range corresponds to adulthood when you’re presumed to be wiser than you were and to college age, a time when you’re seeking wisdom.
Wisdom teeth are actually molars. Your dentist calls them third molars (or thirds) because they are the third tooth of this type in your mouth. Your first molars come in behind your last baby tooth at around age 6 and your second molars come in around age 12 behind the first molars.
As you can imagine, by the time you get to your wisdom teeth, they’re pretty far back in your mouth! If you lived in the Stone Age, your diet would consist mainly of food that is tougher to chew. Your jaw would be longer and stronger to process this type of diet and you would have room for your wisdom teeth. Or if you lived at a time when people did not know how to care for their teeth properly, you might lose some of your other teeth before adulthood, creating space for your wisdom teeth to erupt and serve as additional teeth for chewing and grinding your food.
Today, there are some people who have enough room for their wisdom teeth to come in to the mouth, but even for these people, the teeth are difficult to clean and they often develop cavities or gum disease. Many more people do not have enough room so their wisdom teeth either only partly come in (partial eruption) or fail to come through the gumline at all (your dentist may call these impacted teeth).
Should you have your wisdom teeth out? You should consult your dentist since each situation is unique. In general, dentists often recommend removal when wisdom teeth are:
• trapped under the gumline and not likely to erupt on their own (impacted)
• causing problems or potentially problematic (This includes items like infected teeth or gums, pain, bad breath, cysts connected to or around the teeth and other pathology.)
• in a position where they rub or cause damage to other teeth or to your tissues. For those of you who have had braces, this is often why your orthodontist will recommend that you have your wisdom teeth removed.
When should you have your wisdom teeth out? Though it’s tempting to wait until your wisdom teeth bother you to have them out, there are some benefits to having them out while you are younger. Your jawbone gets more rigid as you age. Young adults have bone that gives a little and this makes removing the tooth less traumatic. Healing also occurs at a quicker pace when you’re younger.
*Note: The information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare providers.
Though we don't remove wisdom teeth, if you’re having a problem with yours, are local, and don’t have a dentist, I invite you to contact my office in Lorain, OH for a consultation and referral to an oral surgeon. Please call 440-960-1940.