Posts for: August, 2014
Think of a contagious disease and you may picture one of the great outbreaks of the past: the terrible flu epidemic of 1918, the ever-present threat of polio in the early 20th Century, and the ancient (and still widespread) danger of cholera in overcrowded urban areas. Or you may think of the common cold, a familiar contagious malady that’s still very much with us. Yet there’s one contagious disease you may not think of, but probably should: tooth decay.
Many people don’t realize that tooth decay is contagious. But the fact is, decay bacteria can be passed between people like a bad cold — and it happens all the time.
Sugar usually gets the blame for tooth decay; a recent survey found that 81 percent of Americans say it’s responsible for cavities. But sugar alone isn’t the culprit. Cavities are actually caused by certain types of bacteria that cling to the teeth in the absence of proper oral hygiene. These bacteria process sugar from the foods we eat, and then secrete acidic byproducts that erode the hard enamel of the teeth. This causes the formation of the tiny holes we call cavities.
Children aren’t born with S. Mutans. But studies show that most of them “catch” it from their caregivers — often, their parents. By the time they are two years old, over 80 percent of kids will have detectable levels of the bacteria. Whether or not they pick up harmful microorganisms — and how much they have — depends on the infectiousness of the strain, and on the caregiver’s attention to oral hygiene.
How can you prevent the spread of decay-causing bacteria? Essentially, by limiting its transfer from your mouth to your baby’s mouth. So don’t “clean” a baby’s pacifier by putting it in your mouth, and don’t share utensils — for example, by tasting baby’s food with his or her spoon. While it’s ever so tempting, avoid kissing baby’s lips, especially if there is a chance of transferring saliva. And don’t even think of “pre-chewing” baby’s food — no matter what some self-appointed health gurus may say.
There’s still another way to limit the spread of decay-causing microorganisms: Make sure your own practice of oral hygiene is top-notch! Oral bacteria can spread not only from parents to babies, but also between adults. Maintaining good oral health means brushing and flossing every day, and getting regular check-ups: It’s important for you, and for everyone you care about.
If you have questions about tooth decay prevention or oral hygiene care, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Decay” and “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”
Nolan Gould, who plays Luke on the popular TV comedy Modern Family, has beautiful, straight teeth. But in an exclusive interview with Dear Doctor magazine, the young actor said it wasn't always that way.
“My teeth used to be pretty messed up,” Nolan said. “I had two extra teeth when I was born. They hadn't come out (erupted) yet. And all the other teeth that were already there were starting to point backwards because it was getting so crowded in my mouth. At about the age of 7, I started going to the orthodontist to get my teeth checked.”
Age 7 may sound early for a visit to the orthodontist, but in fact that's exactly the age we recommend for a first orthodontic evaluation. Malocclusions (bad bites) often become noticeable around this time, as the child's permanent (adult) teeth erupt. We might already be able to see evidence of the following problems: crowding, too much space between teeth, protruding teeth, extra or missing teeth, and sometimes problems with jaw growth. So even if your child is too young for braces, it is not necessarily too early for an orthodontic evaluation.
This type of exam can spot subtle problems with jaw growth and emerging teeth while some baby teeth are still present. Early detection of orthodontic problems makes it easier to correct those problems in the long run. Waiting until all of the permanent teeth are in, or until facial growth is nearly complete, may make correction more difficult or even impossible. That's why the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children get a check-up with an orthodontist no later than age 7.
Orthodontic treatment itself usually begins between ages 7 and 14. Therapy that begins while a child is still growing, often referred to as “interceptive orthodontics,” helps produce optimal results. In Nolan's case, an early orthodontic evaluation allowed his orthodontist enough time to plan the most effective treatment. Nolan's two extra teeth were removed before they had a chance to push his other teeth even further out of alignment, and he was given orthodontic appliances which fit behind the teeth.
“You can remove them, which is really good for acting, especially because you can't see them. I can wear them 24/7 and nobody will ever notice.”
One thing that is noticeable, however, is Nolan's perfectly aligned smile!
If you would like to learn more about improving tooth alignment with orthodontics, please contact us to schedule an appointment for a consultation. To read Dear Doctor's entire interview with Nolan Gould, please see “Nolan Gould.” Dear Doctor also has more on an “Early Orthodontic Evaluation.”
How much do you really know about Revolutionary War hero and famous disturber-of-the-peace Paul Revere? Take this quiz and find out! True or False:
- Paul Revere cried “The British are coming!”
- Paul Revere rode to Concord, Massachusetts.
- Paul Revere practiced dentistry.
The first two answers are false: Revere, like most colonists, considered himself British at the time (but might have said “the regulars” are coming); and he never made it as far as Concord, though one of his midnight-riding companions did. The last statement, however, is true: When things got slow in his regular trade of silversmithing, Revere hung out a shingle to broadcast his skills as a dentist.
“Paul Revere can fix [teeth] as well as any surgeon dentist who ever came from London, he fixes [dentures] in such a manner that they are not only an ornament but of real use in speaking and eating,” his advertisement in a Boston newspaper is supposed to have read. Revere specialized in fitting dentures made of metal and walrus ivory in his patient’s mouths. (There is no record, however, that he ever worked on George Washington’s false teeth.)
The practice of dentistry has come a long way since 1776. But the ideal set of dentures — one that’s both aesthetically pleasing and fully functional — remains a valid goal today. But now, instead of going to a metalworker, you’ll visit a denture specialist: your dentist.
We understand that dentures need to have a perfect, comfortable fit so they can do their work. That’s why we take the time to make an individual mold of your mouth as the first step of the process. Then we choose prosthetic teeth in the shape, size and shade that’s right for you. When everything is satisfactory, the dentures will be custom-fabricated in a dental laboratory using high-quality materials that are lifelike and durable. Finally, we will make sure that your new dentures look, feel and function the way they should.
If you have older dentures that no longer fit as they should, come in to our office for a check-up. It’s sometimes possible to repair or re-line dentures; in other cases, it’s best to have a new set made. Ill-fitting dentures aren’t just uncomfortable — they can also lead to oral infections and nutritional difficulties.
For more information about dentures or denture repair, please contact our office to schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Loose Dentures” and “Removable Full Dentures.”