Posts for: December, 2013

KristinCavallarisSpaghettiCatcher-FirstStepToAWinningSmile

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.”


By Denmark Dentistry
December 27, 2013
Category: Oral Health
GumDiseaseAreyouatRisk

Did you know that roughly 75% of Americans suffer from some sort of gum disease? Gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) refers to the progressive loss of attachment between the fibers that connect the bone and gum tissues to the teeth, and the consequential loss of the tooth-supporting bone itself.

As you get older, your chances for developing gum disease increase significantly. Here are a few other factors that might put you at a higher risk for developing gum disease:

  • Family History. 30% of the population may be genetically susceptible to gum disease. Luckily, there are new tests that can assess if you are at risk. However, even with good oral hygiene, studies have shown that genetically susceptible individuals may be 6 times more likely to develop gum disease.
  • Tobacco. Smokers are four times more likely to develop periodontal disease. Smokers have more disease-causing biofilm bacteria and collect it more quickly. They also lose more attachment between the teeth and gums, which leads to more loss of bone that supports the teeth.
  • Bleeding Gums. Some people mistakenly think that it is normal for their gums to bleed when they brush. In fact, this is an indication that you are not brushing and flossing effectively and a common symptom of gum disease. Pregnant women are also more likely to have bleeding gums, because elevated hormone levels may cause gum tissues to be more responsive to bacterial biofilm, thus bleeding more easily. That is why we recommend that pregnant women have regular cleanings at three to four month intervals.

We often refer to gum disease as silent, because symptoms may not appear until the disease has advanced. For this reason, you should conduct a self-assessment to identify if you are at risk.

  • Have your gums receded and/or do your teeth appear longer?
  • Are any of your teeth feeling or getting loose?
  • Do your gums appear red or swollen?
  • Have you recently had a tooth or teeth extracted because they were loose?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you may be at risk for gum disease. You should make an appointment with our office so that we can conduct a thorough examination and prescribe treatment, if necessary.

If you would like more information about gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Assessing Risk for Gum Disease.”


By Denmark Dentistry
December 12, 2013
Category: Dental Procedures
RealityStarKeptHisEyesonthePrizeNewTeeth

If you follow the hit TV reality show Amazing Race, you know that professional-hockey-playing brothers Bates and Anthony Battaglia won the $1 million prize in the latest globe-spanning competition. You may also have witnessed Anthony removing his false front teeth from time to time — like when he had to dive for pearls in Bora Bora. Since he plans to resume his sports career, Anthony wears a partial denture to fill the gap in his classic “hockey mouth.” He has said that when he finally hangs up his skates, he will use some of his Amazing Race prize money to get new, permanent teeth. When it's time to get that new smile, Anthony, like many people, will have to choose between two good options for permanent tooth replacement.

The preferred option for most people is dental implants. In this system, tiny titanium posts substitute for the root part of your missing tooth (or teeth). These are placed beneath your gum line in a minor surgical procedure we perform right here at the dental office. The amazing thing about dental implants is that they actually fuse to your jawbone, allowing your replacement teeth to last a lifetime.

The titanium implant itself is not visible in the mouth; the part of an implant tooth that you see is the lifelike crown. Virtually indistinguishable from your natural teeth, the crown is attached to the implant above the gum line. Dental implants can be used to replace a single tooth, multiple teeth, or even all your teeth. You don't necessarily need one implant for every tooth because implants can support bridgework or even a complete set of prosthetic teeth.

The second-best option is a natural-tooth fixed bridge. In this system, we use healthy natural teeth on either side of the empty space left by a missing tooth (or teeth) as supports for one or more of the prosthetic teeth that will fill the gap. The downside is that in order to turn these healthy teeth into supports (which are referred to in dentistry as “abutments”), we need to remove some enamel and then cap them. This procedure can leave those teeth more prone to decay than they were before. But with regular dental exams and good oral hygiene on your part, bridgework can last many years.

Which system is right for you? That's a question we would be happy to help you determine... even if you haven't won a large jackpot or gone pearl diving in Bora Bora. If you've been looking forward to the day when you can have permanent replacement teeth, why wait? Contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. We will help you find your ideal solution to the problem of missing teeth! For more information, please see the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dental Implants vs. Bridgework” and “Dental Implants: Your Third Set of Teeth.”