Posts for: April, 2019
More than 20 million people in the United States use electronic cigarettes or e-cigs as an alternative to tobacco smoking. While many users believe "vaping" is a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes, recent research into the health effects of e-cigs could put a damper on that belief. There's particular concern among dentists that this popular habit could harm users' dental health.
E-cigs are made with a chamber that holds the liquid vaping solution and a heating mechanism to heat the liquid and vaporize it. Users inhale the vapor, which contains nicotine and flavorings, as they would a traditional cigarette.
The nicotine alone can be problematic for dental health as we'll see in a moment. But the vapor also contains aerosols that some research indicates could damage the inner skin linings of the mouth in a similar fashion to the smoke of traditional cigarettes. One study by researchers with the Université Laval in Quebec, Canada found evidence that e-cig vapor increased the death rate of mouth cells, and led to greater cell irregularities over time.
According to other studies, there's evidence that e-cig vapor may disrupt the balance of the oral microbiome, the communities of both beneficial and harmful bacteria that normally live in the mouth. The imbalance in favor of more harmful bacteria could increase the risk for dental disease, particularly periodontal (gum) disease.
Finally, nicotine from e-cigs seemed to create similar conditions in the mouth as it does with tobacco. Nicotine in any form can constrict blood vessels and reduce the body's ability to fight infection and to heal. Research indicates both forms of nicotine increase the risk for dental disease and make treatment more difficult.
These findings only identify conditions created by e-cigs that could be problematic for future dental health. Although we don't fully understand the long-term health effects of this new habit, based on the evidence so far the mouth may not fare so well. It's looking like e-cigs may be no safer for your teeth and gums than the cigarettes they replace.
Sometimes, looking at old pictures can really bring memories back to life. Just ask Stefani Germanotta—the pop diva better known as Lady Gaga. In one scene from the recent documentary Five Foot Two, as family members sort through headshots from her teen years, her father proclaims: "Here, this proves she had braces!"
"If I had kept that gap, then I would have even more problems with Madonna," Lady Gaga replies, referencing an ongoing feud between the two musical celebrities.
The photos of Gaga's teenage smile reveal that the singer of hits like "Born This Way" once had a noticeable gap (which dentists call a diastema) between her front teeth. This condition is common in children, but often becomes less conspicuous with age. It isn't necessarily a problem: Lots of well-known people have extra space in their smiles, including ex-football player and TV host Michael Strahan, actress Anna Paquin…and fellow pop superstar Madonna. It hasn't hurt any of their careers.
Yet others would prefer a smile without the gap. Fortunately, diastema in children is generally not difficult to fix. One of the easiest ways to do so is with traditional braces or clear aligners. These orthodontic appliances, usually worn for a period of months, can actually move the teeth into positions that look more pleasing in the smile and function better in the bite. For many people, orthodontic treatment is a part of their emergence from adolescence into adulthood.
Braces and aligners, along with other specialized orthodontic appliances, can also remedy many bite problems besides diastema. They can correct misaligned teeth and spacing irregularities, fix overbites and underbites, and take care of numerous other types of malocclusions (bite problems).
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that kids get screened for orthodontic problems at age 7. Even if an issue is found, most won't get treatment at this age—but in some instances, it's possible that early intervention can save a great deal of time, money and effort later. For example, while the jaw is still developing, its growth can be guided with special appliances that can make future orthodontic treatment go quicker and easier.
Yet orthodontics isn't just for children—adults can wear braces too! As long as teeth and gums are healthy, there's no upper age limit on orthodontic treatment. Instead of traditional silver braces, many adults choose tooth-colored braces or clear aligners to complement their more professional appearance.
So if your child is at the age where screening is recommended—or if you're unhappy with your own smile—ask us whether orthodontics could help. But if you get into a rivalry with Madonna…you're on your own.
If you have questions about orthodontic treatment, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “The Magic of Orthodontics” and “Orthodontics For The Older Adult.”
Gum recession is an all too common problem for millions of people that if left untreated could lead to tooth and bone loss. But the good news is not only can the process be stopped, much of the damage can also be repaired through periodontal plastic surgery.
Gum recession occurs when the gum tissue protecting the teeth detaches and draws back to expose the root surface. This exposure may result in a range of effects, from minor tooth sensitivity to eventual tooth loss. There are a number of causes for gum recession, including overaggressive brushing or flossing, biting habits or badly fitting dentures or appliances.
The most prominent cause, though, is periodontal (gum) disease, a bacterial infection triggered by plaque buildup on tooth surfaces due to poor oral hygiene. Fortunately, early gum disease is highly treatable by thoroughly cleaning tooth, root and gum surfaces of plaque and calculus (hardened plaque deposits), along with possible antibiotic therapy, to reduce the infection and promote tissue healing.
Unfortunately, advanced cases of gum recession may have already resulted in extensive damage to the tissues themselves. While disease treatment can stimulate some re-growth, some cases may require reconstructive surgery to repair and further rebuild the tissues.
There are several techniques periodontists (specialists in gums, bone and other dental support structures) or dentists with advanced training can perform to “re-model” recessed gum tissues. One of the major areas is placing tissue grafts (either from the patient or a human donor) at the site to encourage further tissue growth. Properly affixing a graft requires a great deal of training, skill and experience, especially in cases where the graft may need to be connected with adjoining tissues to establish a viable blood supply for the graft.
In skilled hands, a periodontal surgical procedure is fairly predictable with minimal discomfort afterward. And the lasting effects are well-worth it — not only will your health benefit from restored gum tissue and greater protection for your teeth, you’ll also enjoy a more attractive smile.
If you would like more information the treatment of gum recession, 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 “Periodontal Plastic Surgery.”