Youth sports can be a positive life experience for your child or teenager. But there's also a risk of injury in many sporting activities, including to the teeth and mouth. An injury to the mouth, especially for a child or young adolescent whose teeth are still developing, can have a significant negative impact on their oral health.
When it comes to teeth or mouth injuries, the best preventive measure is for your child to wear an athletic mouthguard, especially for contact sports like football, hockey or soccer. But be warned: not all mouthguards are alike — and neither is their level of protection.
Mouthguards can be classified into three types. The first is known as “stock,” which is the least expensive and offers the least level of protection. They usually are available only in limited sizes (small, medium, large, etc.) and cannot be custom-fitted for the individual. This significantly lowers their protective ability, and thus we do not recommend these to our patients.
The next type is referred to as “boil and bite.” These mouthguards are made of a material called thermoplastic, which becomes pliable when heated. When first purchased, the guard is placed in boiling water until soft; the individual can then place them in the mouth and bite down or press the guard into the teeth until it hardens and forms to their palates. Although this type offers a better fit and more protection than stock mouthguards, it isn't the highest level of protection available.
That distinction goes to the last type — a custom mouthguard made by a dentist. Although the most expensive of the three, it offers the best fit and the highest level of protection. A well-made custom mouthguard is tear-resistant, fits comfortably, is easy to clean and doesn't restrict speaking and breathing. We recommend this guard as your best alternative for protecting your child athlete from tooth and mouth damage.
If you would like more information on the use of athletic mouthguards for young athletes, contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Mouthguards.”
Periodontal (gum) diseases like gingivitis (inflammation of the gum tissues) can exist in a chronic form for some time, while gradually worsening. But given the right conditions, gingivitis could elevate quickly into an acute, painful condition known as Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis (ANUG). While it can be effectively treated, it’s important to diagnose ANUG early and begin treatment as soon as possible.
ANUG is also known as “trench mouth” as it was commonly recognized among soldiers in the trenches during World War I. Its name describes it as “necrotizing” and “ulcerative,” because when left untreated it kills (“necrotizes”) soft gum tissue, particularly the triangular tissue between teeth known as papillae, and causes severe and painful sores. A person with ANUG may also exhibit very bad breath and taste, with an odor peculiar to the disease. It’s believed that acute stress, poor nutrition and a lack of sleep can trigger the condition in individuals with pre-existing gingivitis.
As with other forms of gum disease, the first priority of treatment is to alleviate the symptoms. Besides initial cleaning (also known as scaling), we would also prescribe antibiotics (particularly Metronidazole, which is effective against the specific bacteria responsible for ANUG), an antibacterial mouthrinse like chlorhexidine, and a mild saline rinse. We would also control pain and inflammation with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen.
As the symptoms come under control, it’s then necessary to treat the underlying gingivitis by continuing the thorough cleaning of the affected surfaces, including the roots, of as much plaque and tartar as possible. Good oral hygiene with semi-annual professional cleanings must become regular habits to inhibit future reoccurrences of the disease. Quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet and managing stress are also advisable.
Without treatment, ANUG symptoms will persist; you could eventually lose the affected papillae, and experience other detrimental effects to other periodontal tissue and bone structures. If you suspect you may have gingivitis or this acute form, you should visit us as soon as possible for a full evaluation and treatment. The earlier we diagnose and treat gum disease, the better your long-term outlook.
If you would like more information on painful gums, 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 “Painful Gums in Teens and Adults.”
Do you clench your jaw or grind your teeth? Bite your nails? Chew on pencils or toothpicks? Or, heaven forbid, unscrew hard-to-open bottle caps using your precious pearly whites?
Over time, habits such as these — referred to in dentistry as “parafunctional” (para – outside; functional – normal) or beyond the range of what nature intended — can inflict excessive wear and tear on your teeth. Besides the impact damaged teeth can have on your smile, so called “tooth to tooth” and “tooth to foreign object” behaviors can cause physical problems, such as jaw joint and muscle pain, headaches, earaches, and even neck and back pain.
Parafunctional behaviors exert an abnormal amount of force on your teeth — up to 10 times the amount used for biting and chewing. Tooth grinding or “bruxism” (from the Greek word brykein – “gnash the teeth”) is particularly detrimental and is commonly seen in individuals who are experiencing a stressful time in their life. Some medications can also trigger it. Since bruxism often occurs while people sleep, it's possible to be unaware of it unless a partner comments (it can be noisy!) or a dental professional points out the tell-tale signs of wear.
To counter the adverse effects of nocturnal tooth grinding our office can create a customized night or occlusal (bite) guard. Typically fashioned from a hard, clear “processed acrylic” (wear-resistant plastic), this type of guard is amazingly inconspicuous. It is made to fit over the biting surfaces of the upper teeth only and is thinner than a dime. When it is worn, the lower teeth easily glide over the upper teeth rather than chomping into and gnashing with them, which minimizes the likelihood of erosion, chipping and uneven or excessive wear of the biting surface of the teeth. The guard is so unobtrusive, that some people even wear it as they go about their daily activities.
Remember: In addition to proper dental hygiene, you can help keep your teeth healthy by using them wisely!
If you would like more information about parafunctional habits like bruxism and ways to protect your teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Stress & Tooth Habits” and “How And Why Teeth Wear.”
Periodontal (gum) disease is sometimes called a “silent” malady — meaning that its symptoms don’t generally announce themselves with great fanfare (or pain, as conditions like tooth decay and root canal issues often do). Yet this disease is estimated to affect almost half of the adult population in the United States, causing deterioration of the gums and the bone surrounding the teeth… and possibly leading to bacterial infections, loss of teeth, and even systemic (whole-body) problems.
So what exactly is periodontal disease? Actually, it’s the broad name for a group of related diseases which attack the soft tissue of the gums and the tooth-supporting bone. Most periodontal diseases are caused by the buildup of harmful bacteria in a biofilm (thin, sticky layer), which coats teeth in the absence of effective oral hygiene. And yes, that means if you don’t brush and floss daily, you’re much more likely to develop gum disease.
Even the most attractive smile could have gum disease lurking beneath it. How do you know if you may be affected? Some early warning signs include redness or inflammation of the edges of the gums, a bad taste in your mouth or bad breath, plus any degree of bleeding when you brush your teeth (brushing should never cause gums to bleed). As the disease progresses, you may develop painful inflammation or a pus-filled abscess, bone loss, loose teeth… and eventually tooth loss.
But don’t wait until then to seek treatment! If you see your general dentist regularly, and if he or she notices signs of gum disease, you may be referred to a periodontist. But you don’t need a referral — you can simply make an appointment and come in for a check-up. That may be wise if you have noticed any warning signs — especially if it has been a while since you’ve had an exam. Periodontal disease may be a silent malady, but that doesn’t mean you have to let it affect your oral health.
If you would like more information about periodontal disease, call our office for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “When To See A Periodontist” and “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”
All parents want their child to have an attractive smile and good strong healthy teeth; but it may be difficult for parents to know if their young children's teeth are coming in the way they should. Parents may not know that it is also important that the upper and lower jaws need to be in proper alignment for a properly functioning bite.
As a child's permanent teeth come in, the teeth may be too crowded, or they may have spaces between them that are too large. They can have protruding teeth, extra or missing teeth, or problems with jaw growth. Sometimes children have malocclusions (“mal” – bad; “occlusion” – bite) that were caused by thumb sucking or other problems. If you wait to seek treatment until all of the child's permanent teeth have come in, and facial and jaw growth are nearly complete, correction of problems will be more difficult and the potential to encourage jaw growth in a positive direction may be lost.
Whether a malocclusion is obvious or not it is important to have an orthodontic evaluation at an early age. Experts advise having an orthodontic evaluation some time before the age of 7. At 7, a child's permanent (adult) teeth have begun to come in but they still have some primary (baby) teeth left. If necessary, it's a good time to intercept and make a big difference for a little treatment.
Treatment that begins while a childā??s teeth are erupting or coming in, is called “interceptive orthodontics.” It provides an opportunity for the best results in orthodontic treatment. It can also include working with the child's facial growth and jaw development to assure that the upper and lower jaws align together effectively. It can often be done with simple removable appliances rather than full braces.
Orthodontics (“ortho” – straight; “odont” – tooth) is a sub-specialty of dentistry that is devoted to the study and treatment of malocclusions. Your general or pediatric dentist may recommend that our child consult with an orthodontist. Orthodontists are dentists who specialize in the growth and development of the teeth and jaws, as well as directing proper growth by moving the teeth into correct position.
Come to see us early for an orthodontic evaluation, while it's still easy to make a big improvement in your child's future smile.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about orthodontia in children. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Early Orthodontic Evaluation.” Or the article “The Magic of Orthodontics.”
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