Posts for: October, 2012
We've all heard of morning sickness, but did you know that it's also not unusual for pregnant women to experience oral discomfort? This is what Entertainment Tonight co-host Nancy O'Dell discovered when she was expecting her daughter, Ashby. In an exclusive interview with Dear Doctor magazine, Nancy described how her gums became extra-sensitive during pregnancy, leading her dentist to diagnose her with “pregnancy gingivitis” (“gingival” – gum tissue; “itis” – inflammation).
“While my dental health has always been relatively normal, pregnancy did cause me some concern about my teeth and gums,” Nancy said. “With my dentist's advice and treatment, the few problems I had were minimized,” she said.
It's especially important to maintain good oral hygiene during pregnancy with routine brushing and flossing, and regular professional cleanings. This will reduce the accumulation of the dental bacterial plaque that leads to gum disease. Both mother and child are particularly vulnerable to these bacteria during this sensitive time. Scientific studies have established a link between preterm delivery and the presence of periodontal (gum) disease in pregnant women. Also, the elevated hormone levels of pregnancy cause the tiny blood vessels of the gum tissues to become dilated (widened) and therefore more susceptible to the effects of plaque bacteria and their toxins. Gingivitis is especially common during the second to eighth months of pregnancy.
Excess bacterial plaque can occasionally lead to another pregnancy-related condition in the second trimester: an overgrowth of gum tissue called a “pregnancy tumor.” In this case, “tumor” means nothing more than a swelling or growth. Pregnancy tumors, usually found between the teeth, are completely benign but they do bleed easily and are characterized by a red, raw-looking mulberry-like surface. They can be surgically removed if they do not resolve themselves after the baby is born.
If you are experiencing any pregnancy-related oral health issues, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation. If you would like to read Dear Doctor's entire interview with Nancy O'Dell, please see “Nancy O'Dell.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Pregnancy and Oral Health: Everything You Always Wanted To Know But Never Knew To Ask.”
Grinding, clenching, and gritting your teeth are common reactions to stress — but their results can be quite complex. Here are some questions and answers that will fill you in on what you may not know about this widespread problem.
My dentist said I was bruxing. What does that mean?
Bruxing means that your teeth are grinding upon each other. Many people carry out this habit subconsciously and are not even aware that they are doing it.
Is bruxing or gritting harmful?
Such habits are called “parafunctional” (from para, meaning outside, and function, meaning purpose). This is because these stress habits exert much larger biting forces — as much as ten times more — than in normal biting and chewing activities. This excess pressure can cause damage to jaw joints and muscles, resulting in muscle spasm and pain; and to the teeth, resulting in wear, fractures or looseness. They can also cause headaches, earaches, and even neck and backaches because of the pressures on various structures in the face and mouth.
What is the usual treatment for problems arising from these stress habits?
The first thing we want to do is relieve your pain and discomfort. Second, we want to stop future damage. Application of heat or cold is helpful, and mild anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant drugs are prescribed for pain and muscle spasm. To prevent future occurrences, we may treat you with biofeedback or refer you to someone who can offer psychotherapy.
What is a night guard and how can it help?
A night guard is an unobtrusive thin plastic appliance that is made to fit over the biting surfaces of your upper teeth. These guards are so unobtrusive that they can even be worn during the day if your stress level is so high that you grind your teeth during the day. The guard is adjusted to leave the lower teeth free to move against the surface of the guard, but they cannot bite into the upper teeth. This prevents wear on the teeth and lets the jaw muscles relax, preventing the pain of muscle spasm.
We'd like to take a moment to clarify why it is so important to wear the retainer(s) given to you after your orthodontic treatment. These devices, which literally “retain” your teeth in their new and improved positions, are not just for kids. Anyone who has recently had their teeth moved through orthodontics needs to wear them for the prescribed length of time. Here's why:
Though your teeth may now look perfectly aligned, research has shown that there is no “right” position for your teeth to be in that can assure they don't move again — no matter what age you are when treated for malocclusion (“mal” – bad; “occlusion” – bite). In fact, most people will see changes to their bite and tooth alignment as they get older, with or without orthodontic treatment.
For one thing, there is a natural tendency for bottom front teeth to undergo a gradual “uprighting” with age. This can cause them to crowd as they move toward the tongue. And it happens regardless of whether wisdom teeth are present.
In the case of teeth that have been straightened recently, a type of “memory” of their original position may cause them to drift back to it. This tendency gradually lessens, but it may be a problem for up to 18 months.
That's why it's crucial to follow our instructions for wearing retainers. Keep in mind that the plan we have given you is designed to achieve the best possible results in your individual case. Some people will need to wear retainers 24 hours per day, some just at night, and still others on an as-needed basis. You may have received a removable retainer or one that is secured to the back of your teeth. The important thing is to secure the results you've worked so hard to achieve.
You can read more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Importance of Orthodontic Retainers.”
If you believe you need a crown or if we have already confirmed this fact, you need to understand that there are several options. The most common are gold crowns, porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns and all porcelain crowns. Each has both pros and cons; thus we will work with you to determine which will work best for your specific needs. However, to help you learn more now, here are some facts.
Made from cast gold, this type of crown has been around for over 100 years and is the most successful type of crown. It can last more than 50 years and thus many dentists prefer gold restorations for their own teeth, where cosmetics is not a concern.
All Porcelain Crowns
All porcelain crowns can produce an incredible, life-like appearance. However, because they are made purely from dental porcelain (a type of glass), they tend to be more fragile than gold crowns and may be more at risk with certain high biting forces. Thus they may not be as durable. Porcelain can also cause wear to the natural teeth they bite against. Therefore they are typically preferred for front teeth, rather than back teeth. They have an aesthetic longevity of about 10 years and a functional longevity of about 20 years.
As the name states, porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns provide the best of both worlds. They are made of natural tooth-colored dental porcelain that is fused on top of a precious or noble metal (usually gold or platinum). They are stronger than porcelain alone and are a good option for back teeth because they offer a better cosmetic result than gold crowns. This is also true for front teeth, however the gold support beneath the porcelain can compromise its life-like qualities. These crowns also have a proven track record and have been used with excellent results for over 40 years.