For decades, dental amalgam — the common “silver” fillings found in the mouths of millions — was the best option for restoring teeth after the removal of decay. This time-tested material is still going strong, but in recent years it's had serious competition from newer restoration techniques that use tooth-colored substances to make fillings. If you've heard of these new materials and want to know more, you can start with the following five facts.
1) Filling materials must match the properties of natural teeth.
When properly cared for, teeth are strong, resilient, and superbly functional. A good filling material should mimic the strength and durability of natural teeth under biting forces. It should also last a long time in the mouth, be relatively easy to place, and be economical in cost. In the past, amalgam fillings were the best choice to do the job. But that was thenā?¦
2) Tooth-colored filling materials offer similar benefits, plus aesthetic appeal.
Composite resins and dental porcelains are tough, durable materials that have been found to hold up well under years of use. Unlike traditional silver fillings, however, they match the appearance of natural teeth quite closely. This means that even a restoration in the front of the mouth may be virtually undetectable. And who wouldn't like that?
3) Tooth-colored resins may allow more conservative treatment in decay removal.
In order to keep them securely in place, amalgam (silver) fillings may require “undercutting,” which removes more of the tooth structure. The process involved in bonding tooth-colored restorations, however, generally requires removal of less tooth material. This means a stronger base for rebuilding the tooth's structure.
4) Different treatment methods are used for different degrees of tooth restoration.
Small cavities can be treated by direct “chairside” techniques, which are very similar to the methods used for traditional amalgam (silver) fillings: in one brief visit, it's all done. When a greater volume of tooth structure must be replaced, we may be able to create a larger tooth-colored filling in a longer visit. Or, we might need to have a special restoration made to match your teeth; then, you can come back to have it securely bonded for a natural and long-lasting result.
5) Both amalgam and tooth-colored fillings are safe and effective.
Each has advantages and disadvantages in particular cases. But as the technology of tooth-colored filling systems evolves, some dental researchers have heralded the beginning of the “post-amalgam era.” Are tooth-colored fillings right for your individual situation? We're the ones to ask.
If you would like more information about tooth-colored fillings, 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 “The Natural Beauty of Tooth-Colored Fillings.”
Let's say you happen to be sitting on a plane next to supermodel Bar Refaeli, who was recently voted #1 on Maxim magazine's Hot 100 list. You're a little nervous, but you want to make a good impression. What's the first thing she's going to look at? Your expensive suit? Your sculpted torso? How about — your smile!
“Teeth are the first thing I look at,” explained the glamorous cover girl in a Maxim interview. “A nice smile with beautiful teeth is the most attractive thing.”
We wholeheartedly agree. But, of course, not everyone is lucky enough to be born with a perfect set of teeth. What to do then?
“Let's just say that with today's orthodontists, I don't understand why people wouldn't fix them,” Refaeli stated. Need we say more?
The Israeli supermodel, who has appeared in several Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues, knows what she's talking about. Refaeli started modeling as a young child, but had to put her career on hold for a few years while she got braces. When they came off, at age 11, she began her steady climb to the top of the modeling business.
Plenty of aspiring actors and models — as well as regular folks — get braces as children. But if you're serious about improving your smile, it's never too late to have orthodontic treatment. For adults, there are many options available in addition to the standard metal appliances.
Colorless ceramic braces offer a less noticeable way to correct misaligned teeth. Made of high-tech materials that resist staining, their translucent appearance blends so well with the look of your natural teeth that it can be hard to tell you're wearing them.
Clear aligners are an alternative to braces that are worn 20-22 hours per day. They consist of a series of precision-made, transparent “trays” that gradually straighten your teeth over a period of time. Best of all, you can remove them for special occasions — like meeting a supermodel.
Which type of orthodontic treatment is best for you? Why not come in for a consultation and find out! Working together, we can evaluate your situation and develop an effective, individualized treatment plan that fits your lifestyle.
If you have questions about orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Orthodontics For The Older Adult.”
There are some people, particularly women around the age of menopause, who experience an uncomfortable burning and dry sensation in their mouths most of the time. The exact cause of this condition, known as “burning mouth syndrome,” is often difficult to determine, though links to a variety of other health conditions have been established. These include diabetes, nutritional deficiencies (of iron and B vitamins, for example), acid reflux, cancer therapy, and psychological problems. Hormonal changes associated with menopause might also play a role.
If you are experiencing burning sensations and dryness, please come in and see us so we can try to figure out what's causing these symptoms in your particular case. We will start by taking a complete medical history and getting a list of all the medications you are taking as some drugs are known to cause mouth dryness. We will also give you a thorough examination.
In the meantime, here are some ways you might be able to get some relief:
Give up habits that can cause dry mouth such as chronic smoking, alcohol and/or coffee drinking, and frequent eating of hot and spicy foods.
Keep your mouth moist by drinking lots of water. We can also recommend products that replace or stimulate production of saliva.
Try different brands of toothpastes, opting for “plain” varieties that don't contain the foaming agent sodium lauryl sulfate, whiteners, or strong flavoring such as cinnamon.
Keep a food diary of everything that you put into and around your mouth (including food, makeup and personal care products). This might give us some clues as to what's causing your discomfort.
Check with us about any medications you are taking, either prescription or over-the-counter. We can tell you if any are known to dry out the mouth and maybe help you find substitutions.
Reduce stress in your life if you possibly can. This might be achieved through relaxing forms of exercise, joining a support group for people dealing with chronic pain, or seeking psychotherapy.
For many parents, the image of an infant intently absorbed in sucking a pacifier — or her own thumb — is one of the cherished memories of babyhood. But if this habit goes on for too long, it can cause problems with the child's bite. Want to know what the potential predicaments are, when you should be concerned about the behavior, and what you can do? Read on!
Thumb sucking is a natural, comforting behavior of humans (and some other primates) related to nursing. It usually goes away on its own by the time the permanent teeth are coming in. But it can be a hard habit to break — and if it becomes a persistent behavior, the consequences may include a problem called an “open bite.”
In a normal bite, the top teeth slightly overlap the bottom teeth. When the thumb (or any other object) constantly rests between the upper and lower teeth, however, the pressure it exerts may prevent the teeth from fully erupting (coming out from the gums into the mouth) and alter the shape and development of the upper and lower jawbone. This result is a gap between the upper and lower teeth.
The same problem may also be caused by prolonging the “infantile swallowing pattern,” a forward-thrusting position of the tongue which, like thumb sucking, normally begins to cease around age four. That's when it is replaced by the adult swallowing pattern, where the tongue is held behind the teeth, against the roof on the mouth. Researchers believe that most open bites result from the failure to change from the infantile to the adult swallowing pattern.
When should you be concerned about the thumb sucking habit? If the behavior continues much past toddlerhood, or if the sucking is particularly active, you may wish to have us evaluate your child's bite. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends having the habit stop by age 3. Persistent thumb sucking can actually push the teeth forward and change the growth patterns of the jaw, creating more difficult problems.
There are several methods for controlling the behavior and correcting problems with the bite. One is an appliance called a “tongue crib.” This thin metal device is placed behind the upper and lower incisors. It discourages thumb sucking, while at the same time helping to keep the tongue from inserting itself between the upper and lower teeth. Eliminating these unhelpful habits is essential to allow the teeth to erupt into proper position and to allow for the normal development of the jawbones.
Recent research has also shown that individualized exercise routines called orofacial myofunctional therapy (OMT) can be highly effective in preventing open bite relapses. These exercises are designed to retrain muscles in the face, tongue and lips, and can help to create good chewing and swallowing patterns.
If you would like more information about thumb sucking or children's bite problems, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about these issues by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Thumb Sucking Affects The Bite.”
Young children are like sponges, soaking up patterns of behavior they will later apply in many circumstances throughout life. In this learning process, they often look to family members for guidance. Some good habits, like saying “please” and “thank you,” can be taught verbally. Others are best learned by example.
Developing good habits early will benefit your children for a lifetime — especially where their health is concerned. Fortunately, it isn't hard to instill good oral hygiene behavior in a young child; for example, most all children are successfully taught to brush their teeth at an early age. What follows are some tips that might not be as obvious, but will help your children build healthy routines for maintaining optimum oral hygiene.
1) Teach your children how to check the cleanliness of their own teeth.
How? By running their tongue over the tooth surfaces! If the teeth feel nice and smooth, they're likely to be clean, too. Remember to give kids a soft brush, and tell them to use gentle strokes in brushing.
2) Avoid transferring your own oral bacteria to your children.
Children aren't born with decay-producing bacteria — they get them from others! That's why sharing baby's spoon or licking a pacifier clean aren't really good ideas. (Neither is pre-chewing a baby's food, despite what some birds and celebrities do. Trust us on this.)
3) Set an example of healthy eating habits for your children.
Follow common-sense guidelines (like those in www.choosemyplate.gov) for maintaining a balanced diet, eating plenty of vegetables and whole grains, drinking lots of water and getting moderate exercise.
4) Limit sugary treats to mealtimes, not snack times — if you allow them at all.
Oral bacteria utilize sugar for energy and when they metabolize it, they produce harmful acids. These acids attack the teeth and cause decay. The more sugar, the higher potential for stronger acids. Saliva helps neutralize these acids — but not if sugar is constantly present in the mouth. Try to limit sugary treats to mealtimes, and serve a healthier snack between meals.
5) Encourage your children to stop sucking thumbs and pacifiers by age 3.
Thumb sucking is a normal, comforting habit that may begin in the womb. Most kids stop on their own between ages 2 and 4. But long-term sucking on fingers or a pacifier can lead to tooth and jaw-development problems. We can help you find ways to gently encourage children to stop when it's time.
If you would like more information about instilling good oral hygiene habits in children, 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 “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”
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