Posts for: January, 2014
If Kristi Yamaguchi's kids inherit her figure skating ability, they might just be headed for the Olympics — after all, their mom won the gold medal for figure skating in the 1992 games. When it comes to teeth, however, she wouldn't mind if they inherited her spouse's instead. “My husband [fellow Olympian turned pro hockey player Bret Hedican] never had braces,” she recently told an interviewer. “I'm hoping they get his teeth.”
When you look at the elegant skating star's pearly smile, you'd never suspect she had dental problems. In fact, Kristi had four permanent teeth extracted to relieve the crowding in her mouth. She also wore braces to correct irregularities in both upper and lower teeth. Could orthodontics work the same “magic” for your kids — or yourself?
It just might. The first step toward finding out is having an orthodontic evaluation. For kids, the right time for an initial evaluation is no later than age 7. By then, the first molars are usually present and your child's bite pattern is establishing. Even though treatment may not begin for several more years, it's helpful to know what problems may arise in your child's individual situation — and to start treating them at just the right time.
Orthodontics has progressed a great deal in the two decades since Yamaguchi's braces came off. Today, small devices called palatal expanders are often used to create more space in the mouth, as an alternative to tooth extraction. There are also many new options for orthodontic appliances, in addition to standard metal braces. These include unobtrusive tooth-colored braces and lingual braces, which are applied to the tongue side of the teeth and can't be seen. In some cases, clear plastic aligners can be used instead of braces, for a look that's almost invisible.
Adolescence is often the preferred time to do orthodontic treatment. By then, the permanent teeth have mostly come in, but there's still some growing left to do. But age isn't a factor that should stop you from getting the smile you've always wanted. About one in five orthodontic patients today is an adult — and those less-visible appliances can fit in well with the more “professional” image of an older person.
Orthodontics can't help make someone an Olympic athlete — only lots of talent and practice can do that. But it can make a big difference in a person's appearance. “Once my braces came off, it was like — Wow! That looks so much nicer,” Yamaguchi recollected. And today, the mother of two, author, and philanthropist sports the same appealing smile she had on the podium at the Albertville Olympic Games.
If you would like more information on how orthodontics could help you get the smile you've dreamed about, 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 “Early Orthodontic Evaluation” and “The Magic of Orthodontics.”
While hygiene and regular dental care go a long way to reduce your risk of oral disease and disorders, you’re still subject to your heredity. Everything from tooth alignment to the shape of your jaws is determined by your genes.
So is the biological structure of your gum tissue. Aside from minute variations, gum tissue structure falls into two broad categories — “thin” or “thick,” which refer to the actual thickness of the tissue and the underlying bone. The tooth’s appearance is the best indicator of which type you may have: those with more triangular-shaped tooth (often called scalloped) have thin gum tissue; a person with a squarer appearance (flat) has thick gum tissue. People of Asian descent tend to have thin/scalloped tissue while those with European or African heritage tend to have thick/flat tissues.
Thick gum tissue isn’t superior to thin, or vice-versa. In fact, each type is susceptible to certain types of diseases or adverse conditions.
Thin tissues are more susceptible to the occurrence of receding gums. Caused mainly by periodontal disease and toothbrush abrasion, the gum tissue recedes and exposes more of the unprotected tooth surface that should be below the gum line. This increases the risk of decay and tooth loss. Patients with thick tissue, on the other hand, have a higher risk of developing a condition known as “pocketing.” As the thicker gum tissue becomes inflamed from dental plaque, it loses its attachment to the teeth and forms a small pocket. The end result is possible bone and tooth loss.
There’s not much you can do about which type of gum tissue you have, for which you can thank (or blame!) your ancestors. But there’s something you can do to reduce your risk of periodontal disease. First and foremost, you should practice good daily hygiene, brushing with a soft-bristled tooth brush and gentle flossing. It’s also important to maintain regular cleanings and checkups in our office; not only will this ensure complete plaque and tartar removal, but gives us a better chance to detect either receding gums or pocketing early. Earlier detection can mean better treatment outcomes — and a saved smile.
If you would like more information on genetic types of periodontal tissues, 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 “Genetics & Gum Tissue Types.”