Posts for: March, 2012

By Arnold Cutler, D.D.S.
March 28, 2012
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants  
WhenTeethareLostBoneisLost

Most people think of bone as rock-solid, but it's actually a living tissue that's constantly changing. This has significant implications for your oral health, general health, and appearance — if you are one of the 70% of Americans missing at least one tooth.

Throughout the day, your top and bottom teeth make hundreds of fleeting contacts with each other. These small stresses are transmitted though the periodontal ligament (“peri” – around; “odont” – tooth) that supports each tooth in its socket like a hammock. Think of it as a gentle push on the hammock, which causes the tooth to gently bump the underlying bone. The bone then builds up in the spot that's receiving stress to counteract it. This constant remodeling of bone is what allows bone to stay healthy and strong.

When a tooth is lost, the bone does not receive that gentle stress. It reacts by literally melting away. Sometimes this happens fairly quickly — in a matter of months. After the tooth-supporting bone is lost, the jawbone itself begins the same process of deterioration. This could eventually change the shape of the face, as the distance from nose to chin can decrease — even if only a few back teeth are missing. The results aren't pretty. But the good news is, there's a way to prevent all this.

Dental implants, which function as substitute tooth roots, actually save underlying bone when teeth are lost. They do this because they are made of titanium, which fuses to the bone in which it's set, stabilizing it. The implant is topped by a realistic-looking crown, which replaces the part of the missing tooth that was visible in the mouth. Together, they look and function just as your natural tooth did.

If you are missing a lot of teeth, implants can also be used to anchor bridges or even removable dentures while providing that same bone-saving benefit. And when you consider that they are so durable they should never need replacement, implants are a great investment.

If you have any questions about dental implants, please contact us, or schedule an appointment for an implant consultation.

You can read more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”


By Arnold Cutler, D.D.S.
March 20, 2012
Category: Oral Health
Tags: pediatric care   pregnancy  
EightReasonstoTakeGoodCareofYourTeethWhenPregnant

A pregnant woman has a lot to think about while preparing to welcome a new member of her family. It's important to think about her oral health as well. She is sharing her body with the developing infant, so problems with her health — including her dental health — can affect the baby. The following facts will help you understand the relationship between oral health and pregnancy.

  1. A baby's primary (baby) teeth begin to form during the sixth week of pregnancy. They begin to form their enamel (the hard outer layer of the teeth) and dentin layer (just under the enamel) at about the third or fourth month. The calcium, phosphorous, and protein that are needed for these structures must all be provided by the mother's diet.
  2. A good diet for a pregnant mother, in order to provide for both her needs and those of the fetus (the developing baby), includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables — including green leafy vegetables — proteins and dairy products. A doctor may also recommend iron and/or folic acid supplements.
  3. If the mother's diet does not provide enough calcium for the baby's bones and teeth, it will come from calcium stored in her bones — not from her teeth. The old idea that a mother's teeth lose calcium during pregnancy has been found to be a myth.
  4. Progesterone, a normal female hormone, is elevated during pregnancy. This hormone stimulates production of prostaglandins, substances that cause inflammation in gum tissues if the bacteria that cause periodontal (gum) disease are present. The resulting swelling, redness, and sensitive gum tissues, called pregnancy gingivitis, are common during the second to eighth months of pregnancy.
  5. The bacteria involved in periodontal disease can affect whole body conditions such as heart disease and strokes, diabetes, and respiratory diseases. The inflammation resulting from such bacteria can also cause premature delivery (birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or low birth weight in the baby.
  6. Periodontal disease is also related to pre-eclampsia, or high blood pressure, during pregnancy.
  7. Dental x-rays do not expose the mother to very high radiation, but in any case every precaution is taken to minimize exposure to the fetus. These include a leaded apron that shields the baby from exposure.
  8. Most drugs commonly used in dentistry, including local anesthetics, can safely be given to pregnant women without affecting the fetus. However, it is important to let your dentist know you are pregnant before embarking on any treatment to make sure anything that is done will be safe for the fetus and its developing teeth.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about pregnancy and your oral health. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Pregnancy and Oral Health.”


By Arnold Cutler, D.D.S.
March 12, 2012
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
TestYourDentalVocabulary

When dentists talk to patients, they often use specialized vocabulary referring to various dental conditions. Do you understand what they mean when they use these words — or are you wondering what they are talking about?

Here's your chance to test your knowledge of ten words that have a particular meaning in the context of dentistry. If you already know them, congratulations! If you don't, here's your chance to learn what these words mean in the dental world.

Enamel
In dentistry, enamel is the hard outer coating of your teeth. It is the hardest substance produced by living animals. It is a non-living, mineralized, and composed of a crystalline form of calcium and phosphate.

Dentin
The dentin is the layer of a tooth that is just beneath the enamel. It is living tissue similar to bone tissue.

Pulp
When dentists speak of pulp, we mean the tissues in the central chamber of a tooth (the root canal) that nourish the dentin layer and contain the nerves of the tooth.

Bruxism
Many people exert excess pressure on their teeth by clenching or grinding them. This is called bruxism, a habit that can be very damaging to teeth.

Occlusion
By this we mean how the upper and lower teeth are aligned, and how they fit together. This can also be referred to as your bite.

Dental caries
This term refers to tooth decay. Dental caries and periodontal disease (see below) are two of the most common diseases known to man. Today, these diseases are not only treatable, but they are also largely preventable.

Periodontal disease
A term for gum disease, this term comes from “peri,” meaning around and “odont,” meaning tooth. It is used to describe a process of inflammation and infection leading to the progressive loss of attachment between the fibers that connect the bone and gum tissues to the teeth. This can lead to loss of teeth and of the bone itself.

Erosion
When you consume acidic foods or drinks, the acids in your mouth react directly with minerals in the outer enamel of your teeth, causing chemical erosion. This is not the same as tooth decay, which is caused by acids released by bacterial film that forms on your teeth (see below).

Dental implant
A dental implant is a permanent replacement for a missing tooth. It replaces the root portion of the tooth and is most often composed of a titanium alloy. The titanium root fuses with the jaw bone, making the implant very stable. A crown is attached to the implant and can be crafted to match your natural teeth.

Plaque
Dental plaque is the whitish film of bacteria (a biofilm) that collects on your teeth. Your goal in daily brushing and flossing is to remove plaque.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss any questions you may have about your teeth and gums. You can also learn more by reading Dear Doctor magazine article “How and Why Teeth Wear.”


By Arnold Cutler, D.D.S.
March 04, 2012
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: braces   orthodontics  
BracesandOtherOrthodonticAppliancesWhichTypeIsBestforYou

If you are planning orthodontic treatment for yourself or your child, you may have heard about different types of orthodontic appliances (braces) and you may be wondering which type is best for you.

Orthodontic treatment is the process used to improve the positioning of your teeth and bite so that you look better and your teeth function properly. Movement of the teeth is accomplished by harnessing the natural regenerative powers of the body to remodel living tissue, in this case, the bone, which adapts to the new position into which the teeth are moved. Orthodontic appliances accomplish the movement by placing small light and constant forces on the teeth to move them into new and better positions.

There are currently three main types of orthodontic appliances to move your teeth. After careful analysis of your bite and needs, we can help you select the best option for your particular situation.

Fixed appliances, commonly known as braces, so-called because they are fixed to the teeth thereby bracing them together, small brackets are bonded to the teeth and light flexible wires are threaded through them. Controlled tension on these wires pulls or pushes the teeth into position.

Clear brackets are a second, more aesthetic type of fixed appliance. While they are less visible, they tend to be more fragile.

Use of fixed appliances, whether brackets are metal or clear, is usually recommended in more complex cases because they enable the orthodontist to accomplish more complex three-dimensional tooth movements in the most efficient and predictable manner. Please note that, during treatment, you should avoid eating hard foods or participating in extreme contact sports so you will not damage your teeth or the appliances.

Clear aligners are a third, more recent option for repositioning teeth. They are removable appliances, generally used in situations that are milder in nature and easier to correct. After careful assessment, a series of computer-generated, custom made clear plastic trays are made to move the mal-aligned teeth. Tooth movement is progressive with each successive aligner or tray, moving the teeth minutely, until the new desired position(s) is achieved. Clear aligners are usually used for simpler or tipping movements of teeth.

With any of these options, simple movements of teeth may take a few months, and more complex movements take up to two or three years.

Orthodontic treatment is an ingenious scientific discovery that has allowed the dental profession to accurately and precisely move teeth for improved aesthetic appearance and functional position. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about orthodontics. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Magic of Orthodontics.”


By Arnold Cutler, D.D.S.
March 01, 2012
Category: Oral Health
TheTruthAboutThumbSucking

In times of stress, people have many ways to comfort themselves. For adults, it can be habits such as eating, drinking, or smoking. For children, it is often sucking their thumb, fingers, or a pacifier. Babies have been observed in scans to suck on their fingers and thumbs even before they are born. It makes them feel secure.

When is thumb sucking a problem?
Sucking on fingers or thumbs can be a problem when it is done too vigorously and too long. A young child's jaws are soft and can change their shape to make room for the thumb if the child sucks too hard and too often. If thumb, finger or pacifier habits continue too long, the upper front teeth may tip toward the lip or not come into the correct position in the mouth.

How do you know if your child falls into the group that will suffer from the results of too much thumb sucking? It's best to visit our office so we can check on how the child's teeth and jaws are developing.

What can be done about thumb and finger sucking?
Most children naturally stop sucking their thumbs, fingers, or pacifiers between the age of two and four. The pacifier habit is easier to break than the thumb or finger sucking habit, probably because it is always easier to find their fingers or thumbs. It is a good idea to try to transfer your child's habit to a pacifier at an early age. The next steps are to cut down pacifier usage and gradually stop by 18 months.

If your child is still engaging in these habits at age three, we can recommend strategies for cutting back and stopping. Remember that positive reinforcement, in which a child is rewarded for the desired behavior, always works better than punishment for the behavior you don't like.

Also remember that finger and thumb sucking is normal. Help your child to feel safe, secure, and comfortable as the behavior will probably disappear by itself. If you are worried about your child's sucking a pacifier, thumb or fingers, please visit us to put your mind at rest.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about children's thumb sucking. For more information, read “Thumb Sucking in Children” in Dear Doctor magazine.




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