Posts for: November, 2014
Today, many people are taking positive steps to reduce the risks posed by major health problems like cancer, cardiopulmonary diseases, hypertension, and diabetes. But there’s one disease that makes the top-ten list of worldwide health conditions, and yet isn’t thought about as much as many of the others. That malady is severe periodontal (gum) disease — and according to a new study, it’s the sixth-most prevalent health condition in the world.
The study, released by the International and American Associations for Dental Research, reveals that some 743 million people around the world — about 11 percent of the global population — suffer from severe periodontal disease; that percentage hasn’t changed significantly since 1990. The study also shows that while an individual’s chance of developing this condition rises gradually with age, there is a steep increase in people between 30 and 40 years old, with a peak at age 38.
If severe periodontal disease is such a major concern, why isn’t it “on the radar”? A 2010 report from the U.S. Surgeon General, titled “Oral Health: The Silent Epidemic,” gives some clues. For one thing, diseases related to oral health don’t always produce dramatic symptoms: Even tooth loss, for example, is sometimes (wrongly) regarded as an inevitable consequence of aging, when it’s more often the result of disease or injury. For another, these conditions disproportionately affect people whose voices aren’t always heard: children, the elderly, and the disadvantaged.
Severe periodontal disease is clearly a challenge to the public health. But what can you do as an individual? Plenty! The good news about periodontal disease is that it is largely preventable, and very treatable. Prevention is chiefly a matter of maintaining good oral hygiene.
Have you flossed lately? Is your brushing technique up to snuff? Do you avoid sugary snacks and beverages (especially between meals), and visit your dentist for regular checkups? If so, you’ve taken some major steps toward preventing periodontal disease. But despite their best efforts, it is difficult for some people to control periodontal disease without extra assistance. That’s where a periodontist can help.
Periodontists are concerned with treating problems of the gums. We use a number of methods to combat periodontal disease — including removing plaque bacteria, restoring healthy tissue, and educating people about how to maintain better oral hygiene at home. Your general dentist may refer you to a periodontist if warning signs are noticed, but you don’t need a referral to come in for an exam. If you notice the symptoms of periodontal disease — redness or inflammation of the gums, a bad taste or odor in your mouth, or any amount of bleeding when you brush — then it may be time to have your gums checked.
We all know Madonna, Seal, David Letterman, Anna Paquin and Michael Strahan (of the talk show Kelly and Michael). What do all of these celebrities have in common? Each has a “signature gap” between their front teeth. Given that they have been in the public eye for quite some time, it's not likely that these famous faces will choose to change their well-known smile. In fact, Michael Strahan has publically stated that he will never close his gap.
However, it is not uncommon for people to desire to fix a small gap in their teeth, particularly in advance of important events, such as weddings. Often times, fixing this small gap requires relatively simple orthodontic movements or tooth straightening. Since the teeth don't have to be moved very far, we can usually use simple appliances to correct the issue within a few months.
In order for us to determine your course of treatment, you'll need to make an appointment with our office for a thorough examination. When we examine you, we'll be looking for a number of items that will affect our treatment recommendation:
- Is there enough room to close the space without creating other bite problems?
- Are the roots of the teeth in reasonably good position to allow for minor tooth movement to close the space? X-rays will be required to make a proper assessment.
- Is there an involuntary tongue habit that has pushed the teeth forward and created the gap? If so, this could be difficult to fix quickly.
- Are the surrounding gum tissues and bone healthy?
Based on our assessment and your individual needs, we may recommend one of the following options:
- Clear retainers, a computer-generated series of clear retainers customized for your bite to move the teeth
- Removable orthodontic retainers to which we will attach small springs or elastics to facilitate the minor tooth movement
- Traditional fixed orthodontic appliances (most commonly known as braces), small metal or clear brackets bonded to your teeth through which tiny wires are used to move the teeth
Regardless of the method we choose, once your teeth have moved into the new position, it is important for you to remember that they must be kept in this position until the bone stabilizes around the teeth. We may therefore advise you to wear a retainer for a few months to a few years, depending on your situation.
If you would like more information about orthodontic treatments, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Minor Tooth Movement.”