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Posts for: October, 2013

By Gregory J. Gauthier DDS, LLC
October 29, 2013
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: orthodontics   frenectomy  
MinorProcedureCanHelpKeeptheSpaceBetweenTeethClosed

You have a beautiful smile, but with one noticeable flaw — there's a small gap between your two front teeth. It's a common occurrence that can be corrected with orthodontics.

There are a number of causes for this wider spacing, including an excessive overlap bite of the upper teeth over the lower, habits such as tongue-thrusting or finger-sucking, or extra (or even missing) teeth. But one of the most common is the presence of an overly large muscle attachment called a frenum or, as it's sometimes referred to, frenulum. If that's the case, you may need a minor surgical procedure in addition to orthodontic treatment to ensure the space remains closed.

The frenum is the fold of tissue that contains some muscle tissue that connects the gum to the lip. In certain people, a larger than normal frenum may extend further to the front of the roof of their mouth, just behind the teeth, and may also extend lower between the teeth and contribute to the gap. Unless some of this tissue is removed, it can force the teeth apart again after the gap has been closed through orthodontics.

This simple procedure is called a frenectomy. After numbing the area with a local anesthetic, we remove the excess tissue from the frenum extended into the space between the teeth, using either a small scalpel or a special laser. The resulting wound is generally very small and may require only a few stitches, if any. Healing usually takes no more than a week and any discomfort is easily managed by anti-inflammatory medication like aspirin or ibuprofen.

As a general rule, a frenectomy is best performed after the orthodontic treatment so that scar tissue resulting from the procedure won't interfere with the gap closure. With proper dental follow-up, the gap should stay closed — and your new enhanced smile won't fade away.

If you would like more information on treating spaces between teeth, 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 “Space Between Front Teeth.”


By Gregory J. Gauthier DDS, LLC
October 21, 2013
Category: Dental Procedures
WhatMadeAmericanIdolFinalistElliottYaminSmile

One day, while looking at old pictures of himself, 34-year-old American Idol finalist Elliott Yamin noticed something peculiar. “I [had] figured out how to kind of smile without displaying all my teeth,” he told an interviewer with People magazine. The reason: Yamin (like many other people) was unhappy with the way his teeth looked. And others noticed it too: “[They] wrote things in magazines, called me Snaggletooth and things like that,” he said.

Yamin's situation came to the attention of dentists from across the country, several of whom offered to fix his crossbite and other problems. One of them even provided the singer with computer-generated renderings of how he'd look after a total “smile makeover” — and that was enough to convince him. Finally, after receiving a set of porcelain veneers and other dental work — all provided free of charge by the concerned dentist — Yamin has the smile he always dreamed of.

You don't have to be an American Idol finalist to appreciate the benefit of having a super smile — and it's never too late to get started! As Yamin found out, a “smile analysis” is the first step, and it's a critical part of the process. This is the time when you and your dentist get to know each other, and begin talking about what kind of a look you want to achieve, and what you should realistically expect.

But it can be tough to express in words exactly what your idea of a perfect smile looks like. Are the teeth completely regular in alignment and “Hollywood white?” A little bit asymmetrical and more natural-looking — or something in between? And exactly how would that look on you? Fortunately, we have a variety of ways to help you make those decisions.

One is computer-generated images, like the ones that persuaded Yamin. Convenient and relatively easy to produce, they're a great way to preview possible changes before a single tooth is touched. However, some people may find it hard to picture their new smile from different angles and in different lights. If you'd like a better representation, it's possible to produce a 3-D model of the proposed work before it's done. This can let you truly visualize your new smile in a realistic way.

If you need even more evidence before deciding, there's still more that can be done. Your teeth can be built up to their new contours with composite resin, a tooth-colored restoration material that can change tooth shape and size with relative ease. A related procedure, the “provisional restoration,” gives you a complete preview of the final work. When you're satisfied, the “temporary” materials are replaced with more permanent ones, like long-lasting porcelain veneers. Whichever method you choose, you'll be on your way to a better looking smile.

If you would like more information about a smile makeover, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Great Expectations — Perceptions in Smile Design” and “Smile Design Enhanced with Porcelain Veneers.”


By Gregory J. Gauthier DDS, LLC
October 18, 2013
Category: Dental Procedures
DoClearOrthodonticAlignersReallyWork

Compared to traditional braces, orthodontic clear aligners seem miraculous in many ways, almost too good to be true. You may be wondering if they really work. The answer is yes — but they are not for everyone.

What are orthodontic aligners and how do they work?

Clear orthodontic aligners are an alternative to traditional braces that are used to move your teeth and transform your smile without much interference to your daily life. They are removable trays made of a clear plastic material that is essentially invisible.

When using aligners, a sequence of slightly different trays is custom-made to fit over your teeth. You must wear each one 20 hours a day for two weeks before changing to the next in the series. The aligners are computer generated, designed by state-of-the-art techniques based on models and images of your own teeth. They work because slight changes in the sequential aligners gradually shift your teeth. If they are worn consistently, the process takes from six months to two or three years.

Advantages over traditional braces are:

  • The aligners can be removed for eating, drinking, brushing, flossing and social occasions.
  • They have no rough edges or wires, making them more comfortable.
  • Changes become visible quickly as your teeth move into their new, better positions.

Clear aligners are a good solution for correcting mild to moderately crowded or incorrectly spaced teeth. They are most effective if your back teeth already fit together properly. Clear aligners are usually effective in correcting simpler or tipping movements of teeth in two dimensions. For more complex movements, traditional braces may be required. Clear aligners are usually recommended for adults whose teeth and jaws are fully developed, and not for children.

When do you need traditional fixed braces?

Traditional braces are fixed brackets attached to the teeth through which narrow, flexible wires are threaded. They may be necessary if your teeth do not meet properly, creating too much overbite or underbite. Closing spaces where teeth are missing, rotating teeth, or other complicated situations probably make you a better candidate for traditional braces.

Each particular situation is unique. To find out if clear aligners are right for you, make an appointment with us for an assessment and diagnosis of your own situation. For more information see the Dear Doctor magazine article “Clear Orthodontic Aligners.”


By Gregory J. Gauthier DDS, LLC
October 11, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
HealthRisksofOralPiercings

If you have to ask why anybody would voluntarily endure the pain of receiving a tongue piercing — then maybe you're just too old to understand. But seriously: no matter where you stand on the aesthetics of the issue, you shouldn't ignore the real health risks that go along with the installation of oral piercings.

According to the Journal of the American Dental Association, the most common sites for intraoral piercing are the tongue and the lip. In the case of the so-called “tongue bolt,” several significant short-term and long-term risks have been identified; most also apply to other types of oral piercings as well.

The tongue is primarily composed of muscle tissue, along with a rich supply of associated blood vessels and nerves. This explains why accidentally biting your tongue can be so painful — and bloody. Installing a tongue bolt involves piercing a small hole through the tongue, and attaching the ornament through the hole.

In rare instances — such as the case of a teenager who experienced severe pain and the sensation of electrical shocks — nerve irritation and damage may occur soon after a tongue bolt is installed. (Fortunately, her symptoms cleared up shortly after the bolt was removed.) More often, the symptoms are less severe, but the health issues are chronic.

Tongue bolts are known to cause problems with the teeth, including increased sensitivity and pain. Teeth are also prone to chipping due to contact with the ornament. These are among the reasons why you are likely to need more frequent dental checkups if you have an oral piercing.

Additionally, periodontal (gum) problems can develop in individuals with oral piercings. These frequently appear as gum recession, inflammation and infection. Eventually, bone loss may occur as well.

The good news: removing an oral piercing is generally easy, and the area is quick to heal. If it doesn't seal up by itself, the hole left behind can be closed with only minor surgery. And removing the piercing immediately reduces your health risk — thus instantly improving your overall oral health.

Thinking of getting — or removing — an oral piercing? Talk to us. No matter what you decide to do, you owe it to your health to become informed about the issues surrounding these body ornaments.

If you would like more information about oral piercings, 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 “How Oral Piercings Affect Your Oral Health,” and “Body Piercings and Teeth.”


By Gregory J. Gauthier DDS, LLC
October 03, 2013
Category: Oral Health
HelpingChildrenEstablishOralHealthcareHabits

A habit can be defined as a recurrent, mostly unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition. However, there is much more to a habit than meets the eye. A major influence on children's positive behaviors and habits are those in their environment, namely parents, siblings and peers.

Luckily, proper oral hygiene is actually one of the easier habits to instill in children. Beginning when children are toddlers and continuing into their teenage years, you can influence them to institute lifetime oral healthcare habits.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Toddlers:

  • Teach your Children How to Brush Properly. Starting at age two, when there are more teeth in your child's mouth, you should help your child establish a brushing routine. For toddlers, use a child's size soft toothbrush with water and a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Children should be helped with brushing until at least age the age of six, at which point they will have developed enough dexterity.
  • Encourage your Children to Stop Sucking Thumbs and Pacifiers by Age Three. Most children drop this habit on their own between the ages of two and four. However, problems can occur when sucking habits are allowed to go on too long, including jaw development issues and buck teeth. If you are having problems helping your child to modify his or her sucking habits, we are happy to offer you some advice and creative strategies.
  • Set an Example of Healthy Eating Habits. A diet rich in sugar encourages the growth of acidogenic (acid-producing) bacteria, which cause tooth decay. Always choose water over sugary beverages, and encourage your children to do the same. When it comes to sweets, avoid sugary snacks between meals, and instead, snack on better options like fruits, vegetables and wheat crackers. Remember, if your children see you making these healthy decisions from an early age, they are likely to mimic your behaviors.

Pre-Teens and Teenagers:

  • Get your Children Professional Custom-Fitted Mouthguards. These devices not only protect your children's teeth, but also the jawbones, jaw joints and soft tissues of the lip, cheeks, gums and tongue. A mouthguard made specifically for your child using a model of his or her teeth offers greater protection than an over-the-counter model.
  • Warn your Teens about Oral Piercings. Tongue piercing and lip bolts create many risks for teeth and the tissues that surround them. Resulting tooth problems include chipping, sensitivity, and pain. Periodontal problems include gum recession, inflammation, infection, and bone loss. Make sure that your teen is aware of these risks.

If you would like more information about oral healthcare for your children, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How to Help your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”