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Thumb-Sucking and Its Effects

thumb-sucking
Thumb-sucking is a habit most children outgrow by age 4.

Thumbs In, Lights Out

It’s the picture of childhood innocence: A tired toddler down for a nap, holding a love-worn blanket and sucking their thumb. Whatever gets them to sleep… right, parents? However, if this sweet scenario continues for too long, it may have negative effects on your child’s teeth, speech, and jaw development.

Sucking is a reflex that is present from birth, but research shows that extended thumb-sucking may cause issues. The good news is that most children break the habit on their own, usually between age two and four. The bad news is that if they don’t, you will need to take action.

What’s the Big Deal?

All babies go through an appropriate oral stage of development. But if thumb-sucking  is allowed to go on until the child’s permanent teeth begin to develop, it can block front teeth from fully erupting, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Additionally, it can cause them to push forward (overbite) or the two middle teeth toseparate   (malocclusion or gap teeth). These problems sometime occur more severely on one side, since children usually suck the thumb on their dominant hand. When the thumb-sucking is particularly forceful and extends over a long period of time, those forces can even potentially impact the growth of the jaws. Speech experts also note that the habit may be a risk factor in developing an interdental lisp. This correctable articulation difficulty occurs when the tongue protrudes forward between the front teeth, causing “S” and “Z” sounds to be produced as “th”.

How to Correct

It is most important to remember that thumb-sucking is a method of self-soothing. As such, it often occurs when children need comfort, feel insecure, or are anxious. Therefore, you should focus on correcting the cause of the child’s anxiety. Unchecked oral fixation can lead to negative habits in teens and adults, including biting fingernails, comfort eating, smoking, and even alcoholism.

The ADA’s consumer site offers several tips for helping your child stop thumb-sucking, including:

  • Praise for keeping their thumb out of their mouths
  • Rewards for progress and success
  • Seek your dentist’s help – Have Dr. Meyer or Dr. Johns explain thumb-sucking’s negative effects to your child at your next appointment.

Can your teeth be TOO white?

teeth-whitening
Most of us want a brighter smile. But how much whitening is too much?

Would you like a whiter smile? If you said “Yes,” you’re in good company.  Surveys show that up to 80% of Americans want whiter teeth. And our actions make it obvious – teeth-whitening is statistically the most common cosmetic procedure in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. In fact, we spend an estimated $1.4 billion annually on over-the-counter whitening products. But how much is too much?

Bleachorexia?

As reported by ABC News, some dentists are using the phrase “bleachorexia” – a condition in which people have done serious damage to their teeth by over-whitening, all in pursuit of an ever-brighter smile. The symptoms of this new phenomenon include;

  •   Hypersensitivity to temperature
  •   Receding gums
  •   Weakened teeth
  •   Higher likelihood of decay
  •   Erosion of the protective enamel

Ironically, this last symptom has the exact opposite of the desired effect.

over-whitening hurts teeth
Over-whitening can damage enamel and expose the darker tooth material beneath.

Our tooth enamel is typically several shades lighter than the slightly yellow-ish dentine (tooth material) that it conceals. So the less enamel you have, the darker your teeth will appear. And – as we’ve discussed– keeping your enamel healthy and intact is key to a healthy mouth and smile.

Smart Teeth-Whitening Options

So how can you safely go about making your smile as bright as it can be? Keep in mind that many home-whitening offerings are perfectly safe to use if you remember one simple rule: FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS!

These bleaching options usually have Carbamide peroxide as the primary ingredient, and underwent decades of rigorous testing before going to market. They are a perfectly safe and healthy choice, when used as directed.

If you’re still uncertain, talk to us at your next appointment. We can let you know which over-the-counter products we recommend, and can offer advice on how to achieve the best, brightest smile possible. We also offer in-office, professional-grade whitening procedures that are safe, effective, and last up to five years.

In some cases of long-term or severe teeth stains, the best path to a vibrant smile is through porcelain/composite veneers. These thin covers are bonded to visible tooth surfaces and are a great alternative to bleaching when tooth discoloration is uneven, or is combined with chipped, cracked or teeth that have been worn down.

As always, count on Drs. Meyer & Johns to offer you sound advice on achieving your highest level of dental health and aesthetic confidence.

Metal Mouth? Not necessarily.

braces care
From new colors and thinner wires to transparent aligners – braces are better than ever!

Teeth-straightening was first considered by ancient philosophers Hippocrates and Aristotle as early as 400 B.C. But it wasn’t until the 1700s that French dentist Pierre Fauchard used a horseshoe-shaped piece of iron that he called a “bandeau” (a form of the old French language meaning “tiny band”) that the modern concept of braces was put into practice.

However, their widespread use didn’t occur until the mid-late 20th century, and has been most prolific in North America. In fact, the number of people with braces doubled in the U.S. between 1982 and 2008. While the majority of these patients are 11-17 years old, the numbers of treated adults during those same decades increased by 25%. American Dental Association has reported that 70% of treatments are done on females, and largely for aesthetic reasons, as opposed to medical/dental conditions.

 

Today’s Braces

Modern advances have allowed braces to become less obvious, with the prevalence of clear aligners such as Invisalign® and other transparent options. Treatment usually lasts from 18 to 36 months, depending on the severity of problems and treatment goals. It requires a commitment from both the patient and parent.

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, the biggest treatment challenge after fitting the device is to protect both braces and teeth from damage. The good news is that these goals can usually be achieved through diet adjustments and proper cleaning.

 

Limit Harmful Foods

The bad news is that because of the tween-to-teenage range for braces, many of the restricted foods are favorites. This includes anything with high levels of sugar, which can collect around the brackets and accelerate decay. Here are the standard recommendations:

Skip the Soda— Soft drinks deliver a deadly combination of acid plus sugar that can become concentrated on tooth surfaces around brackets.

Avoid Extreme Textures— Hard, sticky, chewy or crunchy foods can damage or dislodge the thin metal components.

No gum!— This rule is not only to avoid residue on braces, but to prevent bending or loosening of the wires

Don’t Chew Ice— While this is never good for your teeth , it’s an especially risky habit with braces.

Clean Thoroughly

brushing with braces
Cleaning with braces is more important than ever.

Obviously, it is harder to clean an intricate metal framework than it is flat, smooth surfaces of your natural teeth. Your orthodontist will give you specific direction on how to brush, floss, and clean. Dr. Meyer and Dr. Johns also have tips and tools to help — just ask us at your next visit.

 

 

 

 

Oral Cancer: What should you watch for?

 

oral cancer
Many warning signs of oral cancer can appear as other conditions.
Do you know what to watch out for?

Did you know? Each year in the U.S., there are 50,000 new cases of oropharyngeal (mouth & throat) cancer, broadly known as oral cancer. Of those, 10,000 patients will eventually die from it. April is National Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and Drs. Meyer and Johns want to make sure you know what to watch out for.

Cancer Types

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are three main types of precancerous lesions; leukoplakia, erythroplakia, and mixed erythroleukoplakia. The first is the most common, and is visible as a white patch or plaque that does not go away. In the U.S., the incidence of leukoplakia has been declining, mainly due to decreased tobacco consumption. In fact, stopping all forms of tobacco use is the easiest way to cut your risk of oral and other cancers, as well as a host of other health problems.

 

Warning signs

The earliest symptoms of oral cancer may appear as a white or red patch of tissue in the mouth, or a small indurated ulcer which looks like a common canker sore. The easiest advice for evaluating skin or tissue irregularities is the 2-Week Rule: Any sore or discolored area that does not heal within 14 days should be checked by a professional.

Other than lesions on the mouth tissue, oral cancer symptoms may include;

    •   lumps or masses that you can feel in your mouth or neck,
    •   discomfort or troubleswallowing, speaking, or chewing,
    •   any wart-like masses,
    •   persistent hoarseness, or
    •   any prolonged oral or facial numbness.

 

We’ve Got Our Eyes on You!

Like other cancers of the skin, oral cancer warning signs are visible long before other symptoms occur, making early detection very important. Early identification of  lip, tongue, or other oral cancers improves control and cure rates to more than 90% and overall survival rates to nearly 100%, according to a study published on the website of the National Cancer Institute.

However, many instances of these cancers are diagnosed in their latter stages, only after metastasizing and causing secondary symptoms elsewhere in the body. In these cases, the 5-year survival rates are only slightly above 50%, according to the National Oral Cancer Foundation.

So if you’ve ever wondered why we look under your tongue during exams, this is the reason. Since early detection is key, we want to make sure we don’t miss a warning sign. Current or former smokers and users of smokeless tobacco should let us know at your next appointment so that we can be on the lookout for early symptoms.