If you have recently lost one or more teeth, your dental health has reached a crossroads. It's easy to consider just letting things go, particularly if the new gap in your dentition sits in a spot where no one can see it. Unfortunately, doing nothing in a case like this will surely lead to trouble down the road.

The truth is that with nothing to prevent them from going rogue, your remaining teeth are likely to move around, tilt and shift position in your mouth. The result is a misalignment that will put your overall oral health at risk. If you neglect to replace those missing teeth, you are likely to experience:

  • Gum disease. Nature really does abhor a vacuum. It instinctively wants to fill in empty spaces, and in your mouth, it does this by allowing the teeth on either side of a gap to shift and tip toward its center. The new positioning leaves those teeth open to a buildup of tartar and plaque which can be hard to brush or floss away. The more it continues to accumulate, the greater the odds you will develop gingivitis and eventual periodontal disease.
  • Trouble chewing. If your missing teeth formerly lived in the back of your mouth, it won't be long before you notice problems with the way in which the ones that remain fit and work together. If the resulting misalignment grows sufficiently severe, it may require the intervention of an orthodontist. Furthermore, with fewer teeth in your mouth to do the job of chewing, the stress of this activity falls entirely on those that do remain. When forced to carry more of the load than they were designed to handle, their alignment can worsen and they might even break.
  • Pain in the jaw and facial muscles. As continually shifting teeth throw your bite further out of position, you'll find yourself moving your jaw in unnatural ways each time you try to eat. Muscle pain will result, and unless you take steps to correct the situation, temporomandibular joint trouble is sure to follow, bringing with it a clicking jaw, headaches and even dizzy spells.
  • Bone loss. To maintain its normal density, the bone in your jaw requires stimulation. The act of chewing ordinarily provides this, but when you're missing one or more teeth, the bone in those locations never receives the shot in the arm it needs to stay in shape. Instead, it will start to recede, causing adjacent teeth to loosen and even affecting your facial appearance in a way that you might not care for.

The worst part is that you may never realize the extent of the damage until it has progressed to a stage that could be untreatable. Fortunately, there are things you can do right at the start to reduce the risk of future problems. The choices of remedy include:

  • The fixed bridge. This appliance will do the job of filling in missing spaces. However, it does have disadvantages. The teeth to which it will attach must be ground away to a certain extent, and once the bridge is in place, the unfamiliar need to act as supports will stress them to an undesirable extent. In addition, even though it fills filled in the empty spaces, your bridge will not provide the underlying bone with the stimulation it needs to keep from disintegrating.
  • The removable partial denture. A removable partial is less expensive than a fixed bridge, and no neighboring teeth will be harmed in its fitting. Nevertheless, the appliance will be less stable, and its tendency to move can lead to discomfort while causing problems with eating and speaking. It will also do nothing to stimulate the bone in the jaw.
  • The Maryland or resin-bonded bridge. A potential solution for restoring teeth that don't receive much stress, the resin-bonded bridge attaches to your natural teeth with wing-like projections, thereby sidestepping the need to grind those teeth down. While it will improve your appearance, it is less strong than fixed or removable bridges and boasts a far shorter lifespan.
  • The full removable denture. This inexpensive solution may improve your appearance, but its size, shape and tendency to move around can cause discomfort and interfere with its wearer's ability to taste food. In the worst-case scenario, full dentures have been known to fall entirely out of the mouth, and they do nothing to combat bone loss.
  • Dental implants. A dental implant is surgically inserted into the jawbone with which it soon integrates.Implants look and act like natural teeth while preventing the bone loss that commonly occurs with other tooth replacement methods.

Some of these options will suit you better than others, but whatever restoration method you choose in the end will be better than doing nothing. Don't let one or more missing teeth cause mayhem in your mouth. Call Dr. James White today to discuss your options.

03May

Bad Habits and Your Teeth

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"Stop it! You're driving me crazy!"

How often has someone asked you to cease and desist from doing something that you had no idea you were doing in the first place? Unpleasant habits can be as tough to break as they are annoying to those around you. However, the degree to which they tend to drive others up the wall could very well pale in comparison with the havoc they are wreaking on your teeth.

The truth is that some habits have a talent for landing people in a dentist's chair far sooner than they might have expected. The worst offenders in this regard include:

  • Ice-chewing. Apart from making a crunching noise that's guaranteed to irritate anyone nearby, the mindless and hard-to-break habit of eating ice presents a special set of dangers. This custom has driven more than one individual straight to the dentist's office for help with teeth that have broken or cracked as a result. Even if your teeth should manage to survive the onslaught, the practice can also irritate dental tissue to the point at which toothaches and sensitivity to hot and cold foods turn into a common occurrence.
  • Fingernail-biting. People who like to chomp on their nails don't always know that they're doing it. However, when the habit persists on a regular basis, your dental health may start to feel the heat. The practice has been known to cause teeth to wear down, crack, chip or even shift from their normal positions.
  • A grinding habit. Although some people do it during the day, tooth grinding or bruxism normally takes place during the night when a person is deeply asleep. Apart from complaints by others who share your room, your only indication of a problem may be the pain you feel in the morning. At 250 pounds of pressure per square inch, the habit can cause the teeth to wear down and eventually disintegrate.
  • Drinking certain liquids. In addition to containing excessive sugar, some drinks are world-renowned for staining the teeth. The list of suspects includes fruit juice, sports drinks, coffee and red or white wine. In addition to gifting your teeth with an aging and unwanted tinge, many drinks that might be healthy in other respects are often acidic in nature. If you can't brush after drinking them, a rinse with plain water might help.
  • Bingeing and purging. Although bulimia presents its sufferers with some well-known physical dangers, the problems the habit can pose to the teeth may be somewhat less understood. When a person regurgitates food, what comes back up from the stomach is filled with digestive acids that wear down the teeth and cause them to rot, weaken and even break off. This physical disorder is hard to fight, and frequent dental visits are essential for anyone who suffers from this problem.
  • Pencil-nibbling. This habit often starts in the early school years, and sometimes it just keeps going. While simple wooden pencils may seem innocuous enough in and of themselves, the habit of munching on them can crack or chip the teeth. Not only that, but the paint that decorates them can also be toxic. A switch to the mechanical variety could help with the problem since they do tend to be somewhat harder to chew.
  • Smoking. Tobacco products do more than simply wreck your heart and lungs. They also stain your teeth, foster gum disease and can sometimes lead to the growth of cancerous lesions on your tongue, your lips and the tissues on your gums and inner cheeks. Since the habit has lost much of its former appeal, why not do yourself a favor and quit?
  • Excessive snacking. When you continually nibble on food, tiny bits of what you've eaten often stick between the teeth and remain in your mouth for hours. Potato chips and other crunchy foods can be particularly problematic in this regard. If you are able or willing to brush after every snack, your teeth will thank you for it. Otherwise, steer away from those starchy, fat-filled snacks and munch on carrot sticks or celery instead.

Habits like these are difficult to break. At the dental offices of Dr. James White, we see the unfortunate consequences all the time. We also have the most up-to-date means of correcting the damage that has already occurred while staving off any that is bound to occur in the future. Don't let your teeth fall victim to these unhealthy habits. Call Dr. White for assistance today.

02May

Bulimia's Effect on Your Teeth

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In the not-too-distant past, a youngster with a crayon and a sense of humor could almost always win some laughs by blacking out a pretty girl's tooth on a subway poster. The result would look a lot like Mammy Yokum without the pipe. The truth is that regardless of how attractive a person may be, it doesn't take long for a missing tooth to ruin a great impression. Sadly, for all bulimia sufferers, the specter of future tooth loss lurks around every corner.

Although appearance matters to everyone, it is often more important to bulimia sufferers than it is to the rest of the population. You may be one of these sufferers yourself. If you are, you probably turned to the habit originally as a means of losing a pound or two or preventing the return of weight you'd previously shed. Either way, you want to look better, not worse, and your smile is a vital part of that. Regrettably, it's also a part with which regular bingeing and purging is bound to wreak havoc.

How Bulimia Can Damage Your Teeth

While most people realize the damage that habitual vomiting will do their physical health, not everyone is aware of the relentless harm it will also do to their teeth. That's because the food that comes up when purging differs in significant ways from the food that went down earlier. Regurgitated stomach contents are jam-packed with acids meant to help your body digest your meal. Once these acids have left your stomach in the wrong direction, they waste little time in burning the tissues of your throat and mouth and eroding your tooth enamel.

While your stomach is designed to handle acidic conditions, your mouth and teeth are not. With continued abuse, your tooth enamel will wear away, resulting in sensitivity to foods that are hot or cold. Your teeth may acquire an aging yellow tint or glassy appearance while a subsequent tendency to chip or break off causes a ragged smile. Unfortunately, once the damage is done, it's done. There is no way to reverse it. Your teeth will never grow back.

Bulimia and the Rest of Your Mouth

If you binge and purge on a regular basis, your teeth aren't the only part of your mouth to suffer. The acids in your stomach bile will also irritate your salivary glands as they eat away at the gums and dental tissue. This can lead to painful sores on the cheeks and gums along with a possible swelling of the jaw. Your throat and mouth will often feel parched, and the dryness in your mouth will encourage further decay in teeth whose enamel has already reached a dangerous stage of erosion.

As your teeth continue to wear away, your bite is likely to change. To make matters even worse, the malnutrition caused by an insufficient diet can increase your risk for periodontal disease. As another unwanted side effect, the foods you do eat on a regular basis may eventually start to taste somewhat strange and unpalatable.

Bulimia and Dental Treatment

If bulimia has caused severe damage to your teeth, you'll need to start treating them with extra care. Try not to brush too vigorously after purging, as this can further destroy them. Rinse with a mixture of water and baking soda to reduce acidity in your mouth, and ask your dentist to prescribe a fluoride gel or mouthwash.

Once your bulimia is under control, Dr. James While can get to work restoring your smile. Tooth enamel will never regenerate, but in some cases where it is not too badly worn, Dr. White will be able to replace it with amalgam or composite resin while filling cavities in teeth that have suffered decay. However, if your teeth have become too badly damaged, some will likely require extraction and subsequent replacement with implants or removable bridges.

Since your teeth are not the only part of your mouth to suffer under bulimia, Dr. White will also work up a plan of comprehensive care to deal with mouth sores, dryness, infected gums and other unfortunate effects that have resulted from the condition.

If bulimia has damaged your health and your smile, call Dr. White today for a full dental appraisal. With a combination of medical and cosmetic procedures, he will restore your mouth to and teeth to their former state of glory. Those 1950s poster girls with blacked-out teeth may have looked unattractive, but with the help of Dr. White, that won't have to happen to you.