A few days before the Oscars, Vanity Fair magazine asked Academy Awards host Neil Patrick Harris to name his most treasured possession. Was it his Tony award statuette for best leading actor in a musical? His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? The stethoscope he wore while playing teenaged doctor Doogie Howser on TV? No, as it turns out, the 41-year-old actor’s most treasured possession is… his wisdom teeth. Yes, you read that correctly. “Oddly, I still have my four wisdom teeth,” Harris said. “I refuse to let them go or I’ll lose my wise parts.”
How odd is it for a 41-year-old to have wisdom teeth? Actually, not that odd at all. While it is true that wisdom teeth are often removed, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this. It all depends on whether they are causing problems now, or are likely to cause problems in the future.
The trouble wisdom teeth cause is related to the fact that they are the last molars to come in, and that molars are large in size. By the time wisdom teeth appear between the ages of 17 and 21, there often is not enough room for them in the jaw. Sometimes it’s because you may have inherited a jaw size that’s too small for your tooth size; and generally speaking, the size of the human jaw has evolved to become smaller over time.
If room is lacking, the adjacent molar (that came in earlier) can interfere with the path of eruption — causing the wisdom tooth to come in at an odd angle. The wisdom tooth can hit up against that other tooth, possibly causing pain or damaging the adjacent tooth. This is known as “impaction.” Sometimes the wisdom tooth breaks only partway through the gum tissue, leaving a space beneath the gum line that’s almost impossible to clean, causing infection. A serious oral infection can jeopardize the survival of teeth, and even spread to other parts of the body.
If a wisdom tooth is impacted, will you know it? Not necessarily. A tooth can be impacted without causing pain. But we can see the position of your wisdom teeth on a dental x-ray and help you make an informed decision as to whether they should stay or go. If removal is the best course of action, rest assured that this procedure is completely routine and that your comfort and safety is our highest priority. If there is no great risk to keeping them, as Neil Patrick Harris has done, we can simply continue to monitor their condition at your regular dental checkups. It will be particularly important to make sure you are reaching those teeth with your brush and floss, and that you keep to your schedule of regular professional cleanings at the dental office. All healthy teeth are indeed worth treasuring.
If you would like more information about wisdom teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Wisdom Teeth” and “Removing Wisdom Teeth.”
If you’re taking medication to regulate your blood pressure, you may be familiar with some of the general side effects, like nausea, drowsiness or dizziness. But some blood pressure drugs might also cause complications with your oral health.
This is true of one class of drugs in particular used for blood pressure regulation. Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) are used to regulate blood pressure by dilating (relaxing) blood vessels, making it easier for the heart to pump blood. They’re often prescribed to patients who can’t tolerate beta blockers, another common blood pressure drug.
Besides other general side effects, CCBs can also cause gingival hyperplasia (gum overgrowth) and mouth dryness. The former condition occurs when the gum tissues grow and extend beyond their normal size over the teeth. Besides pain and discomfort, hyperplasia creates an abnormal appearance which can be embarrassing. Research findings also indicate that hyperplasia development from CCB use is also linked to poor hygiene habits, which give rise to periodontal (gum) disease.
Mouth dryness is defined as less than normal saliva flow. Besides discomfort, the condition may increase your risk of dental disease: saliva is a key part in keeping bacterial levels low and maintaining the mineral content of enamel. Inadequate saliva flow can’t maintain this balance, which increases the bacterial population in the mouth and the risk of infection leading to gum disease or tooth decay.
To avoid both of these side effects, it’s important first to let us know if you’re taking blood pressure medication and what kind. You may also need more frequent dental visits, especially if you’re displaying symptoms of dental disease. Studies have found that frequent dental visits to remove bacterial plaque and calculus (hardened plaque deposits) may significantly reduce gum overgrowth in patients taking a CCB. You should also maintain a recommended daily regimen of oral hygiene (brushing and flossing).
Because of possible effects on your dental health from a number of drugs, it’s always important to let us know the medications you’re regularly taking. As with CCBs, we can incorporate that knowledge into your dental treatment to assure your safety and optimal oral health.
If you would like more information on managing your oral care while on medication, 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 “Blood Pressure Medications.”
Mike Tyson's gap-toothed smile is part of athlete-turned-celebrity's signature look. During his two-decade career as a professional boxer, the former heavyweight champion has been known for both giving — and occasionally receiving — knockout punches. But the story of how he lost one set of front teeth is a bit more unusual.
In a recent interview with the Las Vegas Review Journal, Tyson's wife Kiki stated that one of the champ's major dental dilemmas didn't come from blows inside the ring. In fact, she said, Tyson lost the teeth after being head-butted by his pet tiger, Kenya.
It's too bad Tyson wasn't wearing a mouthguard before he decided to play with kitty.
Fight fans know that boxers always put in a mouthguard before they enter the ring. But the pugilistic pursuit is just one among the two-dozen-odd sports for which the American Dental Association recommends the use of custom mouthguards. Others include baseball, skateboarding, surfing and bicycling. (Maybe horsing around with tigers should be added to the list!)
Why is it so important for participants in athletic activities to use this piece of protective gear? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, sports-related dental injuries account for over 600,000 emergency-room visits each year. Many of these injuries require further dental treatment; some may lead to tooth loss and require costly replacement. Not wearing a mouthguard makes an athlete 60 times more likely to sustain harm to the teeth, according to the American Dental Association. So there's really no contest.
You can find basic, off-the-shelf mouthguards in limited sizes at many sporting goods stores. But for a reasonable cost, we can provide you with a properly fitted dental appliance that's custom-made just for you. Starting with a precise model of your teeth, individual mouthguards are crafted from impact-resistant materials which are designed to be strong, comfortable, resilient — and effective.
Research shows that custom-made mouthguards offer superior quality and protection. So if you or your loved ones like to get out on the playing field, don't neglect this important piece of sporting equipment. And watch out for the cat.
Periodontal (gum) disease can cause a number of devastating effects that could eventually lead to tooth loss. However, you may be more prone to a particular effect depending on the individual characteristics of your gums.
There are two basic types of gum tissues or “periodontal biotypes” that we inherit from our parents: thick or thin. These can often be identified by sight — thinner gum tissues present a more pronounced arch around the teeth and appear more scalloped; thicker tissues present a flatter arch appearance. While there are size variations within each biotype, one or the other tends to predominate within certain populations: those of European or African descent typically possess the thick biotype, while Asians tend to possess the thin biotype.
In relation to gum disease, those with thin gum tissues are more prone to gum recession. The diseased tissues pull up and away (recede) from a tooth, eventually exposing the tooth’s root surface. Receding gums thus cause higher sensitivity to temperature changes or pressure, and can accelerate tooth decay. It’s also unattractive as the normal pink triangles of gum tissue between teeth (papillae) may be lost, leaving only a dark spot between the teeth or making the more yellow-colored root surface visible.
While thicker gum tissues are more resilient to gum recession, they’re more prone to the development of periodontal pockets. In this case, the slight gap between teeth and gums grows longer as the infected tissues pull away from the teeth as the underlying bone tissue is lost. The resulting void becomes deeper and more prone to infection and will ultimately result in further bone loss and decreased survivability for the tooth.
Either of these conditions will require extensive treatment beyond basic plaque control. Severe gum recession, for example, may require grafting techniques to cover exposed teeth and encourage new tissue growth. Periodontal pockets, in turn, must be accessed and cleaned of infection: the deeper the pocket the more invasive the treatment, including surgery.
Regardless of what type of gum tissue you have, it’s important for you to take steps to lower your risk of gum disease. First and foremost, practice effective daily hygiene with brushing and flossing to remove bacterial plaque, the main cause of gum disease. You should also visit us at least twice a year (or more, if you’ve developed gum disease) for those all important cleanings and checkups.
If you would like more information on hereditary factors for gum disease, 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 “Genetics & Gum Tissue Types.”
Cat Cora is a world-class chef, restaurateur, best-selling author, and philanthropist — on top of being the first female chef on the hit television show Iron Chef America. She is also the mother of four active young sons. And while all these important roles require her daily attention, she makes oral health a top priority for herself and her family through diet, brushing, flossing and routine visits to the dentist.
During a recent interview with Dear Doctor magazine, Cat revealed that she had her wisdom teeth removed when she was in her thirties and another tooth extracted and replaced with a dental implant. When asked to compare the two experiences, Cat said that the implant was “much easier for me.” She went on to say, “It feels very natural” and “now, I don't even think about it.”
Some may be surprised by Cat's response; however, we find it to be a quite common one.
There is no question that over the last two decades, dental implants have revolutionized tooth replacement and the field of dentistry. A dental implant, used to replace missing teeth, is placed in the jawbone with a minor surgical procedure. What's amazing is that over time these dental implants actually fuse with or integrate into the bone, thus making them an ideal permanent solution for replacing a missing tooth. They are typically made of commercially pure titanium, a substance that has been used for medical and dental implants for years. The crown, the part above the gum tissues, is attached to the implant via a retaining screw and a connecting piece called an abutment. The crown itself is artistically crafted using porcelain to mimic the look and feel of a natural tooth — just as Cat Cora describes.
To learn more about dental implants, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants, Your Third Set of Teeth.” Or you can contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can conduct a thorough examination and discuss what treatment options will be best for you. And to read the entire interview with Cat Cora, please see the article “Cat Cora.”
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