For many parents, the image of an infant intently absorbed in sucking a pacifier — or her own thumb — is one of the cherished memories of babyhood. But if this habit goes on for too long, it can cause problems with the child's bite. Want to know what the potential predicaments are, when you should be concerned about the behavior, and what you can do? Read on!
Thumb sucking is a natural, comforting behavior of humans (and some other primates) related to nursing. It usually goes away on its own by the time the permanent teeth are coming in. But it can be a hard habit to break — and if it becomes a persistent behavior, the consequences may include a problem called an “open bite.”
In a normal bite, the top teeth slightly overlap the bottom teeth. When the thumb (or any other object) constantly rests between the upper and lower teeth, however, the pressure it exerts may prevent the teeth from fully erupting (coming out from the gums into the mouth) and alter the shape and development of the upper and lower jawbone. This result is a gap between the upper and lower teeth.
The same problem may also be caused by prolonging the “infantile swallowing pattern,” a forward-thrusting position of the tongue which, like thumb sucking, normally begins to cease around age four. That's when it is replaced by the adult swallowing pattern, where the tongue is held behind the teeth, against the roof on the mouth. Researchers believe that most open bites result from the failure to change from the infantile to the adult swallowing pattern.
When should you be concerned about the thumb sucking habit? If the behavior continues much past toddlerhood, or if the sucking is particularly active, you may wish to have us evaluate your child's bite. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends having the habit stop by age 3. Persistent thumb sucking can actually push the teeth forward and change the growth patterns of the jaw, creating more difficult problems.
There are several methods for controlling the behavior and correcting problems with the bite. One is an appliance called a “tongue crib.” This thin metal device is placed behind the upper and lower incisors. It discourages thumb sucking, while at the same time helping to keep the tongue from inserting itself between the upper and lower teeth. Eliminating these unhelpful habits is essential to allow the teeth to erupt into proper position and to allow for the normal development of the jawbones.
Recent research has also shown that individualized exercise routines called orofacial myofunctional therapy (OMT) can be highly effective in preventing open bite relapses. These exercises are designed to retrain muscles in the face, tongue and lips, and can help to create good chewing and swallowing patterns.
If you would like more information about thumb sucking or children's bite problems, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about these issues by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Thumb Sucking Affects The Bite.”
Some people are planners, and others just go with the flow. Some spend all winter in the gym, and others try and lose ten pounds right before beach season. Some have every detail of their wedding day planned out months in advance, and others... don't.
No matter which kind of person you are, you'll want to look your best for your wedding day. And that includes sporting a bright, healthy-looking smile. Depending how much time you have beforehand, there's a range of dental treatments that can help you look and feel great — not just that day, but every day. Here's a rundown of what you can do in the time remaining before your big day.
Time Left: Up to two years. If you've planned this far in advance, congratulations! You probably have time for almost any needed dental treatment — including orthodontics, which can straighten misaligned teeth and correct a bad bite. But even if you don't have quite so much time, don't despair: Clear aligners and tooth-colored or tongue-side braces, if recommended, can make orthodontic appliances nearly invisible.
Time Left: Six months to one year. Many dental treatments, like periodontal plastic surgery or tooth implants, can achieve remarkable results in this time. Periodontal surgery can give you a less “gummy” smile and greatly improve the aesthetics of your teeth. Tooth implants are modern dentistry's best option for replacing missing teeth. Natural-looking implants have a success rate of 95%, and can last a lifetime.
Time left: Three or four months. There's plenty you can do! If the roots are intact, a crown can be placed on a damaged tooth to restore its appearance and function. Or, missing teeth can be replaced via bridgework, which supports a false tooth from abutments on either side. Stained or discolored teeth can also be dramatically lightened with veneers, where a porcelain shell replaces the tooth's outermost layer of enamel. Tooth implants are still a possibility, under the right circumstances. We can evaluate your individual situation and come up with the best option to replace missing teeth.
Time left: Six weeks or so. You still have time for some basic, yet effective, treatments. Small chips or discolored fillings can be restored with tooth-colored materials that securely bond to the teeth themselves. You can also brighten your teeth by several shades using the techniques of bleaching. In-office whitening treatments are the fastest, but take-home kits, used under our supervision, offer similar results in a longer time.
Have even less time? At the very least, come in for a thorough cleaning right before the date! This will help remove many surface stains and freshen up your smile. Be sure to call in advance so that you're able to get an appointment. Then, smile for the camera!
If you would like more information about a wedding-day smile makeover, please contact us or schedule an appointment to discuss your treatment options. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Wedding Day Smiles.”
Not long ago, Glee star Lea Michele had all of her wisdom teeth removed. This is a very common procedure that people in their twenties, like Michele, often undergo to prevent serious dental problems down the road. The actress found that the procedure really was actually not very difficult to tolerate.
“Feeling all better from my surgery!” she tweeted to fans a few days later. “Back to work tomorrow.”
Why do wisdom teeth so often cause problems? For one thing, they come in years later than the other 28 permanent teeth — usually between the ages of 17 and 25. By that time, there is often no room in the jaw to accommodate them. As man has evolved, the jaws have actually become smaller in size — often creating a lack of space for the wisdom teeth to erupt into proper position. If wisdom teeth become blocked (impacted) by other molars that are already there, infection and damage to neighboring teeth may result.
Sometimes the wisdom teeth themselves cause the problem by growing in at an odd angle. They push against other teeth, often compromising the adjacent tooth's supporting bone. While you would think pain would occur if any of these problems were present, that does not always alert us to a wisdom-tooth problem. It's usually diagnosed with the help of x-rays.
Wisdom tooth extraction is often performed in the dental office using a local anesthetic (numbing shot) to keep you from experiencing any pain, along with conscious sedation to help you relax. The type of anesthesia that's best for you will be determined before the procedure.
After we gently remove the tooth or teeth, you may need to have the site sutured (stitched) to promote healing. You will rest for a short time before going home, and may need to have someone drive you, depending on what type of anesthesia you were given.
Once you get home, you should apply an ice pack on the outside of your cheek for about five minutes on, five minutes off for as many hours as possible to help reduce any postoperative swelling on the first day. Starting on the second day, the warm moist heat of a washcloth placed on the cheek and hot salt water rinses will make you more comfortable. You may want to eat soft foods and brush your teeth very carefully during the recovery period, which lasts only a few days as Lea Michele discovered. Before you know it, you'll be “feeling all better!”
If your infant is extra cranky and seems to want to chew everything in sight, it's a good bet that the first tooth is on the way! For parents, this is cause for both celebration and concern. After all, no parent wants to see a child suffer even a little bit. Decades ago, when a teething infant showed signs of discomfort, a parent might have rubbed some whisky or other strong liquor on the child's gums — a misguided and dangerous practice. There are far safer, more effective ways to help your child through this exciting yet sometimes uncomfortable phase of development. Here are our top five teething remedies:
Chilled rubber teething rings or pacifiers. Cold can be very soothing, but be careful not to freeze teething rings or pacifiers; ice can actually burn the sensitive tissues of the mouth if left in place too long.
Cold, wet washcloths. These are great for gnawing on. Make sure the washcloth is clean and that you leave part of it dry to make it more comfortable to hold.
Cold foods. When your child is old enough, cold foods such as popsicles may soothe sore gums. However, make sure you confine them to mealtimes because sugars can cause tooth decay — even in very young children.
Gum massage. Massaging inflamed gums with your clean finger can help counteract the pressure from an erupting tooth.
Over-the-counter medicine. If teething pain persists, you can give your baby acetaminophen or ibuprofen, but check with a pharmacist or this office for the correct dosage. The medicine should be swallowed and not massaged into the sore areas, as this, too, can burn.
So when does it all begin? Some babies start teething as early as three months or as late as twelve months, but the typical time frame is between six and nine months. Usually the two lower front teeth erupt first, followed by the two upper front teeth. The first molars come in next, followed by the canines (eyeteeth). Most children have all 20 of their baby teeth by age 3.
If you have any questions about teething or the development of your child's teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Teething Troubles.”
This website includes materials that are protected by copyright, or other proprietary rights. Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use, as defined in the copyright laws, requires the written permission of the copyright owners.