There was a time when most adults with a bad bite or misaligned teeth considered it too late in their lives for corrective treatment. Fortunately, times have changed — today, one in five orthodontic patients is an adult.
There are solid reasons for considering corrective treatment for bite problems at any age. Poorly aligned teeth are harder to clean, which raises the risk for tooth decay or gum disease. Correcting alignment may also improve your chewing ability, making eating more comfortable with less joint pain. And, last but not least, orthodontic treatment could greatly improve your smile — with potential benefits to your self-confidence, social life and career.
So, should you consider orthodontic treatment? That will depend on three factors: your periodontal (gum-related) health; your general health; and what type of orthodontic problem needs to be corrected.
If you have gum disease, you are at risk of losing supporting bone — since treatment involves gently moving teeth within the bone that supports them, the inflammation may cause bone loss and may not lend itself to a successful outcome. Moreover, besides aggravating and worsening your periodontal condition, the treatment may result in teeth that may not stay where they were moved and could continue to stay mobile long afterward.
There are certain medical conditions that could make orthodontic treatment difficult or even prohibitive: heart-valve disease; bleeding disorders; leukemia; severe diabetes; and taking medications for arthritis or osteoporosis, or those that increase mouth dryness. If you have serious medical conditions or you take prescription drugs, it’s wise to first consult with your medical doctor before considering orthodontic treatment.
The last consideration is whether the misalignment could involve more of your jaw’s skeletal structure than just misaligned teeth. If, for example, the malocclusion (bad bite) is related to the way your jaws fit together, you may need orthognathic surgery to straighten the jaws’ alignment while having orthodontic treatment.
There may be an additional roadblock to treatment — many adults feel self-conscious about wearing braces. If this bothers you, you may have another option: clear aligners. These transparent trays that fit over teeth have been a popular choice among adults because they’re not as noticeable as braces.
In any event, orthodontic treatment can be a little inconvenient, but only for a relatively short time. The lifetime benefits — better health, improved function and a more attractive smile — are well worth the inconvenience.
If you would like more information on adult orthodontics treatment, 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 “Orthodontics for the Older Adult.”
What would it take to get you to give up tobacco? For major league baseball player Addison Reed, it took the death of his former coach, Tony Gwynn. Gwynn, a Hall-of-Famer who played for the San Diego Padres in addition to coaching at San Diego State, was just 54 years old when he died of oral cancer. As soon as Reed heard the sad news, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ relief pitcher says he knew what he needed to do: He took every can of smokeless tobacco he owned and dumped them all in the trash.
“It’s just become a habit, a really bad habit,” Reed told an interviewer at MLB.com. “It was something I always told myself I would quit.” But quitting took him many years — in fact, Reed admitted that he first started using smokeless tobacco as a junior in high school.
People begin using tobacco — in the form of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or smokeless types (snuff, chewing tobacco, or dip) — for a variety of reasons. One major draw is that they see others doing it. And, while smoking is prohibited in most all Major League venues, the use of smokeless tobacco has remained fairly widespread.
Smokeless tobacco isn’t a safe alternative to cigarettes. According to the National Cancer Institute, it contains 28 carcinogenic agents. It increases the risk not only for oral and pancreatic cancer, but also for heart disease, gum disease, and many other oral problems. It’s also addictive, containing anywhere from 3.4 to 39.7 milligrams of nicotine per gram of tobacco — and its use has been on the rise among young adults.
But now the tide may be turning. After Addison Reed’s announcement, his former college teammate Stephen Strasburg (now a pitcher for the Washington Nationals) resolved that he, too, would give up tobacco. “[The] bottom line is, I want to be around for my family,” said Strasburg. Mets left-hander Josh Edgin has vowed to try quitting as well. It’s even possible that Major League Baseball will further restrict the use of smokeless tobacco at games.
What does this mean for you? It may just be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for… to stop using tobacco. Dentists have seen how quickly oral cancer can do its devastating work — and we can help you when you’re ready to quit. The next time you come in for a checkup, ask us how. Your teeth and gums will thank you — and your family will too.
Periodontal (gum) disease is an infectious disease that progressively weakens the attachment of supporting tissues to the teeth, including gums, ligaments and bone. If not stopped, the loss of attachment will eventually lead to bone and tooth loss.
A thin layer of plaque that builds up on teeth (mainly due to poor oral hygiene habits) is the main breeding ground for the bacteria that cause gum disease. Our main treatment goal is to remove as much of this plaque as possible from tooth and gum surfaces. Much of the plaque can be removed using special hand or ultrasonic instruments that deep clean dental surfaces, including the roots. But while effective, these manual techniques may not address the full extent of infection, especially if the disease is well advanced.
If severe bone loss has already occurred, deep pockets of infection may have developed. As bone loss progresses, teeth with multiple roots may also develop an anatomical problem known as furcation invasions where the roots of the tooth branch off. If there continues to be signs of disease, like gum inflammation, bleeding or pus formation, it’s these hard to reach areas that may still be a problem even after extensive treatment. If so, we may need to take a different approach with antimicrobial or antibiotic products.
The most effective antimicrobial substance for reducing bacteria in biofilm is a chlorhexidine mouthrinse. The typical 0.12% solution is only available by prescription — if taken for a prolonged time it can result in tooth staining, affected taste or mouth irritation. To assure the solution reaches below the gum line, it will need to be applied by us in the office, followed up flushing irrigation of the affected area.
Another alternative is topically applied antibiotics that can stop or even reverse the progression of gum disease. There’s evidence that topical applications can penetrate into these deeper areas of infection. A common antibiotic used in this way is tetracycline, which has been shown to stop inflammation and infection.
These treatments don’t eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning, and the prolonged use of antibacterial products can have a detrimental effect on “good” bacteria (needed, for example, to complete the digestive process). It will depend on the extent of the gum disease to determine how successful conservative treatment may be. It’s also important that you contribute to your own dental health with a renewed daily oral hygiene habit.
If you would like more information on treatments 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 “Treating Difficult Areas of Periodontal Disease.”