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Posts for: August, 2014

By Edward C. Smith, DMD, MPH, LLC
August 29, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
BracesAreNoHurdleforOlympicTrackStar

Lashinda Demus holds the U.S record in the 400 meter hurdles, with a time of 52.47 seconds, the third fastest ever recorded. While her twin 5-year-old boys cheered her on, she brought home a silver medal from the 2012 London Olympics. But when it comes to her full set of upper and lower braces, there's no silver to be seen!

Demus is a top-ranked competitor, a wife and a mom — and an adult who is currently in orthodontic treatment. With her orthodontist's approval, she chose clear ceramic braces. These are just one of the treatment options available to adult patients, many of whom prefer a less noticeable style of orthodontic appliance.

As many as three-quarters of adults are thought to have some form of orthodontic problem. Common issues include teeth that are crowded too closely together, or ones that have drifted too far apart after an extraction or other tooth loss. It is believed that straightened teeth are easier to clean and better for chewing — they can also improve an adult's social life, and even his or her career prospects!

Some grown-ups may hesitate to consider orthodontic treatment because they remember the “railroad tracks” they saw in junior high school. In fact, there have been many changes in orthodontic appliances in the past few years. Two popular choices for adults are colorless braces (the kind Demus wears) and clear orthodontic aligners.

Colorless ceramic braces are made of high-tech composite materials. They resist staining, and are less noticeable because their translucent appearance blends with the teeth. Often, a single wire is the only part that's plainly visible. Sometimes it's even possible to place them on the lingual (tongue) side of the teeth.

Clear aligners are an alternative to braces that are available to adults and teens. Instead of wires and attachments, these consist of a series of transparent, removable trays that are placed over the teeth and worn 20 hours per day. Over a period of six months to two years, the teeth are gradually straightened as you progress from one computer-designed tray to the next. Best of all, you can remove the trays completely to clean your teeth, and for important occasions.

Which one is right for you? It depends. While aligners have been successful in treating mild to moderate spacing issues, more difficult problems with the bite may require a more traditional form of braces. Also, there are a few health problems which might need to be attended to before orthodontic treatment is begun. The best way to learn about your options is to come in for a consultation. But remember: if you want a better smile, it's never too late.

If you would like more information about orthodontic choices, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Orthodontics For The Older Adult” and “Clear Orthodontic Aligners.”


By Edward C. Smith, DMD, MPH, LLC
August 13, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
TheSweetandLowdownonSugarSubstitutes

We’ve all heard about potentially negative health effects from the sugar that’s added to many of our favorite foods. So these days, lots of us are trying to cut down on our consumption of sugar — not only to lose weight, but also to help prevent maladies like diabetes and heart disease. We can’t help noticing those pastel-colored packets — pink, yellow and blue — on the rack of our favorite coffee shop. But now we’re wondering: Are those sugar substitutes a good alternative to natural sugar? And which one should we choose?

Artificial sweeteners have been around for decades. Six different types (including the ones in the colorful packets) are currently approved as safe by the Food and Drug Administration; a couple of older ones (notably cyclamates) have been banned for many years. In addition to those zero-calorie sugar substitutes, low-calorie sweeteners called sugar alcohols (for example, mannitol and xylitol) are often used as food ingredients. So what’s the difference between them — and which one is best?

That’s not so easy to answer. If you have a rare genetic condition called phenylketonuria, you should avoid aspartame (the blue packet), because your body can’t process the substance. Otherwise, the choice may come down to a matter of taste. Even though they are FDA-approved, some controversy (both fact-based and far-fetched) remains about the long-term safety of sugar substitutes, and their usefulness in preventing obesity and other diseases.

Yet it’s clear that for some people, the consequences of consuming too much sugar could be much worse. So if you’re at risk for diabetes or certain other diseases, sugar substitutes can be an important tool in maintaining a healthier diet. They also have another health benefit: sugar substitutes don’t cause cavities. Further, some sugar alcohols (xylitol in particular) have the property of stimulating saliva flow, and have been shown to actually impede the formation of cavities. Oral health is an important (if sometimes overlooked) component of your general well-being, and several studies have pointed to a link between oral and systemic diseases — for example, diabetes and heart disease.

As with so many aspects of our health, there seems to be no “magic bullet” to cure all our diet-related problems. But used in moderation, artificial sweeteners can be a valuable part of the effort to improve our overall health and well-being. For more information on this topic, see the Dear Doctor article “Artificial Sweeteners.”


By Edward C. Smith, DMD, MPH, LLC
August 01, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
MatthewLewisAdultOrthodontics

If you haven't seen a recent picture of Matthew Lewis, the actor who played Neville Longbottom in all eight Harry Potter movies, you may be in for a surprise: It seems the plump, awkward teenager from Gryffindor has been magically transformed into a post-Hogwarts hunk. What kind of wizardry did it take to change his memorably snarled teeth into a leading man's sparkly smile? The kind skilled cosmetic dentists perform every day!

While special effects created some of the character's dental disarray, the actor's own teeth were far from perfect. And, as Lewis recently noted, the film studio urged him to postpone cosmetic dental work until the movies were all done. “It was something I'd always wanted to do, but it would have meant me wearing a brace for two years,” he told an interviewer with the Yorkshire Evening Post. “Warner Brothers said if I put it off until we'd finished filming they'd pay for it — and they did.”

There are plenty of people, like the twenty-something actor, who put off orthodontic treatment until after their teen years. If you're wondering whether there's still time to get orthodontic work done, then take heart — it's never too late to straighten your teeth!

Today, an estimated twenty percent of orthodontic patients are adults. Compliance with the orthodontic program (meaning thorough regular brushing and flossing, wearing elastics, etc.) is often less of an issue with adults than with teens. Plus, there are some options that can help ensure your orthodontic appliances will fit in with a more mature image.

One is colorless braces. In this system, the brackets (the parts that are bonded to the front teeth and hold the archwire) are made of a clear ceramic material that blends in with the tooth's natural color. This makes them hard to see unless you look closely. Inconspicuous yet effective, clear braces have been the first choice of many celebrities, such as Tom Cruise and Faith Hill... and lots of “regular” adults too.

Another option is lingual braces. These are truly invisible, because they attach behind the teeth (on the tongue side) instead of in front. They work just like the standard braces, and they're appropriate in many situations. However their cost is higher, and the space they occupy in the mouth may take the wearer a bit of time to get used to.

A third option is clear aligners. Unlike braces, which aren't normally removed until orthodontic treatment is nearly complete, clear aligners are easily removable. They consist of a series of transparent trays made of special plastic, which are worn over the teeth 22 hours per day. Each tray in the series is worn for a few weeks, and each moves the teeth a small amount; all together, they can accomplish a big change.

Aligners work well for correcting mild to moderate malocclusion (bite problems). Plus, you can temporarily remove them for important social occasions. But best of all, they're virtually undetectable — so whether or not you play the role of a wizard in the movies, you won't need a magic spell to make them invisible!

Which option is right for you? That's something we would be happy to discuss. If you would like more information about adult orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Orthodontics for the Older Adult.”