Posts for: July, 2015
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.”
While braces are sometimes thought of as an aesthetic treatment to achieve a big, pearly white smile, they are often needed for than just that. Correcting bite patterns and teeth growing in incorrectly early is frequently considered to be more beneficial than waiting to correct these problems until all of the adult teeth have grown in.
How early is treatment effective?
There are two phases of orthodontics: Phase One and Phase Two. Phase One is considered “early” treatment, and occurs in children’s orthodontic treatment starting from ages 7 to 10. Phase Two is treatment in children around age 11 and older. Depending on the patient, Phase One treatment can start even before the “baby” teeth are lost.
How can I tell if my child needs early orthodontic treatment?
There are numerous reasons to start treatment early, including:
- Mouth breathing
- Early or late loss of baby teeth
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Shifting of the jaw when opening or closing the mouth
- Teeth that do not fit together properly (or at all)
When is early treatment beneficial?
It is commonly believed by orthodontists that children should have an orthodontic screening no later than the age of 7. This screening will determine bite pattern problems and if the child is on track for their permanent teeth erupting. Screenings also determine if orthodontic treatment is necessary. Since the child is still growing, early treatment can lower their chances of having more severe problems or instances of tooth extractions later on.
Early treatment and growing children
Early treatment can provide many benefits in the growth process as well. The growth of the jaws is able to be guided, ensuring that they grow into a proper bite. In addition to jaw growth being guided, the new permanent teeth that erupt during treatment can also be monitored and guided as necessary to grow into the right positions. Since jaw and tooth growth is then regulated, the treatment length may also be shortened. A healthy smile boosts self-confidence, and starting early sometimes even means that the child will not have to go into appearance-obsessed middle or high school wearing braces.
JJ Johnson, DDS, PC and his team in St. Louis, MO are practiced in the art of orthodontics. They provide knowledgeable, professional care for all of their patients, and work with parents and patients alike to achieve bright and healthy smiles. Call to schedule an orthodontic screening for your child today!
Children losing their primary (“baby”) teeth is both natural and necessary. So, is it really that much of a concern if they lose one early?
The answer is yes — premature primary tooth loss could have long-term consequences for the permanent teeth as they develop within the jaw before eruption. Primary teeth play a crucial role in this development: as the permanent teeth form and grow the primary teeth serve as placeholders until they’re ready to erupt. A natural process then takes place in which the primary tooth’s roots dissolve (resorb) to allow them to fall out. Once they’re out of the way, the permanent teeth can then erupt.
If, however, they’re lost before the permanent teeth are ready, it leaves a space in the child’s bite. The dynamic mechanism between teeth and the periodontal ligament causes adjacent teeth to move or “drift” into the space. This can crowd out the permanent tooth intended for the space, causing it to come in improperly forming a malocclusion (bad bite), or it may become impacted and remain partially or fully below the surface of the gums.
This poor dental development could lead to extensive orthodontic treatment later in life, which is why we seek to preserve even decayed primary teeth for their entire natural lifespan. If the tooth is lost, however, we need to take action to preserve the space for the permanent tooth and avoid costly treatment later.
This usually calls for a “space maintenance” appliance — a type of orthodontic “retainer” — worn by the child to prevent other teeth from drifting into the space. Designed by your orthodontist, the appliance can also perform a cosmetic and social function by causing the space to appear unnoticeable.
Maintaining that space requires monitoring — especially by an orthodontist — and continued dental hygiene and care both at home and at the dentist’s office. The extra care preserving the space caused by premature tooth loss will help to ensure your child’s dental structure develops properly and their future smile will be an attractive one.
If you would like more information on the care and treatment of primary teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Early Loss of Baby Teeth” and “Losing a Baby Tooth.”