Up and coming performers are often pressured by their handlers to change their appearance, and many have over-the-top stories to prove it. But they'd be hard pressed to outdo Kirsten Dunst's experience just before filming 2002's Spider-Man: Producers actually drove her to a dentist for her to get what they considered a more attractive "Hollywood" smile.
Dunst didn't get out of the car: Although a 19 year-old newbie in the business, Dunst had enough fortitude to hold fast about her appearance. And perhaps she had a bit of intuition about what she calls her "snaggle fangs": Her quirky smile is one of her appearance trademarks.
The lesson here is not to avoid any cosmetic dental changes, but rather to choose the smile you want. If you count your slight front tooth gap or the faint crookedness of your teeth as unique to your personality, then rock on.
On the other hand, if you're uncomfortable with your dental flaws, then there are numerous ways to upgrade your smile, from a simple whitening procedure to a comprehensive "smile makeover." You simply have to decide what you want to keep and what you want to change about your smile.
To help guide you along this potentially life-changing journey, here are few key tips to follow.
Find your "right" dentist. If you're going to change your smile, you need a partner—a dentist who is not only skilled in cosmetic techniques, but with whom you feel comfortable. One of the best ways to do this is to make note of smile changes your friends and family have undergone that you find attractive, and ask who did their dental work.
Dream a little. Finding the right dentist is important for the next step: Exploring the possibilities for a new and improved smile. After assessing your current smile, your skilled dentist can give you a range of options to improve it. And, to actually help you "see" how those options might turn out, "virtual smile" technology can show you the proposed changes applied to an actual photo of you on a computer monitor.
Match it to reality. Once you're aware of all the possibilities, it's time to narrow them down to what you really desire. At this point, you'll want to decide what "quirks" you want to keep, and what you want to improve. You'll also have to consider your overall dental health and financial wherewithal to see what's truly practical and doable.
With that in mind, you and your dentist can then formulate a treatment plan. And just like Kristen Dunst, the end result should be the smile that makes you happy and confident to show.
If you would like more information about to get the best smile for you, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cosmetic Dentistry: Fix Your Smile With Veneers, Whitening and More.”
If it seems like your teeth have gotten longer, it's not likely they've magically grown. The changed appearance, often accompanied by tooth sensitivity, may mean you have gum recession—the gums have actually shrunk back or receded from the teeth.
Ordinarily, the gums cover the teeth to the edge of the crown enamel, but if their attachment to the teeth weakens, the gums can shrink back, exposing the tooth below the crown near the roots. Although recession can happen because of overzealous brushing or other forms of trauma, the most common cause is periodontal (gum) disease.
Gum disease usually begins as a bacterial infection in the tissues around the gum line, usually triggered by a thin film of bacteria and food particles on tooth surfaces called dental plaque. Unfortunately, the infection rarely stays there, but can quickly spread deeper into the gums and eventually impact the roots and supporting bone in the jaw. The infection also weakens the gums' attachment to teeth, resulting in recession.
While your smile can suffer from gum recession, that may be the least of your problems. Receded gums expose portions of a tooth that depend on gum coverage for protection against disease. Gum coverage also muffles sensations in these areas of the tooth, so that without it affected areas can experience a sharp, painful response to sudden hot or cold temperatures.
Fortunately, you may be able to avoid recession if you take steps to minimize your risk of gum disease. Your chances of an infection go down significantly if you gently brush and floss daily to remove dental plaque and you see your dentist regularly for dental cleanings.
If you do develop a gum infection, it's crucial to have it treated as early as possible. A mild occurrence of gum recession might even reverse on its own after comprehensive treatment (more advanced recession can require grafting surgery to encourage regeneration). Be on the lookout, then, for signs of gum disease—swollen, reddened or bleeding gums—and see your dentist as soon as possible if you do.
Protecting your teeth and gums can help you avoid gum recession. And should you experience recession, addressing it as soon as possible may help you regain normal gum coverage.
If you would like more information on gum protection and care, 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 “Gum Recession.”
You know the "usual suspects": brown tooth spots, toothache, or reddened, swollen or bleeding gums—common indicators for tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease, two of the biggest threats to your teeth. But there are other conditions that, although rare in comparison, are no less harmful to your teeth. One of these is root resorption, when an adult tooth's root structure dissolves (resorbs).
Root resorption usually starts on the outside of a tooth, near the neck-like or cervical area around the gum line, and is also known as external cervical resorption (ECR). Your dentist may first notice tiny pink spots on the enamel during an exam: these are tiny lesions where the enamel has eroded, and are filled with pink-colored cells that actually help perpetuate resorption.
We're not fully certain about the underlying causes for root resorption, but some factors like excessive orthodontic force or dental trauma (particularly involving periodontal tissues that hold teeth in place), seem to be present with many cases.
Fortunately, most people experiencing these and similar conditions never contend with ECR. Still, it remains a possibility, particularly for older adults, and is best addressed as early as possible. Regular dental checkups are vital to identifying the condition early with prompt treatment following.
If the lesions are small, we may be able to clean out the pink tissue cells and fill the lesion with a tooth-colored material like a composite resin or glass ionomer cement. Even though this is a relatively simple process, we sometimes may need to expose the affected area below the gum tissue with a surgical procedure. And, if the damage has reached the pulp in the center of a tooth, we may also need to perform a root canal treatment.
At some point, though, the level of resorption may have left the tooth too compromised for any reasonable repair. In such cases, it may be best to remove the tooth and replace it with a restoration, most notably a dental implant.
Needless to say, keeping a regular dental visit schedule is your best defense against experiencing ECR this advanced. Early detection remains the best case scenario for this rare but damaging disease.
If you would like more information on root resorption, 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 “Root Resorption: An Unusual Phenomenon.”
Braces are well worth the time and effort to gain a more attractive and healthier smile. Ironically, though, the risk for disease increases while wearing braces because they obstruct a wearer's ability to clear away dental plaque, a thin bacterial film most responsible for dental disease.
Because of these difficulties, braces wearers are highly susceptible to gum disease. When the gums become infected, the body triggers an inflammatory response to fight the infection. This results in gums that are red or swollen, or that bleed easily.
The braces themselves can also cause gum problems. The gums may react to the presence of the brackets and wires by overproducing tissue. This overgrowth in turn can interfere with oral hygiene, thus further increasing the risk for infection.
As with gum disease generally, consistent oral hygiene is the best way to prevent an infection while wearing braces. It's difficult, but not impossible! With the help of a few specialized tools like interproximal toothbrushes with narrower heads to get in and around the braces, or water flossers spraying pressurized water between teeth, even braces wearers can do an effective job.
And don't forget about your family dentist. You can still benefit from regular teeth cleanings while wearing braces, even increasing your visit frequency if your dentist recommends it. Your dentist can also prescribe antimicrobial rinses and other products to help reduce bacterial plaque.
Keeping your teeth and gums clean may help with tissue overgrowth, but you may still have issues with the condition for the duration of your orthodontic treatment. As long as the gum tissues remain firmly attached to the teeth, there's little need for concern. But if the condition begins to affect periodontal attachment, you may need the braces removed to allow the gums a chance to heal.
Keeping up daily oral hygiene and regular dental visits are good ideas for everyone, but especially if you're an orthodontic patient. Neither should you hesitate in calling your dentist at the first signs of gum trouble—the sooner you have any issues examined, the less chance you'll experience major gum problems while wearing braces.
If you would like more information on dental care during orthodontics, 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 “Gum Swelling During Orthodontics.”
During election season, you'll often hear celebrities encouraging you to vote. But this year, Kaia Gerber, an up-and-coming model following the career path of her mother Cindy Crawford, made a unique election appeal—while getting her wisdom teeth removed.
With ice packs secured to her jaw, Gerber posted a selfie to social media right after her surgery. The caption read, “We don't need wisdom teeth to vote wisely.”
That's great advice—electing our leaders is one of the most important choices we make as a society. But Gerber's post also highlights another decision that bears careful consideration, whether or not to have your wisdom teeth removed.
Found in the very back of the mouth, wisdom teeth (or “third molars”) are usually the last of the permanent teeth to erupt between ages 17 and 25. But although their name may be a salute to coming of age, in reality wisdom teeth can be a pain. Because they're usually last to the party, they're often erupting in a jaw already crowded with teeth. Such a situation can be a recipe for numerous dental problems.
Crowded wisdom teeth may not erupt properly and remain totally or partially hidden within the gums (impaction). As such, they can impinge on and damage the roots of neighboring teeth, and can make overall hygiene more difficult, increasing the risk of dental disease. They can also help pressure other teeth out of position, resulting in an abnormal bite.
Because of this potential for problems, it's been a common practice in dentistry to remove wisdom teeth preemptively before any problems arise. As a result, wisdom teeth extractions are the top oral surgical procedure performed, with around 10 million of them removed every year.
But that practice is beginning to wane, as many dentists are now adopting more of a “wait and see” approach. If the wisdom teeth show signs of problems—impaction, tooth decay, gum disease or bite influence—removal is usually recommended. If not, though, the wisdom teeth are closely monitored during adolescence and early adulthood. If no problems develop, they may be left intact.
This approach works best if you maintain regular dental cleanings and checkups. During these visits, we'll be able to consistently evaluate the overall health of your mouth, particularly in relation to your wisdom teeth.
Just as getting information on candidates helps you decide your vote, this approach of watchful waiting can help us recommend the best course for your wisdom teeth. Whether you vote your wisdom teeth “in” or “out,” you'll be able to do it wisely.
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