Posts for: October, 2013
One of the most common parental concerns is the habit of many children, even late into childhood, to suck their thumbs or fingers. Many parents have asked us, “Could this affect their teeth?”
The answer, unfortunately, is yes — thumb sucking can contribute to a malocclusion (bad bite) that could eventually require orthodontic treatment. Before making any assumptions, however, we need to understand the bigger picture.
To begin with, infants have a different swallowing mechanism than adults and older children. When you as an adult swallow, you'll notice the tip of your tongue positions itself just above the back of the top front teeth. An infant, however, will thrust their tongue between their upper and lower jaw as they swallow (also known as an infantile swallowing pattern or primary tongue thrust). The infant normally begins changing to an adult swallowing pattern when their primary (baby) teeth begin to erupt.
However, if a child's swallowing transition is slower than normal and the tongue rests between the jaws for a longer duration, it can inhibit the full eruption of teeth, believed to be the main cause of an open bite (a gap between the upper and lower teeth when the jaws are shut). The thumb during sucking resting between the teeth can have the same effect.
Thumb sucking may not necessarily lead to a malocclusion — for example, an abnormally developing jawbone could be the culprit. If prolonged thumb sucking does become a concern, however, there are steps we can take to reduce the impact of the habit. We can install a thin metal “tongue crib” behind the upper and lower incisors that will not only discourage thumb sucking, but also help retrain the tongue not to rest between the upper and lower teeth. There are also exercise routines known as orofacial myofunctional therapy (OMT) that can retrain specific muscles in the mouth to encourage more normal chewing and swallowing patterns.
These steps may not prevent future orthodontic treatment, but they could reduce its extent. The key is regular dental checkups and consultation to ensure your child's teeth and bite are developing normally.
If you would like more information on the effects of chronic thumb sucking on the mouth, 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 “How Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite.”
Can having a great smile help land you a high-level business position, a TV show, and a bride? Maybe — at least if you go by the example of Bill Rancic.
The 42-year-old Chicago native is well known as the first winner of NBC-TV's The Apprentice, a reality show where contestants vied for a job with Donald Trump's organization. Shortly after his selection as Trump's newest hire, Rancic met his future wife, Giuliana, when she interviewed him for E! News. Flash forward a few years, and the couple is now hosting their own reality TV show on Style network.
So how much has Bill's winning smile helped?
“I think a great smile says a lot about a person — especially in our professions,” Bill recently said in an interview with Dear Doctor magazine. He also mentioned that having a few cosmetic dental treatments helped him close the deal.
As a child, Bill wore braces to correct an overbite. For both kids and adults, orthodontic treatment is often the first step toward getting the smile of your dreams. The practice of orthodontics has changed dramatically in the past 20 years and there are now a number of choices available in lieu of traditional metal braces.
Not Your Father's Braces
For those who need to maintain a “professional” image, tooth-colored braces offer a less noticeable way to straighten your teeth. Lingual braces are another option that's suitable in some situations. These are truly invisible: bonded on the tongue side of the teeth, they can't be seen from the front.
Or, you may be able to forego braces altogether and use a series of clear plastic aligners to gradually bring your teeth into alignment. Not only are these difficult to notice, but they can be completely removed for short periods of time — at important board meetings, for example.
Red-Carpet Tooth Whitening
More recently, Rancic had tooth whitening treatments. Depending on the degree of lightening needed, these can range from custom-fitted bleaching trays that you wear at home under the supervision of a dentist, to in-office whitening treatments that work in far less time. Both can be effective in lightening your teeth by six shades or more.
But if you need the ultimate in whitening, veneers may be the best option. These are fingernail-thin coatings, made of pearly-white porcelain or composite material, that are placed directly on the tooth surfaces. Realistic and durable, they can provide a “Hollywood white” smile that's ready for the red carpet.
Did Bill's cosmetic dental work really improve his life? We can't say for sure — but as his wife Giuliana recently told Dear Doctor, “First impressions are very important, and having a beautiful smile will help anyone make a great impact on others.” So perhaps it worked on her!
If you would like more information on how cosmetic dental treatments can improve your smile, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “The Magic of Orthodontics” and “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”