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Posts for: April, 2013

By Augusta Smilecare
April 20, 2013
Category: Oral Health
ThumbSuckingHarmlessHabitorPotentialProblem

For many parents, the image of an infant intently absorbed in sucking a pacifier — or her own thumb — is one of the cherished memories of babyhood. But if this habit goes on for too long, it can cause problems with the child's bite. Want to know what the potential predicaments are, when you should be concerned about the behavior, and what you can do? Read on!

Thumb sucking is a natural, comforting behavior of humans (and some other primates) related to nursing. It usually goes away on its own by the time the permanent teeth are coming in. But it can be a hard habit to break — and if it becomes a persistent behavior, the consequences may include a problem called an “open bite.”

In a normal bite, the top teeth slightly overlap the bottom teeth. When the thumb (or any other object) constantly rests between the upper and lower teeth, however, the pressure it exerts may prevent the teeth from fully erupting (coming out from the gums into the mouth) and alter the shape and development of the upper and lower jawbone. This result is a gap between the upper and lower teeth.

The same problem may also be caused by prolonging the “infantile swallowing pattern,” a forward-thrusting position of the tongue which, like thumb sucking, normally begins to cease around age four. That's when it is replaced by the adult swallowing pattern, where the tongue is held behind the teeth, against the roof on the mouth. Researchers believe that most open bites result from the failure to change from the infantile to the adult swallowing pattern.

When should you be concerned about the thumb sucking habit? If the behavior continues much past toddlerhood, or if the sucking is particularly active, you may wish to have us evaluate your child's bite. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends having the habit stop by age 3. Persistent thumb sucking can actually push the teeth forward and change the growth patterns of the jaw, creating more difficult problems.

There are several methods for controlling the behavior and correcting problems with the bite. One is an appliance called a “tongue crib.” This thin metal device is placed behind the upper and lower incisors. It discourages thumb sucking, while at the same time helping to keep the tongue from inserting itself between the upper and lower teeth. Eliminating these unhelpful habits is essential to allow the teeth to erupt into proper position and to allow for the normal development of the jawbones.

Recent research has also shown that individualized exercise routines called orofacial myofunctional therapy (OMT) can be highly effective in preventing open bite relapses. These exercises are designed to retrain muscles in the face, tongue and lips, and can help to create good chewing and swallowing patterns.

If you would like more information about thumb sucking or children's bite problems, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about these issues by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Thumb Sucking Affects The Bite.”


By Augusta Smilecare
April 04, 2013
Category: Oral Health
HowtoImpressSupermodelBarRefaeli

Let's say you happen to be sitting on a plane next to supermodel Bar Refaeli, who was recently voted #1 on Maxim magazine's Hot 100 list. You're a little nervous, but you want to make a good impression. What's the first thing she's going to look at? Your expensive suit? Your sculpted torso? How about — your smile!

“Teeth are the first thing I look at,” explained the glamorous cover girl in a Maxim interview. “A nice smile with beautiful teeth is the most attractive thing.”

We wholeheartedly agree. But, of course, not everyone is lucky enough to be born with a perfect set of teeth. What to do then?

“Let's just say that with today's orthodontists, I don't understand why people wouldn't fix them,” Refaeli stated. Need we say more?

The Israeli supermodel, who has appeared in several Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues, knows what she's talking about. Refaeli started modeling as a young child, but had to put her career on hold for a few years while she got braces. When they came off, at age 11, she began her steady climb to the top of the modeling business.

Plenty of aspiring actors and models — as well as regular folks — get braces as children. But if you're serious about improving your smile, it's never too late to have orthodontic treatment. For adults, there are many options available in addition to the standard metal appliances.

Colorless ceramic braces offer a less noticeable way to correct misaligned teeth. Made of high-tech materials that resist staining, their translucent appearance blends so well with the look of your natural teeth that it can be hard to tell you're wearing them.

Clear aligners are an alternative to braces that are worn 20-22 hours per day. They consist of a series of precision-made, transparent “trays” that gradually straighten your teeth over a period of time. Best of all, you can remove them for special occasions — like meeting a supermodel.

Which type of orthodontic treatment is best for you? Why not come in for a consultation and find out! Working together, we can evaluate your situation and develop an effective, individualized treatment plan that fits your lifestyle.

If you have questions about orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Orthodontics For The Older Adult.”




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John D. Massey, DMD
4200 Columbia Road
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