Posts for: February, 2014
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.”
Is there anything that radio and TV personality (and self-proclaimed “King of All Media”) Howard Stern doesn’t want to talk about in public? Maybe not — but it took a caller’s on-air question to get the infamous shock jock to open up about his own dental work.
When he was directly asked if his teeth were capped, Stern said no. “I redid ‘em [some time] ago… I had bonding and um… veneers… over my real teeth. But I don’t get that ‘Hollywood white’ though,” he said, before adding his uncensored opinion on the subject of proper tooth shades.
As we’re sure Stern would be the first to point out, everyone has a right to their own opinion. But we’re pleased that Howard brought up an important point about veneers: They are custom-made in a whole range of different shades, from a more ‘natural’ tooth color to a brilliant white shine. Which one you select depends on what look is right for you — and that’s your choice.
In case you aren’t familiar with veneers, they are fingernail-thin coverings made of porcelain, which are bonded onto the surfaces of the teeth. This enables them to hide a number of defects — like chips, discoloration, and even small irregularities in spacing. They can also be used to lengthen teeth that seem out of proportion to the gums, lips or other facial features.
Veneers are among the cosmetic dental treatments most favored by Hollywood stars… as well as regular folks who want a dramatic improvement in their smile. Unlike crowns (caps), which generally require extensive reshaping of the tooth, standard veneers require the removal of just fractions of a millimeter of tooth surface. That makes them a minimally invasive method of smile enhancement that can make a big difference in your appearance. In fact, veneers are often a major part of a complete “smile makeover.”
Dental veneers are custom made in a laboratory from a mold of your teeth. They are designed to fit your teeth perfectly — and to be just the shade you want. When you come in for a consultation, we will discuss what you like and don’t like about your smile, and how we might improve it. Will you opt to get the brilliant “red-carpet” smile you always wished for… or go for a subtle, more natural tooth color? Only you can decide.
Howard Stern’s veneers may be the most restrained thing about him… but we’re just glad that veneers helped him get the kind of smile he wanted. You can, too. If you would like more information on dental veneers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Porcelain Veneers” and “Porcelain Crowns & Veneers.”