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Posts for: July, 2018

By Signature Smiles, LLC
July 30, 2018
Category: Oral Health
EncourageYourChildtoStopThumbSuckingbyAge4

There's something universal about thumb sucking: nearly all babies do it, and nearly all parents worry about it. While most such worries are unfounded, you should be concerned if your child sucks their thumb past age of 4 — late thumb sucking could skew bite development.

Young children suck their thumb because of the way they swallow. Babies move their tongues forward into the space between the two jaws, allowing them to form a seal around a nipple as they breast or bottle feed. Around age 4, this “infantile swallowing pattern” changes to an adult pattern where the tip of the tongue contacts the front roof of the mouth just behind the front teeth. At the same time their future bite is beginning to take shape.

In a normal bite the front teeth slightly overlap the bottom and leave no gap between the jaws when closed.  But if thumb sucking continues well into school age, the constant pushing of the tongue through the opening in the jaws could alter the front teeth's position as they erupt. As a result they may not fully erupt or erupt too far forward. This could create an open bite, with a gap between the upper and lower teeth when the jaws are closed.

Of course, the best way to avoid this outcome is to encourage your child to stop thumb sucking before they turn four. If, however, they're already developing a poor bite (malocclusion), all is not lost — it can be treated.

It's important, though, not to wait: if you suspect a problem you should see an orthodontist for a full evaluation and accurate diagnosis. There are even some measures that could discourage thumb sucking and lessen the need for braces later. These include a tongue crib, a metal appliance placed behind the upper and lower incisors, or exercises to train the tongue and facial muscles to adopt an adult swallowing pattern. Often, a reward system for not sucking their thumbs helps achieve success as well.

Thumb-sucking shouldn't be a concern if you help your child stop before age 4 and keep an eye on their bite development. Doing those things will help ensure they'll have both healthy and straight teeth.

If you would like more information on thumb sucking, 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.”


TeenagerswithMissingTeethUsuallyNeedaTemporaryRestoration

Anyone at any age, including older children and teenagers, can lose or be born missing a permanent tooth. And while those missing teeth can be restored, replacing them in patients who haven’t yet reached adulthood can be tricky.

That’s because their dental and facial development isn’t finished. This is especially problematic for dental implants because as the jaws continue to grow, a “non-growing” implant could eventually appear out of alignment with the surrounding natural teeth. That’s why it’s often better to install a temporary restoration until the jaws fully mature in early adulthood. Two great choices are a removable partial denture (RPD) or a bonded (“Maryland”) bridge.

While “dentures” and “teens” don’t seem to go together, an RPD in fact can effectively restore a teen’s lost dental function and appearance. Of the various types of RPDs the one usually recommended for teens has a hard acrylic base colored to resemble the gums, to which we attach prosthetic (“false”) teeth at their appropriate positions on the jaw.

Besides effectiveness, RPDs are easy to clean and maintain. On the downside, though, an RPD can break and—as a removable appliance—become lost. They can also lose their fit due to changes in jaw structure.

The bonded bridge is similar to a traditional fixed bridge. But there’s one big difference: traditional bridges crown the natural teeth on either side of the missing teeth to secure them in place. The supporting teeth must be significantly (and permanently) altered to accommodate the life-like crowns on either end of the bridge.

Instead, a bonded bridge affixes “wings” of dental material extending from the back of the bridge to the back of the natural teeth on either side. While not quite as strong as a regular bridge, the bonded bridge avoids altering any natural teeth.

While a fixed bridge conveniently stays in place, they’re more difficult than an RPD to keep clean. And while less prone to breakage, they aren’t entirely immune to certain stresses from biting and chewing especially in the presence of some poor bites (how the upper and lower teeth come together).

Choosing between the two restorations will depend on these and other factors. But either choice can serve your teen well until they’re able to permanently replace their missing teeth.

If you would like more information on dental restorations for teens, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.


WhyemBigBangTheoryemActressMayimBialikCouldntHaveBraces

Mayim Bialik has spent a good part of her life in front of TV cameras: first as the child star of the hit comedy series Blossom, and more recently as Sheldon Cooper’s love interest — a nerdy neuroscientist — on The Big Bang Theory. (In between, she actually earned a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA…but that’s another story.) As a child, Bialik had a serious overbite — but with all her time on camera, braces were just not an option.

“I never had braces,” she recently told Dear Doctor – Dentistry & Oral Health magazine. “I was on TV at the time, and there weren’t a lot of creative solutions for kids who were on TV.” Instead, her orthodontist managed to straighten her teeth using retainers and headgear worn only at night.

Today, there are several virtually invisible options available to fix orthodontic issues — and you don’t have to be a child star to take advantage of them. In fact, both children and adults can benefit from these unobtrusive appliances.

Tooth colored braces are just like traditional metal braces, with one big difference: The brackets attached to teeth are made from a ceramic material that blends in with the natural color of teeth. All that’s visible is the thin archwire that runs horizontally across the teeth — and from a distance it’s hard to notice. Celebs like Tom Cruise and Faith Hill opted for this type of appliance.

Clear aligners are custom-made plastic trays that fit over the teeth. Each one, worn for about two weeks, moves the teeth just a bit; after several months, you’ll see a big change for the better in your smile. Best of all, clear aligners are virtually impossible to notice while you’re wearing them — which you’ll need to do for 22 hours each day. But you can remove them to eat, or for special occasions. Zac Efron and Katherine Heigl, among others, chose to wear clear aligners.

Lingual braces really are invisible. That’s because they go behind your teeth (on the tongue side), where they can’t be seen; otherwise they are similar to traditional metal braces. Lingual braces are placed on teeth differently, and wearing them often takes some getting used to at first. But those trade-offs are worth it for plenty of people. Which celebs wore lingual braces? Rumor has it that the list includes some top models, a well-known pop singer, and at least one British royal.

So what’s the best way to straighten your teeth and keep the orthodontic appliances unnoticeable? Just ask us! We’d be happy to help you choose the option that’s just right for you. You’ll get an individualized evaluation, a solution that fits your lifestyle — and a great-looking smile!

For more information about hard-to-see (or truly invisible) orthodontics, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Orthodontics for the Older Adult” and “Clear Aligners for Teenagers.”


By Signature Smiles, LLC
July 02, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures

Just like natural teeth, dental implant crowns occasionally require a few repairs to improve their function and appearance. Your Toms River, dental implantsNJ, dentist, Dr. Carmela LaFalce, offers crown repairs and other dental services essential for a strong, healthy smile.

When are repairs needed?

Damage to your crowns can affect your appearance and may make chewing more difficult. Although your dental implant crown is synthetic, many of the things that damage your teeth can also damage your crown.

Do you grind or clench your teeth while you sleep? Over time, the habit can crack or break both dental crowns and natural teeth. Frequent grinding or clenching can even loosen your implant, putting your new tooth at risk. Once your crown has been repaired or replaced, your Toms River dentist may recommend that you wear a nightguard to prevent further damage. Nightguards, plastic trays worn over the upper or lower teeth, absorb shock and protect your teeth from the extreme pressure generated by grinding or clenching.

Other potential causes of crown problems include:

  • Broken Abutment: The abutment is a tiny screw that connects your crown to your dental implant. A loose or damaged abutment can affect the stability of your crown.
  • Biting into Hard Foods and Objects: Your crown may be more likely to crack or fracture if you enjoy nuts or other hard foods. Do you often use your teeth to open bottles or packages? If you do, you may eventually notice that your crown has broken or loosened.
  • Faulty Crowns: Faulty crowns aren't common but can affect your ability to use your new tooth.
  • Trauma: Falls, blows to the face, and other accidents may damage your implant crown.

How are crown repairs performed?

The type of crown repair you need depends on the extent of the damage. If you've only chipped your crown, your Toms River dentist may be able to smooth the rough edges, improving the appearance of your tooth. Replacement may be the only option if your crown is cracked, broken or faulty. If a replacement is needed, your dentist will make an impression of your mouth and send it off to a dental laboratory. You'll wear a temporary crown until the replacement is ready in about two weeks. In some cases, it may also be necessary to replace your abutment.

Are you concerned about the condition of a dental implant crown? Call our Toms River, NJ, dentist, Dr. LaFalce, at (732) 244-4114 to schedule an appointment.




Carmela LaFalce, DMD
Dentist - Toms River
616 Washington St
Toms River, NJ 08753

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