Posts for: October, 2013
It is sometimes hard to believe all of the features and characteristics that we inherit from our parents. Whether you're tall, short, blue-eyed or blonde, you can usually attribute some of these features to your mother and father. Of course, the downside of genetics is that diseases and disorders are also linked to genes.
Well, you can add gum tissue to that list as well! Genetics actually determines whether you have what we call “thin” or “thick” gum tissue. How does this work? Well, the type of gum tissue you have relies heavily on the shape of your tooth, which indeed is genetically-coded. If you have a triangular tooth shape, you'll likely have thin gums. If you have a squarer tooth shape, you'll usually have thick gums.
So, what can you expect from each tissue type?
If you have a thin gum tissue type, you are more likely to have gum recession. Watch out for the following signs of gum recession:
- Sensitivity to hot or cold, even without the presence of dental decay
- If you have crowns on your teeth, you may see a dark gray line at the gum line from the metal casting beneath the crown
- Small dark triangular spaces between teeth
On the other hand, if you have a thicker tissue type, your gums are more vulnerable to dental disease through a condition called “pocketing.” This happens when bacterial plaque causes your tissue to become inflamed, lose its attachment to the teeth and develop a pocket. Pocketing can result in bone loss, and, in worst-case scenarios, tooth loss.
It's important to note that while we use these terms to categorize different tissue types for treatment decisions, your tissue may also fall somewhere in between the two varieties.
So, how can you prevent gum disease? Daily oral hygiene is the best way to ensure proper care of your gums, no matter what type you have. Be sure to brush twice daily (use a soft toothbrush) and floss regularly at night. Floss gently until you hear a squeak, but watch out for your gum line. And of course, continue to visit us two times a year, so that we can assess whether you are in danger of developing gum disease.
If you would like more information about genetics and gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Genetics and Gum Tissue Types.”
Nolan Gould, who plays Luke on the popular TV comedy Modern Family, has beautiful, straight teeth. But in an exclusive interview with Dear Doctor magazine, the young actor said it wasn't always that way.
“My teeth used to be pretty messed up,” Nolan said. “I had two extra teeth when I was born. They hadn't come out (erupted) yet. And all the other teeth that were already there were starting to point backwards because it was getting so crowded in my mouth. At about the age of 7, I started going to the orthodontist to get my teeth checked.”
Age 7 may sound early for a visit to the orthodontist, but in fact that's exactly the age we recommend for a first orthodontic evaluation. Malocclusions (bad bites) often become noticeable around this time, as the child's permanent (adult) teeth erupt. We might already be able to see evidence of the following problems: crowding, too much space between teeth, protruding teeth, extra or missing teeth, and sometimes problems with jaw growth. So even if your child is too young for braces, it is not necessarily too early for an orthodontic evaluation.
This type of exam can spot subtle problems with jaw growth and emerging teeth while some baby teeth are still present. Early detection of orthodontic problems makes it easier to correct those problems in the long run. Waiting until all of the permanent teeth are in, or until facial growth is nearly complete, may make correction more difficult or even impossible. That's why the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children get a check-up with an orthodontist no later than age 7.
Orthodontic treatment itself usually begins between ages 7 and 14. Therapy that begins while a child is still growing, often referred to as “interceptive orthodontics,” helps produce optimal results. In Nolan's case, an early orthodontic evaluation allowed his orthodontist enough time to plan the most effective treatment. Nolan's two extra teeth were removed before they had a chance to push his other teeth even further out of alignment, and he was given orthodontic appliances which fit behind the teeth.
“You can remove them, which is really good for acting, especially because you can't see them. I can wear them 24/7 and nobody will ever notice.”
One thing that is noticeable, however, is Nolan's perfectly aligned smile!
If you would like to learn more about improving tooth alignment with orthodontics, please contact us to schedule an appointment for a consultation. To read Dear Doctor's entire interview with Nolan Gould, please see “Nolan Gould.” Dear Doctor also has more on an “Early Orthodontic Evaluation.”