My Blog

Posts for: June, 2012

StabilizingYourNewSmileAnsweringYourQuestionsaboutOrthodonticRetainers

On the day when braces come off, most people feel that their orthodontic treatment is over. When they are then asked to wear retainers, they may wonder what this additional requirement will accomplish. Wasn't the work of moving their teeth to desired positions already completed? To understand the answer to this question, you need to understand how orthodontics works.

How does orthodontic treatment remodel your smile?

Although they give the appearance of being stable and unmoving, teeth and their surrounding structures (gums, jawbones, and ligaments) are living tissues and are actually in a constant state of change.

Teeth are rooted in bone and are attached by a fibrous tissue called the periodontal ligament (from peri meaning around and odont meaning tooth). One side of the ligament attaches to the cementum (part of the tooth's root) and the other side is attached to the bone, with the tooth suspended in between.

These tissues are constantly remodeling themselves, but pressure from the lips and cheeks on one side and from the tongue on the other create a balance that keeps the teeth suspended in the same location. When mild forces are placed on the teeth, such as the forces from the wires used in orthodontic treatment, the tissues slowly adapt and rebuild, resulting in a new position for the teeth.

What are retainers?

Orthodontic retainers are devices usually made of a clear plastic section that is fitted to the roof of the mouth, with thin wires that fit over the teeth.

What is the purpose of retainers?

The remodeling process keeps going after the orthodontic treatment stops, so time is needed for the teeth to reach a new balanced state. The retainer stabilizes them in their new position so that bone and ligament can reform around the teeth and hold them there. This works well for adolescents, whose jaws are in a state of growth, but adults may need outside assistance to stabilize their teeth for a longer time. They may be asked to wear retainers indefinitely to make sure their teeth do not move from their new positions.

What happens if you don't wear your retainers?

If you don't wear your retainers, your teeth are likely to return to the positions they had prior to your orthodontic treatment. This can happen fairly rapidly, underscoring the importance of wearing retainers as instructed.

What are the different types of retainers?

Most retainers are removable devices as described above. For people who require long-term use of retainers, thin retainer wires can be bonded to the inside surfaces of their front teeth. Such wires are usually left in place for several years, relieving them of the need to remove and replace their retainers.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about orthodontics and retainers. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Why Orthodontic Retainers?


By Dr. Patrick H. Collins
June 17, 2012
Category: Oral Health
TreatingSnoringampSleepApnea

If you suffer from snoring or think you may have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), did you know that your dentist could play an important role in treating your condition? For most people this is surprising; however, we can provide both education and some treatment options. And as needed, we will work with your other healthcare professionals to get an accurate diagnosis so that you can improve both your sleep and your health.

Oral Appliance Therapy: These devices may look like orthodontic retainers or sports mouthguards, but they are designed to maintain an open, unobstructed, upper airway (tissues at the back of your throat) during sleep. There are many different oral appliances available but less than 20 have been approved through the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for treating sleep apnea. Depending on your specific condition, we may use it alone or in combination with other means of treating your OSA. Here’s how they work. They reposition the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate and uvula (the tissue in the back of the throat that dangles like a punching bag); stabilize the lower jaw and tongue; and increase the muscle tone of the tongue — unblocking the airway.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): CPAP bedside machines generate pressurized air delivered through a tube connected to a mask covering the nose and sometimes mouth. Pressurized air opens the airway (windpipe) in the same manner as blowing into a balloon; when air is blown in, the balloon opens and gets wider. This treatment option is generally not used for snoring, but rather for the more serious condition, OSA.

Surgery: Specially trained oral and maxillofacial surgeons may include more complex jaw advancement surgeries. Additionally, an Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) specialist (otolaryngologist) may consider surgery to remove excess tissues in the throat. It also may be necessary to remove the tonsils and adenoids (especially in children), the uvula, or even parts of the soft palate.

The first step towards getting a great night's sleep if you are a snorer that has never been diagnosed or treated for your condition is to obtain a thorough examination by a physician specifically trained in diagnosing and treating sleep disorders. And depending on the seriousness of your condition, he or she may strongly encourage you to participate in a sleep study. The results from this “study” can provide your dentist and other healthcare professionals with precise data about your snoring, breathing and sleeping habits. This information is key to treating OSA, if you are in fact diagnosed with this condition. Learn more when you read, “Snoring & Sleep Apnea.” Or if you are ready for a thorough examination and to discuss your snoring, contact us today to schedule an appointment.


By Dr. Patrick H. Collins
June 09, 2012
Category: Oral Health
FrequentlyAskedQuestionsAboutHeartandGumDiseases

Recent research has revealed that there is a link between cardiovascular (“cardio” – heart; “vascular” – blood vessel) disease (CVD) and periodontal (gum) disease. The link is Inflammation. This is why it is important to learn more about this important relationship so that you can take proactive steps to improving your health and life.

What causes periodontal disease?
Simply put, irregular and ineffective brushing and flossing are the root causes of periodontal disease. Over time and when bacterial biofilms (dental plaque) are left unchecked, they lead to the emergence of a small set of highly pathogenic (“patho” – disease; “genic” – causing) organisms that are consistently associated with periodontitis (“peri” – gum; “odont” – tooth; “itis” – inflammation) or gum disease.

Is periodontal disease common or am I one of the few who have it?
It is a quite common disease, with mild to moderate forms of it impacting 30 to 50% of US adults. More severe cases affect 5 to 15%. One of the reasons these numbers are so high is because periodontal disease is a silent, painless disease that often occurs without any symptoms.

So how does my gum disease link to potential heart disease?
Inflammation is a characteristic of chronic disease. People with moderate to severe periodontitis have increased levels of systemic (general body) inflammation. If left untreated, the same bacterial strains that are commonly found in periodontal pockets surrounding diseased teeth have been found in blood vessel plaques of people with CVD.

This all sounds bad...is there any good news?
Yes! Research has revealed that if periodontal disease is treated, inflammation and infection can be reduced. This also reduces the risk for heart attacks and strokes, both of which are common results of CVD. All it may take is a thorough exam for gum disease and thorough dental cleaning. During your exam, we can also make sure you are brushing and flossing properly so that you are effectively removing bacterial biofilm. But if you have severe periodontal disease, you may need deeper cleanings and more advanced treatment to save your teeth and your heart.

To learn more on this subject, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Link Between Heart & Gum Diseases.” You can also contact us today with any questions or to schedule an appointment.


By Dr. Patrick H. Collins
June 01, 2012
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: wisdom teeth  
IsItWiseToHaveYourWisdomTeethRemoved

The third molars, called “wisdom teeth” because they usually become visible when a person is 17 to 25 — supposedly the time we achieve wisdom, may have adverse effects on adjacent teeth. Most adults have four wisdom teeth, although some people have more; and some, none at all. The wisest thing to do about wisdom teeth may be to have them removed if they are poorly positioned.

What is an impacted wisdom tooth?

If a wisdom tooth is pushing against gums, other soft tissues, or adjacent teeth at an awkward angle, it is referred to as “impacted.” Usually this occurs when there is not have enough room in the jaws for these last molars to fit next to their adjacent teeth. They can disrupt the gum tissue attachment of their neighboring teeth and the surrounding bone leading to periodontal disease and, ultimately, their loss.

In many cases, impacted teeth are painless, and those who have them have no warning of the problem. Thus it is important to have routine dental exams during the time when the third molars are coming in.

When should wisdom teeth be removed?

It is better to remove wisdom teeth early rather than waiting until periodontal (gum) disease has set in. As individuals age, keeping their wisdom teeth may lead to more serious problems. Periodontal defects tend to get worse in the presence of retained third molars. Furthermore, there is a higher incidence of postoperative symptoms in people over 25.

What are the pros and cons?

Removing impacted third molars can have a negative influence on the periodontal tissues of adjacent second molars. A number of techniques, such as scaling, root planing, and bacterial plaque control, can be used to minimize periodontal problems and promote healthy healing.

Surgical removal of wisdom teeth will involve some mild to moderate post-operative discomfort. Use of aspirin or ibuprofen for a few days after surgery will provide pain relief and control most swelling and symptoms. Antibiotics may be prescribed to ensure infection-free healing. It is important to keep the socket area clean by washing and rinsing with saline or antibacterial rinses. Careful surgery will promote good healing with minimal periodontal consequences to adjacent second molar teeth.

To decide whether your wisdom teeth should be removed, you will need an evaluation to assess the clinical health of the wisdom teeth, the neighboring teeth, and other vital structures. X-ray and digital imaging techniques play an important role in determining the exact position of the wisdom teeth in the jaw. A full assessment and consultation will include all the risks, benefits, likely consequences, and alternative treatment options. This will provide you with the wisdom you need to determine what is best for your wisdom teeth.

To learn more about wisdom teeth, read “To Be or Not to Be: What are the consequences of an impacted wisdom tooth?” Or contact us today to discuss your questions or to schedule an appointment.