Our Blog

Teens and Gum Disease

October 18th, 2023

You have a lot going on. School. Sports. Activities. Family. Friends. Teens lead busy lives and have busy schedules, so you need to budget your time and energy. One thing you don’t want to spend any of your time and energy on? Dealing with gum disease.

Gum disease most often begins as a reaction to plaque and tartar. The bacteria in plaque produce acids which irritate gum tissue, causing inflammation, swelling, and bleeding. This is gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease.

Left untreated, early gum disease can become periodontitis. Periodontitis is a serious gum infection which can cause receding gums, loose teeth, and even tooth and bone loss.

We usually think about gum disease as something that only older adults worry about. But the unfortunate fact is that children and teens are also at risk for gum disease—and the teen years bring special risks. Why?

  • Braces

The teen years are the most common years for orthodontic treatment. Wearing traditional or lingual braces can make removing plaque from around brackets and wires, between the teeth, and near the gum line more challenging, and gum disease can be the result. When you’ve been working so hard to create a healthy attractive smile, you don’t want to delay your orthodontic progress to treat gum disease.

  • Less-than-Nutritious Snacking

When you have after school commitments like sports practices, play rehearsals, or work, you probably carry a snack to give you the energy you need until dinner. Popular snacks like energy drinks, chips, or candy bars are common go-to choices, but they contain acids, simple carbs, and sugars which are bad for both gums and tooth enamel.

  • Hormones

Increased hormone levels during puberty can make the gums more sensitive and more easily irritated.

  • Your Busy Life

Maybe you’re not getting enough sleep. Or eating as well as you could. Or you’re feeling anxious. Lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and stress can affect your body’s immune system and your ability to fight off infection. And if you’re also not brushing and flossing regularly, your gum health can really suffer.

How do you know if you have gum disease? Good question! Sometimes the early stages of gum disease aren’t obvious. Perhaps you’ve noticed changes in your gums, such as:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Soreness
  • Bleeding
  • Bad breath even after brushing

Any of these changes can be symptoms of gum disease and are a good reason to give our Birmingham or Helena, AL office a call, since time is important when treating gum disease.

Caught early, gingivitis is usually very treatable—in fact, you can often reverse early gingivitis by paying more attention to your daily dental hygiene. If gingivitis is more advanced, or if periodontitis develops, you need professional dental care to prevent serious damage to your gums, teeth, and bone.

Preventing gum disease from ever developing is always best, though, so let’s look at what you can do to keep gum disease from becoming a problem.

  • Keep Up with Healthy Dental Habits

Even though you’re leading a busy life, take time for your dental care. Brushing twice a day for at least two minutes per session and flossing once a day take just a bit of your time and are the best way to keep your gums healthy. If you wear braces or have a tendency toward cavities and gum disease, Dr. Priscila Denny might recommend brushing or flossing more often.

  • Use the Right Tools

Using the right tools makes a big difference. You should always choose a toothbrush with soft bristles to protect your delicate gum tissue—especially if it’s extra sensitive. Too-harsh brushing can damage even your super-hard tooth enamel, so you can imagine what it can do to your gums! Change out your brush every three to four months when it starts to get frayed and worn.

If you wear braces, ask Dr. Priscila Denny to recommend the best kind of floss to clean between your teeth and around your brackets and wires. The right tools will make flossing a lot easier, and will help you keep your gums healthy and your orthodontic treatment on track.

  • No Matter How Busy You Are, Treat Yourself Well

Watch your diet. Drinking water to hydrate is a healthy (and inexpensive) alternative to sugary and acidic drinks. When you know you have after-school commitments, pack yourself a healthy snack. After snacking, it’s a good idea to rinse with water when you can’t brush to remove any food particles sticking around your teeth and gums.

And even though your schedule is demanding, caring for your mind and body should be a priority. If you have difficulties with sleep or stress, or questions about a nutritious diet, talk to your doctor for some valuable tips to make your daily life healthier and more enjoyable.

With so much going on in your active life, gum problems are problems you really don’t need. Make room in your schedule now for careful daily brushing and flossing, a healthy lifestyle, and regular visits to Oak Mountain Orthodontics, and you’ll be living that active life with a beautiful, healthy smile!

Your Child’s First Visit to the Orthodontist

October 11th, 2023

We often think of braces as a rite of passage for kids in middle and high school. So you might be surprised when your child’s dentist recommends a visit to see Dr. Priscila Denny years earlier than you anticipated. In fact, dentists and orthodontists generally suggest a visit to the orthodontist by age seven at the latest.

Why see an orthodontist so early?

After all, your child is still growing, and many adult teeth haven’t come in at that age. And that’s the whole point.

Around this age, your child will probably have a mix of both baby and adult teeth, so your orthodontist will be able to assess whether there’s enough room for the permanent teeth to erupt without crowding or spacing problems. And malocclusions, or bad bites, caused by problems with jaw size or symmetry can be addressed while young bones are still forming and developing.

If your child has a first appointment coming up on the calendar, here’s a heads up on what often happens during a first visit, and potential problems your orthodontist will be on the lookout for.

What can you expect at a first visit?

The first visit is designed to evaluate how your child’s teeth and jaws work together now, and to look for potential future problems with tooth alignment and jaw structure and development.

First, Dr. Priscila Denny will carefully examine your child’s teeth, jaws, and mouth. Your child will be asked to bite down several times to see how the teeth and jaws fit together, and if there’s any discomfort. Other helpful diagnostic tools could include:

  • Scans or X-rays to evaluate jaw structure and the position of teeth which haven’t erupted yet
  • Photos of your child’s teeth and face
  • An impression of your child’s teeth

If there’s no immediate need for treatment, we might recommend periodic checkups at our Birmingham or Helena, AL orthodontic office to follow the growth and development of your child’s teeth and jaws. If interceptive (early) treatment is your child’s best option for a healthy smile, your orthodontist will explain any immediate orthodontic issues and design a treatment plan tailored to your child’s specific needs.

What are the benefits of early treatment?

Interceptive treatment not only helps correct current orthodontic problems, it can help reduce the need for more complicated treatment in the future, when all of the adult teeth have arrived and bones are fully formed. Among its many benefits, early treatment can:

  • Prevent crowding

If your child has a small upper palate, it can be gently enlarged while the palate is still growing with the help of a palatal expander. This will give the upper teeth the space they need to come in without crowding.

  • Provide space

If primary teeth are lost too early, other teeth can shift out of alignment to fill the empty space. A space maintainer can be custom-made to keep the spot open until the right tooth is ready to erupt. If primary teeth are overstaying their welcome, Dr. Priscila Denny might recommend extraction to allow the adult teeth to erupt in the proper place.

  • Create jaw symmetry

Malocclusions can develop because the upper or lower jaw is too narrow, too far forward, too far back, or the jawbones don’t fit together properly. Dr. Priscila Denny might suggest the use of a functional appliance such as the Herbst® appliance or headgear to help guide symmetrical bone development while your child’s young bones are still growing and forming.

  • Protect teeth

Children with overjets, or protruding upper teeth, are more likely to suffer chips, cracks, and other trauma to those vulnerable front teeth. Functional appliances can help bring the upper and lower jaws into alignment as needed, and braces can move the teeth into alignment.

Every journey to a healthy smile begins with a first visit. And you don’t need to wait until your child is seven. Any time you’re concerned about an orthodontic issue is a good time for a consultation. Talk to Dr. Priscila Denny about what to expect at your first visit to help create a comfortable experience for your child as you begin this journey together.               

Your Sunny Smile

October 4th, 2023

Your beaming smile makes a sunny day even brighter—and that sunny day can return the favor! How does the sun affect your dental health? Let’s shine some light on the subject.

You may have heard how important calcium is to your body. Over 99% of the calcium in our bodies is used to form teeth and bones, providing strength and structure to the hardest parts of the body. But that’s not the only task on the calcium to-do list. Calcium is also necessary for:

  • muscles to work
  • nerves to carry messages
  • blood to deliver nutrients and oxygen
  • the release of hormones

When we don’t get enough calcium in our diets, our bodies start to draw the calcium they need for these critical functions from our teeth and bones. Over time, a severe calcium deficiency can lead to teeth that are brittle, or more vulnerable to decay, or loose due to weakened bone density in the jaw.

Keeping up with your calcium is especially important when you’re wearing braces or aligners. Calcium helps protect you from tooth decay and gum disease, which could delay your treatment. And you want your jaw bones strong and healthy as the bone tissue reforms and then stabilizes around your teeth as they move to their new, ideal positions.

We can get the calcium we need from a balanced diet. Dairy products are our most common source of calcium, and several servings of milk, cheese, or yogurt each day supply most of our needs. If dairy’s not on your menu, though, you can get calcium from other foods like broccoli, kale, collard greens, canned salmon, or sardines. Because calcium is so essential to our health, many foods are fortified with it, including fortified juices, bread, cereals—even tofu!

But there’s a snag here, and it’s a big one. We can’t really benefit from our careful consumption of calcium without the help of vitamin D. If calcium is the doorway to strong teeth and bones, vitamin D is the key which unlocks all of calcium’s benefits.

Without enough vitamin D, our bodies can’t absorb and make use of calcium. However, getting enough of this essential vitamin can be a problem. While we can get most of the vitamins we need from a balanced diet, there aren’t a lot of foods which are naturally rich in vitamin D.

So, how do we get this vital vitamin? The original option comes from nature.

  • Sunlight

Vitamin D is called “the sunshine vitamin” because of the unique chemical reaction which creates it. When the ultraviolet B rays of the sun reach special cells in our skin, they convert cholesterol in these cells to a basic form of vitamin D. These vitamin molecules travel through the body, picking up hydrogen and oxygen molecules in the liver and kidneys to become active vitamin D.

Since sunlight exposure is easy, available, and free, it seems like a simple solution to getting the vitamin D we need.

But we’ve understandably moved away from the days of basking in the sun for hours at a time. Over-exposure to UV rays damages the skin, causing premature aging and, worse, a much greater risk of skin cancer. If you enjoy time in the sun, talk to your doctor about safe sun exposure, which can depend on the part of the country you live in, the time of year, and your individual skin type.

And, if you need to avoid sun exposure, there are other opportunities for getting the vitamin D you need.

  • Diet

While there aren’t a lot of foods which are naturally rich in vitamin D, there are still a few options on the menu. Oily fish like salmon, tuna, and herring—and old-fashioned cod liver oil—are good sources of the vitamin. But most of us don’t live on a strict fish diet!

Instead, we can get the vitamin D we need from fortified foods. Vitamin D is commonly added to cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, and cereals to make sure the calcium in our diet is working effectively to keep our teeth and bones strong. Check out nutritional labels to discover whether your favorite grocery products contain vitamin D. And don’t forget to choose foods that are braces-friendly, as well!

  • Supplements

For hundreds of years, people who lived in climates and cities without a lot of sunshine suffered from the effects of vitamin D deficiency. Diseases like rickets, where the teeth and bones don’t form properly, were common in children. Adults who couldn’t absorb enough calcium suffered from weak teeth and bones.

Today, depending on age, allergies to sun or food products, dietary choices, and health conditions, some people are still at risk for vitamin D deficiency. If you’ve been diagnosed with this deficiency, your doctor might recommend a vitamin D supplement. (It’s important to take any supplement as directed, because taking too much vitamin D can be harmful, too.)

So, which form of vitamin D is best? Fortified foods? Supplements? Or is it that radiant original source—the sun? No need to worry. With any form of vitamin D, you’re getting the key you need to unlock the benefits of the calcium in your diet—for healthy teeth and bones before, during, and after your treatment at our Birmingham or Helena, AL orthodontic office. Your sunny smile will thank you!

Ouch! Are You Biting Your Cheeks More Often?

September 27th, 2023

You’re biting into something delicious, and, Ouch! You bite into something you didn’t mean to—the inside of your tender cheek.

Painful moments like this happen every now and again. But if you find that more frequent cheek biting means that you’re extra-cautious when eating or speaking, if you wake up with sore cheeks in the morning, or if you catch yourself gnawing on your cheeks during the day, it’s time to see Dr. Priscila Denny.

Causes of Cheek Biting

Many of us experience the occasional cheek chomp when we’re eating or talking. No fun! Besides the pain, a bite can cause broken skin, inflammation, a canker sore, or a cyst. Luckily, the discomfort from these accidental bites generally resolves after a few days.  

Sometimes, though, biting becomes a more frequent annoyance. Regular bites can be caused by several conditions. One of the most common?

  • Orthodontic Misalignment

If you notice that you seem to be biting your cheek a lot when eating or speaking, it could be an orthodontic problem. When your teeth or jaws don’t align properly, if your mouth is small in proportion to your teeth, or if your teeth have shifted over time, your cheeks can feel the consequences! Dr. Priscila Denny can help you discover if a misaligned bite is the source of your biting problems.

But it’s not just orthodontic problems which can cause painful cheek bites. Other causes can include:

  • Bruxism

Bruxism is a medical term for tooth grinding. If you clench or grind your teeth as you sleep, it’s hard on your teeth and on your jaws. And for some people, that nightly gnashing causes cheek biting as well.

  • Wisdom Teeth

Most of us don’t have the room to welcome four new—and large—teeth. As the wisdom teeth come in, they can cause bites, especially if they erupt leaning outward toward your cheeks. They can also push your other teeth out of place.

Treatment Options

Why visit our Birmingham or Helena, AL orthodontic office? A one-time bite can be extremely uncomfortable, and might lead to inflammation or a sore spot inside your mouth. Usually, these reactions fade in a short while.

But what about continuous biting? Regular biting injuries can lead to bigger problems. Tissue can get thicker or erode. Scar tissue can build up inside the mouth. Ulcers and other sores can become larger and more painful.

If you’ve been biting your cheeks more often, your orthodontist can diagnose the cause and offer you treatment options depending on the reason for this frequent biting:

  • Orthodontic Treatment

Orthodontic treatment can improve tooth and bite alignment—and can eliminate those painful cheek bites if misalignment is what’s causing them. Today’s orthodontics offers more options than ever before, for both adults and kids.

  • Traditional braces are more effective—and more subtle—than ever, with brackets which are smaller or come in clear and ceramic styles.
  • Clear aligners are a convenient, almost invisible way to treat misalignment with a series of trays which gradually improve alignment with each new set.
  • Lingual braces are attached to the back of the teeth, so there are no visible brackets and wires.
  • Functional appliances can improve and correct bite issues which braces or aligners alone can’t treat as effectively.

Whatever the reason for painful cheek biting, you deserve to eat and speak and enjoy your day without constant “Ouch!” moments affecting your comfort and health. If these moments are happening all too often, visit our Birmingham or Helena, AL office for the answers to your biting problems.

Contact Us!
call email