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Battle Creek, MI 49015
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WhatYouCanDoToReduceGumProblemsWhileWearingBraces

Wearing braces can ultimately give you a healthier and more attractive smile. In the short-term, though, your gums in particular may be in for a rough ride.

While we're all susceptible to gum disease, braces wearers are more likely to encounter it. This stems from two related factors: the difficulty braces pose to oral hygiene; and the potential irritation of soft tissues by the braces themselves.

The main cause for any form of gum disease is dental plaque, a thin bacterial film that accumulates on teeth. Removing plaque through brushing and flossing greatly reduces the risk of any dental disease. But braces wires and brackets make it difficult to brush and floss—as a result, some plaque deposits may escape cleaning, which makes a gum infection more likely.

To exacerbate this, braces hardware can irritate the gums and cause swelling and tissue overgrowth, also known as hyperplasia. The one-two punch of ineffective hygiene with hyperplasia are why braces wearers have a higher incidence of gum problems compared to the general population.

To guard against this, patients with braces need to be extra vigilant about keeping their teeth and gums clean of plaque. It may be helpful in this regard to use specialized tools like interproximal brushes with narrower bristle heads that are easier to maneuver around braces.

And rather than using traditional flossing thread, orthodontic patients may find it easier and more effective to use pre-loaded flossing picks or an entirely different method called oral irrigation. The latter involves a handheld wand that directs a stream of pulsating water between teeth to loosen and flush away plaque.

It's also important for patients to see their dentist as soon as possible for any gum swelling, bleeding or pain. The dentist can determine if it relates to gum disease, hyperplasia or a combination of both, and recommend treatment. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to remove the braces until the gums heal, so catching and treating any gum problem early is a priority.

Regardless of the risk for gum disease, orthodontic treatment is still well worth the investment in your health and appearance. Practicing effective oral hygiene and keeping a watchful eye on your gums will help further lower that risk.

If you would like more information on oral care during orthodontic treatment, 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 “Gum Swelling During Orthodontics.”

AddressingTheseFactorsHelpsEnsureaSatisfyingExperienceWithImplants

Patients and dentists alike love dental implants. For one, they're unique among other dental restorations because they replace the tooth root as well as the visible crown. It's actually their role as a root replacement that makes them so durable and lifelike.

But it still falls to the dentist to create as natural an appearance as possible through proper implant placement. It requires extensive technical skill and artistry to surgically place an implant in the precise location inside the jawbone to gain the best outcome. It's even more critical when the tooth is a highly visible one within the "smile zone"—the teeth others see when we smile.

With a patient's smile appearance on the line, it's important that we carefully consider a number of factors that can impact implant success and address them as needed in our treatment plan.

The gums. The gums are to the teeth as a frame is to a masterpiece painting. If the gums don't correctly cover the new implant, the final outcome won't look natural. Positioning the implant precisely helps ensure the gums look attractive. It may also be necessary to augment the gums, such as grafting surgery to encourage growth of lost gum tissue, to achieve the most lifelike result.

The socket. For simple extractions (as opposed to surgical removals), a dentist deftly manipulates the ligament holding the tooth in place to loosen and remove it. It's important to do this carefully—if the tooth's bony socket becomes damaged in the process (or because of other trauma), it can complicate implant placement in the future.

The supporting bone. Likewise, the bone in which the implant is imbedded must be reasonably healthy and of adequate volume. Besides not providing enough support, inadequate bone also makes it difficult to place an implant for the most attractive result. Bone grafting at the time of extraction minimizes bone shrinkage. If bone shrinkage had occurred, the Inadequate bone may require grafting, particularly if there is a lag time between extraction and implantation. In extreme cases, though, a patient may need to choose a different restoration.

The usual process for implants—planning, surgical placement and the healing period after surgery—can take time. Paying attention to these and other factors will help ensure that time and the effort put into this process has a satisfying outcome—an attractive, natural and long lasting smile.

If you would like more information on dental implants, 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 “Immediate Dental Implants.”

BrieBellaShowsOffHerSix-MonthOldsBabyTeethonInstagram

If you're aiming for adorable camera shots, nothing beats baby photos. Even the tough guys among us can't resist oohing and ahhing over pics of their friends' and families' newest editions. Even celebrities like Brie Bella, WWE wrestler and now activewear entrepreneur, get into the act. She recently posted photos of her six-month old son, Buddy, for Instagramers. The focus—Baby Buddy's new baby teeth.

For many, a baby's first teeth are almost as cute as the baby themselves. Like the tiny humans sporting them, baby (or primary) teeth look like miniature versions of adult teeth. But aside from their inherent cuteness, primary teeth are also critically important for a child's dental function and development.

For most kids, primary teeth come right on time as they begin their transition from mother's milk or formula to solid food that requires chewing. Aside from their importance in nutrition, primary teeth also play a prominent role in a child's speech development and burgeoning social interaction.

They're also fundamental to bite development, with an influence that extends beyond their lifespan. They serve as placeholders for the permanent teeth, "trailblazers" of a sort that guide future teeth toward proper eruption.

So critical is this latter role that losing a baby tooth prematurely can open the door to bite problems. When a baby tooth is lost before its time, the space they're holding for an incoming tooth could be overtaken by neighboring teeth. This in turn could force the intended tooth to erupt out of place, leading to cascading misalignments that could require future orthodontics to correct.

Although facial trauma can cause premature tooth loss, the most common reason is tooth decay. One form of this disease known as early childhood caries (ECC) is especially problematic—it can rapidly develop and spread to other teeth.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid early primary tooth loss. Here are a few things you can do to prevent that from happening.

  • Clean your baby's teeth daily by brushing and later flossing to remove bacterial plaque, the major cause of tooth decay;
  • Limit your baby's sugar consumption. In particular, avoid bedtime bottles filled with milk, juice or formula;
  • "Child-proof" your child's play areas to lessen their chances of falling on hard surfaces that could injure teeth;
  • Begin regular dental visits around their first birthday for early diagnosis, treatment and the application of other disease prevention measures.

Like Brie Bella, it's a joy for many parents to show off their baby's first teeth. Just be sure to take these common sense steps to protect those primary teeth from an unwelcome early departure.

If you would like more information about children's dental care, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Age One Dental Visit.”

By Bruce A. Leonard, DDS
October 25, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
StraighteningYourTeethCouldRejuvenateYourSmile

Advanced cosmetic dental techniques are helping people around the world achieve their dream smiles. But long before many of these procedures existed, straightening teeth with braces could make a big difference in a person's appearance.

Improving a smile isn't the primary reason a person should undergo teeth straightening—a poor bite can lead to an unhealthy mouth. Misaligned teeth set up conditions in which you're more prone to diseases like tooth decay or gum disease. Correcting a bite should be first and foremost about protecting your dental health.

Even so, realigning your teeth can lead to a more attractive smile—and it's often necessary first before undergoing other cosmetic restorations. Think of it like renovating a house. You usually need to fix a faulty foundation before you start building an addition.

That's why it's always a good idea to get a complete dental exam before undertaking cosmetic work. There may be underlying problems that should be treated first. If that includes a poor bite, your next visit will most likely be with an orthodontist. Using advanced diagnostics, they'll determine what kind of bite problem you have and what it will take to correct it.

In years past, that meant braces. But now patients have another option: clear aligners, a series of clear plastic trays based on the individual patient's teeth. Each tray in the series is worn for about two weeks in succession, each new tray taking up where the other tray left off moving the teeth. Not only are they nearly invisible to observers, they can be removed for eating, cleaning or special occasions.

On the cosmetic front, straightening your teeth may be all you need to realize a more attractive smile. But orthodontics can also be part of an overall "smile makeover" that may include other cosmetic procedures, usually performed after realigning the teeth. In this case, it's often necessary to coordinate orthodontic treatment with these other procedures, especially if it's necessary to remove some teeth.

Whether it stands alone or is part of an overall makeover plan, straightening teeth can be a game changer when it comes to your appearance. Not only will it help you have healthier teeth and gums, it could give you the new smile you desire.

If you would like more information on orthodontic treatment, 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 “The Magic of Orthodontics.”

By Bruce A. Leonard, DDS
October 15, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: tooth decay  
WereImprovingOurEffectivenessinTreatingToothDecay

For several decades, dentists have been saving teeth from tooth decay following a few basic guidelines: 1) Identify decay as soon as possible; 2) Thoroughly remove decayed tooth structure; and 3) Fill any cavities. With millions of diseased teeth rescued, observing these simple steps have proven a rousing success.

But as with most things, even this successful protocol isn't perfect. For one, some healthy tissue gets removed along with the diseased portions. The average percentage of "collateral damage" has dropped over the years, but it still happens—and a reduction in healthy tissue can make a tooth less structurally sound.

Another drawback, at least from the patient's perspective, is the dental drill used for removing decay and preparing cavities for filling. Many people find drilling unpleasant, whether from its vibrations in the mouth or its high-pitched whine. The drill's burr head design also contributes to greater healthy tissue loss.

But those weaknesses have lessened over the last few years, thanks to innovations on a number of fronts.

Better risk management. Tooth decay doesn't occur out of thin air—it arises out of risk factors unique to an individual patient like personal hygiene, bacterial load, saliva production or even genetics. Taking the time to identify a patient's "tooth decay risk score" can lead to customized treatments and practices that can minimize the occurrence of decay.

Earlier detection. Like other aspects of dental health, the sooner we detect decay, the less damage it causes and the more successful our treatment. X-rays remain the workhorse for detecting decay, but now with improvements like digital film and better equipment. We're also using newer technologies like laser fluorescence and infrared technology that can "see" decay that might otherwise go undetected.

Less invasive treatment. The dental drill is now being used less with the advent of air abrasion technology. Air abrasion utilizes a concentrated spray of particles to remove diseased tooth structure more precisely than drilling. That means less healthy tissue loss—and a more pleasant (and quieter!) experience for the patient.

In effect, "less is more" could describe these improvements to traditional decay treatment. They and other methods promise healthier teeth and happier patients.

If you would like more information on current treatments for tooth decay, 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 “Minimally Invasive Dentistry: When Less Care is More.”





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