The Different Types Of Teeth

YOU’VE PROBABLY NOTICED that your teeth aren’t all the same shape, but do you know the reason? Humans have four different types of teeth, and they each serve specific purposes, both in helping us chew and in giving us our beautiful smiles!

Types Of Teeth And What They Do

The reason we need so many different types of teeth is that we are omnivores, which means we eat both plants and meat. We need teeth that can handle all of our favorite foods!

Incisors

At the very front of the mouth, the top four and bottom four teeth are the incisors. The middle ones are central incisors, while the ones on the sides are lateral incisors. Incisors are built for slicing. When we take a bite out of an apple, for instance, our incisors shear off a tasty chunk of fruit, but they aren’t the teeth we actually chew with.

Canines

Next to the lateral incisors are our canines, which are the sharpest and longest teeth in our mouths. This enables them to grip and tear food, particularly meat. Unlike incisors, we only have four canines. Their long roots and their position at the “corners” of our dental arches also make them some of the most important teeth in our smiles, because they provide much of the shape. Another name for canine teeth is eyeteeth. That might seem weird, but it’s because these teeth are directly beneath our eyes!

Premolars

After the canines, we have our premolars. You can think of premolars as hybrids between canines and molars. They have sharp outer edges, but they also have flat chewing surfaces, which means they can help the canines with tearing food and the molars with grinding it up. We don’t have any premolars as children; our eight adult premolars are actually the teeth that replace our baby molars!

Molars

Finally, we have the molars. Molars are our biggest teeth, with multiple roots and large, flat chewing surfaces. We have eight baby molars and up to twelve adult molars, depending on whether or not we have and keep our wisdom teeth. Molars are the teeth that do most of the chewing because those flat surfaces are perfect for grinding and crushing food until it’s ready to be swallowed.

What About Herbivores And Carnivores?

Our teeth are the way they are because we’re omnivores. Herbivores (plant-eaters) and carnivores (meat-eaters) have very different teeth. Herbivores typically have chisel-like incisors and large, flat premolars and molars for chewing plants, while their canines are small if they have them at all. Carnivores tend to have much bigger canine teeth than we do, but their incisors are much smaller, and while they still have premolars and molars, they are often serrated like knives, built for shredding rather than grinding.

Biannual Visits

What do all four types of your teeth have in common? They need regular attention from a dentist! Keep bringing those incisors, canines, premolars, and molars to see us every six months so that we can make sure they’re all staying healthy. In the meantime, you can do your part by remembering to brush twice a day, floss daily, and cut back on sugary treats!

We look forward to seeing you again!

Top image by Flickr user _zhang used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Why Straight Teeth?

TO SOME, IT MIGHT seem like the benefits of having straight teeth are purely cosmetic. And those benefits certainly do exist. Studies have shown that people tend to perceive someone with straight teeth as wealthier, happier, and more dateable than someone with crooked teeth. But there are plenty of other important benefits as well.

Consequences Of Crooked Teeth

There are many different ways crooked, crowded, or misaligned teeth can negatively impact a person’s health and quality of life. Let’s take a look at a few of the big ones.

Difficult To Clean

When teeth overlap each other in ways they aren’t meant to, they can be much harder to clean with brushing and flossing than straight teeth. If teeth aren’t getting cleaned as effectively, then they become more vulnerable to tooth decay.

Impede Clear Speech

Underbites, severe overbites, and other teeth alignment problems can interfere with a person’s ability to speak clearly, leading to lisps and other distortions in articulation.

Interfere With Healthy Digestion

Chewing is a critical part of the digestion process. Our saliva begins to break food down on a chemical level while our teeth break it apart into more manageable pieces. Crooked teeth can make it difficult or even impossible to chew food enough, which forces the rest of the digestive system to pick up the slack. This can lead to a number of unpleasant GI consequences, and it can even make it harder to lose weight!

Can Interfere With Healthy Breathing

If your teeth don’t fit comfortably together, you might keep them apart instead of closing your jaws when resting. This can lead to mouth breathing, which has many negative health effects. The two most connected to oral health concerns are chronic bad breath and dry mouth.

Can Cause Jaw Problems

If there’s something wrong with your bite, that can result in temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndromeSymptoms include a clicking jaw joint, jaw pain, and frequent headaches.

Do Your Teeth Need Straightening?

Having straight teeth eliminates or greatly reduces all of these problems. This, paired with the cosmetic advantages and the boost in confidence, makes orthodontic treatment a very worthwhile investment. If you think you could benefit from orthodontic treatment, our practice can recommend a great orthodontist for you. In the meantime, keep brushing, flossing, and scheduling your regular dental appointments!

You deserve the best for your teeth!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Childhood Tooth Injuries

WHEN WE PICTURE the ideal childhood, we usually think of children playing on playgrounds and exploring nature with their friends. They discover the world around them, imagine fantastical worlds beyond it, play games, and make friendships that could last a lifetime. As wonderful as that image is, it often comes with bruises and scraped knees — and, sometimes, tooth injuries.

So what can parents do to minimize their children’s risk of tooth injuries while they play? It’s easy enough to remember a mouth guard during actual sporting activities, but sports games and practice aren’t the only situations that can lead to a lost or chipped tooth.

Home And Play Tooth Safety Tips 

Here are a few simple tips for keeping your children’s teeth safe around the house and when playing with friends.

  • With babies and toddlers, the most common culprit for tooth injuries is the bathtub. Never leave a young child unattended in the bathtub, because they could easily slip and hurt their teeth.
  • When your child is playing with friends and using objects such as frisbees or balls, have a discussion with them about safety. Make sure they know how important it is not to aim for each other’s heads.
  • Using playground equipment like the monkey bars, jungle gym, and swings can easily lead to tooth injuries. Make sure to talk to your children before they start playing so that they will know to be careful.

Adult supervision and open conversations about safety are the most crucial components of reducing the risk of injury. By utilizing them, you could help your child avoid the need for major dental work. Just as important in that regard are their daily brushing and flossing habits and their regular dental checkups, because healthy teeth are harder to injure.

What To Do When Accidents Happen

While it is possible to reduce the risks of your child injuring a tooth, not all accidents are preventable. In the event a tooth does get knocked out or chipped, don’t panic. If the tooth isn’t already loose when it gets knocked out, and especially if it’s an adult tooth, try to put it back in place and come straight to the dentist. This will give it the best chance for reattachment.

If it isn’t possible to put the tooth back in place, the next best thing is to place it in a glass of milk to keep the root alive. In any case, bring your child to the dentist as quickly as possible. The faster you arrive at the dentist, the better the chances are of saving the toothDo not clean the tooth or put it in water! This will kill the root!

They Grow Up So Fast

Childhood never seems to last as long as we, the parents, wish it would. Our practice can’t make it last longer, but we hope this advice will help make it a little safer. If you have any questions for us about child tooth safety, feel free to ask or come see us. If not, we look forward to seeing you and your child at their next regular check-up!

Be careful with those teeth, but don’t forget to have fun!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

 

Impress Your Friends With Dental Trivia

MOST PEOPLE OUTSIDE of teeth-related professions probably only think about their teeth when something’s wrong, like when there’s something stuck between them in the middle of a date, they’re sore from a toothache, or they’re stained after drinking coffee or juice. That’s why we thought our patients would appreciate an opportunity to think about teeth in a more fun and interesting context. So get ready, because it’s time for some dental trivia!

You Probably Didn’t Know…

These are seven of our favorite pieces of dental trivia! How many of them did you already know? If you know any cool dental facts we didn’t include in our list, feel free to share them in the comments!

  1. A Lifetime Of Brushing: If you brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day, that means you’re spending a whole day brushing your teeth for every year of your life! Keep up the great work!
  2. First Impressions: After your eyes, your smile is what people notice most about you, so make sure you’re taking care of it!
  3. Teeth Tattoos: It is possible to tattoo your teeth, though technically the tattoo is on a cap or crown that covers the tooth, not the tooth itself. (We probably wouldn’t recommend this one!)
  4. Super-healing: The mouth heals faster from injuries (like a bitten cheek or burned tongue) than any other part of the body. This is because of the ample blood supply, the simplicity of the tissues in the cheeks, tongue, and gums, and the healing properties of saliva.
  5. Congenitally Missing Teeth: Most of us will have 20 baby teeth and between 28 and 32 adult teeth (depending on how many wisdom teeth we have) in our lifetime, but for 3-8 percent of the population, some of those teeth might never develop at all!
  6. Baby Teeth: One in about 2,000 babies are born with at least one tooth already erupted! These are called natal teeth (or neonatal if they erupt within the first month).
  7. Ice Age Dental Fillings: Archaeologists have discovered evidence of crude dental fillings in teeth from 13,000 years ago in northern Italy!

For a few more weird dental facts, check out this video:

Let’s Take Care Of Those Teeth!

There are plenty of weird and fascinating things we can learn about teeth, but if you ever notice anything about your own teeth that strikes you as unusual, come see us. It’s always better to make sure nothing out of the ordinary is going on, and your teeth will thank you for doing so earlier rather than later.

Remember to keep brushing and flossing!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Teaching Your Child To Floss

FLOSSING IS AN ESSENTIAL part of keeping our teeth clean and healthy. So how do we pass this crucial habit on to our children? This is one hurdle of parenting we’re happy to help you clear!

Why Does Flossing Matter?

You might wonder why it’s so important to include flossing when it’s hard enough to get your children to brush. Keeping baby teeth healthy is crucial because they are placeholders for adult teeth, and a toothbrush alone simply cannot get rid of all the decay-causing plaque lurking in between them. Just as important is that the earlier children learn good dental hygiene habits, the easier it will be for them to continue those habits into their teens and adulthood.

When To Start Flossing

Your child probably won’t have the dexterity to floss their own teeth until they’re around five years old, but as soon as they have teeth that are close together (usually around two and a half years old), you should start flossing for them. Try to floss each night so you can create a daily habit with them. Consistency is crucial to helping them see it as simply part of their day.

Flossing With Your Child

Knowing how to floss your own teeth and teaching a small child how to floss are very different things. Here are a few tips to make it easier.

  • If you begin gently flossing their teeth daily while they’re still toddlers, they should be used to it and maybe even eager to take the reins by the time they’re old enough to try it themselves.
  • Explain why flossing is so important. If your child understands the purpose behind flossing, it will help motivate them to do it.
  • When they’re ready to try it, show them how to pull out the right amount of floss (about a foot and a half), and loosely wrap it around their middle fingers to hold it in place, leaving an inch or two of floss to get up close between the teeth.
  • Help them gently insert the floss between their teeth using a back and forth motion without snapping their gums. Curving the floss around each tooth in a C-shape will make the process more gentle.
  • Teach them to always move the strand along so that they’re using clean floss on each tooth. If they’re using the same part of the floss the whole time, they’re just moving the plaque around instead of removing it!
  • Emphasize that flossing is something that big kids do, and encourage them to do it by themselves once they have the hang of it. They’ll be excited to do something so grown up!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydvo_XU03s4

If your child is struggling to figure out flossing, an easier alternative to traditional floss is using flossers or floss picks. They’re more expensive than floss, but they also require much less coordination.

Need A Professional Demonstration?

Building good dental hygiene habits is about more than teaching them the right technique. It’s also about giving them the right perspective: dental hygiene isn’t an unpleasant chore, it’s quick and easy and makes our teeth feel great! If you’re struggling to convince your child of the importance of good dental hygiene, maybe a fun, professional demonstration at our practice can help!

We’re happy to help you train a new generation of daily flossers!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Saliva: Oral Health’s MVP

SALIVA IS SUCH an ordinary thing that you probably haven’t given it much thought, but it’s actually as important to the healthy function of our mouths as oil is to a working car engine. Saliva is an essential component of our ability to eat, taste our favorite foods, and speak, it’s crucial to a healthy immune system, and it’s our first line of defense against many oral health problems.

Saliva Production And Stages

In a healthy mouth, saliva is produced continuously by the salivary glands, which are located under our tongues and in our cheeks. These glands produce between two and six cups of saliva every day! Saliva is 98-99 percent water, and the rest consists of proteins, digestive enzymes, antimicrobial factors, and electrolytes.

Depending on where food is in the digestive process, saliva goes through a few different stages: cephalic, buccal, oesophageal, gastric, and intestinal. When you smell something delicious and your mouth waters, that’s the cephalic stage! Actually eating moves it to the buccal stage, which helps us swallow food. The oesophageal stage helps move swallowed food down the esophagus.

The last two stages are less pleasant but still important. If you’re about to throw up, your salivary glands work overtime in the gastric stage so that the stomach acid won’t do as much damage when it comes up and out with the partially digested food. The intestinal stage is similar, activating when the body doesn’t agree with food that reaches the upper intestine.

Saliva And Oral Health

There are many reasons we have saliva, but the most important role it plays for your teeth is keeping your mouth’s pH balanced and flushing away remnants of food to keep everything clean. Eating food tends to make our mouths more acidic, and even though the enamel on our teeth is the hardest substance in our bodies, it only takes a pH of 5.5 to start dissolving it. Many of the foods we eat are far more acidic than that, which makes saliva critical in protecting our teeth.

The antimicrobial factors in saliva also fight bacteria, protecting us against gum disease and bad breath. Growth factors in saliva are why injuries in your mouth (like a burned tongue or a bitten cheek) heal faster than injuries elsewhere on the body. And those are just the benefits to oral health, but saliva does much more.

When The Spit Runs Dry…

All of these benefits are why dry mouth is such a serious problem. It can happen for a number of reasons. Our mouths tend to go dry in stressful situations. We also tend to produce less saliva in old age. Drug use, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all cause dry mouth as well. Unfortunately, many prescription medications cause dry mouth as a side effect.

Let’s Get That Mouth Watering!

If you’ve been experiencing dry mouth for any reason, schedule an appointment with us. We can discover the cause and get that saliva flowing again so that you won’t miss out on any of its great health benefits!

Thank you for trusting in our practice!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Soda Versus Our Teeth

HAVE YOU EVER HEARD of “Sun Drop Mouth”? It’s what happens to our teeth when we drink too much soda. The term comes from rural Appalachia, where that particular drink has long been the carbonated beverage of choice and tooth decay is alarmingly common. But this doesn’t just happen in Appalachia, and Sun Drop isn’t the only drink that contributes to tooth decay.

The Dangers Of Sugary Drinks

When we eat or drink something with sugar in it, the sugar sticks to our teeth afterward. Sugar itself doesn’t do any damage to our oral health, but it is, unfortunately, the favorite food of the bacteria that live in our mouths. These bacteria eat the sugar and then excrete acids that erode our tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay. They also cause inflammation that increases the risk of gum disease.

Any source of sugar can negatively impact oral health. Sugary drinks (including fruit juice, but especially soda) are particularly dangerous because they aren’t filling like solid food and are therefore easy to keep drinking.

Effects Of Carbonation

So if sugar is the problem, then can’t we keep our teeth healthy by switching to diet soda instead of giving up carbonated beverages altogether? Diet soda is certainly an improvement, but sugar isn’t soda’s only threat to dental health. The other is acid. Sugar leads to tooth decay because oral bacteria eat sugar and excrete acid that erodes tooth enamel. Soda cuts out the middleman and applies acid directly to the teeth.

Even diet sodas and carbonated water contain acid. The three types of acid commonly found in soda are citric, phosphoric, and carbonic. Any drink with citrus flavoring will have citric acid, many colas get their flavor from phosphoric acid, and carbonic acid is what makes these drinks fizzy in the first place.

Protecting Your Smile

It would be best for your teeth to avoid soda and other sugary drinks entirely. If you can’t bring yourself to give up your favorite drink completely though, there are a few ways to enjoy it while protecting your teeth. A big one would be to only drink soda with a meal instead of sipping from a can or bottle throughout the day so that the sugar and acid aren’t sitting in your mouth for long periods.

You can also help balance your mouth’s pH and rinse away remaining sugar by drinking water after the soda. Finally, you can clean away the last traces of sugar and acid by brushing your teeth, but it’s a good idea to wait until the pH balance is back to normal before brushing, which takes about thirty minutes.

It is particularly important for children and people with braces to avoid overindulging in sugary drinks. Children have the highest risk of enamel erosion because their enamel isn’t yet fully developed, and braces plus a soda habit is a great way to end up with stained teeth when the braces come off.

Don’t Forget That We Can Help Too!

Following these good habits will go a long way towards protecting your teeth against decay and erosion from the sugar and acid in soda. Still, don’t forget that your dentist is also an important part of the equation. Keep scheduling those visits every six months!

Thank you for always being our valued patients!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Your Pet’s Dental Health

YOU MIGHT BE TEMPTED to think that because wild animals can’t do much for their dental hygiene, pets like dogs and cats don’t need dental care either. In reality, keeping your pet’s teeth healthy will help them have a longer, healthier, and happier life!

Why Do Pets Need Dental Care?

Our pets need dental care for the same reasons we do. Their mouths contain bacteria that coat their teeth in plaque, which, if not removed, calcifies into tartar and can easily lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

Your dog or cat can’t tell you if something is wrong with their teeth, so these conditions are often easy to miss, but they are alarmingly common. By age three85 percent of dogs and cats get periodontal disease. Common symptoms of periodontal disease in a pet are difficulty chewing, tooth loss, and even bad breath. You can also check for loose teeth, bleeding or swollen gums, and reduced appetite.

Taking Care Of Their Teeth

Even if your pet is showing none of the above symptoms, the best time to begin a dental hygiene regimen for them is now. If they are already suffering from poor oral health, your efforts will dramatically improve their quality of life. If they aren’t, then you’ll be able to keep them healthy!

Here are a few things you can do to keep your pet’s pearly whites in good shape:

  • Brush their teeth once a day. You only need to brush the outsides of their teeth, and it should take less than a minute, but doing it on a daily basis is crucial!
  • Regular fluoride toothpaste will make your pet sick, so make sure to only use veterinary toothpaste, if any. It might work better as a treat after brushing to encourage them to cooperate.
  • Give them veterinarian-approved dental treats to chew on. The right chew toys won’t just help with stress and boredom — they’ll also help with oral health!
  • Take them in for professional teeth cleanings! Your veterinarian might offer this service, and if not, they can recommend a good veterinary dental specialist.

For more tips on pet dental care, listen to the Dog Whisperer himself:

Your Pets Are Worth It!

We know that training your pet to get used to a toothbrush isn’t always easy, but there are plenty of resources available to help you, including your veterinarian and our practice. Keep persevering until it becomes a habit for both you and your pet.

Don’t forget to take care of your own teeth too!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Congenitally Missing Teeth

IT’S ONE THING TO lose a tooth, whether through poor oral hygiene, accident, or oral surgery. A tooth not growing in where it should is something else. Between 2-4 percent of the population will have at least one tooth missing from their adult set. This condition is called congenitally missing teeth or hypodontia. In the much rarer event that the full set of teeth is missing, it’s called anodontia.

It’s All About Genes

The most common teeth to be affected by this condition are wisdom teeth, upper lateral incisors, and lower second premolars. Since wisdom teeth are often removed anyway, not having them in the first place can save you a lot of hassle, but those incisors and premolars are more necessary.

Genetics are almost always the culprit behind hypodontia, which is why it tends to run in families. Missing teeth could be the only issue, or they could be the result of a broader genetic disorder, such as ectodermal dysplasia or Down syndrome. Whatever the cause, there are many treatment options available for hypodontia.

Filling In The Gaps

Having these missing teeth can cause a few problems, such as difficulty chewing, the existing teeth shifting, and poor jaw support that could lead to the loss of additional teeth. This is why it’s important to get the issue taken care of as soon as possible, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Different options will be preferable depending on the age and sex of the patient and the length of time the tooth has been missing.

In most cases, orthodontic treatment will be the first step. Because missing teeth can cause the existing teeth to shift, braces might be necessary to correct the problem and open the gap wide enough to fit a replacement tooth. Replacements can come in a few different forms:

  • Removable partial dentures. These are the simplest solution in many cases. They use the surrounding teeth to anchor them in place, or might be attached to a retainer.
  • Dental bridges. As the name implies, a dental bridge “bridges” gaps by anchoring to the neighboring teeth. Unlike dentures, bridges are cemented in place.
  • Dental implants. These will function like normal teeth, with a post fixed in the jaw bone and a crown on top that matches the natural teeth. If multiple teeth are missing, implants can be used as support for bridges.

If you have questions about implants, check out this FAQ video by a woman who just got hers!

What Treatment Is Right For You?

Having congenitally missing teeth can be a struggle, but our practice is here for you. We can answer any questions you have and help you find the ideal treatment option so that your smile can be complete!

Keep being the wonderful patients that you are!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.