Fun fact about the NCAA basketball championship tournament, affectionately known as March Madness: financial website WalletHub says your chances of filling out a perfect bracket are 1 in 9.2 quintillion (a scratch-off from your corner bodega looks like a sound investment in comparison!). Now, here's a not-so-fun fact about basketball in general: Nearly half of all sports-related mouth injuries occur while playing hoops.
Yikes! Not to put a damper on all the revelry, but facts being facts, it's better to face them head-on. Fortunately, there's a proven way to drastically reduce the odds your star basketball player suffers an oral injury—have them wear an athletic mouthguard.
Mouthguards have been essential gear in sports like football, hockey, or wrestling for some time. Made of soft, pliable plastic, mouthguards cushion the impact of a hard blow to the face or mouth. Wearing a mouthguard often means the difference between a sore jaw and a broken one—or even losing teeth.
Mouthguards are now growing in prominence in a wider array of sports, including basketball and baseball (which makes up a substantial part of the other half of annual mouth injuries). Many youth basketball leagues now require them, and although they're not mandated in the NBA, most pro players wear them.
Simply put, wearing a mouthguard for basketball is a smart play. Here, then, are 3 tips for getting the most out of this important safety appliance.
Get a custom-made mouthguard. You can buy a retail mouthguard called a "boil and bite" that can be somewhat customized to fit the wearer's bite, but you should consider a custom appliance created by your dentist based on the wearer's mouth dimensions. Although more expensive, they don't require as much material as the retail version. This makes them more comfortable to wear (and easier to communicate with others), while still providing maximum protection.
Get it updated every few seasons. Young players' jaws change rapidly during their childhood and teenage years. The measurements used to create a mouthguard may be obsolete after a couple of seasons—meaning the mouthguard may lose its proper fit. That's why it's a good idea to have your dentist check the fit each year and, if need be, create a new one based on your player's current mouth.
Wear it for all basketball activities. Formal contests only make up a small part of basketball activities—an organized team often practices five hours or more for every hour of game play. A player is just as likely to be injured practicing (or during pick-up games) as they are during real-time games. As a rule of thumb, then, any time your player goes on the court, they should wear their mouthguard.
Orthodontics—the science and art of straightening teeth—plays an important role in ideal dental health. Moving teeth to the places they should be makes them easier to clean (reducing your risk of dental disease) and improves chewing function to better facilitate digestion and overall nutrition.
Although improved health is the primary gain, orthodontics can also provide a secondary gain that can also benefit your life—a more attractive smile. In a sense, orthodontics is the original smile makeover.
Here's how orthodontics could give you a more attractive and healthier smile.
It begins with the orthodontist. Orthodontists are specialists in bite correction. They have advanced training to assess and improve the development of the jaws, the alignment of the teeth and how all that comes together to form a person's individual bite. They'll use their training and expertise to perform a comprehensive orthodontic evaluation to understand your particular bite issues before presenting you a treatment plan.
Putting the plan together. During those first exams, your orthodontist will take a lot of information—specialized x-rays, photographs and dental impressions—to acquire the “big picture” about your particular bite problems. From this, they'll develop a detailed plan for how best to correct your bite. Besides braces or clear aligners to actually move the teeth where they should be, the orthodontist may also include other specialized appliances for fine-tuning that movement.
The process itself. Orthodontists use their knowledge and skills to work with the teeth's natural ability to move in response to changes in the mouth. The orthodontist uses braces or clear aligners as the foundational treatment to apply focused pressure on teeth in the direction they need to move. The underlying bone and periodontal ligaments respond, and the teeth gradually move to their new and improved positions.
Correcting a poor bite usually takes months or even years of focused attention. It may also require the expertise of other dental professionals like periodontists, oral surgeons or general dentists for a successful outcome. But that end result is well worth the time and effort. An improved bite is an investment in better long-term health, and a new, beautiful smile.
If you would like more information on improving your smile through orthodontics, 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.”
When you smoke, you're setting yourself up for problems with your health. That includes your teeth and gums—tobacco has been linked to greater susceptibility to both tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease.
Smoking in particular can have a number of adverse effects on your mouth. Smoke can burn and form a thickened layer of the mouth's inner membranes called a keratosis. This in turn can damage the salivary glands enough to decrease saliva production, making for a drier mouth more hospitable to harmful bacteria.
Nicotine, the active chemical ingredient in tobacco, can cause the mouth's blood vessels to constrict. This causes less blood flow, thus a slower flow of nutrients and antigens to teeth and gums to ward off infection. Taken together, smokers are more likely than non-smokers to suffer from dental disease.
The impact doesn't end there. The conditions in the mouth created by smoking make it more difficult for the person to successfully obtain dental implants, one of the more popular tooth replacement methods.
Implants generally enjoy a high success rate due to their most unique feature, a titanium metal post that's imbedded into the jawbone. During the weeks after surgery, bone cells grow and accumulate on the implant's titanium surface to create a lasting hold.
But the previously mentioned effects of smoking can interfere with the integration between implant and bone. Because of restricted blood flow, the tissues around the implant are slower to heal. And the greater risk for dental disease, particularly gum infections, could cause an implant to eventually fail.
Of the rare number of implants that fail, twice as many occur in smokers. By removing smoking as a factor, you stand a much better chance for implant success. If you're considering implants and you smoke, you'll fare much better if you quit smoking altogether.
If you can't, at least stop smoking a week before implant surgery and for a couple of weeks after to increase your mouth's healing factor. Be sure you also keep up daily brushing and flossing and regular dental visits.
Smoking can increase the disease factor for your teeth and gums. Quitting the habit can make it easier to restore your oral health.
If you would like more information on the impact of smoking to oral health, 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 “Dental Implants & Smoking.”
Nina Parker, the host of Love & Hip Hop for six seasons, is now busy with the new game show Blockbusters and her own talk show The Nina Parker Show. But even with a full plate, she took time recently for some personal care—getting a new smile.
Parker's fans are familiar with her noticeable tooth gap. But a video on TikTok in February changed all that: In the video, she teasingly pulls away a mask she's wearing to reveal her smile—without the gap.
Parker and other celebrities like Madonna, Michael Strahan and David Letterman are not alone. Teeth gaps are a common smile feature, dating back millennia (even in fiction: Chaucer described the Wife of Bath as being "gap-toothed" in The Canterbury Tales).
So, what causes a tooth gap? Actually, a lot of possibilities. The muscle between the teeth (the frenum) may be overly large and pushing the teeth apart. There may be too much room on the jaw, so the teeth spread apart as they develop. It might also have resulted from tongue thrusting or late thumb sucking as a child, influencing the front teeth to develop forward and outward.
A tooth gap can be embarrassing because they're often front and center for all the world to see, but they can also cause oral health problems like complicating oral hygiene and increasing your risk for tooth decay. They can also contribute to misalignment of other teeth.
Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate a gap. One way is to move the teeth closer together with either braces or removable clear aligners. This may be the best approach if the gap is wide and it's contributing to misalignment of other teeth. You may also need surgery to alter the frenum.
You can also reduce less-pronounced gaps cosmetically with dental bonding or porcelain veneers. Bonding involves applying a type of resin material to the teeth on either side of the gap. After some sculpting to make it appear life-like, we harden the material with a curing light. The result is a durable, tooth-like appearance that closes the gap.
A veneer is a thin wafer of porcelain, custom-made to fit an individual patient's tooth. Bonded to the front of teeth, veneers mask various dental flaws like chips, deformed teeth, heavy staining and, yes, mild to moderate tooth gaps. They do require removing a small amount of enamel on the teeth they cover, but the results can be stunning—completely transformed teeth without the gap.
Getting rid of a tooth gap can be a wise move, both for your smile and your health. You may or may not take to social media to show it off like Nina Parker, but you can feel confident to show the world your new, perfect smile.
If you would like more information about treating teeth gaps and other dental flaws, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Space Between Front Teeth.”
There's a good chance you have an over-the-counter pain reliever in your medicine cabinet right now. They're handy for safely and effectively coping with mild to moderate pain, swelling or fever. They could also prove an invaluable resource after your upcoming dental work—your dentist may recommend one of these common drugs to help you manage your recovery period.
These particular drugs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. The most common sold under various brand names are aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. Unlike narcotics (opioids), which depress the central nervous system to control pain, NSAIDs block substances in the body called prostaglandins, which are released when tissues become inflamed or damaged. This in turn reduces pain, swelling or fever.
There's another significant difference between NSAIDs and narcotics—NSAIDs aren't addictive like opioids. Because they're also milder, NSAIDs don't require a prescription except for stronger formulations. With the trend to limit the use of narcotics in both dentistry and medicine, dentists are turning to NSAIDs as their primary means for managing dental pain.
There are, of course, some situations where narcotics are the preferred course. But dentists are finding NSAIDs are just as effective for managing discomfort following most dental procedures. They've also found that combined doses of ibuprofen and acetaminophen greatly amplifies the pain relieving effect.
Although NSAIDs are much safer than narcotics, they do have potential side effects. For one, they can reduce the blood's ability to coagulate, especially when taken consistently over several weeks. This could make it difficult to stop bleeding due to injury or illness.
NSAIDs can also irritate the stomach lining in some people over an extended period of use, leading to ulcers and other digestive issues. Prolonged use has also been linked to major problems like kidney damage, miscarriage or heart attacks.
But NSAIDs are still a safe alternative to narcotics: Their side effect risks are quite low when taken in proper dosages—between 400 and 600 mg for adults—within a limited amount of time like a few days. Their temporary use can help you cope with discomfort after a dental procedure and get you well on the road to full healing.
If you would like more information on managing discomfort after dental work, 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 “Treating Pain With Ibuprofen.”
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