Posts for: November, 2013

By Anthony Gazzola, Jr., DMD
November 27, 2013
Category: Oral Health
WhatDentalDeviceDoesTVHostVannaWhiteKeeponherNightstand

Here's an interesting tidbit of information on Wheel of Fortune host Vanna White: like many people, she grinds her teeth at night. In a detailed interview with Dear Doctor magazine, Vanna explained how she had to replace a filling in a back tooth several times because of her grinding habit. Eventually, she had her dentist make her a nightguard to protect her famous smile.

“I really try to sleep with it every night,” Vanna told the magazine. “I try to keep it on my nightstand so when I go to bed, I remember to put it in. Or I will put it by my toothbrush so I can put it in after brushing my teeth at night.”

The habit of teeth grinding or clenching is often associated with stress and/or sleep deprivation. It is referred to as “parafunctional” (“para” – outside, “function” – normal), meaning it can generate biting forces well outside the normal range — perhaps 10 times normal. This excessive force can affect many areas of the oral system. Teeth may become worn, chipped or loose; jaw joints or muscles can go into spasm; and some grinders (or “bruxers” as they are also called) may even experience discomfort of the head, ears, neck or back. Many times, a person with a grinding habit does not become aware of it until it is pointed out by a sleep partner or dental professional.

Like Vanna White's dentist, we often recommend a nightguard to those with nocturnal bruxing habits. It is made of a very thin, wear-resistant plastic that fits over the biting surfaces of the upper teeth only. The lower teeth are then free to glide or skate over the guard, which prevents them from biting into the upper teeth. Some people wear their guards during the day if they tend to clench their teeth when under stress.

If you are concerned about teeth grinding or interested in learning more about nightguards, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation. If you would like to read Dear Doctor's entire interview with Vanna White, please see “Vanna White.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Stress & Tooth Habits.”


By Anthony Gazzola, Jr., DMD
November 12, 2013
Category: Dental Procedures
CaughtEarlyCross-BitescanbeCorrectedWithPalatalExpanders

There’s more to orthodontics than simply moving teeth. Especially with children and adolescents, we also want to guide the development of the entire facial structure to solve certain types of malocclusions (poor bites).

One such concern involves the upper jaw and palate (roof of the mouth), known collectively as the maxilla. In some individuals, the maxilla is narrower than normal. This causes the upper teeth to fit abnormally inside the lower teeth when occluding or “biting down” and is known as a cross-bite. A cross-bite may restrict the amount of space for your teeth to erupt (appear in the mouth) in proper alignment. It can be so severe the individual may have to shift the jaw to one side to completely bite down.

If a cross-bite is caught early, there’s a non-surgical treatment to widen the maxilla and help prevent upper teeth misalignment. But there’s a limited time window of opportunity: this is because the maxilla is actually formed by two bones with a seam that runs down the middle of the palate. The two bones will eventually fuse, usually at the beginning of puberty; until then there’s a slight separation.

Before the bones fuse, we can use a palatal expander to widen this seam and encourage permanent bone growth in the resulting gap. The expander is made of two metal halves joined in the middle by a small screw device that fits between the teeth. You or your child turns the screw a very small amount once or twice a day with a special key and the action pushes the maxilla outward on either side: the slight tension created stimulates bone growth. Over time, the new bone will have added width to the maxilla and eliminated the cross-bite.

While it’s possible to correct this after the maxilla fuses, it will require surgery to separate the bones. The palatal expander helps us correct the problem in the most non-invasive way possible, but it must be done before puberty. Discovering this type of malocclusion early is one of many reasons why regular dental visits should be an important part of your child’s healthcare.

If you would like more information on palatal extenders, 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 “Palatal Expanders.”