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Health Q&A

Posted September 19, 2012 in Advice Column, Windsor Heights

Q: As an adult, is it too late for me to get braces?

A: Healthy teeth can be moved at any age, so there’s no such thing as “too old” for braces. In fact, nowadays about one out of every five orthodontic patients is an adult. Yet this figure represents only a small portion of adults who could actually benefit from orthodontic treatment.

Research has shown that the frequency of malocclusion (“mal” – bad; “occlusion” – bite) in adults is comparable to what we see in children and adolescents. Perhaps as many as three quarters of adults have some form of orthodontic problem — crowding of teeth or drifting of teeth after extractions, for example.

A great-looking smile is a surefire way to boost self-confidence, and studies have demonstrated that orthodontic treatment can even enhance an adult’s career opportunities and social life. There is also a potential health benefit, as misaligned teeth can be harder to clean, setting the stage for tooth decay and gum disease. Straightening teeth can also make chewing more comfortable. So there are many reasons to consider orthodontic treatment at any age.

What will determine if you are a good candidate for orthodontic treatment, then, will not be your age; it will be your current state of periodontal health (“peri” – around; “odont” – tooth), your general health and what type of problem you are trying to fix. Periodontal (gum) disease, which can lead to the loss of tooth-supporting bone, is more prevalent in adults than in adolescents.

Information from Dear Doctor magazine, provided by Dr. Dennis Winter, Iowa Dental Arts, P.C., 2651 Beaver Ave., 277-6657.
 
 

Q: Can nail-biting pose any dental problems?

A: Unfortunately, nail-biting is more than an unsightly habit. The habit can leave more than stunted fingernails; it can lead to problems with the temporomandibular joints — the joints in front of the ears where the jawbone meets, also known as the TMJs.

Any activity, like nail-biting, that involves holding the teeth in an unnatural position for extended periods increases the possibility of injury to the TMJ. Over a long period, the unnatural position of the jaws involved in nail-biting will stretch the muscles in the jaw, causing pain and throwing off balance of the TMJs. If a very young child begins the habit, it can contribute to a gap developing between the front two teeth. Also, the type of person who is prone to nail and finger biting may also be prone to picking at their gums.

Some dentists and physicians recommend putting a non-toxic, unpleasant-tasting lotion in the fingers. Other believe putting a bandage on a finger could serve as a reminder and deterrent. If you have a nail-biter in your house or you are yourself a nail-biter, talk with your dentist about ways to break the habit.

Information provided by Des Moines Dental Group, 708 First Ave S., 967-6611.





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