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Posts for: May, 2014

KristinCavallarisSpaghettiCatcher-FirstStepToAWinningSmile

Kristin Cavallari's flawless smile has been featured on TV, film and magazine covers. But the 25-year-old actress and reality-show personality didn't always have a perfect set of teeth. In fact, she told Dear Doctor magazine — where readers recently voted to crown her with the “Smile of the Year” award — that her dental treatments began the same way many do: with orthodontics in sixth grade.

“I had the ‘spaghetti catcher,’ which is what everyone used to call it,” she reminisced. But by that, she didn't mean a strainer — she's talking about what dentists call a “palatal expander.”

In case you're not familiar with this orthodontic device, a palatal expander takes advantage of the natural growth patterns of a child's upper jaw to create additional space for the top set of teeth. How does it work? Basically, it's similar to braces: By applying gentle pressure, the appliance creates changes in the jaw. Unlike braces, however, it's invisible — it fits between the upper teeth, close to the roof of the mouth.

During the three to six months a child wears the palatal expander, it pushes the left and right halves of the upper jawbone apart, and then maintains and stabilizes the new, wider spacing. Since the palatal bones don't fuse until after puberty, tightening it a little bit each day for the first few weeks provides a quick and painless method of making the upper jaw a bit roomier. And that can be a very good thing. Why?

There are lots of reasons. For one, it can relieve the condition called “crowding,” when there is not enough space in the upper jaw to accommodate the proper alignment of the permanent teeth. In the past, teeth often had to be extracted in that situation. It may even allow “impacted” teeth — ones which are blocked from erupting by other teeth — to come in normally.

It can help treat a “crossbite,” when the back top teeth come down to bite inside (instead of outside) the lower back teeth. It also generally shortens the total time a child needs for orthodontic treatment. That's good news for any teenager — even if their own day-to-day “reality show” isn't featured on TV!

If you would like more information about palatal expanders, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Palatal Expanders” and “Early Orthodontic Evaluation.”


HelpYourMouthsAbilitytoFightToothDecayWithBetterHygieneandDiet

Your teeth have enemies — bacteria that feed on biofilm, a thin layer of food remnant known as plaque that sticks to your teeth, are one such example. After ingestion, these bacteria produce acid, which can erode your teeth’s protective enamel and lead to tooth decay.

Fortunately, you have a weapon against enamel loss already at work in your mouth — saliva. Saliva neutralizes high levels of acid, as well as restores some of the enamel’s mineral content lost when the mouth is too acidic (re-mineralization).

Unfortunately, saliva can be overwhelmed if your mouth is chronically acidic. Here’s how you can help this powerful ally protect your enamel and stop tooth decay with better hygiene and eating habits:

Remove bacterial plaque daily. You should floss and brush with fluoride toothpaste everyday to remove plaque. It’s also recommended that you visit us twice a year for professional cleanings to remove hard to reach plaque. We can also train you on how to properly floss and brush.

Wait an hour after eating to brush. It may sound counterintuitive, but brushing immediately after you eat can do more harm than good. The mouth is naturally acidic just after eating and some degree of enamel softening usually occurs. It takes a half hour or so for saliva to restore the mouth’s pH balance and re-mineralize the enamel. If you brush before then, you may brush away some of the softened enamel.

Limit sweets to mealtimes. Constantly snacking on sweets (or sipping sodas, sports or energy drinks) will expose your teeth to a chronic high level of acid — and saliva can’t keep up in neutralizing it. If you can’t abstain from sugar, at least limit your consumption to mealtime. It’s also a good habit to rinse out your mouth with clear water after drinking an acidic drink to flush out excess acid.

Boost saliva content with supplements. If you suffer from insufficient saliva production or dry mouth, try an artificial saliva supplement. Chewing xylitol gum can also help boost saliva production, as well as inhibit the growth of infection-causing bacteria. We’ll be glad to advise you on the use of these products.

If you would like more information on protecting your teeth from tooth decay, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.


By Gerald D. Gray, DDS
May 02, 2014
Category: Oral Health
KristinCavallariandtheMysteryoftheBathroomSink

While she was pregnant with her son Camden Jack Cutler, 25-year-old Kristin Cavallari noticed an odd occurrence in her bathroom sink: “Every time I floss, my sink looks like I murdered somebody!” the actress and reality-TV personality exclaimed. Should we be concerned that something wicked is going on with the star of Laguna Beach and The Hills?

Before you call in the authorities, ask a periodontist: He or she will tell you that there's actually no mystery here. What Cavallari noticed is, in fact, a fairly common symptom of “pregnancy gingivitis,” a condition that affects many expectant moms in the second to eighth month of pregnancy. But why does it occur at this time?

First — just the facts: You may already know that gingivitis is the medical name for an early stage of gum disease. Its symptoms may include bad breath, bleeding gums, and soreness, redness, or tenderness of the gum tissue. Fundamentally, gum disease is caused by the buildup of harmful bacteria, or plaque, on the teeth at the gum line — but it's important to remember that, while hundreds of types of bacteria live in the mouth, only a few are harmful. A change in the environment inside the mouth — like inadequate oral hygiene, to use one example — can cause the harmful types to flourish.

But in this case, the culprit isn't necessarily poor hygiene — instead, blame it on the natural hormonal changes that take place in expectant moms. As levels of some female hormones (estrogen and/or progesterone) rise during pregnancy, changes occur in the blood vessels in the gums, which cause them to be more susceptible to the effects of bacterial toxins. The bacteria produce toxic chemicals, which in turn bring on the symptoms of gingivitis — including painful and inflamed gums that may bleed heavily when flossed.

Is pregnancy gingivits a cause for concern? Perhaps — but the condition is generally quite treatable. If you've noticed symptoms like Kristen's, the first thing you should do it consult our office. We can advise you on a variety of treatments designed to relieve the inflammation in your gums and prevent the harmful bacteria from proliferating. Of course, your oral health (and your overall health) are prime concerns during pregnancy — so don't hesitate to seek medical help if it's needed!

How did things work out with Kristen? She maintained an effective oral hygiene routine, delivered a healthy baby — and recently appeared on the cover of Dear Doctor magazine, as the winner of the “Best Celebrity Smile” contest for 2012. And looking at her smile, it's no mystery why she won.

If you would like more information about pregnancy gingivitis, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Expectant Mothers” and “Kristen Cavallari.”