My Blog

Posts for: July, 2013

By Dr. James Merlo and Dr. Mary A. Merlo-Murison
July 30, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: celebrity smiles   gap   orthodontics  
FixingthatGapinyourTeeth

We all know Madonna, Seal, David Letterman, Anna Paquin and Michael Strahan (of the talk show Kelly and Michael). What do all of these celebrities have in common? Each has a “signature gap” between their front teeth. Given that they have been in the public eye for quite some time, it's not likely that these famous faces will choose to change their well-known smile. In fact, Michael Strahan has publically stated that he will never close his gap.

However, it is not uncommon for people to desire to fix a small gap in their teeth, particularly in advance of important events, such as weddings. Often times, fixing this small gap requires relatively simple orthodontic movements or tooth straightening. Since the teeth don't have to be moved very far, we can usually use simple appliances to correct the issue within a few months.

In order for us to determine your course of treatment, you'll need to make an appointment with our office for a thorough examination. When we examine you, we'll be looking for a number of items that will affect our treatment recommendation:

  • Is there enough room to close the space without creating other bite problems?
  • Are the roots of the teeth in reasonably good position to allow for minor tooth movement to close the space? X-rays will be required to make a proper assessment.
  • Is there an involuntary tongue habit that has pushed the teeth forward and created the gap? If so, this could be difficult to fix quickly.
  • Are the surrounding gum tissues and bone healthy?

Based on our assessment and your individual needs, we may recommend one of the following options:

  • Clear retainers, a computer-generated series of clear retainers customized for your bite to move the teeth
  • Removable orthodontic retainers to which we will attach small springs or elastics to facilitate the minor tooth movement
  • Traditional fixed orthodontic appliances (most commonly known as braces), small metal or clear brackets bonded to your teeth through which tiny wires are used to move the teeth

Regardless of the method we choose, once your teeth have moved into the new position, it is important for you to remember that they must be kept in this position until the bone stabilizes around the teeth. We may therefore advise you to wear a retainer for a few months to a few years, depending on your situation.

If you would like more information about orthodontic treatments, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Minor Tooth Movement.”


By Dr. James Merlo and Dr. Mary A. Merlo-Murison
July 15, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay   dry mouth  
DryMouth-CausesRisksandCures

A consistently dry mouth is not only uncomfortable and unpleasant but also probably more serious than you think. Dry mouth, medically known as xerostomia (“xero” – dry; “stomia” – mouth) affects millions of people, but few understand why it happens or why it is important.

What Causes Dry Mouth?

It is normal to awaken with a dry mouth because saliva flow decreases at night. But if your mouth is persistently dry throughout the day, it may be a result of habits such as smoking, alcohol or too much coffee drinking or even dehydration. It is also a common side effect of some medications. Xerostomia is not a disease in itself, but it could be a symptom of salivary gland or other systemic (general body) disease.

Why is Saliva Important?

A persistently dry mouth can be a problem. Not only does it feel unpleasant and lead to bad breath, it can also significantly increase your risk for tooth decay. Saliva lubricates your mouth for chewing, eating, digestion and even speaking. Saliva also has important antibacterial activities. Most importantly normal healthy salivary flow neutralizes and buffers acids in the mouth to protect the teeth from the acids produced by bacteria on the teeth that cause decay, and by acids in sodas, sports drinks and juices that can erode tooth enamel.

Not only does saliva neutralize acids but with its high mineral content it can actually reverse de-mineralization — the process by which acids attack enamel and remove calcium from the enamel surface. Healthy saliva actually re-mineralizes the outer layers of tooth enamel, but the process can take 30-60 minutes. That's why it's important not to snack on sugars or drink sodas between meals — one an hour and your mouth is acidic all the time.

Individuals without enough saliva are especially at risk for root decay and fungal infections, and they are also more likely to lose tooth substance through abrasion and erosion.

What Can We Do for a Dry Mouth?

If your mouth is usually dry, make an appointment with us to assess the causes of the problem. However it may be more serious with medical implications. The solution may be as simple as drinking more water and using good daily oral hygiene, or it may necessitate prescription medication to promote more saliva flow.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your dry mouth and what we can do to help. For more information read the article in Dear Doctor magazine “Tooth Decay – How To Assess Your Risk.”