My Blog

Posts for: December, 2014

By Dr. James Merlo and Dr. Mary A. Merlo-Murison
December 29, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
BaseballandBracesJoeGirardisBargain

Sometimes, we all need a bit of prompting to do what's good for us. When Serena Girardi, the 10-year-old daughter of New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, needed to have orthodontic treatment, she was a little nervous. To help lessen her anxiety, Girardi, then 45 years old, made a deal: if she got braces, then he would too.

“What I didn't realize,” said Girardi in an interview with ESPN, “is that she only had to get four on her front teeth and I got the full mouthful.”

But that didn't stop the baseball great from keeping up his end of the bargain. In a separate deal with his son Dante, who also needed braces, Girardi agreed to wear blue rubber bands. “It's a good look,” he said. What will he do if his third child needs braces? Stay tuned...

Whether it starts as a bargain with your kids or as a promise to yourself, orthodontic treatment can offer real benefits at any age. In fact, about one out of five orthodontic patients today is an adult. Studies have shown that up to three-quarters of all adults have some form of orthodontic problem, like drifting or crowding of teeth. And having a great-looking smile not only improves self-confidence, but can also boost an adult's social life, and even enhance his or her career opportunities.

If you or your child may need braces, but you're put off by the dreary metal hardware you remember from back in the day, take heart! Plenty has changed in the field of orthodontics since you were a teenager — and it's not just the color of the rubber bands.

In many cases, clear or colorless ceramic braces can be used instead of metal ones. These stain-resistant orthodontic appliances blend in well with your own teeth, making them much less evident. It may be possible for them to be placed on the lingual (tongue) side of the teeth, where they're even less visible.

Clear aligners offer an alternative to braces that's appropriate for some people. Aligners are a series of precision-made “trays” composed of polyurethane plastic. Worn 20-22 hours per day for a period of months, these appliances gradually move teeth into an improved position. Besides being virtually invisible, another advantage of these trays is that they may be removed for eating and for important occasions. Once recommended only for adults, they have recently become available to teenagers as well.

What's the best way to find out whether you or someone in your family could benefit from orthodontics, and which treatment option best suits your individual needs? Come in to our office for a consultation! After a thorough examination, we would be happy to recommend the most appropriate treatment methods for your particular situation.

If you have questions about orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Orthodontics For The Older Adult” and “Clear Aligners for Teenagers.”


By Dr. James Merlo and Dr. Mary A. Merlo-Murison
December 19, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
KeepingtheLidonAcidtoProtectYourToothEnamel

Enamel — that tough, outermost tooth layer — protects your teeth from all sorts of hazards, from bacterial attack to temperature extremes. But although the hardest substance in the human body, enamel has a mortal enemy — acid. High acid levels can cause the minerals in enamel to dissolve, a process called de-mineralization. And although saliva can neutralize these levels in approximately 45-60 minutes and restore some of the enamel’s lost minerals, a constant acidic environment can overwhelm this natural mechanism.

That’s why you should be careful with the amount and frequency of acidic foods and drinks like citrus fruits or coffee. You should be especially concerned about your intake of sodas, energy drinks or sports drinks. The latter in particular are designed to replace fluids and nutrients during intense exercise or sports events, but are often consumed as a regular beverage. And all these drinks mentioned are often sipped on throughout the day, resulting in a constant wash of acid in your mouth that can interrupt the protective response of saliva.

There’s one other source for high mouth acidity that comes not from outside the body but from within. GERD — Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease — is a condition in which digestive acid refluxes (flows back) into the esophagus. While chronic acid reflux can damage the lining of the esophagus and lead to ulcers or even cancer, it may also pose a danger to teeth if the acid regularly rises into the mouth. Individuals encountering this will know it by the awful, acrid taste of vomit in their mouth.

To reduce the chances of high mouth acid due to food intake, limit the consumption of acidic foods and beverages to meal times and sports drink consumption to strenuous exercise or sporting events. Better yet, consider the greatest hydrator of all, water — with a neutral pH of 7.

If you’re experiencing chronic heartburn or other GERD symptoms, make an appointment to see your primary care doctor or a gastroenterologist as soon as possible. Many treatments are effective and will not only improve your general health but may also help preserve your tooth enamel.

If you would like more information on the effect of acid in the mouth and how to reduce it, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dentistry & Oral Health for Children” and “GERD — Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease.”


By Dr. James Merlo and Dr. Mary A. Merlo-Murison
December 04, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
AmericasDentistsGotTalent-forFixingDamagedorMissingTeeth

A recent episode of “America’s Got Talent” featured an engaging 93-year-old strongman called The Mighty Atom Jr. The mature muscleman’s stunt: moving a full-sized car (laden with his octogenarian “kid brother,” his brother’s wife, plus Atom’s “lady friend”) using just his teeth. Grinning for host Howie Mandel, Atom proudly told the TV audience that his teeth were all his own; then he grasped a leather strap in his mouth, and successfully pulled the car from a standstill.

We’re pleased to see that the Atom has kept his natural teeth in good shape: He must have found time for brushing and flossing in between stunts. Needless to say, his “talent” isn’t one we’d recommend trying at home. But aside from pulling vehicles, teeth can also be chipped or fractured by more mundane (yet still risky) activities — playing sports, nibbling on pencils, or biting too hard on ice. What can you do if that happens to your teeth?

Fortunately, we have a number of ways to repair cracked or chipped teeth. One of the easiest and fastest is cosmetic bonding with tooth-colored resins. Bonding can be used to fill in small chips, cracks and discolorations in the teeth. The bonding material is a high-tech mixture of plastic and glass components that’s extremely lifelike, and can last for several years. Plus, it’s a procedure that can be done right in the office, with minimal preparation or discomfort. However, it may not be suitable for larger chips, and it isn’t the longest-lasting type of restoration.

When more of the tooth structure is missing, a crown (or cap) might be needed to restore the tooth’s appearance and function. This involves creating a replacement for the entire visible part of the tooth in a dental lab — or in some cases, right in the office. It typically involves making a model of the damaged tooth and its neighbors, then fabricating a replica, which will fit perfectly into the bite. Finally, the replacement crown is permanently cemented to the damaged tooth. A crown replacement can last for many years if the tooth’s roots are in good shape. But what if the roots have been dislodged?

In some cases it’s possible to re-implant a tooth that has been knocked out — especially if it has been carefully preserved, and receives immediate professional attention. But if a tooth can’t be saved (due to a deeply fractured root, for example) a dental implant offers today’s best option for tooth replacement. This procedure has a success rate of over 95 percent, and gives you a natural looking replacement tooth that can last for the rest of your life.

So what have we learned? If you take care of your teeth, like strongman Atom, they can last a long time — but if you need to move your car, go get the keys.

If you would like more information about tooth restoration, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Crowns & Bridgework.”