Dentist - Chicago
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Chicago, IL 60654
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Posts for: March, 2014

By Reuben D. Collins, DDS
March 24, 2014
Category: Oral Health
ThickorThinYourGumsNeedtobeProtected

While hygiene and regular dental care go a long way to reduce your risk of oral disease and disorders, you’re still subject to your heredity. Everything from tooth alignment to the shape of your jaws is determined by your genes.

So is the biological structure of your gum tissue. Aside from minute variations, gum tissue structure falls into two broad categories — “thin” or “thick,” which refer to the actual thickness of the tissue and the underlying bone. The tooth’s appearance is the best indicator of which type you may have: those with more triangular-shaped tooth (often called scalloped) have thin gum tissue; a person with a squarer appearance (flat) has thick gum tissue. People of Asian descent tend to have thin/scalloped tissue while those with European or African heritage tend to have thick/flat tissues.

Thick gum tissue isn’t superior to thin, or vice-versa. In fact, each type is susceptible to certain types of diseases or adverse conditions.

Thin tissues are more susceptible to the occurrence of receding gums. Caused mainly by periodontal disease and toothbrush abrasion, the gum tissue recedes and exposes more of the unprotected tooth surface that should be below the gum line. This increases the risk of decay and tooth loss. Patients with thick tissue, on the other hand, have a higher risk of developing a condition known as “pocketing.” As the thicker gum tissue becomes inflamed from dental plaque, it loses its attachment to the teeth and forms a small pocket. The end result is possible bone and tooth loss.

There’s not much you can do about which type of gum tissue you have, for which you can thank (or blame!) your ancestors. But there’s something you can do to reduce your risk of periodontal disease. First and foremost, you should practice good daily hygiene, brushing with a soft-bristled tooth brush and gentle flossing. It’s also important to maintain regular cleanings and checkups in our office; not only will this ensure complete plaque and tartar removal, but gives us a better chance to detect either receding gums or pocketing early. Earlier detection can mean better treatment outcomes — and a saved smile.

If you would like more information on genetic types of periodontal tissues, 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 “Genetics & Gum Tissue Types.”


By Reuben D. Collins, DDS
March 21, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral cancer  
KickingtheTobaccoChewingHabitaMustforLong-TermHealth

Chewing tobacco, especially among young athletes, is considered fashionable — the “cool” thing to do. Many erroneously think it’s a safe alternative to smoke tobacco — it is, in fact, the source of numerous health problems that could ultimately lead to disfigurement or even death.

Chewing or dipping tobacco is especially linked with the sport of baseball. Its traditions in baseball go back to the late Nineteenth Century when players chewed to keep their mouths moist on dusty fields. The habit hit its greatest stride after the surgeon general’s warning on cigarettes in the late 1950s. Now, players wishing to emulate their major league heroes are prone to take up chewing tobacco at an early age.

But the habit comes with a price tag. Individuals who chew tobacco are more susceptible to oral problems like bad breath, mouth dryness, or tooth decay and gum disease. Users also increase their risk for sexual dysfunction, cardiopulmonary disease (including heart attack and stroke) and, most notably, oral cancer.

Derived from the same plant, chewing and smoke tobacco share a common trait — they both contain the highly addictive drug nicotine. Either type of user becomes addictive to the nicotine in the tobacco; and like smoking, a chewing habit can be very difficult to stop.

Fortunately, many of the same treatments and techniques for quitting smoking can also be useful to break a chewing habit. Nicotine replacement treatments like Zyban or Chantix have been shown effective with tobacco chewing habits. Substituting the activity with gum chewing (non-nicotine, and with the sweetener Xylitol), or even an herbal dip can also be helpful.

Like other difficult processes, it’s best not to try to quit on your own. You should begin your efforts to quit with a consultation with your doctor or dentist — they will be able to prescribe cessation medications and provide other suggestions for quitting. You may also find it helpful to visit a behavioral health counselor or attend a tobacco cessation support group.

Rather than just one approach, successful quitting usually works best with a combination of techniques or treatments, and perhaps a little trial and error. The important thing is not to give up: the improvements to your dental health — and life — are worth it.

If you would like more information on quitting chewing tobacco, 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 “Quitting Chewing Tobacco.”


SolvingtheProblemofMissingTeethWithOrthodonticsandRestorations

Normally, teeth erupt and grow in a symmetrical alignment: on the top palate, for example, the two central incisors take center stage; on either side are the lateral incisors, and then beside these the canines (cuspids).

But what happens when teeth don’t grow in? The result can be a smile that just doesn’t quite look right; more importantly, normal function is impaired because the person can’t grasp and chew food correctly.

These missing teeth are the result of a congenital (“from birth”) defect. It’s estimated that almost a quarter of all people are missing one or more wisdom teeth, and more than 5% are missing one or more second premolars or upper lateral incisors.

In a normal arch (the upper or lower set of teeth), each tooth type performs a particular role during eating. A missing tooth causes the remaining teeth to compensate, but beyond their capacity. The remaining teeth also tend to move to fill in any gaps left by the missing teeth, as when the eye teeth move toward the central incisors in the absence of the lateral incisors. This puts them out of position, so they can’t cover (“occlude”) their counterparts on the other arch and grasp food properly.

To improve the smile and restore proper chewing function it’s necessary to first move these “out of position” teeth to their correct position through orthodontics. We would then fill the gaps that result with life-like restorations (preferably dental implants with crowns) that resemble the type of tooth that should be there.

The restoration needs to be timed carefully, especially for young patients whose jaw structure has not fully developed. If implants are installed before the jaw’s full maturity (usually late teens or early twenties), the implant crowns may not appear to be the right length as the jawbone continues to grow. Since bone growth depends on the normal pressures exerted by the teeth, there may also be insufficient bone mass in the gap area to support a dental implant. Growing bone with bone-grafting material may be necessary before installing implants.

The total process could take many months or even years, depending on age and other conditions. In the end, though, the results can be astounding — better function and a vibrant, new smile.

If you would like more information on developmental problems with teeth, 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 “When Permanent Teeth Don’t Grow.”


By Reuben D. Collins, DDS
March 04, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   tooth decay   nutrition  
PlanYourSportsNutritionandHydrationtoReduceToothDecayRisk

If you or your family has an active sports lifestyle, you probably already know the importance of food and liquids for energy and hydration. But what you eat and drink (and how often) could unintentionally increase your teeth’s susceptibility to tooth decay. With that in mind, you should plan your nutrition and hydration intake for strenuous exercise to maximize energy and reduce the risk of tooth decay.

On the general health side, carbohydrates are your main source of energy for sports or exercise activity. You should eat a substantial carbohydrate-based meal (such as pasta, cereal or sandwiches) a few hours before a planned event. An hour before, you can snack on something easily digestible (avoiding anything fatty) to prevent hunger and as additional energy fuel.

It’s also important to increase your liquid intake before strenuous activity to avoid dehydration, usually a couple of hours before so that your body has time to eliminate excess fluid. During the activity, you should drink three to six ounces of water or sports drink every ten to twenty minutes to replace fluid lost from perspiration.

While water is your best hydration source, sports drinks can be helpful — they’re designed to replace electrolytes (sodium) lost during strenuous, non-stop activity lasting more than 60 to 90 minutes. They should only be consumed in those situations; your body gains enough from a regular nutritional diet to replace lost nutrients during normal activity.

In relation to your oral health, over-consumption of carbohydrates (like sugar) can increase your risk of tooth decay. The acid in most sports drinks also poses a danger: your teeth’s enamel dissolves (de-mineralizes) in too acidic an environment. For these reasons, you should restrict your intake of these substances — both what you eat and drink and how often you consume them. You should also practice regular oral hygiene by brushing and flossing daily, waiting an hour after eating or drinking to brush giving your saliva time to wash away food particles and neutralize the acid level in your mouth.

Knowing what and when to eat or drink is essential to optimum performance and gain in your physical activities. Along with good oral hygiene, it can also protect your oral health.

If you would like more information on the best sports-related diet for both general and oral health, 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 “Nutrition for Sports.”