Autism Awareness!

On Halloween (October 31st) weekend,  Autism Awareness Walks took place from San Francisco to New York and everywhere in between. Michelle Parris, a walker in Washington, D.C. came out to the Washington Mall ready to walk 2.5 miles for her son Miles. “I just want other people to not have to deal with the same difficulties that my son has dealt with,” she said. “If there’s a way that we can end it that would be great.” The annual Autism Awareness Walk is to raise funds and awareness to help fight autism, a disorder of neural development that hampers certain skills associated with social interaction and communication. Idiosyncratic use of language is also consistent. People suffering from autism also often suffer from restricted and repetitive behavior. The condition begins to show itself in children as young as two years old. Because much of the condition is still fairly mysterious, raising awareness and funds to fight autism is vital.

An autistic child stacks cans, a commonality amongst autistic children.

Often times, children suffering from autism are very difficult to treat by a physician – especially in dentistry. Autistic children often have a very hard time trusting physicians (especially if he or she is unfamiliar with said physician). In regards to dentistry, autistic children can have difficulty sitting still. This can make orthodontic View definition in a new window treatment very difficult, especially if the child does not like braces or feels they are causing him or her pain. An autistic child can be treated just as successfully as any child if he or she is treated with patience and care.

Regarding dental home care, brushing and flossing will require a family member’s daily help and guidance. Nutritional needs for Autistic children are extremely important, not just for dental hygiene, but for the brain. There are researches showing how certain foods seem to affect the developing brain of certain children, causing autistic behavior. This is not because of allergies, but because many of these children are unable to properly break down certain proteins. Researchers in England, Norway, and at the University of Florida had previously found peptides (a breakdown product of proteins) with opiate activity in the urine of a high percentage of autistic children. Opiates are drugs, like morphine, which affect brain function. These findings have recently been confirmed by researchers at Johnson & Johnson’s Ortho Clinical Diagnostics.  Gluten-free diets (a protein fraction found in wheat, rye, barley and most oat products) and Casein-free diets (a protein in dairy) are suggested. A professional nutrition consultation is really a must.

I was luckily blessed to have the opportunity to treat some special people who needed special care. Of course, every patient is special in my dictionary, but when dealing with someone who cannot communicate (or resists treatment), the challenge is greater to make that person better. You can also feel the love in between the family members – the special person actually plays the “glue” role to get the family together! When you see them together, it is such a beautiful scene.

Treating Autistic or any other special people can be an extremely rewarding experience. Everything is possible if we determine how to make things better; with patience, love and knowledge, we can experience miracles!


Cleaner Mouth = Better Braces!

In a recent study released by the Oral Health Journal, a systematic evaluation of patient oral hygiene for orthodontic View definition in a new window patients has revealed stunning information that links poor patient oral hygiene with impacted orthodontic treatment quality and treatment times.

When a person seeks out orthodontic treatment to fix a problem (crooked teeth, a misaligned bite, etc…), he or she must realize that the bone is actually being remodeled. Orthodontic treatment rearrange teeth into a proper alignment, which pressure transfer to the roots of the teeth within the jawbone. Bone is actually lost and added during this process as the teeth are repositioned to their proper places as reaching the treatment goal.

Poor oral hygiene will influence  your tooth and gum structures negatively.  The progress of orthodontic treatment consist of inflammatory  and regenerative responses. A  mouth with plaque and tartar build-up will trigger the body’s inflammatory response, amplifying the already inflamed structures associated with orthodontic treatment and can lead to a prolonged inflammatory stage and a delayed regenerative phase within orthodontic treatment. Poor oral hygiene during orthodontic treatment can and will have a damaging affect on your treatment goals as well. Reports have shown that “poor oral hygiene can increase treatment times from 1.2 to 2.2 months – other consequences of poor oral hygiene during orthodontic treatment affect the quality of the end result of treatment.” Whereas standard orthodontic treatment (in a clean mouth) leads to the balanced loss and gain of bone, poor oral hygiene restricts the ability of new bone to grow, affecting the treatment results.

Orthodontic treatment seeks to improve a patient’s oral health, but what every patient must remember is that a treatment plan can only be fully realized if both the doctor and the patient are making concerted efforts to correct a problem and stick with a course of action. A patient’s oral health cannot improve without patient compliance. If a patient sees his or her orthodontic specialist (or physician or dentist) on a regular basis but does not fulfill his or her duties to maintain a clean and healthy oral environment, no improvement will ever be seen. A doctor and a patient must work together to obtain a successful result.

Remember that your dental professional may be a miracle worker, but that does not retract your obligation to maintain proper oral hygiene (or any other instructed daily routines)! Any orthodontic treatment plan is a dual-sided plan that requires dedication from both the physician and the patient. Without proper compliance from the patient, prolonged treatment time and reduced oral improvement will result.


“Oral Health for Seniors?”

Have you ever thought “when I grow into my golden years, I’ll never smile – my teeth will have fallen out!” It should be common knowledge that teeth do not fall out naturally as part of the aging process, quite the contrary! Teeth are lost in seniors primarily due to poor oral hygiene, resulting in tooth and gum disease. If seniors properly take care of their teeth and maintain regular check ups with their dentist, their teeth will be healthy and strong throughout their entire lives!

Smiling Seniors!

It’s no surprise that senior oral health is a top priority and concern for dental professionals across the United States – senior citizens are the fastest growing demographic due to the baby boomer generation, and will soon make up the largest age group in the country! For such a big group, it would seem common sense that dentists are seeing increasing numbers of senior patients, but this is sadly not true. “Seniors often take long absences from seeing the dentist,” says AGD spokesperson Nick Russo, DDS. “Sometimes they stop caring as much because they’re not out in the public very much, and they think oral hygiene doesn’t matter.” I have even had patients in their 80s and 90s who have even received orthodontic View definition in a new window treatment (braces)! A person is never too young.

The truth of the matter, however, is that oral health matters just as much for seniors as it does for middle aged people and even young adults! Deteriorating oral health in old age is a choice, not a factual occurrence – and can be prevented rather easily. A person’s smile is the gateway to their heart, and whether that person is 15 or 115, that smile defines who you are. Keep it beautiful! The most important step for seniors (or their children or caretakers) to remember is that oral health is not a luxury – declining oral health is not purely aesthetic, and systemic problems can arise due to declining oral health. For example, genetic links between gum disease and heart disease have been proven to exist. Be sure to schedule biannual (twice yearly) dental checkups and cleanings. Not only are these appointments important for cleaning the teeth and gums beyond what a person can do at home, these appointments are essential in identifying poor habits, developing oral health problems and even cancer screenings.

After a biannual checkup plan has been cemented, it is key to remember to brush and floss, for two minutes, after every meal. If brushing and flossing is not occurring after meals, food particles turn into bacteria which destroy enamel View definition in a new window and gum tissue. Also, stay away from sodas (diet or otherwise!), candy and other sugar-laden foods and drinks. Water or tea would be a much healthier substitute. Extend your beauty and your life by taking your oral health seriously. Your teeth and gums will take care of you, if you take care of them!


“I Have Sensitive Teeth!”

Do you suspect you have a cavity View definition in a new window because you have a sensitive tooth? Do you stay away from ice cream, even though your teeth are not your waist line?

Tooth sensitivity is a common problem. It can be brought on from temperature change, applied pressure or touch;  each sign and symptom tells a different story. There are two types of tooth sensitivity :

Dentinal sensitivity is quite common and is caused when the dentin View definition in a new window, the layer of the tooth beneath the enamel View definition in a new window, is exposed to your oral environment. As your teeth are used and abused, the outer enamel layer of the teeth becomes worn. Night grinding (bruxism), tooth decay, gum recession View definition in a new window and damaged dental work (such as fillings) will all eventually cause the dentin  to become exposed. Because of dentin’s porous nature, when the protective enamel layer of your tooth is compromised, any food or temperature stimulation will affect the nerve endings within the tooth’s core View definition in a new window, causing varying levels of pain.

Pulpal sensitivity is an inflammatory reaction of the pulpal tissues, including blood vessels and nerves in the center of the tooth. The causes of this type of sensitivity include tooth decay or infection, recent dental work, night grinding or injured and broken teeth.

To have your dental professional assess your dental condition, you must have a proper diagnosis View definition in a new window! Afterwards, your dentist will provide you with proper treatment options, which could include a proper oral hygiene program, cleaning the mouth after every meal using a soft tooth brush and appropriate toothpaste (containing fluoride View definition in a new window or potassium), and brushing and flossing twice a day. Home fluoride rinse or gel can be used to desensitize and remineralize  your teeth. A night guard View definition in a new window can be custom fitted to your mouth to protect your oral structure (worn while you sleep). A proper diet (eliminating sweets and/or acidic foods and beverages) will help prevent sensitivity. Your dental professional can work with you to harmonize and balance your bite so all teeth receive proper loading force as well – a proper fit and selection of dental restorations will assure integrity of pulpal health.And there is possibility for root canal therapy or Gum treatments if the problems are more advanced.

It’s time to start taking care of yourself – get the proper treatment for your tooth sensitivity and be worry free!


“What is Tongue Thrusting?”

“Dr. Sun, I’ve had braces twice and I still have all of these spaces in my teeth!” Disparaged new patient Lisa was at her wits end for the answer to her dental dilemma.

Lisa did wear her retainer View definition in a new window for a year after the braces, bur once stop wearing the retainer, but her condition had relapsed. Two thoughts went through my mind – either bruxism View definition in a new window (night grinding) or tongue thrusting. Checking the wear pattern of Lisa’s teeth as well as performing muscle palpitations for clues of bruxism and observing whether Lisa’s tongue could be seen between teeth during swallowing to evaluate her tongue thrust View definition in a new window.

Bruxism has gained awareness in recent years, but tongue thrusting is still a mostly unfamiliar word. Let’s have a discussion about this interesting phenomenon!

Although nearly all children experience tongue thrusting, it is usually self-corrected at age six, and some continue tongue thrusting into adulthood. Because we swallow up to 2,000 times a day, pressure exerted on the teeth from a protruding tongue at each swallow can create force on the teeth, leading to mis-aligned dentition or a lisp-orientated speech impediment or reversed orthodontic View definition in a new window work.

Generally, there are several contributing factors which can lead to tongue thrusting. Certain types of pacifiers in childhood can set bad oral habits in young children. Allergies or nasal congestion causing the tongue to lie low in the mouth due to breathing obstruction (as opposed to the normal position behind the upper front teeth against the palate), genetics or ankyloglossia (a tongue tie requiring a frenectomy to remedy) can also cause tongue thrusting. A laser frenectomy is the most advanced treatment for alleviating a tongue tie.

Possible treatment includes a training appliance from your dentist. Myofunctional therapy, a proactive strategy which trains  the tongue to swallow properly. With proper myofuntional training and exercise , we can swallow without tongue thrust. To improve airway, check with your ENT doctor, retraining of proper body postures are all important for oralfacial health.

Wow, isn’t this interesting? The tongue is an essential part of our body. It is influenced by and can influence our physiology in many ways! Look at the mirror and swallow – are you tongue thrusting?


“Am I Too Old for Braces? “

If you’re older than 95, then maybe!

The mechanism of the movement is the result of remodeling of the bone that houses the teeth, the pressure on the side bone will disappear (the tension side), and new bone will deposit so the teeth can be guided to the ideal position. As long as you are healthy, there is no age limit! The most common age to receive braces is 9-12. Braces can be very effective to guide the jaws to reach one’s full potential development during the growth spurt period. If a child is diagnosed with teeth and jaw alignment problems at a younger age, an orthodontic View definition in a new window appliance can be worn to correct and aid the development of the jaw. If you missed out on braces as a teenager – or you used to wear braces previously – and you now want to do something to improve your smile or dental health (because you teeth are crooked or gaped), discuss all available options to you with your dentist or orthodontist.

Orthodontic treatment can proceed with fixed braces which can be clear (less noticeable); you can also wear a removable appliance to straighten your teeth – friendly for an adult lifestyle! There are several options depending on your own unique situation and the training background of your dentist. The popular wireless Invisalign system often works well to correct crooked teeth, and most people never notice you are wearing an appliance!

Of all the orthodontic treatment recipients in my office, 95% are adults (average age is 35). The oldest patient I have orthodontically treated was 83! Treatment periods vary from three months to two years, with an average duration of 9 months. 60% of patients choose to receive clear braces for specific bite correction, 30% choose Invisalign for correction of crooked teeth and the convenience of not having to come in and see me very often! The remaining 10% choose alternative treatment methods.

Of course, cosmetic procedures like porcelain veneers View definition in a new window or bonding View definition in a new window can be the answer to your desire of that million dollar smile, as long as the teeth which are the foundation for your cosmetic restoration are reasonably positioned and in reasonably healthy condition. This type of procedure provides instant gratification. One big caution however to this treatment method worth taking is before the alteration treatment starts, imagine you are an architect. Can you build the design of your tooth without blue prints? Proper diagnosis View definition in a new window, treatment planning, and / or wax-up and mock-up modeling are all extremely important things to be taken care of right by a trusted dental physician. If you’d like to know more about these terms, visit my YouTube channel for procedural videos, educational material and more.

Dental braces, a common orthodontic appliance used to straighten and properly align a person’s teeth to a person’s bite,  have been used for nearly a century.Whether your teeth are only slightly off-center or are quite crooked, whether you are age 6 or 106, dramatic transformations in your outward appearance can be achieved at any age through teeth straightening! Dont’ be afraid!