Nina Parker, the host of Love & Hip Hop for six seasons, is now busy with the new game show Blockbusters and her own talk show The Nina Parker Show. But even with a full plate, she took time recently for some personal care—getting a new smile.
Parker's fans are familiar with her noticeable tooth gap. But a video on TikTok in February changed all that: In the video, she teasingly pulls away a mask she's wearing to reveal her smile—without the gap.
Parker and other celebrities like Madonna, Michael Strahan and David Letterman are not alone. Teeth gaps are a common smile feature, dating back millennia (even in fiction: Chaucer described the Wife of Bath as being "gap-toothed" in The Canterbury Tales).
So, what causes a tooth gap? Actually, a lot of possibilities. The muscle between the teeth (the frenum) may be overly large and pushing the teeth apart. There may be too much room on the jaw, so the teeth spread apart as they develop. It might also have resulted from tongue thrusting or late thumb sucking as a child, influencing the front teeth to develop forward and outward.
A tooth gap can be embarrassing because they're often front and center for all the world to see, but they can also cause oral health problems like complicating oral hygiene and increasing your risk for tooth decay. They can also contribute to misalignment of other teeth.
Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate a gap. One way is to move the teeth closer together with either braces or removable clear aligners. This may be the best approach if the gap is wide and it's contributing to misalignment of other teeth. You may also need surgery to alter the frenum.
You can also reduce less-pronounced gaps cosmetically with dental bonding or porcelain veneers. Bonding involves applying a type of resin material to the teeth on either side of the gap. After some sculpting to make it appear life-like, we harden the material with a curing light. The result is a durable, tooth-like appearance that closes the gap.
A veneer is a thin wafer of porcelain, custom-made to fit an individual patient's tooth. Bonded to the front of teeth, veneers mask various dental flaws like chips, deformed teeth, heavy staining and, yes, mild to moderate tooth gaps. They do require removing a small amount of enamel on the teeth they cover, but the results can be stunning—completely transformed teeth without the gap.
Getting rid of a tooth gap can be a wise move, both for your smile and your health. You may or may not take to social media to show it off like Nina Parker, but you can feel confident to show the world your new, perfect smile.
If you would like more information about treating teeth gaps and other dental flaws, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Space Between Front Teeth.”
One of the toughest enemies your teeth face is dental plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles. Accumulated dental plaque can trigger both tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease, which is why removing it is the true raison d'etre for daily brushing and flossing.
But if you do indeed brush and floss every day, how well are you fulfilling this prime objective? The fact is, even if your teeth feel smooth and clean, there could still be missed plaque lurking around, ultimately hardening into tartar—and just as triggering for disease.
The best evaluation of your brushing and flossing efforts may come at your semi-annual dental cleanings. After thoroughly removing any residual plaque and tartar, your dentist or hygienist can give you a fairly accurate assessment of how effective you've been doing in the plaque removal business.
There's also another way you can evaluate your plaque removal ability between dental visits. By using a plaque disclosing agent, you can actually see the plaque you're missing—otherwise camouflaged against your natural tooth color.
These products, usually tablets, swabs or liquid solutions available over-the-counter, contain a dye that reacts to bacterial plaque. After brushing and flossing as usual, you apply the agent to your teeth and gums per the product's instructions. After spitting out any remaining solution, you examine your teeth in the mirror.
The dye will react to any residual plaque or tartar, coloring it a bright hue like pink or orange in contrast to your normal tooth color. You can see the plaque, and perhaps even patterns that can show how you've missed it. For example, if you see brightly colored scallop shapes around the gum line, that's telling you you're not adequately working your toothbrush into those areas.
The dye eventually fades from the teeth in a few hours, or you can brush it away (and fully remove the plaque it disclosed). Although it's safe, you should avoid ingesting it or getting it on your clothes.
Regularly using a disclosing agent can give you excellent feedback for improving your hygiene techniques. Getting better at brushing and flossing will further reduce your risk for dental disease.
If you would like more information on daily plaque removal, 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 “Plaque Disclosing Agents.”
In the last few years, energy drinks have begun to offer strong competition to traditional "pick-me-up" drinks like tea or coffee. But while the proponents of energy drinks say they're not harmful, the jury's still out on their long-term health effects.
With that said, however, we may be closer to a definitive answer regarding oral health—and it's not good. The evidence from some recent studies doesn't favor a good relationship between energy drinks and your teeth.
For one, many energy drinks contain added sugar, which is a primary food source for the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease. Increased bacteria also increase your chances of dental disease.
Most energy drinks also contain high levels of acid, which can damage the enamel and open the door to advanced tooth decay. The danger is especially high when the mouth's overall pH falls below 5.5. Energy drinks and their close cousins, sports drinks, typically have a pH of 3.05 and 2.91, respectively, which is well within the danger zone for enamel.
A research group recently put the acidity of both types of beverages to the test. The researchers submerged samples of enamel into different brands of beverages four times a day for five days, to simulate a person consuming four drinks a day. Afterward, they examined the samples and found that those subjected to energy drinks lost an average 3.1 % of their volume, with sports drinks faring only a little better at 1.5%.
Although more research needs to be done, these preliminary results support a more restrained use of energy drinks. If you do consume these beverages, observing the following guidelines could help limit any damage to your teeth.
- Limit drinking to mealtimes—eating food stimulates saliva production, which helps neutralize acid;
- After drinking, rinse out your mouth with water—because of its neutral pH, water can help dilute concentrated acid in the mouth;
- Wait an hour to brush to give saliva a chance to remineralize enamel—brushing before then could cause microscopic bits of softened enamel to slough off.
There's one other alternative—abstain from energy drinks altogether. In the long run, that may turn out to be the best choice for protecting your oral health.
If you would like more information on the effects of sports or energy drinks on 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 “Think Before You Drink.”
Most of us care for our teeth without much assistance, save from our dentist. But that can change as we get older. A senior adult sometimes needs the help of a family member or a close friend, even with the basics of personal oral care.
At the same time, an older adult's other pressing health needs can be so overwhelming for their caregiver that their oral health needs move to the back burner. But the condition of a person's teeth and gums is directly related to overall health and well-being, especially later in life—it deserves to be a high priority.
First and foremost, caregivers should focus on daily oral hygiene to prevent tooth decay or gum disease, the two most prevalent diseases capable of severely damaging teeth and gums. Dental plaque, a thin bacterial film accumulating on tooth surfaces, is the top cause for these diseases. Removing it daily helps lower the risk for either type of infection.
Older adults may begin to find it difficult to brush and floss on a daily basis. Caregivers can help by adapting the tools of the job to their situation. Adults with diminished hand dexterity might be better served with a power or large-handled toothbrush, or switching to a water flosser for flossing. If they're cognitively challenged, it might also be necessary to perform these tasks for them.
Because of medications or other oral issues, older adults have a higher propensity for chronic dry mouth. Saliva neutralizes acid and supplies antibodies to fight infection, so not having enough can make the mouth environment more conducive to harmful bacteria. Caregivers should interact with their loved one's doctor to help reduce dry mouth through alternative medications or products to improve saliva flow.
An older person may also have dental work like crowns, bridges or dentures that protect their oral health and improve dental function. Be sure they're seeing a dentist to regularly check their dental work and make adjustments or repairs as necessary.
Good oral health is important in every stage of life, but particularly in our later years. Watching out for an older adult's teeth and gums can make a big difference in their overall quality of life.
If you would like more information on dental care for senior adults, 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 “Aging & Dental Health.”
Although Elvis Presley left us more than four decades ago, he still looms large over popular culture. It's not uncommon, then, for personal items like his guitars, his revolver collection or even his famed white jumpsuit to go on sale. Perhaps, though, one of the oddest of Elvis's personal effects recently went on auction (again)—his gold-filled dental crown.
It's a little hazy as to how the "King" parted with it, but the crown's list of subsequent holders, including a museum, is well-documented. Now, it's looking for a new home with a starting bid of $2,500.
The interest, of course, isn't on the crown, but on its original owner. Dental crowns weren't rare back in Presley's day, and they certainly aren't now. But they are more life-like, thanks to advances in dental materials over the last thirty years.
Crowns are an invaluable part of dental care. Though they can improve a tooth's cosmetic appeal, they're more often installed to protect a weak or vulnerable tooth. In that regard, a crown's most important qualities are strength and durability.
In the early 20th Century, you could have utility or beauty, but usually not both. The most common crowns of that time were composed of precious metals like silver and, as in Presley's case, gold. Metal crowns can ably withstand the chewing forces teeth encounter daily.
But they simply don't look like natural teeth. Dental porcelain was around in the early days, but it wasn't very strong. So, dentists devised a new kind of crown that blended durability with life-likeness. Known as porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns, they were essentially hybrids, a metal crown, which fit over the tooth, overlayed with a porcelain exterior shell to give it an attractive appearance.
PFMs became the most widely used crown and held that title until the early 2000s. That's when a new crown leader came into its own—the all-ceramic crown. In the decade or so before, the fragility of porcelain was finally overcome with the addition of Lucite to the tooth-colored ceramic to strengthen it.
Additional strengthening breakthroughs since then helped make the all-ceramic crown the top choice for restorations. Even so, dentists still install metal and PFM crowns when the situation calls for added strength in teeth that aren't as visible, such as the back molars. But for more visible teeth like incisors, all-ceramic usually stands up to biting while looking life-like and natural.
For a star of his magnitude, Presley's crown was likely state-of-the-art for his time. In our day, though, you have even more crown choices to both protect your tooth and enhance your smile.
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