Wisdom teeth, or third molars are usually the very last teeth to erupt into the back of your mouth. Some individuals are born without them ever developing, while most people will feel them coming into the mouth around age 18 (usually the age associated with obtaining wisdom—thus the word “wisdom” teeth). Often times, these teeth will need to be extracted due to lack of room in the mouth or the inability to keep them clean. Many times, the teeth will form at an angle or will remain “impacted” or stuck in the jawbones, thereby also requiring an extraction procedure. If extractions are required, it is much better to have this done sooner rather than later as an older and denser jaw will make the procedure much more difficult and possibly extend the healing time. I’ve heard several patients tell me that their teeth were perfectly straight until their wisdom teeth came in. Whether these individual teeth can cause the entire remaining dentition to become crowded is still up for debate within the orthodontic profession. One thing remains certain though—as long as your permanent fixed retainers are intact, the eruption of your wisdom teeth should not affect your orthodontic result. We’ll be glad to share our wisdom with you regarding your wisdom teeth at any time.

As a general dentist in the Army, I placed my share of silver fillings in the mouths of many a soldier. Now as an orthodontist, I still run across many of these fillings in my patient’s mouths. These silver-colored restorations, also called dental amalgam, have recently come under scrutiny due to unsubstantiated reports that they may release harmful mercury vapors upon chewing certain foods. Most scientific evidence currently indicates that this simply is not the case. The most recent statement by the American Dental Association assures the public that dental amalgam continues to be a safe, durable and affordable restoration for children and adults. The decision about what filling material to use is based on a variety of factors such as size and location of a cavity, insurance coverage, and any cosmetic and functional concerns you may have. Remember that the best dental filling is no dental filling, so be sure to brush, floss and eat a balanced diet to help prevent cavities in the first place. As your orthodontist, I’m concerned not only about your beautiful smile, but about your overall dental health. Feel free to talk to me anytime about your dental treatment options.

Orthodontic radiographs (often called x-rays) are an important part of your orthodontic care. Orthodontists utilize x-rays to help diagnose the health of the teeth and gums and the relationship of the jaws to the rest of the facial structures. Some patients wonder if dental x-rays are safe because they expose the patient to radiation. Let me assure you that in our office, the amount of radiation used to obtain our films is very small (a fraction of what the normal person is exposed to through natural environmental sources). We also follow the ALARA principle, which stands for “As Low As Reasonably Achievable,” when obtaining radiographs. This means that all our equipment is digital-state-of-the-art, utilizing the least amount of exposure necessary in order to capture the proper image. We also only order x-rays that are needed for the proper diagnosis and that are consistent with the principles and guidelines set forth by the American Association of Orthodontists. We promise to do all we can in order to make your orthodontic treatment safe and effective. Please feel free to speak with me if you want to learn more about the benefits and safety of orthodontic radiographs.

I took my first puff on a cigarette when I was ten years old. The experience was so unsettling that I never had the urge to smoke again. In fact, as a health care professional, I feel obligated to constantly warn others about the inherent dangers of smoking. And I’m not just talking about the increased risk of developing lung cancer in smokers but also the detrimental effects of secondhand smoke to those close to you. Secondhand smoke contains the same chemicals as smoke inhaled from regular tobacco products and can cause the same tobacco-related illnesses such as heart disease, lung disease and cancer. In children, secondhand smoke has been found to result in more ear infections, more frequent and severe asthma attacks, excessive coughing, sneezing and shortness of breath, lung infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia, and even a greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Like any other addiction, quitting smoking can be a challenge. Individuals who have previously quit say it is often helpful to set a quit date and to let other friends and family members in on your plan. Get rid of everything that reminds you of smoking and try to avoid these triggers. If you simply cannot quit, make sure you set up a “non-smoking zone” in your home or car to protect your loved ones—especially your children. When you go out, choose smoke free restaurants and other public places. Teach your kids about the dangers of smoking and warn them about the future health risks. In this health conscious era, everybody loses when there is smoke in the air.

I was deeply saddened upon hearing about the recent passing of baseball legend and Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. His life was ended far too soon by cancer that he attributed to his longtime use of smokeless chewing tobacco. The dental profession has been warning the public for years about the association between this dangerous habit and the subsequent development of oral cancer and yet, many people continue to ignore these warnings. Baseball players especially are hesitant to discontinue this life-threatening habit for fear of giving up a ritual and habit that they claim has been part of their professional livelihood and image. It sets a terrible example for the millions of young people who watch baseball at the ballpark or on TV and often see players and managers using tobacco. I had many baseball heroes growing up that I looked up to. Fortunately I tried to emulate their hitting, fielding and running rather than their “chewing”. I encourage everyone to think twice before using any form of smokeless tobacco.