My Blog

Posts for: January, 2017

By Mehr Tucker, DDS, LLC
January 16, 2017
Category: Dental Procedures

In her decades-long career, renowned actress Kathy Bates has won Golden Globes, Emmys, and many other honors. Bates began acting in her twenties, but didn't achieve national recognition until she won the best actress Oscar for Misery — when she was 42 years old! “I was told early on that because of my physique and my look, I'd probably blossom more in my middle age,” she recently told Dear Doctor magazine. “[That] has certainly been true.” So if there's one lesson we can take from her success, it might be that persistence pays off.

When it comes to her smile, Kathy also recognizes the value of persistence. Now 67, the veteran actress had orthodontic treatment in her 50's to straighten her teeth. Yet she is still conscientious about wearing her retainer. “I wear a retainer every night,” she said. “I got lazy about it once, and then it was very difficult to put the retainer back in. So I was aware that the teeth really do move.”

Indeed they do. In fact, the ability to move teeth is what makes orthodontic treatment work. By applying consistent and gentle forces, the teeth can be shifted into better positions in the smile. That's called the active stage of orthodontic treatment. Once that stage is over, another begins: the retention stage. The purpose of retention is to keep that straightened smile looking as good as it did when the braces came off. And that's where the retainer comes in.

There are several different kinds of retainers, but all have the same purpose: To hold the teeth in their new positions and keep them from shifting back to where they were. We sometimes say teeth have a “memory” — not literally, but in the sense that if left alone, teeth tend to migrate back to their former locations. And if you've worn orthodontic appliances, like braces or aligners, that means right back where you started before treatment.

By holding the teeth in place, retainers help stabilize them in their new positions. They allow new bone and ligaments to re-form and mature around them, and give the gums time to remodel themselves. This process can take months to years to be complete. But you may not need to wear a retainer all the time: Often, removable retainers are worn 24 hours a day at first; later they are worn only at night. We will let you know what's best in your individual situation.

So take a tip from Kathy Bates, star of the hit TV series American Horror Story, and wear your retainer as instructed. That's the best way to keep your straight new smile from changing back to the way it was — and to keep a bad dream from coming true.

If you would like more information about orthodontic retainers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Why Orthodontic Retainers?” and “The Importance of Orthodontic Retainers.” The interview with Kathy Bates appears in the latest issue of Dear Doctor.

By Mehr Tucker, DDS, LLC
January 08, 2017
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gummy smile  

What makes a beautiful smile? The teeth, of course: bright, evenly shaped and precisely aligned with each other. But your teeth can be as perfect as can be and your smile will still appear unattractive.

The reason? Your gums show more than they should when you smile.

What's considered a gummy smile is largely a matter of perception that can vary from person to person. As a rule of thumb, though, we consider a smile “gummy” if four millimeters (mm) or more of the gums show.

Fortunately, we can minimize the gums' prominence and make your smile more attractive. But what methods we use will depend on why your gums stand out. And it's not always because of the gums themselves.

It could be your teeth didn't erupt normally during dental development. Mature crown (the visible part of the tooth) length is normally about 10 mm with a width about 75-85% of that. But an abnormal eruption could result in teeth that appear too short, which can make the gums stand out more. We can correct this with a surgical procedure called crown lengthening in which we remove excess gum tissue and, if necessary, reshape the underlying bone to expose more of the tooth crown.

Another potential cause is how far your upper lip rises when you smile. Normally the lip rises only enough to reveal about 4 mm of teeth. In some cases, though, it may rise too high and show more of the gums. We can modify lip movement in a number of ways, including Botox injections to temporarily paralyze the lip. A more permanent solution is a lip stabilization procedure. It sounds bad, but it's a fairly simple procedure to surgically reposition the muscle attachments to restrict movement.

Your gummy smile may also result from an upper jaw too long for your facial structure. We can correct this with orthognathic (“ortho” – straighten, “gnathos” – jaw) surgery. During the procedure the surgeon permanently positions the jaw further up in the skull; this will reduce the amount of teeth and gums displayed when you smile.

Discovering the true cause of your gummy smile will determine how we treat it. After a complete oral examination, we can then discuss your options to transform your smile into a more attractive one.

If you would like more information on treating gummy smiles and other cosmetic problems, 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 “Gummy Smiles.”

January 03, 2017
Category: Oral Health

You teach your children everything that they need to know, from how to ride a bike safely to how to say their ABCs. But oral hygienethere's one more important lesson that they have to learn, and that is how to care for their teeth. See these tips for teaching your child to maintain a healthy dental regimen, and then make an appointment to see Dr. Mehr Tucker at her Rockville, MD dentist office.

Good Dental Health Starts Early
A child that starts off life with good dental habits will likely hold onto them well into his or her adulthood. That's why it's so important to start taking your child to see the dentist as early as possible. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests that a child should go to the dentist for the first time by his or her first birthday. Common pediatric dental problems like cavities can be prevented with regular dental visits and consistent at-home care.

A Healthy Dental Regimen
The more you practice something with your child, the more likely it is to turn into a habit. Set out a healthy dental regimen for you and your child to follow. Here are a few suggestions to consider:

  • Use a good fluoride toothpaste to strengthen your child's teeth (a pea-sized amount is fine).
  • Play their favorite two-minute song while brushing to ensure they do it thoroughly.
  • Floss with your child before bed.
  • Replace sugary treats with sugar-free candies and gums or healthy snacks like apples and pears.
  • Twice yearly checkups with your Rockville, MD dentist.

Things to Ask Your Child's Rockville Dentist About
Going to the dentist regularly is an important part of a child's dental regimen because potential issues can be spotted and corrected early. Here are a few things you should discuss at your next visit to your child's dentist:

  • Dental sealants to prevent cavities.
  • Existing cavities that need to be filled
  • Orthodontia to correct bite problems and gaps in pre-teens and teenagers.

Teach Your Child to Like Coming to the Dentist
Dr. Tucker and her dental team are dedicated to helping you and your family have the most comfortable experience possible. You'll be happy you made time to bring your child to Dr. Tucker's Rockville, MD office for an appointment. Call (301) 963-8900 today to schedule a checkup visit.