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All Posts in Category: Orthodontics

Drink sports drinks: Is that really what Richie does?

Sports and energy drinks. If you’re a reader of this blog, you’ll know I hold serious reservations about them — they’re bad for your teeth, and unless you’re an elite athlete, do little to enhance sporting prowess.

A few months ago, I published this post about the dangers of sports drinks. Soon after, I saw this disturbing story in the media:

In Nelson, a five-year-old boy needed to have multiple rotting teeth removed. He arrived at the clinic holding a large bottle of Powerade. When the dentist asked him why he was drinking Powerade, he said, “because Richie does.”

Of course, the little boy was referring to ex-All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.

As an orthodontist, I find this shocking. There is no way a five-year-old child should be drinking Powerade.

Funnily enough, a smart little boy at my clinic who had heard the story said to me, “I don’t think Richie does drink it.”

It’s sad because I suspect he’s right — Richie McCaw probably doesn’t drink Powerade. Yet, he’s sponsored by them, and young people who put him on a pedestal think they need it to be like him.

The dentist who treated the boy, Dr. Rob Beaglehole, rightly pointed out to Stuff that sugary drinks contribute to many health issues in New Zealand, which include tooth decay, obesity and type-2 diabetes.

What are sports drinks?

Sports drinks are designed to replenish your body with carbohydrates and electrolytes faster than water can. You need this kind of replenishment if you lose more than a litre of body fluid an hour. The thing is, though everyday sportspeople (especially children) will never lose that much fluid during exercise. And, in fact, many of those who favour these drinks don’t even play sport — they just like the taste!

Terrible for children

More health professionals are beginning to recognise the dangers of too much sugar. Sports and energy drinks actually contain more sugar than Coca Cola. So, if you give your child a sports drink, you are effectively bathing their teeth in a tooth-decaying, sugary solution between meals. For children, and adults for that matter, water is a far better option.

Time for a change

As more cases like the Nelson boy emerge, I wonder whether top sports people will begin to distance themselves from sports drinks. I hope so.

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The surprising history of orthodontic braces

A perfect smile. Most of us would like one. And thankfully, thanks to advancements in orthodontics, it’s now easier to achieve than ever before.

The health benefits

Straight teeth give us confidence. Studies have also shown that, unfortunately, people with bite problems are often perceived unfairly.

Of course, looks aren’t everything. Your health matters more. And fixing bite problems can be beneficial to your health. For example, conditions such as crowding can make it difficult to clean your teeth properly. This, can lead to gum disease and tooth decay.

The mechanics of modern braces

Braces work by using the principles of basic engineering. Gentle pressure is applied to the periodontal ligament (which holds your teeth in position) to move the teeth where your orthodontist wants them to go. Too much pressure shouldn’t be applied too quickly, so small changes are made about every 30 days. Treatment can take up to three years.

Ancient practices

Modern orthodontics first emerged in 1819 when Christophe-Francois Delabarre invented the crib wire. However, mankind’s quest for straight teeth goes back much farther — right back to ancient times.

The Egyptians

In Egypt, for example, some mummified remains show evidence of early attempts to straighten teeth. Archaeologists have uncovered human remains with animal intestines (catgut) wrapped around the teeth, which resemble the wire used for modern braces.

The Etruscans

The Etruscans resided around Italy between 770 to 270 BC. It seems they too cared about straight teeth — for the dead, at least. During burial, Etruscan women (they didn’t bother with the men) were sometimes fitted with a mouth-guard-like device made of pure gold. This, apparently, prevented teeth collapsing inwards, so the deceased could look ‘fabulous’ as they entered the afterlife.

The Romans

Not to be outdone, ancient Romans also had a device similar to modern braces. While exploring tombs, archaeologists have found many corpses with gold wire (ligature wire) fitted along the teeth to close noticeable gaps.

The first set of braces

The term ‘braces’ was first used officially in the early 1900s. Though named the same, they were quite different to braces of today.

Each tooth was individually fitted with a band, and the materials used for varied. Depending on preference, some dentists used ivory, some used copper and some used zinc. The most popular material was gold because of its flexibility when heated.

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How your smile can affect your physical & mental health

You can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true, but it doesn’t stop people unfairly judging us on our looks.

Your smile influences how others perceive you. For example, if you have lower protruding teeth you may be viewed as aggressive. If you have a gap in your upper teeth, people may think you’re not too bright (picture Lloyd Christmas from Dumb & Dumber). That’s just the way it is.

The mechanics of a smile

Do you know it takes 12 muscles to smile and 113 muscles to frown? Melancholy is exhausting! When you smile you feel good about yourself; others get a good vibe, too. By smiling at someone, you send a message that they’re attractive, pleasant and likeable. You put them at ease.

Career prospects

Unfortunately people’s perceptions can affect your success in life. A study in America looked at recruitment companies. Recruiters were shown manipulated images that gave some people sticky-out teeth and some crooked teeth. The study showed candidates with bite problems were less likely to get a position.

Of course, people’s perceptions also affect how you feel about yourself. There have been many psychological tests that show people feel better about themselves if their teeth aren’t crooked.

Your health

So, we’ve addressed the, perhaps, superficial side of bite problems. However, whether you care about your looks or not, consider your physical health.

Your mouth is the gateway to your body — gum disease, missing teeth and cavities can have a negative effect on your health.

Some conditions cause by bad teeth
  • Heart disease — about 91% of people with heart disease have inflammation in the mouth (periodontitis).
  • Diabetes — people with periodontitis tend to have less ability to control blood sugar levels.
  • Bad breath — as if a bite problem wasn’t enough! Gum disease can also lead to bad breath.

Turn that frown upside down

Okay, smiling is good. That we all agree on. However, what if you have crooked or missing teeth? It can seriously knock your confidence — you’re more likely to hide your teeth than flash a “gappy” smile. And, of course, the health issues are a concern.

The obvious course of action is to see your orthodontist or dentist. The sooner you address a dental issue the better, and there are many options available. For example, braces are not reserved just for teenagers; it is never too late to get orthodontic treatment. Braces are also far more comfortable and less obtrusive than they used to be (check out 4 types of braces).

Everyone deserves to enjoy good physical and mental health. It’s a shame when poor teeth get in the way.

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