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Diastema, or, Mind the Gap!

May 18th, 2022

Diastema is a medical term meaning “space between”—or what Drs. Jody Morse, Mike Doyle, and Zachary Vance and our team less formally call a gap between the teeth. Such gaps are common for children as they make the transition from baby teeth to adult teeth, and usually close when all the permanent teeth arrive. But not always!

Sometimes a gap, usually between the upper front teeth, stays with you into adulthood, but doesn’t affect your perfectly heathy teeth. Sometimes a diastema develops due to medical conditions or trauma. Whether you would like to close a gap for cosmetic reasons, or need to address gaps that have developed because of dental problems, your treatment will depend on the causes of the diastema.

  • The Relationship of Jaws and Teeth

Most of the time, we think of braces as straightening crooked teeth. For many braces wearers, the jaw can’t accommodate all of the adult teeth without crowding. But it’s also possible to have too much space for incoming teeth, and this can lead to a gap between two or more teeth. Orthodontic treatment is a common choice to close this kind of gap, using braces or clear aligners to move the teeth closer together.

  • Prominent Labial Frenulum

The labial frenulum is a band of muscular tissue that connects the upper lip and the top of the gums. If it is too large, tissue can extend beyond the top of the front teeth. A gap develops when the front teeth simply can’t meet because of the tissue between them.  Oral surgery can reduce the size of the frenulum, if necessary, and often orthodontic treatment is the go-to option to close the diastema.

  • Small Teeth or Small Gap

Occasionally, a few teeth are noticeably smaller than their neighbors. Bonding, veneers, and crowns can be used to enlarge these teeth, making them proportionate to the teeth around them. These treatments can also be successful in reducing a gap between the front teeth.

  • Missing Teeth

Sometimes people are born missing a tooth. Sometimes people lose a tooth to injury or decay. And while the space left by a missing or lost tooth is a noticeable gap in itself, the remaining teeth can shift to fill the void, causing other gaps to develop as well. A dental implant or bridge can both replace a missing tooth and maintain the normal spacing of the teeth that surround it.

  • Gum Disease

Left untreated, periodontitis (gum disease) can damage or even destroy the bone tissue which holds and supports the teeth. This, in turn, leads to “tooth mobility,” or loose teeth. Spaces between the teeth become more noticeable and larger over time. After the gum disease is treated, patient and dentist can explore options for reducing or eliminating spaces between the teeth.

  • Harmful Oral Habits

Tongue thrusting and thumb sucking are two habits that can affect the alignment of the front teeth. Both behaviors pressure the teeth to move forward, which can cause separations between them. Learning how to change these behaviors will help prevent or stop the expansion of a diastema and potentially serious malocclusions (bad bites).

If you would like to discuss your diastema for aesthetic reasons, talk to Drs. Jody Morse, Mike Doyle, and Zachary Vance for ways to reduce or eliminate the gap. If your diastema is the result of a medical condition, we will be able to recommend treatment options available at our Kernersville office. If you’re teeth and gums are healthy, and you enjoy the individuality of your diastema . . .

  • Embrace the Space!

A diastema can be a signature look for you and your smile. Normal brushing, flossing, and regular dental care will keep your smile bright, healthy, and uniquely you. And if you’re happy, healthy, and confidant, why, there’s no reason to mind the gap at all!

The Science of Sugar

May 11th, 2022

Some languages have many different words for love. Some have many different words for snow. One language even has different words for a tasty layered sandwich. Is that a hoagie or a hero you’re having? A sub? Grinder? Po’boy?

“Sugar,” though, is a single word which has taken on many meanings, from casual endearment to monosaccharide molecule. Today, we’re examining scientific definitions, with a short and sweet look at the science of sugar.

Chemistry

First, let’s get basic—all the way down to the molecular level.

Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are the three essential macronutrients which keep our bodies running. Sugars are molecules made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms, and all carbohydrates are made of these sugar molecules, from single unit structures to very complicated chains.

Sugars called monosaccharides are the most basic of the carbohydrates. “Monosaccharide” comes from the Greek words for “single” and “sugar,” and monosaccharides are the sugars we mean when we talk about “simple sugars.” Why are they simple? Because a monosaccharide is a single molecule which can’t be broken down into smaller carbohydrates.

While there are several types of monosaccharides, the three major simple sugars are:

  • Fructose—the sugar we get from fruit.
  • Galactose—the sugar found in milk.
  • Glucose—the sugar our bodies use the most. It’s found in plants, and also produced when our bodies break down other carbs. Fun fact—this is the only sugar essential for brain cell function.

When two monosaccharide molecules join together, they form a disaccharide (not surprisingly, from the Greek for “two sugars”). Again, there are quite a few disaccharides, but we tend to concentrate on three in our diets:

  • Lactose (glucose + galactose)—found only in milk and dairy products.
  • Maltose (glucose + glucose)—the sugar chiefly produced by grains.
  • Sucrose (glucose + fructose)—produced in plants. These plants include sugar cane and sugar beets, from which we get our refined table sugars.

The reason sugar molecules are so important is because of how our bodies use them.

Biology

Our bodies use the glucose in carbs for energy. As foods break down, first through digestion and then in the cells, the chemical bonds which hold glucose molecules together break as well. This action releases energy, and this energy fuels all our bodily functions.

But even though we need carbohydrates to keep our bodies going, and even though sugars are the easiest carbs to use for energy, there’s a reason no one recommends a diet filled with extra sugar.

Our bodies get all the sugar they need from the natural sugar in the foods we eat. Natural sugars are found in fruits, dairy products, even some vegetables and grains. Along with that sugar come vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and/or protein.

Extra sugars added during baking or mixing or processing for flavor and sweetness provide none of these nutrients. These sugars are known as “added sugars,” and have more serious consequences than just empty calories.

Once we have the sugars we require, there’s no need for more. Extra sugars are stored in liver, muscle, and fat cells for later use. When we eat too much sugar, this carefully balanced system is upset, with negative effects for, among other things, weight, blood sugar, insulin levels—and our dental health.

Nutrition and Dental Health

You know that a sugar-filled diet often means a cavity-filled checkup. Why? Because it’s not just our bodies that break down sugar for fuel.

The oral bacteria in plaque also need sugars for food, which they use to make acids. An acidic environment in the mouth weakens and dissolves the minerals which keep tooth enamel strong. And these weak spots are vulnerable to decay. A steady diet of sugar-filled foods means that your enamel is constantly under acid attack.

Cutting down on added sugars is one of the easiest and best ways to cut down on added cavities. Reading recipes, checking out labels, learning to recognize added sugars—this is nutritional research which has sweet results.

How to recognize added sugars? Here’s where language gives us plenty of words to fill our linguistic sugar bowl. Whether the ingredients are called agave nectar, honey, molasses, syrups, treacle, or table sugar, they’re really just sugar. More specifically, they’re all sugars made up of glucose and fructose, with at best a trace amount of vitamins and minerals—and usually not even a trace!

To make our lives easier, labels on food packaging now let us know exactly how much of the sugar in any product is “added sugar.” You expect to find a high percentage of sugar on dessert labels, but you might be surprised to read how much sugar is added to foods like energy drinks, sports drinks, flavored yogurts, cereals, spaghetti sauce, and many more of the items in your grocery cart. Spend an extra minute examining the label, and save yourself many empty calories.

Monosaccharides, disaccharides, glucose, fructose, maltose, agave syrup, treacle, and on and on—so many words for so many kinds of sugar. When it comes to dental health, let Drs. Jody Morse, Mike Doyle, and Zachary Vance have the last word on sugar science. During your next visit to our Kernersville office, talk to us about reducing unnecessary sugars in your diet for a future filled with the sweetest of healthy smiles.

Three Must-Have Dental Treatments

May 4th, 2022

In dentistry, there are a wide variety of treatments, everything from elective procedures to those that are necessary and potentially lifesaving. So given the slew of treatment options, how do you choose what’s right for you? Our experts at Morse & Doyle DDS have handpicked the three must-have procedures that we believe can benefit nearly every patient.

The first: A complete periodontal exam. If you are going to the dentist for scheduled cleanings, this exam should happen at least once a year. A periodontal exam is quick and relatively painless. The dentist or hygienist will carefully probe around each tooth to take measurements that show the health of the bone and its supporting tissue, all while looking for signs of any active infection. It has been suggested that there is a link between periodontal (gum) disease and the increased risk of some potentially fatal diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Signs of some diseases show up in the mouth sometimes before the patient is aware of changes in the body. Diabetes is one of these silent diseases. Many Americans are unaware that they have the disease until sudden and severe changes in the periodontal health of the teeth lead to a trip to the patient’s physician. And did you know that more adults lose teeth to periodontal disease than to cavities? A simple screening once a year can lead to saving your teeth.

The second treatment our team at Morse & Doyle DDS recommends is a dental sealant; it’s not just for kids! Dental sealants provide a protective barrier from bacteria deep in the pits and grooves of the teeth where cavities often start. Sealants placed in childhood will often wear away in adulthood. Replacing a sealant as an adult can also help prevent decay in adulthood. This is a great cost-effective procedure for adults. Dental insurance will likely not cover sealants as an adult, but the cost of a sealant for prevention versus the cost of a filling is much less.

Our third must-have dental treatment is often the most fun: in-office whitening. Who doesn’t want an instantly dazzling smile? In-office whitening is one of the most dramatic and quick ways to brighten a smile. It will take a few years off your age in a two-hour period of time. Whitening is very safe and can give a patient newfound confidence to smile.

Dental Emergencies in Children

April 27th, 2022

Unfortunately, dental emergencies can sometimes be unavoidable among young children. The good news is Drs. Jody Morse, Mike Doyle, and Zachary Vance can help you prepare in case you and your child find yourselves in any of the following situations.

Teething

Starting at about four months and lasting up to three years, your son or daughter may experience teething pain. It’s common for teething children to grow irritable and become prone to drooling due to tender gums. Give your child a cold teething ring or rub his or her gums with your finger to help relieve the discomfort.

Loss of Teeth

If a baby tooth is knocked out in an accident, bring your child to our Kernersville office to make sure damage hasn’t occurred in the mouth. Permanent teeth can sometimes grow in before baby teeth have fallen out. In this situation, Drs. Jody Morse, Mike Doyle, and Zachary Vance should examine your child to make sure teeth are growing in properly. This can prevent serious issues from arising later in adulthood.

Gum Issues

Bleeding gums could mean several things. They may be an early sign of periodontal disease, which results from poor oral hygiene. Gums may also bleed if a youngster is brushing too hard or has suffered an injury to the gum tissue.

Rinse your child’s mouth with warm salt water and apply pressure to the area if bleeding continues. Don’t hesitate to contact our Kernersville office if you are concerned so we can schedule an appointment.

As a parent, you can provide the best education for your children on proper oral hygiene habits. If you some coaching, ask Drs. Jody Morse, Mike Doyle, and Zachary Vance for tips during your next appointment.