Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Tip Of The Iceberg, By Dr. Judith Okun

"The tip of the iceberg" is a great expression. The small amount of ice that you can see above the water often does not indicate how much ice is hidden beneath the water. I’ve heard this expression used to represent many things. The ENT (Ears, nose and throat) doctor often describes tonsils this way: the amount of tonsil she can see in her patients throat is small compared to the amount present when she goes to remove it. I like to think of the "tip of the iceberg" as the crowns of your teeth- the part that you can see in your mouth. Under the gums, buried in bone. is a much larger part of each tooth, called the roots.

The rate of tooth movement, or "how fast teeth can move", is directly related to the size of the roots. Teeth with smaller roots move faster than teeth with larger roots, or teeth with multiple roots. This is because the bone that surrounds the teeth must remodel, or "move out of the way" so that the roots can move. The bigger the root, the more bone it must displace. Since it takes time for the bone to remodel, it takes time for the teeth to move. Understanding this is key to understanding how braces work!

So the next time you are wondering why the braces take so long to make your teeth straight, just remember that the teeth you see in your smile are just the tip of the iceberg!

--Dr. Judith Okun

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