Posts for: March, 2012
Most people think of bone as rock-solid, but it's actually a living tissue that's constantly changing. This has significant implications for your oral health, general health, and appearance — if you are one of the 70% of Americans missing at least one tooth.
Throughout the day, your top and bottom teeth make hundreds of fleeting contacts with each other. These small stresses are transmitted though the periodontal ligament (“peri” – around; “odont” – tooth) that supports each tooth in its socket like a hammock. Think of it as a gentle push on the hammock, which causes the tooth to gently bump the underlying bone. The bone then builds up in the spot that's receiving stress to counteract it. This constant remodeling of bone is what allows bone to stay healthy and strong.
When a tooth is lost, the bone does not receive that gentle stress. It reacts by literally melting away. Sometimes this happens fairly quickly — in a matter of months. After the tooth-supporting bone is lost, the jawbone itself begins the same process of deterioration. This could eventually change the shape of the face, as the distance from nose to chin can decrease — even if only a few back teeth are missing. The results aren't pretty. But the good news is, there's a way to prevent all this.
Dental implants, which function as substitute tooth roots, actually save underlying bone when teeth are lost. They do this because they are made of titanium, which fuses to the bone in which it's set, stabilizing it. The implant is topped by a realistic-looking crown, which replaces the part of the missing tooth that was visible in the mouth. Together, they look and function just as your natural tooth did.
If you are missing a lot of teeth, implants can also be used to anchor bridges or even removable dentures while providing that same bone-saving benefit. And when you consider that they are so durable they should never need replacement, implants are a great investment.
You can read more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”
Scientists don't know much about sleep even though it has been extensively studied. We do know that several hours of deep, restful sleep per night are essential for a healthy life.
Many people remain tired and unrefreshed, even after a full night's sleep. About a third of them are affected by sleep related breathing disorders (SRBD). Dentists can play a significant role in helping patients overcome these disorders, which range from frequent snoring to severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). If you think you may have such a disorder, read on.
Under normal conditions, your upper airway is open, allowing air to flow from your nose, through your throat, and into your lungs. If you suffer from SRBD, you experience frequent reductions in the flow of air to your lungs during sleep. You may not be aware of it, but sometimes your breathing may even stop for brief periods. These reductions happen when your tongue and other soft tissues in the back of your throat collapse backwards and block your upper airway or windpipe. You may briefly awaken as many as 50 times per night because of these breathing lapses. These brief awakenings, called micro-arousals, keep you from reaching the deep stages of sleep your body needs.
The resulting reduced oxygen flow to your heart and to your brain can cause serious damage. You will also be tired during the day and experience a lack of energy, even if you sleep for seven or eight hours per night. This constant drowsiness puts you at greater risk for accidents.
Because dentists generally see their patients at six-month or other regular intervals, we are in a good position to screen and refer patients with suspected SRBD to physicians for diagnosis and treatment. Dentists can also treat SRBD in a number of ways.
- One of these is Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT), in which a device that looks something like an orthodontic retainer holds your lower jaw in a forward position relative to your upper jaw, preventing your tongue and soft tissue from collapsing into your airway.
- Another consists of breathing equipment called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). The CPAP is a mask connected to a machine that pushes air into your lungs.
- Other treatments include oral surgery or orthodontia. The goal of these techniques is to increase the volume of air passing through your upper airway by pushing your tongue forward.
Medical insurance usually covers the cost of much of these treatments.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about sleep disorders and their treatments. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sleep Disorders and Dentistry.”
Anytime you have a tooth that does not erupt (surface) correctly but rather stays submerged below the gum you have a problem. Sometimes this situation can cause significant pain, while other times it can be totally pain-free. When this occurs to a wisdom tooth (third molar), you have what is commonly referred to as an impacted wisdom tooth. This generally occurs when there is insufficient room in the mouth, and the wisdom tooth “impacts” or butts up against an adjacent tooth.
Third molars come in typically between the ages of 17 and 25, when a moderate amount of “wisdom” is supposedly achieved. Most people have four wisdom teeth; however, it is possible to have more or less. The key to not having issues generally depends upon one main factor: having adequate space for them to grow and erupt into proper position.
The most common consequence of having an impacted wisdom tooth is gum (periodontal) disease and damage to adjacent healthy teeth. This makes removing the impacted tooth so important. Another problem with impacted wisdom teeth is that they can affect other adjacent structures like gum, bone, nerves, blood vessels and sinuses. They can also become cystic, a condition in which the submerged tooth is surrounded by a closed sac or membrane that can cause possible infection and loss of bone.
We stress the importance of routine dental exams between the ages of 17 and 25 to catch problems with wisdom teeth before they start. The best time to remove a wisdom tooth is when it is not causing problems and the sooner and younger you are the better!
To learn more about the symptoms and treatment options of impacted wisdom teeth, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Wisdom Teeth.” Or, you can contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions.
Ensuring that your children have good oral health is (or should be) the goal of every parent or caregiver. But how confident are you about this topic? The following true/false quiz will help you evaluate your expertise while learning more about keeping your child's teeth healthy.
- All children older than 6 months should receive a fluoride supplement every day.
- Parents should start cleaning their child's teeth as soon as the first tooth appears.
- Parents should start brushing their child's teeth with toothpaste that contains fluoride at age 3.
- Children younger than 6 years should use enough toothpaste with fluoride to cover the toothbrush.
- Parents should brush their child's teeth twice a day until the child can handle the toothbrush alone.
- Young children should always use fluoride mouthrinses after brushing.
- False. Check with your child's physician or dentist about your children's specific fluoride needs. If your drinking water does not have enough fluoride to help prevent cavities, parents of a child older than 6 months should discuss the need for a fluoride supplement with a physician or our office.
- True. Start cleaning as soon as the first tooth appears by wiping the tooth every day with a clean, damp cloth. Once more teeth erupt, switch to a small, soft-bristled toothbrush.
- False. Parents should start using toothpaste with fluoride to brush their childrenÃ¢Â€Â™s teeth at age 2. Only use toothpaste with fluoride earlier than age 2 if the child's doctor or our office recommends it.
- False. Young children should use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is important for fighting cavities, but if children younger than 6 years swallow too much fluoride, their permanent teeth may develop white spots. Using no more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste with fluoride can help prevent this from happening.
- True. Because children usually do not have the skill to brush their teeth well until around age 4 or 5, parents should brush their young children's teeth thoroughly twice a day. You should continue doing this until the child can demonstrate a proper brushing technique.
- False. Fluoride mouthrinses have a higher concentration of fluoride than toothpaste containing fluoride. Children younger than 6 years of age should not use fluoride mouthrinses unless your child's doctor or our office recommends it. Young children tend to swallow rather than spit it out, and swallowing too much fluoride before age 6 may cause the permanent teeth to have white spots.
If you feel you missed too many of the above questions, read the Dear Doctor article, “Oral Hygiene Behavior.”
Unfortunately, going to the dentist may still be a fear and anxiety provoking experience for some people even with modern dental techniques — an interesting phenomenon given the fact that no one is born with fear. It is either a learned response based on personal experience or one that is literally imagined based upon hearing of another's treatment. However, regardless of how it develops, a person's perception is their reality. The good news is that we are here to both listen and to offer our patients the benefits of oral sedation (sedation dentistry) that allows relaxation of mind and body. Thus you can focus on feeling peaceful rather than anxious.
While research has shown that 75% of all people surveyed have at least a little fear about going to the dentist, 10-15% have a great deal of fear. In fact, some of these people experience so much fear that they will cancel dental appointments or never schedule in the first place. If the latter describes your feelings, we encourage you to ask us about sedation or comfortable dentistry so that you can receive the oral healthcare you need and deserve to maintain optimal dental health.
And this good news gets even better when you understand that oral sedation does not even involve injections (shots)! We typically administer oral sedation in one of two methods: by giving you a pill to swallow whole or by giving you a tablet to place under your tongue (sub-lingually) where it dissolves. Once the prescription medication takes effect, you will remain awake and aware of your surroundings; however, the medication will help you transition from feeling nervous to a more comfortable state of being. Most of our patients describe their experience as “comfortable” or “relaxation” dentistry due to how they feel during their treatment. Simply put, the anti-anxiety (anxiolytic) medication almost literally dissolves away your fears.