My Blog

Posts for: April, 2014

By JW Haltom DDS, Inc. Family Dentistry
April 28, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   sleep apnea   snoring  
YourDentistMayHavetheSolutiontoYourSnoringandSleepApnea

Your snoring isn’t just an annoyance to other members of your household — it could indicate a serious health issue. Fortunately, there are treatments, some of which your dentist might be able to provide.

Snoring is the result of soft tissue structures in the back of the throat, including the tonsils, the uvula, the tongue or fat deposits, collapsing on each either and obstructing the flow of air into your lungs. The obstructions produce a vibration that is the source of the snoring.

These obstructions could lead to a serious condition known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). As the name implies, the obstruction causes a complete cessation of airflow for several seconds. As oxygen levels drop, the body responds by waking for one to three seconds (known as “micro-arousals”) to restore airflow. These disruptions can occur several times a night, as much as fifty times an hour. The depletion of oxygen and resulting low quality of sleep can contribute to high blood pressure, a higher risk of heart attack or stroke, and the possibility of accidents caused by lower alertness during the day.

You can help reduce the effect of OSA by losing weight and exercising. You may also be a candidate for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy, which utilizes a device that delivers pressurized air into the airway while you sleep.

Depending on the exact cause and extent of your OSA, you might also benefit from treatments provided by your dentist. We can develop a custom-fitted oral appliance, similar to an orthodontic retainer or sports mouthguard, which you wear while you sleep. These devices work by repositioning the lower jaw forward, thereby maintaining an open airway by also moving the soft tissue of the tongue forward. For more advanced conditions, certain surgical procedures that realign the jaw or remove excess tissue, the tonsils and adenoids, or parts of the uvula or soft palate could be considered.

To know your best treatment course, you should schedule a complete oral examination to determine the exact cause of the obstruction, and possibly a polysomnogram, an overnight study performed in a sleep lab. And as your dentist, we might be able to provide the key for a better night’s sleep and a healthier tomorrow.

If you would like more information on how we can address your problems with sleep apnea, 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 “Snoring & Sleep Apnea.”


By JW Haltom DDS, Inc. Family Dentistry
April 25, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
Tooth-ColoredFillingsANatural-LookingAlternative

Once upon a time, when you had a cavity, you went to the dentist and came back with a tooth filled with metal: the common silver (or, technically speaking, “dental amalgam”) filling. But today — driven by dental researchers' quest to find a better filling material, and by the desire of many people to avoid a mouth full of dull gray metal — there are other choices.

In recent years, metal-free, tooth-colored fillings have evolved into a well-established treatment method that's finding increasing use — not just in the front of the mouth, where it's most visible, but in the back too. To help understand the benefits of these new materials, let's start by looking at the structure of the tooth.

We usually think of teeth as being hard, sturdy and durable. But did you know that their crowns, or top surfaces above the gums, actually flex under the force of the bite? Understanding the composition and behavior of teeth has led researchers to develop newer and better materials for restoration. These include improved dental porcelains and composite resins which more closely mimic the natural teeth in both function and form: That is, they're strong and good-looking too.

What's more, using these materials for fillings may mean that you can get the same result with a more conservative treatment. How? It all comes down to tooth structure. To secure a traditional amalgam (silver) filling, a tooth often had to be shaped with “undercuts,” which helped hold the material in place. This meant the removal of a greater amount of tooth structure, potentially leading to chipping or cracking of the tooth down the road.

Enter composite resins. Bonding these materials to the underlying tooth doesn't require undercutting, so less of the healthy tooth is removed. That makes for a more robust tooth structure, with potentially greater longevity. Combine that advantage with the aesthetic appeal of a restoration that's hard to tell apart from natural teeth, and you've got a winning combination.

There are different options available for restorations with tooth-colored materials. These range from quick, single-visit fillings for small cavities, to the fabrication of more extensive replicas of the tooth for complicated restorations. Exactly which treatment is needed will depend on an individual's particular dental issue and the kind of results they desire. Whatever the case may be, we can listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and offer the best advice regarding your treatment options.

If you would like more information about tooth-colored fillings, 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 “The Natural Beauty of Tooth-Colored Fillings.”


By JW Haltom DDS, Inc. Family Dentistry
April 17, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: toothache   tooth pain  
ToothPainDuringPressureChangesCouldBeWarningofaBiggerProblem

People who fly or scuba dive know firsthand how changes in atmospheric pressure can affect the body: as minor as a popping in the ears, or as life-threatening as decompression sickness. Pressure changes can also cause pain and discomfort in your teeth and sinuses — in fact, severe pain could be a sign of a bigger problem.

Barotrauma (baro – “pressure;” trauma – “injury”), also known as a “squeeze,” occurs when the unequal air pressures outside and inside the body attempt to equalize. Many of the body's organs and structures are filled with air within rigid walls; the force created by equalization presses against these walls and associated nerves, which in turn causes the pain.

The sinus cavities and the middle ear spaces are especially sensitive. Each of these has small openings that help with pressure equalization. However, they can become swollen or blocked with mucous (as when you have a head cold), which slows equalization and contributes to the pain.

It's also possible to experience tooth pain during pressure change. This is because the back teeth in the upper jaw share the same nerve pathways as the upper jaw sinuses — pain originating from the sinuses can be felt in the teeth, and vice-versa. In fact, it's because of this shared pathway that pressure changes can amplify pain from a tooth with a deeper problem, such as a crack, fracture or a defect in dental work.

Besides problems with your teeth, the severe pain could also be related to temporo-mandibular joint dysfunction (TMD), which is pain or discomfort in the small joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull. There are a number of causes for this, but a common one for scuba divers is an ill-fitted regulator mouthpiece that they are biting down on too hard while diving. A custom-fitted mouthpiece could help alleviate the problem.

If you've been experiencing tooth pain during pressure change events, you should see us for an examination before you fly or dive again. There might be more to your pain — and correcting these underlying problems could save you extreme discomfort in the future.

If you would like more information on the effects of atmospheric pressure changes on teeth, 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 “Pressure Changes Can Cause Tooth & Sinus Pain.”


By JW Haltom DDS, Inc. Family Dentistry
April 09, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: root canal  
DoesRootCanalTreatmentLastForever

Perhaps you’ve been told that you need to have root canal treatment in order to save one or more of your teeth. By now, you know that the procedure itself is essentially pain-free, and that it has an excellent chance of success. But you may be wondering — just how long can you expect that “saved” tooth to last?

The short answer is: decades… or even a lifetime. But in just the same way that no two fingerprints are exactly identical, neither are any two teeth with root canals. There are some factors that could result in one tooth having a greater longevity after root canal treatment (RCT) than another — but before we go into them, let’s look at what RCT actually involves.

When infection and inflammation is allowed to get a foothold deep inside a tooth — usually due to uncontrolled decay or trauma — the nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue that make up the tooth’s pulp begin to die. If left untreated, the infection can spread out of the tooth and into the bone of the jaw. This may lead to further problems, including the development of a painful abscess, and eventual loss of the tooth.

Root canal treatment involves gaining access to the infected pulp tissue through a tiny hole made in the tooth, and then removing it. Next, the space inside the tooth is disinfected and filled with sterile material, and the access hole is closed. Afterward, a crown or “cap” is often needed to protect the tooth and restore it to full function in the mouth.

One factor that can influence how long a treated tooth will last is how soon the tooth is restored following the root canal procedure: The sooner it receives a permanent filling or crown, the longer it is likely to last. Another factor is whether or not the underlying infection has spread into the bone of the jaw: A tooth that has received RCT promptly, before the infection has had a chance to spread, is likely to have greater longevity.

Some of the other factors that may influence the longevity of a tooth after RTC are: the location of the tooth (front teeth are easier to treat and receive less biting force than back teeth); the age of the individual (teeth become more brittle over time); and what other work needs to be done on the tooth (such as the placement of posts, which may in time weaken the tooth’s structure.) In general, however, there’s no dispute that a tooth which has received a quality root canal treatment should last for many years to come — if not an entire lifetime. And to many people, there’s simply no substitute for having your own natural teeth.

If you would like more information about root canal treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Root Canal Treatment: How Long Will It Last?


By JW Haltom DDS, Inc. Family Dentistry
April 01, 2014
Category: Oral Health
PreventingEarlyChildhoodCavities

When do you think is the earliest age that tooth decay can start? Would you be surprised to learn that the answer is… just two months!

In spite of our best efforts, throughout the world tooth decay remains the most common chronic disease of childhood. And the unfortunate truth is, it’s largely preventable. Tooth decay is caused by harmful bacteria living in the mouth. These bacteria produce acids as a byproduct of feeding on the sugar we consume. The acids attack the hard enamel surfaces of the teeth, eventually making the small holes we know as cavities.

For thousands of years, these bacteria have been thriving in the carbohydrate-rich environment of our mouths. Kids aren’t born with these germs — often, however, they are passed directly from caregiver to child. But there are things you can do to keep from passing the bacteria to your children. For example, don’t share toothbrushes; don’t put items in baby’s mouth after you have licked them or put them in yours; and, if you have untreated dental disease, try to avoid kissing the baby’s lips. (And for goodness sake, don’t pre-chew a baby’s food, no matter what any celebrity may suggest.)

One effective way to control tooth decay is by reducing the amount of sugar in the diet. Sodas and candy aren’t the only culprits — fruit juices are also high in sugar. And remember, it’s not just what your child eats or drinks that matters, but when they consume it. Given time, saliva will neutralize and wash away the acids that bacteria produce. But if kids are constantly taking in sugar, the saliva can’t keep up. So give those little teeth a break — limit sugar to mealtimes, and avoid sweet treats at other times of day.

What other steps can you take to stop tooth decay before it starts? It helps to identify kids who may be more susceptible to dental disease. Given the same diet with the same oral hygiene practices, some children are much more likely than others to develop tooth decay. If these high-risk kids receive preventive treatments — such as fluoride varnishes, help with diet modification, and other measures — early tooth decay can be successfully prevented, and even reversed in some cases.

If you’re concerned that dental treatment may be too scary for little ones, you should know that we put a great deal of effort into making office visits as stress-free as possible. We have plenty of tricks to keep youngsters happy — and distracted — while we take care of business. You can help too… by maintaining a positive outlook and setting a good example.

If you would like more information about cavity prevention for children, please contact us or schedule an appointment. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Taking the Stress Out of Dentistry for Kids.”