Posts for: September, 2014
Do you snore? You can admit it. Most everyone does, from time to time. But if snoring becomes a frequent and disturbing feature of your nighttime routine, it may be more than just an annoyance. Did you know that excessive snoring — when accompanied by irritability and depression, daytime sleepiness and confusion, and/or several other physical and mood problems — is one of the common symptoms of a sleep-related breathing disorder (SRBD)?
SRBDs are potentially serious conditions, with consequences that can range from poor workplace performance to possible cardiovascular and brain damage. One of the most significant of these maladies is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA, a condition in which the tongue and surrounding soft tissues fall back into the throat and obstruct air flow. This reduces oxygen levels in the blood, causing the body to wake suddenly — and in severe cases, it can happen up to 50 times an hour, without a person consciously realizing it.
Needless to say, that doesn't make for a good night's sleep. But even if it turns out your snoring problem isn't severe OSA, it can still prevent you (and your partner) from feeling refreshed in the morning. Did you know that we may be able to recommend an oral appliance that has been proven to alleviate problem snoring in many cases? This custom-made device, worn while you're sleeping, helps maintain an open airway in the throat and reduce breathing problems.
If you have this condition, it's critical that you get professional advice. Dentists who have received special training in sleep problems can evaluate you, provide medical referrals when needed, and help determine the type of appliance that may work best for you. Since sleep disorders can be problematic, a thorough evaluation and follow-up monitoring is essential.
Several treatments for SRBDs are available. But oral appliance therapy, when it's recommended, offers some distinct advantages. The small appliances are comfortable, easy to wear, and very portable — unlike more complex medical devices such as CPAP machines. They're a non-invasive and reversible treatment that should be considered before undertaking a more intensive treatment, like surgery. Could an oral appliance benefit you? Why not ask us if we can help you get a good night's sleep.
If you would like more information about oral appliance therapy for sleep problems, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Sleep Disorders and Dentistry” and “Sleep Apnea FAQs.”
In a healthy tooth, a coating of enamel protects the crown — the part above the gum line — and a layer of cementum protects the tooth root below the gum line. Enamel and cementum are inert (nonliving) substances that do not respond to stimuli such as heat or cold; however, dentin, the living tissue below them, does. Dentin contains numerous microscopic tubules that readily transmit stimuli toward the nerve-filled center of the tooth (pulp tissue). Loss of protective enamel or cementum leaves dentin exposed to all sorts of stimuli in the oral environment, which can trigger “dentinal hypersensitivity” — anything from a mild twinge to shooting pain.
Fortunately, there are many options for treating hypersensitivity. The key to selecting the most appropriate one(s) is determining the cause(s). Some of the more common reasons for sensitivity due to dentin exposure include:
- Enamel erosion caused by an “acid attack” related to external (extrinsic) causes — i.e., consumption of acidic beverages/food — or internal causes — i.e., regurgitation of stomach acids due to gastroesophageal reflux disease [GERD] or the eating disorder bulimia
- Using an overly abrasive brush or toothpaste, brushing incorrectly or too frequently, or brushing too soon after an “acid attack” — all of which can result in a loss of enamel
- Tooth decay (dental caries or cavities)
- Tooth fracture or chipping: tooth grinding (bruxism) is a common cause
- Worn fillings
- Gum recession, due to age or improper tooth brushing, that exposes the tooth root
- Gum disease, which can result in gum recession
Sensitivity can also occur following a procedure like treating a cavity. Normally it subsides within a couple of weeks or so but if it continues there may be another underlying cause.
Whatever the source(s) of your discomfort, our office can get to the bottom of it and recommend an effective course of treatment that meets your personal needs!
If you would like more information about tooth sensitivity, 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 “Sensitive Teeth.”
If your infant is extra cranky and seems to want to chew everything in sight, it's a good bet that the first tooth is on the way! For parents, this is cause for both celebration and concern. After all, no parent wants to see a child suffer even a little bit. Decades ago, when a teething infant showed signs of discomfort, a parent might have rubbed some whisky or other strong liquor on the child's gums — a misguided and dangerous practice. There are far safer, more effective ways to help your child through this exciting yet sometimes uncomfortable phase of development. Here are our top five teething remedies:
Chilled rubber teething rings or pacifiers. Cold can be very soothing, but be careful not to freeze teething rings or pacifiers; ice can actually burn the sensitive tissues of the mouth if left in place too long.
Cold, wet washcloths. These are great for gnawing on. Make sure the washcloth is clean and that you leave part of it dry to make it more comfortable to hold.
Cold foods. When your child is old enough, cold foods such as popsicles may soothe sore gums. However, make sure you confine them to mealtimes because sugars can cause tooth decay — even in very young children.
Gum massage. Massaging inflamed gums with your clean finger can help counteract the pressure from an erupting tooth.
Over-the-counter medicine. If teething pain persists, you can give your baby acetaminophen or ibuprofen, but check with a pharmacist or this office for the correct dosage. The medicine should be swallowed and not massaged into the sore areas, as this, too, can burn.
So when does it all begin? Some babies start teething as early as three months or as late as twelve months, but the typical time frame is between six and nine months. Usually the two lower front teeth erupt first, followed by the two upper front teeth. The first molars come in next, followed by the canines (eyeteeth). Most children have all 20 of their baby teeth by age 3.
If you have any questions about teething or the development of your child's teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Teething Troubles.”
There are a number of materials and techniques available in cosmetic dentistry that help us improve our patients' smiles. Porcelain veneers stand out as one of the most popular and least interventional of these options.
As the name implies, a veneer is a thin layer of dental restorative material that covers the original tooth surface. Veneers don't require an extensive amount of tooth preparation or removal of sound tooth structure, as with a crown or bridge.
Veneers are made of dental porcelain, a material compatible with living tissue and with a very life-like appearance. The dentist as artist can fashion the porcelain to precisely imitate an individual's natural teeth, including the natural color and hue of surrounding teeth.
Are porcelain veneers an option for you? Only a smile analysis in our office can determine that. Your teeth must be in a somewhat normal position. The teeth in question must have a sufficient amount of remaining tooth structure to support veneers. And you must have symmetrical gum contours that will allow for proper framing of the teeth, which will enhance the final cosmetic result.
If your current dental health meets these criteria, then porcelain veneers could help correct spaces between teeth that aren't too wide, improve poor color, or address poor shape, contours or minor bite problems. Veneers, however, do have their limitations. They aren't effective if you have poor tooth position, if the root positions are widely out of line, or if you have a poor profile. Some form of orthodontics may be needed initially for these situations.
That being said, porcelain veneers are an excellent long-term option in the right situation. Depending on your individual circumstance and how you care for your teeth, a veneer application can last for several years, or if they come loose or become chipped they can be repaired in most cases. The material is strong enough to withstand normal pressures exerted during chewing or biting, as long as you avoid activities like opening nutshells with your teeth or chewing on very hard candy.
Overall, porcelain veneers can give your smile a whole new look with little impact on your remaining tooth structure.
If you would like more information on porcelain veneers, 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 “Smile Design Enhanced With Porcelain Veneers.”
When it comes to our overall health, many of us think we’re pretty well-informed. But a recent survey quiz given by the American Dental Association (ADA) revealed something surprising: When it comes to dental health, most people could use plenty of “brushing up.” In fact, the average score on the true/false test was a barely passing D! Among the questions most people answered incorrectly were:
- How often should you brush your teeth? (91 percent got it wrong)
- At what age should you take your child to the dentist for the first time? (75 percent wrong)
- How often should you replace your toothbrush? (65 percent wrong)
- Can cavity-causing germs be passed from person to person? (59 percent wrong), and
- Does sugar cause cavities?
We’ll come back to the last question in a moment — but first, let’s recap some basic dental health information.
While you might think it’s best to brush after every meal, the ADA recommends brushing just twice a day. That’s because excessive brushing can erode tooth enamel (especially if it has already been softened by acidic food or drinks), and can also expose and irritate the root of the tooth. But when you do brush, you should keep at it for at least two minutes each time!
Bring your child in to the dental office within six months after the first tooth appears — but no later than his or her first birthday! The age-one dental visit starts your child off right with proper preventive care and screenings, and sets the stage for a lifetime of good oral health.
Most people think it’s OK to change your toothbrush twice a year — but the ADA recommends that you get a new one every three months; that’s because stiff, frayed bristles just don’t clean your teeth and gums as well as they should. Likewise, most people don’t realize that the bacteria that cause cavities can be passed from one person’s mouth to another — by putting a child’s pacifier in your mouth or sharing a toothbrush, for example.
And speaking of cavities: Technically, they aren’t caused by sugar, as 81 percent of people thought. Tooth decay occurs when certain types of oral bacteria release an acidic byproduct that attacks the tooth enamel and creates small holes (cavities). This occurs after the bacteria have metabolized sugar in your diet. So while sugar doesn’t directly cause cavities, it does lead to tooth decay by feeding harmful bacteria. How about partial credit for that one?
If you have additional questions about your dental health, please call our office to schedule a consultation. For more information, see the Dear Doctor magazine article “Good Oral Health Leads to Better Health Overall.”