Posts for: March, 2012
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.”
Guidelines regarding the concentration of fluoride in water have recently been changed by the US Government's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These agencies recommended a reduction of fluoride in water supplies to 0.7mg/L, modifying the original recommendations provided in 1962 by the US Public Health Service.
What is fluoride, and why add it to water supplies?
Fluoride is a chemical form of fluorine, a naturally occurring element. For decades, scientists have carried out studies on the effects of fluoride in water, and they have proved that fluoride strengthens tooth surfaces and makes them resistant to decay. A fluoride concentration of about one milligram per liter (1 mg/L), or 1 part per million (1ppm), in the water supply is associated with substantially fewer cavities. This concentration of fluoride (equivalent to a grain of salt in a gallon of water) has been found to have no negative health effects.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that fluoridated water is one of the ten most effective public health measures of the 20th Century. The optimal amount of fluoride necessary to make teeth resistant to decay turns out to be between 0.7 and 1.20 milligrams per liter (mg/L). A certain amount of fluoride occurs naturally in water supplies, and communities have added fluoride to bring the amount up to the optimal recommendations.
How does fluoride you drink get into your teeth?
The fluoride you drink in your water is deposited in your bones. Bone is an active living substance that is constantly broken down and rebuilt as a normal body process. As this happens the fluoride is released into the blood, from which it can enter the saliva and act on the tooth surface.
What about fluoride from other sources?
Americans now have access to many sources of fluoride in addition to the water they drink. These include foods, beverages and toothpaste. As a result, dentists have begun to notice an increased prevalence of a condition known as Dental Fluorosis.
What is Dental Fluorosis?
Dental Fluorosis can occur when teeth, particularly in children, receive too much fluoride. This condition is a mottling or uneven staining of the tooth surface enamel. There may be small white spots or extensive brownish discolorations. The mottled enamel is still resistant to decay, but it may be unattractive in appearance.
What is the idea behind the new guidelines?
With the new guidelines, fluoride is kept at the lower end of the scale of the optimal concentration for strengthening teeth against decay. At this end, there is room to add consumption of fluoride from other sources such as foods or toothpaste. In short, it is the best of both worlds.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about fluoride. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Fluoride & Fluoridation in Dentistry” and “New Fluoride Recommendations.”
If you see blood when you brush or floss your teeth, it generally indicates a problem with your oral health. You may think you are brushing too hard, but this is not usually why gums bleed. The usual culprit is dental plaque.
Plaque is the sticky, whitish film of bacteria that forms on your teeth every day. If you brush regularly, you probably remove most of it — but some may remain behind and accumulate where your teeth meet your gums, particularly between your teeth. As the bacteria build up, along with by-products of their metabolism (the chemical reactions that maintain their lives), they cause inflammation, called gingivitis, in the adjacent gums.
Bleeding gums are an early symptom of gingivitis. Continuing contact with plaque at the gum line can cause your gum tissue to separate from nearby teeth, creating pockets in which the inflammation becomes even worse. The process leads to periodontal disease (“peri” – meaning around, “odont” – tooth). The increasing infection can eat away the bone that anchors the teeth, leading to possible tooth loss. Periodontal disease is not an uncommon problem. About 90% of the population has bleeding gums at some time or another, and approximately 10% go on to develop periodontal disease.
When you lose bone around your teeth, the gums separate from the tooth and “pockets” form between your teeth and gums. The inflammation and infection may continue within the pockets even if your gums have stopped bleeding when you brush. That's why it is important to have regular dental exams — to check up on and stop periodontal disease before it has a chance to cause serious damage.
There may also be other reasons for bleeding gums that have to do with your general state of health. Women who have elevated levels of hormones caused by birth control pills or pregnancy may experience an increased response to plaque that makes their gums bleed more easily. Increased bleeding in your gums can also be caused by some diseases or as a side effect of some medications.
The most important way to prevent bleeding gums is to learn proper brushing and flossing techniques so that you effectively remove plaque from your teeth on a daily basis. If you are not sure you are using the right techniques, make an appointment and have us demonstrate at your next dental visit.
With all the best intentions, some plaque may remain. Plaque that is allowed to stay on your teeth hardens into a substance called tartar or calculus. This must be removed periodically with a professional cleaning by me or by our hygienist.
With not too much effort, you can ensure that your teeth are clean and plaque free, and your healthy gums no longer bleed.
It used to be that when it came to treating tooth decay (cavities), your primary option was to have the tooth decay removed and filled with a metal amalgam (silver-colored filling). This treatment sometimes requires a special shape cut called an “undercut” to be drilled into the tooth to hold it in. Unfortunately, it can also involve removal of some healthy tooth structure. Silver amalgam fillings still have limited applications and are still used in back teeth where they don't show in the smile. This is because they are strong and resist biting well; however, over time they can fatigue and fracture.
Older restorative concepts were based upon the development of strong and stiff materials such as gold, which tends to be unyielding and therefore contributed to failures of the remaining tooth substance around restorations (e.g., decay or cracking). Newer concepts tend to get away from the “stronger and stiffer is better” concept and have moved towards safety principles using materials that involve mimicking the properties of natural tooth structure. In fact, it is now clearly established that a new “biomimetic approach” (“bio” – life; “mimetic” – mimicking) to dentistry is possible through the use of tooth-like materials such as composite resins and porcelains. And unlike metal alloys, these newer materials bond directly to the remaining enamel and dentin of which the teeth themselves are made, which both stabilize and strengthen teeth.
These techniques are also suitable for children's teeth and can incorporate fluoride to reduce further decay. But perhaps best of all, using these materials and more modern technologies can restore proper tooth function and normal wear while producing results that appear indistinguishable from natural teeth.
To learn more, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Natural Beauty of Tooth Colored Fillings.” You can also contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your specific questions about replacing your metal fillings with tooth-colored ones.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), community water fluoridation has been a safe and healthy way to prevent tooth decay effectively for over 65 years now. In fact, the CDC has recognized water fluoridation as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
It all began back in the 1930's when it was discovered that fluoride had oral health benefits. However, community water fluoridation did not begin until January 25, 1945, when Grand Rapids, Michigan became the first city to add fluoride to its municipal water system. Before it was officially rolled out in other cities, Grand Rapids was compared to other cities or “controlled groups” that had not added fluoride to their water so that scientific research could assess the relationship between tooth decay and fluoride. Well, you can guess the results — it was proven that fluoride helped reduce tooth decay when added to ordinary tap water. On November 29, 1951, the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council (NRC) declared water fluoridation safe, effective, and beneficial based upon the results of their findings and the fact that there was a dramatic decline in tooth decay in the children of Grand Rapids.
Ever since, fluoride has continued to play a critical role as a simple, safe, effective way to provide improved oral health by helping reduce tooth decay in the United States. This reality is still being demonstrated with each new generation benefiting from better oral health than the previous generation.
As for identifying when the time is right to introduce fluoride to your children's oral health program, ask us. Most children get the right amount of fluoride to help prevent cavities if they drink water that contains fluoride. And if by chance you live in an area where your tap water is not fluoridated, brush your children's teeth with no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste twice a day and ask your dentist about fluoride supplements and treatment.
Learn more on this topic by reading the Dear Doctor article, “Fluoride And Fluoridation In Dentistry.”