Posts for: April, 2013
Since the time of the ancient Egyptians, people have used mixtures of various substances in pursuit of a single goal: cleaning their teeth effectively. Today, even with a glut of toothpaste tubes on the supermarket shelf, most people seem to have a particular favorite. But have you ever thought about what's in your toothpaste, and how it works? Here are five facts you might not know.
1) Most toothpastes have a very similar set of active ingredients.
Once upon a time, a toothpaste might have contained crushed bones and oyster shells, pumice, or bark. Now, thankfully, they're a little different: today's toothpaste ingredients generally include abrasives, detergents and fluoride compounds, as well as inert substances like preservatives and binders. Toothpastes formulated to address special needs, like sensitive teeth or tartar prevention, have additional active ingredients.
2) Abrasives make the mechanical action of brushing more effective
These substances help remove stains and surface deposits from teeth. But don't even think about breaking out the sandpaper! Modern toothpastes use far gentler cleaning and polishing agents, like hydrated silica or alumina, calcium carbonate or dicalcium phosphate. These compounds are specially formulated to be effective without damaging tooth enamel.
3) Detergents help break up and wash away stains
The most common detergent in toothpaste (which is also found in many shampoos) is sodium lauryl sulfate, a substance that can be derived from coconut or palm kernel oil. Like the abrasives used in toothpaste, these detergents are far milder than the ones you use in the washing machine. Yet they're effective at loosening the stains clinging to your teeth, which would otherwise be hard to dissolve.
4) Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay
This has been conclusively demonstrated since it was first introduced into toothpaste formulations in 1914. Fluoride — whether it's in the form of sodium fluoride, stannous fluoride or sodium monofluorophosphate (MFP) — helps strengthen tooth enamel and make it more resistant to acid attack, which precipitates tooth decay. In fact, it's arguably the most important ingredient, and no toothpaste can receive the American Dental Association's Seal of Approval without it.
5) Look for toothpaste with the ADA seal
This means that the particular brand of toothpaste has proven effective as a cleaning agent and a preventative against tooth decay. Plus, if the package says it has other benefits, then research has verified that it does what it says. Oh, and one other thing — toothpaste doesn't work if you don't use it — so don't forget to brush regularly!
If you have questions about toothpastes or oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Toothpaste — What's In It?”
Congratulations! In a few months, you're expecting a new baby... but, in the mean time, your body is adjusting to nausea, weight gain, food cravings, and a hundred other changes. Is this really the time to worry about your teeth and gums?
Yes and no — don't worry, but do be aware of a few basic facts about your oral health and your pregnancy, and how they affect each other.
Being pregnant may make your teeth and gums more sensitive. It also puts you at greater risk for some periodontal diseases, like pregnancy gingivitis (“gingival” – gum tissue; “itis” – inflammation of) and benign growths on the gum called “pregnancy tumors.” You may think these problems are just uncomfortable, but you should really have them evaluated as soon as they develop. Why?
Once upon a time, it was believed that periodontal (gum) diseases just affected the mouth. Today, we think these diseases and their associated bacteria may be involved with the whole body, playing a role in cardiovascular ailments, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and other illnesses.
What's more, recent studies suggest that these oral bacteria may be able to cross the placenta, stimulating an inflammatory response that may lead to preterm delivery. Babies who are born pre-term often have low birth weight, and are at greater risk for a number of health complications. That's one reason why maintaining good oral health is so important to expectant moms.
So, what should you do? First of all, keep in mind that maintaining your own general and dental health is the best thing you can do for your developing baby. Eat a balanced diet, keep up healthy habits — like limiting sugary between-meal snacks and brushing regularly — and don't put off visiting your dentist to get your dental cleanings. Those cleanings and a thorough evaluation can set your mind at ease and give your baby the best chance at a healthy start.
If you would like more information about pregnancy and oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Pregnancy and Oral Health,” and “Expectant Mothers.”
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.”
Metal braces are often considered a rite of passage for teenagers whose teeth need straightening. While some teens have no problem with this, others are more self-conscious and would like a less noticeable and less restrictive form of orthodontic treatment (“ortho” – to straighten; “odont” – teeth). After all, traditional braces can sometimes require diet modification, regular tightenings can cause discomfort, and the hardware itself can irritate the inside of the mouth. All of these things can limit a teen's ability to function normally during an already difficult stage of life.
That's why many teens today are opting for removable clear aligners, which have been popular with adults for years. In this system of orthodontic treatment, transparent, flexible, plastic “trays” are custom-made to move an individual's teeth into better alignment in a step-by-step fashion. Each tray moves the teeth a little bit further, according to a precise plan developed with specialized computer software by an orthodontist, or a general dentist who has received special training. It's not available from every dentist, but we are happy to be able to offer it here.
It used to be that clear aligners were not recommended for teens for two main reasons. For one thing, because they are removable rather than attached to the teeth, it was assumed a teenager would not be as conscientious as an adult about wearing them nearly 24 hours a day, which is necessary to achieve the desired results. Now, however, clear aligners for teens have colored “compliance indicators” that fade over time. With this new tool, dentists and parents — and teens themselves — can monitor compliance and progress.
The other main problem in prescribing clear aligners for teens had been that their second molars are still growing into position. This problem, too, has been solved. Clear aligners now have “eruption tabs” that serve as space-holders for teeth that have yet to grow in.
Finally, in recent years, improvements have been made to the whole clear aligner system that allow it to be used for more serious malocclusions (bad bites). So it's actually a viable option for more orthodontic patients in general — teens as well as adults.
If you would like to learn more about clear aligners for your teenager, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also find out more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Clear Aligners For Teenagers.”