Posts for: April, 2014
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.”
Does anyone truly enjoy flossing their teeth? We can’t rule it out — but for most of us, flossing is something we do because we understand how very important it is to our oral hygiene. Yet there are some for whom flossing is a much greater challenge — for example, people with limited mobility, or those who are wearing braces. Is there any alternative to flossing that offers these people the same health benefits?
Perhaps — but before we discuss the options, let’s remember why flossing is so important. The number one enemy of your oral health is plaque: a sticky, bacteria-rich film that builds up on the surface of your teeth every day. Flossing is an effective means of removing plaque from the tiny spaces in between the teeth — the places a regular brush can’t reach. Left alone, plaque builds up into a hardened layer called tartar or calculus, which generally requires a professional cleaning with special dental tools to remove. Both plaque and tartar are the major causes of tooth decay and gum disease.
If you are unable to remove plaque via regular flossing, a tool called an oral irrigator may help. Sometimes called a “water flosser” or “pick,” this device is designed to squirt a pulsing jet of high-pressure water through a hand-held wand. Special tips may be also available for use with braces or dental implants.
Since these devices first became widely available in the 1960s, they have been the subject of many studies. The general conclusion from the research has been that water irrigators can be helpful in controlling plaque — particularly in people who would otherwise have trouble doing so. For example, a 2008 study showed that orthodontic patients who used an irrigator with a special tip after brushing normally were able to remove five times as much plaque as those who used brushing alone.
Oral irrigators aren’t just for use in the home. Many dental offices use similar devices for special treatments that can help control gum disease. Of course, in that case, the professional-grade tool is handled by a specially trained dental hygienist, dentist, or periodontist — and it’s part of a procedure that may also involve other manual or power instruments, plus special cleaning solutions.
So does it make sense to use an oral irrigator instead of flossing? For most people, flossing is probably the best way to ensure that you remove as much plaque as possible. But if for some reason you aren’t able to floss effectively, using an oral irrigator offers some well-documented benefits. Why not ask us the next time you come in? We can help you decide which method is right for you, and even demonstrate the most effective techniques for plaque removal.
If you would like more information about oral irrigators, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cleaning Between Your Teeth: How Water Flossing Can Help.”
Lose a baby tooth when you're a young kid, no big deal — you'll grow another. Lose a permanent one and there's cause for concern. For one thing, tooth loss is often a symptom of an underlying oral health problem, such as tooth decay or gum disease, so it's important to identify the cause and treat it to prevent it from progressing. It is equally important to replace the tooth — not simply for the immediate impact it can have on your smile or bite, but for long-term function, esthetics and the health of the bone that supports your teeth.
The primary options for tooth replacement are fixed bridgework and dental implants. Both result in esthetically pleasing outcomes; the main difference is how each is attached. With a bridge, the replacement tooth, referred to as a “pontic,” uses the two natural teeth on either side of the gap — referred to as “abutments” — for support. The pontic is sandwiched between two other crowns, which fit over and are bonded or cemented to the teeth on either side of the gap. To ensure the companion crowns fit properly, the enamel must be removed from each abutment.
Placing dental implants, by contrast, involves working only on the affected area. The “implant” is actually a small titanium rod with spiraling threads just like a miniature screw that is carefully inserted into the jawbone as though it were a natural root. The replacement tooth, a customized crown, is secured to the end portion of the implant by way of an intermediary referred to as an abutment, which firmly anchors it in place.
Both bridges and implants are natural looking, functional, predictable, and reliable. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and based on your oral health, one may be more appropriate than the other.
If you would like more information on tooth loss and replacement, 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 “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth” and “Dental Implants vs. Bridgework.”
If you would like to improve the appearance of your smile, porcelain laminate veneers can whiten, brighten and even help straighten your teeth! Made of a thin layer of dental ceramic, porcelain veneers are physically bonded directly to the surface of your teeth, immediately enhancing your smile.
If you are considering a smile makeover, here are some other facts about porcelain laminate veneers that you might find interesting:
- Dental porcelain is used to create veneers that mimic natural tooth enamel perfectly. They require the removal of a minimal amount of surface enamel before application — about 0.5 millimeters to be exact. Because of this reduction, porcelain laminates are considered to be an irreversible treatment. The end results are high-strength, durable, and natural looking translucent tooth-like restorations.
- Fabricating a set of porcelain laminate veneers typically takes about a week, although times can vary. We will work closely with you and our dental laboratory technician to determine the exact color, shade and brightness that will best match your expectations for a new smile.
- Porcelain laminate veneers are the best restorative option if you have teeth that are in good position and alignment. They are also an excellent solution if you have small gaps between your teeth, or if your teeth are asymmetrically shaped or discolored. Porcelain laminate veneers cannot correct poor tooth position, bite relations or a poor profile. In these cases, orthodontic treatment may be necessary first.
- Porcelain laminate veneers can last anywhere from 7 to 20 years especially if the teeth they are bonded to don't undergo any major changes like gum line shrinkage, which may expose the root surfaces of the teeth.
- Due to their glass-like structure porcelain veneers can break. You should avoid doing things that might stress them, like opening pistachio nuts with your teeth or eating candy apples.
If you would like to discuss improving your smile with us using these impeccable restorations, please call our office today to schedule a consultation. To learn more about porcelain laminate veneers, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Smile Design Enhanced With Porcelain Veneers.”
For most people, replacing missing front teeth takes a higher priority over missing back teeth. The reason is obvious: others can see those missing in front, but not necessarily those in the back.
From a functional view, however, you should still consider replacing missing back teeth. Not only will it improve your chewing ability, it may also prevent a chain reaction of negative effects to your remaining teeth.
Teeth are held in place in the jawbone by a membrane called the periodontal ligament. The ligament is a living tissue that allows teeth to move to keep contact with adjacent and opposing teeth as natural wear occurs. When a space is created by a missing tooth, this natural movement accelerates and the teeth may shift beyond normal ranges.
As a result you can encounter excessive mobility of teeth from bite irregularities, uneven tooth wear, bone loss, potential painful problems with the temporo-mandibular joints (connecting the lower jaw to the skull), and a loss in facial height.
There are three basic options for this kind of tooth replacement. The best option is dental implants: these free-standing replacements don't normally affect surrounding teeth, they're easier to clean, and they help support the bite. On the downside, there must be enough remaining bone to support the implant.
The next best option is a fixed bridge. This option only works, however, if there are teeth on either side of the missing tooth space capable of supporting the bridge, and they must be reduced in size by removing the enamel with the dental drill. They also have a tendency to retain plaque, the main cause of gum disease.
That leaves the last, and least favorable, option, a removable partial denture. They may also trap food and be difficult to wear. They can move in the mouth, stressing — and possibly loosening — the remaining teeth that hold them in place. With all its drawbacks, though, if a partial denture is the only solution to missing back teeth, it's a better alternative than doing nothing and risking long-term problems.
If you would like more information on replacement options for back 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 “Replacing Back Teeth.”