Posts for: March, 2012
We'd like to take a moment to clarify why it is so important to wear the retainer(s) given to you after your orthodontic treatment. These devices, which literally “retain” your teeth in their new and improved positions, are not just for kids. Anyone who has recently had their teeth moved through orthodontics needs to wear them for the prescribed length of time. Here's why:
Though your teeth may now look perfectly aligned, research has shown that there is no “right” position for your teeth to be in that can assure they don't move again — no matter what age you are when treated for malocclusion (“mal” – bad; “occlusion” – bite). In fact, most people will see changes to their bite and tooth alignment as they get older, with or without orthodontic treatment.
For one thing, there is a natural tendency for bottom front teeth to undergo a gradual “uprighting” with age. This can cause them to crowd as they move toward the tongue. And it happens regardless of whether wisdom teeth are present.
In the case of teeth that have been straightened recently, a type of “memory” of their original position may cause them to drift back to it. This tendency gradually lessens, but it may be a problem for up to 18 months.
That's why it's crucial to follow our instructions for wearing retainers. Keep in mind that the plan we have given you is designed to achieve the best possible results in your individual case. Some people will need to wear retainers 24 hours per day, some just at night, and still others on an as-needed basis. You may have received a removable retainer or one that is secured to the back of your teeth. The important thing is to secure the results you've worked so hard to achieve.
You can read more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Importance of Orthodontic Retainers.”
Periodontal (gum) disease, though it may be invisible to everyone but your dentist, can have a powerful effect on your entire body. Not only is it dangerous to your teeth and jaws, but it can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, cause preterm births in pregnant women, and affect blood sugar control in diabetics.
Diabetics are our subject for today. Symptoms of diabetes include abnormally high levels of glucose (a form of sugar) in the blood, leading to frequent urination, excessive thirst, blurred vision, unexplained weight loss, and loss of energy. The disease can also cause severe complications in various parts of the body.
Normally, glucose, your body's main energy source, is kept under control by a hormone called insulin, which is made by an organ called the pancreas. In type 1 diabetes, a person's pancreas does not produce enough insulin to deal with all the glucose in his or her blood. In type 2 diabetes — a condition related to increased age, physical inactivity, overweight, and heredity — the pancreas may produce enough insulin, but the body is not able to use it effectively. This condition is called insulin resistance.
People with type 1 diabetes need insulin to survive. Type 2 may be treated with exercise, diet, medications, and insulin supplements.
Serious complications of diabetes range from kidney failure, blindness, and nerve damage to infections that do not heal, gangrene and amputation of limbs.
Diabetes and periodontal disease seem to have reciprocal effects on each other. Diabetics are more likely to have periodontal disease than non-diabetics; and those with periodontal disease are likely to face worsening blood sugar control over time.
Periodontal disease (from “peri”, meaning around and “odont”, meaning tooth), is caused by dental plaque — a film of bacteria that settles on your teeth and gums every day. It's what you remove with daily brushing and flossing. Any bacteria that remain cause inflammation, which can lead in the worst cases to loss of bone and eventual loss of teeth.
The close relationship of diabetes and periodontal disease probably results from changes in the function of immune cells responsible for healing. Inflammation is a part of normal wound healing — but chronic or prolonged inflammation can destroy the tissues it was meant to heal. This may be a major factor in the destructive complications of diabetes.
Many of these complications begin in the blood vessels. Like the eyes and the kidneys, gum tissues are rich in blood vessels. Gum tissues are also under constant attack from bacteria. If you are a diabetic, effective plaque control, along with regular professional dental cleaning, can have positive effects not only on periodontal disease, but also on control of your blood glucose level.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about periodontal disease and its connections with diabetes. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Diabetes & Periodontal Disease.”
There's a lot to like about dental implants, today's state-of-the-art tooth-replacement system. We consider them the best choice for replacing missing teeth because implants are:
You may not realize this, but when a tooth is missing, the bone underneath it begins to melt away. That's because bone needs constant stimulation to rebuild itself and stay healthy, and it receives this stimulation from teeth. It's a delicate balance that's disrupted by the loss of even one tooth. Because implants are made of biocompatible titanium, they actually fuse to the bone and prevent bone loss.
The fusion of implant to bone is an extremely solid connection. Not only does it offer a strong replacement for a missing tooth, but it can also offer support to other tooth-replacement methods such as fixed bridges or dentures. By themselves, these other methods would not preserve bone and might even hasten its loss in the case of dentures. But with implants, bone-loss is prevented — as is embarrassing and uncomfortable slippage of dentures.
When you receive your implant, it is left alone for a few months to complete the fusion process described above. Then it is topped with a crown made of a realistic tooth-like material. The result is so convincing as a tooth replacement, only you and your dentist may be able to tell it's not a natural tooth.
Dental implants have an amazing success rate — over 97%. And once they fuse to the jawbone, they should never need replacement. In fact, they will likely outlast the crowns to which they are attached, but this is not a problem. Implant crowns are precision components that detach for easy replacement, should the need arise.
Implants have a higher initial cost than other forms of tooth replacement, but when you consider how long they last, they are very economical. Consider it an investment in your health, appearance and self-confidence.
You can read more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”
Research has revealed that over 12 million Americans suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a condition that occurs when the upper airway (tissues at the back of the mouth and throat) collapse causing significant airflow disruption or even no airflow whatsoever for 10 seconds or more. It can leave you feeling tired, depressed, irritable, as well as cause memory loss and poor concentration. But, did you know that we can help treat your sleep apnea?
The primary method dentists who are trained in sleep medicine use to treat OSA is through the use of an oral appliance. Similar in look to an orthodontic retainer or sports mouthguard, oral appliances are designed to maintain an opened, unobstructed, upper airway during sleep. And while there are many different oral appliances available in the marketplace, less than 20 have been approved through the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for treating sleep apnea. The key to success is to avoid those over-the-counter (OTC), generic mouthguards and instead use a professionally made and custom-fitted oral appliance, made from a precise models of your teeth and mouth. They are best at keeping your airway open and preventing the muscles and soft tissues from sagging down when relaxed during sleep. Other advantages of custom-fit oral appliances are that they can reposition your lower jaw, tongue, soft palate and uvula (the tissue in the back of the throat that dangles like a punching bag); stabilize your lower jaw and tongue; and increase the muscle tone of your tongue.
But Is Treatment Really That Important?
Absolutely! If undiagnosed and/or left untreated, sleep apnea can be life threatening. It can cause heart attacks, strokes, impotence, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and heart disease — many of which can kill you.
Want To Learn More?
To learn more about sleep apnea, read the Dear Doctor article, “Snoring & Sleep Apnea.” Or if you are ready for a thorough examination and to discuss your snoring, contact us today to schedule an appointment.
CAMBRA — Caries Management By Risk Assessment
Worried about tooth decay? Dental Decay is one of the most common and infectious diseases known to man, but it is also very preventable. Today, it is even possible to determine your risk for getting tooth decay. There are disease indicators and risk indicators that can be assessed and used to determine your chances of getting tooth decay. And more importantly, they can be used to prevent and reverse early decay.
Essentially, the difference between healthy teeth and tooth decay is a matter of balance and keeping the balance tipped toward health. That means controlling the factors that tip it toward health and away from disease. Here's a little about how it works:
Disease indicators, as the name implies, are indicators of disease. For example, the presence of white spots on the enamel of your teeth, early signs of decay, which can be detected by your dentist, your past experience of cavities, and whether you currently have tooth decay.
Today, with a “simple saliva sample,” we can test the bacteria in your mouth to determine your decay risk with a simple meter reading.
There are also certain risk factors for tooth decay that you can change by modifying what you do. The ways in which you can help yourself include:
- Reduce the amount of bacterial plaque (biofilm) build-up on your teeth. If plaque is actually visible on your teeth with the naked eye, it means there is a large amount that needs to be removed professionally. High levels of bacteria leave teeth more susceptible to attack from acid-producing bacteria that cause decay.
- Stop snacking on foods containing sugar between meals. Reducing the number of times your teeth are exposed to sugary snacks, and those that contain high amounts of refined carbohydrates, will help lower your risk of tooth decay. Stop feeding the bacteria sugar, which is turned into acid.
- Use fluoride toothpaste. This toothpaste will help strengthen your teeth, making them more resistant to acid attack. Deep grooves in the biting surfaces of your teeth, which we call pits and fissures, increase the likelihood of tooth decay making it impossible to reach with just a toothbrush. However, sealing these areas with “sealants” will prevent these areas from decaying.
- Always ask your doctors about the potential side effects of all medications. Certain drugs reduce the production of saliva and lead to dry mouth, which is one of the main contributors to tooth decay. Saliva has important buffering properties, neutralizing acids in the mouth, helping to reduce risk of decay.
- If you have an eating disorder, get professional help. People suffering from both bulimia and anorexia frequently vomit after meals, which creates a highly acidic condition in the mouth. Getting control over these conditions can help you also gain control over your risk for tooth decay.
We can further help assess your risk for tooth decay by using low dosage x-rays, microscopes, innovative laser technology, and other modern means. Call our office today to schedule a screening. To learn more about the diagnosis and prognosis of tooth decay, read the exclusive Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay: How To Assess Your Risk.”