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.”
Ninety percent of people have noticed bleeding from their gums when they brush or floss their teeth at some time or other. You may wonder if this is a result of brushing too hard — but that's not usually the case.
If your gums don't hurt — even if they bleed easily — you may think the bleeding is normal, nothing to worry about, or you're brushing too hard.
Bleeding from your gums is not normal!
It is an early warning sign of gum disease. In fact ten percent of those who start with bleeding gums go on to develop serious periodontal disease affecting the support for the teeth leading to tooth loss.
Then why do my gums bleed?
The way you brush your teeth is indeed a factor! Bacteria that normally reside in the mouth (in fact you need them to stay healthy) collect along the gum line in a biofilm. When the biofilm is not removed effectively on a daily basis, over time the gums become inflamed and bleed when touched. Other signs of inflamed gums — gingivitis — are redness and swelling, and even recession.
SO — the problem is not that you are brushing too hard, but that you are not brushing and/or flossing effectively. Both are important.
Three ways to stop bleeding gums before they lead to serious problems
- It all starts with brushing your teeth correctly at the gum line. Use a soft multi-tufted toothbrush. Hold it in the gum line and wiggle it gently until the tooth surfaces feel clean to your tongue — just like when you've had a professional cleaning. It doesn't take force, be gentle.
- It's just as important to remove biofilm from between the teeth where the toothbrush won't reach. If you are having difficulty flossing, we've got some easy demonstrations and instructional tips.
- Remember, as we say, “It's not the brush, it's the hand that holds it.”
Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about bleeding gums. Bring your toothbrush and floss with you to our office and ask us to demonstrate proper oral hygiene techniques. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Bleeding Gums: A very important warning sign of gum disease.”
In dentistry (as well as other branches of medicine) pediatric conscious sedation is becoming more widespread than ever — but some people aren’t yet familiar with this beneficial therapy. Conscious sedation can remove anxiety and produce a feeling of calm and relaxation during dental treatment; however, unlike general anesthesia, it doesn’t cause the loss of consciousness. That means patients can still breathe normally and can respond to certain stimuli, while feelings of pain and anxiety are blocked.
Conscious sedation is often employed for invasive procedures such as tooth extractions or root canals — which cause some people a great deal of apprehension, no matter what their age. It can be especially useful for children, however, who may have a more limited ability to understand (and cooperate with) their dental treatment. Because the medications are commonly administered orally (by mouth), there’s no needle to provoke fear. And when it’s over, there is usually little or no memory of the procedure that was done.
Pediatric conscious sedation is typically administered in an office setting by a dentist with special qualifications. The American Dental Association, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have jointly established criteria for its use. Specialized training and continuing education are part of the qualification process; additionally, the dental office must be equipped with advanced life-support equipment and trained staff, who can help in the unlikely case of an emergency.
While your child is receiving conscious sedation, he or she will be monitored by a designated staff member who keeps a close watch on vital signs like blood pressure, oxygen levels, pulse rate and respiration. This helps to ensure that the level of sedation remains safe, yet effective. When the procedure is over, the medications wear off quickly; however, children will certainly need a ride home, and shouldn’t return to school until the next day.
As new medications are developed, more dentists receive special training, and the cost of associated equipment becomes more reasonable, the practice of pediatric conscious sedation is becoming more widespread. For many kids, it could mean the difference between having fearful childhood memories of the dental office that linger on through life — and remembering almost nothing at all.
If your child has dental anxiety or requires invasive procedures, pediatric conscious sedation may be a good option for you to consider. For more information, call our office to arrange a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sedation Dentistry for Kids.”
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.”
Periodontal (gum) disease is sometimes called a “silent” malady — meaning that its symptoms don’t generally announce themselves with great fanfare (or pain, as conditions like tooth decay and root canal issues often do). Yet this disease is estimated to affect almost half of the adult population in the United States, causing deterioration of the gums and the bone surrounding the teeth… and possibly leading to bacterial infections, loss of teeth, and even systemic (whole-body) problems.
So what exactly is periodontal disease? Actually, it’s the broad name for a group of related diseases which attack the soft tissue of the gums and the tooth-supporting bone. Most periodontal diseases are caused by the buildup of harmful bacteria in a biofilm (thin, sticky layer), which coats teeth in the absence of effective oral hygiene. And yes, that means if you don’t brush and floss daily, you’re much more likely to develop gum disease.
Even the most attractive smile could have gum disease lurking beneath it. How do you know if you may be affected? Some early warning signs include redness or inflammation of the edges of the gums, a bad taste in your mouth or bad breath, plus any degree of bleeding when you brush your teeth (brushing should never cause gums to bleed). As the disease progresses, you may develop painful inflammation or a pus-filled abscess, bone loss, loose teeth… and eventually tooth loss.
But don’t wait until then to seek treatment! If you see your general dentist regularly, and if he or she notices signs of gum disease, you may be referred to a periodontist. But you don’t need a referral — you can simply make an appointment and come in for a check-up. That may be wise if you have noticed any warning signs — especially if it has been a while since you’ve had an exam. Periodontal disease may be a silent malady, but that doesn’t mean you have to let it affect your oral health.
If you would like more information about periodontal disease, call our office for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “When To See A Periodontist” and “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”