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Posts for category: Oral Health

By Dear Doctor
May 30, 2019
Category: Oral Health
Tags: sleep apnea   snoring  
YourDentistmayhavetheSolutionforYourSleepApnea

Your nightly snoring has become a major sleep disturbance for you and other family members. But it may be more than an irritation — it could also be a sign of sleep apnea, a condition that increases your risk for life-threatening illnesses like high blood pressure or heart disease.

Sleep apnea most often occurs when the tongue or other soft tissues block the airway during sleep. The resulting lack of oxygen triggers the brain to wake the body to readjust the airway. This waking may only last a few seconds, but it can occur several times a night. Besides its long-term health effects, this constant waking through the night can result in irritability, drowsiness and brain fog during the day.

One of the best ways to treat sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. This requires an electric pump that supplies constant pressurized air to a face mask worn during sleep to keep the airway open. But although effective, many patients find a CPAP machine clumsy and uncomfortable to wear. That's why you may want to consider an option from your family dentist called oral appliance therapy (OAT).

An OAT device is a custom-made appliance that fits in the mouth like a sports mouthguard or orthodontic retainer. The majority of OAT appliances use tiny metal hinges to move the lower jaw and tongue forward to make the airway larger, thus improving air flow. Another version works by holding the tongue away from the back of the throat, either by holding the tongue forward like a tongue depressor or with a small compartment fitted around the tongue that holds it back with suction.

Before considering an OAT appliance, your dentist may refer you to a sleep specialist to confirm you have sleep apnea through laboratory or home testing. If you do and you meet other criteria, you could benefit from an OAT appliance. There may be other factors to consider, though, so be sure to discuss your options with your dentist or physician to find the right solution for a better night's sleep.

If you would like more information on sleep apnea treatments, 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 “Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea.”

StopTeethGrindingNowBeforeitCreatesDentalProblemsLater

Chronic stress is like a tea kettle on the boil—all that “steam” has to go somewhere. We often do this through behaviors like biting our nails, binging on comfort food—or grinding our teeth. That latter habit, however, could have a detrimental effect on teeth, including excessive enamel wear or even fractures.

Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding is the forceful and often involuntary contacting of teeth that often generates abnormally high chewing forces. While not considered a relatively big problem with young children, it can be if you’re an adult. While there could be other causes, chronic stress is often a ┬áprime factor for adults with bruxism.

While teeth grinding can occur during the day when you’re awake, it often occurs at night during sleep and may be associated with other sleep disorders like snoring. Although you might not be consciously aware of a grinding episode as it happens, you may notice its effects the next morning, including sore jaws or headaches. Over time, your dentist may begin noticing its effects on your teeth.

So, how can you lessen teeth grinding? For starters, if you’re a tobacco user, quit the habit. Many studies indicate tobacco users report twice the incidence of teeth grinding as non-users. Excessive caffeine, alcohol or drug use can also contribute.

People have also found it helpful to address chronic stress through a number of relaxation techniques like meditation, more relaxing bedtime preparation, bio-feedback or therapy to “de-stress.” Although there’s not a lot of empirical evidence for these techniques’ effectiveness, there’s much anecdotal data from people who’ve found stress relief from them.

There’s also a dental treatment using an occlusal guard that, while not stopping bruxism, can help prevent dental damage. Usually worn during sleep, the custom-made guard fits over the teeth of one jaw, usually the upper. Its high impact plastic prevents the teeth from making solid contact, thus reducing the biting force. You may also be able to reduce bruxism effects through dental work and orthodontics,

You and your dentist can explore the options to find the right treatment strategy for you. By taking action now, you may avoid much more extensive—and expensive—problems with your teeth down the road.

If you would like more information on teeth grinding and what to do about it, 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 “Teeth Grinding: Causes and Therapies for a Potentially Troubling Behavior.”

By Dear Doctor
April 30, 2019
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
WhatYouShoulddoAboutThisBizarreDrugSideEffect

Drugs play an indispensable role in treating disease. For example, life without antibiotics would be much more precarious—common infections we think nothing of now would suddenly become life-threatening.

But even the most beneficial drug can have disruptive side effects. Antibiotics in particular can cause a rare but still disturbing one: a growth on the tongue that at first glance looks like dark hair. In fact, it's often called "black hairy tongue."

It isn't hair—it's an overgrowth of naturally occurring structures on the tongue called filiform papillae. These tiny bumps on the tongue's upper surface help grip food while you're chewing. They're normally about a millimeter in length and tend to be scraped down in the normal course of eating. As they're constantly growing, they replenish quickly.

We're not sure how it occurs, but it seems with a small portion of the population the normal growth patterns of the papillae become unbalanced after taking antibiotics, particularly those in the tetracycline family. Smoking and poor oral hygiene also seem to contribute to this growth imbalance. As a result, the papillae can grow as long as 18 millimeters with thin shafts resembling hair. It's also common for food debris and bacteria to adhere to this mass and discolor it in shades of yellow, green, brown or black.

While it's appearance can be bizarre or even frightening, it's not health-threatening. It's mostly remedied by removing the original cause, such as changing to a different antibiotic or quitting smoking, and gently cleaning the tongue everyday by brushing it or using a tongue scraper you can obtain from a pharmacy.

One word of caution: don't stop any medication you suspect of a side effect without first discussing it with your prescribing doctor. While effects like black hairy tongue are unpleasant, they're not harmful—and you don't want to interfere with treatments for problems that truly are.

If you would like more information on reactions to medication that might affect your oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By Dear Doctor
April 10, 2019
Category: Oral Health
BeyonceMakesFlossingaFamilyAffair

As is the case with most celebs today, Beyonce is no stranger to sharing on social media… but she really got our attention with a video she recently posted on instagram. The clip shows the superstar songstress — along with her adorable three-year old daughter Blue Ivy — flossing their teeth! In the background, a vocalist (sounding remarkably like her husband Jay-Z) repeats the phrase “flossin’…flossin’…” as mom and daughter appear to take care of their dental hygiene in time with the beat: https://instagram.com/p/073CF1vw07/?taken-by=beyonce

We’re happy that this clip highlights the importance of helping kids get an early start on good oral hygiene. And, according to authorities like the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, age 3 is about the right time for kids to begin getting involved in the care of their own teeth.

Of course, parents should start paying attention to their kids’ oral hygiene long before age three. In fact, as soon as baby’s tiny teeth make their first appearance, the teeth and gums can be cleaned with a soft brush or cloth and a smear of fluoride toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice. Around age 3, kids will develop the ability to spit out toothpaste. That’s when you can increase the amount of toothpaste a little, and start explaining to them how you clean all around the teeth on the top and bottom of the mouth. Depending on your child’s dexterity, age 3 might be a good time to let them have a try at brushing by themselves.

Ready to help your kids take the first steps to a lifetime of good dental checkups? Place a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste on a soft-bristled brush, and gently guide them as they clean in front, in back, on all surfaces of each tooth. At first, it’s a good idea to take turns brushing. That way, you can be sure they’re learning the right techniques and keeping their teeth plaque-free, while making the experience challenging and fun.

Most kids will need parental supervision and help with brushing until around age 6. As they develop better hand-eye coordination and the ability to follow through with the cleaning regimen, they can be left on their own more. But even the best may need some “brushing up” on their tooth-cleaning techniques from time to time.

What about flossing? While it’s an essential part of good oral hygiene, it does take a little more dexterity to do it properly. Flossing the gaps between teeth should be started when the teeth begin growing close to one another. Depending on how a child’s teeth are spaced, perhaps only the back ones will need to be flossed at first. Even after they learn to brush, kids may still need help flossing — but a floss holder (like the one Beyonce is using in the clip) can make the job a lot easier.

If you would like more information about maintaining your children’s oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Top 10 Oral Health Tips For Children” and “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”

AClearDiagnosisofJawPainisNeededtoDeterminetheRightTreatment

A blow to the face can result in a variety of injuries to your jaws and the temporomandibular joints (TMJs) that join the lower jaw to the skull. Only a thorough examination can determine the type and extent of the injury, and how to treat it.

The pain you feel in your jaw may indicate a direct injury, usually near the joint. This could mean the joint head (condyle) has dislocated, or moved out of the joint space. It could also mean you’ve fractured your lower jaw, most commonly just below the head of the joint.

Jaw pain can also indicate structures near the jaw and joint have been damaged and the jaw is indirectly affected. In some cases a damaged tooth may be radiating pain signals through the jaw (along similar nerve paths). More likely, trauma to soft tissue near the jaw joint has swelled with inflammation, putting pressure on the joint and temporarily stopping the condyle from seating fully in the joint space.

Any of these injuries can also cause painful muscle spasms, a defensive reaction from the body that causes muscles on either side of the jaw to limit movement preventing further damage (a natural splint, if you will). Thus, the pain may be compounded by a diminished range of motion when you try to chew or speak.

It’s important, therefore, to determine the exact cause of pain and limited movement before commencing treatment. Spasms and inflammation are usually treated with muscle relaxant drugs and anti-inflammatory pain relievers. In the case of a dislocation, gentle manipulation can ease the condyle back into the joint space. A fracture would require more extensive treatment, including repositioning broken bone and immobilizing the jaw from movement to allow healing. In the most severe cases, surgical treatment may be necessary to internally immobilize the joint.

If you sustain an injury that results in jaw swelling and pain, you should see us without delay. The sooner we can diagnose and begin the proper treatment for your injury, the less likely you’ll encounter long-term problems and the sooner you’ll be pain and swelling free.

If you would like more information on the causes and treatment of jaw pain, 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 “Jaw Pain.”