Posts for category: Oral Health
Discovering how pain and anxiety complicated disease care, many ancient civilizations turned to natural substances like root herbs or alcohol to ease their effect. Today, we've developed more effective agents, which enable patients to undergo many treatments they would otherwise be unable to endure.
There's been immense progress in particular in methods for reducing patient anxiety during dental treatment. In contrast to physical pain, anxiety is more aptly defined as mental discomfort. Dental anxiety, the apprehension a person feels at the prospect of dental care, can be serious enough that a person avoids dental care altogether, even with serious teeth or gum issues.
Adages like "Just suck it up and get through it" can be hollow words to someone with serious dental anxiety. Today's dentist understands that anxiety is very real and a serious impediment to care. Fortunately, modern dentistry has effective measures to alleviate it.
This commonly involves an approach with two phases. In the first, the patient takes an oral sedative an hour or so before the appointment to produce an initial calming effect. In the second phase at the appointment, the dentist initiates intravenous or IV sedation, a deeper application that continues throughout the treatment session.
With IV sedation, we deliver the sedative medication through a small needle inserted into a patient's vein, placing the patient in a highly relaxed state. Unlike general anesthesia, which renders a patient unconscious, sedated individuals remain somewhat awake, often able to respond to verbal commands or physical stimuli.
In further contrast to general anesthesia, IV sedation doesn't require assisting patients with breathing or circulation. Even so, one of the treatment staff will continue to monitor vital signs while the patient is sedated.
Since the introduction of Pentothal in the 1930s, the first sedative used for medical and dental procedures, we've developed other safe and effective sedatives that flush from the body quickly and have few after-effects. Many have an amnesiac effect, so that the patient remembers little or nothing at all about the procedure.
Sedation therapy can accomplish two things. First, an anxious patient can have a more positive experience during dental treatment. And, as these positive experiences accumulate, a patient prone to anxiety may develop a readiness to receive treatment before a problem goes too far.
If you would like more information on dental sedation techniques, 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 “IV Sedation in Dentistry.”
Alcoholic beverages are interwoven within many cultures across the globe, but this "social lubricant" also has a dark side. Alcohol can become an overwhelming, addictive substance that wrecks relationships and careers, not to mention physical health. In regard to the latter, the teeth, mouth and gums aren't immune.
April is Alcohol Awareness Month, sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Throughout the month, healthcare providers, including dentists, highlight the damage heavy alcohol consumption can wrought on physical, emotional and social health. Abstaining or bringing alcohol consumption within recommended limits can improve your life—and your oral health.
While the effects of too much alcohol on general health are well known, it's easy to overlook its connection with dental disease, but it does exist for a number of reasons.
First, many alcoholic beverages and mixers contain high amounts of sugar. Harmful bacteria living in dental plaque, a thin film on tooth surfaces, feed on sugar. The bacteria are then able to multiply, which, increases your chances for gum disease, one of the leading causes of tooth loss.
Many alcoholic drinks also contain high amounts of acid. That, coupled with the acid produced by bacteria, can soften and erode tooth enamel, leading to unpleasant outcomes like increased tooth sensitivity or tooth decay. Like gum disease, advanced tooth decay can also cause tooth loss.
Alcohol consumption also causes dehydration, which in turn can have an effect on the mouth: With less water available, the salivary glands produce less saliva. Because saliva helps neutralize oral acid and fights pathogens leading to dental disease, having less of it available can make your mouth more susceptible to disease and infection.
To avoid these unfortunate consequences, it's important to either forgo drinking alcohol or keep your consumption within moderate limits. Those limits for you individually may depend on things like your age, weight, genetic background and overall health. Generally, though, U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 1 serving of alcohol (akin to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits) per day for women and two for men.
If you're a drinker, you should also look out for your oral health in other ways. Brush and floss your teeth daily to remove harmful dental plaque, and eat a balanced and nutritious diet, rich in vitamins and minerals. You should visit your dentist at least twice a year for cleanings and checkups.
Regardless of your relationship to alcohol, it's a part of life you should take seriously. Drinking responsibly not only protects you and others around you, but it can also protect your dental health.
If you would like more information about alcohol and dental health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nutrition: Its Role in General and Oral Health.”
Fun fact about the NCAA basketball championship tournament, affectionately known as March Madness: financial website WalletHub says your chances of filling out a perfect bracket are 1 in 9.2 quintillion (a scratch-off from your corner bodega looks like a sound investment in comparison!). Now, here's a not-so-fun fact about basketball in general: Nearly half of all sports-related mouth injuries occur while playing hoops.
Yikes! Not to put a damper on all the revelry, but facts being facts, it's better to face them head-on. Fortunately, there's a proven way to drastically reduce the odds your star basketball player suffers an oral injury—have them wear an athletic mouthguard.
Mouthguards have been essential gear in sports like football, hockey, or wrestling for some time. Made of soft, pliable plastic, mouthguards cushion the impact of a hard blow to the face or mouth. Wearing a mouthguard often means the difference between a sore jaw and a broken one—or even losing teeth.
Mouthguards are now growing in prominence in a wider array of sports, including basketball and baseball (which makes up a substantial part of the other half of annual mouth injuries). Many youth basketball leagues now require them, and although they're not mandated in the NBA, most pro players wear them.
Simply put, wearing a mouthguard for basketball is a smart play. Here, then, are 3 tips for getting the most out of this important safety appliance.
Get a custom-made mouthguard. You can buy a retail mouthguard called a "boil and bite" that can be somewhat customized to fit the wearer's bite, but you should consider a custom appliance created by your dentist based on the wearer's mouth dimensions. Although more expensive, they don't require as much material as the retail version. This makes them more comfortable to wear (and easier to communicate with others), while still providing maximum protection.
Get it updated every few seasons. Young players' jaws change rapidly during their childhood and teenage years. The measurements used to create a mouthguard may be obsolete after a couple of seasons—meaning the mouthguard may lose its proper fit. That's why it's a good idea to have your dentist check the fit each year and, if need be, create a new one based on your player's current mouth.
Wear it for all basketball activities. Formal contests only make up a small part of basketball activities—an organized team often practices five hours or more for every hour of game play. A player is just as likely to be injured practicing (or during pick-up games) as they are during real-time games. As a rule of thumb, then, any time your player goes on the court, they should wear their mouthguard.
Today, when you undergo treatment to repair or replace problem teeth, you have the advantage of the most advanced dental materials ever developed. These materials help make current dental restorations not only more lifelike, but also more durable than they've ever been.
“Durable,” however, doesn't mean “indestructible”: The same microscopic enemies that damaged your natural teeth could also undermine your dental work. True, the actual materials that compose your dental work are impervious to bacterial infection. But your restoration is supported by natural teeth, the gums or underlying bone—all of which are susceptible to disease.
If these supporting structures weaken due to disease, it could cause your filling, veneer, bridge or other restoration to fail. But here's how you can minimize this risk and help extend the life of your dental work.
Practice daily hygiene. The main cause for tooth decay or gum disease is a thin film of bacteria and food particles on your teeth called dental plaque. Brushing and flossing each day removes plaque and helps ensure your teeth and gums, and by extension your dental work, stay healthy and sound.
Eat less sugar. Disease-causing bacteria feed primarily on carbohydrates, especially added sugar. By reducing your intake of sugary snacks, foods and beverages, you can help deter the growth of these harmful bacteria and reduce your risk of dental disease.
Reduce teeth grinding. The involuntary habit of grinding teeth could shorten the longevity of your dental work. Your dentist can help by developing a custom-fitted guard that prevents your teeth from making solid contact with each other. You may also benefit from relaxation techniques to reduce stress, a major factor in teeth grinding.
See your dentist regularly. A dental cleaning with your dentist removes any plaque you may have missed, as well as a hardened form called tartar, which further reduces your disease risk. Your dentist may also detect and treat early forms of dental disease and limit any damage to your dental work.
Taking steps to keep your mouth free of disease will optimize your dental health. It will also help protect your current restorations from damage and loss.
If you would like more information on caring for dental work, 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 “Extending the Life of Your Dental Work.”
Millions of Americans live with osteoporosis, a degenerative bone disease that can turn a minor fall into a potential bone fracture. Literally meaning "porous bone," osteoporosis causes the natural marrow spaces in bone tissue to progressively grow larger and weaken the remaining bone.
Many osteoporosis patients take medication to slow the disease's process. But due to the dynamic nature of bone, some of these drugs can have unintended consequences—consequences that could affect dental care.
As living tissue, bone is literally "coming and going." Certain cells called osteoblasts continuously produce new bone, while others called osteoclasts remove older tissue to make way for the new. Drugs like bisphosphonates and RANKL inhibitors interrupt this process by destroying some of the osteoclasts.
As a result, more of the older bone remains past its normal lifespan, helping the bone overall to retain strength. But ongoing research is beginning to hint that this may only be a short-term gain. The older, longer lasting bone is more fragile than newer bone, and tends to become more brittle and prone to fracture the longer a patient takes the drug. This tissue can also die but still remain intact, a condition known as osteonecrosis.
The femur (the large upper leg bone) and the jawbone are the bones of the body most susceptible to osteonecrosis. Dentists are most concerned when this happens in the latter: Its occurrence could lead to complications during invasive procedures like oral surgery or implant placement.
Because of this possibility, you should keep your dentist informed regarding any treatments you're undergoing for osteoporosis, especially when planning upcoming dental procedures like oral surgery or implant placement. You might be able to lower your risk by taking a "drug holiday," coming off of certain medications for about three months before your dental work.
As always, you shouldn't stop medication without your doctor's guidance. But research has shown drug holidays of short duration won't worsen your osteoporosis. If you're already showing signs of osteonecrosis in the jaw, a short absence from your prescription along with antiseptic mouthrinses and heightened oral hygiene could help reverse it.
Fortunately, the risk for dental complications related to osteoporosis medication remains low. And, by working closely with both your dentist and your physician, you can ensure it stays that way.
If you would like more information on osteoporosis and your dental care, 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 “Osteoporosis Drugs & Dental Treatment.”