Posts for category: Oral Health
Nightly snoring can be a sign of a dangerous condition called sleep apnea (from “a” meaning without and “pnea” meaning breath). When someone snores the soft tissues in the back of the throat collapse onto themselves and obstruct the airway, causing the vibration known as snoring.
If the obstruction becomes serious, it is called obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. In such cases the flow of air may be stopped for brief periods, causing the person to wake for a second or two with a loud gasp as he attempts to catch his breath. This can cause heart and blood pressure problems, related to low oxygen levels in the blood. The obstruction and mini-awakening cycle can occur as many as 50 times an hour. A person with this condition awakens tired and faces the risk of accidents at work or while driving due to fatigue.
Studies show that sleep apnea patients are much more likely to suffer from heart attack, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, brain damage and strokes.
What can be done to treat OSA?
Snoring, apnea, and OSA occur more frequently in people who are overweight. So start with losing weight and exercising.
At our office, we can design oral appliances to wear while sleeping that will keep your airway open while you sleep. These appliances, which look like sports mouth guards, work by repositioning the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate and uvula (soft tissues in the back of the throat); stabilizing the lower jaw and tongue; and increasing the muscle tone of the tongue.
Another approach is to use a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) bedside machine. These machines send pressurized air through a tube connected to a mask covering the nose and sometimes the mouth. The pressurized air opens the airway so that breathing is not interrupted.
Much less frequently, jaw surgeries may be recommended to remove excess tissues in the throat. These would be done by specially trained oral surgeons or ear, nose and throat specialists.
Diagnosis and treatment of OSA is best accomplished by joint consultation with your physician and our office. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss snoring and OSA. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Sleep Disorders and Dentistry” and “Snoring and Sleep Apnea.”
Recent research has revealed a relationship between overall general health and proper care for your dentures. The evidence shows that oral bacteria have been implicated in bacterial endocarditis (“endo” – inside; “card” – heart), chronic obstructive pulmonary (lung) disease, generalized infections of the respiratory tract and other systemic diseases. This proves what you might not suspect — you need to pay attention to the care of your dentures to achieve optimal health. For this reason, we have put together this list of five great tips for caring for your dentures.
- Daily cleaning at home: It is critical that you thoroughly remove the bacterial biofilm in your mouth and on your dentures. This one tip alone will help minimize the likelihood of your developing inflammation (denture stomatitis) under your dentures.
- Don't boil your dentures: While cleaning is important, you should NEVER place your dentures into boiling water because it can damage and warp them.
- Don't wear your dentures 24/7: To help reduce or minimize denture stomatitis, you really should not wear your dentures 24/7. It is important to thoroughly clean them each night along with your mouth (as noted above), and then leave them out while you sleep. This will also slow down the bone loss that naturally occurs from the pressure caused by wearing dentures.
- Always store your dentures immersed in water: This tip is so important because it helps prevent your dentures from warping. And do not forget to change the water each day, as well as to clean the container in which you store them.
- Annual professional cleaning: Even though you may do an excellent job cleaning your teeth at home, you still need to come to our offices at least once a year for an examination, fit and function check, as well as a professional cleaning. During this cleaning, we will use our ultrasonic cleaners to minimize the biofilm that accumulates over time.
You probably know that tooth decay results when the bacteria in your mouth release acids after consuming sugars. After you eat sugars, particularly the type of sugar known as sucrose, increased acid in your mouth begins to dissolve the enamel and dentin in your teeth, and you end up with cavities.
What are the Types of Sugars?
Modern diets include several types of sugars. Most of these are fermented by oral bacteria, producing acids that are harmful to teeth.
- Sucrose (commonly known as sugar)
- Glucose (released from starch consumption)
- Lactose (milk sugar) — Less acid is produced from this type of sugar
- Fructose (found naturally in fruit and also added to many processed foods)
Recommended intake of “free sugars” is no more than 10 teaspoons per day. Note that a can of soda contains over 6 teaspoons! Soft drinks are the largest source of sugar consumption in the U.S. In 2003, for example, Americans drank an average of 52 gallons of soft drinks. Average per capita consumption of all sugars in the U.S. was 141.5 pounds (64.3 kg) one of the highest levels in the world.
Sugar substitute xylitol (which is chemically similar to sugar but does not cause decay) can be part of a preventive program to reduce or control tooth decay. Chewing gum sweetened with xylitol stimulates saliva flow and helps protect against decay.
Sugars Released from Starches
Starches are foods like rice, potatoes, or bread. When you eat refined starches, such as white bread and rice, enzymes in your saliva release glucose. However, these foods have a lower potential to produce decay than foods with added sugars. When sugars are added to starchy foods, as in baked products and breakfast cereals, the potential for decay increases.
Less refined starches such as whole grains require more chewing and stimulate secretion of saliva, which protects from harmful acids.
The Case for Fruit
Fresh fruit has not been shown to produce cavities, so it makes sense to eat them instead of sugary desserts and snacks. Dried fruit is more of a problem because the drying process releases free sugars.
Scientists don't know much about sleep even though it has been extensively studied. We do know that several hours of deep, restful sleep per night are essential for a healthy life.
Many people remain tired and unrefreshed, even after a full night's sleep. About a third of them are affected by sleep related breathing disorders (SRBD). Dentists can play a significant role in helping patients overcome these disorders, which range from frequent snoring to severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). If you think you may have such a disorder, read on.
Under normal conditions, your upper airway is open, allowing air to flow from your nose, through your throat, and into your lungs. If you suffer from SRBD, you experience frequent reductions in the flow of air to your lungs during sleep. You may not be aware of it, but sometimes your breathing may even stop for brief periods. These reductions happen when your tongue and other soft tissues in the back of your throat collapse backwards and block your upper airway or windpipe. You may briefly awaken as many as 50 times per night because of these breathing lapses. These brief awakenings, called micro-arousals, keep you from reaching the deep stages of sleep your body needs.
The resulting reduced oxygen flow to your heart and to your brain can cause serious damage. You will also be tired during the day and experience a lack of energy, even if you sleep for seven or eight hours per night. This constant drowsiness puts you at greater risk for accidents.
Because dentists generally see their patients at six-month or other regular intervals, we are in a good position to screen and refer patients with suspected SRBD to physicians for diagnosis and treatment. Dentists can also treat SRBD in a number of ways.
- One of these is Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT), in which a device that looks something like an orthodontic retainer holds your lower jaw in a forward position relative to your upper jaw, preventing your tongue and soft tissue from collapsing into your airway.
- Another consists of breathing equipment called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). The CPAP is a mask connected to a machine that pushes air into your lungs.
- Other treatments include oral surgery or orthodontia. The goal of these techniques is to increase the volume of air passing through your upper airway by pushing your tongue forward.
Medical insurance usually covers the cost of much of these treatments.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about sleep disorders and their treatments. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sleep Disorders and Dentistry.”
Just as you would expect, we highly recommend the use of protective mouthguards to anyone participating in contact sports or rigorous physical exercise. The primary reasons we feel this way are substantiated by evidence-based research and experience within our practice. If you don't think mouthguards are helpful, here are some facts you should know:
- Research conducted by the American Dental Association (ADA) found that individuals are 60 times more likely to damage their teeth when not wearing a mouthguard while engaged in contact sports or rigorous physical exercise. This shocking fact alone illustrates the importance of protective mouthguards.
- A study reported by the American Academy of General Dentistry (AAGD) found that mouthguards prevent more than 200,000 injuries to the mouth and/or teeth each year.
- Sports-related injuries often end-up in the emergency room; however, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that more than 600,000 of these visits involve injury or damage to the teeth and mouth.
- In addition to the trauma of having a tooth (or teeth) knocked out, individuals who have suffered from this type of injury may end up spending $10,000 to $20,000 per tooth over a lifetime for teeth that are not properly preserved and replanted. This staggering statistic is from the National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety.
- While protective mouthguards were first used in the sport of boxing during the 1920s, the ADA now recommends their use in 29 (and growing) different high contact sports and activities. Some of these include acrobatics, baseball, basketball, bicycling, field hockey, football, handball, ice hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, skateboarding, skiing, soccer, softball, volleyball and wrestling.
- It used to be that only males were considered when it came to needing mouthguards. However, recent studies have revealed that the growing interest and participation of females in these same sports and activities makes it just as important for them to protect their teeth.
To learn more about the importance of mouthguards, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Athletic Mouthguards.” You can also contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about protecting your mouth and teeth. And if you have already suffered from a dental injury, let us evaluate the damage and work with you to restore the health and beauty of your teeth.