Posts for tag: oral health
Tooth sensitivity is an issue that can range from a slight twinge at times to downright excruciating pain. However, before we continue, understanding the cause of tooth sensitivity is helpful to both relieving and treating it.
Tooth enamel is inert in that it has no nerve supply and thus it protects the teeth from temperature and pressure changes — the main cause of sensitivity. Once it is compromised, worn thin, or exposed due to gum recession, it leaves the delicate nerve fibers within the dentin vulnerable to touch, acid, and temperature change. These nerve fibers most often grab your attention when they come in contact with heat, cold, or a “double whammy” combination of both cold and sweet. They also become sensitive to touch — even the bristles of a soft toothbrush can irritate exposed dentin.
As for the causes of tooth sensitivity, one common cause we see is aggressive brushing. Yes, too much brushing can be bad for you! To be more specific, excessive, improper brushing with a sawing back and forth motion can erode the gum tissues, expose, wear, and even groove the dentin. Another cause for sensitivity can be from the destructive process of tooth decay that eats through the enamel and into the dentin.
If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity or have questions about this condition, please contact us to schedule an appointment. Or you can learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sensitive Teeth.”
Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD), which was formerly known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ), is a condition that is unusual in that it frequently is quite hard to diagnose, because it often mimics many other conditions. For this reason, many healthcare professionals refer to it as “the great imposter.” The condition arises when there are problems inside the temporomandibular joint and the muscles that attach to it causing pain. The pain is most often due to muscle spasm, thereby limiting the ability to open and close the jaw and to function normally. TMD can impact anyone and has a wide range of similar symptoms.
One of the common causes of TMD is stress, and it may manifest itself through clenching or grinding of teeth while awake or asleep. These habits are often completely subconscious until pointed out by a dental professional or sleeping partner. With stress-induced TMD, the pain often comes and goes in cycles. In other words, it may be present when you are stressed, seem to disappear for a while, and then reappear when you are stressed again. Another cause of TMD can be from an injury or trauma, such as a blow to the jaw. However, regardless of the cause of TMD, the pain is real and needs to be treated properly.
If you feel that you might have TMD, please let us know so that we can address your concerns, starting with a full history and conducting a thorough examination. Or if you are in constant or severe pain, contact us immediately to schedule an appointment. You can learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for TMD by reading “TMD — Understanding The Great Imposter.”
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.”
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.
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.