Posts for category: Oral Health
Even after decades emphasizing oral hygiene and supplemental fluoride to fight dental disease, we’re now seeing an increase in tooth decay, especially among children. What’s causing this alarming trend?
Many in both the dental and medical professions link this and other health problems to a rise in the amount and consumption of sugar added to food products. A number of years ago our annual average consumption of added sugar was about 4 pounds per person; today, it’s closer to 90 pounds.
The increase in sugar consumption can be traced to the 1970s when the food industry began adding more sugar to make processed foods stripped of oils and fats taste better. Today, 77% of the approximately 600,000 food items sold in the United States contain some form of sugar (under a variety of names).
This additional sugar, however, has produced an unintended consequence: sugar triggers the release of a brain chemical called dopamine that regulates our sense of reward when we engage in a desirable behavior. The excess dopamine creates a weak addiction to sugar, which then leads to overconsumption, contributing to our current obesity epidemic and the rise in health problems like heart disease or Type 2 diabetes. This is especially alarming among children: thirty years ago Type 2 diabetes was unheard of among children — today there are over 55,000 diagnosed pediatric cases.
For both you and your family’s general and dental health, you should consider ways to reduce your sugar intake: purchase and eat most of your food from the “outer edges” of your supermarket — meats, dairy, and fresh vegetables and fruits (which do contain the sugar fructose, but are mostly fiber that slows the liver’s processing of the sugar); limit processed foods with added sugar, and learn to recognize its inclusion in products by reading ingredients labels. You should also be wary of sweetened beverages such as sodas, sports drinks, teas or juices, and try to drink more water.
The recommended daily sugar consumption is less than six teaspoons a day (about two-thirds the amount in one can of soda). By restricting this consumption, you’ll improve your general health and reduce your risk for dental disease.
Sleep apnea, a form of sleep-related breathing disorders that is estimated to affect some 22 million Americans, is sometimes thought of as the “quiet culprit” lurking behind many other maladies. But ask anyone who sleeps alongside a sufferer, and you'll get a different response: It isn't quiet at all! Instead, it's often marked by loud snoring and scary episodes where breathing seems to stop. If you've ever worried that you or someone you care about may have this condition, here are five facts you should know.
1) Sleep apnea is a potentially deadly disease
For one thing, it leads to chronic fatigue that can make accidents far more likely — a special concern in potentially dangerous situations, like operating machinery or driving a vehicle. It also appears to be related to heart conditions such as high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, coronary artery disease, and even stroke. Plus, it can lead to weight gain, depression and mood disorders.
2) People with sleep apnea may wake hundreds of times every night
These “micro-arousals” may occur 50 or more times per hour, and may keep a person from getting any relaxing sleep — even though they retain no memory of the episodes. That's why people who suffer from sleep apnea often go through their days on the verge of exhaustion. And they aren't the only ones who suffer: Their bed partners may also be kept up throughout the night, becoming anxious and irritable.
3) Persistent snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea
Snoring is caused when breath being drawn into the lungs is obstructed by soft tissue structures in the upper airway. Most everyone snores sometimes… but chronic loud snoring is a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) — and the louder and more frequent the snoring, the greater the likelihood of OSA. To confirm a diagnosis of sleep apnea, a sleep study using special monitors may be conducted in a clinical setting, or an at-home test may be used.
4) Your dentist may be able to help diagnose and treat sleep apnea
What does dentistry have to do with sleep apnea? For one thing, sleep apnea is a disease that involves structures in the oral cavity — an area dentists are quite familiar with. Sometimes, fatigued folks who suffer from OSA begin snoring when they recline in the dental chair, showing their symptoms firsthand. But even if their patients don't fall asleep, dentists with proper training are recognized by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) as being able to provide first line therapy for mild to moderate sleep disorders.
5) An oral appliance is a good step to try before more invasive treatments
If it's appropriate in your situation, your dentist can custom-fabricate an oral appliance that may alleviate sleep-related breathing disorders. This device, worn while you're sleeping, helps to maintain an open airway in the throat and to reduce breathing problems. With a success rate of around 80%, in many cases it's comparable to the more complex CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machines, but people often find it easier to wear. Plus, it's a non-invasive treatment that can be explored before deciding on a more involved treatment, such as surgery.
If you would like more information about dentistry and sleep problems, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Sleep Disorders and Dentistry” and “Sleep Apnea FAQs.”
Chronic pain and reduced function of the jaw joints, muscles and other surrounding tissues is generally known as a temporo-mandibular joint disorder (TMJD or TMD). It’s also possible that sufferers of TMD may also experience chronic pain in other parts of the body.
TMD affects from 10 million to 36 million American adults, mostly women of childbearing age. Although the exact causes are still elusive, most researchers believe this family of conditions arises from a combination of gender, genetic, environmental and behavioral factors. This may also hold the key to its connection with other painful conditions in the body.
About two-thirds of patients with some form of chronic jaw pain or disability also suffer from three or more similar medical conditions, including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, headaches or sleep disturbances. Investigating the connections between these conditions is a fertile area for developing treatment strategies that would benefit all of these associated conditions.
In the meantime, there are both thermal and surgical treatments for alleviating and managing pain associated with TMD. About 90% of TMD patients respond well to thermal treatments, including hot and cold compresses applied to the jaw area and hot baths. Surgical treatment, however, has a mixed result: some studies show only a third of those undergoing surgical procedures experience noticeable pain relief and restored function and nearly half indicate worse symptoms after the surgery.
The best approach is to begin with an examination by your primary physician or specialist to be sure you are not suffering from a medical condition mimicking the symptoms of TMD. If this should eventually lead to a diagnosis of TMD, you should first try thermal techniques with over-the-counter pain relievers to ease the symptoms. A diet with softer foods that don’t require strenuous chewing may also prove helpful.
If you receive a recommendation for extensive bite treatment or surgery, you should discuss this thoroughly with your dentist, or even seek a second opinion. Surgical treatments in particular are not reversible and the results may not be favorable.
For more information on TMD and networking opportunities with other patients, be sure to visit the TMJ Association (www.tmj.org) on the Web.
If you would like more information on chronic 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 “Chronic Jaw Pain and Associated Conditions.”
Nearly everyone who has ever played a sport, or had a child participate in one, has had that panic-filled moment when they witness an injury. And when you consider that there are more than 22,000 dental injuries each year in children younger than 18 years of age, you see there is fact to backup this concern. This is just one reason why we strongly encourage all of our patients who are involved in activities such as football, soccer, hockey, wrestling, lacrosse, skateboarding, field hockey and more to wear one of our custom-fitted professional mouthguards. It is especially true for basketball and baseball, which are responsible for the largest number of dental injuries.
The following are some key issues to help you understand the importance and advantages mouthguards offer.
Is there a way to determine who is at the highest risk for sports injuries?
Yes there are several. Age, gender, dental anatomy, and the type of sports being played are the four categories used to measure the risks for dental injuries. Young male teens still top the list of most likely to be injured; however, the gap is closing with more females getting involved in sports. Learn which sports or exercise activities made the American Dental AssociationÃ¢Â€Â™s list of recommendations for using a custom mouthguard, when you continue reading “Athletic Mouthguards.”
What's the difference between a “boil and bite” mouthguard and a professionally made mouthguard?
We are often asked this very important question. While some over-the-counter (OTC) mouthguards provide what is advertised as a “custom-fit” to your teeth, it is nowhere near the fit — and thus protection — you receive from our mouthguards that are crafted from precise molds of your teeth. Additionally, because all aspects of our mouthguards are tailored to each specific mouth, they provide much more protection and comfort. This important fact can enhance performance as the athlete can literally breathe easier while wearing one of our mouthguards.
What can I do if I witness a dental injury?
The first important fact to know is that you do not have to be a dental or healthcare professional to assist. However, before jumping in to help out, consult Dear Doctor's Field-Side Guide to Dental Injuries. This pocket-sized, quick-reference guide details what you should do at the scene of a dental injury based on the type of injury. But best of all, it is available to you free of charge from Dear Doctor.
Want to know more?
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.”