Posts for category: Oral Health
Getting enough sleep is necessary for good health. We all know how energetic we feel when we are sleeping well at night. Yet, many of us do not feel rested, even after seven or eight hours of sleep. Let's answer some common questions about snoring and sleep apnea, problems that are often called sleep related breathing disorders (SRBD).
What is the purpose of sleep?
Scientists know we need sleep, at a particularly deep level, to be rested, but they are not sure why we need sleep. Sleep may have evolved as a way to conserve energy in the body, to conserve food supplies, or to reduce our risk during darkness. Sleep appears to give the brain a chance to store and organize its information and the body a chance to recuperate. Sleep studies have shown that in order to get the full benefits of sleep we need to sleep long and deeply enough to enter into a series of sleep cycles including Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep.
What kinds of problems get in the way of the type of sleep we need?
There are eight main categories of sleep disorders, but the ones affecting the largest numbers of people are insomnia, SRBD, and Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders. SRBDs include snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which is a serious health problem.
How do I know if I have OSA or another SRBD?
Often, your bed-partner will tell you that you snore. Chronic loud snoring is an indicator of OSA. To make a diagnosis your physician must take a thorough sleep and medical history. The diagnosis may then be confirmed by a study in a sleep lab.
What causes sleep apnea or OSA?
Snoring and OSA happen when your tongue and other soft tissues in the back of your throat collapse backwards and block airflow through 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 stage of sleep your body needs.
What are the treatments for sleep apnea?
Treatments include CPAP therapy, in which patients wear a mask while sleeping. The mask pushes air through the airway, keeping it open. In Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) patients wear a device that moves the lower jaw forward, allowing more room for air to move down the airway. Oral surgical procedures and orthodontic approaches also have the goal of moving the tongue away from the throat. These are all treatments that can be carried out by a dentist who has training and experience in treatment of sleep disorders.
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 articles “Sleep Disorders and Dentistry” and “Sleep Apnea Frequently Asked Questions.”
We tend to think of aspirin as a harmless medication. It is dispensed over the counter and is the most widely used OTC medication in the U.S. We take it without thinking we may be exposing ourselves to risks. But in certain situations aspirin can cause dangerous side effects.
What is aspirin, and how does it work?
The chemical name for aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid. It is used to reduce mild pain, inflammation and fever. When you take an aspirin, it blocks the formation of prostaglandins, substances your body creates that are associated with inflammation. Prostaglandins cause inflamed tissues to become red and swollen, but they also serve protective purposes, such as forming a barrier that protects the stomach from the acid it produces to digest your food. That's why long-term aspirin use can sometimes cause stomach bleeding and ulceration or other health problems.
Why do cardiac patients take aspirin?
Another effect of aspirin is to prevent blood platelets from clumping together. Blood platelets are structures in the blood, smaller than white or red blood cells, that aid clotting by sticking together at the site of an injury. This effect of aspirin can cause prolonged bleeding, but it may be beneficial to people who have cardiovascular (from cardio, meaning heart; and vascular, meaning vessel) disease with narrowed blood vessels.
Aspirin can keep blood flowing in the obstructed vessels and thus prevent heart attacks and strokes; but it can also increase the risk for strokes that are caused by bleeding in the brain. Most physicians attempt to lower such risks by asking their patients to keep their daily aspirin consumption to a low dose 81 mg “baby” aspirin.
How does aspirin affect your teeth and gums?
Be sure to let your medical and dental professionals know you are taking aspirin, and how much you take. Also tell us about other OTC medications you take, including herbal medications and supplements, because they may interact with aspirin to cause side effects.
If you have been told to take aspirin because of a cardiac condition or procedure, be sure to follow your recommended treatment. Do not suddenly discontinue aspirin therapy; doing so can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. Ask us if you should stop taking aspirin before a major dental or oral surgery, but do not stop taking it on your own. We will consult with your physician about your medical condition and let you know our recommendation. In most cases you can continue your aspirin therapy without causing excessive bleeding during the dental procedure.
It is important to brush your teeth every day to remove plaque (that sticky white film, composed of bacteria, on your teeth near your gums), but it is possible to overdo it — particularly if you find that your teeth are becoming sensitive to hot and cold or to variations in pressure.
Brushing your teeth too hard or too many times per day can aggravate tooth sensitivity, which can range from a mild twinge to a severe pain. You can accomplish the goal of tooth brushing — plaque removal — by using a soft brush with a very gentle action. Repeated aggressive brushing with a hard brush is not required and can even be harmful to your teeth and gums.
To understand how teeth become sensitive, you need to know about the internal structure of your teeth. Teeth are covered by enamel, a hard mineralized coating that protects them from changes in temperature and pressure. If the enamel is worn away, it exposes the next lower layer of the tooth, the dentin. The dentin is a living tissue containing nerve fibers that connect to the nerves in the tooth's root.
Excessive tooth brushing can irritate your gums and cause them to shrink away from your teeth, particularly if you have thin gum tissues. The thickness or thinness of your gum tissues is something you inherit from your parents, so you can't change it. Hard brushing can begin to wear away the enamel covering of your teeth. Exposure to acids or sugars in the foods you eat and drink can continue the damage.
Acidic foods and drinks such as fruit juices dissolve some of the minerals in your teeth by a process called “demineralization.” Fortunately, your saliva can interact with the enamel and bring back minerals that are leaving the tooth's surface. This process is called “remineralization.” It is important to let your healthy saliva wash your teeth's surfaces for a while before brushing so that dissolved minerals get a chance to be returned to your enamel. It takes between twelve and twenty-four hours for plaque to form on your teeth, so you don't need to brush more than twice a day.
The best way to make sure you are brushing your teeth properly is to have us evaluate your brushing technique at your next dental appointment. We will be able to tell you whether you need to change the angle of your brush or the pressure you are applying for the most effective removal of plaque with the least wear on your teeth and gums. Tooth brushing serves an important purpose, but remember that you can actually have too much of a good thing.
For many people, starting a chewing tobacco habit begins as something you do with “all the guys” to be cool and fit in. It often starts when playing sports such as baseball. And because it is smokeless tobacco, many people think it is harmless; thus they slowly start “dipping” more often until they are chewing tobacco throughout each day, every day.
The truth about chewing tobacco is that it isn't harmless. It is extremely dangerous and contains more than 30 chemicals known to cause cancer. It also contains nicotine, the highly addictive-forming drug found in cigarettes. Sure, it may not have the odorous (and dangerous) impact of cigarettes, cigars and pipes that can negatively impact others nearby, but it can destroy both your oral and general health and even kill you.
Steps You Can Take to Quit
Once a person decides to stop using chewing tobacco, it can be a difficult process and even more difficult to quit cold turkey. If the latter describes your situation, try a smoking cessation program or talk with your doctor about prescription medicines available to help you kick the habit. You may also find free counseling (via telephone) or other groups and organizations created to help people break free from their tobacco addiction. This is often a great way to start the quitting process.
Two of the most important steps you can take are to involve your physician and our office in your strategy to kick this habit. In addition to encouraging and supporting your decision, we can closely monitor your oral health during the process.
Millions of people suffer from mouth dryness, but most people just never talk about it. As your dental care providers, we don't want you to keep it a secret anymore and mouth dryness really can be a problem.
Why? Saliva is a very important fluid that moisturizes, lubricates, and aids in the first stages of chewing and digestion. A normal flow of saliva provides antibacterial benefits that even protect against cavities by buffering the effects of acids. It can also make the surfaces of your teeth more vulnerable to abrasion and erosion. Without enough saliva, you may be especially at risk for not only tooth decay, but even yeast infections.
Causes of dryness include dehydration and even morning breath, both of which are normal. Smoking, alcohol and coffee drinking also cause dryness. It is also a side effect of many medications. Although mouth dryness is not a disease in itself, it could be a symptom of salivary gland or other systemic (general body) disease.
As a first step in the treatment, we will assess your situation by taking a detailed habit, diet, medical, and drug history to properly assess the cause and establish whether this is a local condition affecting only your mouth or an indication of a generalized bodily problem.
It's always helpful to keep yourself well hydrated by simply drinking a sufficient amount of water every day and by using good daily oral hygiene to remove dental bacterial plaque. Chewing gum, especially containing Xylitol, will also help promote saliva flow and keep your mouth moist. Be careful not to suck on candy or mints, because they are likely to cause decay. There are also prescription medications that can be used to promote more saliva flow.