Posts for: May, 2014
Q: What is sleep apnea, and how common is it?
A: Obstructive sleep apnea is a type of sleep-related breathing disorder (SRBD) in which the airflow to the lungs is restricted — or even cut off completely — during sleep. This condition is usually caused by the collapse of soft tissues in the back of the throat, and is potentially deadly. Sleep disorders, including SRBD, are thought to affect tens of millions of people in the United States. They have been blamed for several catastrophic accidents, including the 2014 Metro-North train crash in New York, and the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.
Q: How can I tell if I might have sleep apnea?
A: Everyone has trouble sleeping sometimes. But if you constantly snore, wake up feeling irritable, and experience sleepiness and diminished performance during the day, it may mean you suffer from this condition. After a while, SRBDs can trigger depression, confusion, memory loss, and other personality changes. Medical professionals note that a person with SRBD tends to be obese; to show enlargement of the tongue, tonsils, or uvula; to have nasal polyps or congestion; and possibly, to exhibit other signs.
Q: How is sleep apnea treated?
A: There are various treatments for sleep apnea, depending on the severity of the problem and its likely cause. These include oral appliance therapy (wearing a retainer-like device in the mouth at night); orthodontic treatment and/or oral surgery; and using a CPAP (constant positive airway pressure) machine to help facilitate breathing at night. Each has advantages and disadvantages that should be discussed with a healthcare provider who has experience in the area of sleep disorders.
Q: What does all this have to do with dentistry?
A: Dentists are, of course, extremely familiar with the anatomy of the mouth. We sometimes notice signs of potential sleep problems before they become life-threatening. What’s more, we may be able to successfully treat the problem with oral appliance therapy. We can properly fabricate, fit and adjust an oral device that helps keep your airway open at night. Because it is inexpensive, removable, and relatively comfortable, an oral appliance may be a good remedy to try before moving on to more complex treatments, such as a CPAP machine or surgery. So if you think you might have SRBD, maybe it’s time to make an appointment and talk to us about it.
Christie Brinkley's world-famous smile has graced the covers of countless magazines for over 30 years. In fact, in her own words from an interview with Dear Doctor magazine, the supermodel said, “I think my smile was really my passport to success in the modeling industry.” And while most of her smile's appeal comes naturally, Christie does give it a boost with good oral hygiene, regular dental checkups and tooth whitening. As Christie says, “When it comes to teeth, keep it as natural as possible. Do not go overboard on whitening. You want your teeth to compliment your faceÃ¢Â€Â¦your friends should not be required to wear sunglasses when you smile!”
Aside from some potential minor side effects such as tooth sensitivity, whitening teeth through bleaching is a relatively inexpensive way to brighten your smile conservatively and successfully. There are three common methods, as described below:
- An external or vital approach where “vital” (living) teeth are bleached through direct contact to the tooth's surface.
- An internal or non-vital approach where the tooth is whitened from the inside during a root canal treatment.
- A combination approach in which both internal and external bleaching techniques are used.
But what causes teeth to become discolored?
Tooth discoloration can be caused by a traumatic blow to your teeth resulting in nerve tissue (pulp) death. However, there can be many other causes: consuming or using products that stain the teeth such as coffee, tea, cola, tobacco products and red wine, to name just a few. Aging is another factor, as it results in changes in the mineral structure of the tooth as the enamel, the outermost layer, loses its beautiful and youthful translucency. Other causes include exposure to high levels of fluoride; tetracycline, an antibiotic, administered during childhood; inherited developmental disorders and jaundice in childhood; and tooth decay.
The good news is that we routinely brighten smiles through tooth whitening. To learn more about brightening your smile, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Teeth Whitening.” Or if you are ready to have your teeth professionally whitened, contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can conduct a thorough examination and discuss your whitening treatment options. And if you want to read the entire feature article on Christie Brinkley, continue reading “The Secret Behind Christie Brinkley's Supermodel Smile.”
Tooth wear, especially on biting surfaces, is a normal part of aging — we all lose some of our tooth enamel as we grow older. Even primary (“baby”) teeth may show some wear before they’re lost. But there’s also excessive, premature tooth wear caused by disease or abnormal biting habits. This type of wear is cause for concern and action before it leads to tooth loss.
Normal tooth wear occurs because of what teeth naturally do — bite and chew. When teeth come together as we eat they generate a modest amount of force: between 13 and 23 pounds. Our teeth also make brief contacts hundreds to thousands times a day. Again, this produces force, though not to the extent we see with biting and chewing: somewhere between 0.75 and 7.5 pounds. These glancing contacts are actually good for dental health because they provide needed stimulation to the teeth and jaws that help the body maintain healthy bone and tooth attachments.
But parafunctional (outside the normal function) habits like teeth grinding or foreign object chewing can greatly increase the generated force, up to 230 pounds. These may result in noticeable symptoms like fractures or loose teeth, but not always — the damage may not be noticeable until much later in the form of excessive tooth wear.
These parafunctional habits aren’t the only cause for excessive tooth wear; tooth decay can weaken the tooth structure, making it more susceptible to wear. And, some restorative materials used for fillings may also affect the rate of wear.
Because excessive tooth wear may or may not present with immediate symptoms, it’s important to maintain regular dental checkups to monitor the condition of your teeth. Our training and experience helps us identify signs of excessive tooth wear and, depending on the extent of damage, work with you on a treatment plan. You should also keep us informed about oral habits, especially teeth grinding, thumb sucking or foreign object chewing (toys, nails, pencils, etc.).
Your teeth will wear as you grow older. By keeping a close eye on your teeth, we’ll help you keep that wear at a normal rate.
If you would like more information on preventing excessive tooth wear, 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 “When Children Grind Their Teeth.”