Do you still feel tired or unfocused even after a full night’s sleep? Do others complain about your snoring? It’s possible these are signs that you may have sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a condition in which you stop breathing while you sleep. Your brain will awaken you to breathe, although you may not consciously realize it since the waking period can be less than a second. But it does disrupt your sleep rhythm, especially during the all-important deep sleep period called Rapid Eye Movement (REM). These disruptions don’t allow your body to receive the full benefit of sleep, hence your lack of energy and focus during the day.
One of the most common causes for sleep apnea is the collapse of soft tissues near the throat as they relax during sleep that restrict the airway. Snoring is an indication this may be occurring: air vibrates rapidly (and loudly) as it passes through this restriction when you breathe in.
As your dentist, we’re well-trained in the anatomy and function of the entire oral structure, and qualified to offer solutions for sleep apnea. If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea (after a complete examination, including an observation session at a sleep laboratory), we can then help you decide on a treatment approach. The following are three such options, depending on the severity of your sleep apnea.
Oral Appliance Therapy. An oral appliance you wear while you sleep is a first line treatment for mild or moderate sleep apnea. The appliance, which we custom design for you, helps hold the lower jaw in a forward position: this moves the tongue and other soft structures away from the back of the throat, thereby opening the airway.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). Intended for more moderate to severe forms of sleep apnea, a CPAP machine produces continuous air pressure to the throat through a mask you wear during sleep. This forces the tongue forward and the airway open.
Surgical Intervention. These procedures remove excess tissue that may be obstructing the airway. Due to its invasiveness and permanent alteration of the throat area, surgery is reserved for patients who haven’t responded to other therapies in a satisfactory manner.
Whether mild or severe, it’s possible to effectively treat sleep apnea. If successful, not only will you benefit from better sleep and greater alertness, you’ll also improve your long-term health.
If you would like more information on treating sleep apnea, 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 “Sleep Disorders & Dentistry.”
Along with daily oral hygiene and regular dental visits, a balanced and nutritious diet is another key part of great oral health. The foods you eat can have a profound impact on how well your teeth and gums withstand diseases like tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease.
At the heart of proper nutrition are organic compounds called vitamins. Along with trace minerals, vitamins help the body convert food into energy, repair cellular and tissue damage and protect against environmental toxins. When you don’t receive an adequate amount of each vitamin your health can suffer; in terms of dental health, your teeth and gums can weaken and become more susceptible to disease.
Vitamins play a wide variety of roles, including within the mouth. The Vitamins A and C contained in fruits and vegetables and Vitamin E in vegetable oils are antioxidants that protect cells and their DNA from destructive elements in the environment. As such, they’re a major prevention factor against tooth decay and gum disease. Vitamin D, found in dairy products, eggs or certain seafood, is used by bone and teeth to absorb calcium. Without sufficient calcium, teeth and bone lose vitality and strength.
This recognized power of vitamins for optimum health has also fueled the multi-billion dollar nutritional supplement industry. But studies show that your best source for vitamins are the foods you eat—and the more natural foods and less processed products you eat, the better your vitamin and mineral intake. Taking supplements isn’t necessarily wrong—but it’s not in your best interest health-wise to depend on them for vitamins and minerals at the expense of healthier eating.
So in all you do to prevent dental disease, don’t overlook your diet. The vitamins and minerals you receive from foods in their most natural state will help you keep your teeth and gums healthy and your smile beautiful.
If you would like more information on the role of nutrition in dental health, 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 “Vitamins & Dietary Supplements.”
Summer is the time for many children to experience the fun and freedom of sleepaway camp. Along with greater independence, camp brings increased responsibility for kids to take care of themselves, including taking care of their oral health.
Two keys to dental health are a balanced diet and good oral hygiene, but camp life may tempt kids to overdo the kinds of food they don’t often indulge in at home. For most campers, enjoying s’mores around the fire is a given, but these marshmallowy treats pack a punch in the sugar department. In fact, a single s’more has half the daily limit of sugar recommended by the World Health Organization—and if the sweet treat’s name is any indication, no one stops at just one! Because sticky marshmallows are a central ingredient, they are worse for the teeth than many other sweets; the goo adheres to the surface of the teeth and gets stuck between teeth and braces, increasing the potential for tooth decay. Add in plenty of opportunities to consume sugary drinks and other treats throughout the week, and sleepaway camp can be a less-than-ideal environment to maintain good oral health, especially since brushing and flossing may not be a high priority with so much else going on.
You can help your camper feel more invested in their oral hygiene routine by involving them in as many preparations as possible, such as making a list of items to pack and shopping together for dental supplies. These can include a travel toothbrush with a case and a travel-sized tube of fluoride toothpaste—or a package of pre-pasted disposable toothbrushes. And don’t forget dental floss! You may also wish to include gum sweetened with xylitol, a natural sweetener that helps fight cavities. This could come in handy for those times your child gets too busy to brush.
Consider scheduling a teeth cleaning for the downtime after your child gets home from camp and before the start of the new school year, just in case your child wasn’t the most diligent about oral hygiene while away—and to ensure that they begin the new school year in the best oral health.
If you would like more information about how your child can maintain good oral health, please call our office to schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health” and “The Bitter Truth About Sugar.”
Your temporomandibular joints (TMJ), located where your lower jaw meets the skull, play an essential role in nearly every mouth function. It’s nearly impossible to eat or speak without them.
Likewise, jaw joint disorders (temporomandibular joint disorders or TMD) can make your life miserable. Not only can you experience extreme discomfort or pain, your ability to eat certain foods or speak clearly could be impaired.
But don’t assume you have TMD if you have these and other symptoms — there are other conditions with similar symptoms. You’ll need a definitive diagnosis of TMD from a qualified physician or dentist, particularly one who’s completed post-graduate programs in Oral Medicine or Orofacial Pain, before considering treatment.
If you are diagnosed with TMD, you may then face treatment choices that emanate from one of two models: one is an older dental model based on theories that the joint and muscle dysfunction is mainly caused by poor bites or other dental problems. This model encourages treatments like orthodontically moving teeth, crowning problem teeth or adjusting bites by grinding down tooth surfaces.
A newer treatment model, though, has supplanted this older one and is now practiced by the majority of dentists. This is a medical model that views TMJs like any other joint in the body, and thus subject to the same sort of orthopedic problems found elsewhere: sore muscles, inflamed joints, strained tendons and ligaments, and disk problems. Treatments tend to be less invasive or irreversible than those from the dental model.
The newer model encourages treatments like physical therapy, medication, occlusive guards or stress management. The American Association of Dental Research (AADR) in fact recommends that TMD patients begin their treatment from the medical model rather than the dental one, unless there are indications to the contrary. Many studies have concluded that a majority of patients gain significant relief with these types of therapies.
If a physician or dentist recommends more invasive treatment, particularly surgery, consider seeking a second opinion. Unlike the therapies mentioned above, surgical treatments have a spotty record when it comes to effectiveness — some patients even report their conditions worsening afterward. Try the less-invasive approach first — you may find improvement in your symptoms and quality of life.
If you would like more information on treating TMD, 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 “Seeking Relief from TMD.”
Refined sugar is a prime food source for disease-causing oral bacteria. As bacteria consume sugar they produce high levels of acid that over time can erode enamel and leave a tooth vulnerable for decay.
The solution to stopping this vicious process is simple: cut back on eating refined sugar. The reality, though, is a bit more complicated. Many of us seem genetically hard-wired with a “sweet tooth,” perhaps a remnant of our early ancestors' sense that sweet foods were a safe means to obtain energy.
Food manufacturers likewise don't help with making this dietary change — the number of items with added sugar has ballooned over the last several decades. We can trace a lot of this back to the unintended consequences of past government guidelines that called for removing fat from processed foods. But this also removed flavor, so manufacturers began adding sugar (under a myriad of names) to compensate.
Sugar consumption is now a hot health topic for its suspected connection with inflammatory diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as dental health. We now have a love-hate relationship with sugar — we want to show it the door but we can't quite bring ourselves to let it go.
The situation has created a market for artificial sweeteners. The amount and types of sugar alternatives has exploded since saccharine first emerged in the early 1960s. With these increased choices, though, there have also been increased concerns over their health impact, including in the mouth.
This concern has prompted numerous research studies. The conclusion: artificial sweeteners don't adversely affect the health of most people. And, from a dental perspective, artificial sweeteners can have a positive impact on teeth and gum health because unlike refined sugar they don't promote oral bacterial growth.
In fact, one particular sweetener may be even more beneficial to your teeth: xylitol. This sweetener, which comes from a sugar alcohol that oral bacteria can't digest, is often found in chewing gums, hard candies or mints. Â In effect, xylitol “starves out” bacteria to help prevent tooth decay.
From a dental perspective, replacing sugar with an artificial sweetener (especially xylitol) can be advantageous. And less sugar could mean more good news after your next dental checkup.
If you would like more information on artificial sweeteners, 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 “Artificial Sweeteners.”
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