The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls it “one of the ten most important public health measures of the 20th Century.” A new vaccine? A cure for a major disease? No—the CDC is referring to the addition of fluoride to drinking water to prevent tooth decay.
Fluoride is a chemical compound found in foods, soil and water. Its presence in the latter, in fact, was key to the discovery of its dental benefits in the early 20th Century. A dentist in Colorado Springs, Colorado, whose natural water sources were abundant with fluoride, noticed his patients' teeth had unusual staining but no tooth decay. Curious, he did some detective work and found fluoride in drinking water to be the common denominator.
By mid-century, fluoride was generally recognized as a cavity fighter. But it also had its critics (still lively today) that believed it might also cause serious health problems. Ongoing studies, however, found that fluoride in tiny amounts—as small as a grain of sand in a gallon of water—had an immense effect strengthening enamel with scant risk to health.
The only condition found caused by excess fluoride is a form of tooth staining called fluorosis (like those in Colorado Springs). Fluorosis doesn't harm the teeth and is at worst a cosmetic problem. And it can be avoided by regulating the amount of ingested fluoride to just enough for effectively preventing tooth decay.
As researchers have continued to learn more about fluoride, we've fine-tuned what that amount should be. The U.S. Public Health Service (PHS), which sets standards for fluoride in drinking water, now recommends to utilities that fluoridate water to do so at a ratio of 0.7 mg of fluoride to 1 liter of water. This miniscule amount is even lower than previous recommendations.
The bottom line: Fluoride can have an immense impact on your family's dental health—and it doesn't take much. Excessive amounts, though, can lead to dental staining, so it's prudent to monitor your intake. That means speaking with your dentist about the prevalence of fluoride in your area (including your drinking water) and whether you need to take measures to reduce (or expand) your use of it.
If you would like more information on how best fluoride benefits your family's 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 “Fluoride & Fluoridation in Dentistry.”
The movie Bohemian Rhapsody celebrates the iconic rock band Queen and its legendary lead vocalist, Freddie Mercury. But when we see pictures of the flamboyant singer, many fans both old and new may wonder—what made Freddie’s toothy smile look the way it did? Here’s the answer: The singer was born with four extra teeth at the back of his mouth, which caused his front teeth to be pushed forward, giving him a noticeable overbite.
The presence of extra teeth—more than 20 primary (baby) teeth or 32 adult teeth—is a relatively rare condition called hyperdontia. Sometimes this condition causes no trouble, and an extra tooth (or two) isn’t even recognized until the person has an oral examination. In other situations, hyperdontia can create problems in the mouth such as crowding, malocclusion (bad bite) and periodontal disease. That’s when treatment may be recommended.
Exactly what kind of treatment is needed? There’s a different answer for each individual, but in many cases the problem can be successfully resolved with tooth extraction (removal) and orthodontic treatment (such as braces). Some people may be concerned about having teeth removed, whether it’s for this problem or another issue. But in skilled hands, this procedure is routine and relatively painless.
Teeth aren’t set rigidly in the jawbone like posts in cement—they are actually held in place dynamically by a fibrous membrane called the periodontal ligament. With careful manipulation of the tooth, these fibers can be dislodged and the tooth can be easily extracted. Of course, you won’t feel this happening because extraction is done under anesthesia (often via a numbing shot). In addition, you may be given a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to help you relax during the procedure.
After extraction, some bone grafting material may be placed in the tooth socket and gauze may be applied to control bleeding; sutures (stitches) are sometimes used as well. You’ll receive instructions on medication and post-extraction care before you go home. While you will probably feel discomfort in the area right after the procedure, in a week or so the healing process will be well underway.
Sometimes, dental problems like hyperdontia need immediate treatment because they can negatively affect your overall health; at other times, the issue may be mainly cosmetic. Freddie Mercury declined treatment because he was afraid dental work might interfere with his vocal range. But the decision to change the way your smile looks is up to you; after an examination, we can help you determine what treatment options are appropriate for your own situation.
If you have questions about tooth extraction or orthodontics, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Simple Tooth Extraction” and “The Magic of Orthodontics.”
Since their introduction over thirty years ago, dental implants have become the most popular choice for dental restoration. Their large variety of shapes and sizes — a far cry from the limited choices of the 1980s — has only served to increase their popularity.
In recent years there's also been an expansion in their applicability. Most people recognize them as replacements for individual teeth — but they can do much more. They're now playing a pivotal role in other dental restorations or situations.
Here are 3 of those “cutting edge” ways implants could change your dental health and smile for the better.
Fixed bridgework. In a traditional bridge, prosthetic (false) teeth use the natural teeth on either side of the empty space for support. In this updated version, implants become the support base for the bridge. For example, a bridge as small as three crowns can be supported by two implants attached to the outside crowns of the bridge. Four to eight implants can support a bridge as large as an entire arch of teeth.
Over-dentures. In cases of significant bone loss, a full or partial denture may be a better option than a fixed bridge. Traditional dentures, though, can contribute to even more bone loss, which can cause the dentures to eventually lose their fit. Implants not only can help stop further bone loss but can also stimulate increased bone density. Two or more standard or mini-sized-sized implants can support a full or partial denture.
Orthodontics anchorage. People with missing teeth aren't the only ones who can benefit from implants. While most bite repairs only require the back teeth to provide anchorage for braces, certain complex bites may need a different point of anchorage. Orthodontists can create a more feasible anchorage point with an implant or a temporary anchorage device (TAD) imbedded in the jaw. This can help isolate teeth that need to be moved from those on the arch that don't.
If you would like more information about how dental implants could improve your dental health and appearance, 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 “Dental Implants: Your Best Option for Replacing Teeth.”
Say “bacteria,” especially in the same sentence with “disease” or “infection,” and you may trigger an immediate stampede for the hand sanitizer. The last thing most people want is to come in contact with these “menacing” microorganisms.
If that describes you, however, you’re too late. If you’re of adult age, there are already 100 trillion of these single-celled organisms in and on your body, outnumbering your own cells 10 to 1. But don’t panic: Of these 10,000-plus species only a handful can cause you harm—most are either harmless or beneficial, including in your mouth.
Thanks to recent research, we know quite a bit about the different kinds of bacteria in the mouth and what they’re doing. We’ve also learned that the mouth’s microbiome (the interactive environment of microscopic organisms in a particular location) develops over time, especially during our formative years. New mothers, for example, pass on hundreds of beneficial species of bacteria to their babies via their breast milk.
As our exposure to different bacteria grows, our immune system is also developing—not only fighting bacteria that pose a threat, but also learning to recognize benevolent species. All these factors over time result in a sophisticated, interrelated bacterial environment unique to every individual.
Of course, it isn’t all sweetness and light in this microscopic world. The few harmful oral bacteria, especially those that trigger tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease, can cause enormous, irreparable damage to the teeth and gums. It’s our goal as dentists to treat these diseases and, when necessary, fight against harmful microorganisms with antibacterial agents and antibiotics.
But our growing knowledge of this “secret world” of bacteria is now influencing how we approach dental treatment. A generalized application of antibiotics, for example, could harm beneficial bacteria as well as harmful ones. In trying to do good we may run the risk of disrupting the mouth’s microbiome balance—with adverse results on a patient’s long-term oral health.
The treatment strategies of the future will take this into account. While stopping dental disease will remain the top priority, the treatments of the future will seek to do it without harming the delicate balance of the mouth’s microbiome.
If you would like more information on the role of bacteria in oral 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 “New Research Show Bacteria Essential to Health.”
The old stereotype with the words “pain” and “dental work” in the same sentence is no more. Using local or general anesthesia (or a combination of both) we can completely eliminate the vast majority of discomfort during dental procedures.
But how do you manage pain in the days after a procedure while your mouth is healing? The news is good here as well — most discomfort after dental work can be easily managed with a family of medications known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). In most cases, you won't even need prescription strength.
You're probably already familiar with aspirin, ibuprofen and similar pain relievers for the occasional headache or muscle pain. These types of drugs work by blocking prostaglandins, which are released by injured tissues and cause inflammation. By reducing the inflammation, you also relieve pain.
Most healthcare providers prefer NSAIDs over steroids or opiates (like morphine), and only prescribe the latter when absolutely necessary. Unlike opiates in particular, NSAIDs won't impair consciousness and they're not habit-forming. And as a milder pain reliever, they have less impact on the body overall.
That doesn't mean, however, you don't have to be careful with them. These drugs have a tendency to thin blood and reduce its clotting ability (low-dose aspirin, in fact, is often used as a mild blood thinner for cardiovascular patients). Their use can contribute to bleeding that's difficult to stop. Excessive use of ibuprofen can also damage the kidneys.
That's why it's necessary to control the dosage and avoid long-term use of NSAIDs, unless advised by a physician. Most adults shouldn't take more than 2,400 milligrams a day of a NSAID and only during the few days of recuperation. There's no need to overdo it: a single 400-milligram dose of ibuprofen is safe and sufficient to control moderate to severe post-procedural pain for about five hours.
Our aim is to help you manage any pain after a procedure with the least amount of pain reliever strength necessary. That will ensure you'll navigate the short discomfort period after dental work safely and effectively.
If you would like more information on pain management after dental care, 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 “Treating Pain with Ibuprofen.”
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