Posts for category: Oral Health
We’ve all heard about potentially negative health effects from the sugar that’s added to many of our favorite foods. So these days, lots of us are trying to cut down on our consumption of sugar — not only to lose weight, but also to help prevent maladies like diabetes and heart disease. We can’t help noticing those pastel-colored packets — pink, yellow and blue — on the rack of our favorite coffee shop. But now we’re wondering: Are those sugar substitutes a good alternative to natural sugar? And which one should we choose?
Artificial sweeteners have been around for decades. Six different types (including the ones in the colorful packets) are currently approved as safe by the Food and Drug Administration; a couple of older ones (notably cyclamates) have been banned for many years. In addition to those zero-calorie sugar substitutes, low-calorie sweeteners called sugar alcohols (for example, mannitol and xylitol) are often used as food ingredients. So what’s the difference between them — and which one is best?
That’s not so easy to answer. If you have a rare genetic condition called phenylketonuria, you should avoid aspartame (the blue packet), because your body can’t process the substance. Otherwise, the choice may come down to a matter of taste. Even though they are FDA-approved, some controversy (both fact-based and far-fetched) remains about the long-term safety of sugar substitutes, and their usefulness in preventing obesity and other diseases.
Yet it’s clear that for some people, the consequences of consuming too much sugar could be much worse. So if you’re at risk for diabetes or certain other diseases, sugar substitutes can be an important tool in maintaining a healthier diet. They also have another health benefit: sugar substitutes don’t cause cavities. Further, some sugar alcohols (xylitol in particular) have the property of stimulating saliva flow, and have been shown to actually impede the formation of cavities. Oral health is an important (if sometimes overlooked) component of your general well-being, and several studies have pointed to a link between oral and systemic diseases — for example, diabetes and heart disease.
As with so many aspects of our health, there seems to be no “magic bullet” to cure all our diet-related problems. But used in moderation, artificial sweeteners can be a valuable part of the effort to improve our overall health and well-being. For more information on this topic, see the Dear Doctor article “Artificial Sweeteners.”
It’s rare now to encounter a news story about an infection spreading among a group of dental patients — a rarity thanks to the development of standards and procedures for infection control. As these standards have improved over the last few decades, the prevention of infection stemming from dental treatment has become more effective and easier to perform.
Like other healthcare providers, dentists are held (and hold themselves) to a high legal, moral and ethical standard to stop the spread of infection among their patients, and both governmental authorities and professional organizations mandate safety procedures. The United States Center for Disease Control regularly publishes recommendations for disinfection and sterilization procedures for all healthcare providers and facilities, including dental clinics. Dental and medical licensing bodies in each U.S. state also mandate control procedures and have made continuing education on infection control a condition of re-licensure.
For both medical and dental facilities, blood-borne pathogens represent the greatest risk of infection. These viral infections spread through an infected person’s blood coming in contact with the blood of an uninfected person, via a cut or a needle injection site. One of the most prevalent of these blood-borne diseases is hepatitis. This disease, which can severely impair the function of the liver and could be fatal, is caused by either of two viruses known as HBV and HCV. Any medical facility that encounters blood through needle injection or surgical procedures (including blood transfusion and surgical centers, and dental offices) must have a high degree of concern for controlling the spread of hepatitis and similar viral diseases.
Infection control protocols cover all aspects of potential exposure, including protective wear for workers and patients, proper disposal of contaminated refuse and disinfection of instruments and facilities. These comprehensive procedures not only keep patients safe from viral exposure, they also protect healthcare providers who experience greater exposure and risk for infection than the patients they serve.
Thanks to this strong emphasis on infection control, your dental visits are reliably safe. If you do have concerns, though, about the risk of infection during a dental visit, please let us know — we’ll be happy to discuss all we do to protect you and your family from infection.
If you would like more information on infection control, 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 “Infection Control in the Dental Office.”
Actor Michael Douglas shocked TV audiences across the country when he announced on the David Letterman Show in 2010 that he has stage IV oral cancer. Fortunately, the cancer had not spread and his radiation and chemotherapy treatments were successful. This year, Douglas teamed up with the Oral Cancer Foundation to warn others about the dangers of the disease and the importance of early detection. In particular, he wants younger people to know that even if they don't smoke and drink a lot, as he admitted to Letterman that he did, they are still at risk.
As Douglas states in a PSA he made with the foundation, “the fastest growing segment of the people developing oral cancers are young, non smokers.” That's due to a strain of the Human Papilloma Virus known as HPV16 that can be transmitted through oral sex. So it's important to avoid risky sexual behaviors and to be screened regularly for this devastating disease that claims one life every hour in the U.S., according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
An oral cancer screening is a simple visual and tactile exam done right here at the dental office. We will feel your neck for lumps and inspect your lips and all inside surfaces of the mouth, including the back of your throat, for any suspicious signs. If any are found, a biopsy (laboratory analysis of a tissue sample) can be ordered.
Most oral cancers are “squamous” (small scale-shaped) cell carcinomas that occur in the lining of the mouth and are often preceded by recognizable changes (lesions) of the oral membranes. White or red patches begin to form in the pre-cancerous stage, and as the cancer develops, a non-healing ulcer may appear. If you notice any such changes in your mouth, please let us know.
Michael Douglas ends his PSA with the following plea: “So please, the next time you visit your dentist or your medical doctor, ask for this simple screening. Finding oral cancer in its earliest stages may save your life.” We agree, which is why we always perform this screening during your regular dental check-up. If it's been a while since your last appointment, please come in and see us.
If you would like more information about oral cancer, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about the disease in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer.”
You have probably heard a lot of people talk about TMJ disorders, but do you know what it all means? How do you know if you are suffering from a TMJ disorder?
Below are answers to some common questions about TMJ disorders.
What is a TMJ disorder?
First, we should explain that TMJ actually refers to the Temporomandibular Joint, which is the formal name for your jaw joint(s). TMD stands for Temporomandibular Disorders, which is the correct name for the muscle and/or joint symptoms that commonly arise when there is TMJ pain and dysfunction. You may have heard people refer to the actual disorder as TMJ, but this name is incorrect.
When I experience TMJ pain, what exactly is happening?
Let's first understand all of the parts that play a role in your pain. The temporomandibular joints connect your mandible (lower jaw) to your skull on both the left and right sides, which makes the lower jaw the only bone in the body with completely symmetrical joints at both ends. There is a ball-and-socket relationship between your jaw and your skull on both sides, but the unique part is the presence of a cushioning disk between the two surfaces in each joint. Each TMJ has a disk between the ball (condyle) and socket (fossa), and this sometimes ends up being an especially important area when trouble arises.
So, how do I know if I have TMD?
You can never be absolutely sure, but here are some symptoms you should be sure to share with us during your examination:
- Clicking. You may experience a clicking sound in the jaw, usually due to a shift in the position of the disk inside the joint. However, if you do not have pain or limited jaw function, this symptom may be insignificant.
- Muscle Pain. The next symptom is jaw muscle pain, usually in the cheeks or temples. If the muscle is sore or stiff in the morning, this pain is usually related to clenching or grinding in your sleep. However, there are more complex muscle pains that can spread to your head and neck.
- TMJ Pain. This third symptom refers to pain actually inside one or both of your jaw joints, technically described as arthritis of the TMJ.
If diagnosed, what can I expect from treatment?
We will first need to assess the damage to your TMJ, and from there we will recommend a course of treatment to relieve your pain. Treatment may range from hot or cold compresses and anti-inflammatory medications to physical therapy or a bite guard. We may also advise you to do jaw exercises at home. In general, we will do our best to treat your issue without orthodontic treatment or surgery.
If you would like more information about TMD, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Seeking Relief from TMD.”
During Nancy O'Dell's interview with Dear Doctor magazine, the former co-anchor of Access Hollywood and new co-anchor of Entertainment Tonight could not resist her journalistic instincts to turn the tables so that she could learn more about a baby's oral health. Here are just some of the facts she learned from the publisher of Dear Doctor about childhood tooth decay, pacifier use and what the right age is for a child's first visit to the dentist.
Many moms-to-be and parents or caregivers of young children are surprised to learn that around age 1 is the ideal time to schedule a child's first visit to the dentist. This visit is crucial because it sets the stage for the child's oral health for the rest of his or her life. It can also be quite beneficial for the parents, too, as they can be reassured that there are no problems with development and that the child's teeth appear to be growing properly. And if by chance we identify any concerns, we will discuss them with you as well as any necessary treatment strategies.
Nancy also wanted to learn more about pacifiers — specifically, if it is a good idea for parents to encourage their use. Obviously, children are born with a natural instinct for sucking, so giving a child a pacifier seems totally harmless. Pacifiers definitely have some advantages; however, if used for too long — past the age of 18 months — they can cause long-term changes in the child's developing mouth (both the teeth and the jaws).
Another problem that parents and caregivers need to be aware of is baby bottle syndrome. This is a condition that develops in children who are perpetually sucking on a baby bottle filled with sugary fluids such as formula, fruit juices, cola or any liquids containing a large amount of sugar, honey or other sweeteners. It is important to note that a mother's own breast milk or cow's milk are good choices for feeding babies, as they both contain lactose, a natural sugar that is less likely to cause decay. However, if these liquids are placed in a bottle and a child is allowed to suck on it throughout the night, they, too, can promote tooth decay. The key is to feed your child properly while avoiding all-night feedings and liquids loaded with sugar.
To read the entire Dear Doctor magazine article on Nancy O'Dell as well as to learn more about a baby's oral health, continue reading “Nancy O'Dell — A life full of smiles.” Or you can contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can conduct a thorough examination, listen to your concerns, answer your questions and discuss any necessary treatment options.