Not a Fan of Using CPAP for Your Sleep Apnea? Consider an Oral Appliance

sleep apnea.

Do you wake up in the morning still feeling tired? Are you drowsy, irritable or have difficulty concentrating? And is your snoring habit a running joke around your household?

If you mostly answered yes, you may have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This condition is more than an irritation—it could also have major health implications if not addressed.

OSA occurs when the airway becomes temporarily blocked during sleep. The tongue (or other mouth structures like tonsils or the uvula) is often the cause as it relaxes and covers the back of the throat. Although you’re asleep, the brain notices the drop in oxygen and initiates arousal to unblock the airway. As this action usually only takes a few seconds, you may not fully awake every time; but because it can occur several times a night, it can rob you of the deep sleep you need for well-being.

If you’re diagnosed with OSA, your doctor may recommend continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP). This treatment uses a pump device to supply continuous pressurized air through a hose connected to a face mask worn during sleep. The elevated pressure helps keep the airway open.

While this approach is quite effective, many people find wearing the equipment uncomfortable or confining, and may choose not to use it. If that describes you, a qualified dentist may be able to provide you with an alternative called oral appliance therapy (OAT).

OAT uses a custom-made plastic oral appliance you wear while you sleep. The most common snaps over the teeth and uses a hinge mechanism to move the lower jaw (and the tongue with it) forward.

OAT is recommended for people with mild to moderate OSA, or those with severe symptoms who can’t tolerate CPAP. If you’d like to see if an OAT appliance could help you, contact us for a complete oral examination. Either treatment can improve your sleep and daily lifestyle, as well as help prevent certain health issues in the future.

If you would like more information on treatments for sleep apnea, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea.”

Stop Gum Disease Before it Becomes a Major Health Issue

woman with gum disease.

If you think gum disease only happens to the other guy (or gal), think again. If you’re over 30 you have a 50-50 chance for an infection. After 65 the risk climbs to 70 percent.

Fortunately, we can effectively treat most cases of gum disease. But depending on its severity, treatment can involve numerous intensive sessions and possible surgery to bring the disease under control. So, why not prevent gum disease before it happens?

First, though, let’s look at how gum disease most often begins—with dental plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles built up on teeth and gum surfaces. If plaque isn’t consistently removed through daily brushing and flossing, it doesn’t take long—just a few days—for the bacteria to infect the gums.

While it’s not always easy to detect gum disease early on, there are signs to look for like red, swollen and tender gums that bleed easily when you brush or floss, and bad breath or taste. The infection is usually more advanced if you notice pus-filled areas around your gums or loose teeth. If you see any of these (especially advanced signs like loose teeth) you should contact us as soon as possible.

Obviously, the name of the game with prevention is stopping plaque buildup, mainly through daily brushing and flossing. Technique is the key to effectiveness, especially with brushing: you should gently but thoroughly scrub all tooth surfaces and around the gum line, coupled with flossing between teeth.

To find out how well you’re doing, you can rub your tongue along your teeth after you brush and floss—you should feel a smooth, almost squeaky sensation. You can also use plaque-disclosing agents that dye bacterial plaque a particular color so you can easily see surface areas you’ve missed. You can also ask us for a “report card” on how well you’re doing during your next dental visit.

Dental visits, of course, are the other essential part of gum disease prevention—at least every six months (or more, if we recommend) for cleaning and checkups. Not only will we be able to remove hard-to-reach plaque and tartar, we’ll also give your gums a thorough assessment. By following this prevention regimen you’ll increase your chances of not becoming a gum disease statistic.

If you would like more information on recognizing and treating gum disease, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Gum Disease Gets Started.”

Keep Your Smile Beautiful…in April and Beyond

spring cleaning.

There are well-known holidays on the calendar this month, but here’s one that might have escaped your notice: “Keep America Beautiful Month,” which is observed throughout April! At this time, people from coast to coast are encouraged to clean and beautify their communities. So why not think of it as an occasion to spiff up your smile? Here are five ways to do exactly that:

Have your teeth professionally cleaned. A routine dental visit, which includes a professional cleaning and exam, is one of the best preventive healthcare values there is. It’s a chance to catch dental problems (including potentially serious ones like oral cancer) before they become more difficult to treat. A dental professional can remove built-up deposits of tartar from your teeth using specialized instruments—something you can’t do at home. Plus, you’ll leave the office with a freshly polished smile that looks and feels great.

Get a professional teeth whitening. Having whiter teeth often makes people look more youthful. And one of the best ways to brighten dull teeth is with professional teeth whitening. You can achieve the fastest, most dramatic results with an in-office treatment—up to ten shades in just one visit! We can also make you a custom take-home kit to achieve similar results over time.

Repair chipped teeth. If you feel self-conscious about a chipped tooth, consider cosmetic bonding. In this relatively inexpensive procedure, which often takes just one office visit, tooth-colored resin material is applied to the chipped area and hardened under a special light. The translucent resin is built up layer by layer, bringing teeth with minor flaws back to a great, natural-looking appearance.

Replace old dental work. Sometimes old dental work can stand out more than we’d like it to. This is especially true of amalgam (silver) fillings—but even white fillings can absorb stain after many years. If you feel old dental work is detracting from your smile, it may be time to replace it with up-to-date dental materials.

Straighten your smile. Did you know that there is no maximum age for successful orthodontic treatment? It’s true: Healthy teeth can be moved at any age. And if you think metal braces wouldn’t fit in with your look or lifestyle, consider one of the less-visible alternatives to traditional orthodontic hardware—such as ceramic braces and clear aligners.

Having the smile you want can make you feel more confident in any month of the year. If you’d like more information on cosmetic dentistry, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “How Your Dentist Can Help You Look Younger” and “Orthodontics for the Older Adult.”

Dentures Require Planning and Attention to Detail to Look Natural

dentures.

Twenty-six percent of American adults between 65 and 74 have lost all their teeth to dental disease. This isn’t an appearance problem only—lack of teeth can also harm nutrition and physical well-being.

Fortunately, we have advanced restorative options that can effectively replace missing teeth. Of these, there’s a tried and true one that’s both affordable and effective: removable dentures.

Dentures are simple in design: a plastic or resin base, colored with a pinkish-red hue to resemble gums to which we attach prosthetic (false) teeth. But while the design concept isn’t complicated, the process for creating and fitting them can be quite involved: they must conform to an individual patient’s jaws and facial structure if they’re going to appear natural.

If you’re considering dentures, here’s some of what it will take to achieve a successful outcome.

Positioning the teeth. The position of the prosthetic teeth on the base greatly determines how natural they’ll appear and how well they’ll function. So, we’ll need to plan tooth placement beforehand based on your facial and jaw structures, as well as photos taken of you before tooth loss. We’ll also consider how large the teeth should be, how far to place them forward or back from the lips, and whether to include “imperfections” from your old look that you see as part of your appearance.

Simulating the gums. While the teeth are your smile’s stars, the gums are the supporting cast. It’s important that we create a denture base that attractively frames the teeth by determining how much of the gums show when you smile, or adding color and even textures to better resemble gum tissue. We can also add ridges behind the upper teeth to support speech.

Balancing the bite. Upper and lower dentures don’t operate in and of themselves—they must work cooperatively and efficiently with each other during eating or speaking. So while appearance matters, the bite’s bite adjustment or balance might matter more. That’s why we place a lot of attention into balancing and adjusting the bite after you receive your dentures to make sure you’re comfortable.

This is a detailed process that we may need to revisit from time to time to make sure your dentures’ fit remains tight and comfortable. Even so, modern advances in this traditional restoration continue to make them a solid choice for total tooth loss.

If you would like more information on denture restorations, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor article “Removable Dentures.”

Get Ahead of Bite Problems with Interceptive Orthodontics

orthodontics.

At any given time some 4 million teens and pre-teens are wearing braces or other orthodontic appliances to correct a malocclusion (poor bite). While most cases are straightforward, some have difficulties that increase treatment time and cost.

But what if you could reduce some of these difficulties before they fully develop? We often can through interceptive orthodontics.

This growing concept involves early orthodontic treatment around 6 to 10 years of age with the goal of guiding the development of a child’s jaws and other mouth structures in the right direction. These early years are often the only time of life when many of these treatments will work.

For example, widening the roof of the mouth (the palate) in an abnormally narrow upper jaw takes advantage of a gap in the bone in the center of the palate that doesn’t fuse until later in adolescence. A device called a palatal expander exerts outward pressure on the back teeth to influence the jawbone to grow out. New bone fills in the gap to permanently expand the jaw.

In cases with a developing overbite (the upper front teeth extending too far over the lower teeth when closed), we can install a hinged device called a Herbst appliance to the jaws in the back of the mouth. The hinge mechanism coaxes the lower jaw to develop further forward, which may help avoid more extensive and expensive jaw surgery later.

Interceptive treatments can also be fairly simple in design like a space retainer, but still have a tremendous impact on bite development. A space maintainer is often used when a primary (“baby”) tooth is lost prematurely, which allows other teeth to drift into the empty space and crowd out the incoming permanent tooth. The wire loop device is placed within the open space to prevent drift and preserve the space for the permanent tooth.

To take advantage of these treatments, it’s best to have your child’s bite evaluated early. Professional organizations like the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommend a screening by age 7. While it may reveal no abnormalities at all, it could also provide the first signs of an emerging problem. With interceptive orthodontics we may be able to correct them now or make them less of a problem for the future.

If you would like more information on orthodontic treatments, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor article “Interceptive Orthodontics.”

How Tara Lipinski Protects Her Teeth from the Daily Grind

tara.

If you’re one of the millions of people all over the world tuning in to the Olympics, you know that just watching the competition in your living room can be a real nail-biter. So imagine what it’s like for Tara Lipinski—the former gold medalist in figure skating who’s currently a primetime commentator for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea. In a recent interview with Dear Doctor magazine, the skating superstar revealed that she wears a custom-made nightguard to protect her smile.

“I grind my teeth pretty badly,” she said, noting that some days are worse than others. “When I can tell the grinding is bad, or my jaw starts to hurt, [then] at night I wear a mouthguard.”

Tara’s hardly alone:  It’s estimated that around one in ten adults suffers from bruxism—the dental term for the habitual clenching or grinding of teeth. This condition, which is linked to stress (and several other risk factors), can occur during the daytime or at night—when it may go unnoticed as you sleep. If left untreated, bruxism can lead to headaches and jaw pain, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD), and damage to natural teeth or restorations such as crowns, veneers or fillings.

Fortunately, as Tara as found out, there’s a simple and effective way to help people struggling with the problem of teeth clenching and grinding: We can provide you with a custom-fabricated nightguard to stop bruxism from affecting your health. This device, usually made of high-impact plastic, is created from a model of your actual bite. It fits comfortably over your teeth, and can tooth prevent damage before it occurs.

A nightguard is a very conservative form of treatment, meaning that it involves no invasive or irreversible procedures. While other types of treatment are sometimes recommended for bruxism, it’s generally best to try the most conservative first. But how does it feel to wear it?

“I think it’s comfortable to wear,” Tara told Dear Doctor magazine. “You don’t even think about it.”

So whether you’re a type-A competitor or a dedicated fan watching the games unfold on TV, don’t let bruxism get the better of your smile. If you think you may be clenching or grinding your teeth, ask us about a custom-made nightguard.

For more information about teeth grinding, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Teeth Grinding” and “Stress & Tooth Habits.”

Oral Health and Cardiovascular Health

 

The American Heart Association has designated February as American Heart Month to raise awareness of the number one cause of death worldwide: cardiovascular disease. But did you know that there’s a connection between cardiovascular health and oral health?

People with gum disease are nearly twice as likely to suffer from heart disease as those without, and gum disease has been linked to stroke as well.

Although scientists can’t say that gum disease causes cardiovascular disease, both conditions are related to inflammation. Gum disease can result when dental plaque causes inflammation. Inflammation is also a major factor in heart disease and stroke, since it leads to thickening of the artery walls and causes damage to blood vessels.

So what can you do for the best heart health and oral health?

  • For one, a diet that reduces inflammation throughout a body is recommended for both gum health and heart health. This means eating plenty of whole grains and limiting your intake of refined carbohydrates like sugar, bakery goods, and white rice.
  • In addition, make sure your food choices supply enough fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants.
  • Help prevent gum disease by maintaining good oral hygiene at home and keeping up with regular dental visits.
  • Finally, get plenty of exercise for the best cardiovascular health.

The relationship between gum disease and heart disease is not completely understood, but if you keep your mouth and body healthy, you will reduce your risk of both gum disease and heart disease. For more information, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700.

New Year’s Resolutions for Better Oral Health

Laying out goals for the New Year is a great way to inspire yourself to make positive changes that can improve your health. For example, many habits—both good and bad—affect the health of your teeth and gums. Here’s a list of risky habits to kick, and mouth-healthy habits to adopt:

Habits That Risk Oral Health

resolutions.

Smoking. As if oral cancer weren’t enough to worry about, smoking also promotes gum disease and tooth loss. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, smokers have double the risk of gum disease compared to nonsmokers. And according to the Academy of General Dentistry, Smokers are about twice as likely to lose their teeth as nonsmokers. For help quitting, visit smokefree.gov.

Snacking. Nibbling all day can create the perfect conditions for tooth decay—especially if your snacks contain sugar and other carbohydrates. Sticky snacks like cookies, crackers, chips and candy bars that cling to teeth tend to remain in the mouth and attract decay-causing oral bacteria. The acid these bacteria produce can penetrate the enamel of your teeth, causing cavities.

Soft Drinks. Speaking of tooth-eroding acid, soft drinks have plenty of it. And this includes both regular and diet varieties of soda, sweetened iced tea, sports drinks and so-called energy drinks. The healthiest drink for your teeth is water!

Mouth-Healthy Habits

Brushing. You probably brush your teeth every day already, but are you doing it correctly? To get the most benefit from this healthy habit, brush twice each day for a full two minutes each time. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush with toothpaste that contains fluoride, and don’t scrub too harshly!

Flossing. Yes, it’s worth the effort! If you don’t floss, you’ll miss cleaning about 40% of your tooth surfaces. A toothbrush just can’t reach in between teeth, where decay-causing dental plaque can hide. If you find dental floss difficult to work with, try using disposable floss holders.

Regular Dental Checkups. Keep up a regular schedule of professional teeth cleanings and exams! This allows us to remove any hardened dental plaque (tartar) that has built up on your teeth, screen you for oral cancer, and treat minor dental problems before they become major ones. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to review your at-home oral hygiene.

If you have any questions about how to improve your oral health, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “10 Tips for Daily Oral Care at Home.”

Give Yourself the Gift of a New Smile

smile.

The holidays are a season for giving. At this time of year, lots of us spend hours rushing around, looking for the perfect gifts for people we care about. But sometimes, amidst all the hustle and bustle, it doesn’t hurt to step back and think about yourself a little. If a better-looking smile has been on your list but you haven’t taken the first steps, the holiday season might be the right time to give yourself a gift.

Many smile problems, like discolored, chipped or uneven teeth, can be resolved with veneers—wafer-thin porcelain shells that cover the front surfaces of teeth. Veneers are custom-made just for you: They can have a pearly luster to match your existing teeth, or be Hollywood-white for a dazzling red-carpet smile. In just a few visits to the dental office, you can have the smile you’ve always wanted—and a whole new look for the New Year.

If damaged or missing teeth are what’s bothering you, you’ll be happy to know that there are lots of good options for replacing them. If the tooth’s roots are still in good shape, a crown or cap could be the answer. This is a sturdy replacement for the entire visible part of the tooth that not only looks great, but also functions well in your bite—and can last for years to come.

If teeth are missing or can’t be saved, we offer several options for replacement, including fixed (non-removable) bridgework and dental implants. A tried-and-true method for replacing one or more missing teeth, bridges are firmly supported by healthy teeth next to the gap in your smile. These teeth must be prepared to receive the bridge by having some of the tooth’s surface removed.

Dental implants are today’s premier option for tooth replacement. In this high-tech system, a root-like titanium insert, placed directly into the bone beneath the gum, forms a solid anchorage for the visible part of the replacement tooth. Implants look and feel completely natural, and can last for many years. Plus, they don’t require any work to be done on nearby teeth.

What kind of smile makeover is right for you? Just ask us by calling (815) 741-1700! We will be happy to take a look at your smile and recommend a treatment plan. And in this season of generosity, there’s no better gift you can give yourself than a bright new smile.

You can learn more about smile makeovers by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Beautiful Smiles by Design.”

Stephen Colbert Shares Throwback Braces Photo for a Good Cause

colbert.

When we look at those glamorous faces on TV, it’s easy to forget that celebrities—like the rest of us—often went through an awkward stage in adolescence.  But once in a while, something comes along to remind us that flawless Hollywood smiles didn’t always start out that way. Right now, that something is the hashtag #PuberMe: an invitation from late-night TV host Stephen Colbert for fellow celebs to post awkward photos from their youth.

In exchange for posting the embarrassing images, Colbert’s charity is donating to the hurricane relief effort for Puerto Rico; so far about $1 million has been raised. Also raised: many eyebrows, by the adorably dorky pictures—such as the one of Colbert himself, with a smile full of metal braces!

Like many kids, Colbert had teeth that didn’t align properly in his bite. The picture shows that several of his top teeth are in less-than-perfect positions, with noticeable gaps in between. Yet to look at that same smile today, you’d never suspect there had been a problem. That’s the magic of orthodontics.

Time-tested and effective, metal braces like the ones in Colbert’s picture remain among the most widely used appliances today. But orthodontics has come a long way since the late 1970’s, and now there are several other methods for correcting misaligned teeth, including ceramic braces, clear plastic aligners, and invisible lingual braces. The main advantage of the newer methods is that are they are harder to notice (and maybe a bit less awkward).

Ceramic braces, for example, have brackets that match the color of the teeth; with only the thin archwire visible, they’re much more unobtrusive. Clear aligners are transparent plastic trays that completely cover the teeth. Almost impossible to spot, they are worn 22 hours per day, but may be removed for eating or important events. Lingual braces are literally invisible, since they are placed on the tongue side of teeth rather than the lip side. In many situations, they are at least as effective as traditional braces.

Which appliance is best for you? It depends on each person’s individual situation—but many orthodontic patients now have choices that weren’t available in the past. And that goes for both kids and adults, who often appreciate a more “grown-up” image while improving their smiles with orthodontic treatment.

If you have questions about orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Clear Aligners for Teenagers” and “Orthodontics for the Older Adult.”