Monthly Archives: October 2013

Five Things You Should Know About Sleep Apnea

snoring.

Sleep apnea, a form of sleep-related breathing disorders that is estimated to affect some 22 million Americans, is sometimes thought of as the “quiet culprit” lurking behind many other maladies. But ask anyone who sleeps alongside a sufferer, and you’ll get a different response: It isn’t quiet at all! Instead, it’s often marked by loud snoring and scary episodes where breathing seems to stop. If you’ve ever worried that you or someone you care about may have this condition, here are five facts you should know.

1) Sleep apnea is a potentially deadly disease

For one thing, it leads to chronic fatigue that can make accidents far more likely — a special concern in potentially dangerous situations, like operating machinery or driving a vehicle. It also appears to be related to heart conditions such as high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, coronary artery disease, and even stroke. Plus, it can lead to weight gain, depression and mood disorders.

2) People with sleep apnea may wake hundreds of times every night

These “micro-arousals” may occur 50 or more times per hour, and may keep a person from getting any relaxing sleep — even though they retain no memory of the episodes. That’s why people who suffer from sleep apnea often go through their days on the verge of exhaustion. And they aren’t the only ones who suffer: Their bed partners may also be kept up throughout the night, becoming anxious and irritable.

3) Persistent snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea

Snoring is caused when breath being drawn into the lungs is obstructed by soft tissue structures in the upper airway. Most everyone snores sometimes… but chronic loud snoring is a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) — and the louder and more frequent the snoring, the greater the likelihood of OSA. To confirm a diagnosis of sleep apnea, a sleep study using special monitors may be conducted in a clinical setting, or an at-home test may be used.

4) Your dentist may be able to help diagnose and treat sleep apnea

What does dentistry have to do with sleep apnea? For one thing, sleep apnea is a disease that involves structures in the oral cavity — an area dentists are quite familiar with. Sometimes, fatigued folks who suffer from OSA begin snoring when they recline in the dental chair, showing their symptoms firsthand. But even if their patients don’t fall asleep, dentists with proper training are recognized by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) as being able to provide first line therapy for mild to moderate sleep disorders.

5) An oral appliance is a good step to try before more invasive treatments

If it’s appropriate in your situation, your dentist can custom-fabricate an oral appliance that may alleviate sleep-related breathing disorders. This device, worn while you’re sleeping, helps to maintain an open airway in the throat and to reduce breathing problems. With a success rate of around 80%, in many cases it’s comparable to the more complex CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machines, but people often find it easier to wear. Plus, it’s a non-invasive treatment that can be explored before deciding on a more involved treatment, such as surgery.

Do you or a family member snore? We would love to hear from you! Please leave your comment below. Take our Sleep Apnea Questionnaire.

If you would like more information about dentistry and sleep problems, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sleep Disorders and Dentistry.

Know What to Expect With Dental Implant Surgery

dental implants.

As dental implants increase in popularity, the surgical procedures to install them are becoming quite commonplace. Still, many people are nervous about this procedure, perhaps not really knowing what to expect. So if you’re considering dental implants, here’s a rundown of what happens before, during and after the procedure.

Dental implants are actually a tooth root replacement system. A post made of titanium is inserted into the jaw bone at the site of the missing tooth. Because of titanium’s bone-friendly molecular structure bone cells naturally gravitate to its surface; over time the inserted post and bone will fuse. After a few weeks of this process, the post will be ready for a porcelain crown, bridge or overdenture to be attached to it.

Before the implant surgery you will undergo a complete dental exam. Everything is planned out in advance so that we know the exact location along the jaw to place the implants. In many cases we create a surgical template that can be used during surgery to identify these precise locations.

The procedure itself is painless for most patients, requiring only a local anesthesia. The procedure begins with small incisions in the gum tissue to allow us to see the precise point in the bone for the implant. We then create a small hole in the bone, using a drilling sequence of successive larger holes until we’ve achieved the best fit for the implant (during drilling you may experience a mild vibration). We then remove the implants from their sterile packaging, place them immediately into the drilled hole, then stitch the gum tissue back into place.

After surgery, most patients encounter only a mild level of discomfort for a day or two. This can be managed by prescription doses of common pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen, although we will use surgical strength ibuprofen. Rarely do we need to prescribe something stronger.

Once the implant fuses permanently with the bone, we then affix the final crown or other dental device in a painless procedure. This final step will give you back not only the use of your teeth, but a more appealing smile as well.

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If you would like more information about dental implant surgery, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implant Surgery.”

Advances in Clear Aligners Make Them a Viable Choice for More Teens

clear aligners.

Metal braces for correcting teeth alignment have long been a fixture of adolescence. But although they’re effective, they tend to put a crimp on a teenager’s life with changes in diet and irritation and discomfort from the devices and regular adjustments. For many teens, though, these are minor compared to the change in their appearance that comes with traditional braces, and the embarrassment they may feel.

In recent years, there’s been a growing use of another orthodontic device that reduces many of these inconveniences, especially regarding appearance. Known as the clear aligner, this transparent, “almost invisible” device can be taken out for eating, cleaning or important social events.

Clear aligners are a sequential set of clear trays made of polyurethane plastic that are generated for an individual patient using information derived from x-rays, photographs or models. Each tray in the sequence is slightly different from the previous one to account for the tooth movement achieved wearing the previous tray. The patient will wear a tray for about two weeks and then, if all looks well, move to the next tray. This process continues until the teeth arrive at the proper alignment, a period of about six to twenty-four months depending on the patient’s initial condition and their progress.

Up until recently, aligners were a viable option for a limited category of patients, mainly adults. Recent advances have changed that. Aligners now include tiny “power ridges” that enable them to move teeth in more than one plane, something previous versions were unable to do. “Eruption tabs” can also be incorporated into aligner sets to hold the space for permanent teeth that haven’t erupted yet — a must for many younger patients. We can also temporarily bond attachments to the teeth known as buttons (made with a composite that blends in with the natural tooth color) that give more leverage and stability to the aligner.

With these changes, clear aligners are now an effective choice for a wider group of patients, including many teens. Aligners are comfortable to wear, easy to care for, and for teens acutely conscious of their appearance, less obtrusive than traditional metal braces.

Is your teen thinking about getting Invisalign clear aligners? Leave you comments or questions below and we will be happy to help you!

If you would like more information on clear aligners, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Clear Aligners for Teens.”

Maintaining Good Oral Hygiene While Wearing Braces

braces hygiene.

Taking care of your teeth is a lifetime commitment, if you want your teeth to last a lifetime. But it can be especially challenging if you’re wearing traditional metal braces. With a little extra attention, though, you can reduce the risk of dental disease during orthodontic treatment.

The goal of oral hygiene is to remove biofilm, a layer of leftover food particles called plaque that is a haven for disease-causing bacteria. Orthodontic braces make access more difficult for performing oral hygiene. A little extra effort and attention, though, can make a big difference.

First, be sure you’re eating a healthy diet and avoiding unhealthy snacks (especially those high in carbohydrates) between meals; this will discourage the growth of bacteria in the mouth. You should also limit your intake of sodas, sports or energy drinks since their high acidity contributes to tooth enamel erosion.

Although more difficult for someone wearing braces, brushing is still essential to good hygiene. Begin by holding a soft, multi-tufted bristle brush at a 45-degree angle, and then brush the surface area between the gum and the braces all the way around. Return to your starting point and brush the area from the braces to the edge of the top of the teeth in the same direction. Be sure you do this for both the upper and lower jaw and on both the cheek and tongue side.

Flossing is also more difficult, but not impossible. Instead of conventional floss thread, you can use special floss threaders, small interdential brushes, or an irrigation device that sprays pressurized water to remove food particles between teeth.

Above all, it’s important to keep up regular office visits with us. In addition to monitoring overall dental health, we can also apply or recommend additional fluoride products to help strengthen teeth or prescribe antibacterial rinses to reduce the mouth’s bacterial level.

Keeping up a good daily hygiene regimen and regular checkups will ensure that the smile you gain from wearing braces is healthy as well as beautiful.

Are you experiencing trouble maintaining your oral hygiene during orthodontic treatment? We welcome your feedback and questions!

If you would like more information on oral hygiene while undergoing orthodontic treatment, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700.