Posts for: December, 2013
You've probably never thought of the saliva swishing around in your mouth as amazing. The fact is, though, life would be a lot harder without it. Digestion would be quite unpleasant without its enzymes breaking down food during chewing; the soft tissues of our mouth would suffer more environmental abuse without its protective wash; and without its ability to neutralize acid, our tooth enamel would erode.
What's also amazing is what saliva can reveal about our health. As researchers discover more about this phenomenon, it's leading to better and less invasive ways to diagnose disease.
Similar to blood, saliva is composed of proteins containing RNA and DNA molecules which together hold the genetic instructions the human body needs to reproduce cells. We can therefore test saliva for health conditions as we do with blood, but with less invasive collection techniques and far less hazard to healthcare workers from blood-borne diseases. For example, doctors now have a saliva test that can detect the presence of HIV viruses that cause Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Another saliva test will soon be available that can test for hepatitis.
Unfortunately, only a few such tests now exist. Researchers must first identify and then catalog saliva's biomarkers, protein molecules that correspond to specific health conditions — a daunting task since most are marked not by one but hundreds of proteins. Then it's a matter of developing diagnostic devices that can detect these biomarkers.
Although that too is a huge task, existing technology like mass spectrometry (already used to help detect early stages of oral cancer) could be a promising starting point. This process measures the portion of the light spectrum emitted by a molecule, a feature that could help identify a saliva protein by its emitted light signature.
Thanks to the work of these researchers, many of them in the dental profession, information about our bodies contained in saliva may soon be accessible. That accessibility may lead to earlier diagnoses and more successful treatment outcomes.
If you would like more information on saliva and your 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 “Secrets of Saliva.”
Even after decades of health warnings, approximately 45 million Americans smoke cigarettes. Although three-quarters will attempt to quit at some time in their life, most won’t be successful because smoking is both pleasurable and highly addictive.
Still, it’s in your best health interest to quit, and not just for your general health. Besides bad breath, reduced taste perception and dry mouth, smokers also face higher risk for tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease.
Quitting is difficult because of the addictive nature of nicotine, one of tobacco’s main ingredients. Nicotine causes the brain to release dopamine, a chemical that regulates our sense of pleasure and reward. In time, this effect transcends the physical sensation — smokers soon rearrange their social, work and family life to accommodate it. For those attempting to quit, the physical and emotional effects of withdrawal are daunting.
Yet, there are a number of effective quitting strategies. Smoking is a behavior you’ve learned and reinforced over time that you must now “unlearn.” You should begin by analyzing your own particular smoking habit — when you smoke, what prompts you to smoke, what activities do you associate with smoking, etc.
Most people will find an abrupt halt to cigarette smoking all but impossible. Instead, gradually reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke each day over several weeks; a weekly 20% reduction over the previous week is a good norm. As you reduce to just a few cigarettes, you’ll be forced to choose when to smoke those “precious” few. You can also use “brand fading,” in which you switch week by week to brands with increasingly lower amounts of nicotine.
You should also attempt to replace the smoking habit with more positive habits. Keep your hands busy holding items like pencils, straws or stress balls. Snack on healthy foods, chew sugarless gum with Xylitol, and drink plenty of water. You might also join a support group of other smokers trying to quit so you don’t have to face the habit alone.
It may take several weeks to break the smoking habit. The results, though, are worth it — you may extend not only your life but the life of your teeth too.
If you would like more information on how to stop smoking, 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 “Strategies to Stop Smoking.”
If you have lost your natural teeth, you may already have heard that dental implants are the best option for tooth replacement. Unlike removable dentures or bridgework, implants actually fuse to your jawbone — providing lifetime support for a full set of great-looking replacement teeth. But you may not know that for many people without teeth, it’s possible to receive an entire set of new implant teeth in just one surgical appointment!
Here are the steps:
Initial Consultation — We will assess your existing condition with the help of x-ray imaging. CT scans allow us to see the jawbone in three dimensions, which is particularly helpful for planning implant treatment. These scans provide critical information about anatomical structures such as bone, sinuses and nerves, and help us determine the ideal location for the implants as we design your new smile.
Implant Surgery — The surgery to place implants is actually minor and routine. If you need to have any failing teeth removed, we will do that first. Depending on the quality of your tooth-supporting bone, you may need as few as four or, at most, eight implants in each jaw (upper and lower) to replace all of your teeth.
Temporary Teeth — If the bone in your jaw is healthy and strong enough, we can immediately attach temporary acrylic replacement teeth to the implants so that you can leave the office with teeth the same day as your implant surgery! Once you have fully healed, we will replace your temporary teeth with permanent ones.
Healing — During the first 6-8 weeks after surgery, you”ll need to go easy on the new teeth, avoiding chewy or tough foods so that the implants remain stationary as they complete the process of fusing to your jawbone. People generally have little postoperative discomfort after surgery and begin functioning with their new temporary teeth almost immediately.
A Revitalized Smile — When we are satisfied that your implants have successfully fused to the jawbone, we will remove your temporary teeth and replace them with your permanent ones. These are generally made of stronger, more durable materials and fit the healed gum tissues more precisely. They should feel just like your own teeth. In fact, neither you nor anyone else should be able to tell that they are replacement teeth!
If you would like to learn more about replacing all of your missing teeth with dental implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “New Teeth in One Day.”
Sometimes, we all need a bit of prompting to do what's good for us. When Serena Girardi, the 10-year-old daughter of New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, needed to have orthodontic treatment, she was a little nervous. To help lessen her anxiety, Girardi, then 45 years old, made a deal: if she got braces, then he would too.
“What I didn't realize,” said Girardi in an interview with ESPN, “is that she only had to get four on her front teeth and I got the full mouthful.”
But that didn't stop the baseball great from keeping up his end of the bargain. In a separate deal with his son Dante, who also needed braces, Girardi agreed to wear blue rubber bands. “It's a good look,” he said. What will he do if his third child needs braces? Stay tuned...
Whether it starts as a bargain with your kids or as a promise to yourself, orthodontic treatment can offer real benefits at any age. In fact, about one out of five orthodontic patients today is an adult. Studies have shown that up to three-quarters of all adults have some form of orthodontic problem, like drifting or crowding of teeth. And having a great-looking smile not only improves self-confidence, but can also boost an adult's social life, and even enhance his or her career opportunities.
If you or your child may need braces, but you're put off by the dreary metal hardware you remember from back in the day, take heart! Plenty has changed in the field of orthodontics since you were a teenager — and it's not just the color of the rubber bands.
In many cases, clear or colorless ceramic braces can be used instead of metal ones. These stain-resistant orthodontic appliances blend in well with your own teeth, making them much less evident. It may be possible for them to be placed on the lingual (tongue) side of the teeth, where they're even less visible.
Clear aligners offer an alternative to braces that's appropriate for some people. Aligners are a series of precision-made “trays” composed of polyurethane plastic. Worn 20-22 hours per day for a period of months, these appliances gradually move teeth into an improved position. Besides being virtually invisible, another advantage of these trays is that they may be removed for eating and for important occasions. Once recommended only for adults, they have recently become available to teenagers as well.
What's the best way to find out whether you or someone in your family could benefit from orthodontics, and which treatment option best suits your individual needs? Come in to our office for a consultation! After a thorough examination, we would be happy to recommend the most appropriate treatment methods for your particular situation.
If you have questions about orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Orthodontics For The Older Adult” and “Clear Aligners for Teenagers.”