My Blog

Posts for: September, 2011

By Drake Tollefson DDS
September 25, 2011
Category: Oral Health

Nightly snoring can be a sign of a dangerous condition called sleep apnea (from “a” meaning without and “pnea” meaning breath). When someone snores the soft tissues in the back of the throat collapse onto themselves and obstruct the airway, causing the vibration known as snoring.

If the obstruction becomes serious, it is called obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. In such cases the flow of air may be stopped for brief periods, causing the person to wake for a second or two with a loud gasp as he attempts to catch his breath. This can cause heart and blood pressure problems, related to low oxygen levels in the blood. The obstruction and mini-awakening cycle can occur as many as 50 times an hour. A person with this condition awakens tired and faces the risk of accidents at work or while driving due to fatigue.

Studies show that sleep apnea patients are much more likely to suffer from heart attack, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, brain damage and strokes.

What can be done to treat OSA?
Snoring, apnea, and OSA occur more frequently in people who are overweight. So start with losing weight and exercising.

At our office, we can design oral appliances to wear while sleeping that will keep your airway open while you sleep. These appliances, which look like sports mouth guards, work by repositioning the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate and uvula (soft tissues in the back of the throat); stabilizing the lower jaw and tongue; and increasing the muscle tone of the tongue.

Another approach is to use a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) bedside machine. These machines send pressurized air through a tube connected to a mask covering the nose and sometimes the mouth. The pressurized air opens the airway so that breathing is not interrupted.

Much less frequently, jaw surgeries may be recommended to remove excess tissues in the throat. These would be done by specially trained oral surgeons or ear, nose and throat specialists.

Diagnosis and treatment of OSA is best accomplished by joint consultation with your physician and our office. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss snoring and OSA. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Sleep Disorders and Dentistry” and “Snoring and Sleep Apnea.”


By Drake Tollefson DDS
September 18, 2011
Category: Oral Health

For many children, thumb sucking is a great source of comfort. However, for some parents, it sets off potential red flags. See how much you really know about thumb sucking by taking our quick and easy true/false self test.

  1. Thumb or finger sucking is a totally normal behavior for babies and young children that should not cause any concerns for parents or caregivers.
    True or False
  2. One of the main reasons babies and young children suck their thumbs or fingers is that it provides a sense of security.
    True or False
  3. Sonograms have revealed that some babies actually begin sucking their fingers or thumbs in their mother's womb, before they are even born.
    True or False
  4. Recent research has shown that children using a pacifier after the age of four may cause long-term changes in the mouth.
    True or False
  5. Most children who suck their fingers or thumb tend to stop this habit on their own between the ages of two and four.
    True or False
  6. One of the biggest myths about thumb sucking is that it can cause buck teeth (the teeth tip outwards towards the lips).
    True or False
  7. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children stop using a pacifier and/or thumb or finger sucking by the age of three; however some recent studies suggest that this should stop as early as 18 months of age.
    True or False
  8. Breaking a pacifier habit is often much more difficult to break than a finger or thumb sucking habit.
    True or False
  9. Dipping a pacifier, finger or thumb in vinegar is a recommended way of stopping the habit.
    True or False
  10. For the most challenging cases, we may suggest that your child needs a mouth appliance that a blocks sucking habits.
    True or False

Answers: 1) False. While it is a totally natural habit, parents and caregivers should monitor thumb or finger sucking. 2) True. 3) True. 4) False. It is not age 4, but rather age 2. 5) True. 6) False. This is NOT a myth but rather a fact. 7) True. 8) False. It is easier. 9) True. 10) True.

If you are having trouble getting your child to stop using a pacifier, thumb or finger sucking habit, we are an excellent resource for working with you and your child to accomplish this goal. To learn more on this topic, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Thumb Sucking in Children.” Or you can contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions.


By Drake Tollefson DDS
September 11, 2011
Category: Oral Health
Tags: sleep apnea   snoring   sleep  

A good night's sleep...have you been getting them lately? While everyone knows that sleep is important, did you know that we all spend about one-third of our lives asleep? And did you know that when deprived of sleep, the negative impact is detrimental on both an individual as well as at the societal level? These important facts are just some of the reasons why there has been an increased interest in studying sleep, sleep loss and sleep disorders.

If you have issues with sleep, you might have a sleep disorder — an epidemic problem that impacts approximately 50 to 70 million people in the US alone. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (“a” – without; “pnea” – breath) (OSA) is a medical condition that occurs when your tongue collapses against the back of your throat causing a significant reduction in your intake of air or even total temporary blockage. If left untreated, OSA can lead to an irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and other forms of heart disease plus strokes and even impotence.

Please note that while your responses to the questions below do not equate to a diagnosis, sharing them with our office can be extremely beneficial in helping us properly evaluate and treat issues related to poor sleeping habits.

  • Do you weigh 15 pounds or more than the normal weight range for your height, sex and age?
  • If you are male, is your neck measurement 17 inches or more? Or if you are female, is it 16 inches or more?
  • Do sleep partners routinely tell you that you are a loud snorer and/or that during your sleep you choke, gasp for air or briefly stop breathing?
  • Do you often wake up still feeling tired after 8 or more hours of sleep?
  • Do you often find yourself falling asleep at work or home during periods when you should be awake?
  • Do you suffer from irritability, depression, loss of memory, poor judgment and/or concentration?

The first and most important step in treating sleep apnea is to obtain a proper diagnosis. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about sleep apnea. We can assist in the diagnosis and treatment of sleeping disorder along with a physician trained in this area. And rest assured that we have many treatment options we can use to help you get a great night's sleep. To learn more about sleep apnea, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “If You Snore, You Must Read More!


By Drake Tollefson DDS
September 04, 2011
Category: Oral Health

In times of stress, people have many ways to comfort themselves. For adults, it can be habits such as eating, drinking, or smoking. For children, it is often sucking their thumb, fingers, or a pacifier. Babies have been observed in scans to suck on their fingers and thumbs even before they are born. It makes them feel secure.

When is thumb sucking a problem?
Sucking on fingers or thumbs can be a problem when it is done too vigorously and too long. A young child's jaws are soft and can change their shape to make room for the thumb if the child sucks too hard and too often. If thumb, finger or pacifier habits continue too long, the upper front teeth may tip toward the lip or not come into the correct position in the mouth.

How do you know if your child falls into the group that will suffer from the results of too much thumb sucking? It's best to visit our office so we can check on how the child's teeth and jaws are developing.

What can be done about thumb and finger sucking?
Most children naturally stop sucking their thumbs, fingers, or pacifiers between the age of two and four. The pacifier habit is easier to break than the thumb or finger sucking habit, probably because it is always easier to find their fingers or thumbs. It is a good idea to try to transfer your child's habit to a pacifier at an early age. The next steps are to cut down pacifier usage and gradually stop by 18 months.

If your child is still engaging in these habits at age three, we can recommend strategies for cutting back and stopping. Remember that positive reinforcement, in which a child is rewarded for the desired behavior, always works better than punishment for the behavior you don't like.

Also remember that finger and thumb sucking is normal. Help your child to feel safe, secure, and comfortable as the behavior will probably disappear by itself. If you are worried about your child's sucking a pacifier, thumb or fingers, please visit us to put your mind at rest.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about children's thumb sucking. For more information, read “Thumb Sucking in Children” in Dear Doctor magazine.