My Blog

Posts for: April, 2013

By Drake Tollefson DDS
April 27, 2013
Category: Oral Health
BadBreathmdashMoreThanJustEmbarrassing

Most people agree that bad breath is more than embarrassing. It affects personal, social and business relationships. Although Americans spend roughly $3 billion annually on gum, mints and mouth rinses that promise relief, they are nothing more than temporary cover ups. Discovering the underlying cause of the problem is the only way to effectively eliminate the halitosis (“halitus” – breath; “osis” – disorder) long term. If you have bad breath, we can help.

While it's true that there are a few systemic (general body) medical conditions that can cause bad breath, including lung infections, liver disease, diabetes and cancer, the majority of causes originate in the mouth. We can conduct a simple oral examination to help diagnose the underlying cause of your bad breath. We will check your mouth thoroughly for signs of any dental problems that can produce an odor, including decayed or abscessed teeth, diseased gums, a coated tongue or infected tonsils. Typically, halitosis occurs when bacteria collect on the surface and back of the tongue where it is drier. Bacteria thrive in this environment, resulting in a “rotten egg” odor that so many of us are all too familiar with. This odor actually emanates from volatile sulfur compounds (VSFs), but will go away with proper treatment.

Once the exact cause is pinpointed, your halitosis can be treated in several ways. For example, we can show you how to brush and floss properly to more effectively remove bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum disease — don't be embarrassed, nobody really knows until they're shown by a professional. We can also show you how to use a tongue scraper or brush to carefully clean the surface of your tongue. Treatment of tooth decay, the repair of defective or broken fillings, extraction of wisdom teeth (third molars) and periodontal (gum) therapy such as scaling and root planing (deep cleaning) will all help treat infection and consequently bad breath.

You don't have to be embarrassed by bad breath any longer! The sooner you call our office to schedule an examination, the sooner you will be able to breathe a lot more freely. For more information about the causes of bad breath, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Bad Breath: More Than Just Embarrassing.”


By Drake Tollefson DDS
April 20, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   toothpaste  
FiveFactsAboutToothpaste

Since the time of the ancient Egyptians, people have used mixtures of various substances in pursuit of a single goal: cleaning their teeth effectively. Today, even with a glut of toothpaste tubes on the supermarket shelf, most people seem to have a particular favorite. But have you ever thought about what's in your toothpaste, and how it works? Here are five facts you might not know.

1) Most toothpastes have a very similar set of active ingredients.

Once upon a time, a toothpaste might have contained crushed bones and oyster shells, pumice, or bark. Now, thankfully, they're a little different: today's toothpaste ingredients generally include abrasives, detergents and fluoride compounds, as well as inert substances like preservatives and binders. Toothpastes formulated to address special needs, like sensitive teeth or tartar prevention, have additional active ingredients.

2) Abrasives make the mechanical action of brushing more effective

These substances help remove stains and surface deposits from teeth. But don't even think about breaking out the sandpaper! Modern toothpastes use far gentler cleaning and polishing agents, like hydrated silica or alumina, calcium carbonate or dicalcium phosphate. These compounds are specially formulated to be effective without damaging tooth enamel.

3) Detergents help break up and wash away stains

The most common detergent in toothpaste (which is also found in many shampoos) is sodium lauryl sulfate, a substance that can be derived from coconut or palm kernel oil. Like the abrasives used in toothpaste, these detergents are far milder than the ones you use in the washing machine. Yet they're effective at loosening the stains clinging to your teeth, which would otherwise be hard to dissolve.

4) Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay

This has been conclusively demonstrated since it was first introduced into toothpaste formulations in 1914. Fluoride — whether it's in the form of sodium fluoride, stannous fluoride or sodium monofluorophosphate (MFP) — helps strengthen tooth enamel and make it more resistant to acid attack, which precipitates tooth decay. In fact, it's arguably the most important ingredient, and no toothpaste can receive the American Dental Association's Seal of Approval without it.

5) Look for toothpaste with the ADA seal

This means that the particular brand of toothpaste has proven effective as a cleaning agent and a preventative against tooth decay. Plus, if the package says it has other benefits, then research has verified that it does what it says. Oh, and one other thing — toothpaste doesn't work if you don't use it — so don't forget to brush regularly!

If you have questions about toothpastes or oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Toothpaste — What's In It?


By Drake Tollefson DDS
April 12, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   oral cancer  
FiveFactsAboutOralHealthDuringCancerTreatment

According to a recent study from the National Cancer Institute, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, the incidence of cancer is dropping and the survival rate is increasing. In general, the outlook for patients undergoing treatment for the disease is getting better and better. Unfortunately, it's possible that some essential lifesaving treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation, can adversely affect your oral health. If you (or a loved one) need cancer treatment, however, there are some things you should know that can help minimize the possible complications and side effects.

  1. Chemotherapy and radiation are effective cancer treatments, but they may cause oral health problems. These therapies work by attacking cancer cells, but they can also damage healthy cells, including those in the salivary glands and the lining of the mouth. Common symptoms may include a dry mouth or uncomfortable mouth sores. Cancer patients may also be at higher risk for dental disease, especially tooth decay.
  2. Prevention is the best way to minimize these problems. It's important to have a complete dental evaluation before cancer treatment begins. Side effects often result when the mouth isn't healthy prior to the start of therapy — so if there's time for necessary dental treatment beforehand, it can be beneficial in the long run.
  3. Taking good care of the mouth is crucial at this time. During cancer treatment, proper brushing is more important than ever. A fluoride gel or antibacterial rinse may be prescribed to help prevent tooth decay. Prescription medications are sometimes recommended to alleviate dry mouth, but drinking plenty of water, chewing xylitol-containing gum, or using a soothing rinse of salt, water and baking soda can help too.
  4. A team approach is essential for the best care. This includes coordination between dentists and oncologists (cancer specialists), and sharing information about prescription and non-prescription drugs, medical histories and treatment plans.
  5. It's vital to understand and follow medical recommendations. This means not only getting the necessary treatments and taking prescribed medications, but also learning to recognize the warning signs of potential problems. With the support of our office, your oncologist, and caring family and friends, we can make cancer treatment as comfortable as possible and help obtain the best outcome.

If you would like more information about cancer treatment and oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment to discuss your treatment options. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Health During Cancer Treatment.”


By Drake Tollefson DDS
April 05, 2013
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: crown  
FiveFactsAboutCrowns

A crown is a common type of dental restoration that has been available, in different forms, for a long while. When properly done, it may last for decades — and if desired, it can be made to match the shade of the natural teeth so well that it's nearly impossible to tell them apart. Some recent technological innovations may offer patients who need this treatment even more choices. To begin learning about dental crowns, let's start with five facts everyone should know.

Crowns are a type of restoration that can solve many dental problems.

There are many factors that may cause the structure of a tooth to become compromised. It can be weakened by grinding or chipping, gradually removed by repeated dental fillings, or suddenly broken by trauma. Sometimes, a more conservative treatment (like inlays or veneers) may be enough to take care of the problem. When it isn't, the missing tooth structure can be replaced by a crown.

Crowns replicate the form and function of natural teeth.

Because they must fit into your mouth perfectly and match your bite exactly, each crown is an individually-crafted item, made just for you. That means the form of a crown must look just like the tooth it replaces — before it was damaged. And, especially if it's for a front tooth, a crown is often carefully designed to match the particular shade of your teeth. If you are unhappy about the color of your other front teeth, tooth whitening should be done first before your new crown is created to get the best results possible.

Crowns can be made of different materials.

For over a hundred years, crowns have been made of gold. While this extremely long-lasting material remains popular, its use has been declining recently due to aesthetic factors. Two tooth-colored alternatives are all-porcelain and porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns. The exact shade and luster of these substances can be made to closely simulate the natural teeth. Each has advantages and disadvantages in particular situations but we will be happy to make recommendations as to what is in your best interests.

New technologies are changing the way crowns are prepared.

Advances in the field of materials science have led to crowns being fabricated from more durable high-tech substances, like ceramics made of zirconium dioxide. And the availability of small-scale computer-aided design and manufacturing technologies means that in some situations, it's possible for a crown to be fabricated right in the dental office, in minutes. Undoubtedly, these technologies will continue to improve in the future.

Delivering a quality crown is a blend of science and art.

No matter how high-tech the process becomes, producing a fully functional, long lasting and natural-looking crown remains a blend of aesthetics and science, seasoned with a healthy dose of clinical experience. It's also a team effort involving a skillful dentist, a talented dental laboratory technician and a knowledgeable patient — you.

If you would like more information about crowns, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Porcelain Crowns & Veneers,” “Gold or Porcelain Crowns,” and “Creating In-Office Dental Restorations With Computers.”